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Sports

TIME OUT with Joe Flanagan

Special year of Cardinal sports

I hope Cardinal fans enjoyed this past year of Boone Central/Newman Grove sports action. I mean, really enjoyed it.
This has been a special year for Cardinal athletics. In fact, I would call it an extraordinary year, fashioned by some extraordinary athletes.
Results have borne the proof. Playing in the Class C1 state football championship game. Qualifying for the C1 state basketball tournament several months later. State cross country medal-winners, state wrestling medal-winners, state track and field medal-winners.
Extraordinary.
Boone Central/Newman Grove Coach Kris Pestel touched on the efforts of a few of the athletes involved, following this past weekend’s state track and field championships in Omaha.
“We’ve had the opportunity to watch our three upperclassmen – Jessie Sullivan, Cody Nelson and Jon Merten – excel in three sports at the state championship level,” Pestel noted. “All three competed in the state football final, Jessie and Cody were on the basketball team that qualified for the state tournament, and Jon placed in the state wrestling championships.
“And this weekend, all three competed in the state track meet. They are three-sport athletes who are the role models for other athletes to follow. Their hard work in the classroom, weight room, and on the field has been a true honor to witness.”
Yes, when you stop to really think about it, their performances have been pretty amazing. I’d say, extraordinary.

This trio certainly weren’t the only Cardinals who competed in three sports in 2017-18. In fact, freshman Jonny Lindgren, who also qualified for the state track and field championships, placed in the state cross country meet and wrestled.
But Pestel’s words ring true. Sullivan, Nelson and Merten are definitely role models that younger athletes would do well to imitate. Good students, hard workers, successful and decorated performers.
In fact, Sullivan’s performance over the past calendar sports year may well have been historic. Consider the following …
… not only was the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Card senior a key performer for the state football and basketball teams, he was selected First Team All-State by the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star in both sports! He didn’t just qualify for the state track and field championships, he was runner-up in the Class B discus. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, he was also an NSAA Academic All-State recipient for the Fall (football), Winter (basketball) and Spring (track/field) activity periods!
That, folks, is extraordinary.
Everyone who has been a high school athlete themselves, had a son or daughter, or grandson or granddaughter who competed in athletics, or just follows high school sports competition as a fan, knows how much time and effort goes into competing, much less excelling, in just a single sport. To participate in three sports is demanding, to say the least. To be, basically, an all-state caliber performer in three sports, and academic all-state in all three as well?
Extraordinary actually might not fully encompass the magnitude of those combined accomplishments.
Three-sport participation was once commonplace. With longer seasons, year-round training, specialization, additional school activities schedules, etc., it’s not necessarily the norm anymore. Specialization, due to these and other causes, has risen dramatically.
Research from the likes of the University of Wisconsin and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has shown that athletes who specialize in a single sport are 70 percent more likely to suffer an injury during their playing season than athletes who compete in multiple sports. Studies and reports by high school organizations suggest athletes derive more enjoyment from their careers by playing multiple sports. If you ask Cardinal coaches, I believe all would say they prefer to see their athletes compete in more than a single sport.
Multiple sport participation has many benefits, and can be very satisfying.
But, to compete – and excel – day after day, week after week, month after month, takes tremendous dedication, commitment, hard work and perseverance. It’s not for the timid.
It’s effort to be applauded.
When you see these athletes around our communities, congratulate them and thank them. They’ve provided Cardinal fans with a year of sports to truly be remembered.
Extraordinary, indeed.