In recent years, there have been plenty of indicators of athletic success at Monticello High School. The Magic have brought home section titles, individual state tournament medals and even a team state championship. The football team has returned to prominence, the girls basketball team has gone through the best stretch in program history and the swimming programs have each enjoyed long stretches of dominance.
There is another indicator of success, one that has gone up, up and up over recent years, but that has likely been less noticed. Kids continuing their athletic careers at the next level.
“I’m really proud of the number of student athletes that have gone on to play at the collegiate level,” said Athletic Director Gary Revenig, who has already hosted two Magic signing days this year.
He said one of the most impressive things is the balance that he sees in kids moving on to play college sports. A lot of the top end performers have came from the swimming program, but there are kids having success at the college level from programs across the board.
“It’s not just one or two sports,” he said. “All of our sports are producing.”
Revenig added that one of the most exciting things about having kids go on to the college level is that it can become mutually beneficial. While the Magic are certainly helping kids achieve their goals, in turn the kids are likely helping motivate younger Magic athletes to reach theirs.
“It shows them that when you work hard and you’re dedicated to something, there is a reward at the end,” said Revenig.
Here is a list of many of the former Magic athletes that are currently having an impact at the collegiate level.
Caley Oquist – Louisiana State University
After a stellar freshman season that saw her compete in the NCAA Championship Meet as part of the 200 medley relay, Oquist has stepped up even more in her sophomore campaign. The backstroke specialist, who is capable in all strokes, set two individual LSU records and helped break a team record during the team’s conference meet this spring.
During the fourth day of competition, Oquist competed in the top final heat of the 100 backstroke. Her time, 52.67, earned her sixth place in the event and it gave her a school record time. That same day, Oquist was part of the 400 medley relay team that broke another school record, finishing in a time of 3:35.68, good enough for an eighth-place finish at the conference meet.
On the fifth and final day of competition at the SEC Championship Meet, Oquist swam to a time of 1:54.87 in the 200 backstroke, breaking a third school record in just two days.
In March, Oquist competed at the NCAA Championship Meet at the University of Minnesota. The highlight of her meet came on the second day, where Oquist was part of the 200 medley relay team that finished 21st at the meet, while she earned an individual 27th-place finish in the 100 backstroke.
Amanda Paulson – Iowa State University
Now a junior at Iowa State University, the former Monticello swimmer has already accomplished more than most athletes do during their entire four-year career. According to the Iowa State swimming website, Paulson compiled one of the best freshman seasons in school history during the 2011-12 campaign. The freestyle swimmer competed in short distance individual swims as well as a variety of medley and freestyle relay events throughout the season. At the Big 12 Championships, she competed in seven different events, highlighted by a seventh-place individual finish in the 50 free with a time of 22.78, as well as being part of numerous fifth place relay finishes. Paulson’s time of 22.78 in the 50 free earned her the school record time in that event. Earlier in the season, her time of 23.06 in the 50 free broke a 30-year old pool record at the University of Iowa pool.
During her sophomore year, Paulson solidified herself as not just the team’s top 50-freestyler (where she picked up eight first-place finishes, but also as the top swimmer in the 100 fly, as well as second in the 100 free.
She was honored as ISU’s Most Valuable Swimmer following both her freshman and sophomore seasons.
Paulson has continued her outstanding career this season, highlighted by two individual top-five finishes at the Big 12 Conference Championship meets, as well as helping a couple of relay teams to high finishes, moving her to 10 career top-five finishes at the conference championship meet.
Paul Fair – University of Minnesota
Fair, who left one of the most impressive athletic legacies in Monticello High School history, is off to a fast start for the Golden Gophers.
In the first meet of his career this fall, Fair made an impact, finishing third in the 200 freestyle and fourth in the 50 freestyle.
Fair recently finished the season strong, qualifying for the NCAA Championship Meet as part of the 200 freestyle relay. The relay team was impressive at the NCAA meet, finishing in a time of 1:18.42, good enough for 13th place and earning each participating swimmer All-American Honorable Mention status. Fair swam his leg, the third, in a time of 19.69.
Fair also qualified for the NCAA meet as part of the 400 free relay team.
Evan Lahr – Carleton College
Lahr, a freshman and former teammate of Paul Fair’s, concluded a strong freshman season for the Division III Knights with several top finishes at the MIAC Championship Meet. Individually, Lahr finished second in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 20.82 seconds, as well as finishing third in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 46.02. Additionally, Lahr helped two relay teams to top finishes. He was part of the 200-yard freestyle relay team that finished second in a time of 1:22.91, making the NCAA “B” cut time (as did Lahr’s 100-yard freestyle time), as well as the 400-yard freestyle relay team which finished in a time of 3:04.33, coming in third at the meet while setting a school record and hitting the NCAA “B” cut time.
Allie Olson and Dani Sibley – University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Olson and Sibley (STMA), former NWC Riverhawks teammates, were reunited at the Division III WIAC school UW-River Falls, and they made the most of the reunion this season.
The pair helped lead the Falcons to a 23-5-3 record, as well as their first ever conference tournament championship and a third place finish at the NCAA Division III National Championships.
They both played large roles in some of the season’s biggest games.
Sibley, a freshman, scored the first two goals of the conference championship game, one of which was assisted by Olson, to help ignite the Falcons on their way to a 5-1 victory.
In the NCAA third place game, Olson tallied River Falls’ fifth and final goal, providing necessary extra cushion, as St. Thomas would crawl back from that 5-1 deficit to within 5-3, the final score of the Falcon’s third place victory.
For the season, Sibley finished third on the team in goals with 15, as well as fifth in total points with 22. Olson, a junior defenseman, finished the year with eight total points and a plus 13 on ice rating.
Michael Olson – Concordia College Moorhead
Olson, a senior outfielder for the Cobbers, is off to a torrid start this season, continuing what has been an impressive career for the 2009 MHS grad. Through 13 games this season, Olson is batting .440, with an on-base percentage of .481. He has 22 hits in 50 at bats, has scored 15 runs and has knocked in 12 RBI. He is on pace for career highs in each of those categories. Olson has been a productive hitter throughout his career, totaling a batting average of .352 at Concordia, including 126 hits, 46 of which went for extra bases. The Cobbers are off to an 8-5 start this season.
Mitch Torrel – Air Force Academy
Torrel skated in 28 games for Air Force this season, scoring eight goals (fourth most on the team) and picking up six assists for a total of 14 points. The former Monticello student, who skated for Wenatchee Wild (NAHL) before joining the Air Force Academy, finished with the second highest faceoff percentage on the team, winning 39 of his 67 attempts. The senior forward finished the year with a plus 8, the fourth best plus/minus differential on the team, while helping lead Air Force to a 21-14-4 record this season.
Birk Olson – Princeton University
Olson, a freshman, provided depth at backup linebacker for the Tigers this season. Princeton finished the season with a record of 8-2.
Tyler Mergen – Air Force Academy
Mergen, now a sophomore, turned in a strong freshman season at AFA last year, wrestling largely unattached at invites. He totaled a 26-7 overall record on the year, and also posted a 1-2 mark in team dual competition with his one win coming by fall. He picked up first place at 165 pounds at the Cowboy Open as an unattached wrestler, as well as finishing third at the Colorado Mesa Open as an unattached wrestler and first at the FHSU-Bob Smith Open.
Ryan Michaelis – St. John’s University
Michaelis, a junior wrestler and football player for the Johnnies, really shined on the mat this season. A stellar year peaked at the NCAA Regional meet where the 197-pounder won his weight class to earn a bid to the NCAA Division III Championships. Michaelis also helped boost the Johnnies to a third place team finish at the West Regional. His day started with two comfortable wins, 8-2 and 9-3, before he earned a hard-fought upset victory over his fifth-ranked opponent from Augsburg, 3-2. In the title match, Michaelis shutout his opponent from Concordia Wisconsin, 6-0, to earn the regional championship.
Michaelis went 0-2 at the national meet to end his season with a record of 16-12. The junior was honored after the season when he was one of two Johnnies named as a 2013-14 National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Scholar All-American.
Sebastian Gardner – Concordia College Moorhead
After spending his first two seasons with a winning percentage just over .500, Gardner kicked it into high gear this season, particularly when it mattered most. The junior wrestler started the season with a record of 18-11, before really getting hot. He won his final four regular season matches and then his first match at the NCAA West Regional Meet. However, the 174-pounder dropped his second match, putting his back up against the wall.
Gardner responded with a technical fall in the consolation semifinals and a major decision in the third place match, earning himself a berth at the NCAA Division III Championships. At the national meet, Gardner picked up a victory in the first round of the consolation bracket. He stayed on top of his opponent for the entire two-minute third period to earn a 2-0 victory. Gardner fell in the next round, ending his season with a record of 27-14, putting his career wins total at 58.
Mandy Witschen – College of St. Benedict’s
Witschen, in the midst of her senior year, has put together an impressive track and field career at the College of St. Benedict’s. Entering the outdoor portion of her senior year, Witschen already holds numerous school records. Indoors she owns the top three times in the 60-meter hurdles, including a top time of 9.12 seconds, she was part of a long distance medley relay team that set the school record earlier this season, and she holds the school pentathlon record (set at the MIAC meet this year) with a score of 3,321. Outdoors, she has the top three times in the 400-meter hurdles, led by a top time of 1:03.91, set at last year’s MIAC Championship meet.
She has continued to perform at a high level through the indoor portion of her senior year. Just recently Witschen finished fifth in the 60-meter hurdles, fifth in the long jump (16’7.75”) and third in the pentathlon to help St. Benedict’s to a second-place finish and their highest ever point total at the MIAC Indoor Championships.
Erica Seidenkranz – University of Minnesota Duluth
The former Monticello standout runner has continued her successful career as a Bulldog. Seidenkranz helped the cross country team to the national meet this fall (as was detailed in an earlier edition of this paper) and is currently a member of the track and field team. Seidenkranz competes in the 1500 and the mile for UMD, and helped the team win the indoor conference championship meet earlier this spring.
Olivia Khauv – University of St. Thomas
Khauv has found multiple ways to contribute to the Tommies during her sophomore season on the track and field squad. At the MIAC Indoor Championship meet Khauv placed fifth in the pole vault (10-0 3/4) and third in the triple jump (34-11 3/4) to help St. Thomas cruise to the Indoor MIAC Championship. Khauv also competes as a 600-meter runner for the Tommies.
Sadie Fedor – Mount Marty College
Fedor, a sophomore, plays volleyball and competes in track and field at Mount Marty. It’s track and field where she has found the most success early. As a freshman last season, Fedor earned All-Conference honors in the indoor triple jump. She also competes in the long jump and distance relay. She was an alternate on the 4×800 relay team that qualified for the national meet.
Jennie LaRoque – University of Minnesota Morris
LaRoque, also a two sport athlete (volleyball and track and field) continues to excel in field events for the University of Minnesota Morris. The junior capped off a strong indoor season this year with a first place finish in the high jump at the UMAC Championship meet. LaRoque jumped 1.53 meters, coming just .04 meters shy of the meet record that she already owns. LaRoque is also the school record holder in both the indoor and outdoor high jump.
Hunter Kopff – Northern State University
The junior runner has excelled in both cross country and track and field for Northern State University. Kopff progressed throughout last season, his sophomore campaign, turning in a personal best 5K time of 15:15 during the Kip Janvrin Twilight meet and winning the 5000 meter event with a time of 15:56.60. This indoor season he has already picked up a first place finish in the 3000-meter run at the NSU open, as well as top-three finishes in several different events. Kopff was also the top runner for the cross country team at the end of his junior season, leading the Wolves with a 28th place finish at the conference meet, finishing the 8K race with a time of 26:39.66.
Ashley Drazkowski – University of Akron
Drazkowski, another Monticello swimmer competing at the Division I level, found a lot of success for the Zips this season. Drazkowski capped the year with several strong performances at the MAC Championship meet. She finished third in the 500-yard freestyle (4:48.83), ninth in the 200-yard freestyle (1:50.07), sixth in the 1650-yard freestyle relay (16:49.96), and was part of the 800-yard freestyle relay team that finished third at the meet.
Katie Kotschevar – St. Cloud State University
Kotschevar, a senior, is on the final leg of what has been an impressive collegiate tennis career for the Huskies. As a junior, she turned in a singles record of 16-10, with the majority of her matches coming at number two singles. At number one doubles, where she played nearly half of her matches, Kotschevar and Cassandra Brown went 15-9, including 9-2 during conference play. Kotschevar split time between the same two positions as a sophomore, combining for a record of 30-18.
This season Kotschevar has moved up to No. 1 singles, where she has a record of 10-11. She is also slightly under .500 at top doubles, where she has been paired with a new partner.
Among other honors, Kotschevar was named All-Conference Second Team for singles and All-Conference First Team for doubles her junior season.
Kallie Gau – University of Minnesota Crookston
The freshman forward played in all 18 games for Crookston this season, and scored two goals, including one game winner. The two goals were the second most scored by a Golden Eagle this season.
Danielle Gau – University of Minnesota Crookston
The freshman defenseman started five games and played in 11 for the Golden Eagles, who gave up an average of just 1.39 goals against this Fall.
Hillary Arechigo – Bemidji State University
As a freshman in 2012, Arechigo played in all 19 games for the Beavers, recording two goals and two assists, finishing second in points amongst freshmen on the team. She scored a game-winning goal, the first of her career, against St. Cloud State University.
This past year, her sophomore season, she again played in all 17 games, starting one, and recording one goal and one assist during the year.
Jake Kounkel – Concordia University St. Paul
Kounkel, a freshman, is already making contributions for Concordia this spring. Kounkel has played in half of the team’s 16 games, including making four starts, and is batting .286. The freshman has three walks in his limited appearances to raise his on base percentage to .412. He has also knocked in three runs, while recording one extra base hit, a double.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at firstname.lastname@example.org
Writers note: Do you know a former MHS athlete that is making an impact at the college level and isn’t included in this article? Please email Clay Sawatzke with their information, and it will be included in a follow-up story later this spring.