See more of the story
Jake Birdwell, left, and Spring Lake Park coach Jim Stern savored a moment.
Jake Birdwell, left, and Spring Lake Park coach Jim Stern savored a moment.


Jake Birdwell of Spring Lake Park

Jake Birdwell

Spring Lake Park • golf

Birdwell was contemplating being conservative off the tee down the stretch of the Class 3A boys golf state tournament. It didn't coincide with his identity.

"I'm really an aggressive player," Birdwell said.

The 3-iron went back into the bag on No. 16, and the 3-wood stayed in the bag on 18. Out came the driver.

"It's about confidence, trusting what you are doing," Birdwell said. "It was the perfect risk-and-reward situation. It worked out really well."

Birdwell birdied both holes to finish with an 8-under-par 136 that made him the medalist by two shots in the two-day tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Club in Coon Rapids.

Birdwell's drive on the 18th hole, a 390-yard dogleg par-4, found the green.

"Jake can always pull off something miraculous," Spring Lake Park coach Jim Stern said. "He did that about four times this tournament."

Birdwell, who is committed to Illinois for college, qualified for the U.S. Junior Open the day after he won the state championship.

"I enjoy competing," he said. "It was a crazy, fun year."

Maggie Graczyk of Benilde-St. Margaret’s

Maggie Graczyk

Benilde-St. Margaret's • lacrosse

Graczyk is proficient in scoring as well as setting up her teammates. "She's our point guard on the attack," Red Knights coach Ana Bowlsby said. A junior attacker, Graczyk had a hat trick during a four-goal rally as the Red Knights came from behind to beat Edina 11-10 for the program's first state championship.

Max Arlich of East Ridge

Max Arlich

East Ridge • baseball

Arlich showcased his potential on the mound in the Class 4A state tournament. A lefthander committed to Texas A&M, he threw a two-hit shutout as the Raptors defeated Rosemount 1-0 for the championship. He struck out seven and walked two in what he called his best start of the year. He was also the winning pitcher in East Ridge's quarterfinal victory.

Reese McCauley of Simley

Reese McCauley

Simley • golf

McCauley is quickly ascending to a spot among the best golfers in state history. A junior committed to the Gophers, she won her second Class 3A state title with an 8-under 136 at Bunker Hills Golf Club, after trailing the leader by two strokes entering the final round. She won her initial title with a 139 on the same course in 2021.

Cole Witherow of New Life Academy

Cole Witherow

New Life Academy • golf

The senior concluded his career in grand fashion, successfully defending his Class 1A state championship with a 5-under-par 139 at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker. He became only the second golfer to win back-to-back in the smallest class since the inception of the three-class system in 2008.

Raquelle Nelson of Legacy Christian

Raquelle Nelson

Legacy Christian • golf

Nelson, with the field's best opening round (7-over-par 79) and second-best closing round (82), won the Class 1A championship by three strokes at Pebble Creek Golf Club. A junior, she became the second Legacy Christian golfer in a row to win the individual title. Classmate Emily Brandt won it in 2022.

Nate Long of Lakeville North

Nate Long

Lakeville North • lacrosse

The senior midfielder doesn't score often, but when he does it's in crucial situations. His third goal of the game came in overtime and touched off a wild celebration as the Panthers won their first state championship with an 11-10 victory over South Suburban Conference rival Prior Lake. He also scored the OT winner for Lakeville North the semifinals.

Nominate an athlete: Send an e-mail with supporting information to Include a photo and a link, if available, to video.