Welcome to the OwatonnaLive Sports Wrap. I’m Roy Koenig. Each week in this space I’ll be sharing an update on local sports, complementing the work of Steele County Times sports editor Johnnie Phillips.
A little about me. I’ve been covering sports in Owatonna, Steele County, and southern Minnesota for over 30 years. The opportunity to be the “Voice of the Huskies” actually began as “Voice of the Indians” in 1991 when KRFO radio gave me the chance to be a sports director. I arrived in Owatonna as everyone was still chipping ice away from the Halloween Blizzard.
When I interviewed for the job with KRFO, I was asked if I could do hockey. I said, “Yes,” even though I had never broadcast a game. Growing up in Hibbing, I guess hockey is just in my blood. If I knew I would be stepping into the shoes of Todd Hale, who was a pioneer of hockey play-by-play on the radio, I may have been more nervous. But Todd (Owatonna High School Athletic Hall of Fame, 2016) has been a wonderful supporter of mine through the years.
Jim Herzog (HOF ’14), former athletic director, was principal at OHS when I arrived. This year, he nominated me for the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to put into words the honor that comes from being associated with such select company.
I wouldn’t be where I am without Brad Fischer by my side for football for more than three decades. I’m honored to call him a friend after countless miles crisscrossing southern Minnesota driving to games. I’ve been fortunate to work with many experts in many sports to get up to speed on presenting coverage for KRFO. I appreciate the people in school administration and the sports community that have shared their time and knowledge.
The comments I have received from people since the announcement of my induction to HOF ‘22 on Sept. 16, along with the reaction to the news about teaming up with Scott Limberg of Owatonna Live, the Steele County Times, and KOWZ/KRUE, leaves me a bit speechless about the impact a person can have on the community while sharing game action and the stories behind the youth of Owatonna and the surrounding area. With all that said, I have nothing but fond memories of my time with KRFO from the people I worked with to the listeners I came to know and those that I haven’t. I’m blessed to be in the position that I am and having a blast reporting on the student-athletes of Steele County.
Football kickoff is fair hit
While a kickoff opens a football game, the annual introduction of the Owatonna High School football players, cheerleaders, and coaches is the capping event to the Steele County Free Fair. A massive crowd gathered in Fair Square Park on the final night of the fair to show their support and excitement for the upcoming season.
I’m always impressed with way coach Jeff Williams leads the event. He knows each player so well, even those new to the varsity, including some fun facts, all off the top of his head with no notes in hand.
Williams says teams win with seniors. This year’s four captains are Trever Schirmer, Micah Elstad, Drew Kretlow, and Collin Vick. Schirmer is out for the season with a knee injury, but will fulfill his role as captain and work with the players. He says his rehabilitation is going well and has his sights set on the track season. He could have advanced to state in both the shot put and discus this past year had he not been sidelined.
2 awards are twice as nice
As Williams was introducing the coaching staff, it was his pleasure to highlight the various awards many of them have won. Both Doug Wanous and Marc Achterkirch are previous honorees as State Football Coaches Association Assistants of the Year. More recently Jerry Eggermont and Kevin Stelter have picked up some hardware.
Eggermont (strength and conditioning/football/track) was the National Coaches Association Minnesota Assistant Coach of the Year covering all sports and was one of eight finalists for the national honor.
“When I first learned of it, I was caught way off guard. I don’t see myself as being included in a group of coaches at that level. I’m tremendously humbled and blessed…I couldn’t have made it there and get the recognition without the coaches in the programs that I work with and certainly the student-athletes that I have been so blessed to be a part of.” Eggermont was nominated by a colleague from outside the district, leaving him even more grateful.
Stelter (track/football) was named the State High School Coaches Association AAA Boys’ Track and Field Coach of the Year after leading the Huskies to a third-place finish at the True Team state meet and a fifth place showing in the MSHSL meet.
“Just feel real blessed that we were able to get recognized for having a quality track and field program this season. Feel real humbled by it. I tell our guys we look at it as a staff award because we couldn’t do it without all the assistant coaches we have working with us.”
Those assistants include Dave Chatelaine (distance runners) “He’s won multiple awards as cross country coach along the way,” states Stelter. Eggermont (weight events, shot and discus) “And just does a fantastic job with those guys.” Doug Maine (hurdlers) “Who’s had, it seems like, a hurdler at state every year for the past four or five years and then some.” Joey Gleason (sprints/jumps) “What an honor for him to have his son turn out to be the state champion this year.” Debby Gleason (girls head coach) “Works with our high jumpers.”
Activities Director Achterkirch says, “Both coach Eggermont and coach Stelter are representing Owatonna well, “And I think it’s important for folks to hear that and parents understand that. We’ve got wonderful coaches that are super role models for our young men and women and that’s the whole goal. When they’re done with our program, they’re better people for being a part of our programs.”
Stelter is a longtime math teacher in Owatonna. He also supplies the scorers’ table with some great cookies during the basketball season while running the clock. Eggermont is a longtime physical education teacher.
Girls soccer with lofty goals
With the return of several top goal-scorers, the OHS girls soccer team has high aspirations for the season and would love to make team history and qualify for state for the first time. The program has a few section finals appearances, including 2020, where even if they had won the title, there was no state tournament. While they graduate Hillary Haarstad who led the team with 19 goals in 2021, they add transfer Ava Stanchina (Northfield) who tallied 18 goals last fall.
OHS graduates quite a bit of the defensive corps including their goalkeeper. A fleet of a dozen seniors will attempt to power the Huskies to the top of the conference and section.
The Huskies opened their season with a 2-1 overtime loss to Section 1AAA rival Farmington. OHS grabbed the lead midway through the first half. The Tigers leveled the scored at about the halfway point of the second stanza and scored the winner 17 seconds into overtime. In regular season soccer, two five-minute overtime periods are held. The game does not end with a golden goal. Quite a few fans weren’t aware that overtime would be played and got up to leave at the end of regulation. At least one announcer (me) wasn’t sure either. Now we all know.
Going Division 1
OHS senior Ezra Oien, last spring’s recipient of the Junior Athlete of the Year honor, has committed to play Division I college hockey at the University of Vermont. She says she fell in love with the campus and the program on a visit. Oien is in the select 100-point club at OHS. Former teammate Grace Wolfe (OHS Class of ’21) plays Division I with St. Cloud State University and OHS grad Lindsay Macy played for the University of Wisconsin and Minnesota State University-Mankato. Macy is back in Minnesota coaching, taking the job at College of St. Benedict. Sydney Hunst (OHS Class of ’21) played for the Bennies last winter.
Oien had a non-traditional route to hockey. She told therinklive.com, “I actually played basketball…no one in my family has ever played hockey…I was way too aggressive, would throw balls too hard, hit girls in the face, cause bloody noses.” She switched to hockey at five or six years old. Oien is a captain for the girls’ soccer team. She and her soccer and hockey teammate Abby Vetsch coached a boys’ youth soccer team this year and said it was a lot of fun.
Two out of three ain’t bad
The Huskies’ boys’ soccer team earned back-to-back wins over Section 1AAA rivals Lakeville North 4-1 and Lakeville South 2-1. Those wins came after a 1-0 loss at Farmington to the open the season. Benny Bangs scored twice in the victory over the Panthers at the Lincoln Soccer Complex. Ty Svenby opened the scoring, converting a penalty kick earned by Bangs who got fouled in the box by the goalkeeper. Braden Leonard also scored and was part of a solid effort defensively to limit North getting balls through to Nils Gantert. Leonard earned the Ron’s Repair Player of the Game. OHS topped South on goals by Bangs and Ashton Kraus, who won the Player of the Game honor. As the Big Nine schedule begins, longtime OHS coach Bob Waypa says any number of teams could win the league. Century captured the title last year.
Upcoming Owatonna Live Schedule
Thursday, Sept. 8:
OHS girls swimming vs Faribault, 6:30 p.m.
OHS boys soccer vs Austin, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 9:
OHS football at Century, 7 p.m./simulcast on KOWZ 100.9FM
Blooming Prairie football at Lester Prairie, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 10:
OHS boys soccer vs St. Paul Central, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 13:
OHS girls soccer vs Northfield, 7 p.m.