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After an injury in softball during her sophomore year of high school, Wagner's Mary Kocer made a decision that affected the rest of her life. She decided to specialize in one sport -- volleyball. Last fall, Kocer helped lead the Red Raiders to the Class A state volleyball championship, and in January, she signed to the University of Sioux Falls to play collegiately. "I didn't want to hurt my shoulder in something else, and I didn't want to ruin my chances of playing in college," Kocer said. "I knew that's what I wanted to pursue and I went after it." Kocer strays from the norm.
To most high school teens, role models tend to be superstar sports figures like Lebron James, Peyton Manning or Tiger Woods. To many Avon residents and athletes, Danny Sternhagen was that superstar role model. Sternhagen died March 20 at the age of 45 after fighting Muscular Dystrophy for nearly his entire life. He was diagnosed at the age of three, and he grew up watching his older brother Steve shine in all high school sports. At times, this caused jealousy and stubbornness, Steve said.
As the snow slowly melts, the Mitchell baseball team is impatiently waiting to get outside. When practice first started, the Kernels and head coach Luke Norden got an early gift and were able to start the season with outdoor practice. They were also able to hit real baseballs on the field. After the recent snowstorms, Drake and Cadwell fields have been covered with snow for the past week, forcing the team indoors. "There are some good benefits to practicing indoors and then there are some negatives," Norden said. "So you have to look at the positive.
A promising Mitchell baseball team has eight of its nine starters back from last season, yet its one loss leaves a gaping hole in the team. Starting shortstop and the leading hitter on the team, Jason Schmidt, graduated last year, and sixth-year head coach Luke Norden has been working on finding a patch to heal Schmidt's absence. The Mount Marty freshman hit .429 for Mitchell last year and pitched 30 innings -- second on the team -- when he wasn't showing off his strong defensive skills at short.
WAGNER -- Wagner's Robert Kokesh didn't have that grinning from ear-to-ear look of a state champion on his face. Instead, he was frustrated in disgust. He stared blankly -- without even a smile -- while his hand was raised, signaling his triumph and his second straight state wrestling title. Instead, at that time, all he could think about was the team -- his team.
Entering her 25th year coaching the Mitchell boys' tennis team, head coach Gayle Klein is just as puzzled as ever. After sophomore Tyler Osterloo at the No. 1 singles spot, the field is wide open for varsity roster spots this year, and Klein has the tough job of putting "a very equal group of kids" together for competition. The Kernels' roster has five seniors, a junior and two sophomores on the team. "It's a lot of kids fighting for just a few spots," Klein said. "We're looking at a nucleus of kids who have been there and done that, and really have some experience behind them.
For the fourth time in as many years, the Mitchell Christian track and field team has a new coach. Filling the role this season is MCHS Athletic Director Greg Nelson. Nelson takes over a squad that was coached by Casey Eitemiller last year, Bob Lemon two years ago and Barry Van Zee three years ago. "It was just before the season, a few weeks ago, I decided I was going to coach the kids," Nelson said. "I decided this would be a good opportunity. No one wanted to take it, so I said I would -- happily." This won't be Nelson's first year coaching track.
The Dakota Wesleyan softball team scored two runs in each of its games, losing to Doane College twice in a doubleheader at Cadwell Park Sunday. In the first game, the Tigers were no-hit and lost the game 11-2. In the second game, DWU gave up four seventh-inning runs while trailing 4-2 to lose 8-2. "Our offense hasn't been producing," Tigers head coach Marie McCarthy-Foster said. "It's something we keep trying to adjust in practice -- looking for new ideas and changing our routines.
The Dakota Wesleyan University baseball team won three of four games over the weekend, including splitting a doubleheader with Midland Lutheran College Sunday at Drake Field. Tigers' pitcher Ethan Opsahl pitched six innings -- striking out eight -- to help the team to an 8-4 Game 1 victory Sunday. In Game 2, the Tigers' offense couldn't get going until the fifth inning, but lost 8-4. In the first game Sunday, Opsahl allowed two runs in the first inning on two walks, a hit batter, a fielding error by DWU's Mark Wood and a wild pitch.
Class B athletic directors from around the state voted 27-14 in favor of reinstating the district wrestling tournaments Friday morning at the annual spring athletic director's meeting in Pierre. Now in its final step to be restored, the district tournament is in the hands of the South Dakota High School Association Board of Directors, which will vote on April 21 to finalize the measure. With much reinforcement from the wrestling community, and now from the athletic directors, it seems as if it's a lock that the tournament will be back next year, according to the wrestling committee's athlet