For four years, Nikki Anderson was one of the most dominant individuals on the lakes area sports scene.
She may have been one of the most dominant athletes in lakes area sports history.
The statistics the left-handed pitcher for the Brainerd Warriors softball team compiled during her career, and the awards she accumulated, were frankly startling.
For those reasons, Anderson’s accomplishments were voted the top area sports story of 2012 by the Brainerd Dispatch sports department.
Last year alone, she was named Minnesota’s Ms. Softball and the Gatorade Minnesota Softball Player of the Year, two awards that virtually never have gone, or go, to outstate athletes.
She was named to the Minnesota High School Fastpitch Coaches Association all-state first team. The St. Paul Pioneer Press named her a reserve on its all-state team. She also pitched in the Minnesota High School All-Star Series.
In the fall of 2011, Anderson signed to play for the University of Minnesota, which opens its season Feb. 9-10 in the Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas against DePaul, Louisville, Texas Tech and UNLV.
During her scintillating prep career, Anderson compiled a 0.776 ERA and 71-12 won-loss record. In 514.1 innings, she allowed 228 hits, walked just 58 and struck out 791. She threw 33 shutouts and 65 complete games.
She helped Brainerd to two Section 8-3A championships, two state tournament appearances and three Central Lakes Conference championships and was a three-time all-section player.
In her senior season, she received her first opportunity to hit regularly at the varsity level and responded with a .389 average, five doubles and 14 RBIs.
■ 2. Central Lakes College football
The Central Lakes College Raiders lost their opener but proceeded to reel off 10 straight wins to win Minnesota College Athletic Conference Southern Division and MCAC state championships.
Linebacker Jordan Bialke and defensive back Jared Hoemberg were named NJCAA second-team All-Americans.
Bialke, a 6-1, 216-pound sophomore from Foley, led the team in tackles and ranked eighth in the division with 14 solos and 61 assists.
Hoemberg, a 6-2, 220-pound sophomore from Bertha-Hewitt, and teammate Marion Lambright, led CLC, and the division, with five interceptions.
Unfortunately, it was discovered the Raiders had used an ineligible player in the playoffs, CLC administration decided the Raiders would not accept an invitation to play in the Valley of the Sun Bowl Dec. 1 in Phoenix. CLC, which beat Rochester 33-23 for the MCAC state title Nov. 4, was scheduled to play Glendale (Ariz.) Community College in what would have been the Raiders’ fourth bowl game in four years.
The state title was the Raiders’ second in four years.
■ 3. State track titles
Lakes area athletes captured three state championships in the state track and field meet.
In Class 1A, Staples-Motley’s Jaelin Beachy won the girls 100 hurdles and was runner-up in the 300 hurdles.
Pillager’s Wesley DeLong won the boys 400 dash and finished fourth in the 200 dash.
Nolan Michaelson of Pequot Lakes won the boys long jump.
In Class 2A, Brainerd’s Jackson Walters was runner-up in the boys 110 high hurdles.
Also in 1A, S-M’s Brian Huber was third in boys long jump and fifth in high jump.
Pillager’s Shane White finished fifth in the 110 hurdles.
Pequot Lakes’ girls 4x100 relay (Rachel Allen, Nicole Traut, Abigail Palmer, Vanessa Lane) finished third; the Patriot girls 4x200 relay (Brittny Bzdok, Traut, Mattie Lueck, Lane) was sixth; Pillager’s boys 4x400 relay (Josh Warren, Devin Strack, Matt Neururer, DeLong) was seventh; and the Pequot boys 4x100 relay (Travis Noska, Tyler Tappe, Isaac Allen, Michaelson) was ninth.
■ 4. Central Lakes College men’s basketball
The Raiders enjoyed another watershed season, recording 29 wins (most in program history), winning the third region title in program history, and finishing fourth in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III national tournament.
CLC’s Maurice Hernandez was named a NJCAA first-team All-American. The sophomore from St. Paul became the first CLC men’s basketball player to be a first-team All-American. Hernandez later played for the Division III all-stars against a Division II team in Las Vegas.
■ 5. Pequot Lakes girls basketball
The Pequot Lakes Patriots repeated as Section 8-2A champions and returned to the 2A state tournament where they finished fourth.
Pequot’s Mattie Lueck, now playing at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, made the 2A all-tournament team.
The Patriots beat Zumbrota-Mazeppa 57-46 in the quarterfinals before losing to Providence Academy 61-32 in the semifinals. In the third-place game, they lost to New Richland-Heartland 71-61 and finished the season 20-13.
■ 6. State golf
The Staples-Motley boys team finished third in the Class 2A state tournament. S-M’s Nick Forsberg tied for 11th, Andrew Israelson was 16th, Dakota Waverek 36th, Michael Strain 44th, Trent Hagenson 47th and Mitch Hagenson 66th.
In the girls 2A tournament, S-M’s Emily Israelson was fifth, Pequot’s Maggie Heggerston 17th, and Pequot’s Savannah Stone 26th.
Brainerd’s Jenny Muesing finished 20th in 3A girls.
In 3A boys, Brainerd’s Tommy Olson finished 31st and Michael Foley 35th.
Pine River Backus’ Cody Mager was 29th in 1A boys.
■ 7. Alpine skiing
Savannah Stone skied to the fastest finish in Brainerd Warriors program history in the state meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. She finished sixth in the girls division with a time of 1:18.51.
Katie Majka had held the program record, for boys or girls, with a seventh-place finish in 2001.
Brainerd’s Mara Williams finished 49th and Alex Stone placed 55th.
In the boys meet, Brainerd’s Thor Linnerooth was 70th.
■ 8. Joe Haeg, Mike Valesano
Brainerd High School graduates Joe Haeg and Mike Valesano were season-long starters for their respective college football teams.
Haeg started at right offensive tackle for the 13-1 Bison, who play Sam Houston State in the Football Championship Subdivision national championship game Saturday, Jan. 5, in Frisco, Texas. Kickoff is at noon and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
Valesano was a starting inside linebacker for the University of St. Thomas (14-1), which lost to top-ranked Mount Union 28-10 in the Division III national championship game in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl at Salem, Va.
Valesano will be in New Orleans Wednesday, Jan. 2, where he will be one of 22 outstanding student-athletes recognized as members of the American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. The award, for which there were 117 national nominees, recognizes exceptional community and campus service. The 22 individuals will be recognized at halftime of the Sugar Bowl. The game between Florida and Louisville will be televised on ESPN.
■ 9. Nordic skiing
Brainerd’s boys Nordic ski team won its first Section 8 championship since 2005 and went on to finish sixth at state.
Individually, Riley Nelsen finished 29th, Zean Baker 63rd, Gerrit Garberich 99th, Noah Baker 106th, Matt McDonald 114th, Connor Gunsbury 115th and Ben Hanson 116th.
In the girls state race, Brainerd’s Allison Kosobud was 83rd and teammate Sarah Fairbanks 106th.
The Little Falls Flyers girls team finishes seventh. Maria Hauer placed 42nd, Mattia Hendrickson 71st, Kaitlin Geisenhof 89th, Chelsea Rutz 93rd, Josie Lang 114th, Chloe Houle 116th and Ingrid Florsheim 117th.
The Flyers’ Preston Zimny was 51st in the boys meet.
■ 10. Warrior boys hockey
Brainerd lost 3-1 to Moorhead in only the second Section 8-2A final appearance in program history.
On its way to the finals, Brainerd tied the program record for wins (23) and won its third straight Central Lakes Conference championship, finishing 23-5.
Brainerd beat Roseau twice in the same season for the first time in program history.
Matt Pohlkamp finished his career as the leading scorer in program history (178 points). He turned in the fourth-highest single-season scoring output (64 points) with 27 goals and 37 assists. His 37 assists are second-most in a season.
Mitch McLain ended his career as the third-highest scorer in program history (157 points). He recorded the second-highest single-season point total (68) with 36 goals and 32 assists. His 36 goals were the most in program history in a single season.
Aaron Rich’s 35 assists rank third in a single season.
Goalie Jared Stearns’ 1.87 goals-against average ranks second in program history, and his 0.917 save percentage ranks fourth.