Before the shutdown, plenty of highlights

If you assigned a grade to the high school winter sports season, would it have to be “Incomplete”?

Things started as normal, with athletes from throughout Dakota County excelling at what they did. It continued into the postseason, where many of them left their marks.

And then it was over. The COVID-19 virus outbreak disrupted and eventually ended the season during the middle of the state girls basketball tournament. The state adapted floor hockey and boys basketball tournaments were canceled.

Prospects are uncertain for spring sports, with games and scrimmages not allowed until at least April 6. And it could be longer than that before athletes return to doing what they enjoy.

While we wait, here’s a look back at 2019-20 winter sports:

Tigers on a tear

Farmington won the South Suburban Conference girls basketball championship and won its last 17 games. The Tigers’ season was not ended by an opponent, but by a virus as the Class 4A state tournament was shut down the day after Farmington won its semifinal game. Farmington (29-2) and Hopkins (30-0), who were to meet in the championship game, were the only two teams in Class 4A with fewer than five losses.

It wasn’t all smooth road for the Tigers, however. Junior guard Paige Kindseth missed the final few weeks of the regular season after having surgery to repair torn ankle ligaments. She returned in time for the section playoffs. Senior guard Molly Mogensen, who earlier in the season became her school’s all-time scoring leader, broke a bone in her foot in February and was out the rest of the season.

But a deep Farmington lineup, led by guards Kindseth, Peyton Blandin, Morgan Ebel and Rose Wille, along with junior center Sophie Hart, picked up the slack and led the Tigers to the state tournament for the first time.

Lightning second in the polls

This year might have been Eastview’s best chance to win the state boys basketball championship since 2005, when Blake Hoffarber’s famous (or infamous, depending on your rooting interest) seat-of-the-pants shot snatched the title from the Lightning’s grasp. Eastview shared the 2019-20 South Suburban title and was 24-4 when its season ended early. The pandemic forced cancellation of the state tournament, marking the first time in the tournament’s 108-year history it had been called off.

Coach Paul Goetz said the Lightning’s success could be traced to a senior group that had been together for years and developed a knack for unselfish play. The top player from that group, forward Steven Crowl, signed with the University of Wisconsin.

Eagles take first in SSC hockey

Apple Valley won the South Suburban Conference girls hockey championship – not only the Eagles’ first in the SSC, but their first in any conference since 2003. The Eagles finished 20-7 after reaching the Section 3AA semifinals.

The team’s co-Most Valuable Players, goalie Keni Allen and defender Sydney Johnson, led a defense that held opponents to fewer than two goals per game. Sisters Mandy, Marie and Makayla Moran might have been the top line in the conference – and all three will be back next year.

Irish are hockey power

Rosemount continued the transition to Class AA boys hockey power, spending much of the season in the top five of the Class AA rankings.

A loss to Burnsville on the final day of the regular season cost the Irish a share of the South Suburban championship, but they finished with at least 20 victories for the third consecutive year. A core group that includes several underclassmen – forwards Luke Levandowski, Charlie Stramel and Broten Sabo, along with defenseman Jake Raztlaff – could have the Irish making another run at the South Suburban championship next year.

A first in Nordic skiing

The ISD 196 Nordic skiing team, which includes Apple Valley, Eastview, Rosemount and Eagan high schools, accomplished a program first this winter when two of its girls teams qualified for the state meet. Eastview and Rosemount advanced by finishing first and second in the Section 1 meet. Rosemount was eighth and Eastview 10th in the state meet.

Eastview competed at state for the seventh consecutive year. This was the first time at state as a team for Rosemount, which until recently didn’t have enough skiers to fill a roster. Rosemount senior Regan Hansen was 15th individually to earn a place on the All-State team. Gabby Kraemer of Eastview finished 27th.

Farmington’s Krause medals

Two top-three finishes by senior Seth Krause led Farmington to 10th place at the state Class AA boys swimming and diving meet.

Krause was runner-up in the 100-yard backstroke and third in the 100 freestyle. He also swam on two Farmington relay teams that reached the championship finals. Farmington had the highest finish at state of any South Suburban Conference team.

Rosemount with 19th at state, with all of its team points coming in the 500 freestyle from Evan Kindseth (fifth place) and Keegan Henning (seventh).

State wrestling

Farmington senior Luke Peterson closed his high school wrestling career with a state Class 3A runner-up finish at 145 pounds. Peterson, who will wrestle at Southwest State next season, was 40-3 in his senior year.

Other highlights from the state meet included Eastview senior Roman Gilbert finishing third at 132 and Apple Valley’s Dylan Anderson placing fifth at 160.

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