Below are 10 of the top Hastings sports stories of 2019, in loose chronological order:

Skylar Little Soldier makes history

Skylar Little Soldier made Hastings wrestling history as a seventh grader last winter when she became the first Raider female wrestler to record a varsity take down, pin and win in program history. Little Soldier wrestled at the Bi-State Classic at the end of December in the 113-pound weight class and went 1-2 at the tournament. She set all three of the above records in the same match when she beat Gabe Weiks of Athens (Wis.).

“Coach Vaith told me after my match,” Little Soldier said, explaining that she was unaware at the time of exactly what she achieved. “He told me after the match ‘you’re the first girl in Hastings to ever win a varsity match’ and I was like ‘oh my god really?’ I did not see that coming, I thought there were more girls at least.”

Word quickly spread about what Little Soldier had done, a huge moment in a decorated history for a program like Hastings’.

“We knew it, but we didn’t talk to her about that or anything else, she didn’t need any extra pressure,” said former head coach Josh McLay. “Right when it got done, coaches right away started talking about it and realizing at that moment how big of a deal it really was for our program, to have that first and to blaze that trail for other females to come through our program. Skylar is the real deal and she’s really going to help this program. She wants to be the best.”

Little Soldier was first introduced to the sport when her parents signed her little brother up. She would go to his practices and fell in love with the sport. She said she looks up to Helen Maroulis and Adeline Gray, both female wrestlers, and hopes to compete in the Olympics someday. So far during the start of the 2019-2020 season, Little Soldier has seen intermittent action for the Raiders on varsity at 120 pounds.

Boys’ hockey has best season in years

The Hastings Raiders boys’ hockey team had their best season in years during 2018-2019 when they won 20 games between the regular season and playoffs. The Raiders had an explosive offense that averaged almost 5 goals per game and allowed under two. They had plenty of speed and skill, a lot of which has returned for the 2019-2020 season, and goalie Tyler McCarville emerged as one of the best goalies in Minnesota.

Hastings went 19-4-1 during the regular season including 10-2 in the Metro East Conference along with big non-conference wins over Woodbury, Eagan, Owatonna, Anoka, Apple Valley and Farmington.

Hastings earned the No. 1 seed in Section 1AA as they headed into the playoffs and blew out the Rochester John Marshall Rockets in the first round 9-0. They then traveled to the Rochester Recreation Center where they took on No. 4 Lakeville South and were upset 8-1. The Raiders finished the season 20-5-1 overall.

Hastings returned much of that team this winter including key contributors like McCarville, Jonathon Peine, Chase Freiermuth, Jack Klimek, Jager Kendall and Jax Schauer. So far this winter the Raiders are 7-1 and scoring even more goals than last season, if that is even possible. Their only loss came at the hands of Mahtomedi and they have big non-conference wins against East Ridge and Apple Valley. Hastings is averaging over 6 goals per game and allowing just over 2 a game.

Hastings goalie Tyler McCarville played a critical role in Hastings boys' hockey 2019 season, the program's best in years. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia
Hastings goalie Tyler McCarville played a critical role in Hastings boys' hockey 2019 season, the program's best in years. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia

Goodbye to Benny

Longtime Hastings assistant girls’ hockey coach, Steve “Benny” Benson, retired at the end of the 2018-2019 season after nearly 20 years of coaching. Benson, whose daughter Sam was a senior last year, decided to step away to enjoy more time with his family, watch his son Joey play and pick up a few neglected hobbies.

Benson was with the Hastings girls’ program since the very beginning. He started as an assistant under head coach Jeff Shelstad and ended up coaching under all three of the Raiders’ head coaches – Shelstad, Jeff Corkish and Josh Colvin – up until his retirement.

“I went up the night before practice was going to start and they had a captain’s practice going on, they had girls with figure skates on, girls with no sticks, girls with sticks that should be shooting the other way, the wrong hand, and I thought to myself ‘what am I getting myself into’,” Benson said about that first season. “I went out there and I loved it. The kids were like sponges, they wanted to learn, it was new for everybody, parents were excited, I think they were excited to get a little younger blood involved in myself. It was a lot of young girls with a lot of talent and I just thought ‘you know what, I’m gonna stick around’ and am I glad I did. And I learned a lot, both from Terry and Jeff. And that was kind of the start of it.”

Benson stuck around for over 20 years with some small breaks in between and said the highlights of those years were the relationships.

“For me it’s not necessarily about the wins and losses and the big games, for me it’s about the relationships you made, the friendships, and not only with the kids. The kids have been phenomenal, I mean I don’t even know the number of kids I’ve coached over the years. You’ll see kids you haven’t coached in 20 years and they’re coming up to you and thanking you for being their coach and all that,” Benson said. “Obviously the coaches I’ve coached with, I’ve mentioned Shelstad, obviously Cork, Josh Colvin – not only a good friend but also one of the hardest working guys I’ve had a chance to work with – so those relationships. The relationships with the assistant coaches. I’ve got what I consider some of my best and greatest friends off of coaching girls’ hockey and to me that’s what it’s all about.”

Steve "Benny" Benson stepped down as an assistant girls' hockey coach last spring after over two decades with the program. Photo courtesy of Steve Benson
Steve "Benny" Benson stepped down as an assistant girls' hockey coach last spring after over two decades with the program. Photo courtesy of Steve Benson

Coaching turnover

Hastings athletics saw quite a bit of coaching turnover in 2019 as new head coaches took over the wrestling, girls’ hockey and girls’ basketball programs and the girls’ softball team is also in search of a new coach.

Josh McLay entered an agreement with the school district at the end of 2018 due to the investigation over alleged misappropriation of funds and he was replaced by longtime assistant Tim Haneberg. Haneberg was an assistant with the Raiders the previous eight years and also helps run the Hastings’ weight-training programs.

Josh Colvin stepped down as girls’ hockey coach after three years in the position. He was replaced by Tim Duggan, a long-time assistant and youth coach who most recently was at Lakeville South. Duggan has more than 45 years of experience playing, coaching and officiating and was named the Section 3AA assistant coach of the year in 2016.

Girls’ basketball head coach Joe Lynch did not have his contract renewed after his first season with the Raiders. He had replaced Padrick Judd who had moved out of the district. Scott Addyman took over the program after being an assistant under Lynch. He has coached multiple sports as both an assistant and head coach in Hastings and Prescott.

On top of those three, girls’ softball head coach Ken Lunquist announced his resignation this past summer and so did alpine ski head coach Jim Peine. No replacement has been announced yet for Lundquist but Jason Gergen took over the alpine ski program.

Gergen is an HHS graduate that was a Raider alpine skier and competed at state twice. He served as an assistant under Peine during 2018-2019, was previously the head coach in Burnsville and also was a ski instructor at Welch Village.

Scott Addyman took over the Hastings girls' basketball program for the 2019-2020 season when Joe Lynch's contract was not renewed after just one season. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia
Scott Addyman took over the Hastings girls' basketball program for the 2019-2020 season when Joe Lynch's contract was not renewed after just one season. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia

Todd Field renovations

Last spring, the renovations of Todd Field at McNamara Stadium started and were finished in time for the fall sports season at a cost of just over $2 million. The renovations were a part of a larger $49.5 million bond approved by Hastings voters in 2017.

Upgrades to the stadium included new turf, ticket gate, repavement of the parking lot, renovation of the concession stand, installation of a handicap bleacher lift and a ticket building. The field has been used already by Raiders football as well as boys’ and girls’ soccer and will be used by the lacrosse teams this spring. It was not used last spring at all. A ceremony for the reopening of Todd Field at McNamara Stadium was held prior to the Raider football team’s home opener against the Henry Sibley Warriors on Aug. 29.

An overhead view of the renovated Todd Field at McNamara Stadium. Sally Shepherd / RiverTown Multimedia
An overhead view of the renovated Todd Field at McNamara Stadium. Sally Shepherd / RiverTown Multimedia

Brake commits to Creighton

Standout basketball player and three-sport Raider athlete Mallory Brake made her verbal commitment last spring to play Division I basketball at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., which is part of the Big East Conference. She then went on to sign her National Letter of Intent this past November to make that commitment official.

“I actually thought they may be the school from the first visit there. It was a smaller school than I originally anticipated, but I really got excited about the Big East Conference, the team and coaches, and most importantly the academic fit,” Brake said. “I wanted to be done before this AAU season because a lot of coaches have watched our AAU team for several years. I didn’t want to spend another summer visiting schools and feeling all the pressure of coaches’ evaluations, etc.”

Brake played AAU basketball with the Minnesota Stars and then North Tartan. When her recruitment started she was getting looks from schools like South Dakota State University, North Dakota State and University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. By the end, she was being recruited nationally and chose Creighton over schools like Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and Marquette where she took unofficial visits.

This past volleyball season, Brake set the Hastings program record for career kills. In basketball, she is already the girls’ leader in assists, blocks and steals. She just passed 2,000 career points a few weeks ago and will most likely break former teammate Krystal Carlson’s scoring record of 2,251 in January. That would make her the leading scorer in both Hastings boys’ and girls’ history. Also in reach this season is the rebounding record. When her career is done, Brake will probably be the Raider record-holder in every single meaningful statistical category.

Mallory Brake announced her verbal commitment to play women's basketball at Creighton University for the Bluejays last spring and then made her commitment official this past fall. Photo by Mac McGoon Studio
Mallory Brake announced her verbal commitment to play women's basketball at Creighton University for the Bluejays last spring and then made her commitment official this past fall. Photo by Mac McGoon Studio

The longship ‘Gridiron’ is born

A new sight welcomed Hastings Raiders football fans this past season and it was not just the new renovations at Todd Field. As they walked through the new ticket gate, on their right was a large replica of a Viking longship called the Gridiron. The Gridiron was several months work by a group of football parents and fans.

The longship was purchased by Keir Johnson back in November of 2018 from the Knights of Columbus in Prescott, Wis., for just $500 but the majority of the work did not start until April. Joining Johnson in rebuilding the ship were almost a dozen others including Brent Arnold, Bob Hartmann, Pete Zak, Shane Strain, Todd Levos, Brian Molitor, Tom Schiller, Andy Caflisch, Vern Hollar, Chris, Ritt, Pete Teigland and Glenn Sell.

Hartman, Levos and Molitor were in charge of the redesign of the ship which included installing entirely new flooring, reinforcing the back end of the ship where people come aboard, putting in new and safer railings, refurbished the steering wheel, a new mast and flag and a custom carved Raider head on the prow.

Schiller was responsible for the custom-carved Raider head. Sell rebuilt and refinished the entire steering wheel and Levos constructed the new mast and sail. It made its first public appearance in July at a meat raffle fundraiser at Dugarel’s and then was a regular sight at all home football games.

Eight of the parents and fans who worked to refurbish the "Gridiron". Pictured from left to right are Brent Arnold, Bob Hartmann, Pete Zak, Shane Strain, Todd Levos, Keir Johnson, Brian Molitor and Tom Schiller. Crew members not pictured: Andy Caflisch, Vern Hollar, Chris, Ritt, Pete Teigland and Glenn Sell. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia
Eight of the parents and fans who worked to refurbish the "Gridiron". Pictured from left to right are Brent Arnold, Bob Hartmann, Pete Zak, Shane Strain, Todd Levos, Keir Johnson, Brian Molitor and Tom Schiller. Crew members not pictured: Andy Caflisch, Vern Hollar, Chris, Ritt, Pete Teigland and Glenn Sell. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia

Linnea Urban’s triple crown

Junior Linnea Urban won three different Metro East Conference championships in 2019, the rare high school “triple crown”. She won one in nordic skiing last winter, in the one-mile during last spring’s track and field season and then this past fall during the cross-country season.

“It felt really good, especially because the third sport is usually the hardest one to get,” Urban said. “I have been doing track and nordic since seventh grade so I have a lot more experience in those sports than I have in cross-country because I started in ninth grade. It was different because I got my mile conference title in eighth grade and my nordic one in ninth so it’s been two years since I’ve had a new title.”

“This (a cross-country conference championship) was the tough one, she’s already won three-straight mile championships in track and the goal is to go for five, but do it three times in three different sports, that’s pretty unheard of in the distance world,” said her coach in all three sports, John Dewall. “There’s a ton of good distance runners and skiers and to pull off three of them and to be on your game on those days when the titles are held is very remarkable. I knew this one was the one that would be the tough one because of some setbacks in the last couple years. She wanted this one really bad and did everything right to get it.”

Urban will look to defend all three during 2020, starting with nordic where she went to state for the first time in 2019 as well and earned all-state honors.

Linnea Urban achieved the "triple crown" this fall when she won the Metro East Conference championship in cross-country. It was her third straight MEC championship in three straight sports for the Raiders. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia
Linnea Urban achieved the "triple crown" this fall when she won the Metro East Conference championship in cross-country. It was her third straight MEC championship in three straight sports for the Raiders. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia

Hastings girls’ soccer historic season

The Hastings Raiders girls’ soccer team had a historic 2019 regular season and playoffs. The Raiders were 12-2-2 in the regular season, the most wins for a Raider girls’ team in the last 30 years and the best win percentage. Only two other teams in the 1990s reached double-digit wins. It was Hastings’ first winning season since 1998 and two of the program’s best three records during this span have been under current head coach Scott Meier.

For the postseason, the Raiders hosted the program’s first home section playoff game in 20 years as the No. 3 seed in Section 3AA and beat No. 6 Eastview 3-2 in overtime, which was also their first section win in 20 years.

“I knew this year we could do some great things, we have some really good players but it was all up to us to try and make it happen,” said senior co-captain Ari Green. “I didn’t expect to have done what we have but it shows the work we have put in and it’s super exciting to see that hard work pays off.”

In the second round of sections, Hastings traveled to Lakeville North but lost to the No. 2 Panthers 2-1 in overtime on a goal scored in the final seconds.

The Raiders lose 10 seniors from that historic team – Green, Cali Bernard, Noelle Zwart, Olivia VanVossen, Grace Wagner, Claire Ketcham, Jaylynn Frandrup, Libby Larcholey, Alix Pottinger and Courtney Syverson – but they also bring back Bella Meier who led the team in scoring, Molly Begin, Megan Brown and goalkeeper Kaitlin Petrich.

Bella Meier helped lead the Hastings girls' soccer team to a historic season, their best in 30 years this past fall. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia
Bella Meier helped lead the Hastings girls' soccer team to a historic season, their best in 30 years this past fall. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia

State qualifiers

Hastings had numerous athletes qualify for their state meets in individual sports. Alexa Kimmes, Sam Molitor and Aaron Herber all made it to the alpine ski state meet and for Kimmes and Molitor it was their second-straight state appearance. Kimmes finished 51st with a combined time of 1 minute, 22.30 seconds, Herber took 53rd in 1:22.39 and Molitor was 78th (1:21.82).

Joining the alpine skiers in Biwabik were Trevor Caflisch and Linnea Urban for nordic skiing. It was Caflisch’s second state appearance as well and he took 57th with a combined time of 33:20.2, while Urban finished 16th in 37:14 and qualified for all-state recognition.

The Hastings wrestling team sent six wrestlers to the individual state meet last winter, all of them seniors. They were Matt Myers (120 pounds), Lynden Wilson (126), Mac Wilson (152), Alex O’Connor (170), Godswill Pepple (195) and Luke Chamberlain (285). Myers and Lynden Wilson both went 0-2 while O’Connor lost his first-round match and did not have the opportunity for a wrestleback. Mac Wilson and Chamberlain each won their first matches but then lost their next two. Pepple was the only Raider wrestler to advance to day two of the state tournament and overall went 2-2.

Both the boys’ and girls’ golf teams sent one representative to the state tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Club. Terry Kuhn represented the Raider boys while Hannah Hubbart went for the girls as each made their first state appearances. Kuhn shot a day one score of 84 and then a 79 on day two for a total score of 163 and a tie for 65th. Hubbart also finished in a tie for 65th after making a major improvement from day one to day two. She shot a 96 on day one but then came in with an 86 on day two for a total score of 182.

Matt Myers and Isaac Huntington represented Hastings in the state track and field meet at Hamline University in June. Myers qualified in the pole vault while Huntington went in the 400-meter dash. Myers tied for 14th with a vault of 13 feet while Huntington made it to the finals and finished eighth with a time of 50 seconds flat.

Finally, this past fall, the Hastings girls’ swimming and diving team sent two swimmers and a diver to the state meet. Eighth grader Ashtyn Stewart returned to state for the second year in a row, this time in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle, while freshman Ava McNamara made it in the 100 butterfly and junior Annika Tverberg in diving. Tverberg was the first Hastings girl diver to qualify for state since her coach, Brianna Aarness, did it in 1996. Tverberg finished 29th in the state diving preliminaries with a score of 129.05 but did not advance to the semifinals. Stewart and McNamara both swam in the preliminaries of their events a day later but did not advance to the finals. McNamara was 22nd in the 100 butterfly with a time of 59.52, while Stewart took 23rd in the 50 freestyle in 24.82 and 20th in the 100 freestyle (54.25).

Hannah Hubbart qualified for her first state golf tournament as a senior last spring and finished in a tie for 65th. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia
Hannah Hubbart qualified for her first state golf tournament as a senior last spring and finished in a tie for 65th. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia