It’s time for sections 2013! Teams all across the state are having their final practices, holding team dinners, and preparing to win or go home starting tomorrow at sections sites near and far. This year we have some excellent matchups at the sectional level and everything is up for grabs. Certainly there will be good teams left at home from the state tournament this year, but not without a fight. Let’s take a look at the head to head matchups as they unfold. This weekend the top 3 in kick and the top 3 in jazz from each section will qualify for the state tournament in two weeks. (Exception: Section 1A will send 4 kick teams and section 2A will only send 2 kick teams)
Kick: This section is wide open as they were fortunate enough to pick up 4 qualifying spots this year (due to a high number of teams registered). Cannon Falls looks good to take the top spot for the 10th consecutive year, with Lake City being a solid 2nd at this rate. Other strong contenders include Randolph, St. Charles, Dover, and Zumbrota who have all had bright moments this year.
Jazz: Zumbrota is probably the most reliable guess in this group with Cannon Falls bringing in a solid yet rather untested dance into the mix against this region. St. Charles will look strong to repeat in 3rd.
Kick: Returning state champion Aitkin looks good to take the top spot with the only other qualifying spot going to either Duluth Marshall or PACT Charter School with Mayer Lutheran also looking like a solid contender.
Jazz: Aitkin and Duluth Marshall will likely repeat their 1-2 performance from last year, with Mayer Lutheran looking for their own repeat in there at 3rd. Norwood or PACT will look to spoil the party for them in what will be a scramble for the last spot.
Kick: YME has been the front-runner in this western section this year with BOLD and Lac Qui Parle Valley battling each other for the 2nd and 3rd spots. A tight Tracy team or RCW could be spoilers if things go their way.
Jazz: Again this one looks favorable for a very strong YME jazz team, with BOLD and Tracy being my favorites for additional spots. Lac Qui Parle or RCW could also find a way to sneak in there in a very difficult class A field. Look for anyone from this section to place well at state.
Kick: Chaska is returning as double state champ and will likely repeat as 1st in the kick division here in this section. A surging Austin team just pulled out a Big 9 Conference win over rival Faribault and those two will likely have a battle for those 2nd and 3rd spots. Simley and Benilde round out this kick field this year.
Jazz: Chaska and Benilde will have a fight, with Benilde really bringing their A game this time around. Chaska dropped jazz at their last huge matchup at the Totino Grace invitational, so we haven’t seen them for a while. Should be a fun one. Simley will look to defend 3rd with South St. Paul and Faribault placing well in there during the regular season.
Kick: Totino Grace and Fridley will be strong finishers in this section with a 3rd spot up for grabs in a wide open field. North Branch or Hill Murray tends to be the usual suspects here, but it’s anyone’s game.
Jazz: Again the top 2 will likely be Totino and Fridley with a strong Chisago Lakes team bringing an interesting routine to the table this year. Chisago hasn’t been to state in quite a few years, and they’ll face Hill Murray and Duluth Denfeld in that mix.
Kick: This section of powerhouse teams will feature returning state champ Eastview going up against strong Apple Valley and Burnsville teams who we haven’t heard from at all in this last half of the year. These teams like to go into hiding and bring out their new dances late in the game, so surprises are usually on the table with this group. Prior Lake and Lakeville South can also threaten this group with dances they’ve worked on all year.
Jazz: Eastview is looking strong to crack the top 3 at state this year and is my pick for section champ this time around. Prior Lake is a dark horse in this mix, looking good in invitational play. Lakeville North and Burnsville are usually somewhere in this mix and will be again at this rate. Again, we haven’t heard much from this field so lots can happen.
Kick: Henry Sibley is looking good to challenge Spring Lake Park and Eagan in this division. Centennial will be in the hunt with some possible new challengers from Mounds View and Forest Lake.
Jazz: Spring Lake Park and Eagan will be challenged by Mounds View and Forest Lake in this mix, and an eye should be kept on the Irondale team who qualifies from time to time as well. Mounds View has been a little under the radar for a few years and is ready to make a push, and Forest Lake has never qualified and is hungry for their own place in history. Either way, anything going on at Bloomington on Saturday will be the thing to watch.
Last week: (Sorry guys – this was posted, but for Feb 1st 2014! So you didn’t get to see it! Here it is anyways…obviously some of this turned out to be wrong, but it’s fun to guess.)
Section 4A: Hawley High School
Kick: This group will feature a strong Pelican Rapids and Crosby teams with equal threats from Pierz, Frazee, and Bagley which will round out the biggest threats for a spot to state based on what we’ve seen so far this year.
Jazz: Frazee and Pelican Rapids have maintained strong finishes in this section all year with the 3rd spot going somewhere between usual qualifiers Crosby or Bagley. There could always be a surprise in this group as well, with class A jazz being a bit of a wild card in general.
Section 3AA: Waconia High School
Kick: Section champ Marshall will have a tougher fight this year as Hutchinson, Delano, Montevideo, and Mound Westonka have all made moves in this section. Monte is probably my dark horse after years of placing strong in class A, with Hutchinson maybe making a grab at the top spot based on their improvement. This one will be tight.
Jazz: Mound Westonka is usually the leader of this pack with Marshall making moves in recent years to finish well at state. Mound, Holy Family, Orono, and Delano are all piled up on each other with no clear winner coming out of this group. If the kick division here was tight, jazz will be down to one pirouette of difference.
Section 4AA: Sartell High School
Kick: Host Sartell will try to hold on to its section title over a never-to-be-discounted St. Cloud Cathedral squad. The northern AA teams know the meaning of hard work and getting out in front here will be quite the accomplishment. Apollo, Sauk Rapids, and Detroit Lakes will be looking good in the top ½ of this section. Rocori manages to make a qualifying spot from time to time and may do so again this year as well.
Jazz: Sartell is taking jazz seriously this year and will look to make a statement at sections. Detroit Lakes and St. Cloud Cathedral will likely be strong, with room for lots of “sneak in there” teams. I wouldn’t rule anyone out in this matchup.
Section 2AAA: Wayzata High School
Kick: The Wayzata team started their kick renaissance last year and is looking good again with strong Maple Grove and Hopkins teams following right behind. Eden Prairie has been a little under the radar so far this year in both kick and jazz, but I would never rule them out. Another up and comer Chanhassen won’t be going away quietly, and when you add a surging Shakopee and Rodgers teams in there, this group is stacked.
Jazz: Wayzata and Maple Grove give us a preview of state in what is round 1 of their yearly battle. I never think previous results have much bearing in this epic matchup of titans, so expect a tough one. Hopkins would love to return in this category, and again I wouldn’t rule out an EP surge. Edina had a strong start this season and won’t be holding back now either. Expect to see all of these qualifiers in state finals with their depth of talent.
Section 4AAA: Elk River High School
Kick: Brainerd has been looking good this year but that hasn’t always translated into section championships for the Kixsters, so they’ll be working hard to hold off the usual mix of Blaine, St. Cloud Tech, and perhaps a strong Champlin Park team from the podium.
Jazz: This section is loaded with talent as Blaine, Brainerd, St. Cloud Tech, Andover, and Duluth East have all made their mark this year. I could see 4 or 5 teams worthy of state in this mix, but only 3 will be making the trip to the Target Center. Some placements here will be just about who had the better day this time.