Notebook: Blankenship captures first national title

Former Ponies standout Ben Blankenship claimed a gold medal in the 1,500 meters at the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., on March 5. Blankenship crossed the line in 3:59.22 to hold off Cristian Soratos (3:59.56) and Winona native Garrett Heath (4:00.31) to capture his first national championship.

Ben Blankenship
Ben Blankenship

In mid-February, Blankenship outlasted a strong field to claim a victory in the 1,500 meters at the Birmingham (England) Indoor Grand Prix. Blankenship, who placed eighth in the 1,500 meters at the 2016 Summer Olympics, finished in 3:36.42, which was eight-tenths of a second ahead of Ryan Gregson (3:36.50), whose time was an Australian indoor record.

Former Ponies contribute to MIAC swim titles at St. Thomas

Stillwater Area High School graduate Alex Howard is competing at this week’s NCAA Division III Swim-Dive Championships in Shenandoah, Texas to cap a strong sophomore season for the University of St. Thomas.

Howard, an all-conference performer and state qualifier for the Ponies, won or contributed to six first-place finishes while helping the Tommies capture the team title at the MIAC Championships on Feb. 16-18 at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. The Tommies racked up 908 points to outdistance runner-up Gustavus (684.5) and repeat as MIAC champions.

Howard swam to victory in the 500 freestyle race on Day 1 of the conference championships with a winning time of 5:02.01 and swam on two relays that broke UST and MIAC records on Feb. 16. Howard anchored the winning 400 medley relay (3:48.09) and the 200 freestyle relay (1:33.49).

Then on Feb. 17, Howard won the 200 freestyle race in a time of 1:52.8, which qualified her for nationals. She also swam the second leg for UST’s first-place 800 freestyle relay team that finished in 7:40.08.

Howard closed out the MIAC Championships by anchoring the 400 freestyle relay that posted a winning time of 3:27.48.

• Former Stillwater swimmers Brady Anderson and Max Larson also contributed to the St. Thomas men’s squad which captured its third consecutive MIAC championship by a 910-653 margin over second-place Gustavus.

Anderson contributed to the Tommies’ 800 freestyle relay team that claimed the league title in a time of 6:47.08 and added a fourth-place finish in the 200 freestyle event (1:44.25).

Larson notched a victory for St. Thomas in the 400 individual medley with a time of 4:06.24.

Larson (1:56.06) and Anderson (1:56.80) also placed fifth and sixth in the 200 individual medley.

Ponies give to fund for Lindsay (Keenan) Cardinal

The Stillwater girls’ basketball program paid tribute to one of its former players Lindsay (Keenan) Cardinal on Friday, Feb. 10. The Ponies raised $176 for the family during their home game against Cretin-Derham Hall following the devastating news that the she passed away at the age of 35 following a head-on collision on Jan. 31. The driver of the other vehicle, who crossed the median, was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash, according to the State Patrol.

Linday (Keenan) Cardinal
Linday (Keenan) Cardinal

Cardinal, a 2000 Stillwater Area High School graduate who played soccer and basketball for the Ponies, is survived by her husband Matthew and children Lillian, 5, Wyatt, 4 and Evelyn, 1. Her funeral was held in Milaca on Feb. 11.

Deb Van Klei, who was Cardinal’s basketball coach for the Ponies, remembered Cardinal as a positive influence and five-star teammate.

“She just loved to compete and just had the heart of a champion,” Van Klei said. “She loved Pony basketball and her teammates. She was a great teammate and just had a smile that encouraged everybody.”

After graduating from Stillwater, Cardinal attended St. Cloud State University where she participated on the women’s rugby team — eventually earning All-American honors. She was selected to the Minnesota All-Star Team, Midwest All-Star Team and eventually participated for the USA Under-23 Eagles Team.

Van Klei said there were many high school friends and teammates who attended the funeral.

“It’s just a special group of kids that you just love to be around as a coach and a person,” Van Klei said. “It’s a good Pony family there. She liked to have fun and always made the bus rides interesting. In the locker room, she loved to have fun and loved her teammates.”

In addition to the money raised at the basketball game last month, a memorial fund was established at Falcon National Bank in Foley. Donations to the Matt Cardinal Benefit Account, to help with expenses for Linday’s husband and three children, can be made to: Falcon National Banks, 183 Cedar Drive, PO Box 366, Foley, MN 56329.