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Ever since East Ridge lost to three-time defending state champion Roseville Dec. 11 the Raptors have had one goal in mind -- get another shot at the champ. “That was our main goal from the beginning,” Raptors junior Wren Anderson said. “It was like ‘We’ll get them at state, we’ll get them at state.’ We can do it.” East Ridge will get that opportunity after claiming the Section 3AA title Feb.
New Life seniors Seth Rice, Sean Jacobson and Jake Wynia have been teammates on the gridiron for years. “Just the brotherhood that we shared here,” Jacobson said. “The memories won’t ever go away.” That won’t change for Jacobson and Wynia moving forward, as the duo both committed to play football for Bethel Feb.
After spending most of the meet on their respective sides of the pool, Woodbury and East Ridge swimmers converged on the end opposite of the starting blocks. “Time for the main event,” a Woodbury swimmer said as he scurried into position with the rest of his teammates. The 100-breaststroke featured East Ridge’s Alex Heide going up against Woodbury’s Will Ho in a dual for conference supremacy.
Royals wrestling head coach Justin Smith likens senior Pavel Swensen to former New York Yankees famous closer Mariano Rivera. Swensen is Woodbury’s finisher. When Rivera walked onto the mound with the game on the line, you could chalk up a victory for the Yankees. The same can be said about Swensen and the Royals. “You don’t ever have to worry, ‘Hey, are we going to make it out of the ninth inning?’” Smith said.
Woodbury junior Jack Midtlien came into the Section 4 meet hoping for a top five finish, which would have been good enough to comfortably place him into the state field. But winning the race wasn’t on his radar. “I never thought I’d win it,” he said. That changed after he turned in the second-fastest time on the first run of the day, turning in a 28.45. “After the first run I was thinking ‘OK, I do want to win this,’” Midtlien said.
Woodbury’s first Suburban East Conference blemish of the year didn’t come at the best time. The Royals dropped a 29-27 decision to White Bear Lake on the road Feb.
Raptors girls hockey head coach Dean Talafous stood in the locker room and stared around at a team full of heartbroken players. East Ridge, who had played some of its best hockey of the season heading into its section semifinal matchup with top-seeded Eagan, had high hopes of upsetting the Wildcats and deepening its postseason run. But after two periods, that dream was over.
Raptors head coach Paul Virgin had seen enough. With Woodbury and East Ridge locked up in a tight contest, the Raptors head honcho called a timeout and called his players over to the huddle to deliver a message. “‘We’re not going to go bucket to bucket with these guys,’” Raptors senior guard Sid Tomes said Virgin told the team. From that point on East Ridge stepped up its defensive intensity, and it was all Raptors from there. “We got away from every single thing that we preach that we’ve got to do to win games, or even be in games,” Royals coach Kent Getzlaff said.
It had been a long time since Woodbury was represented at the state nordic ski meet. PWER head coach Joe Wacker estimated the Royals last had a skier hit the state trails in 2009. Woodbury’s Grant Davis and Paul Henning were more than happy to extinguish that streak at the Section 4 meet Feb.
East Ridge shocked White Bear Lake 4-3 in overtime in December. And looking back at that tape from that contest, Raptors head coach Wes Walz wasn’t surprised his team came out on top. “You could see why we beat them in overtime,” Walz said. “We played with much more urgency than we did tonight.” That urgency wasn’t there from the get-go for East Ridge against the Bears Feb. 5, as White Bear Lake exacted revenge via a 4-1 blowout victory. “You’ve got to give White Bear a lot of credit, they’re one of the top teams in the state for a reason,” Walz said.