Looking for Lindsey Mertens? Check the gym or the 4-H show ring. Lindsey was one of two seniors to lead the Lady Bulldogs basketball team this year and she spends most of the summer showing her animals.
Lindsey grew up watching her two older sisters, McKenzie and Karlee, playing basketball. “My sisters both play Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball in the summer and, of course they played for Milbank during school. I was always at their stuff, so, I’ve been around basketball my whole life.”
Lindsey started playing on a team in third grade with the youth program and was also a member of several AAU teams, which included Watertown, the Northern Lites, and even a few from west river.
Her name appeared on the varsity roster of Lady Bulldogs when she was a freshman. She loved everything about being on the team, but says the games against the Bulldogs’ perennial rival, the Ortonville Trojans, were the most memorable. “Those games were always fun no matter what the outcome. Everyone was there and everyone would cheer. It was just fun.”
The game against Clark this season was a great game, too, she says. “Nobody expected us to win. We were the underdog for sure. Even during the game, nobody expected us to come back and do anything, and then we came back and won. It was a Cinderella moment!”
Some people might have been surprised by the win because the team had struggled earlier in the season due to inexperience. For Lindsey, this meant more mentoring between jump shots. “My role was to be more of a leader. Our team was so young. The girls go from middle school basketball right into varsity. That’s a big change. They have a lot to understand. I just did my best to help them so they didn’t get so defeated.”
She says she has high hopes for her teammates. “These girls are so fun. A lot of them are very talented. I’m excited to come back and watch them in the next few years.”
Mutual support seems to be more the rule than the exception. Lindsey recalled several who had encouraged her. She listed Tony Howard, Adam and Jessica Cummins, Taylor (the Waverly coach), and a lot of parents. She says, “That’s just to name a few, and It’s meant a lot to me.” She also recognized her sisters for being especially supportive of her. “They have gone through all of this already. So, if I was ever frustrated, they were there to lift me up and give me constructive criticism —nice or not —because I needed to hear it. Through everything, they weren’t like my sisters, but my best friends.”
A few of her other best friends just happen to have four legs and a tail. “I love showing animals,” she says, “I mainly show a lot of pigs in the summer, and I’ve already been to some winter shows for cattle.”
“Every single weekend in the summer, we go places and show. It sounds dorky, but it’s my favorite thing to do. You meet the most amazing families. People that do the same things that I like and understand how busy and time consuming it is.
It’s like a job. I get up super early and do all the chores — wash them, feed them, walk them. It teaches patience. Every animal has a personality, and I name every single one of them. They are awesome. James was my favorite from last year. Normally, they get butchered at the end of the season, but I convinced my dad to let me keep him until he dies of old age.” She also favors her steer Earl.
She says her greatest animal-oriented achievement was winning Spotlight last year in Huron. “It’s a really big show. About 400 pigs were shown, and I won with James.”