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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

Optimistic Marion looks to improve in softball

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Fourth in a series of preseason Metro softball stories. Next: Prairie)

The Marion softball team is optimistic as it gears up for the 2011 season.

The Indians were a little bit disappointed with their season last year, after finishing 4-17 in the Wamac Conference and 11-20 overall.

“We had worked really hard throughout the winter last year, and we had injuries last season that hurt,” Coach Kim Knapp said. “But every game we were in we were close, just one or two runs, so we’ve got to learn how to win.”

The Indians return the core of last season's team, led by lone senior Leah Smith, who received honorable mention all-state honors last season after making the switch from center field to shortstop.  Smith, who batted .361 last season, has committed to play college softball at St. Ambrose.

“She had honors in center field,” Kim Knapp said. “I hate moving kids that have honors in certain areas, but I asked her if she would be willing to move to shortstop and she looked at me and said, ‘Anything you need coach.’ She adapted really well to it and she did a really nice job for us.”


Roloff retiring as Kennedy boys track coach

Dennis Roloff has decided to retire as the Cedar Rapids Kennedy boys track coach after this season. He'll finish his 15th and final year as Kennedy's head coach at the state meet in Des Moines this week.

Roloff planned to make the announcement at the team's annual banquet Tuesday night.

Roloff, 57, decided in January to take early retirement as a teacher from Cedar Rapids Community Schools. He will continue as Kennedy's girls basketball coach next season, but will step down as boys track coach following the state meet.

Roloff said basketball and track are two different sports, one indoors and one outdoors, with different responsibilities. He thinks it would be difficult to coach a track team with 80 to 100 members without being in the school on a regular basis.

Roloff was a state 440-yard champion at Cedar Rapids Jefferson in 1971 and was a champion quarter-miler at the University of Northern Iowa. He's been involved with the sport since he was a seventh grader, either as a runner or coach.

"Track has been my true love my whole life," he said.


Late goal drops Xavier into title share

The defending 3A and 2A boys soccer state champions faced off Tuesday.

The stakes weren't quite as high as a state championship, but a Mississippi Valley Conference Valley Division title was on the line when Iowa City West visited Xavier.

Xavier (12-2-1, 11-2 MVC) came into the game with a one-game lead on Iowa City West (13-4, 11-2 MVC) and the Saints looked to have the upper hand coming down the stretch. But a goal in the 75th minute sunk the Saints and lifted Iowa City West to a 1-0 victory and into a share of the division title.

The goal came less than a minute after Iowa City West forward Alex Troester got his second yellow card, forcing the Trojans to play a man down.

With the Saints attacking off of a free kick, the ball found its way to the feet of Xavier senior Michael Tessmer with the Trojan keeper out of position. Tessmer turned and fired at the goal, but an Iowa City West defender blocked it at the goal line.

That play would have been disappointing on its own, but the Trojans got control of the ball and got off to a quick counter attack, getting the ball to Paris Martins who made a run from about 50 yards out. Martins beat his defender and the keeper for the goal.


Metro calendar starts heating up Thursday

Thursday marks the start of one of the busiest prep sports weeks on the Metro sports calendar.

The state track meet kicks off its three-day run at Drake Stadium in Des Moines on Thursday. Then, after a Sunday of rest, the "summer season" begins with the annual Bob Vrbicek Memorial Metro Baseball Tournament on Monday.

First the track.

It has been a time of great acclaim for the Metro over the past handful of years. Not only have the Washington boys captured the last two 4A championships, but we have had several Metro athletes win individual and relay titles during that span.

What will happen this year? Once again, the Metro should be well represented on the boys side. In fact, there are four teams that could end up in the top 10. Washington and Linn-Mar certainly have a chance to win the title. Prairie and Kennedy look to place high in the events they have qualified and could have a very successful weekend.

A team title is probably not in the cards on the girls side, but several individuals and relays are looking to bring home gold this weekend. And of course just outside the Metro, the Mount Vernon-Lisbon team will look to claim yet another championship.


Lechner optimistic about Linn-Mar baseball

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Third in a series of preseason articles about Metro baseball teams. Next: Marion.)

Linn-Mar High School baseball coach Chad Lechner hopes a healthy combination of youth and experience will produce a successful season for the Lions this year.

Lechner's tentative starting rotation includes two juniors and two sophomores, so the Lions could be young on the mound. From Lechner's point of view, they're young but talented.

He has veterans at many of the other spots and likes what he's seen in practice so far.

"It's gone well. They're very upbeat," he said. "It's been a really good group so far. I think we're ahead of where we've been in some years at this time.

"It seems like maybe we have more returning experience than we've had for a while," he said. "And that certainly helps, not having to spend so much time on a lot of things. They kind of understand already what we want, what we expect. So it's going very well. I think we're very encouraged at this point."


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