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Two Gator teams capture state tournament berths

Two Gator girls’ sports teams punched their tickets to state this week, including the golf team on May 30 and the softball team on May 31.
Headed coached by Brady Johnson, the Gator girls’ golf team finished with a team score of 745—81 strokes better than second-place Fertile-Beltrami—to capture the Section 8A team title and state tournament berth. All six of the team’s golfers finished in the top 10 individually, led by Kianna Novacek’s runner-up finish. Alyssa Rinde finished sixth, Maisy Ylitalo seventh, Anissah Novacek eighth, and Jasmine Christianson and Kennedy Truscinski tied for ninth.
Also in Gator golf, Ganon Kuznia earned an individual state tournament berth with his third place finish at the boys’ Section 8A Golf Tournament. The boys’ and girls’ Section 8A tournaments were held at the Bemidji Town and Country Club, May 29 and 30. The boys’ and girls’ Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Class A state golf tournament runs June 12 and 13 at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker.
The Gator girls’ softball team earned its third state tournament trip in four years under Gator Head Coach Kent Christian. Needing to be defeated twice to be denied a state tournament berth, the Gator girls lost to the Norman County East/Ulen Hitterdal Titans 3-0 in the first Section 8A Championship game, but won the second one by a 9-3 final. The Gators opened the scoring with a solo home run from Carly Mekash in the first inning and would never trail in the contest. Mariah Christian would pitch a complete game to earn the win for the Gators.
The MSHSL State Softball Tournament runs June 7-8 at Caswell Park in North Mankato. The Gators open play at 1 pm on June 7 against an opponent yet to be determined.
Also, speaking of state advancement, four Gator Clay Busters— Owen Novacek, Zach Evans, Ganon Kuznia, and Breydon Bertilrud— qualified for the MSHSL Clay Target State Tournament on June 22 from the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake.
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The Gator softball seniors, including student manager Alicia Berard, Carly Mekash, Montgomery DeZelar, and Kaitlynn Hamann hold up the Section 8A Championship plaque. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Gator senior Carly Mekash prepares to connect with this pitch for a home run over the left field fence to give the Gators a 1-0 first-inning lead. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Gator teammates greet Carly Mekash at home plate after she hit the first-inning solo home run in the Gators’ Section 8A Championship game victory. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Mariah Christian releases a pitch to a Norman County East/Ulen Hitterdal Titan batter in the first inning of the second Section 8A Championship game in Ada on May 31. Christian pitched a complete game to earn the victory. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Junior center fielder Makenna Burslie slaps the hand of Gator first base coach Dave Blazek after recording a hit in the second Section 8A Championship game. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Gator shortstop Carly Mekash looks on after making the throw to first base for the final out of the Section 8A Championship game, sealing the team’s third section title in four years. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

The Gator girls celebrate with and embrace one another after clinching a Section 8A title and state tournament berth. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Ganon Kuznia, the only state advancer for the Gator boys’ team, putts in on hole #9 at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. Kuznia tied for third individually at the Section 8A tournament to earn his state berth. (photo by Val Truscinski)

Jasmine Christianson tees off of hole #15 during day one of the two day section meet. Christianson tied for ninth individually as part of the Section 8A Girls’ Golf Champion team. (photo by Val Truscinski)

Kianna Novacek successfully gets her ball out of the sand trap and on to the green. Novacek finished second individually to lead the Gator girls to a Section 8A team title and state tournament berth. (photo by Val Truscinski)

The Gator girls’ golf team poses with its Section 8A championship plaque following action from the Bemidji Town and Country Club on May 30. They are (L-R): Head Coach Brady Johnson, Jasmine Christianson, Kianna Novacek, Alyssa Rinde, Kennedy Truscinski, Maisy Ylitalo, and Anissah Novacek. (photo by Val Truscinski)

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