The activities and athletic successes for Cambridge-Isanti Schools this past school year were highlighted during the Cambridge-Isanti School Board meeting on June 20.
Activities Director Mark Solberg explained the district had seven teams participate in state tournaments this past year, with two teams earning section runner-ups. He also noted the district had 23 individuals earn state medals, and nine coaches were voted as coaches of the year by their peers in their respective classes.
Those included Shane Weibel, 7AAAAA football coach of the year; Mike McDonald, 7AAAA boys basketball coach of the year; Jody Ledahl, 7AAAA girls basketball coach of the year; Jeff Kurowski, 7AAAA assistant girls basketball coach of the year; Megan Schultz, 7AA assistant girls basketball coach of the year; Thea Lowman, 7AA boys tennis coach of the year; Jen Magnuson, 7AA assistant boys tennis coach of the year; Michael Galligan, 7AA girls track and field coach of the year; and Kent Viesselman, 7AA boys track and field coach of the year.
Solberg explained officials rank the district on the Minnesota State High School League website on a variety of factors, including sponsorships, coaching and interacting with officials. He said out of 5.0, which is exemplary, the district earned a 4.79.
“I attend meetings all over the state and I can tell you our 4.79 is one of the best in the state,” Solberg said. Solberg read some of the comments by the officials that indicated that Cambridge-Isanti is a gracious host; the players and coaches are great throughout the game; and Cambridge-Isanti sets the standard for site management to the highest level.
Solberg also highlighted the academic successes of this past school year. Nineteen teams earned the academic gold standard of a 3.5 to 4.0 GPA; six teams earned the silver standard of 3.30 to 3.49 GPA; and two teams had GPAs of 3.0 to 3.29.
“We are very proud of our Bluejacket students and their academic success in the classroom,” Solberg said. “Multiple studies have shown that those students who participate in activities, the arts and athletics, have higher GPAs and graduate at a higher rate than non-participants.”
Ledahl talked about the commitment by the girls basketball team this past season, who finished as section runner-ups.
“We had four wins a season ago and these kids committed themselves; they put so much work in last summer, last fall, last spring, and to go from four wins to 18 wins. It was such a reward for all the work they put in to make it to the section finals and compete against one of the best teams in the state and hang with them like we did,” Ledahl said. “I’m so proud of what these kids did this year. They are my hardest working kids that I’ve ever had in my 20-plus years of coaching and it’s just a testament to them. They are outstanding students, they are involved in so many different activities. ... This is a fantastic group of kids and they represent Cambridge-Isanti so well.”
Girls basketball player Payton Larkin, who will be a senior next year, talked about the improvement in the team this past season.
“We took a huge leap this year. Last season we had four wins, which was not the most enjoyable, but this season we were able to come out and have 18 wins,” Larkin said. “We made it to the section final, we lost by 14 points, but everybody is returning — we didn’t lose anyone — so hopefully we can make it to the state tournament next year.”
Girls basketball player Jackie Olander, who will be a senior next year, touched on the camaraderie of the team.
“Along with our successful year, we had a lot of fun. Our fellow teammates, coaches and school community made us basketball players have more of an awesome experience,” Olander said. “We just want to say thank you. We are so thankful for everything.”
McDonald has been with the district since 1987, and the boys basketball team made it to the state tournament this year for the first time since 2008.
“I’ve been here a long time,” McDonald said. “I come from a family of coaches. ... This is a special group of guys. ... The seniors I’ll miss; some of the juniors that are here and underclassmen will be coming back next year, so we can do it all again. It was a special season.”
Boys basketball player Henry Abraham, who will be a senior next year, said the boys had a great season.
“We had a really fun season this year. Going to state was a really fun experience,” Abraham said.
Thanking district leadership
Solberg thanked the school board members for all their support.
“You are an outstanding board. Your visibility in the public, the way you interact with the citizens of Cambridge-Isanti Schools, your presence at graduation, at concerts, at ball games and events is very much appreciated,” Solberg said.
Solberg also thanked Superintendent Ray Queener for all his support over the years. Queener will be resigning from the district at the end of August.
“He’s done an outstanding job. He brought growth mindset to our schools. Growth mindset is simply this: If we improve, the people who we work with are going to improve and students benefit,” Solberg said. “I can tell you with confidence there are ADs all over the state visiting practices. There are principals, and I look to Dr. (Steve) Gibbs and Dr. (Brenda) Damani, who came to a lot of practices. Very few, in fact probably zero, superintendents take the time, but Dr. Queener has done that.
“He has shot baskets with the basketball team, he has kicked penalty shots with the soccer team, he has skated with the hockey team, he has run with the cross-country team, he pitched with the baseball team, he took ground balls with the baseball team. And then we go to football practice and back in the day, Dr. Queener was a pretty good athlete in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, he was a long snapper. And so without even a warm up, here’s Brody Nelson our holder, Dr. Gibbs was going to kick a field goal, his lineup, talk about performing under pressure. Snap, boom, right there, you could hear the crowd, kids went nuts.”