Dressler, Roughriders and Knutson honored
When Weston Dressler headed to camp for his rookie season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, the Bismarck native's goals were modest.
"Coming in my first year, I just wanted to make the team and help them any way I could," Dressler said.
Dressler found many ways to help the Roughriders, making 56 catches for 1,128 yards and winning the CFL's outstanding rookie award. For his standout season, Dressler has been chosen as the Dakota Award winner by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
The award is presented to North Dakota athletes who excel beyond the state's borders. Other finalists for the award were Air Force hockey player Jacques Lamoureux, who was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award; University of Kansas baseball player Zac Elgie; and University of North Iowa basketball coach Ben Jacobson.
Dressler had overcome his lack of size to become an all-stater at Bismarck High School and an All-American and Harlon Hill finalist at the University of North Dakota. The more wide-open style of the CFL seemed a perfect for a player of his speed and skill.
Dressler was slowed by injuries early in the season, and it took some time for him to find his niche with the defending Grey Cup champions. But once he did, there was no stopping him. In the first nine games of the season, Dressler had 11 catches for 231 yards. In the next nine, he had 45 passes for 897 yards.
"The team had a lot of injuries, and that opened up the opportunity for me to play," Dressler said.
Dressler finished sixth in the league in yards per catch (20.1) and tied for second in 100-yard receiving games (six). He was also one of the CFL's better special teams players, averaging 20.8 yards per kick return and 10.5 yards per punt return. His combined yardage total of 2,219 was third-best in the league.
Dressler received 37 of 46 first-place votes for the outstanding rookie award, which was voted on by the Football Reporters of Canada and the CFL's head coaches.
His exciting style was a hit with fans, who voted him the Molson Cup, awarded to the Roughriders' most popular player.
"It was a great opportunity, and I got to learn a whole new style of football," Dressler said. "It's been a great experience."
Dickinson won its first American Legion baseball state championship, and for that, was named the NDAPSSA's non-school sports team of the year.
Other finalists for the award were the Bismarck Bobcats, who won the NAHL's Central Division title and advanced to the Robertson Cup national tournament, and the Lord of the Strings tennis team from Grand Forks.
Dickinson, which finished with a 39-17 mark, went 1-2 in the Central Plains tournament. Dickinson had advanced to the state championship game just twice before, in 1952 and 2002.
Pitcher Kyle Schroeder led the way for Dickinson, going 8-0 with an 1.05 earned run average. Schroeder recorded 91 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched.
Stephen Laylock and Ben Herauf also played critical roles in Dickinson's run to the title. Herauf, the tournament MVP, went 12-for-22 with five home runs and 15 RBIs. Laylock went 2-0 in the tournament, including a complete game victory in the championship game. Dickinson beat Bismarck 7-2 for the title, with Laylock striking out eight and allowing just two unearned runs.
athlete of the year
For the third straight year and fourth time overall, Minot swimmer Dagny Knutson has been chosen as the NDAPSSA's non-school athlete of the year.
Other finalists for the award were David Bosner of the Bismarck Bobcats, who was named the North American Hockey League's rookie goalie of the year, and Blake Ahearn of the Dakota Wizards, who earned first-team all-league honors in the NBA Development League.
Long North Dakota's top swimmer, Knutson began to make a name for herself in national and international competitions as well.
Knutson, 17, competed in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, qualifying for the finals in the 200 individual medley. She went on to win five gold medals at the FINA Youth World Swimming championships. In the 2008 Short Course Nationals, Knutson broke Olympian Katie Hoff's American record in the 400 IM with a time of 4:00.62. She won three events at that meet and set two meet records.
Knutson kept on rolling in early 2009. She set five meet records at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships, winning seven gold medals and one bronze. Finally at the Charlotte UltraSwim, she won four golds - in the 200 and 400 IM and the 200 and 400 freestyle.
"Swimming for the junior national team in (the Pan Pacific meet) in Guam was probably the biggest thing," Knutson said. "I swam really well there, and it was exciting to represent the U.S. in international competition."
Next up for Knutson this summer are the national championships in Indianapolis and the world championships in Rome.
"Long-term, my goal is to compete in the 2012 Olympics and hopefully win a gold medal," Knutson said.