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CraigOlsonSports.com... Your Area Sports Wrap!Janet Swenson - State Farm Insurance
Monday, September 30, 2002
Craigs Corner 9/30/02 - 10/6/02
Friday, October 4th, 2002
It's homecoming day in Fergus Falls. Hillcrest Lutheran Academy will be hosting Hancock at 3:30 p.m. in a Pheasant Conference matchup and 9th-ranked Fergus Falls plays host to Duluth Denfeld at 7:00 p.m.

The Comets will face a stiff challenge from a wide-open offense. Coach Adam Steege likes to turn loose his passing QB Wes Stettner and that can put some added pressure on the defense. Hillcrest will have to get some pressure on Stettner and provide good coverage in the secondary.

The Otters are coming off an impressive 9-6 win over Detroit Lakes. The hard-hitting Fergus Falls defense held the Lakers without an offensive touchdown in a game for the first time in fifteen years. The Otters will miss Brandon Carr, their fine defensive back, wide receiver and return man. Carr broke his leg in the loss to DL and is done for the year. He joins Travis Halling (knee) on the sidelines.

The regular season is rapidly coming to a close for the soccer teams and tennis teams around the area. We'll be receiving seeding information for those sports in the next few days and will pass on the tournament info to you as soon as we get it.

A baseball playoff update. St. Louis beat up Randy Johnson 12-2 and then nipped Curt Schilling 2-1 as they took a 2-0 lead over Arizona by winning the first two games of their NLDS at the BOB, the Diamondbacks home stadium. Look for the Cards to wrap that series up on Saturday at home. Remember, St. Louis is my pick to meet Minnesota in the World Series, with the Twins to win it all. I just like the Cardinals lineup and their manager, Tony Larussa. Third-baseman Scott Rolen got hurt in the game on Thursday. He injured his shoulder when he was involved in a collision with a base runner. They need his bat in there.

The other three series are all even at 1-1. The Metrodome will be full of electricity this afternoon when Rick Reed takes the mound. I'm glad we have a veteran pitcher like Reed to go out there on a day like today. I think Barry Zito is going to have trouble hearing himself think in the Dome and the Twins are going to take a 2-1 lead. Adrenaline will be flowing for the Twins today. Look for an impressive, emotional victory. I think they're going to wrap this series up on Saturday at home. Anaheim's going home with a chance to do the same thing. If those two teams advance, the Twins get the home field advantage for the ALCS. That would be huge.
GO TWINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2002
The first playoff games are in the books. A very interesting first day of action. Twins Win ... although it wasn't easy! Cardinals dominate Randy Johnson, and the Yanks pull it out late against Anaheim.

The first two innings of the Twins game were amazing. Here's the top fielding team in the American League, making physical and mental errors in the field time after time. Brad Radke shouldn't have given up any runs!! It was great to see the Twins settle down and play solid baseball over the last seven innings of the game. I think they got down right mad at themselves for the way they were performing. No doubt there were some nerves involved. Remember, these guys haven't been in post season play before. Well, they got that out of their system and won the ball game too!!

Timely hits and tremendous work by the bullpen led to the win. Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz both went deep, A.J. Pierzynski was 4-for-4 including a ground ball triple to the wall in right-center, and Eddie Guardado, who blew two saves to the A's during the regular season, survived a shaky ninth inning.

I told you before that the Twins are my pick for the AL pennant, and now I feel even better about the ALDS. The A's will have a hard time winning even one at the Metrodome. If the Twins can somehow beat them again in Oakland, I'll guarantee a series win at the Dome.

The other American League series opener was a tight one in New York. Troy Glaus hit a pair of homers for the Angels and Garrett Anderson had a key two-run double off Roger Clemens, but the failure of Mike Scioscia to bring in his stopper in the eighth may just cost the Angels this series. I don't understand it. I've written and talked about this many times before. Managers, including Manager of the Year candidate (and likely winner), Mike Scioscia, have this problem going to their closer earlier than the 9th inning. I think that's ridiculous. There are times when the situation cries for you to go to him in the 8th. Last night was one of those times when Troy Percival should have been in the game earlier than the 9th. Here's what happened. 5-4 Angels, bottom of the eighth, two outs, bases empty. The Yankees get two men on base and have Derek Jeter coming up. Scioscia has Ben Weber on the mound and instead of bringing on Percival in what truly was a game saving situation, he let Weber pitch to Jeter. He walked him. Then, with Jason Giambi coming up, he brings in the lefthander, who gives up a single to tie the game. Then, with Bernie Williams coming up and the go-ahead run in scoring position, he goes to Brendan Donnelly. Sure wouldn't want Percival in in that situation would we? Unbelievable. If I'm managing, Percival is facing Jeter. With the game on the line, in the playoffs, in Yankee Stadium, with a late lead, you go to your closer, 8th inning included. I think Scioscia lost the series for the Angels with his inability to pull the trigger and bring on Percival.

As for the National League series between St. Louis and Arizona! The Cardinals are my pick for the National League pennant. They looked like champions in their 12-2 trouncing of Randy Johnson and the D'Backs at the BOB last night. I like their lineup from top to bottom. I like their pitching staff, too. And, I really like their manager, Tony Larussa. He'll be the difference in any close games, making the right decisions (see above paragraph), when he needs to make them. Larussa will give his team every opportunity to win. He will not be outmanaged.

Today, the Giants and Braves start their series. San Francisco is the hottest team coming into the playoffs having won nine of their last ten games. However, the Braves are the Braves. Glavine, Maddux, Millwood, Smoltz, Chipper and Andruw, Sheffield and Vinny. This team is too good. Braves in five.

Enjoy the games. There is nothing like playoff baseball.

Monday, September 30th, 2002
The Major League Baseball playoffs are here. It's always an exciting time of the year for true baseball fans, but the level of excitement is elevated when your team is involved. BRING ON THE A's!

I am a bit miffed at the lack of confidence the Twins fans have as we head into the American League Divisional Series against Oakland. I know that on paper, the A's appear to be the favorite, but it just seems to me that everyone is touting them as if they were one of the greatest teams in the history of the game.

They have a nice starting rotation of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder. They also have one of the best closers in the game, Billy Koch, and an MVP candidate in Miguel Tejada. Eric Chavez can play for me any day of the week, but after that, I'm not overly impressed with this team.

Any one of those starters is capable of having an off day and I just think that the Twins defense and their starting pitching can keep things close into the middle innings and when it gets to the bullpen, I really think the Twins have the advantage. The key will be if Radke, Reed, Mays and Milton can performe and keep things close. If the Twins take one on the road, they will win this series at home.

These young players will be ready and they will play with some great emotion and I believe they will come up with the big hits in the clutch. Remember, it's not how many hits you get, but when you get them. With the strong lefthanded pitching of the A's the Twins need their righthanders like Hunter, Mohr and Rivas to come up big. Plus, a couple of their lefties need to come through. Will it be Ortiz, Jones, Mientkiewicz, Pierzynski or Koskie who comes through?

Oakland won six of nine games against the Twins this season. I just think it will be a very competitive series. This is great!! GO TWINS!!

For the record, I like the Twins in 5 games and the Yankees in 5 games. Then, I like the Twins to beat the Yanks in 7 games!!! Yes, my heart is guiding my pick here, but I do believe they can do it. Now, if only the Angels could knock off the Yankees, the Twins would have home field advantage in the ALCS. Mike Scioscia's team could do it, but the Yanks have been getting some great pitching down the stretch and some outstanding play from their entire lineup. Giambi is hot and that's a key for them. Jeter, Soriano, Williams, Posada, that's one tough lineup.

In the National League, I like the Braves and the Cardinals with the Cardinals and Tony Larussa to make it to the series.

I always enjoy the playoffs but this year will be even more enjoyable. What a tremendous first season for Ron Gardenhire!! No matter what happens, 2002 will go down as one of the best ever for the Twins. To win 94 games when you lose your top 3 pitchers from a year ago to injuries, costing them about 45 starts, is quite impressive.

Be sure to tune in at 7:20 a.m. Wednesday on AM 1250, KBRF when John Gordon joins me to talk Twins Baseball!!
Posted By Craig Olson
Monday, September 23, 2002
Craigs Corner 09/23/02 - 09/29/02
Wednesday, September 25th, 2002
Former Hillcrest standout John Kilde returned a kick-off 91 yards for a Touchdown on Saturday in Bethel's 35-14 loss to Concordia in the M-I-A-C.

Kilde is the Royals leader in all-purpose yardage with 524 yards on the season and an average of 174.7 yards per game. He has returned 13 kicks for a total of 414 yards, an average of 31.8 yards per return. He has also carried the ball 7 times for 23 yards and caught 6 passes for 87 yards.

Bethel is 0-3 to start the season, but it's great to see John having the opportunity to contribute in the way he is. He was always a threat to break a kick or punt return for the Comets and has good field vision. He's a smart player and uses his blockers well. He is also very fast, which doesn't hurt!!

I received an e-mail from a former co-worker and long time friend of mine, Craig Holgrimson, whose son John Holgrimson is an offensive lineman for the Royals. Turns out he is rooming with Kilde. Small world!!!

The Perham boys cross country team is ranked sixth in the state in Class A. Staples-Motley is ranked number one. The Yellowjackets are making their first appearance in the poll. The Perham girls are also represented in the rankings as junior Gabrielle Anderson is the third-rated runner in Class A.

Perham's football team enters the 3A poll this week at number ten and the Otter Tail Central Bulldogs have climbed to number two in Class 2A. Detroit Lakes is sixth in 4A and Verndale is number six in 9-man. Underwood is getting votes, along with Chokio-Alberta in 9-man and West Central Area is showing up in the teams getting votes in 2A.

Monday, September 23rd, 2002
Vikes start 0-3 ... worst start since '67. Twins need to settle on a post season pitching rotation ... hope they close strong at home this week. Some local reminders, too.

The Vikings are bad. Daunte Culpepper has to stop hurting this team. Last week it was fumbles, this week interceptions. The Randy Ratio is a joke. Daunte is trying to force the ball to Moss and he looks pretty timid going after the ball. This is not a good sign for the "most exciting offensive player in the game". That's not my quote by the way. This would be a great time for me to bring up the TRADE RANDY MOSS suggestion again, but all the Vikings fans who are in love with the FREAK (his nickname, not a derogatory description from me), would tell me I'm crazy again. I don't think so. This team needs a lot of help. Defensive help, offensive line help, special teams help, you name it. Moss would be attractive to several teams and if we can get some high draft picks and a starter or two to shore up some of the areas we're weak in, then make the deal! Losses at home to Buffalo and Carolina in back-to-back weeks? Something has to be done. The Vikes are at Seattle next Sunday night. The Seahawks are nothing to write home about, but I bet they're licking their chops knowing they get the Vikings this week.

The Twins post season rotation is the theme of my current poll. I think it's a given (unless Reed's injury is worst than we think), that Rick Reed and Brad Radke are in the rotation for sure. After that, questions. Is Eric Milton ready? The rainout in his last start didn't help him any. Is Joe Mays back to his old self? Not exactly. Kyle Lohse? Umm, I'm not too confident in him right now, although, he has been very good in most of his starts. I like Johan Santana to start between Reed and Radke. You can have Mays, Lohse and even Milton waiting in the wings for early relief help if Santana falters, but I like the way he has pitched. Sure he's had a couple of poor starts but who hasn't? Did you see Curt Schilling's line the other night? Santana will give opposing hitters a much different look than they will see from Radke and Reed. They are control, finesse pitchers, while Santana is a flame-thrower who occasionally struggles to find the strike zone. I think it's worth a chance. It will certainly be interesting to see what Gardenhire does. If Milton is healthy, there's no question he's the guy ... but I don't think he's at a point where the Twins can rely on him in the playoffs. Stay tuned and vote in the poll!

If you would like to see Friday's Twins-White Sox game, Cory Haugen, the coach of the Fergus Falls American Legion Post 30 softball team, has some tickets remaining from their fund raiser for Special Olympics. The Post 30 softball team is one of 26 teams selected out of 500 applicants, to participate in a softball marathon at the dome from Friday night through Saturday morning. The Fergus Falls team will play at 1:15 a.m. Saturday morning. As part of the deal they had to sell 50 tickets to Friday nights game. Cory has about ten left. You can help out the Special Olympics and cheer on the Twins in one of their final home games of the season by calling Cory at (218) 736-4790. The tickets are $17.00 lower deck seats.
Posted By Craig Olson
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Craigs Corner 9/16/02 - 9/22/02
Tuesday, September 17th, 2002
Johnny Unitas was my favorite football player as a kid. I had every Unitas football card made, I clipped his pictures out of sports magazines and put them on my wall, I watched the Colts whenever they were on TV, and read everything I could get my hands on concerning Unitas and the Colts. "Johnny U" died this past week at the age of 69.

NFL Player of the Year three times, named to 10 Pro Bowls, led the Colts to the NFL title in 1958 and 1959 and Super Bowl title in 1971. He was the first to throw for 40,000 yards in a career and is 7th all-time in yardage. When he retired in 1973 he held 22 NFL records.

Unitas was named the Greatest Player of All-Time on the NFL's 50th Anniversary in 1969 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio in 1979.

One of his most amazing records, in fact it may never be broken, is throwing at least one touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games. He set that record between the years of 1956 and 1960. It has never been challenged. Dan Marino is second with at least one TD pass in 30 consecutive games. That streak is to football what Joe Dimaggio's 56-game hitting streak is to baseball.

If you ever get a chance to see the NFL Films feature on Unitas, don't miss it. You'll get a good idea of how great a quarterback he was. A tremendous leader and a true "Field General". He called his own plays on the field and was the best ever at finding the weakness in the opposing team's defense and then exploiting it. The crewcut and the black hightops were trademarks of "Johnny U", but his confident leadership and outstanding passing ability are what I'll always remember of my boyhood hero.

Posted By Craig Olson
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
Craigs Corner 9/9/02 - 9/15/02
Saturday, September 14th, 2002
The Fergus Falls Hockey Association is holding their registration next weekend and there is an informational meeting set for Tuesday night. Can you believe we're talking hockey already?

An informational meeting for new and first time skaters and their parents is scheduled to be held on Tuesday night at seven o'clock in the Otter Tail Power Community Rooms. Parents of current players and representatives of the FFHA will be on hand to answer any questions and talk about what new parents and new skaters can expect.

Registration for new and first time skaters is going to be held between the hours of seven and nine p.m. Friday, September 20th in the Main Ice Arena at the West Otter Tail County Fairgrounds in Fergus Falls. First year skaters 7 and under will pay a ten dollar fee and be given a hockey stick, compliments of the FFHA. First year skaters 8 and over will pay a ten dollar fee plus USA Hockey and MAHA fees.

Registration for returning players will be held from 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday, September 21st and from six to eight p.m. Monday, September 23rd.

Tuesday, September 10th, 2002
We always try to keep tabs on area athletes who are continuing to compete at the collegiate level. We encourage you to inform us of anything you might hear about how they are doing. We do have some updates for you.

Former Underwood standout Jenny Gronner had a good weekend as the Bison Ladies volleyball team won their NDSU Invite with a 4-0 record. Gronner had 41 kills and 9 blocks in the four matches. Gronner is second in kills and first in blocks for the 14th ranked Bison.

Tim Erickson, a former Fergus Falls Otter receiver, caught 2 balls for 26 yards for the NDSU football team last Saturday during their 34-23 win over Winona State.

Two former West Central Area football players, now with Moorhead State University, were in action on Saturday for the Dragons in their 41-17 win over Concordia. Jake Sternhagen ran the ball four times for sixteen yards and scored a touchdown. Chad Davison caught two passes for 22 yards and a TD. Former OTC running back Travis Christensen and defensive back Nick Ellenson are both members of the Cobbers, while former Bulldogs Ben Anderson (fullback), Micah Tysver (outside linebacker), Sean Belmont (backup quarterback) and Phil Risbrudt (offensive lineman, special teams) are all on the MSU roster. Another OTC player, Jared Polzine is one of the captains at Bemidji State University where is a strong safety.

Former Hillcrest running back/return specialist John Kilde is playing for Bethel College. John ran the ball three times for 19 yards, caught two passes for 18 yards and returned five kick-offs for 134 yards, an average of 26.8 yards per return, as the Royals lost to Whitworth 27-26 on Saturday. Whitworth rallied for 20 points in the fourth quarter to win the game.

Again, if you have any information about former area high school athletes who are participating at the collegiate level, please let us know what's happening with them!
Posted By Craig Olson
Monday, September 2, 2002
Craigs Corner 09/02/02 - 09/08/02
Friday, September 6th, 2002
Spartan quarterback Ben Brimhall will miss the home opener on Saturday afternoon. The FFCC sophomore injured his left foot at Mesabi last week and is expected to be back in action at Vermilion next Saturday.

You never like to see injuries, but I've always heard it said that you should look for the silver lining in every cloud. So, the silver lining is this ... Charlie Woida is a very experienced backup quarterback. He played, along with Aaron Welle last season when Brimhall went down with an injury in the second week.

Saturday's opponent for FFCC is Rainy River Community College, a team that whipped the Spartans 33-18 last season. It was after that loss, which put FFCC at 0-3, that they started to play good football, winning four straight and seven of their last eight games to win the MCCC state title.

This is also a good weekend to check out the Lady Spartans volleyball team. They are home tonight against Vermilion and tomorrow versus Mesabi. Games are at 6:30 p.m. and 12:00 noon.

Mary Moenkedick (Storrusten) and Charlie Nelson are going into the Yellowjacket Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Mary, a 1979 graduate of Perham High School, and Charlie, who graduated in 1990, will be inducted at halftime of tonight's football game between Park Rapids Area and Perham at Meinhover Field.

Moenkedick (Storrusten) was an all-around athlete and one of the first female star athletes at PHS. She was a four-year letter-winner in basketball, leading the 'Jackets to three district titles in that time. She ended her career with over 1,000 points and was selected as a Heart O' Lakes All-Conference player three times. In track, Mary was a six-time letter-winner and held four school records (110 yard dash, 180 yard hurdles, 165 meter hurdles and as a member of the 880 yard relay team). In 1979 she was voted the Female Athlete of the Year at Perham.

At Concordia College, Moenkedick was a starter on the women's basketall team that won the NCAA Division III National Championship and was selected as a member of the All-Tournament team. She finished her career with over 1,000 points and rebounds. She is currently teaching second grade at Pelican Rapids and is married to Dan Storrusten. They have one child, Tydan, who is eleven.

Charlie Nelson was one of the most exciting athletes in the area, leading the 'Jackets to the state football championship in 1989 at the Metrodome, setting two Prep Bowl records, including returning the opening kick-off for an 89-yard TD. Later in the game he connected with Jon Toedter on a 90-yard touchdown pass.

Nelson was also an All-Conference basketball player twice and excelled in two spring sports, baseball and track. In track, he placed sixth in the state in the long jump as a junior and fifth as a senior, winning the section title his senior year in that event.

Baseball was where Charlie became best known, though. He was a three time All-Conference player, a Lions All-Star and was named All-State. After high school he went to the University of Minnesota and was a member of the 1992 Big 10 champions. He played in four straight NCAA Regionals. Nelson holds two Gopher baseball records, including most career games played (234) and most stolen bases (93). He is in the school's top-10 in nine offensive categories. He also spent a few years in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and played in the Northern League for two years after leaving the Dodgers.

Charlie currently resides in Richfield and is a sales representative for Tuffy's Pet Food Production.

I was fortunate enough to see Charlie play many times and call many of his games on the radio, including the State Championship football game in '89. He was an amazing athlete. In fact, until Justin Arneson came along in recent years, I would have to say that Charlie was the best All-around athlete I had seen in high school. Arne is right there with him. That's a tough call to make. I'll take both of them on my team any day of the week! Congratulations Charlie and Mary on your Hall of Fame selections!

Wednesday, September 4th, 2002
The first Associated Press High School Football Poll of the season has been released. For whatever they're worth, people sure seem to enjoy them.

Early season polls don't mean much at all. Most of the teams are being ranked on what they accomplished last season and on what the pollsters, radio and newspaper guys from around the state, know about returning starters and newcomers to the varsity level.

I have the privilege of being on the Class 4A panel of voters and have done it for the last five years. It's tough to know who has what at this point of the season. I have some good knowledge of the teams in our region, but when it comes to teams from the metro area or southern part of the state, I'm in the dark until some games are played and I've had the opportunity to talk with people who cover those teams on a regular basis. Suffice it to say, we do our best to be as accurate as possible, but it's a difficult assignment.

In this column, I like to highlight the area teams that have been mentioned in the weekly poll.

The Ottertail Central Bulldogs come in at number eight in the first Class 2A poll of the year. Hawley is at six and Benson is number 10.

In Class 1A, Pillager is second, Osakis third, Fertile-Beltrami 8th and Bertha-Hewitt and Parkers Prairie are among those receiving votes.

In 9-man, Chokio-Alberta-Herman-Norcross is the number four team in the state with Verndale coming in 9th. Underwood and Ulen-Hitterdal received votes but failed to crack the top ten. Both should be there in the not to distant future.

A team on the Otters schedule, Jackson County Central, is ranked fifth in 3A. They won the 3A title last year. Roseau is 9th and Perham, Sauk Centre and East Grand Forks all received votes.

Fergus Falls got some votes in 4A and Detroit Lakes, the defending 4A state champions, is a close second to Hutchinson. Rocori is tenth.

5A finds Alexandria in at number eight. Moorhead, St. Cloud Tech and Brainerd all received votes. One point separates the top two teams in the 5A poll, Cretin-Derham Hall and Eden Prairie.

I'll try to keep you posted on the teams from our area who make the polls each week. They don't mean a whole lot, but everyone in the communities whose teams are ranked take a lot of pride in that fact. So, enjoy it, but don't take it too seriously.

Monday, September 2nd, 2002
Oats LeGrand turns 86 years old today. Happy Birthday Oats!! Many of you out there either had Oats as a teacher/coach or remember him as a radio sportscaster. The stories of his paddles are infamous!

Every time Oats' name is brought up it seems that someone in the group has his name on one of the paddles. As a physical education instructor, Oats carried a wooden paddle around and if you were out of line, he told you to grab your ankles and would then deliver a reminder for you to clean up your act. After his whack, he had you sign the paddle. It's quite an honor roll of names. One of the greatest stories is of the student who upon hearing that the old school was on fire, raced into the physical education office and grabbed a couple of paddles, saving them from certain destruction. Oats says several of the paddles were lost in the blaze.

Oats is also my uncle and I have vivid memories of walking into my Grandparents house in Detroit Lakes and having to go through the living room, trying to get past Oats and my uncle Larry without being grabbed and held or tickled. It was a challenge, and I never was very successful, unless they were distracted by a Vikings game on the TV. Oats was one of the inspirations for me to get into radio, too. I still remember as a youngster, growing up in Brainerd, seeing Oats at midcourt broadcasting a Fergus Falls versus Brainerd boys basketball game. I thought that was a pretty good seat and a pretty good job. When I found out he got paid to sit there and talk about the game, that made an impact on me! Best seat in the house ... FREE!

He broadcast several thousand sporting events over the nearly 50 years he was in the industry and Sports Illustrated named him the Sportscaster of Rural America in the mid-80's. He witnessed many great games, saw many great players and teams, and I know, enjoyed every minute of his involvement with kids in athletics.

He had a unique style that will never be heard again. I loved some of his sayings. "Third down and a Greyhound bus trip. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. He got the first down by the pimple on the nose of the football. That ball hung on the rim, it was a female shot, couldn't make up its mind if it should go in or stay out." His studio engineers always had to be on their toes because Oats was known for taking quick breaks and you'd better be there when he did! "Hello Studio. Alright, we're back again." One of a kind! People loved to listen to him, but when someone from outside the area moved here, they couldn't believe what they were hearing. Oats always said, "With me, what you hear is what you get."

He stays busy now with his coloring books and posters. He has designed several coloring books with anti-drug and anti-alcohol themes, and sports related themes (sportsmanship, etc.,). Many of the elementary schools around the region use those coloring books. He also has been very consistent in presenting area teams with congratulatory posters, specifically designed for each team, when they advance to a state tournament. He is all for the experience of youth in athletics. As a coach, teacher, recreation director, broadcaster, former school board member and a fan. Thanks Oats, and Happy 86th Birthday!!!
Posted By Craig Olson
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