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Notes from Duluth -- make that Titletown, Minn.

The headline was a bit jarring, if for no other reason than that the transformation was gradual, a decade in the making: "Bulldogs make Duluth into Titletown, Minn.," proclaimed a story in a recent edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. At firs...

The headline was a bit jarring, if for no other reason than that the transformation was gradual, a decade in the making:

"Bulldogs make Duluth into Titletown, Minn.," proclaimed a story in a recent edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

At first, skepticism.

The initial impression was that the big writers from the big city were stretching the hyperbole in the wake of Minnesota Duluth's men's hockey team winning a national championship.

But then, the facts.

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Eight national championships in the past 10 years. The women's hockey team has won five Division I crowns, the most of any program in the sport. Bob Nielson's football squad owns two of the past three Division II titles, and is a dazzling 41-2 over the past three seasons. To top it all off, the one Duluth has yearned for the longest -- the Division I men's hockey title, captured by the Bulldogs earlier this month with an epic overtime win over Michigan.

Throw in a volleyball program that ranks among the best in D-II, and it's easy to see that the Star Tribune headline wasn't so much hyperbole as it was reality.

The Bulldogs are winning, and winning big. They're spoiling their fans with a growing collection of shiny trophies.

And you know what? It's really, really fun.

UMD always has boasted a solid lineup of teams. But winning on a national stage -- repeatedly -- is kind of foreign. Interestingly, success has bred more success across the entire program.

"When teams around you are winning, it builds a tradition of winning," men's hockey forward and Hermantown native Kyle Schmidt, who will forever be remembered for his "ice angels" on the Xcel Energy ice after scoring the game-winner against Michigan, told the Star Tribune. "Everyone wants to be part of it."

That's one of the many neat parts about all this success. Perhaps at a larger school, there's not that camaraderie, that bond shared by a huge contingent of student-athletes. But so many Bulldogs hail from the region, from Minnesota, and grew up cheering for the 'Dogs. They're woven into the fabric of the community. They pull for each other -- football players for hockey players, hockey players for volleyball players, and so on -- and share in each other's triumphs.

Also, there's this: Winning is one thing, but to do so with class and character makes it all the more gratifying. An acquaintance who works at UMD and attended last December's national title tilt in Florence, Ala. said the folks there couldn't stop fawning over the manner in which the Bulldogs carried themselves. Quite simply, they said, they had never hosted a team that sported so many respectful young men.

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High praise from a city that has hosted the Division II championship game for some-25 years.

And so it's been at UMD: winning big and winning the right way, a way that shines favorably on our fair city.

Kudos to the coaches, administrators and most definitely the student-athletes themselves. You've helped turn Duluth into a certifiable Titletown.

No hyperbole there.

Random Rumblings

Ben Jukich, a former baseball standout at Duluth Denfeld, is pitching this season in South Korea. ...

According to the Star Tribune, Tubby Smith and the Gophers are showing interest in Duluth East's Johnny Woodard. Woodard is coming off a terrific junior campaign. ...

The Minnesota Lynx selected UConn superstar Maya Moore in the WNBA Draft earlier this month. That could be a fun backcourt to watch, with Moore and Lindsey Whalen. ...

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Might it be time for Joe Mauer to switch positions?

Read more of St. George's Random Rumblings at louiestgeorge.blog.com

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