Three state tournaments. Six hundred and fifty-eight miles. Three different beds. Nineteen interviews totaling 54 minutes and 5 seconds. Seven hundred and twelve photos. Six articles totaling 5,687 words.
It was a long and busy week.
Three area teams earned state-tournament appearances in three different sports, providing an exciting and hectic experience for the players, coaches and fans affiliated with each squad — and the journalists who cover them.
Worthington participated in the Class A boys’ tennis tournament in Minneapolis on Tuesday. Jackson County Central participated in the Class AA girls’ golf tournament in Jordan on Wednesday and Thursday. Pipestone Area participated in the Class AA softball tournament in Mankato on Thursday and Friday. And I didn’t miss much of the action.
I could have totaled the amount of money I spent on my sports gorge, but I’d rather not think about it. It could have been worse: I could have spent at least $200 more on hotel stays. But, luckily for me (and the Globe) I have many friends and relatives who live near the Cities and allowed me to save money by staying with them.
On Monday, I stayed with my girlfriend, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, who lives in St. Paul. Her apartment is located just five minutes from the Xcel Energy Center (where I covered Windom Area in the state volleyball tournament and numerous wrestlers in the state wrestling tournament), about 20 minutes from the Metrodome (where I covered Luverne in the state football tournament), about 10 minutes from Williams Arena (where I covered both Adrian and Pipestone Area in the state girls’ basketball tournament) and about 25 minutes from Target Center (where I covered Ellsworth in the state boys’ basketball tournament).
The trip from her apartment to the Read-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis lasted about 10 minutes. Despite the gorgeous weather, the state tennis tournament was played indoors.
Playing inside was a relatively new and rare experience for the Trojans, but not for their second opponent. After losing 7-0 against Benson/Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg in the quarterfinals, the Trojans dropped a 7-0 decision against Blake, which has access to indoor facilities year-round.
Being able to practice and play at any time, despite the weather, is a huge advantage. And it showed Tuesday. Worthington’s players are able to practice and play only on dry days in the spring, summer and fall. Blake can practice and play during all seasons, and very few of its players participate in other sports. As a result, it’s tough for schools like Worthington to compete with teams like Blake.
The same example can be drawn in hockey. Worthington tennis players who also play hockey, like Mitchell Benson, Taylor Wiener and Kyle Hain, don’t have access to ice in the summer, making it impossible for them to practice, stay sharp and compete against metro-area teams who have access to ice facilities year-round.
After submitting my tennis photos and stories from my girlfriend’s apartment Tuesday night, I drove to my parents’ house in Jordan. I had dinner with my family and spent the night in my old bedroom. In the morning, I made the one-minute trip to Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Course, where I worked for a summer when I was 15 years old, to cover Jackson County Central’s girls’ golf team.
Golf is one of the most difficult sports to cover. Roaming a golf course while trying to find specific golfers is hard enough, but it’s even more difficult to do so in a way that doesn’t distract anyone while they’re trying to hit. And I have to take pictures.
Luckily, I was incredibly familiar with the course — because the Minnesota State High School League refused to allow me access to a cart, saying they were only giving keys to “reporters who work for large metro papers.” Oh, well. I needed the workout. I was so busy throughout the week, I found myself getting fast food in order to save time and money.
It was a long workout.
I arrived at Ridges at about 1 p.m., just in time to see JCC freshman Kaylee Benson tee off. When all of the golfers were finished and the final scores were posted, it was 7:30 p.m.
I submitted my stories and photos from my parents’ house, had a few adult beverages with my brother and went to bed. I woke up at 8 a.m. and drove to Mankato.
I stayed at an apartment left empty for the summer by my cousin and his roommates, all students at Minnesota State University-Mankato. The Arrows played two games on Thursday, and after I submitted my stories and photos, I took to bed in an attempt to sleep.
But the apartment was hot; there was no air conditioning, and my cousin and his friends had taken home their fans. I opened two windows, allowing the cool air to enter, but some unwelcomed noises followed. It was an apartment complex occupied by college students, after all, and I had the displeasure of listening to their post-bar conversations.
On about four hours of sleep, I returned to Caswell Park to watch Pipestone Area secure third place. I wrote two stories, packed up my things and drove back to St. Paul, where I met with Daily Globe sports editor Aaron Hagen the next day. I gave him our camera battery and our battery charger so he could take photos at the state track meet at Hamline University (five minutes from my girlfriend’s place).
I returned to Jordan on Sunday and drove back to Worthington today, capping my long trip. This week, I’ll start another. Luverne advanced to the state baseball tournament in St. Cloud and will play two games Thursday.
Worthington to St. Cloud: 190 miles and 3 hours, 32 minutes.