Successful season

Despite restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, area schools find success in academics, athletics

Northern Lakes Lightning fans give the boys hockey team a rousing sendoff as the players' bus drives down Government Drive on Monday, March 29, 2021, before heading to St. Paul for the team's first-ever state hockey tournament appearance. Dan Determan / Echo Journal

The world is far from back to normal as people continue to deal with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, but Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus schools managed to find joy and success in academics and athletics during the winter season.

Both school districts have managed to keep all students learning in person for the past few months, as well as competing in winter sports and fine arts activities.

The Pequot Lakes community rallied around the Northern Lakes Lightning boys hockey team when that team competed in its first-ever section championship Thursday, March 25, in Monticello, where hockey parents were “100% louder” than the home crowd, according to the coach.

Securing the win, the hockey team advanced to its first-ever state tournament, losing in the quarterfinal round Tuesday morning, March 30, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. That came after a Pequot Lakes style sendoff Monday, March 29, where families and fans lined Government Drive, Front Street and Olson Street to cheer on the players as the team bus motored through town with a police escort before traveling to Crosby-Ironton for those players and then onto St. Paul.

Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus Road Crew junior Connor Tulenchik repeated as runner-up in the Class 2A state wrestling tournament, a feat he should be proud of.


Basketball teams from each school had exciting and successful seasons, with other athletes also advancing to state competition. Those included Pequot Lakes students Calia Chaney (alpine skiing) and Josie Harguth (gymnastics), and Road Crew wrestler Owen Carlson.

All athletes should be proud of their accomplishments.

Academic accolades go to Megan Buffington, Pequot Lakes senior, who advanced to the national speech tournament. Kudos also go to the two-person speech team at Pine River-Backus - Tabitha Kibwaa and Randall Yost - who didn't just throw in the towel for lack of teammates but instead rallied on.

There's more fun to come as spring seasons get ready to kick off in both athletics and fine arts, including upcoming scholarship pageants in Pine River, Pequot Lakes and Nisswa. After the 2020 cancellation of the Pine River-Backus musical production of " The Trials of Alice in Wonderland," performers started rehearsing for the show once again March 23, with a May 21 opening date.

Persistence pays off, even in challenging times.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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