Game night, with plenty of choices

By Chuck Kajer

When you have eight different varsity teams during the winter months, there are often conflicts and sometimes you have to decide which game you want to see. For high school sports fans, last Friday was not one of those nights in New Prague.

That's because the Trojans hosted four different varsity events, and a fifth team - the Trojan dance team - gave an exhibition at halftime of one of those events. I was able to catch parts of each of these events.

Things started out at 5 p.m. when Burnsville faced off against New Prague in the Auxiliary gym in wrestling. Don't be fooled by the name Auxiliary gym This gym would be the envy of many schools in the state. It has plenty of seating and room for two mats, so the Trojans and Blaze could hold their varsity and JV matches simultaneously.

New Prague made quick work of Burnsville - winning 78-6. I arrived late, intending to shoot the final few matches, and arrived when the heavyweights were about to take the mat. Not only was I out of luck, but I had about 45 minutes before the next event would start.

After grabbing a piece of pizza from the concession stand, I bundled up and walked out the door, crossing the parking lot and 12th Street in the sub-zero temperatures and into the New Prague Gymnastics Center at 6:30 p.m., just in time for the National Anthem.

The Trojans, ranked No. 7 in Class A, were taking on the defending state champion Northfield Raiders, ranked No. 1 in Class AA. I stayed long enough to shoot the Trojans' first event - the vault - before rushing across the parking lot to the New Prague Area Community Center at 7 p.m., just in time to hear the starting lineups and - for the second time in a half hour - the National Anthem.

I stayed through the end of the first period and took about 30 photos as the two teams played to a 1-1 tie, then I put my camera in the bag and braved the frozen tundra as I headed back to the high school. Connie Tupy was working the ticket booth and did a double-take as I walked in, having greeted me just two hours earlier.

The girls basketball game had already started, but I walked right past the main gym and back to the auxiliary gym where New Prague was facing Dassel-Cokato. I was able to take the wrestling photos I hadn't been able to get earlier. I also kept my eye on the time remaining in the first half of the basketball game. When I heard a big roar and a buzzer coming from the other gym, I quickly went next door, where I learned Sara Rookaird had nailed a three-pointer to give the Trojans a five-point halftime lead.

I took photos of the dance team's halftime routine, then went back to catch the end of the wrestling match.

Once the match was over, I moved back to the gym, where the Trojans (No. 7 in Class AAA) had built a 20-point lead against No. 3-ranked Red Wing. I wasn't the only media on hand for this game - the Star Tribune had picked it as their spotlight game and the Rochester Post-Bulletin - which covers Red Wing sports, also had a reporter there.

I shot some more photos, as the girls put the finishing touches on Red Wing, then went upstairs to the concession stand, where I learned the boys basketball team had won their game at Red Wing. I never heard a final from boys hockey until I was at home an hour later.

There will be more of the same this week, as the wrestlers host two teams, gymnastics and girls hockey both host Chanhassen/Chaska and girls basketball hosts another state-ranked team, Farmington. Pick your favorite and cheer on the Trojans, or you can be like me and catch all four sports in one night.

* * * * *

One other note. This week we celebrate George Maxa's 80th birthday. George is a long-time staff member at The New Prague Times, and continues to serve as our amateur baseball correspondent. He has covered sports in New Prague for The Times dating back to his high school days.

I personally appreciate all the work he has put into covering the Dakota-Rice-Scott teams over the nearly 20 years I've worked with him. I know he can't wait until April when he starts putting together his D-R-S season previews.

Happy Birthday George!

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