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PJ's Perspective: Schmidt starring for Drake, East Ridge coaching changes, and more

Former New Life Academy star Rebekah Schmidt is 14-11 with six complete games, a 3.51 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 187.1 innings pitched for the Division 1 Drake Bulldogs women’s softball team this season. Schmidt, a junior, is also batting .273 with four home runs, six doubles and 14 RBIs. Drake is currently 15-28 overall on the year. Recently, Schmidt, a Cottage Grove native, hit a two-run home run as the Bulldogs knocked off in-state rival Northern Iowa, 7-1. In the circle, Schmidt pitched 5.2 innings in relief and allowed just one run on four hits, while striking out seven. The Bulldogs claimed the season series over the Panthers with the win. Last year, Schmidt made 44 appearances with three starts in the circle, compiling a 12-11 record with a 2.27 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 157.1 innings pitched. Schmidt was a multi-sport star at New Life Academy, leading the Eagles to four-straight Minnesota Class A state championships, earning All-State Tournament team accolades during each trip. She was also a four-time All-Minnesota Christian Athletic Association selection and starred in basketball, scoring over 1,500 career points during her career.

In addition to East Ridge High School’s recent addition of Wes Walz as the boys hockey team’s head coach, the Woodbury-based school has also hired a new girls swim coach and said goodbye to its gymnastics coach. East Ridge hired Kathy Madden as its head girls swimming coach, replacing Billy Cuevas. East Ridge Activities Director Jon Hinzman said Cuevas was recently married and “wanted to have balance in his life of family and work.” Cuevas will continue to coach the boys swim program at East Ridge, however. Madden has coached swimming for 20 years. She was the head coach and aquatic director for Western School Corporation in Russiaville, Indiana from 1987-2001 where she was in charge of all aquatics from kindergarten through 9th grade, as well as, coaching the women’s state diving champion in 1999. Madden attended Indiana University and was a four year letter winner as a swimmer. She was named swim coach of the year in 1996 in Indiana. Most recently, she served as the varsity assistant coach of the girls golf team at East Ridge. Hinzman also confirmed that Brittany Morris would not return as the head coach of the East Ridge gymnastics team.

The East Ridge boys tennis team is 5-0 to start the season. A source with the team said Raptors’ head coach Suzie Heideman has an interesting motivational technique that may be one reason for the strong start. Heideman bakes cookies or bars for the team following each win. She has been doing so since her first year as coach and it’s reportedly a tradition the boys really enjoy.

Woodbury resident Spencer Guse participated in the first-ever National Rugby Football League Combine April 4-6 in Minneapolis. This was the first ever professional rugby league in the United States with a start date of 2015. Guse was one of 60 rugby players selected nationwide to compete for a roster spot in the new league.

Woodbury High School 2013 graduate Kristina White recently completed her freshman season as a member of the University of Vermont women’s basketball team. White played in 30 games and earned nine starts. She cracked the starting lineup in her third collegiate game and started eight straight after that game. She began her collegiate career reaching double figures in the first three games and scored 18 points in her debut at Bryant University and was named the America East Rookie of the Week on November 11 following her performance against Bryant. She added 21 points against North Florida in the first game of Vermont’s own TD Bank Classic. She shot 6-for-9 from 3-point range, tying the tournament record for most 3-pointers in a game and was named to the All-Tournament Team. She also went 5-for-6 from 3-point range and scored 19 points against Wagner. She led Vermont to a win over UMBC in conference play in January after scoring 16 points, including some clutch points in the final five minutes. White finished her first season ranked third on the team in scoring (9.2 ppg) and led the Catamounts in 3-point field goals (51).

Park 2012 graduate R.J. Alowonle was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference All-ACC Academic team recently. To be eligible for All-ACC Academic Team consideration, a student-athlete must have earned a 3.0 grade point average for the previous semester and maintained a 3.0 cumulative average during her academic career. Alowonle, one of Minnesota’s best high school track athletes in history, is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina. He was one of 12 Tar Heels track athletes to make the list.

New Life Academy 2012 graduate Dan Otto has been competing in track and field for the University of Wisconsin - LaCrosse. Otto, a Cottage Grove native, recently won the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.55 at the UW-Platteville Invitational Saturday night at the UW-Platteville Track & Field Complex. The time was a personal best for Otto and the third-fastest time to date for all of the Division III schools. UW - LaCrosse won the indoor and outdoor Div. III national championships in 2013 and the 2014 indoor championship. Otto was a two-time state meet participant for the Eagles in his time at New Life.

Six members of the Tri-Metro Conference, New Life Academy’s conference for football, have left in order to form the new Independent Metro Athletic Conference, which will begin conference play in the fall of 2014. The six founding members of the IMAC are The Blake School, Breck School, Minnehaha Academy, Mounds Park Academy, Providence Academy and St. Paul Academy and Summit School. In recent years, the Tri-Metro expanded the number of member schools to 16, creating a large disparity in enrollment numbers of the member schools and posing significant scheduling challenges.

“All six schools are excited about the possibilities of being in a smaller and more manageable conference,” said Mounds Park Academy Athletic Director Joe Kordosky in a press release.

East Ridge 2012 graduate Taylor LeMay and the No. 12/13 Minnesota Gophers softball team gave first-place Michigan its first Big Ten loss of the season recently, pulling out a 1-0 win over the No. 3 Wolverines. The result snapped a 20-game winning Michigan winning streak that dated back to March 7 and improved the Gophers to 33-6 on the season with an 11-3 Big Ten record. LeMay, a sophomore catcher, is fifth on the team with a .250 average, fourth in RBIs with 24 and has a team-best nine home runs.

East Ridge 2013 graduate Brady Hanson helped the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire men’s golf team earn a second-place finish out of 15 teams following three rounds over two days at the Bobby Krig Invitational, hosted by Gustavus Adolphus College. Eau Claire finished with 921 strokes while Saint John’s University (Minn.) won with 917. Hanson, a freshman from Woodbury, tied for ninth overall with 228 strokes. Tyler McMorrow from Gustavus led the field of 87 golfers, winning with 221 strokes. At East Ridge, Hanson was a section champion as a senior, the state runner-up as an individual and all-state in 2013 and was a four-time all-conference award winner.

Five seniors from the Woodbury girls swimming and diving team were named Swimming and Diving Academic All-Americans: Meg Graupmann, Kristina Swanson, Rose Peterson, Sydney Swanson and Emily Schommer.

Woodbury senior Carlie Mears was selected to be a member of the 2014-15 University of Minnesota Gophers Dance Team. She joins a reigning five-time National Championship team at the U of M.

Ryan Fritze of Woodbury struck out two batters in one inning and pitched to record his first save of the season as the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) baseball team took a pair of games from Southeast (Neb.) Community College (SECC) April 22 to improve to 30-13 for the season. DMACC, ranked ninth in the most recent Division II poll from the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), won by scores of 11-1 and 6-3. The first game was called after six innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.

Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
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