Here’s a sports quiz for you this week – see if you can guess the answer.
What athlete from McGregor tore both ACLs during her career while making two trips to the state track and field meet, was part of two UMAC basketball Championship teams, was the Athlete of the Year in 1997-98, was an NAIA Scholar Athlete in 2000 and was inducted into the St. Scholastica Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014?
If you guessed Jennifer Quale Zimpel, you would be exactly right. Quale Zimpel was a superb athlete at McGregor in the 1990s playing volleyball, basketball and running track, specializing in the 100-meter hurdles. She made it to the state tourney as an eighth and 10th grader before her first ACL event ended her track career.
She was a member of an outstanding Mercs basketball team that won 28 straight games in 1995 before they lost by one to Mountain Iron-Buhl in the Region title game – a game Quale Zimpel missed because of her knee injury against Esko the night before. She has a hard time talking about that final game but loved her time as a Merc.
“Basketball was by far my favorite sport and I had two great coaches that I loved and respected – John Stifter and Larry Doten,” she said. “We played summer league in Brainerd and we were such a great team, on and off the court.
“Our coaches always had us ready for our opponent,” she added. “They got us prepared and we did our job on the court. I always thought we were the best team in Mercs history – even better than the team that eventually made it to state, an argument I have with my sister-in-law all the time.”
Quayle Zimpel went on to St. Scholastica and was an instant star. Although basketball was great, it wasn’t her greatest memory of college.
“I had a great career for the Saints but I was so happy to have the same roommate the whole time, Kim Juusola of Barnum, one of my biggest rivals in high school and my best friend in college,” she said.
Jennifer is married to Brant Zimpel and both of their children – Hailee, 16, and Brayben, 13 – are athletes. She is a physical therapist for Fairview Home Care based in Zimmerman, where they live.