The 2018-19 winter sports season will be remembered as one of the most fruitful in the history of Redwood Valley athletics.
The Cardinal boys and girls basketball teams both advanced to the state tournament for the first time in the same season since 1977.
That year the boys – under future North Dakota Hall-of-Famer Bob Torgrimson – went just 12-8 during the regular season but won five straight games in the district and region tournaments, including a 56-48 win over Benson for the region title. They would go 1-2 at state with a 58-56 win over Twin Valley.
The Cardinals girls, meanwhile, were in the second year of an historic four-year stretch that saw them finish as state champs (’76), state runners-up (’78), consolation champs (’77) and a sixth-place finish (’79).
The 2018-19 season saw the Cardinal girls take a huge step forward for a program that was just 2-25 two seasons ago. Head Coach Taya Kockelman’s squad entered the postseason with a mark of 15-8, finishing third in the Big South West Conference. With just a 3-3 record in its final six regular season games, you had to wonder if the Cards legitimately had a shot for a Section crown, but they would answer that by playing their best basketball when it mattered most.
Rallying from down 18 against JCC in the second round might have ignited the team, as they then rallied to top Pipestone Area and completely outplayed unbeaten Eden Valley-Watkins to claim the Section 3AA crown. At state, they came within a single shot of upsetting top-seed Roseau in one of the more memorable state games I’ve been a part of. It was an outstanding effort by all involved, as the Cards definitely played to their maximum during a run that won’t soon be forgotten.
The Redwood Valley boys also entered the postseason with a less than stellar end to the season, having gone 2-5 in their final seven games. Head Coach Aaron Lindahl’s Cards received just the fourth seed in the Sub-Section. The Cards used that disrespect as fuel, however, to dominate the Section field, winning all four games easily on the way to the Section 3AA crown. At state they would fall to good Perham and Esko squads but were competitive in both games.
The Redwood-River Valley Badgers under the direction of Paul Carlson and Todd Bertram sent five wrestlers on to the state tournament, the most in the pairing’s history. Junior Kaleb Haase placed fifth for the second straight season, losing a heartbreaker 3-2 in the semifinals or essentially coming within a takedown of reaching the state championship. Senior Tayte Harazin finished his career with 137 victories, good for fourth all-time. He also broke the school record for takedowns with 89. Fellow senior Omar Arredondo finished with 117 career wins, and junior Chad Maddock earned his second straight trip to state and posted two victories there.
The Redwood Valley gymnasts under the direction of Head Coach Kelsi Limoges sent two girls on to state in junior Emma Stevenson and sophomore Riley Franklin. Stevenson finished in the top 25 in the All-Around at state, and the Cards are poised to be even better next season with a strong young nucleus.
Finally, the Cardinal hockey team was a competitive unit, earning a playoff win over Fairmont and playing right with second seed Litchfield/DC into the third period before falling 6-2.
It’s a testament to the coaches and athletes for the Cards who already had a strong fall and will now look to take that winning edge into the spring.