It has been a memorable year for the area and local sports teams. From youth hockey to high school baseball to Olympic curling, Bemidji and area athletes made news in 2013.
In area high school sports, Cass Lake-Bena's boys basketball team swept its home-and-home series with Red Lake, edging the Warriors 97-96 and slipping past Red lake 91-73.
Red Lake and Clearbrook-Gonvick were among the better girls teams last winter but neither could escape Fosston in the sub-section playoffs. Fosston toppled the Warriors 67-46 in the semifinals and then nipped Clearbrook-Gonvick 48-41 in the sub-section title game.
Individually, Kelly Heck of Northome-Kelliher scored her 1,000th career point during the regular-season finale against CL-B.
"Long ago, in the back of her mind, Kelly set the goal to hit 1,000 points before her senior year," said N-K coach Justin Lundin. "Kelly has been a very focused player who has led by example and is very unselfish on the court. Even though scoring has been an important part of her game, Kelly's unselfish play finds her leading the team with over 100 assists this season."
Aaron Leintz of the Bagley-Fosston hockey team also reached a milestone when he collected his100th varsity point.
The Blackduck-Cass Lake-Bena wrestling program continued its ascent among the Class A programs last year and the Bears capped their winter by sending three wrestlers to the state meet.
The trio included Andrew Nissen at 106, Daven Staples at 160 and Tanner Templin at 195.
The Bears are having success this year as well and Saturday BCLB finished third in the 33-team Big Bear Invitational. BCLB also had eight wrestlers place, including Daven Staples who won the 170-pound title and Andrew Nissen who was second at 106.
In the spring Blackduck took its first steps toward a repeat trip to the state baseball tournament when it bounced Red Lake 11-1, battered Remer 12-2 and belted WHA 11-2 in the sub-section tournament openers at BSU.
At the section meet the Drakes downed Win-E-Mac 11-7. In the section title game Blackduck held off Norman County and won 6-5. The victory enabled Blackduck to make a return trip to the state meet in Jordan and Chaska.
In the first round at state Blackduck faced Osakis and lost 10-0. The season ended in the consolation semifinals when the Drakes lost 8-2 to Floodwood.
Despite going 0-2 at the state tournament the Drakes had a memorable season and the 2013 edition picked up where the 2012 team left off.
"Last year we made it to the state for the first time in school history and right away we thought we'd be heading back this year," said Drakes senior centerfielder Mitch Sparby. "During the offseason we worked hard on our training and we went to summer baseball camps because we wanted to get back to state. And we did."
In class 2A golf Bagley's Aaron Leintz placed third in the Section 8-2A meet and advanced to the state meet. The senior capped his high school career by finishing fourth at the state meet, an event which was reduced to 27 holes because of rain during the second day.
In girls 7A action, Kaylee Fisher of Northome-Kelliher and Sasha Pfannenstein of Blackduck both qualified for the state meet. Fisher was third overall at the Section 7A tournament and Pfannenstein was seventh.
At the state meet Fisher finIshed 66th and Pfannenstein was 69th.
This fall Kelliher-Northome's football team had an unbeaten regular season and advanced to the Section 7 Nine-Man title game against Esko in Duluth. The Mustangs came up a bit short in the bid for the state tournament, however, as they lost 32-22 and finished the year 10-1.
It also was an exciting year to follow local curlers. In February the Pete Fenson rink fell just short in its bid to reclaim the national men's curling championship as it lost 7-5 to Heath McCormick of New York in a tie-breaker for the Page playoffs.
Curling with Fenson were fellow Bemidji residents Ryan Brunt and Joe Polo.
In women's curling, the Allison Pottinger rink, which included Natalie Nicholson of Bemidji, finished third in the national tournament. In its playoff opener Pottinger lost 8-7 to Erika Brown of Wisconsin. The rink fared much better in the battle for third place as it ripped Alex Carlson of Wayzata 11-2.
A pair of Bemidji curlers also found success in the Junior ranks as Alex Fenson and Mark Fenner helped lead the Kory Dropkin rink of Massachusetts to the national championship. As a reward the Dropkin team represented the USA at the 2013 Junior World Championships in Sochi, Russia where it placed seventh with a 4-5 record.
"It was just what I imagined it would be," Fenner said.
"It was pretty fun and an experience that I'll remember for the rest of my life."
This fall three curling teams with Bemidji connections competed in the Olympic Trials.
The Pete Fenson rink finished second in the Trials, losing to Jon Shuster two games to one in the title series.
Natalie Nicholson and her teammates on the Allison Pottinger rink lost to Erika Brown in a best-of-three championship series, dropping both games.
During the round-robin portion of the Olympic Trials the Cassie Potter rink, which included Bemidji natives Potter and Jamie Haskell, posted a 2-4 record and did not make the playoffs.
ODDS AND ENDS
*Dan Gladden was among the celebrities who made a visit to Bemidji during the annual Twins Caravan. Joining him were Tom Brunansky, Brian Duensing and Chris Parmele.
*A local boy who has made good added interest in the Super Bowl as BSU football alum and current general manager of the San Francisco 49ers Trent Baalke helped lead the 49ers to the NFL title game.
In a show of support, about 200 people participated in a group photo at Chet Anderson Stadium. They later sent the photo to Baalke with a wish for success as his team faced Baltimore in the Super Bowl.
Participants in the photo included alumni, friends, student-athletes, coaches BSU president Richard Hanson plus former BSU president Jim Bensen.
More than 200 skiers participated in the various Finlandia ski races at Buena Vista. Wynn Roberts of Fergus Falls was the overall winner of the 50-km freestyle event with a time of 2:23.28.
*The winter that wouldn't end reduced the area golf season by a full month in 2013 as most courses did not open until the middle of May.
Among the golfing highlights last summer, however, was seeing Bill Israelson qualify for the 34th annual U.S. Senior Open golf championship by winning a section qualifying tournament in June.
Israelson, who is a Bemidji native and currently is the club professional at The Vintage in Staples, shot 38-34-72 on the par-72 Spring Hill layout.
During the Senior Open Israelson finished 12-over-par (152) and missed the cut.
Bill Carlson won the Birchmont Men's Championship, stopping A.J. Oster 1-up in the title match. The other Birchmont Championship winners were Dan Gilman (Seniors), Katie Sheetz (Women's), Lee Hetletved (Executive's), Joe Mayer (Master's) and Gavin Loscheider (Junior's).
At the end of the summer former Bemidji resident Tom Jenkins won his seventh Vandersluis championship.
*In early May the first hints of an Indoor Football League franchise coming to Bemidji and playing at the Sanford Center surfaced. Sanford Center executive director Curtis Webb said that he had reached out to Robert Loving, the commissioner of the Indoor Football League about the possibility. Webb said one reason to bring a team here is to establish a second tenant besides Bemidji State University and "keep the building busy."
During July Bemidji officially became the home of an IFL franchise as the creation of the Bemidji Axemen was announced by team owner Chris Kokalis. The Axemen will officially begin their season Feb. 7 when they host Cedar Rapids at the Sanford Center.
Among the highlights of the youth hockey season was the annual Paul Bunyan International Peewee tournament and last winter the Bemidji team won the Headwaters Bracket title.
After dropping its first three games Bemidji defeated Keweenaw and Crookston to claim the prize. Brainerd won the overall championship, edging Grand Rapids 4-3 in the title game.
This year's tournament begins Saturday and continues through Monday.
The Bantam AA squad advanced to the state tournament where it lost 5-3 to Mounds View and 3-1 to Alexandria. Bemidji finished its campaign with a stellar 36-8-2 record.