By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
— It’s time to recognize a couple of standouts in competitions you don’t usually read much about. The first is Mankato West junior Tyler Stoffel who has developed into one of the top handball players in the country, and even the world, in his age group.
Stoffel began playing handball at a young age and won his first national championship in 2005 in Tempe, Ariz., while competing in the 9-under age bracket.
A year later he reached the semifinals of the world tournament in Edmonton, Alberta, in the 11-under division. He won another national junior title in 2007 at Tucscon, Ariz., and did the same in 2008 in the 13-under bracket in Vancouver, Wash.
Over the last few years he’s won numerous titles in both singles and doubles at the state and national level and has reached the finals of the world tournament once. In all he has four state championships and nine national championships to his credit.
Stoffel’s efforts will be recognized by the City of North Mankato on Monday when he is presented with a key to the city by the City Council. He was nominated for the award by local player Dan Sherwin.
Mike Wells, who runs the Minnesota State handball program, said Stoffel and a host of other handball enthusiasts will gather at Busters Bar and Grill after the presentation in celebration of Stoffel’s recognition. Buster’s is a corporate sponsor for the MNSU program.
Another local athlete who deserves some recognition is North Mankato’s Garrett Shumski. We don’t normally write about athletes as young as Garrett — he’s only 11 and is a student at Garfield Elementary — but his feat is outstanding enough for us to make an exception.
Shumski is involved in the NFL’s annual Punt, Pass & Kick competition that begins with about 4 million participants nationwide. The competition measures distance and accuracy for the three events.
Shumski began by winning the local competition to advance to sectionals. He placed in the top four at sectionals which covers the states of Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana.
His score of 282.7 advances him to the team championship, where he competes again during halftime of the Vikings-Bears game on Dec. 9 at the Metrodome. Should his team championship score be among the Top 4, Shumski would advance to nationals, where he would compete at halftime of an NFL playoff game to be determined.
Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org