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Paynesville Press - November 6, 2002

Winter schedule set for junior high sports

By Michael Jacobson

With winter sports set to begin, changes to the seventh and eighth grade athletic programs take effect.

As part of the budget cuts that took effect this year, junior high sports were moved from the general budget, where the school district covered much of the costs for coaching and transportation, to fee-based programs run through Community Education.

This fall, for instance, cross country remained a 7-12 program while both football and volleyball used volunteer coaches to run separate seventh and eighth grade teams.

For each winter sport, direction from the varsity coaches and input from parents (via a parent meeting) was sought, according to Matt Dickhausen, Community Education director, and Kyle Nehowig, athletics coordinator.

The junior high basketball teams appear to be most affected by the changes this winter, as both wrestling and gymnastics will run 7-12 programs.

The seventh and eighth grade girls' basketball seasons will come first this year, with practices running from Tuesday, Nov. 5, to Friday, Dec. 20.

Parents were given two options at a meeting in October, said Dickhausen and Nehowig. The first was to have after-school practices, coaches, and scheduled games against other towns. The second option was to use parent coaches, practice in the evenings, and play mainly in tournaments.

The parents indicated a desire to keep the program as similar to what has been done in previous years as possible, they reported. So the seventh grade and eighth grade teams will practice after school and play eight times against other schools in November and December (as well as in one tournament in January).

Recently, the school board and teacher's union have agreed to allow Community Education to pay a $400 stipend to seventh and eighth grade coaches, for this year only. (Compensation for seventh and eighth grade coaches is included in the teacher's master agreement with the school district.)

The seventh grade girls' coach is Mike Jacobson, assisted by Dan Freidel, and the eighth grade girls' coach is J.T. Koehn.

The fee for participants is $75, which should cover expenses as long as each team has 10 girls. To save expenses, parents agreed to provide rides to games, eliminating busing. "Parents would rather drive because they drive anyway," explained Nehowig. "They just have to leave a little earlier."

Boys basketball will also rely on parents for transportation. The boys will be taking part in the Front Court League before Christmas, similar to traveling teams.

Then, after Christmas, in January and February, they will be having after-school practices and playing against neighboring schools eight times. Coaches for the boys will be Murry Rafferty (seventh grade) and J.T. Koehn (eighth grade).

The fees for the boys' program has yet to be determined, in large part because the boys' program plans to include the junior high boys in their free-throw shooting fund raiser, with part of the proceeds going to defray the fees for the seventh and eighth grade program.

Wrestling will incorporate seventh and eighth grade wrestlers into a 7-12 program, so the junior high participants will practice after school with the high school wrestlers, under the direction of varsity coaches Virg Vagle and Steve Fuchs. These practices will begin on Monday, Nov. 18.

The wrestling team plans to have volunteer parent coaches come to practice and give extra attention to the younger wrestlers.

The fee for junior high wrestlers should be $75, but the wrestling club is paying $35 per seventh and eighth grade participant, keeping the out-of-pocket cost at $40 per wrestler.

Seventh and eighth grade wrestlers may get matches on the varsity or junior varsity teams (with the school usually trying to wrestle any extra wrestlers at the same weight before the regular junior varsity). They also will host two jamborees and attend three tournaments, where each participant should wrestle multiple matches. Parents will also provide transportation for these tournaments.

Gymnastics will keep its 7-12 program, with the girls practicing with the high school girls. Practices - held at the gymnasium at the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds - will be held after school starting on Monday, Nov. 11. This program will be very similar to previous years. Junior high girls will be able to compete on varsity and junior varsity.

The conference has increased the junior high competition by two spots per apparatus this year. That means instead of six participants on the beam, six on the floor, six on the bars, and six on the vault, the junior varsity lineup will have eight girls on each, which should provide more spots for seventh and eighth grade girls. The gymnastics team also plans to host one 7-9 tournament.

The fee for gymnastics will stay at $75 per participant, but this includes all transportation, as the junior high girls will travel with the varsity.

The Paynesville-New London-Spicer Hockey Association will continue to run its own junior high programs for both boys' and girls' hockey. Their junior high programs have always been independent of the school district.

Decisions about junior high sports for the spring season have not been made yet. Dickhausen and Nehowig expected to hold meetings with parents in February or March to get input on these programs.

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