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

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19 Responses to “Go, Knights”

  1. Dan Traun Says:

    It is hard to beat a small town on many accounts. I graduated high school from a tiny little town in WI – Plum City. With class sizes hovering around 30, you knew the entire school and faculty. Even though I was never involved in band, I have many fond memories of Band Alumni nights. Students from years past filled half the side of the gym to play during a basketball game. It wasn’t your typical pep band music either; mostly current rock and roll/pop songs that were popular at the time and some classics. The multiple drum kits where also a hit. I’ve never seen a pep band playing Guns N Roses – Sweet Child of Mine anywhere else.

    The music teacher, Merlyn Aude, did some amazing things musically at that school from 1976-2010. Small towns are where it is at; the best place to grow up.

    • Thanks for sharing your memories from Plum City, Dan. That town name possesses such a homey and welcoming Norman Rockwell ring.

      Band Alumni nights sound fantastic for celebrating school spirit, a sense of community and the bonds of friendship which are part of small town life. I totally agree that growing up in small town/rural area is the best. These places, like any place, are certainly not perfect. But, still, I’ll take rural over city any day.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Whether it’s Fall football, wrestling, basketball or volleyball, etc, a body may take a drive through any of the smaller towns and note the athletic loyalties displayed!! Yes, these do bring towns and people together as ‘one’!!!! It’s a shame that we can’t seem to find a rallying point that has a bit more virtue or value to it/an “eternal” dimension that would survive the “refining fire”. Sorry for taking your thoughts to such a “heavy” level!!!!! Hugs always……………………..

  3. Thread crazy Says:

    Small town … big town…sports seems to be the center here in our schools. Don’t get me wrong as sports is a good outlet for kids these days, but in some larger towns it comes at a price. Our two older granddaughters play volleyball; one has since gone onto college. Every summer both girls would be in various volleyball camps and have private coaches, which is good for them but think of the $$ spent so far…then there’s public leagues and cost for these are not cheap. By end of a season, several thousand $$ have been spent on tuition, uniforms, travel to out of state games…etc. All in name of sports. So if you are a parent with kids in school…just be prepared to dig deep into those pockets! And yes…us grandparents will be there (when possible) rooting them on!

    • I am totally with you on this as I’ve seen many people, including extended family members, spend a lot of time and money on sports. What most bothers me is when sports take priority over all else, such as family and worship time. Most of these kids will not go on to play professional sports or even college level sports and an entire childhood or adolescence has been devoted to athletics. I understand the positives in sports. But I also see the negatives. If only as much emphasis was given to academics and support given to those who excel academically.

  4. Beth Ann Says:

    Growing up I did not really participate in sports much—-I am not an athlete (can you tell?) but with 2 boys we saw our share of sporting events from t-ball to basketball to soccer to football to track and field. I loved being a part of the crowds and the enthusiasm and that is such a great feeling to see your own child achieve success in a sport. These days we root for Carolina in all things and love to watch the games live or on tv—-with March Madness upon us now we will be taking to watching those and enjoying every minute.
    I think we were always able to manage sports in our family because neither of the boys were “good enough” to go on and do anything else with it. It was fun and that was why they played. They were not on traveling teams and I am sure there is a huge difference in level of play and competitive spirit as well as frequency. I think about all of the Olympic participants and what their families have sacrificed for many years to help them achieve their goals and I am not sure I would have been willing to do that if our boys had wanted it. 🙂

    • “Having fun” with sports seems to be the key to keeping athletics in perspective. Unfortunately, I think many have lost sight of the “fun” and focus too much on the winning.

      My experience with our girls being in sports, at the grade school and middle school levels, was mostly negative. They primarily bench sat as they were not “good enough.” I found that crazy, especially at that age. I was not disappointed when the son showed zero interest in team sports. He took up unicycling, a sport not so many can do. He still unicycles.

  5. cheryl schrader Says:

    Just a fun little side note. The coaches for Redwood Valley and Kenyon are both Gusties and were college mates. Of course, being from Redwood Valley, and Coach Wittwer being my nephew, I will be rooting for Redwood Valley. Good Luck to both Teams!!

  6. Jackie Says:

    We are a BIG sports family, all our kids were involved and Rick and I played through college and beyond, so I can feel the excitement around tournament time. Rick was on the Mayo High School team that went to state in Basketball in 1977. I remember going on the pep bus to watch him and his team…they got beat first round. We’ve been watching the Highschool boys tournament…now on to the girls 🙂

  7. Growing up was about High School Football games and supporting and cheering the team on. There is no Pro Football team here, so College Football is HUGE here. There is just something about sports that brings a community together and I enjoy that! Happy Tuesday:)

    • I remember attending some football games in high school, to work in the concession stand. Living about 20 miles from my school, I didn’t attend many sporting and other events. This was back in the day when society was much less mobile.

  8. hotlyspiced Says:

    I appreciate all athletes because of their talent and their dedication to their sport but like you, I’m not a supporter of any team. I do like to watch sport on TV or go to a game occasionally but it’s not the end of the world if that doesn’t happen xx


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