Horejsi among decade’s best

Published 4:32 pm Monday, December 30, 2019

There have been a lot of area athletes who have experienced a lot of success throughout the past decade. Here’s a look at some of the top sports stories from 2010 to 2019.

Carlie Wagner pulls up for a three-point shot on the Panthers’ way to their second-consecutive state championship in 2014. Wagner was also named AP’s Female Athlete of the Year. – Drew Claussen/Albert Lea Tribune

Panthers win
championship; Wagner is AP Player of the Year

With a 71-61 win over Kenyon-Wanamingo on March 24, 2014, in the Class AA state title game, the NRHEG girls’ basketball team became back-to-back state champs.

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It was the first of two state titles for Carlie Wagner in her senior season. She followed the basketball title by winning the Class A high jump on June 6, 2014, at Hamline University. After the winter sports season, Wagner was recognized as the Associated Press Player of the Year to go with her accolades as the Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year.

Wagner set three individual records at the girls’ basketball state tournament. She broke Janet Karvonen’s state tournament career scoring total of 329 in 1980 with 371 points. She scored 130 points in the 2014 tournament, which broke her previous record of 129 in 2013.

Lastly, she broke her 2013 record of 50 points in a state tournament game with 53 against Pequot Lakes in the state quarterfinals.

The Panthers also set two team records. In the win over Pequot Lakes, the two teams combined for 168 points to set the record for most total points in a game. The old record was 157 when Monticello played Fergus Falls in 2013. In that same game, NRHEG set the record for most points in a state tournament game by one team with 100. The old record was 88 by Eden Valley Watkins against Cass Lake in 1984.

Headed into the state championship, the Panthers were the clear favorite with a 30-0 record and a 60-game win streak that included a 67-60 regular season home win against Kenyon- Wanamingo, which was the Knights’ only loss of the season. It was also the only game of the season NRHEG didn’t win by double digits.

Kenyon Wanamingo came into the game with a 31-1 record, having built a 22-game win streak after its loss at NRHEG. In the last 60 games, the Knights won 50.

The Panthers had the edge in many statistical categories. NRHEG averaged over 20 points per game more than Kenyon-Wanamingo in the postseason and more than 14 points during the regular season.

Kenyon-Wanamingo began the game with a 7-5 lead on a 3-pointer by Meg Clark. However, NRHEG answered with its first double-digit lead of the game, 23-13. Wagner capped another run with a 3-pointer that extended the Panthers’ lead to 18 points. The advantage fluctuated from 14 to 18 points in the next 3:36, and at halftime, NRHEG led 37-19.

The Panthers were on pace to hit their postseason scoring average, and Kenyon-Wanamingo wasn’t even close to keeping its average for points allowed. Through the first six games of the postseason, the Knights gave up an average of 38 points per game.

In the second half, NRHEG’s lead was pushed to 24 points on Wagner’s sixth 3-pointer of the game.

Kenyon-Wanamingo came alive with 1:04 left in regulation to cut its deficit to seven points. However, NRHEG pushed it back to 10 points before the final buzzer sounded.

Horejsi breaks
national record;
competes at Olympic trials

On Nov. 19, 2015, Lindsey Horejsi broke the national high school record in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 58.56 seconds in the girls’ Class A state swimming prelims in Minneapolis.

“I was shocked,” Horejsi said in a Tribune article covering the prelims. “I was kind of nervous about how I was going to swim, because you always worry about ‘did I work hard enough?’ and ‘did I do everything I could have possibly done?’ and then it comes down to it.”

The previous record of 58.75 seconds was set in 2009 by Kasey Carlson of Las Lomas High  School in California.

The time of Horejsi’s national record-setting 100 breaststroke earned her an All-American time and set the all-time state meet record and the Class A record for the event, as well.

The story of her success was the most-read sports story on the Tribune’s website in 2015.

The recognition came after Horejsi earned a gold medal at the USA Junior National Championships in the 100 breaststroke in December 2014 in Washington state, when she finished with a time of 1:00.24.

Horejsi qualified in the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke for the Olympic Trials with a chance to go to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The first day, Horejsi swam the 100-meter breaststroke. She qualified for the next round of the trials, coming in 24th place, and she set a new personal record in the trial. Horejsi finished in 19th place with a time of 1:08.82, but moved up to 18th place — out of 125 — after a swimmer withdrew from qualifying. That put her in the 85th percentile of all swimmers in the event, but only the top 16 moved on to the second round of qualifying.

Horejsi has since gotten married and now swims as Lindsey Kozelsky, and has already qualified for the 2020 Olympic trials.

Aldrich makes it
3 state titles in a row

Albert Lea wrestler Garrett Aldrich secured his third straight state championship at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul in March 2016 wrestling in the 132-pound weight class.

Coming into the state tournament with a record of 43-4, Aldrich worked his way through a grueling bracket. He won all four matches against opponents with a combined record of 130-41, including winning the championship match against Hibbing’s Morgan Fuenffinger, who came into the state tournament with a record of 41-4. The final victory gave Aldrich a complete record of 47-4.

During his run of three state titles, Aldrich has compiled a record of 131-15 and was 12-0 at the state tournament.

“It’s what I have been working for — to keep winning. I just keep wrestling my style, and it works,” Aldrich said at the time.

According to then-wrestling head coach Larry Goodnature, Aldrich became the second Albert Lea wrestler to become a three-time state champion. The first was Tom Jean back in the 1970s.

“(Garrett’s) one of the elite now in Albert Lea wrestling,” Goodnature said. “That’s a tough thing to do, because there’s so many good wrestlers. But (Garrett), he’s very intense, focused. He’s just a hard-nosed kid — very balanced with his technique.”

Look to Thursday’s edition of the Tribune for more of the decade’s top sports stories.