Special spring memories recalled for Patriots, Tigers

Golf, track, softball team success documented

The Pequot Lakes girls’ golf team was the Class 2A state runner-up in 2014. Team members included Alex Stone (left), Alex Nelson, Sam Olmscheid, Megan Snyder, Amanda Nies, Bella Abear, Maggie Heggerston and Coach Jon Dale. File Photo by Bill Johnson

Not having this spring’s high school sports season because of COVID-19 was unfortunate, especially for the athletes looking forward to competing as seniors.

The time off from sports did provide an opportunity to look back at some of the favorite Pequot Lakes Patriots and Pine River-Backus Tigers spring sports stories that have filled the Echo Journal pages over the past 20 years. I’ve enjoyed following high school teams, along with current sports writer Dan Determan, the late Wayne “Wheaties” Wallin, and correspondents Ashley Smith and Lena Richards, who have all helped document area teams.

Here are some of those favorite memories, but not in any special order:

PL girls win 2 state golf titles

The Pequot Lakes girls dominated Class 2A golf, especially from 2002-04. The Patriots won titles in 2002 and 2004 and were third in 2003.

In 2004, Pequot Lakes built a 17-stroke lead after the first day, and eventually won by 25 strokes over Albany. Senior Kim (Larson) Rollins shot an 82 to finish fourth individually while teammate Val Meschke was sixth with 83. Other Patriot team members were Ali Gravdahl, Kendra Larson, Brooke Keys and Becky Swanson.


“In 2004, we had already won (state) once, and taken third the year before, which made it even more difficult to hold steady both days to walk away with another title,” Rollins recalled. “We had the lead on day one and it took a lot of mental determination from our whole team to not fall apart the second day.”

In 2002, Pequot Lakes captured the first state team championship in school history by winning the Class 1A girls’ title. The Patriots’ lineup included Jackie Heslop, Ashley and Val Meschke, Larson, Courtney Suemnick and Gravdahl. Pequot trailed three-time defending champion Roseau by four strokes after the first day, but rallied on the final day to beat the Rams by 12 strokes. Heslop tied for fourth individually with a 157 total.

“No one thought we could compete with Roseau,” Rollins said of the 2002 title. “They had won two years in a row and were going for their third title. I remember Coach Heslop telling us that we were the ‘snakes in the grass’ and that no one would see us coming, which was true. No one thought we could win and we pulled it out.”

Patriots 2nd at state meet in 2014

The Patriots’ girls golf success continued years later, especially in 2014 when Pequot Lakes finished as Class 2A state runners-up and junior Maggie Heggerston tied Detroit Lakes’ Kate Smith for state individual medalist honors. Other team members on coach Jon Dale’s squad were Alex Stone, Alex Nelson, Sam Olmscheid, Megan Snyder, Amanda Nies and Bella Abear.

The Patriots placed third at state in 2015. That year, there were a couple special individual moments for Pequot Lakes players. Snyder carded a rare hole-in-one on the second day and Nies played 36 holes through the constant pain of a serious knee injury during state competition.

PR-B’s Raph successful at state

Speaking of golf, Pine River-Backus’ Brady Raph had one of the better finishes in program history last spring when he tied for 7th place at the Class A state meet in Becker.

Raph carded a second-round 79 to finish with a two-day 160 that tied him with four other players. Raph was one of just six players to break 80 Wednesday.

"I saw him coming back, but his putting just was not there," PR-B head coach Steve Heslop said. "I thought he was going to sell his putter on eBay before we finished the round. Other than that, tee to green, he was so solid and so long. He hit a 327-yard drive on his last hole. I stepped up to him and said, 'Last hole. Let it ride.' and he said, 'That's what I was planning.'"


Unfortunately for Raph, he missed a chance this spring to improve on his state finish as a senior.

Patriots softball team 2nd at state

In the spring of 2016, Pequot Lakes finished as state runners-up after falling to the Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougars 7-0 in the Class 2A state championship softball game in Mankato.

It was a tough finish to an admirable season as coach Bret Sergent’s Patriots reached the state title game for the first time in program history and finished 25-3 overall. The only thing that stopped Pequot Lakes from winning state was a Cougar team that set a tournament record by not surrendering an earned run in three games at state.

The championship game was delayed in the late innings when a severe thunderstorm with strong winds passed through the area. The Patriots, who advanced to the title game by defeating Pipestone 5-1 and Rockford 2-1, were led by pitcher Kathryn Miska and infiedler Alex Kotaska, who both made the all-tournament team.

Tigers advance to state

Pine River-Backus finished sixth overall at the Class A state softball tournament in 2016 after losing to New York Mills 13-1 in the fifth-place game.

"If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we would be playing in the state tournament, it would have been the farthest thing from my mind," said former PR-B head coach John Riewer, whose squad finished 21-9 overall after its first state appearance. "This has been an awesome experience for these girls and I'm proud of all of them, especially our seniors.”

PR-B qualified for state after coming from behind to defeat the top-seeded Sebeka Trojans twice for the Section 5A title. Miah Hansen pitched 15 innings, struck out 16 batters, and allowed just six earned runs in the combined games as the Tigers defeated the Trojans 11-9 and 8-7.

Patriots track success

Continuing with Pequot Lakes sports, it’s hard to overlook the successful track and field run for the Patriot girls and boys over the past decade, especially the Pequot Lakes boys winning the team points title and the girls finishing third at the state meet in 2018 at Hamline.


The boys’ won the state team title as senior Reid Pierzinski scored all of the Patriots’ points - the first time that was achieved in a state boys’ competition.

The Patriot boys and girls also both finished as state runners-up in the spring of 2017 while the girls were third in 2015, led by the state championship 4x400-meter relay of Brittny Bzdok, Grace McGuire, Olivia Lane and Chloe Bermel.

At the 2014 state meet, Pequot Lakes’ Tyler Tappe won the Class A pole vault title while the Patriots’ relay of Vanessa Lane, Sarah Rudlang, Bermel and Rachel Allen captured the 4x100 crown.

PR-B’s Porta 2nd at state

Pine River-Backus senior Megan Porta had mixed emotions about finishing second in the discus event at the 2015 Class A state meet. Porta was happy with earning one of the top state finishes in recent years for PR-B, but she also knew how close she was to placing first. She was seeded second going into state, and had the longest throw after the two state preliminary heats were completed.

The only throw that was farther than Porta's personal-best 127-feet, 5-inch toss was a 130-foot winner by Maddie Lindhart of Zumbrota-Mazeppa, who reached the mark on her second of three throws in the finals.

Porta placed fifth at state as a sophomore in her first year participating in track.

Pete Mohs may be reached at 218-855-5855 or


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