by Eric Oslund
The 2016-17 Elk River girls basketball team will be remembered as one of the best, if not the best, the school has ever seen. They finished the season 32-0, winning the program’s first-ever state title in the process.
It was a season for the ages and not one that anyone on the team will soon forget, but a couple players have already moved on to the next chapter of their basketball careers.
Gabi Haack and Sidney Wentland were both senior captains of that historic team, and have both begun their career as Division I athletes. Haack made her way to Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. and Wentland headed to Denver University in Colorado.
“The first two weeks or so, I was really home sick and I was really sad. I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ It just felt really weird, but now it’s hitting me like, ‘This is my new life. This is Division I basketball’” Haack explained. “You’re here in the summer and everyone is at home enjoying their summer. You see a bunch of pictures of everyone at the lakes, but then I’m like, ‘This is what I wanted. This is what I’ve always dreamed of doing and now I’m here.’ So I just have to make the best of this summer and work my butt off in order to get in shape for the season.”
Wentland echoed the sentiment of being home sick, missing her friends, family, and especially her dog. But knowing that her best friend was going through the same experiences as her gave her some sort of solace, even if they were states apart.
“It was definitely hard, but with Gabi it made me feel a lot better because we FaceTimed a lot and talked a lot,” Wentland said. “We were kind of in the same position. As far as missing out, I felt like since she is missing out too I didn’t feel so bad.”
As everyone who has experienced it knows, college is a time of change. It’s often the first time young adults are living on their own, away from their parents, and it givens them a chance to find out who they really are.
They discover new interests and build new relationships, both of which will often guide them down the paths of their degrees and into future careers.
These Elk River girls are already experiencing a lot of these changes, as wellas a lot of things none of their friends will get to experience. For one, they have to get used to an entirely new group of teammates. Haack, Wentland, and the group of seniors that made up the Elks last season had played together since early middle school or so, and now that is all changing.
“It’s a lot different from high school where we played together for like six or seven years,” Wentland said. “But I like my teammates a lot. They seem like really intense players, but also super nice and caring off the court. I like all of them a lot.”
Another thing they need to adjust to is the fact they will no longer be the best players on the basketball court. On any given night, both Wentland and Haack were arguably one of the best threeor four players on the court, and were a big reason why their team did as well as they did.
Haack could hit a shot from almost anywhere on the court – whether it was driving to the basket or draining a three pointer – and Wentland would always be dominating under the basket. Gathering rebounds, and just outworking anyone that was trying to guard her.
But now, playing at the Division I level as freshman, they have to expect to be outplayed by a lot of the bigger and older players they go up against.
“I’ve kind of realized that once I got here. I’m not going to be one of the best players on the court anymore because everyone here was one of the best players on their team,” Haack, the reigning Miss Basketball, said. “The level of competition is way up there now and I really have to play hard in order to keep up with everyone. I knew that coming in that it wasn’t going to be easy, but it’s for sure a different level and I’m really glad that I get the chance to play at this level.”
Wentland has already returned to Elk River before heading back out to Denver in late August, and Haack will return home Aug. 11 before heading back to college a week later. They are both excited about the time they get to spend back in their hometown, but are also excited for what awaits them when they return to college.
Because, despite all of the adversity they will face, and the summer shenanigans they will miss out on, both of these girls couldn’t be happier about being where they are. They both understand that they have an opportunity that not many athletes get, and are looking to make the most of it.