Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Go, Knights March 18, 2014

THERE’S NO DOUBT about it. Residents of small towns get excited about their sports.

Living in a large—by my standards anyway—community like Faribault with a population of around 23,000, I don’t see the same level of sports enthusiasm. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never played or been interested in sports. You will find your pockets of sports enthusiasts even in communities the size of mine. Just not me. And not with the same level of “we’re all behind you” support.

A scene in downtown Kenyon Sunday afternoon emphasizes this town's ag base.

A scene in downtown Kenyon Sunday afternoon emphasizes this town’s ag base as a truck pulls a trailer stacked with hay.

But in the Kenyon-Wanamingo area, I’d guess locals are pretty excited about the girls basketball team heading to Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota on Wednesday to play Redwood Valley in the Class AA state girls basketball competition.

A show of support for the Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights.

A show of support for the Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights.

Driving through this Goodhue County community of 1,817 Sunday afternoon, I noticed a sign, GO Knights, suspended between poles at the gas station/convenience store at the intersections of Minnesota State Highways 56 and 60. Nothing fancy. Simply a hometown show of support for the Kenyon-Wanamingo girls basketball team. I also spotted a we believe sign tacked in a business window.

Wednesday marks the first time since 2001 that the K-W girls team, seeded number 2 in the state with a 29-1 record, is going to state. That one loss this year came to defending state champions New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva. I expect fans in those four communities are equally as thrilled about their team’s third consecutive return to state competition.

At Redwood Valley, they’re also likely pretty hyped about the girls going to state for the first time since 1979. That’s something of which to be proud. Even though I attended junior high there more than 40 years ago, I possess no loyalty to this southwestern Minnesota school. You’ll find me rooting for the Knights, not the Cardinals, Wednesday evening.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling