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Top five Irish sports stories of 2009

Mr. Football leads the way

Rosemount sports teams have been in the middle of a lot of important state high school news during the past calendar year. From Zach Vraa winning the Mr. Football award, to the realignment of the Lake Conference, to several state-qualifying teams and individuals, the Irish have had much to celebrate.

Rosemount senior Zach Vraa finished his Irish football career in grand style.

While the Rosemount football team just missed on a second straight trip to the state tournament, Vraa was at the forefront of another strong season for the Irish.

Vraa finished the season with 39 catches for 783 yards and 12 touchdowns. He added two interceptions while playing defense and was Rosemount's top kickoff and punt returner to win the state's top football honor presented by the coaches' association.

It was the end of a stellar career for Vraa in which he had 113 catches for 1,985 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Numbers didn't tell the whole story with Vraa. Playing in run-oriented offense, the 6 foot 3 receiver still managed to put up big numbers, but coach Jeff Erdmann believes winning the Mr. Football award was about more than numbers.

"There are guys that make 80 catches in an offense that throws the ball 40 times a game," Erdmann said. "But when you watch his highlight film, it's no surprise (that Vraa won the Mr. Football award). That's where you see all the good things he's done."

Winning Mr. Football is something no other Irish player has ever done.

Irish make the move as part of Lake Conference realignment

In September, District 196 schools, which includes Rosemount, voted to withdraw from the current Lake Conference format and create a new conference.

Along with several current Lake schools, and Prior Lake, the group created the 10-member South Suburban Conference, which will begin play next school year. Joining District 196's Rosemount, Apple Valley, Eagan and Eastview will be Bloomington Kennedy and Bloomington Jefferson, Lakeville North and Lakeville South, Burnsville and Prior Lake, which was previously part of the Missota Conference.

Citing travel expenses and time the school boards for each of the respective conference schools approved the move.

The switch was long rumored after the Minnesota State High School League placed Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Wayzata in the current Lake Conference, a move that was met with resistance from the Lake schools.

Due to the creation of the South Suburban, Eden Prairie is the only former Lake school left without a conference to call home.

Boys swimming and diving team sets records at state meet

The Rosemount boys swimming and diving team ended a banner season with a strong performance at the Class 2A state meet in March.

The Irish placed fourth overall as a team, while setting a state record in the medley relay. This came after Rosemount was third in the True Team state meet earlier in the season. The Irish also won each of the section meets and went undefeated to win the Lake Conference.

However, they were at their best at the season-ending state meet.

Devon Meeks, David Stern, Tony Spiel and Max Hubbard combined to win the 200-yard medley relay in record fashion. Stern, Hubbard, Tristan Boyd and Meeks then set a new school record while winning the 200 freestyle relay.

Meeks added an individual title in the 50 freestyle. He reached automatic all-american times in the 50 and 100 freestyle.

In all, the Irish set six school records during the season.

Girls tennis team advances to first state tournament as a team

With a group of returning experienced players, the Rosemount girls tennis team had a truly breakout season that culminated in the Irish's first-ever trip to the state tournament as a team.

First-singles player Virginia Norder, an eighth grader, also became just the second girls tennis player from Rosemount to advance to the state meet as an individual.

After beating the section's top seed to qualify for the first time, the Irish went on to win one match in the state tournament.

Rosemount beat Blaine, 4-3, during the tournament with Norder and Ally Baker winning in singles play. Savannah Bray and Kayla Ross won a doubles match and Shelby Gamache and Hailey Johnson added the other doubles point.

Norder won one of her three matches in individual play. She was one of just two eighth graders in the tournament and only two ninth graders advanced as far.

The effort by the girls propelled coach Dana Beck to be named the section coach of the year.

Boys track and field team continue success at state meet

Coming off of a state championship the previous year, this spring's Rosemount boys track and field team had some big shoes to fill. While a second straight state title eluded them, somehow the Irish still lived up to their weighty expectations.

Rosemount finished the season by placing third as a team at the season-ending Class 2A state meet at Hamline. The Irish had nine athletes compete and tallied four second-place finishes.

Chris Massey was second in the 3,200-meter race. Zach Vraa placed second in the 110 high hurdles. The 4x200 relay team of Austin Eliason, Vraa, Christian Willman, and Andrew Anderson finished second. Goaner Deng, Anderson, Andrew Hausmann and Willman combined to place second in the 4x400 relay.

Eliason was seventh in the 200 and broke a school record in the preliminaries, while Willman was fourth in the 400.

It capped a season in which the Irish won the True Team and season-ending section meets, the Lake Conference meet and placed second at the True Team state meet.