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“Newsies” takes center stage
Roy Koenig, Sports Analyst
Roy Koenig, sports wrap, steele county times

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The Owatonna High School theater department presents the musical “Newsies” for one more weekend in the Wenger Performing Arts Center with shows Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at 7 p.m.

Senior Ethan Armstrong plays Jack, who leads the newsies’ strike. He went after the lead role after having fun in a previous production.

“I was really nervous starting off. I hadn’t gotten a really big part before. I’d only been in one other show. This is a big change from our last show in the winter. I got a lot of support within my family and around the school. I think it was a really good fit,” said Armstrong.

Rehearsals started in December, and he said between learning lines and songs “a lot more goes into it than the three hours of practice we do after school.” A regular part of the schedule for the cast was workouts with strength coach Jerry Eggermont before school.

Armstrong says the number “Once and for All” is “powerful and really, really cool. When that comes on, you’ll know because it’ll give you goosebumps.”

Senior Sadie Fox is Crutchie and has performed many times.

“It’s a very awesome, great community. You get to meet a lot of new people and have a lot of cool opportunities. I’ve had to do a lot of different characters, a wide range, playing boys and girls, and old and young characters. So, getting to play with a lot of that is interesting. And trying out accents is really fun,” said Fox.

The show mixes humor and drama in and around the music and is based on an actual newspaper carriers’ strike in 1899. Fox said the new high school has projectors, better lighting, and cool sound equipment, but she still misses the old OHS. Having an actual pit for the band is a plus.

Reuel Borkenhagen, a senior who plays Davey, moved to Owatonna last year and used theater to meet people.

“This was the single best thing for my social life. I right away got into the first show, which was such a blessing because I was able to meet so many people and kind of create a friend group that built out from there,” said Borkenhagen.

Junior Kalleigh Malecha plays Katherine, who is in the tight spot of being the daughter of Joseph Pulitzer – essentially the villain - while trying to help the newsies.

“I think it just proves that she’s an independent woman who wants to do her thing,” said Malecha.

This is Malecha’s first show.

“I just wanted to be more involved and try something new. I thought this would be a good way to do that,” she said.

Vitaly Bauer, a sophomore who plays Race, enjoys the odd things he gets to do in theater.

“This musical I get to flip over someone’s back” and in the fall production “I wore a coconut bra and a wig on stage, and sang a song with a ukulele,” he said.

Brooks Hugstad-Vaa Leer, a sixth grader, has performed several times.

“I like meeting new people and doing the dances. Those are fun with all the cool tricks that people do,” he said. He has some very funny lines.

The singing and dancing are fantastic. The choreography and the use of the aspects of the new high school are great. It’s a must-see. Go to for tickets.


Robots unite

Teams of robots throwing disc rings into goals. It’s not something from a sci-fi series. It’s the game Crescendo for this season’s high school robotics challenge. In January, teams began to design, manufacture, and program their robot. Owatonna’s Rebel Alliance travels to Duluth this weekend for their first competition.

Nearly 40 students make up the team that has created a robot from scratch over the last few weeks. Sophomore Mercy Mwanga explained the music-themed game on the Owatonna Live Coaches Show.

“The objective of the game is you have to have a robot that is able to pick up launch a note. A note is a frisbee thing with a hole in the middle, and you launch that note into three different areas throughout the field,” said Mwanga.

Several times since our interview I’ve walked through the high school and seen team members tossing the “notes” around to figure out the best way to gain points.

Mwanga said they have a “square robot with an opening that’s going to come at the bottom that’s going to pick up the note. We’re just going to drive over the note and pick it up and then shoot it with an intake.”

It’s his second year.

“I wanted to learn everything when it comes to engineering. And since I did build last year, I thought why not just go to electrical,” he said.

Advisor Nathele Beadell says students come away with many benefits.

“This group has been very focused. They are a great group of kids to work with. The point of robotics is learning. It really is. That’s what the program is all about, is learning and teaching. So, yes. They can come in without any knowledge and we have mentors that will help them, and they learn all about STEM,” said Beadell.

Senior Carter Hanson is in his fourth season and taking on the leadership role of admiral after three seasons on the build team.

“It’s more being able to work with the people that can program,” he said.

While a new robot needs to be built each year, some concepts stay the same, such as a square shape and using wheels.

“The design process is really fun and working together with a bunch of different people to get a model finalized and built is just a great experience,” said Hanson.

Hanson enjoys the chance to share the excitement of robotics.

“Community outreach is a huge part of the team and it’s really fun to see the kids drive the robot and fall in love with it. I think driving is probably the main thing that most of them want to grow up to do,” he said.

Competitions cover several days. Mwanga is impressed “with the amount of people that are there. It’s such a big competition. I really do like the shouts. It’s kind of a me thing, but I love the shouting at competitions. Super fun to support the team.”

The Rebel Alliance – robotics teams don’t use their school’s traditional mascot – also has a competition in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in late March and hopes to make a return trip to the World event in April after going to Houston, Texas last year. The Minnesota State High School League hosts a state competition in May.


Get your tickets

OHS baseball faces Red Wing at Target Field on Saturday, April 20, at 4:30 p.m. The game follows a Twins’ game against Detroit. A single ticket gets you into both games and benefits the Huskies’ program. Tickets are available now.

“This is an excellent opportunity for your group to enjoy a day of baseball at one of the premier stadiums in the country, followed by the excitement of watching our very own Owatonna Huskies in action,” states a letter signed by OHS coach Tate Cummins and Bullpen Club members Matt Frantesl and Nick Miller.

Seats in sections 329-333 (upper level) start at $15. Tickets in sections 125-126 (lower level) begin at $17. Prices go down for big quantities. Contact Cummins at or 507-363-0206, or Miller at or 507-208-2596.


A one and a two

Four practices into Dancing with Our Steele County Stars, and I’m feeling as confident as a moose venturing onto a partially frozen Minnesota lake. Luckily, I still have seven more weeks to practice, practice, practice.

Lisa Cochran and I are one of the nine couples helping to raise money for Healthy Seniors of Steele County. The others are Delana Sevier and Ray Hoeve, Molly and Jason Kerr, Jennifer Anderson and Todd Wasieleski, Naomi Nagel and Leo Avalos, Emy and Caleb Whalen, Emily and Jeremy Saufferer, Kim and Dave Purscell, and Destinee and Mike Meger.          

In reality, it’s a fun routine that dance instructor April Dahl has arranged for us. We still feel like heavy underdogs, but we’ll give it our best. The event is Saturday, April 13, in the Wenger Performing Arts Center at OHS.

Healthy Seniors assists those aged 65 and older to live safely and independently in their own homes. play-by-play schedule

Friday, March 1
OHS boys’ basketball vs. Rochester Mayo, 7:30 p.m.

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