Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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With 53 athletes on the Wildcat girls' swimming and diving team this season, depth should be one of the team's strengths. And that feature was displayed prominently in the Cats' season-opening win at the Menomonie Relays last weekend and a close loss to Red Wing, Minn., Friday, Aug.
First-year Wildcat volleyball coach Sara McDonald got to see her new team in action for the first time last week and came away with some positive impressions. Despite going 0-3 against Menomonie, Barron and Mondovi at the season-opening Menomonie Quad last Tuesday, McDonald called it a great learning experience for the girls. "I played everyone in the quad on Tuesday," she said. "I am looking for players that I feel we have to have on the floor to be successful.
The Wildcat cross country teams sure know how to kick off a season. In what has become one of the most popular event for teams across Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota, the Cats dominated the competition at the River Falls Extreme Meet Thursday with the girls taking first with a near-perfect score of 16 and the boys finishing second with 69. The annual season-opening meet is held on the campus of UW-River Falls and features a course that includes about a 100-yard trek downstream in the South Fork of the Kinnickinnic River.
It didn't take long for the first-time starters on the Wildcat football team to learn how fast the varsity game can be. New Richmond's Cody Taubman ran for a 69-yard touchdown run on the Tigers' first play from scrimmage Aug. 27, and Tiger quarterback Zach Kier hit Justice Harvieux for a 35-yard touchdown on the next possession to stake New Richmond to an early 13-0 lead. Taubman scored the second of his three touchdowns late in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 20-0 halftime lead.
UW-River Falls football head coach John O'Grady informed his team after practice Monday evening that he will retire at the end of the 2010 season. The Falcons left Tuesday morning for their 2010 season opener Thursday at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. "Most of my adult life, including four years as a player, five years as a volunteer coach and of course 22 seasons as the head coach has been spent at this university," said O'Grady in a prepared statement. "For the vast majority of my career I have had a passion for coaching.
First-year head coach Jason Wolf said the Wildcat football team has come a long way since the first day of practice. "I'm really excited about how kids have responded to the challenge," he said. "Early on, there's always doubts. But seeing their confidence grow every day, it's a totally different team from day one to where we are now." One of the reasons Wolf believes the team has come so far is the installation of what he calls the two-platoon system, meaning players will only play on one side of the ball. "That's helped us get a lot accomplished in a short period of time," he said.
The Wildcat girls' golf team got off to a strong start in its first two-stroke play tournaments of the season, taking second at both the 11-team Eau Claire North Invitational at Mill Run Golf Course last Monday and the 12-team Eau Claire Memorial Invitational this past Monday at Hillcrest Golf and Country Club. In between, the Cats sandwiched in a five-stroke victory over New Richmond in a 9-hole dual match last Wednesday at the River Falls Golf Club. "I was very pleased with our team effort," co-head coach Jane Wakefield said after the Cats' second place finish at Mill Run.
Sara McDonald said she was struck by something one of the returning Wildcat volleyball players said to her during her interview for the head coaching position earlier this summer. "When I interviewed for the position there were four girls from the team at the interview," she recalled. "Rollie (Activities Director Rollie Hall) asked me if there was anything I'd like to ask the girls, so I asked them, what do you want to see in the program? Masy Engel, said; 'I want to be respected.' That was good to hear, especially coming from a junior.
The Wildcat boys' soccer team kicked off the 2010 season with four straight wins in a pair of tournaments last week. The Cats opened with a pair of victories at the River Falls Quad Aug. 17, defeating Onalaska 4-1 and La Crosse Central 2-1. Aug. 19, goalkeepers Karl Andersen and Ben Harris combined for a pair of shutouts, 5-0 against Wausau West and 7-0 against Superior, at the Eau Claire North Quad. "It was a good week, and a good start, going 4-0 with 18 goals for and two against," Wildcat head coach Charles Conley said.
The storybook tale of the River Falls Fighting Fish continues. Three years after moving to River Falls from Spring Valley in an effort to rejuvenate the franchise, the Fish have qualified for the Wisconsin Baseball Association Finals this weekend in Tomahawk. The Fish, champions of the St. Croix Valley Baseball League, clinched a spot in the 8-team finals with a pair of comeback victories over the weekend in Rib Lake.