JAKE’S TAKE: A few notes from a memorable first year

MARSHALL – They say life comes at you fast, and I can absolutely attest to it.

Case in point, over a year and some change I was working two jobs in my hometown of Apple Valley yearning for an opportunity to break into the sports journalism business. In May of 2018, I found that opportunity in Marshall and interviewed for it. By the end of June, I was all moved in to my new home and began receiving a crash course in what being a sports reporter is all about.

Fast forward to today, I can’t help but reminisce about the many experiences and memories that I’ve gained in this short period of time.

Here are some of the highlights:

The greatness

of town ball

My first coverage assignment with the Indpendent brought me to Legion Field for a Marshall A’s game, and quite frankly I had no idea what to expect. I had never attended a town ball game before, but it didn’t take long for me in taking in those first few innings to understand what makes it so special, and why it’s still a treasured pastime here in the state of Minnesota.

First and foremost, the family and community aspect makes it one of the purest and exciting sporting events that I’ve ever witnessed. Add in the fact that the quality of play is excellent and the fields are pristine and full of character, it’s no wonder that the passion people have for town ball has continued to this day.

Legendary year

for SMSU trio

It’s rare enough for one athlete at a given university to set record-breaking achievements in a given year, but for three to do it seems otherwordly. Amazingly, that’s what transpired in 2018-2019 beginning with quarterback Blake Gimbel setting the all-time mark in career passing yards for Mustang football.

Not to be outdone, Mustang men’s basketball player Ryan Bruggeman set the program-record for most career points at the tail end of 2018. During the same season, Mustang volleyball player Taylor Reiss earned National Player of the Year awards by both the American Volleyball Coaches Association and the Conference Commissioners Association before being named the Honda D2 Athlete of the Year and received the award on national television.

With all three athletes now graduated, I’m looking forward to seeing the next batch of stars at SMSU follow in their footsteps to create a new legacy of excellence in their respective sport.

Community support

Prior to a lot of the games that I cover, I constantly find myself looking around and marveling at the level of support that is shown for each and every team in the area. In some of the very small communities, I’m astounded by the number of spectators at a given event. It truly seems like the whole town shows up to cheer their team on.

Beyond attendance, though, I’m blown away by the love shown towards those in the midst of difficult times like in the cases of the Schmitt and Boerboom families. In both instances, the community has gone above and beyond the call of duty to show their support and compassion in their time of need and that’s what a tight-knit community is all about.

Seasons to

remember

When it comes to magical seasons, there have been quite a few over the past year and it’s been a real treat to cover them. Some teams have struggled prior to hitting their stride only to put it all together in the most meaningul part of the season. Others, like the Minneota girls volleyball and basketball teams, greatness was expected from the start and they delivered with state championships come season’s end.

Of course, not every team had the dream ending to their season like the Vikings did, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t special in other ways. Take for instance the Marshall boys hockey team in 2018-2019 that finished with the most wins in a single season and crowned a new all-time scoring leader in Mason Plante. Though the season came to a heartbreaking end, I’m certain that the impact that this season had will be felt for many years to come with a new crop of Tigers looking to make history just as they did.

Another example was the Westbrook-Walnut Grove boys basketball team that made its first state tournament trip in 25 years. The Chargers maneuvered through an incredibly difficult path to make it to the section finals where they took on a strong Dawson-Boyd team. When the final seconds ticked off the clock in the back-and-forth classic, I still get goosebumps thinking about the WWG players, coaches and fans on the court celebrating their long-awaited achievement.

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