I’m dedicating my column this week to someone who has written thousands of stories about area teams and athletes.
For almost 40 years, Wayne “Wheaties” Wallin has been a dedicated sports writer covering Pequot Lakes Patriots teams for the Lake Country Echo and Echo Journal newspapers. He also spent many years covering Pine River-Backus athletic teams.
Wallin isn’t ready for retirement just yet, but he’s being honored for his dedication as the new Pequot Lakes’ boys’ basketball home tournament on Dec. 27-28 will be named after Wallin.
“Last year, (former boys’ varsity basketball coach) Garry Grewe was in the process of organizing the holiday tournament and came up with the idea to recognize (Wallin),” said Pequot Lakes activities director Marc Helmrichs. “‘Wheaties’ has been such a huge supporter of all of our athletic programs and our athletes, so it is a small way we can say ‘thanks’ for all he does.”
The first “Wheaties” Wallin Holiday Tournament is sponsored by Lakes State Bank and AmericInn Hotel, and will feature Wallin tossing up a ceremonial jump ball before the first game to kick off the two-day tournament Friday, Dec. 27, in the new Pequot Lakes Athletic Center. Opening games feature Barnesville vs. Hermantown at 6 p.m. and Pequot Lakes vs. Bagley at 7:30 p.m. The third-place game will be at 1 p.m. and the championship at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28. A junior varsity tournament will also take place in the auxiliary gym.
Wallin, who witnessed his first Pequot Lakes basketball game in 1952, was a three-sport athlete who graduated from Pequot Lakes in 1959. A charter member of the Patriots’ athletic hall of fame, Wallin rarely misses home basketball games, and often covers Pequot Lakes’ junior varsity and freshman games.
Holiday tournament time
Besides the boys’ basketball tournament, other Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus teams will be competing in tournaments over the holidays.
The Patriot girls will play in the Gold Division of the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Invitational on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27-28. Pequot Lakes opens against Parkers Prairie at 6 p.m. and then Mountain Iron-Buhl faces Frazee at 7:45 p.m. Dec. 27. The third-place game will be at 6 p.m. and the championship at 7:45 p.m. Dec. 28.
The PR-B boys will play in the Menahga tournament on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 20-21. The Tigers will play Menahga at 8 p.m. while Swanville faces Henning at 6 p.m. Dec. 20. The third-place game is at 1 p.m. and the championship at 3 p.m. Dec. 21.
The Northern Lakes Lightning girls’ hockey team will play in the eight-team Red Division of the Schwan Cup in Blaine on Monday-Wednesday, Dec. 30-Jan. 1. The Lightning open against Fort Frances, Ontario, in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Dec. 30. Semifinals and losers bracket games are Dec. 31, with the championship game Jan. 1. A junior varsity tournament is also planned.
A senior’s memorable day
Thursday, Dec. 12, is a day that Pequot Lakes senior basketball captain Vanessa Lane won’t soon forget.
The memorable events started about 10:30 a.m. when she bumped the funny bone in her elbow just before taking a math test in school.
“It hurt so much so I put my head down while I was sitting at my desk,” Lane recalled.
She suddenly blacked out. And to make matters worse, she bumped her head on a nearby cabinet as she fell to the floor. The school nurse came to the classroom, and an ambulance was called to transport Lane to Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd.
“I’m not sure how long I was out,” she said. “I did come to, but I was scared and started hyperventilating.”
Lane had suffered Vasovagal Syncope (a common type of fainting for young adults). Her condition started to improve on her way to the hospital, and her focus switched to her team’s basketball game that night against Park Rapids.
“The first thing I asked in the ambulance is, ‘Will I be able to play that night?’” she said. “I did get to play. I had a headache all day from hitting my head, but I felt fine during the game.”
Lane bounced back with 21 points that night, which helped her earn Pequot Lakes Athlete of the Week honors for Dec. 9-14. It was an impressive week for the senior, who has scored 69 points and grabbed 47 rebounds in the past three games.
“It could have been worse, but it was scary because it was the first time I’ve been taken to the hospital,” said Lane, who added that she received “some teasing” from classmates about the incident.