2018 Sports: Championships, Records and Changes
The Owatonna High School football team repeated as state champions in November, making for a strong end to 2018 on the local sports scene. Blooming Prairie and NRHEG football also reached the state tournament with the Awesome Blossoms advancing to the semifinals in US Bank Stadium. Medford volleyball made an unexpected run to the state championship match despite being unseeded going into the tournament. It was their first-ever appearance at state.
2018 also began with championship performances for Owatonna. Peyton Robb became the school's first three-time state wrestling champ. Cade King also captured a title, his first. Blake West took fifth place. Westfield, the Blooming Prairie-Hayfield co-op, landed three place winners with Colton Krell second, Ethan Arett fourth and Morgen Moreno fifth.
Medford's Charley Elwood finished second at state. Teammate Willie VonRuden took third. Triton's Hunter Jennings won third place.
Owatonna gymnastics ended up third at the state meet for the second straight season, competing in their third consecutive appearance. Lindsay Bangs climbed the medal stand twice for the all-around competition and the uneven, parallel bars.
Medford's Luke Johnston repeated as state champion in the wheelchair division of shot put and discus at the state track and field meet. Owatonna's 4-by-200 relay team made its third straight state meet run consisting of Ava Wolfe, Syndey Schultz, Sara Anderson and Margo Achterkirch.
Among the records set in 2018, OHS running back Jason Williamson set school records that should stand for a long time. He also set the state record for career touchdowns. Williamson was named Minnesota's player of the year by several organizations and won the Mr. Football honor. Schultz set the school's all-time scoring record for girls' basketball. Medford's Emma Kniefel has become the Tigers' all-time leading scorer in girls' hoops, and she is just a junior.
The biggest change around the region in 2018 is probably the retirement of Don Henderson as football coach at Triton High School, the only head coach in school history until Mike Ellingson took over this fall. Henderson is a Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame member and spent over 30 years coaching.
Longtime Owatonna assistant football coach Delles Solie announced he would retire after the season after nearly 40 years as a football coach, about 30 of those in Owatonna. OHS Activities Director Ryan Swanson stepped aside after about ten years at the post. Marc Achterkirch, a member of the Owatonna teaching staff for more than 20 years, became the Huskies new AD. Matt Roddy resigned his position after a decade of leading the OHS girls' soccer club. Huskies' graduate Nate Gendron has taken over the post.
Owatonna's dance team debuted last winter, joining trap shooting and fishing as the newest Huskies' sports offerings. The clay target team qualified for the state high school league's season-ending competition.
A great cap to the local sports year was the retirement of Carlie Wagner's jersey number 3 by NRHEG on December 28. The school recognized Wagner for her accomplishment during and beyond her high school career while holding a reunion for the 2013 and 2014 title teams.