Chad Richardson is the publisher and editor at the Hastings Star Gazette. He was the general manager of the Farmington Independent and Rosemount Town Pages from 2000 to 2007. He previously worked at the Star Gazette from 1996 to 2000 as a photographer and reporter. He also worked as a photographer and writer at the Pope County Tribune in Glenwood.
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There's plenty of good news surrounding the Hastings boys tennis team. There's also some bad news. First, the good: Hastings has three of its top four singles players back from last year's team, including the No. 1 player. The bad news? Five seniors were lost to graduation, including four who played at doubles, leaving a big hole there. Coach Mick Willette is counting on the good news outweighing the bad for the Raiders. "We have a lot of raw talent on the team, and a lot of young guys," Willette said. "Really, I just want to see a lot of improvement this year.
The goals are the same, but many of the faces are different for this year's Hastings High School softball team. The Raiders graduated 11 players from last year's team, but the Raiders are hoping to earn their third-straight conference title, their fourth-straight section title and to get back to the state tournament. Hastings placed third at the state tournament the last two seasons. "We're definitely shooting to be conference champs, and then section champs," coach Dean Robinson said. "We want to get to the state tournament for the fourth year in a row.
Down the stretch last season, the Hastings boys baseball team played its best ball of the season. Hastings coach Paul Hartmann is hoping to pick up this season where last year left off - by winning. Hastings returns two experienced pitchers, a number of experienced position players and their top hitter from last year's team. "We need to find some more depth in our pitching staff," Hartmann said. "We know if we throw the ball well and play good defense, like we did at the end of last year, you can play with anybody. The last five games last year, we didn't have any errors.
It's not uncommon for track coaches to have more sophomores on a team than seniors. What Hastings girls coach Greg Sandkamp is seeing, though, goes well beyond that. On a team of 60, Sandkamp has five returning seniors and eight juniors. The rest of the girls are either freshmen or sophomores. The freshmen class alone has 30 girls competing for the Raiders. "We're young, and we're working hard," Sandkamp said. "I'm pretty excited to see where they'll all go. I'm just excited about our numbers again.
When the Hastings boys and girls track teams get ready for each day of practice by warming up in the HHS gymnasium, it's a beautiful sight for boys coach Jason Koch. The gym is filled with athletes. "It's so exciting to see that we have so many kids, we fill the gym during our warm-ups," he said. "Hopefully we can maintain that in the years to come." Koch expects about 60 boys to be on the team this year. "That has grown significantly over the past few years," he said. "A few years ago, we were in the 40s. We want to stay in the 60s.
If all goes as planned, it is going to be one very good year for the Hastings boys golf team. It will also be a year with a number of underclassmen playing big roles for the Raiders. Coach Pete McGinnis has all kinds of varsity experience returning. The one strange part about all that experience is that most of it comes in the form of freshmen and an eighth-grader. Approximately 45 boys are out for the team. "It's going to be very competitive," McGinnis said. "The lineups will change. With the improvement the kids are making, it's going to force others to continue to work hard.
Many Hastings coaches this spring are working with youthful and inexperienced teams. Nobody, though, has a team more youthful than girls golf coach Becky Hartung. She has just one senior, no juniors, just four sophomores and just four freshmen. The rest, all 24 of them, are eighth-graders and seventh-graders. Hartung sees the youthfulness as a real opportunity for the Raiders. "I'm looking at it like the future is going to be bright," she said.
The Hastings High School spring musical has been canceled after what was supposed to be a welcoming party for new members of the Drama Club turned into anything but that. On Saturday, March 26, a Drama Club cast party was planned at a member's home. Cast members planned what they thought was going to be a "positive, welcoming experience," for new members of the club, according to HHS principal Mike Johnson. The plan, though, went awry. "It turned in to a situation where there was a lot of anger, fear and confusion," Johnson said.
Hastings resident Ryan Levine can't say how well he fared, but he promises one thing: Those who tune in to watch Wednesday's Wheel of Fortune show won't be disappointed. Levine was in California in January for a taping of the show, and his time in the spotlight finally arrives Wednesday, April 13. The show airs at 6:30 p.m. on WCCO (Channel 4). The Hastings man has his wife to thank for the big appearance. At nights, Samantha would look on in awe as her husband solved puzzle after puzzle.
Hundreds of volunteers turned out in Hastings on Saturday morning to fill sandbags, which will be used to protect homes in east Hastings from rising floodwaters. In all, more than 20,000 sandbags were filled by volunteers. Some of the sandbags were put to use immediately at two homes in east Hastings. Long lines of volunteers passed the sandbags from the street to the homes. The effort was coordinated by Bless Hastings and the City of Hastings. The sandbagging took place in the parking lot of Christ Family Church.