Blooming Prairie Sports Jump Up in Class
The Awesome Blossoms are about to go from being one of the bigger Class A schools in their section playoffs to being one of the smaller AA schools. The Minnesota State High School League realigns schools every two years based on enrollment and geography. Additionally, there are several sports adding a class for the 2021-2022 school year.
Blooming Prairie football coach Chad Gimbel said in an email to KRFO radio, "The numbers say we are in AA, so we have to get ready to compete in a new section." For football, Blooming Prairie will shift to Section 2AA with NRHEG, Medford, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, LeSueur-Henderson, St. Clair/Mankato Loyola, Blue Earth Area and Maple River. BP was last in Section 2AA in 2002.
Football won the state title in 2019 and won the Section 1A title to conclude the 2020 season. Gimbel says, "Northing changes for us as a team and program. We are going to continue to do the things that has made us successful. First and foremost using the game of football to prepare our athletes to tackle life's challenges."
"We will continue the process to prepare, working hard in the off-season in the weight room, going to camps, etc. When the season comes around we will continue to improve our best, win each day, and prepare for one game at a time doing what we do."
Girls and boys basketball will move up to Section 1AA. Girls coach John Bruns wrote, "The switch back to AA will definitely be a challenge for us as Section 1 is one of the toughest in the state for all sports." BP basketball was last in Class AA during the 2008-2009 season.
"However, we have played quite a few AA school the past few years in both our conference and non-conference schedules so it will not be a huge change for us. We have predicted this change was coming, so it wasn't a surprise for us." The BP girls were section runners-up in 2020 and made it to the semifinals this past season.
The Blooming Prairie boys basketball team won the Section 1A title in 2020 but the state tournament was canceled. Outgoing coach Nate Piller states, "It's going to be a new challenge...There will be an adjustment period as our program will have to become more familiar and knowledgeable about teams in AA."
"There's also the fact that we will be leaving Class A as one of the bigger schools and will become one of the smaller AA schools." Piller notes that Class A state champ Hayfield lost two lopsided games to Class AA Maple River during the Gopher Conference season and the Eagles didn't even make it to their subsection final.
Piller further comments about Section 1AA, "You have some big-time tradition with Caledonia being the most recent Goliath...But in recent history, we've had some success against 1AA schools so it's not preposterous to think we can compete."
"It also takes an unbelievable amount of time and energy to develop players and programs. High school basketball in Minnesota is highly competitive and if you really want to compete, you have to have boys and their families invest and sacrifice to make that happen."
The Westfield wrestling co-op with Hayfield will remain in Section 2A. The BP volleyball team will play in Section 1AA. Volleyball is going to four classes in 2021. The softball team will compete in 1AA. Baseball, however, will go to Section 2AA in spring 2022.
Coach Matt Kittelson commented that it is a big jump to compete with teams such as Waseca, New Ulm, NRHEG, Medford, WEM, and Blue Earth Area among others. Kittelson is also on the football coaching staff and is excited to renew some old Gopher Conference rivalries during the playoffs.
BP golf will also shift west, going from Section 1A this spring to Section 2AA next year. Cross country and track and field are adding a third class in 2021-2022. Blooming Prairie remains in single-A in both of those sports.
Blooming Prairie's enrollment is listed at 230 on the MSHSL website. A couple of random teams that will remain in Class A include Fillmore Central (138) and Kenyon-Wanamingo (209). A few teams that will now be potential section playoff opponents for BP include Caledonia (258), Cannon Falls (252) and, in baseball, Waseca (540).
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