MANKATO — The spring high school sports season officially ended, at least as far as The Free Press is concerned, Wednesday with the conclusion of the state golf meet. State baseball is still ahead, but all the area teams were eliminated in section play so our staff will be staying home.
As I look back over the course of the spring there were four seniors who really stood out for me. It wasnÕt just their athletic prowess that made me take notice; it was also the fact that theyÕve been good at what they do for a long time and that each of them has chosen to stay close to home to compete in college.
WeÕll start with Coley Ries. The student-athlete for the Mankato East softball team developed early into a fine high school pitcher and, by her last two seasons, established herself as one of the top throwers in the state. We wrote about her plenty during the spring season, mostly because of her dominating performances.
Ries has opted to attend Minnesota State in the fall where she will become a member of the MavericksÕ softball team. The right-hander will likely be red-shirted her first year which will give her a chance to hit the weights and become even more effective from the circle.
Then thereÕs Brody Ziegler. The Mankato East senior is most well-known for his basketball prowess but he developed into a pretty good soccer goalie last fall and placed at state in the Class AA track and field meet last week.
The all-around athlete was one of those kids who quietly did his job and, most of the time, did it very well. He has committed to Gustavus Adolphus College for the fall where he plans to continue his basketball career. There could be some track in his future as well.
Mankato WestÕs Rachel Gravley joined the ScarletsÕ track and field program while in junior high and made people take notice right away. The tall, lanky jumper and hurdler was one of the top female athletes in the Big Nine Conference and, like Ziegler, closed out her career with an All-State performance.
She has committed to attend Minnesota State in the fall where she will compete for head coach Jen Blue in the track and field program.
The fourth noteworthy student-athlete was St. PeterÕs Mitch Elofson. The tennis player began to come on his freshman year and, by his sophomore season, was one of the better players in southern Minnesota.
He closed out his highly-successful career with a fourth-place finish in the Class A doubles tournament last week. Elofson is headed to Gustavus Adolphus where he will try to crack a lineup that is perennially among the best in Division III.
There were certainly other great student athletes I had the privilege to watch and interact with this year but, since the spring season just ended, these four are the freshest in my memory. It will be interesting to see how well their high school success translates into college success in the coming years.
And because theyÕre sticking around, IÕll have a ringside seat.
Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org