Seven commit at final signing day of 2016-17 school year

Casey Chiodo, Hannah Murray, Emily Vetsch, Alayna Maher, Matt Baloun and Jamie Axelberg all committed to continued athletic careers at the collegiate level during Monti's third and final signing day of the year last Wednesday, April 12. (Times staff photo by Clay Sawatzke)
Casey Chiodo, Hannah Murray, Emily Vetsch, Alayna Maher, Matt Baloun and Jamie Axelberg all committed to continued athletic careers at the collegiate level during Monti’s third and final signing day of the year last Wednesday, April 12. (Times staff photo by Clay Sawatzke)

The final signing day of the 2016-17 season brought the largest group of signees that Monti has had this school year, with seven kids in total committing to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level. Four athletes committed to Div. III programs, one to a Div. II school, one to a NAIA program and one more to a high-level club sport. Besides being great athletes, emcee and Magic athletic director Gary Revenig was quick to point out what a great group of students and people these athletes are.
“All the kids signing today are just awesome students here, that we’re so proud of,” said Revenig, to the gathered crowd in the East Lecture Room at MHS last Wednesday, April 12. Revenig added that signing days remain a very special occasion at MHS.
“Whenever we can honor our athletes, we take advantage of it,” said Revenig.
A common thread among the majority of athletes that signed on Wednesday was multi-sport success. There was no better proof than the first signee, Matt Baloun.
Baloun, who will head to Jamestown College next year to compete in track and field, has competed in five different sports during his time at MHS. The senior started in cross country before switching to football as his fall sport. In the winter, Baloun wrestled. And in the spring he performs double-duty, competing both for the track and field team and the trapshooting team.
Running Coach Dave Wik said he is looking forward to seeing Baloun compete at the college level.
“Matt has been a jack of all trades here,” he said of Baloun, who is currently the top 800 runner on the Magic track team. “It will be pretty exciting to see what happens as he starts to focus on [track], and it’ll be exciting to watch his college career.”
The second signee Wednesday was Jamie Axelberg, a three-year starter on the Magic softball team. Axelberg will join the softball program at Bethel University in Arden Hills next season.
“Bethel is getting a great hitter,” said Revenig. “And more importantly just a great individual.”
Softball coach Mary Libbesmeier stood up and shared a similar sentiment.
“Jamie’s been a big part of our program, it’s been a pleasure having her,” said Libbesmeier, adding that Axelberg has leadership and work ethic qualities in spades. “I think she’ll be a great attribute to [Bethel’s] program.
Signing third was Hannah Murray, a standout distance swimmer. Murray swam varsity for six seasons, and concluded her career as a captain this past season. Next year she’ll swim for the Concordia (Moorhead) College Cobbers.
As was the case with most athletes Wednesday, Revenig said Monti would miss Murray’s personality as much as her athleticism.
“I don’t think I’ve ever come across Hannah where she’s not smiling,” he said. “She is just the nicest girl, and we’re going to miss her next year.”
Swimming coach Kristin Zalec also raved about Murray, who runs marathons in her spare time.
“She was one of the best captains we’ve ever had,” said Zalec. “She’s going to do great things at Concordia, I’m very excited for her.”
Murray was one of two Magic athletes who committed to a four-year career with the Cobbers on Wednesday. The other was Alayna Maher, who plans to compete in both soccer and track and field at the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference college.
Maher has been a staple on the Magic soccer team for her entire high school career, and has more recently turned into a track and field star as well.
Soccer coach Brent Wuollet said during the signing day program that her ability to succeed so greatly in two different sports comes back to one thing.
“The first thing that comes to mind is her passion,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever coached anybody that puts their heart and soul into everything that they do, the way that she does.”
That passion is what makes Wuollet believe the Magic senior will have no problem pulling off double-duty at college.
“It takes a special person to be able to compete in college in two sports, but I know that Alayna has the talent to do that,” said Wuollet. “She’s not only gonna compete in two sports in college, but she’s going to be extremely successful.”
Maher will be joined on the MIAC soccer fields by her high school teammate Emily Vetsch. Vetsch, an attacker for the Magic, committed Wednesday to attend and play soccer at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
Revenig said Vetsch and Maher were major pieces in keeping the girls soccer team on an upward trajectory in recent years.
“She’s been an outstanding soccer player for us,” said Revenig. “Because of you and [Maher], our soccer program is definitely heading in the right direction.”
When it comes to Vetsch, Wuollet said it was work ethic that first came to mind. The varsity coach actually started coaching Vetsch at U12 during summer soccer, and said it was evident then that she wouldn’t be outworked.
“She was, if not the hardest worker, one of the hardest workers, day in and day out,” he said. “She’s incredibly hard-working, and she’s a determined individual. There’s nothing that’s going to stand in the way of her accomplishing her goals.”
Signing sixth at MHS on Wednesday was another multi-sport star. Michaela Swanson is headed to Minnesota State Mankato, where she will compete for both the cross country and track and field teams.
“Every time I see you, you’ve got a big smile on your face,” Revenig said, to a smiling Swanson. “You’re so respectful. You’re just an outstanding young lady and we’re proud you go to school here.”
Track coach Kim Nygaard was unable to attend due to teaching obligations, but Revenig relayed a message written by Nygaard.
Nygaard mentioned that Swanson is a track captain, who additionally helps out with tutoring younger students who may need the classroom help. And she has shown a wide-range of abilities within the track and field realm.
“She excels in any event we place her in, from the 400 to the two mile,” said Nygaard.
The final signee at the final signing day of the 2016-17 school year was three-sport star Casey Chiodo. The football, hockey and lacrosse standout will be heading to the University of Minnesota next season, where he will play club lacrosse.
Lacrosse is not yet a NCAA sport in Minnesota, or many surrounding states, meaning major colleges instead play it at the club level. Revenig said that schools such as Minnesota, who’s head coach was in attendance Wednesday, are hoping to change that soon. But in the meantime, it is still a high-end program that represents the lone Div. I school in the state.
“Casey’s going to be traveling all around the country representing the University of Minnesota,” said Revenig.
Lacrosse head coach Erik Hanson said he remembers coaching Chiodo in football when Chiodo was just an elementary-aged athlete. Hanson said some things have changed, but a lot of things haven’t for the kid whom he affectionately calls “LT” [for Lawrence Taylor].
“He just flies,” said Hanson, who added that Chiodo seems to be permanently stuck in fourth gear. “He’s going to go fast. There’s no jogging with him.”
The seven athletes signing Wednesday joined seven other Monticello athletes that signed during the first two National Signing Days of the school year, giving Monti a total of 14 student-athletes that are committed to continuing their athletic careers at the collegiate level next season.

Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]