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Terry Vandrovec column: Spuds run to high rankings

Rankings don't tell coach Tom Dooher anything about the Moorhead High cross country teams. But preseason polls -- in tabbing the Spuds boys No. 4 and the girls No. 7 in Class 2A -- do convey the growing esteem with which the Moorhead program ...

Rankings don't tell coach Tom Dooher anything about the Moorhead High cross country teams.

But preseason polls -- in tabbing the Spuds boys No. 4 and the girls No. 7 in Class 2A -- do convey the growing esteem with which the Moorhead program is viewed by the rest of the state.

"As a coach, it's difficult to see a ranking because the last thing I want them to think about is we're fourth in the state," Dooher said. "They're thinking of us highly now, but in years past our teams have come on in the end more than shined in the beginning. We're hoping the same will happen this year."

Though of no use to athletes legging out the final 800 meters of a race, the paper accolades validate the strides the program has made in Dooher's five years as head coach.

The Moorhead girls are the two-time defending Section 8 champs and have qualified for three consecutive state meets, placing sixth last season. They've also produced individual state champion Lisa Dyer and could boast up to three alum on this fall's University of Minnesota team.

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And despite taking longer to take root, the boys program appears headed for equally solid ground. Five of the top six individuals from last season's first-ever state qualifying team (the Spuds placed eighth) have returned for 2002.

"I think that the success of the girls program and the boys program is starting to snowball," Dooher said. "One of the things we try to preach to the kids is there is no bench here. Everybody gets to participate."

Much of the credit goes to a growing contingent of dedicated runners who have followed Dooher's training regiment since junior high.

"You kind of look forward to it," said junior Ben Klungtveldt,

runner-up in Tuesday's Moorhead Rotary Invitational. "It's just something you have to do. You just go out and do it."

And if you did need some extra motivation for those 9 a.m., 8-mile runs and regular Friday hill workouts?

Those seemingly meaningless polls serve as a reminder of what the rest of Minnesota expects from you.

"It really helped knowing we had a good chance of doing well at state this year and seeing the rankings," Klungtveldt said. "It means that people know about us now. We're getting a little respect."

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Bergland a steal for Otters

Tim Bergland was the University of Minnesota captain, played 12 years of professional hockey and tallied 43 career NHL points.

Priceless experiences, though their commemoration, apparently, is not.

A 1990 O-Pee-Chee brand trading card from Bergland's rookie year with the Washington Capitals, complete with his autograph in sharp, blue ink, sells for all of $3 on the Internet.

"There's not a lot of value there," Bergland joked. "It's something kind of fun, though."

Fergus Falls High School feels like it scored a bargain Tuesday in landing Bergland, an assistant the past three seasons, to be its head hockey coach.

"It's not all the time you come up with somebody in your staff that you feel that confident with taking over a position of that level," Otters athletic director Don Kostelecky said. "For both of us it's been a good situation."

Pelican Rapids resilient

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First, Dave Haugen discovered that offensive tackle/nose guard Nick Kuvaas had shed 25 pounds and was stronger than ever.

Then, he watched returning starting tailback Luke Rengstorf break his right wrist during a weekend scrimmage.

Haugen, the sixth-year Pelican Rapids head football coach, will take the bad, because -- so far, at least -- it's accompanied by some good.

"Everything right now, of course we haven't played anybody, but the attitudes and everything is there," he said. "It's giving us optimism."

Looking to improve on 2001's 1-7 mark, the Vikings will lean on a

not-so-lean defense -- which returns eight starters -- when they open the season Friday by hosting West Central Area.

"Realistically, if we finish in middle of the pack we'll feel pretty good about things," Haugen said. "We've had a rough couple of rough seasons."

Readers can reach Terry Vandrovec at (701) 241-5548 or tvandrovec@forumcomm.com

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