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A Holiday Story From Hawley: Family, Football And Staying Strong
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/22/2010 11:17:02 AM

Kevin Olson is a gifted athlete. Strong, skilled and determined. His coaches at Hawley High School use words like “drive” and “heart” and “desire” when they talk about the 5-foot-10 three-sport senior.

Olson is an all-state football player, an all-conference basketball player and he has gone to state in track. But there is much more to Kevin Olson’s story, which began in the Central African Republic and has taken him to Hawley, a town of less than 20,000 people 22 miles east of Fargo, N.D. Through a stellar athletic career that includes a devastating injury, one thing is clear: Kevin Olson is sure to be a success no matter where life takes him.

“I think everybody is in awe at his athletic ability,” said Hawley boys’ basketball coach Jon Hinrichs. “But I guess I’m a person who’s in awe of Kevin as a human being.”

Kevin (pictured at right) was adopted at a young age. His adoptive father is Tom Olson, a minister in Hawley who spent 15 years working as a missionary in Cameroon and the Central African Republic. In 1995, Tom married Eunice, a native of the Central African Republic. And soon after, through adoption, their family quickly expanded.

“Within six months we had three kids,” Tom Olson said. “And we got two more in 1997.”

Kevin is the middle child and all five are related. His older brother Con and older cousin Fedilia also were adopted by Tom and Eunice, as were his sister Laure (a junior at Hawley High School) and cousin Olivia (an eighth-grader).

“They are really neat kids who have done a lot with the opportunity to come to the U.S. and have a better life,” Hawley athletic director Brett Schmidt said.

As a youngster in Hawley, Kevin gravitated towards sports. He suffered a knee injury playing basketball in seventh grade, but it didn’t seem serious and as Kevin said, “I just put it aside.” As an eighth-grader he was on the junior varsity football and basketball teams, and got a taste of the varsity level in those sports as well as track. But his left knee began nagging him.

After running in the state track meet as an eighth-grader, a doctor told Kevin that he needed surgery on the knee, where a piece of bone had been chipped off. He missed most of his freshman football season, and during the summer before his sophomore year he spent two months visiting relatives, including his birth parents, in the Central African Republic.

“That was an eye-opener because we hadn’t been there for eight years,” Kevin said. “There were a lot of emotions. I met my younger brother, who looks just like me, and my younger sister, who looks just like (Laure). I was amazed.”

He trained for football while in Africa, with his siblings tagging along. “It was hard to get the workouts done because they hadn’t seen you for so long and they wanted to do what you did,” he said. “I figured I might as well let them join in.

“The last day was kind of hard for me and my younger sister, having to say goodbye to our mom and dad. I remember breaking down and crying at the airport. I made myself a promise that I’d try to get them all here. “

His sophomore football season was a breakthrough year, as he rushed for 1,800 yards and helped the Nuggets reach the Class 2A state semifinals. His junior year was hampered by knee problems and a groin injury, but last summer he was invited to the North Dakota State football camp.

“The coaches started talking to me there. They said ‘If you can dominate your senior year, we’ll talk.’”

But on the third day of practice last fall, he reinjured his knee. Then came the worst news of all. In the original surgery, three screws had been used to stabilize the knee. The screws, as planned, had dissolved but bone in the knee had also dissolved. The boy who had dreamed of playing college football was told by doctors that his dream was an extreme long shot, if not an impossibility.

“It was really tough,” Kevin said. “It was really hard to take all that in at once.”

He was allowed to play football this year, wearing a knee brace normally used by athletes with torn ACLs.

“It was one of the most painful things we had to do when he had the knee injury,” Hinrichs said. “You sit down and you see the hurt in a kid’s eyes.

“Kevin’s initial thought was, ‘Why is this happening to me? Why is God doing this to me?’ One day I said to Kevin, ‘Maybe God did this for you. Maybe you were meant to be a coach and you still have that burning passion for sports and that's what the sports need.’ ”

Nuggets football coach Peder Naatz said, “I think the thing that makes him so special is his desire and his drive. As a sophomore he had well over 200 yards in a state quarterfinal game against Eden Valley-Watkins in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. It took five, six, seven kids to bring him down. He’s physically tough, and it hurts him so much inside that he can’t do some things all the time because of his knee.” (In photo at left are Tom, Kevin, Laure and Olivia.)

Hinrichs said the greatest challenge in working with Kevin is helping him realize how talented he is. He can be modest almost to a fault, his coaches say. At halftime of one basketball game, Hinrichs told the entire team, “Raise your hand if you think Kevin needs to take more shots.” Every hand went up, with the exception of Kevin’s.

“He’s a tremendous kid to work with, he gets along great with other people, you can have fun with him,” Hinrichs said.

“I just think the world of him and I think the world of the family. With kids like him, it’s not the wins and losses that make coaching worth it, it’s the kids.”

Kevin is playing basketball this winter with a knee brace. He plans on attending North Dakota State and studying computer engineering; if no further surgery is needed he may try walking on with the NDSU football team.

And once he has that college degree, he has another goal in mind: he would like to help bring computers to people in the Central African Republic.

Three Days And 674 Miles Later, Here’s What I Learned
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/19/2010 12:16:51 AM

Here’s what you learn from driving 674 miles over three days, crossing into North Dakota on day one and hitting southeastern Minnesota on day three: This is a big state where people know how to move massive amounts of snow off the roads. This is especially true in small towns, if my experience this week is any indication.

I had never been to Breckenridge until Thursday. School began two hours late there that day because of seven inches of snow. I pulled into town shortly after noon and every street was clear. As I told students at Breckenridge High School during my afternoon visit: “Here’s what I know about Breckenridge … you guys know how to move snow.”

That evening I was in Hawley for a basketball game and the scene was similar. Snow had been pushed to the side and business was getting done.

Saturday was my annual trip to Rochester for the Minnesota Christmas wrestling tournament, and – we have found a theme here – traffic was moving easily despite way too much snow at this point in the winter.

This was a great week for a guy who loves to wander. Here are a few items scribbled in a notebook…

--Great scene: As I passed through Barnesville, a kid walked along the side of the highway with a hockey stick and a puck, working on his stickhandling.

--Hawley has a gymnasium that almost every high school in the Twin Cities would envy. It’s roomy, the lights are first-rate and it’s a tremendous place for fans as well as players.Those are some lucky Nuggets.(And those are the Barnesville cheerleaders, posing in the Hawley gym.)

--You know it’s a small town when fans can hang their outerwear on coat racks outside the gym.

--Nice touch: During introductions of the starting lineups, the boys’ basketball players from Hawley and Barnesville shared fist bumps with the opposing coach as well as all three officials.

--Best-dressed list: Barnesville had a couple of elementary boys acting as ballboys/managers, and they wore dress shirts, slacks and ties. You stay classy, Barnesville.

--Best save: Near the end of the Barnesville-Hawley game, one of the officials had a quick request for Hawley athletic director Brett Schmidt. The official was supposed to provide beef sticks for he and his partners to enjoy on the ride home, but he had forgotten. He asked Schmidt if he could save him, and Brett rounded up some goodies from the concession stand for the men in stripes.

--It was no surprise that Apple Valley won the Christmas wrestling team title and Eagles senior Destin McCauley became the event’s first four-time champion. The surprises came when two Class 2A wrestlers defeated opponents from 3A power Apple Valley in title matches pitting defending state champs. Jackson County Central’s Bronson Steuber (pictured at left) beat Matt Kelliher 4-2 in overtime at 135 pounds, and Simley’s Jake Short recorded a first-period pin against Brandon Kingsley at 140.

--You will be hearing more about the latest phenom from Apple Valley. Mark Hall, wrestling at 130 pounds, became the first seventh-grader to win a championship at the Christmas tournament. Yes, that’s right, he’s a seventh-grader.

--Everybody was happy for Donny Longendyke, defending state heavyweight champion from White Bear Lake. Donny pinned Sam Stoll of Kasson-Mantorville in the first period of the championship match, giving him 150 career wins and 100 career pins.

--The only cheerleaders I saw Saturday at the Christmas tournament were from Kasson-Mantorville. The girls sat matside on pillows and slapped the mat as they performed their routines to perfection.

--My car and I have become overly acquainted in the past week. So I think I’ll keep the miles to a minimum for a few days. Yes, my backside needs the rest.

(To see a photo gallery from the Christmas wrestling tournament, including photos from all 14 championship matches, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

*Schools/teams John has visited: 302
*Miles John has driven: 6,249

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

A Quick Note From An Honored Guest In Fergus Falls …
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/17/2010 12:39:39 AM

You drive a couple hundred miles, you visit a high school and spend an afternoon talking about journalism, then you drive another hour and watch an exciting boys’ basketball game in a first-rate gym filled with fine, friendly people.

And then your day gets even better.You check into one of the finest lodging establishments in Fergus Falls and you learn that you have been selected as guest of the day … I mean, Guest Of The Day! Complete with the No. 1 parking spot right in front of the building and a little gift basket of goodies waiting in the room.

How sweet can one day be?

Stop No. 1 for me Thursday was Breckenridge High School. It’s easy to confuse Breckenridge with Wahpeton, North Dakota, because they are basically Twin Cities separated by an apparently indistinguishable border. I spent the afternoon talking journalism with students, and it was all kinds of fun. (Some of the students are pictured.)

I also learned more about the world-famous Diet Coke Count: People see me coming and Diet Coke immediately springs to the front of their brains. At Breckenridge, talented student journalist Turner Blaufuss – a recent John’sJouurnal guest author – welcomed me to his school with a freshly chilled Diet Coke. The kid knows how to butter me up.

I spent Thursday evening at Hawley High School, watching the gloriously nicknamed Nuggets defeat Barnesville in a boys’ basketball game. As I stepped up to the concession stand and ordered a (fill in the blank), one of the students behind the counter immediately said something along the lines of “That’s the journal guy who loves Diet Coke.” I was interviewed at halftime by students who do webcasting duties for Hawley games, and one of the many well-researched questions was about the Diet Coke count.


It’s pretty easy to make new friends when your job includes driving around Minnesota and spending time in small towns. In Breckenridge I met Eric Grover, sports editor of the Wahpeton Daily News. Eric, a native of Milwaukee, Wis., and recent graduate of Marquette University, sat in on some of my time with the high school students and we chatted afterwards. It’s always nice to spend time with young colleagues, especially knowing that I can learn some things.

In Hawley the dance team performed at halftime, the fans were enthusiastic and the game was well-played. My drive from Hawley to Fergus Falls took about an hour, and then came the big surprise: Guest Of The Day! Amazing.

OK, it’s very late and that’s it for the day. I’ll be home Friday morning, honey … don’t forget to take the dog outside.

--To see photo galleries from Breckenridge and Hawley (as well as video of some Breckenridge students), go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke count: 3


*Schools/teams John has visited: 268
*Miles John has driven: 6,107
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

Time To Hit The Road For Breckenridge and Hawley
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/15/2010 10:44:18 PM

It’s Thursday, and you might see me on the highway today. I’m heading out of town to visit two new places (for me): Breckenridge and Hawley. The weather experts are talking about some snow falling, but my fingers (and a few toes) are crossed in hopes that the roads do not present any issues.

This will be a fun trip. I’ll be spending Thursday afternoon at Breckenridge High School, talking to students about journalism and the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program. Breckenridge superintendent Rick Bleichner is a member of the MSHSL Board of Directors and has helped coordinate my visit.

After the school day ends in Breckenridge, I’ll head to Hawley for a boys’ basketball game between the Nuggets and the Barnesville Trojans. I’ll also be researching a very special story in Hawley, which I will keep to myself for now. But it is an extraordinary story that is very fitting for the holiday season.

I’ll be shooting photos at both schools, and I’ll post them on the MSHSL Facebook page first chance I get.

My drive time looks like about three and a half hours to Breckenridge and then another hour to Hawley. The timetable for arriving home? We’ll figure that out later.

Honk if you see me.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 265
*Miles John has driven: 5,575

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

An Interesting Day, An Inspiring Athlete
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/14/2010 11:35:11 PM

It’s mighty interesting what can happen during a day in the life of a journalist. When I woke up Tuesday morning, I knew I would be at Minnetonka High School in the evening for a girls’ hockey game. But the biggest story of the day turned out to be a remarkable return to the athletic arena by a boys’ basketball player.

Stay with me here.

The plan was to attend a girls’ hockey game between Minnetonka and the St. Cloud Icebreakers, a cooperative team with players from Tech, Apollo and Cathedral high schools. And that did happen. I was inside the arena at Minnetonka when the Skippers and Icebreakers began their game. It ended with a 7-0 victory by Minnetonka.

The Skippers (9-1), who are ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, have lost only to Shattuck St. Mary's. Last Friday the Skippers defeated Blake, the No. 2 team in Class 1A, 2-1. Next up for Minnetonka is a game against Benilde-St. Margaret’s (No. 7 in 2A) on Saturday.

Minnetonka had outscored its opponents 13-4 in the first period prior to Tuesday. The opening period this time was scoreless, which was agood omen for the Icebreakers. But the Skippers sealed the deal with four goals in the second period by Hadley Cookson, Amy Peterson, Laura Bowman and Carolyn Draager.

The Icebreakers fell to 6-3. Tuesday’s game was their first trip to the Twin Cities this season; they also will play at Blake on Jan. 6.

Earlier Tuesday I had received this email from Tom Dasovich, the boys’ basketball coach at Minnetonka:

Hi John,

I know it is short notice but I wanted to make sure he was healthy enough to play. Larry Rice, a senior at Minnetonka, is going to play in our varsity basketball game tonight against Rosemount. He had open-heart surgery in late August and has been cleared. He is a great kid, I haven’t seen many kids work as hard to come back or overcome as much.

I hope all is well!


A little sleuthing uncovered the fact that this would be a home game for Minnetonka. Knowing the gym is a very short walk from the ice arena – like about 50 feet – this was a doubleheader jackpot.

After arriving at the school, I walked back and forth between the rink and the gym several times, darting across a road on the school grounds. I watched the basketball teams warm up for a while, snapped a photo of the Minnetonka pep band and put it up on my Twitter feed, chatted with one of the officials briefly and talked with Dasovich for a minute about Larry Rice.

Then I hit the rink for the opening faceoff and scoreless first period. Back to the gym in time to see Rice come off the bench for the Skippers in the first half. Back to the rink as the Zamboni finished its work and the teams came out for the second period. Then it was bang-bang-bang-bang and Minnetonka had a 4-0 lead.

I returned to the gym for the last eight minutes of the basketball game, which was close throughout until Rosemount won 61-57. As the teams went to the locker rooms, I asked Dasovich if I could talk with Rice. We chatted for a few minutes about his heart, his surgery and his return to action.

Rice (shown in the photo at left with Dasovich) is a top-flight football player and he missed the entire football season after a heart defect was found over the summer.

“Basically I was conditioning and I felt a little tightness in my chest so I had to go get it checked out,” Rice said. “A cardiologist said one of my arteries wasn’t pumping enough blood to my heart. I had to get that taken care of as soon as possible because it’s sometimes fatal.”

He had surgery on Aug. 27. There were some complications along the way, but two weeks ago he was given medical clearance to play basketball. Tuesday’s game was Larry’s first competitive activity since the last game of the 2009-10 basketball season.

Being cleared to play again “was just a relief after everything I’ve been through and all the training I’ve been through,” he said. “Just to be out there and compete again is a blessing.”

Before the game, Dasovich had told me that Rice was wearing an undershirt with a special pad over his heart. I assumed that it was a specialized piece of medical equipment. But after the game, when Larry had taken off his jersey, it was clear that his special shirt was homemade.

A pad had simply been sown into a blue sleeveless shirt. My question: Did you make that yourself?

“I did some of it,” he said as he smiled. “Well, my mom helped me. I can’t take the credit for this.”

No, maybe not for the shirt. But he can take plenty of credit for being an inspirational young man. Have a great season, Larry.

--To see photo galleries from both games, check out the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 265
*Miles John has driven: 5,575

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

Hockey Night In Minnesota ... Specifically, Minnetonka
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/14/2010 3:13:27 PM

The John's Journal caravan will head to Minnetonka tonight for a girls' hockey game between the Skippers -- ranked No. 1 in Class 2A -- and the St. Cloud Icebreakers.

Minnetonka is 7-1, losing only to Shattuck St. Mary's. The Skippers are coming off a 2-1 victory over Blake -- ranked second in 1A -- on Friday.

The Icebreakers are 6-2 with losses to Blake and Sartell/Sauk Rapids.

I'll be Tweeting score updates during the game, and the postgame coverage will include a story right here on the Journal plus photo/video on the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 261
*Miles John has driven: 5,531

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

Winter Weather Results In A Crazy Weekend
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/10/2010 2:30:31 PM

When weather experts predicted up to two feet of snow and drifts high enough to bury an elephant, we all knew it was time to hunker down for the weekend. High school activity schedules took a hit over the weekend from the storm that brought snow, cold and wind to Minnesota.

The biggest surprise from the storm was the deflation of the Metrodome. If you haven't seen video of the heavy snow making the roof cave in early Sunday morning, it's definitely worth a look.

One of the big early events on the boys’ basketball schedule was postponed; the 14-game Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Minnetonka High School. It was scheduled for Saturday and the organizers say they plan to reschedule. Many other events across the state also were affected by this weekend's storm.

But now, as we begin a new week and move closer to the holidays, let's be grateful that the storm has passed and we made it through safely.

Have a great week!

A Volunteer Morning For The MSHSL Staff
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/9/2010 2:11:23 PM

MSHSL World Headquarters was a pretty quiet place Thursday morning as much of the MSHSL staff volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit organization that engages volunteers to hand-pack meals formulated specially for starving children. The meals are distributed in nearly 70 countries around the world.

MSHSL employees, along with volunteers from several other organizations, helped prepare more than 23,000 meals, which will feed 65 children for a year. The meals, consisting of rice, soy, vegetables, vitamins, minerals and a vegetarian chicken flavoring, are hand-packed in small pouches, with each pouch providing six highly nutritious meals.

A total of 104 volunteers at Feed My Starving Children’s Coon Rapids facility also packed the pouches into boxes for shipping on Thursday morning; 110 boxes, with 216 meals in each box, were filled. That totals 23,760 meals.

It was an enjoyable, rewarding experience for the MSHSL staff members.

For more information on Feed My Starving Children, go to www.fmsc.org.

On The Road Again For Some Hockey And Some History
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/8/2010 12:27:11 AM

Call me a silly Minnesotan if you wish, but I really enjoy taking to the road on a frigid winter night and doing some exploring. That was the plan on Tuesday: leave home as the sun was dipping below the horizon, drive south while the temperature danced just on the positive side of zero and drive past country homes all decked out in holiday lights.

The objective was a boys’ hockey game in Rochester. If all went well, history would be made. But getting there – and home again – is half the fun for me, and that was the case this time. Again, feel free to call me goofy, but spending time on the road, tuning the iPod to Johnny Cash (name that tune: “I've been to Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota … Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota … Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma … Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma …”) and just driving is fun. A clear road, a good game, watching the garage door open up to greet me at 11 p.m. and writing until well after midnight; this is the business we have chosen. And business is really good.

Tonight’s focus was Albert Lea coach Roy Nystrom. He came into Tuesday’s game against Rochester John Marshall with 616 career victories. Former Edina coach Willard Ikola, one of the game’s legendary figures, also won 616 games before ending his 32-year coaching career. Nystrom is in his 45th year of coaching, but there is another fact to his victory total that gets some folks a little riled up.

Nystrom’s first 94 victories came while he was coaching in North Dakota. There’s the rub for the Minnesota hockey purists. They argue that Ikola won more games in fewer years and all of them were in Minnesota. Those arguments hold water, but as Nystrom said after his boys beat John Marshall 7-4, “617 is 617 no matter where you got 'em.” (That's Nystrom in the photo, getting a congratulatory hug as the game ended.)

On a national scale, there’s no arguing that Nystrom now ranks ahead of Ikola. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations record book, here are the top five:
1. 897 Bill Belisle, Rhode Island
2. 695 Edward Burns, Massachusetts
3. 623 Ron Baum, Michigan
4. 617 Roy Nystrom, North Dakota and Minnesota
5. 616 Willard Ikola, Minnesota

Close on their heels is Rochester Mayo coach Lorne Grosso,who got his 610th win earlier this week. Grosso and Nystrom are great friends who were linemates at the University of Minnesota.

In 32 seasons, Ikola’s record was 616-149-38. His Edina teams won eight state titles (1969, '71, '74, '78, '79, '82, '84 and '88) and finished second twice. Nystrom has won 523 games in 38 years at Albert Lea, with the first 94 coming in seven years in North Dakota. He has taken three teams to state tournaments (2004, 2005 and 2007).

The connection between the two coaches goes all the way back to Eveleth, Minnesota, when the Ikola and Nystrom families lived a few blocks apart. Ikola is 11 years older than Nystrom, who remembers watching Willard play goaltender for Eveleth High School.

“He was a great goaltender,” Nystrom said after Tuesday’s game.

Nystrom (talking to his team during a timeout in the photo below) said he takes more pride in his coaching longevity than the number of wins. “My biggest accomplishment is lasting that long. Those 45 rank ahead of 617.”

He coached in Grafton and Grand Forks, N.D., before moving to Albert Lea. “A North Dakota teacher’s salary was not what you would call lucrative,” he said with a smile. He had opportunities to leave Albert Lea over the years, “but I never really considered leaving,” he said.

His coaching staff includes his son David and Jon Breuer, the leading scorer in Albert Lea hockey history. Roy Nystrom said he has no plans to retire, but he will know it’s time “when my son and Jonny have to carry me out and show me where the ice is.”


--A tip of the hat to John Marshall athletic director Paul Cox and his crew for a classy move Tuesday night. Before the game, this announcement was made to the crowd at Rochester Recreation Center: “Tonight, we have a special announcement. John Marshall High School would like to congratulate Albert Lea’s head coach, Roy Nystrom, on his successful coaching career and tying Willard Ikola as the winningest coach in state history.”

After the game, this announcement was made: “At this time, we would like to congratulate Albert Lea head coach Roy Nystrom on becoming the winningest coach in state history. Congratulations Coach Nystrom!"

--I saw two things fall from the sky during the game. The first was a puck, which came over the glass near where I was sitting and rattled around before I leaned over and grabbed it. I am holding it hostage until I can have Nystrom autograph it for me. Why didn’t I think of that before I left the arena? Darn good question. I also saw popcorn raining down. I was sitting at my laptop in the scorekeeper’s area. The fans are stationed about 10 feet above that spot, and someone spilled a little bit of popcorn near my spot. Could have been worse. Could have been liquid.

--On the way home I smelled a distinctive odor as I stopped at a red light on Highway 52. The windows were rolled up tight and the heat was blasting, so this was one strong smell. Skunk. Big skunk. Dead skunk. Big stinky dead skunk. I’m lookin’ at you, Cannon Falls.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 261
*Miles John has driven: 5,531

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

National Academic Honor For Bloomington Jefferson Athlete
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/7/2010 2:48:46 PM

Bloomington Jefferson boys’ soccer player Scott Clinton has been named an Academic All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. He is the only Minnesotan selected in 2010 and one of only 36 players to receive the honor across the country.

Clinton is a four-year starter and captain for the Jaguars. While playing soccer at Jefferson, the team qualified for the MSHSL state tournament three times and won the Academic Silver Award three times. Clinton was an all-state selection and a first-team all-metro selection during the 2010 season.

Clinton is the first player in the history of the Bloomington Jefferson boys’ soccer program to be selected for the award.

A Few Scattered Thoughts And Observations …
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/6/2010 10:48:31 AM

After being inside the Lindbergh Center at Hopkins High School on Saturday – which was Minnesota Basketball Central for the day, with 11 girls’ games and two boys’ games – I have gathered up all my sportswriting instincts and developed a few thoughts.

Thought No. 1: It’s not always good to be ranked No. 1 (or maybe No. 2).

Defending state champion Lakeville North was the preseason No. 1 team in Class 4A girls and Eden Prairie was No. 2. Both teams lost Saturday during the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins. No. 3 Hopkins beat North 83-64 and Eden Prairie lost to Hill-Murray (No. 2 in 3A) 59-45.

Benilde-St. Margaret’s, the defending champion and top-ranked team in 3A, also lost at Hopkins, falling to Bloomington Kennedy (No. 5 in 4A) 51-49. The No. 3 team in 3A, DeLaSalle, beat unranked 4A Minnetonka in double overtime.

In other words, it looks like a wild ride in girls’ basketball.

Thought No. 2: Hopkins is pretty good at boys’ basketball.

This just in … the Hopkins Royals are the team to beat in 4A boys. The Royals own the last two 4A state titles and look like a solid favorite to make it three in a row. They beat Lakeville North 73-57 Saturday in one of the boys’ games at the Tip-off Classic, using a very familiar formula: passing, patience, athleticism and defense. Division I signees Joe Coleman (Minnesota) and Marvin Singleton (Northern Iowa) lead the way for Hopkins.

Keep both eyes on DeLaSalle: The Islanders completed a sweep of Minnetonka at the Tip-Off Classic, with the boys beating the Skippers 87-67. The DeLaSalle boys are ranked No. 2 in 3A behind defending state champ St. Paul Johnson. Johnson opened the season on Friday with a 61-60 victory at Lakeville South, which is No. 5 in 4A.

Thought No. 3: Can Lakeville North complete a rare girls’ double?

Lakeville North won the large-school state volleyball state title in November, and the Panthers also have one of the top girls’ basketball teams in the big class. If North wins another basketball championship, it will be the first time that one school won large-school state titles in volleyball and girls’ basketball in the same school year.

Has that feat been accomplished by schools outside the biggest class? That is your homework assignment for the week. Do some research and send your findings via email. Grades may be publicly posted.

My assignments this week include hockey and basketball, with wrestling on the horizon. I’m planning (weather permitting, of course) to be in Rochester on Tuesday night for a boys’ hockey game between Albert Lea and Rochester John Marshall. The Breakdown Tip-Off Classic returns for round two on Saturday at Minnetonka, with 14 boys’ basketball games scheduled.

Next week I’m planning two road trips; one to Breckenridge and Hawley and another to Rochester for the Minnesota Christmas Wrestling tournament. Let’s all keep an eye on the weather, and give me a wave if you see me on the highway.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 259
*Miles John has driven: 5,394

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

Special Guest Author From Breckenridge High School
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/3/2010 11:35:35 AM

Here’s a special treat: An essay written by one of our talented Minnesota high school students. Turner Blaufuss is a junior at Breckenridge High School, a member of the Cowboys’ football team and a skilled writer. He is a member of the MSHSL’s Student Sports Information Directors program, writing stories about his school on the Breckenridge page on this website.

After his team’s football season ended last month, Turner wrote about his experiences on the team. His story was published in the nearby Wahpeton (N.D.) Daily News, and we are passing it on here so you can enjoy it, too.

“Living the dream like a modern-day Cowboy.”

By Turner Blaufuss

On Oct. 27, 2009, the Breckenridge Cowboys were knocked out of the first round of the playoffs at home by the lower seeded Holdingford Huskers. I was in the locker room crying with my teammates and I looked into the eyes of the juniors and my fellow sophomores. We were all thinking the same thing that night: we need to get better.

Many people think being on a football field is the greatest feeling in the world. If someone was to tell me that, I’d kindly disagree. I would tell them that it is a wonderful feeling, but the only thing better is walking on to a football field wearing a green jersey with Cowboys printed on the front with all your best friends. The feeling of when you get your chance to step on Cowboy Field under the lights on a Friday night is unexplainable.

Being on the Breckenridge football team is a little different than other football teams. Other teams don’t play “Should’ve been a Cowboy” by Toby Keith in the locker room four straight times after a victory and then follow it up with other various country or rap songs. Other teams don’t jump up on their seats in the locker room and bang the top of the lockers as hard as they can one time for each point scored on their head coach’s cue. I am blessed with the best coaching staff in the world. Our coaches always have us prepared and help us get better every single day with constant tips and encouragement. The coaches deserve tons of credit for all the time they put in to making us better.

One of my favorite memories of the year was after we won our first playoff game; we had a team meal at coach Chad Fredericksen’s house.

The reason it was so memorable was because I wanted to see the inside of his new house and our whole team got to sign our names on his garage wall. That day, I felt closer to my team and coaching staff and I felt part of a second family.

My teammates are equally encouraging. The thing our team needed was leadership and that happened to be this group of seniors’ specialty. Our seniors constantly encouraged the new varsity players to hit the weight room and that surely made us a better team.

I’ll never forget how I felt when there was only a couple people left finishing our conditioning and our seniors would get everybody cheering the last few on.

The seniors couldn’t have been better leaders this year and they’ll surely be missed.

Our team lost in the Section championship game to Ottertail Central and for the second year in a row, I sobbed with my teammates. The cries seemed to have more pain and sorrow in that the seniors would never get to play the game they’ve loved since they were kids ever again. We had worked so hard in the off-season and just like that, season’s over. I hugged every senior and let him know I’ll miss him and like last year, we have another loss to motivate our team to work harder in the off-season.

This season was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve made tons of friends, grown closer to my teammates and coaches, and most importantly, I got to play the game I love for the Breckenridge Cowboys with my best friends.

I’d like to thank all the coaches for the time you’ve put in, the seniors for being the best leaders anybody could ever ask for, the parents for being supportive and cooking our incredible team meals, and our fans that make high school football some of the best days of our lives.

Who knows? Maybe we can win a couple more next year. Go Cowboys.

Have a comment for Turner Blaufuss? Reach him at: blaufuss_3@hotmail.com

(Final Update) Reports From Board of Directors Meeting …
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/2/2010 9:43:31 AM

The gavel has fallen and the meeting has been adjourned. Feel like discussing what happened? Go to the MSHSL Facebook page and post a comment.

12:10 update...

The board has approved a change in the structure of the state wrestling tournament, going from four days to three days. The change reduces the number of days participants will need to be in attendance at the tournament (while missing school), and also reduces expenses.

Through the MSHSL’s conference-placement process, Grand Rapids has been assigned to the Central Lakes Conference and Duluth East and Denfeld have been placed in the Mississippi 8 Conference. None of the schools or conferences filed appeals of those decisions, and the board has approved those placements.

11:30 update ...

The board has unanimously approved several details for Zero Week football scheduling. They include: a committee of two coaches, two athletic directors and one MSHSL staff member will review and approve or deny applications to schedule Zero Week games; schools may apply to play the same Zero Week opponents for two consecutive years; teams playing Zero Week games will be allowed to practice up to three days during a mandatory regular-season bye week.

11:07 update ...

Two guests spoke to the board about football…

Rochester Century athletic director Mark Kuisle, a past board president, asked the board to "slow down" on the Zero Week concept. He suggested the board instead consider adding a bye week for every team during the season. He also said Class 5A football "needs to be fixed" because of the size disparity between 5A schools, in which teams can play teams from schools that are more than twice their size. Kuisle suggested adding an additional football class, with the largest 16 or 36 schools.

The second speaker, Faribault athletic director and Region 1AA chairman Ken Hubert, spoke against Zero Week. An early Zero Week document suggested that teams would not be allowed to practice (other than conditioning, weight-lifting,etc.) during the bye week that would be mandatory for teams playing Zero Week games. In the course of meetings by a football Task Force, the language now allows teams to practice for a maximum of three days during their bye week.

“As a region, we are unanimous in our opposition to that change,” Hubert said,asking that the original language be restored to the proposal.

Original post ... The meeting is underway. Immediate updates are being posted on Facebook and Twitter, and I’ll post updates here as the meeting goes on.

Previewing Thursday’s MSHSL Board of Directors Meeting
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 12/1/2010 3:39:40 PM

The MSHSL Board of Directors will hold its December meeting on Thursday at MSHSL headquarters in Brooklyn Center. Football will be a focus of the meeting, with two of the three action items on the agenda dealing directly with football.

The board has previously approved the implementation of Zero Week football games, allowing schools with scheduling difficulties to play their first game of the season one week earlier than the traditional start of the season. Thursday, the board will discuss specific provisions of the Zero Week policy, including timelines for Zero Week game applications and specific rules regarding bye weeks that must be used by teams that play Zero Week games.

The board will also discuss football conference placements for Grand Rapids, Duluth East and Duluth Denfeld. Through the MSHSL’s placement process, Grand Rapids has been assigned to the Central Lakes Conference and Duluth East and Denfeld have been placed in the Mississippi 8 Conference.

The other action item on the agenda concerns policies for administrative regions and class and section assignments.

The meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. I will post updates here on John’s Journal, as well as on the MSHSL Facebook and Twitter pages, during the meeting.

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