by Eric Oslund
Multiple Elk River graduates have gone on to do great things, especially in the world of sports, and the tradition has carried on to this day. Blake Hillman, Kaylee Jondahl and Mac Berglove have all gone on to the next level of their sports and excelled both individually and with their teams.
Hillman graduated from Elk River High School in 2014 after being a defenseman on the school’s hockey team for a number of years. From there, he went on to play juniors hockey for a season before committing to play at Denver University.
He is now in his sophomore season out west and just helped his team win the NCAA national championship on April 8 by defeating the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs by a score of 3-2. Hillman himself notched an assist on Denver’s first goal, but kept his primary focus on playing defense.
“It’s really surreal,” the Elk River grad said of winning a national championship. “You grow up as a kid and you always think about winning championships. As you get older you always think about the big ones, like the Stanley Cup, well, usually when you’re younger all you think about is the Stanley Cup. Then when you get into high school, you think about going into college hockey. I started watching college hockey when I was pretty young and just watching national championship teams, and how they celebrate, and the teams are all so close, it was just an amazing feeling to do that with my team. This is the closest team I have ever been on, and this is probably the best team I have ever been on.”
Hillman admitted that he hasn’t had too much time to celebrate the victory since arriving back on campus. Instead, he’s been hitting the books hard, since his team had to miss about a week of school for the tournament and he’s working on getting caught up.
He’s also looking forward to next season already, after talking to his head coach. A couple of their top defensemen are graduating this year, which means Hillman is going to be given a bigger role during his final two years, though he knows it’s an opportunity that could easily slip away.
That’s why he is planning to work hard this offseason and then work on leading his team back to the NCAA title game.
“The last time the Pioneers won a championship they won two back to back, so hopefully we can do the same thing,” he said.
Jondahl graduated from Elk River High School in 2013 but was making an impact on the gymnastics team long before then. She joined the program as a freshman and had won numerous medals at the state level during her four years there, including a state title for vault in 2013.
She decided to attend the University of Wisconsin-Stout after graduation and has never looked back. She has continued to excel and better her craft at the collegiate level, competing in competitions starting her freshman year.
The Elk River graduate recently finished up her senior season at Stout, helping lead her team to nationals and bringing home three All-American honors (floor, vault and all around). She is ending her collegiate career with eight total All-American honors.
“Coming into college, I knew I had good skills, but I had a lot of cleaning up to do,” Jondahl began. “Here at Stout, they’ve helped me clean up and go back and it’s the little details that matter the most. Just making it look nice and clean, so that’s helped me a lot. I’ve also gained confidence in bars and beam, which weren’t my two strongest because floor and vault have always been my strongest. I’ve just always enjoyed doing those two events, and then bars and beams I didn’t care too much about, but after the four years here I can say that I’m happy I stuck through it and that I competed in all four events all four years. I pushed hard to reach and strive for success in the other two I’ve struggled in for the events. I’ve just learned a lot about me, myself and grown as a person.”
With the gymnastics season officially coming to an end, Jondahl is now focused on finishing up school as she is planning to graduate in December. She is majoring in business administration with an emphasis area of human resource management.
While she isn’t entirely sure what she wants to do with her degree yet, one thing she knows is that she wants to continue to be involved with the sport that she has dedicated so much of her life to.
“I’m planning to stay involved with gymnastics, whether it’s coaching, or I have a niece now who is 5 months old and will hopefully be joining gymnastics in the next few years,” she said. “So I will be able to follow her on that, just like my sister and I as we grew up doing it.”
Berglove graduated from Elk River in 2014 and was a goalie on the hockey team, but has since moved on to continue his career. He is currently the goaltender for the Granite City Lumberjacks and led them to 2-1 win in the North American Tier III Hockey League Silver Cup Championship on April 2.
He allowed a power-play goal in the first period off a redirect, but it would be the only one to get past him. Berglove made 35 saves during the game and was named the NA3HL Silver Cup Most Valuable Player for his efforts.
His efforts not only gave his team a championship title, their third in six years, but it also left its mark on history.
He went up against the Metro Jets after they posted the undefeated regular season in NA3HL history, and instead of finishing it off right, they were handed their first loss at the hands of Berglove.
“Sometimes the best games I play, I’m not really thinking much,” the Elk River grad explained. “Kind of turn the brain off and let instincts and all the work I put in work its magic. Sometimes the best games I play I’m doing the least amount possible.”
It was a brutal stretch for him and his body, as he played in eight games during a 10-day stretch. He was exhausted, and still recovering as of April 12, but said that win and being named MVP make it all worthwhile.
He also said that the fact they beat the Jets after losing to them in pool play a couple days before helped ease his recovery.
Now, Berglove is hoping that this performance can help him secure a spot on a collegiate roster next season. He’s hoping to attend a Division III school somewhere but doesn’t have everything ironed out yet.
“Not yet, a couple in the works, but haven’t committed anywhere yet,” he said.