Female Driver Looks up to Stars

Natalie Sather knows she’s not Danica Patrick.

Yet, the spunky, first-year World of Outlaws driver doesn’t mind looking up to the Indy Racing League’s female star.

“What girls are doing today is awesome,” said Sather, a Dilwor th-Glyndon-Felton High School graduate. “It might prove some people wrong.”

Sather, 20, is the only female running with the Outlaws this weekend during the Duel in the Dakotas at Red Valley Speedway.

Erin Crocker ran in last year’s Duel, but is currently attempting to work her way into NASCAR’s Busch Series.

“What she did in sprint cars is phenomenal,” Sather said. “I hope I can do what she did.”

Sather has struggled adjusting to the faster motors of the 410 sprints, which she began running this year while still competing in the 360 sprints.

Sather spun out during the warmup laps of her Outlaws heat and tipped on her left side during the second lap of the 360 feature. She was uninjured.

Sather ranks 33rd in the World of Outlaws point standings with a season-best finish of 21st at the Batesville (Ark.) Speedway.

“I’m learning,” Sather said.

Despite toiling in the back of the pack most nights, Sather still holds her head high. She expects returning to her home area this weekend might help.

“I’m so glad to come home,” Sather said.

Sather said she’ll be racing with a purpose this weekend. Ashley Leabo, Sather’s cousin and one of her biggest supporters, died in a car accident early Thursday morning in Grand Forks, N.D.

“It’s been a tough week for my family,” Sather said. “She was telling everyone I was going to win.”

 

Lasorda Plays His Usual, Affable Self at Maris Gala

Tommy Lasorda seemed more interested in entertaining 19-month-old Kiana Amundson than speaking with autograph hounds and reporters during Monday’s Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament at Rose Creek Golf Course.

The 77-year-old baseball Hall of Famer put on his nicest, grandfather face and appealed for the shy, blonde-haired girl to give him a hug. Kaira’s body language spelled out an obvious “No.”

“How about a high-five?” Lasorda asked. Again the Barnesville, Minn., toddler refused.

Eventually Kiana smiled, but not without more playful urging from a man considered one of the most engaging personalities in baseball.

Lasorda, who won three World Series titles in 22 years managing the Los Angeles Dodgers, said he attends many events such as the Maris golf tourney, which raises money for various charities.

“To do something to help like this, it’s good for myself,” Lasorda said.

Even though he doesn’t golf, Lasorda said he has been trying to come to the tournament for five years after meeting Roger’s widow Pat Maris. Yet, things never fell into place at the right time.

“When I saw Pat, I promised her I’d come,” Lasorda said. “I’m fulfilling a promise.”

Lasorda, one of baseball’s biggest names opposing the use of steroids, also spoke out against illegal drugs in sports.

“I think it’s a disgrace,” Lasorda said. “If I’m pitching against a guy taking steroids, that’s not an even playing field.”

Blake, Sinner team up

What do you get when you put a professional hockey player and the former governor of North Dakota together?

One of the craziest teams in the tournament.

New York Islanders right wing Jason Blake hit the links with former North Dakota governor George A. Sinner early Monday morning.

“He hits it the furthest and I hit it the least,” Sinner said. “We’ve got some good golfers and then they’ve got me.”

Blake, a Moorhead High School graduate, said he was thrilled to be paired up with Sinner, who wasn’t listed as a celebrity.

The six-year National Hockey League veteran said he’s been playing a lot of golf and spending more time with his two children since the NHL lockout began.

However, he believes the league and the players’ association will come to an agreement within weeks.

“I think we’re close to a getting a deal done,” Blake said. “I’m thankful I signed my deal last year.”

Brown finally makes it

Dale Brown said he loves coming back to North Dakota, especially when the weather is nice and he gets to be outdoors.

“North Dakota and the people in this area are unique,” Brown said. “Being in North Dakota, you may not see all the positive things.”

The retired Louisiana State University men’s basketball coach and native of Minot, N.D., was in Fargo as one of the tournament’s celebrity guests.

Brown had been invited to the tournament nearly every year since its inception. But there was always something that got in his way.

“I felt almost guilty,” Brown said.

Brown made the decision to attend the tournament after receiving a call from Vic Gelking, an old high school friend.

“I rearranged my whole schedule to come and I’m glad I did,” Brown said.

Brown is well-known as the coach who inadvertently discovered a 13-year-old Shaquille O’Neal. He met O’Neal while speaking to United States military forces in Germany during the Cold War.

When the 6-foot-8 man-child asked Brown for tips on his game, Olson asked O’Neal for his military rank.

“He said ‘I’m only 13,’ ” Brown said.

Brown eventually recruited O’Neal to LSU, where he was an All-American.

Brown, a 1953 graduate of Minot St. Leo’s High School, now Minot Ryan, said he remembers playing high school athletics the same time as Maris and longtime Arizona men’s basketball coach Lute Olsen, who grew up in Mayville, N.D., and attended high school in Grand Forks, N.D.

“Football was by far Roger’s best sport,” Brown said.

Notes

• Former Minnesota Vikings defensive back Joey Browner and teammates won the team title, finishing with a score of 43.25. Other team members were Dan Skinner, Kevin Bucholz, Nick Gludt, Hugh Veit and Kent Ritterman.

• It was the first year the tournament was held at Rose Creek since 1997. Flooding at Edgewood Golf Course, the usual tournament site prompted the move. “It’s been a great honor to host something like this,” Rose Creek golf professional Matt Cook said.

• Two maintenance men from Newman Outdoor Field brought a door from one of the stadium’s suites for celebrities to sign.

• The PA & Dubay show on KFAN sports radio in Minneapolis broadcasted live outside of the clubhouse.

Widow Mulls Maris’ Legacy: Some Believe Steroid Cloud Bolsters Former HR King’s Name

Plenty has been done to preserve Roger Maris’ legacy.

Twenty years after his death, respect continues to be paid to the former single-season home run record holder and his family.

A museum at Fargo’s West Acres shopping center pays homage to Maris. The movie “61*” about his 1961 pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home run record sparked interest in a new generation of fans. The Roger Maris Celebrity Benefit Golf Tournament and Auction today and Monday will raise thousands of dollars to fight cancer.

Yet one question about his legacy still lingers: Do steroid allegations facing baseball’s biggest stars strengthen Maris’ spot in baseball history.

“It (the steroid accusations) probably made what he did look better,” said Pat Maris, Roger’s widow. “To hold a record for 37 years, and then boom, boom, boom … it was a different situation.”

Maris, five of her six children and eight grandchildren are in Fargo to attend the charity events.

Some feel Major League Baseball owes it to the Maris family to clean up the game as a tribute to achievements made by Roger and players in his time.

“Major League Baseball owes it to them,” said state Sen. Joel Heitkamp, D-Hankinson. “I don’t think Pat Maris needs to even deal with the problem.”

Heitkamp and the North Dakota Senate passed a resolution asking MLB to restore Maris’ old record – 61 home runs set in 1961 – as the true record if the steroid accusations were found to be true.

“The home run record, to me, is Roger Maris’,” Heitkamp said. “The people that took it from him, quite clearly – and I have no proof to back this up – were on steroids. If that’s the case, the record is Roger’s.”

The senate’s resolution came after congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball and allegations against home run king Barry Bonds, past record holder Mark McGwire and sluggers Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco.

McGwire, who broke Maris’ home run record in 1998, didn’t admit to doing steroids. However, his unwillingness to answer many of Congress’ biggest questions led to public disgust.

“I hope things will turn around for baseball,” Pat Maris said.

Kevin Maris, Roger and Pat’s youngest son, said the family hasn’t spoken to McGwire recently but still considers him a friend.

McGwire annually gives over $6,000 to benefit the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo.

Some members of the Maris family agree that the steroid accusations helped shed a positive light on what Roger accomplished.

Yet, they still think his chances of gaining a Hall of Fame nomination are slim, no matter how hard his supporters fight.

“It might happen one day. If it comes, it comes,” Pat Maris said. “It would be a wonderful honor, but he’s had a lot of honors.”

Friends of the family, such as benefit committee member Jim Deutsch, are willing to stand up for the local hero.

“He (Roger) was doing things before anyone knew what a steroid was,” said Deutsch, a longtime supporter of the Fargo Shanley High School graduate. “What’s gone on just proves what an incredible athlete Roger was back in 1961.”

North Dakota lawmakers passed another resolution earlier this year, urging the 85-member Hall of Fame veterans’ committee to vote for Maris based on his contributions to baseball.

Hall of Fame pitcher and veterans’ committee member Phil Niekro said Maris’ time may come. And it may be sooner than most think.

“There’s too much talk about it,” Niekro said. “His name will never leave the game of baseball.”

Niekro, who attended last year’s benefit, said it wasn’t his place to speak about the steroid issue, although he said he holds a great deal of respect for what kind of a player Maris was.

“There was nothing really flashy about him,” Niekro said. “He was major league all the way.”

If Maris does have a chance at joining the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., his clean, old-school image may be the ticket.

“It’s a nice legacy to have,” Pat Maris said.

Along for the Ride: Hermanson Cousins Carry on Bull Riding Family Tradition Together

HAWLEY, Minn. – Cole Hermanson had a feeling Huff & Snuff was due.

The 18-year-old bull rider didn’t fret when he drew the bull which had never been rode.

He wasn’t fazed when the animal tried jumping out of the chute either.

Hermanson simply locked in and clocked an eight-second ride and a score of 83 to move into the top spot after the first day of bull riding at the 46th annual Hawley Rodeo, a National Professional Rodeo Association sanctioned event.

“I knew he was going to turn back,” said Hermanson, who said he’d watched Huff & Snuff several times. “He always jumps back.”

Bull riding has been a family affair for Cole and his cousin Justin Hermanson as long as they can remember.

The two grew up watching their fathers and uncles ride – Justin’s father, Darrell, is a former high school national bull riding champ – and have carried on the tradition.

“It’s been a family thing all my life,” said Justin, who rides today, the second day of the Hawley Rodeo. “It’s in my blood.”

The Hermansons are two of over 20 bull riders competing this weekend at the Historic Hawley Rodeo Grounds.

Justin, 23, is the NPRA money leader in bull riding, having already earned more than $5,300 with half the season remaining.

Cole is in second place with about $3,500, but has balanced time between NPRA and North Dakota High School Rodeo Association events throughout the year.

Incidentally, Cole is the points leader in the NDHSRA and will go for his first high school title next week at the North Dakota high school finals rodeo in Bowman.

“It’s pretty neat seeing me and him on the top of the standings,” Justin said. “It’d be nice to see that at the end of the year when it’s all said and done, too.”

The Hermansons’ you-and-me attitude gives the cousins traits more associated with brothers.

“We spent a lot of time together growing up,” Justin said. “We’ve always been pretty close.”

Over the school year, Cole, a native of Mandan, N.D., even moved to rural Litchville, N.D., to live with Justin’s family and help around their farm.

“I get my stuff done at school,” said Cole, who left Mandan High School last year and will be a senior at Litchville-Marion High School in the fall. “It’s a lot easier.”

It also means more bull riding chances for both Hermansons.

Since Justin graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State in 2004, Cole said he’s found it easier to attend rodeos outside of the area.

“It’s a lot easier if I start going to big stuff. I’m with someone who knows people,” Cole said of his cousin.

While Cole is starting to become more acclimated in bull riding, Justin has cemented himself in the sport.

Justin has competed in several large events, including Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeos in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Salinis, Calif.

But he admits he still has room to improve.

“I broke four ribs (at Cheyenne),” Justin said with a laugh.

Cole recently received his PRCA permit and said he’ll attempt to earn his card and compete in more difficult rides in the near future. He’ll do it with his cousin by his side.

“He’s got all the talent in the world,” Justin said. “He can make a living riding bulls.”

Staying Power: After 28 Years, Lisbon Boys Coach Howell Still Finding Track Success

Joe Howell admits he didn’t know much about math when his old high school gave him a two-week substitute teaching position nearly three decades ago.

“Two weeks is now 28 years,” said the 53-year-old Howell, still a teacher and coach at Lisbon, N.D.

By the end of his first year, Howell had secured a fulltime job and a coaching position, which has brought him decades of success.

As head coach of the perennial powerhouse Lisbon boys track and field team, Howell has built a club with a legitimate shot at a state championship every year.

The Broncos will be making a run at their fourth North Dakota Class B state title when the state meet begins Friday in Grand Forks.

“Our hopes are the same as the other top teams in the state,” Howell said. “We want to win.”

Lisbon’s goal might not be possible if not for its selfdescribed “intense” coach.

“I don’t know how you can’t get jacked up about the enthusiasm of youth,” Howell said after the Broncos celebrated their 11th consecutive Region 1 title last Saturday.

Although he was excited to see a Lisbon victory, it wasn’t a new experience for Howell. In his 28 seasons as boys coach, Lisbon has won 25 region championships.

“He gets the biggest amount of respect from the kids,” Lisbon girls track coach Brad Bittner said. “Our kids compete and they give all they’ve got for their coach.”

Howell is the last to take credit for the Broncos incredible run, however.

“You can’t control much,” Howell said. “The kids control this game.”

Howell admitted having big numbers is the key ingredient to continuing success.

“We get the kids out,” Howell said. “I think that’s a collective thing. You’re going to see multi-sport athletes at Lisbon.”

Lisbon can’t help but thank Howell’s track program, which has become a catalyst for many other successful sports in the town.

Last fall, the Broncos football team finished second in Class 2A. It wasn’t much of a surprise. Like the track program, the football team seems to be strong every year.

The winning ways don’t just extend to other sports. It also permeates into the minds of underclassmen who one day hope to make their mark.

“You see guys that did well in the past and you want to be like them,” said senior Brayden Wagner, who qualified for state in four events.

Howell’s current position as a physical education teacher has allowed him to help the Lisbon youth become interested in track as early as their elementary school years.

“He can tell what you’re going to be good at just by watching you in phy ed,” Wagner said.

At the end of this season, the Broncos lose eight seniors, six who qualified for the state meet.

But, as usual, they’ll be able to restock their talent pool.

Howell made sure of that by bringing eighth-graders to the region meet. He did so in an effort to show the youngsters what they need to strive for to continue the program’s success.

“He’s got the best program in the state,” Fargo Oak Grove coach Terri Krueger said. “I don’t know how he reloads every year.”

Even after all the success, Howell said he isn’t ready to hang his hat.

“I’m not getting tired of it,” Howell said.

“I remember when we used to sit around 20 years ago and say that it (20 years) would be a nice goal. Now 30 doesn’t seem like so many.”

Straight Shooter: Pueppke, 13, Gaining Recognition With Air Rifle

AMENIA, N.D. — Matthew Pueppke focuses his right eye through the scope of his air rifle and balances his body. His target, a circle less than one-eighth of an inch wide, is 33 feet away.

Concentration is the name of the game. If he hits the mark – known as the 10-hole – it’s merely a job well done.

He might as well be threading a needle with his eyes closed.

“It’s hard to get everything the exact same,” Pueppke said. “If your head is a centimeter off, it’ll affect your shot.”

Pueppke, a 13-year-old seventh-grader from Amenia, N.D., has been climbing the national air rifle ranks since he began organized shooting at age 8.

He gained added recognition after setting a national record for the 14-and-under age group at the 2005 United States Junior Olympic shooting championships in Colorado Springs, Colo., last month.

Pueppke scored a record 579 out of 600 possible points in the 10-meter air rifle competition.

During a match, each shot is worth 10 points.

Competitors must fire two rounds of 60 shots over separate 1 hour, 45 minute time periods.

“A lot of folks tell us he’s one of the top, if not the top 13-year-old shooter in the country,” said Eric Pueppke, Matthew’s father.

Eric, who has competed in pistol marksmanship competitions the past 25 years, realized his son’s potential after a paperwork error allowed an 8-year-old Matthew to compete and earn a bronze medal in the 18 to 20-year-old division.

“It’s high-level competition,” Eric said. “It’s good for kids, it teaches them concentration and focus.”

Although Matthew admits his sport of choice isn’t the most popular, he loves it. To his parents, that’s what really matters.

“Sport is sport,” Eric said. “Everybody thinks guns are violent, but when you look at it, this is probably one of the most non-violent sports.”

The single-shot rifles, which run as high as $2,000, are loaded with .177 caliber pellets. Even though the rifles are somewhat pricey, shooting practice isn’t. Matthew fires as many of 120 shots a day in his basement.

Eric created a simulated, regulation length range in the basement of the Pueppke house. The practice range starts in Matthew’s bedroom and ends exactly 33-feet away in a closet.

Each practice shot brings Matthew closer to his goal.

“Hopefully I can get to the Olympics,” he said.

Taking Life’s Jabs: Area Boxer Finds Glory in the Ring

Zach Walters, from Fergus Falls, Minn., is a Minnesota light-heavyweight boxing champion. (Walters Photography)
Zach Walters, from Fergus Falls, Minn., is a Minnesota light-heavyweight boxing champion. (Walters Photography)

Sharilyn Walters listened to her son Zach cry over the phone as he sat in jail in Duluth, Minn.

“What am I going to do, my life is over,” she remembers him saying through the tears.

Zach Walters, one of the top amateur boxers in Minnesota at the time, had been arrested by a drug task force team for marijuana possession – a habit he says started when he was in eighth grade.

“The habit took me down a long path of problems,” Walters said.

The arrest turned out to be a life-changing moment. It’s a miracle Walters believes is truly God-sent.

“I went to church and asked God for help to change my life and give me something better to live for,” Walters said. “That has happened. My life has become something I never imagined it could be.”

Now, only three years later, the 24-year-old Fergus Falls (Minn.) High School graduate and University of Minnesota-Duluth senior has leaped into boxing’s professional ranks.

Riding a five-fight winning streak over the past year, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound righthander is scheduled to face Iowa native Jesse “Iron Jaw” Sanders in an eight-round, non-title fight Saturday at the Duluth (Minn.) Entertainment and Convention Center.

It’s the main event of the “Truth In Duluth,” a fivematch boxing card featuring professional fighters from Minnesota and North Dakota.

“Boxing has become an outlet for him,” said Walters’ manager and promoter Chuck “Sharky” Horton.

“It was a place for him to put his head. He was a confused kid.”

Now, he’s seeing more clearly.

“Boxing is something that’s brought true happiness to my life,” Walters said. Root of true happiness

Madagascar – the small island country east of the African mainland – also meant true happiness for Walters.

That’s where he grew up when his parents served as Lutheran missionaries from the time he was 15 months old.

But Zach’s life took a dramatic turn shortly after his 12th birthday when his parents returned to the United States. The family moved constantly, taking on new missions and trying to find steady work.

The Walters’ four children quickly became strangers in a new world.

“He was Tarzan, basically,” Horton said. “These kids were nuts.”

Walters’ strange journey eventually earned him the nickname, “Jungleboy,” a reference to his former tropical home, not his fighting style.

“I try to be a real disciplined, fundamentally sound fighter,” Walters said. “I try to be cold in my emotions, try to be analytical.”

Walters’ fighting style is a transformation from his childhood, when he never quite found the right place to call home.

“We moved from a thirdworld country to St. Paul, which was a culture shock,” Walters said. “Then to Fresno (Calif.), which was just nuts.”

Finally, after a short time in Pelican Rapids, Minn., the Walters found a home in Fergus Falls.

“That was where the family felt most comfortable,” Walters said.

Birth of a career

It was in Fergus Falls where his boxing career began. When Walters was 15, his parents encouraged him to try several sports. He settled on boxing.

Nearly a decade since he began sparring, Walters is now riding a wave of success. He’s been clean from drugs and alcohol since April 2002, and has found success in the classroom.

He recently made the UMD Dean’s List for the sixth consecutive semester (every semester since he was arrested) and is two classes away from a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He’s also working as a counselor assistant at the Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment in Duluth.

“Zach is multidimensional,” said Sharilyn Walters. “He’s a great boxer, but he’s a great person, too. And I don’t just say that because I’m his mom.”

Walters’ career took off in September after a secondround knockout of Marty Lindquist for the Minnesota state light heavyweight boxing title.

“I’m so impressed with his level of development, physically- and maturitywise,” Horton said.

Walters recently spent two weeks in Florida with Buddy McGirt, who has guided notable boxers Antonio Tarver and Arturo Gatti.

Walters is thankful for the opportunity – and thankful that his life took a turn for the better.

“I look in the mirror and it’s hard to see myself doing many of the things I did several years back,” Walters said.

Now, he’s focused on Saturday’s bout against “Iron Jaw” Sanders.

“He (Sanders) is the guy I’ve been looking at for quite a while,” Walters said. “I cleaned out Minnesota. Now we’re going to see who’s the best in two states.”