'Thank you': Jamestown grateful for Valley City athletes
There are six Valley City natives playing on the 2023 Jamestown High School boys hockey team this winter.
JAMESTOWN — Max Mehus didn't have to think too hard about who would win if there was ever a high school hockey game between Jamestown and Valley City.
"The Valley boys would definitely beat the Jamestown boys," Mehus said. "We actually played a game Valley City vs. Jamestown two years ago and the Valley City boys won the game pretty easily."
When Gavin Gerhardt heard the question, he didn't hesitate.
"Valley boys all the way," Gerhardt said.
While the pair's hometown pride runs deep, Mehus and Gerhardt have developed a certain affinity for the Buffalo City — or at least for the hockey program.
Jamestown and Valley City begin its hockey cooperation at the youth level. Costs and ice are shared 50/50. One week, the Jamestown kids will practice in Valley and the next the Valley City athletes travel to Jamestown. Half of the home games are held in Jamestown and the other half are played at Valley.
Once athletes graduate to the high school level, Jamestown picks up all of the necessary costs, therefore all of the Valley City skaters make the 30-minute drive to practices and home games.
"We know from the ground up who were are getting each year," JHS head boys hockey coach Matt Stockert said.
Some athletes choose to enroll in private schools or move closer to the Fargo area to compete for Fargo teams but Mehus, Gerhardt, Tre McPartland, Owen Struble, Dalton Nass and Andrew Tangen are those athletes who have remained enrolled at VCHS and commute to Jamestown.
Mazie Ludwig, a freshman at Valley City, also commutes and competes for the JHS girls hockey team.
"I do feel more pressure to be a better person since I am representing two schools (but) I think having teammates as rivals can make the competition more fun for everyone," McPartland said. "It makes it more competitive. Even if Valley City had a high school team, I would like to stay in Jamestown and play with my friends and teammates that I’ve had since I was young.
"But I think that Valley City would have cool jerseys."
McPartland, a freshman, "started blasting hockey" as a third grader in 2017.
"The first team I ever played for was in Nashville, Tennessee," McPartland said. "When I moved here, I started playing for the Valley City Vipers. After the Vipers, I started co-oping with Jamestown playing for the Prowl. After the Prowl, I moved to high school and no I play for the Blue Jays."
McPartland is one of four freshmen on the Blue Jay varsity squad. While he's only played in one varsity contest this season, according to his teammates, he'll be a threat for the next three years.
"He goes out every day and does stuff that no one else can do," Mehus said of McPartland. "He's got a really special talent and it'll show itself to everyone else someday."
Mehus began developing his own talent when he was a literal toddler.
"I began playing hockey when I was two or three," Mehus said. "I stuck with it because I love the competitive aspect of the game and the relationships that hockey has brought me."
Mehus' relationships with the boys in Jamestown started off as opponent-based.
"My earliest memory of playing in the John L. is winning the James Goodroad tournament as a squirt. We went into double OT against the (Jamestown) Prowl and I scored the game-winner against my teammates now," Mehus said. "I remember playing against the Jamestown boys, it was a big rivalry, us Valley boys owned them and never lost. We still joke about it with them all the time."
Jamestown and Valley's rivalry is well documented. The high school football teams have established what is known as the Iron Helmet Game, a rivalry that favors Jamestown as the Blue Jays have won 23 of the 32 matchups.
The University of Jamestown and Valley City State University football teams have a long-standing rivalry that culminated in what is known as the Paint Bucket Game which dates back 75 years. Valley leads the series 43-32 and before UJ moved out of the Northstar Conference, the Jimmies and Vikings also had a healthy rivalry on the baseball field.
"Having our so-called rivals as teammates was sure weird to get used to but now since it’s been so long it's pretty normal," Mehus said. "I play baseball, and it’s always really fun playing against Jamestown when we get the chance. They are always really competitive games and lots of smiles and laughs. Jamestown’s a winning school."
In reference to the age-old rivalry, Gerhardt, a stud for the Valley football and baseball team added:
"It’s a lot of fun actually. I feel like that rivalry brings us closer together It feels good knowing you have two communities supporting your efforts to succeed."
Something's got to feel good if you are willing to drive an hour almost every day for three months.
"The drive to Jamestown every day is actually pretty fun," Mehus said. "Whoever wants to drive over that day to Jamestown can — we usually take two cars but we always take Gavin’s mom car on game days and all ride together. I have lots of good memories with the VC guys and it’s just always a good time."
"I have made a lot of fun memories on the drives to hockey," McPartland added. "My favorite memory is when we drove home from practice and saw someone stuck in the snow. We all jumped out and helped them get out. After that, the person posted a very kind story about us and posted it on Facebook."
Even when it's a bad day, there's almost always an upside to the 30-minute drive.
"It’s a great time to get a nap in," Gerhardt said.
Gerhardt began playing hockey when he was four years old. The senior played for Valley until the age 12 when he started playing with Jamestown for four years after which he became a part of the high school team.
Gerhardt is in his third year playing for the Blue Jay varsity squad. As a sophomore, he was responsible for one goal and six apples for seven total points. Last season, Gerhardt tallied three goals to be combined with his five assists.
The year, Gerhardt has put up 17 goals and 10 assists for 27 points. He is the team's leading goal scorer and has the second-most points out of anyone on the Blue Jay roster.
Mehus has notched 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points to establish himself as the team's third-leading scorer.
But numbers are just part of the reason the Blue Jays are glad to have Valley kids on the bench.
"People don't understand how appreciative we are of that relationship," Stockert said. "About 10 years ago, we started that full-blown co-op with our PeeWees and Bantams and it trickles into our girls' program. It means something.
"The commitment both from Jamestown and Valley City is pretty impressive, to be honest with you. We appreciate it a whole bunch. We thank them all of the time, but sometimes, thank yous aren't enough. Glad they are on our side, 100%."