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They Might As Well Rename The Arena: “Mark Hall”
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/27/2016 11:04:04 PM

There were no surprises for Mark Hall this week. For the sixth year in a row, the Apple Valley wrestler joined his coaches and teammates for a brief winter stay in downtown St. Paul. Each day during the state tournament at Xcel Energy Center, Hall packed a lunch-bucket cooler with his usual nutritional supplies – sandwiches (ham and cheese is a favorite), Gatorade or water, fruit snacks – and went to work.

The routine has been the same since 2011, when a seventh-grade Hall recorded state championship No. 1 with a four-match sweep of the Class 3A 130-pound field. Hall is now a senior and title No. 6 came Saturday night when he beat Austin Eichmann of Hastings via technical fall to capture the crown at 170 pounds. He is the first Minnesota wrestler to win six titles.

After his match ended and the referee raised his arm, Hall (pictured) hugged his coaches and then jumped a barrier and joined his family in the stands. There were hugs all around. After he met with a media scrum in a back corridor, he came back into the arena and was immediately mobbed by fans wanting autographs and selfies. He was very gracious, accommodating as many people as possible.

Words like “historic” and “legendary” are certainly applicable to what Hall has accomplished. But for Hall, being part of a championship team is just as important as being a championship solo act. And along with his six individual titles, he leaves high school wrestling as part of six consecutive championship teams, too.

That team-first attitude even extends to the individual tournament. Hall spends more time looking at the competition his teammates will face than worrying about who he will meet.

“I look at my teammates’ brackets more and kind of help them in how they’re going to approach their matches and how they’re going to navigate their bracket,” he said. “Not so much mine. I’ll look at mine once or twice before the tournament. But after that it’s just kind of whoever steps out.”

Hall finished this season with a record of 45-0. His career record is 275-4, with three losses in seventh grade and one in ninth grade. That ninth-grade defeat was an overtime loss to Brian Murphy of Glenbard North (Illinois) at the Cheesehead Invitational in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. Murphy is now a junior on the wrestling team at the University of Michigan.

Hall’s first big statement at state came when he was a seventh-grader, meeting Forest Lake junior Ben Morgan in the semifinals at 130. Morgan (who finished his career as a two-time state champ and now wrestles at the University of Minnesota) held a 5-0 lead before the newcomer battled back and pulled out an 8-6, four-overtime, epic win.

“In seventh grade I was kind of the new guy,” Hall said. “People knew who I was but they didn’t quite know the potential. I think I knew my potential very well. In the semis I was down 5-0 and not a lot of people in the stands probably knew I could win. My parents, my coach and myself were probably the only people who truly believed.”

The latest display of Hall’s prowess in big matches came in Thursday’s team championship dual between Apple Valley and St. Michael-Albertville.
Hall is ranked No. 1 nationally among high school wrestlers at 170 pounds. Against St. Michael-Albertville he moved up to 182 and pinned the nation’s 10th-ranked wrestler at that weight, senior and defending state champion Lucas Jeske, in the first period. Apple Valley won the dual 31-26, and Hall scoring six points rather than three was big.

On Monday he will be back in school, where his current classes include Physics, Criminology, Psychology, American Literature and Composition, and Pre-Calculus. He will attend Penn State, wrestle for the Nittany Lions (coach Cael Sanderson was at Xcel Center on Saturday) and major in education, with the goal of becoming a math or physical education teacher, and a possible long-term goal of working as an athletic director.

His future wrestling goals include, oh, NCAA championships and Olympic gold medals.

Expect him to be successful.


Several wrestlers returned to the top spot on the podium Saturday. Among them were …

--Senior Griffin Parriott of New Prague recorded his third state championship in resounding fashion, pinning Devin Fitzpatrick of Mahtomedi in 10 seconds in 2A at 152 pounds..

--Albert Lea junior Garrett Aldrich notched his third state title with a 10-7 decision over Morgan Fuenffinger of Hibbing in 2A 132. Aldrich could be a four-time gold medalist.

--Shakopee junior Brent Jones recorded his third title, winning at 126 in 3A with a 7-3 decision over Tyler Esischens of Anoka.

--Jackson County Central senior Keegan Moore became a three-time champ with a major decision over Caden Steffen of Zumbrota-Mazeppa in 1A at 182.

--St. Michael-Albertville senior Mitchell McKee wrapped up his high school career with a third championship, winning in 3A at 138 with a tech fall over Tyler Shilson of Centennial.

--Two state champions squared off in the 3A championship match at 120 pounds, where sophomore Peyton Robb of Owatonna outlasted junior Rylee Molitor of Sartell-St. Stephen with a 3-1 decision.

--Kasson-Mantorville junior Brady Berge (a three-time champion featured in a previous edition of John’s Journal) suffered a leg injury in the semifinals at 2A 160. He defaulted to Luverne junior Solomon Nielsen, who lost to Redwood/River Valley senior Sam Baier 5-2 in the title match.

Winning their second state championships were senior Manuel Garcia of BOLD at 1A 220 and sophomore Gable Stevenson of Apple Valley at 3A 220.

--Total attendance for the three-day tournament was 56, 381.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 530
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,532
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

State Wrestling Tournament Update
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/27/2016 1:27:13 PM

The semifinal matches have been completed in all three classes at Xcel Energy Center, setting the stage for tonight’s championship round. Here’s a primer…

--St. Michael-Albertville leads the tournament with five individuals advancing to the state championship round in Class 3A. Apple Valley and Willmar both have three in the finals.

--In 2A, Delano, Mankato West, Foley, Kasson-Mantorville, New Prague and Simley all have two in the finals. In 1A, Dover-Eyota and Frazee advanced three to the final round, while Aitkin, Minneota and Pipestone all advanced two.


106/ Jeron Matson, Kenyon-Wanamingo vs. Dillon McGee, Walker-Hackensack
113/ Hunter Burnett, Pipestone vs. Jace Geving, Deer River
120/ Noah Bauer, Pine Island vs. Michael Suda, Pipestone
126/ Tanner Reetz, Frazee vs. Skylar Hieronimus, Adrian
132/ Thomas Stageberg, New London-Spicer vs. Ryan Killeen, Spectrum
138/ Ryan Keach, Dover-Eyota vs. Grant Jepson, Frazee
145/ Tom Tellers, United North Central vs. Bryce Bruner, Minneota
152/ Bailee O’Reilly, Goodhue vs. Jerod Novak, Aitkin
160/ Alex Erpelding, Staples-Motley vs. Noah Landrus, Aitkin
170/ Michael Otomo, Dover-Eyota vs. Derek Herman, United South Central
182/ Keegan Moore, Jackson County Central vs. Caden Steffen, Zumbrota-Mazeppa
195/ Jonah Lange, Frazee vs. Alex Goergen, Caledonia
220/ Manuel Garcia, BOLD vs. Karter VanHeuveln, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg
285/ Tanner Welsh, Dover-Eyota vs. Wyatt Fitterer, NRHEG

106/ Jake Svihel, Totino-Grace vs. Charlie Pickell, Mankato West
113/ Garrett Vos, Waconia vs. Hser Eh Pwae, Worthington
120/ Jake Gliva, Simley vs. Reed DeFrang, Plainview-Elgin-Millville
126/ Tucker Sjomeling, Delano vs. Jackson Stauffacher, Scott West
132/ Garrett Aldrich, Albert Lea vs. Morgan Fuenffinger, Hibbing
138/ Anthony Jackson, Simley, vs. Peter Nelson, St. Cloud Apollo
145/ Ryan Epps, Cannon Falls vs. Logan Axford, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
152/ Griffin Parriott, New Prague vs. Devin Fitzpatrick, Mahtomedi
160/ Solomon Nielsen, Luverne vs. Sam Baier, Redwood/River Valley
170/ Ryan Duffy, South St. Paul vs. Greg Kerkvleit, Simley
182/ Spencer Elwell, Foley vs. Aaron Berge, Kasson-Mantorville
195/ Noah Ryan, Kasson-Mantorville vs. Saylor Schmit, Foley
220/ Kevin Kneisl, Delano vs. Zachary Jakes, Mankato West
285/ James Huwe, Detroit Lakes vs. Logan Swanson, Mankato East

106/ Aaron Cashman, Mound-Westonka vs. Patrick McKee, St. Michael-Albertville
113/ Victor Gliva, Farmington, vs. Cael Carlson, Willmar
120/ Rylee Molitor, Sartell-St. Stephen vs. Peyton Robb, Owatonna
126/ Brent Jones, Shakopee vs. Tyler Eischens, Anoka
132/ Jakob Bergeland, Centennial vs. Adam Hedin, Rosemount
138/ Mitchell McKee, St. Michael-Albertville vs. Tyler Shilson, Centennial
145/ Alex Lloyd, Shakopee, vs. Wade Sullivan, Lakeville North
152/ Jake Allar, St. Michael-Albertville vs. Brock Morgan, Apple Valley
160/ Colten Carlson, Willmar vs. Justin Burg, Tartan
170/ Mark Hall, Apple Valley vs. Austin Eichmann, Hastings
182/ Lucas Jeske, St. Michael-Albertville vs Taylor Venz, Farmington
195/ Brandon Moen, Owatonna vs. Samuel Grove, Moorhead
220/ Gable Steveson, Apple Valley vs. Evan Foster, St. Michael-Albertville
285/ Andrew Piehl, Rogers vs. Brady Reigstad, Willmar

Kasson-Mantorville’s Berge Takes Short View In Drive For Five
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/26/2016 8:17:11 PM

This is Mark Hall’s world and every other Minnesota wrestler is just living in it. Or so goes the attention – and who could argue with it? -- paid to the Apple Valley senior who is on track to become the first six-time state champion in history Saturday evening at Xcel Energy Center.

There are, however, others who are on the cusp of history as the 78th state wrestling tournament moves into Championship Saturday. Yes, by any measure Hall is worthy of mountains of newsprint and miles of video, but let’s not forget the other high-achieving individuals displaying their talents this week.

Among them is Kasson-Mantorville junior Brady Berge, who already owns three state championships, could win No. 4 Saturday and be on track to rack up No. 5 a year from now.

That’s rare air, because only six wrestlers have been five-time champs. Not that Berge is giving it much thought right now.

“My coach (Jamie Heidt) does a real good job,” said Berge (pictured), whose big brother Broc was a two-time state champion and now wrestles at the University of Minnesota. “Ever since I stepped into the room he’s preached that you have to take it one match at a time. I follow that. I look at every match like it’s a state championship match. I hear it quite a bit but I block it out, too. I’m not worried about that right now.”

If not for a quarterfinal loss and third-place finish at state as an eighth-grader, Berge would be joining Hall on the six-title track. His Class 2A championships came as a seventh-grader at 106 pounds, a freshman at 145 and a sophomore at 152.

He’s top-seeded at 160 this week and on Friday he won by a technical fall in the first round and a fall in the quarterfinals. He will meet fourth-seeded Luverne junior Solomon Nielsen in Saturday’s semifinals. In the other half of the bracket are second-seeded Connor Hoff, a senior from Litchfield, and third-seeded Sam Baier, a senior from Redwood/River Valley.

Berge’s loss in eighth grade took the steam out of the “six-time champion” talk, but that’s OK with him.

“I haven’t heard it as much as after I won it in seventh grade,” he said. “You hear it quite a bit, but every time I hear it all I think about is winning the next match. I’m not worried about my senior year yet, I’ve still got a match ahead of me right now.”


In the buzz of Thursday’s team competition, it might have been easy to miss what Minnetonka accomplished this season. Of the 24 teams that qualified for state, the Skippers were the only one making the trip for the first time. (Minnetonka won a state title in 1974, but that was when only individuals went to state.)

Not only did Minnetonka get to state, they also recorded a victory. After losing to St. Michael-Albertville 55-15 in the quarterfinals, they beat Centennial 34-32 in the consolation bracket. Hastings beat the Skippers 44-33 in the fifth-place match.

”That showed all the guys on our team that we do belong here and we want to keep coming back,” said coach Josh Frie, who is in his fourth year as head coach after three as an assistant.

“What’s helped us out the most is our youth program,” he said. “We’ve got about 60 guys in that right now, it’s going strong, and it has for a few years now. We’re starting to see that with our young guys coming through.”

The Skippers won the Section 6 title with postseason victories over Edina, Mound/Westonka and Chaska/Chanhassen. They finished the season with an 18-6 record.

Four Minnetonka individuals qualified for state: freshman Jake Finken at 113, sophomore Boyd Mumbuwa at 120, senior Logan Foote at 182 and junior Aaron Moore at 285. Mumbuwa and Moore won twice Friday to advance to Saturday’s semifinals.

“Interest is high right now,” Frie said. “A lot of people came down to watch and the new guys on the team this year are telling their buddies, ‘You’ve got to get out here.’ ”


Hall won twice by fall Friday and will meet Minneapolis South senior Sam Truen in Saturday’s Class 3A semifinals at 170 pounds. Hall also showed some love for his future college coach by wearing a warm-up t-shirt bearing the words “Cael Knows Wrestling.”

That’s head coach Cael Sanderson of Penn State, where Hall will wrestle collegiately.

--Albert Lea junior Garrett Aldrich (pictured) advanced to the semifinals in 2A at 132 and remained on track to win his third state title. With another season to go, he could become a four-time gold medalist

--The same is true for Shakopee junior Brent Jones, a two-time winner who needs to win twice Saturday in 3A at 126 to capture his third title and will be back for another year.

--Jackson County Central senior Keegan Moore, who owns two state titles, won with two pins Friday in 1A at 182, the first in 41 seconds and the second in 2:13.

--St. Michael-Albertville senior Mitchell McKee recorded two victories in 3A at 138 and remains on track for his third title.

--Apple Valley sophomore Gable Steveson, the defending champion in 3A at 220 pounds, is on track to become a four-time gold medalist.

--In the only division where two defending state champions could meet, top-seeded junior Rylee Molitor of Sartell-St. Stephen and third-seeded sophomore Peyton Robb of Owatonna advanced in 3A at 120. In the semifinals, Molitor will meet fourth-seeded sophomore Mumbuwa of Minnetonka and Robb will face second-seeded sophomore Zach Smith of Prior Lake.

--St. Michael-Albertville advanced six wrestlers to the 3A semifinals. Shakopee, Willmar and Hastings have four, while Anoka, Apple Valley, Owatonna and Prior Lake have three.

--In 2A, Kasson-Mantorville has five in the semifinals, followed by Totino-Grace, Scott West and South St. Paul with three.

--The Class 1A semifinals will be led by Kenyon-Wanamingo and Minneota with four wrestlers. Dover-Eyota, Caledonia, Pierz and Frazee all have three.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 530
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,490
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Four-Time State Champ Now Wears A Whistle
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/25/2016 4:56:25 PM

As the officials were introduced, one at a time, before the first matches of the state wrestling tournament Thursday morning at Xcel Energy Center, knowledgeable fans surely recognized one name in particular: Gabriel Mooney.

Mooney was assigned to referee at the state tournament for the second year in a row. That means he’s halfway – sort of, kind of – to matching a historic streak from his own days as a high school wrestler. He is in rare company as one of only 22 wrestlers who won four state championships; six of those went on to win a fifth title and Apple Valley senior Mark Hall is on track to become the state’s first six-time champion this week.

Wrestling at Badger/Greenbush-Middle River, Mooney won titles in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 from 103 to 125 pounds. His high school record was 191-17, which included a 133-match winning streak. He wrestled at North Dakota State, where he earned a bachelors degree in dietetics and a masters degrees in health care administration. He lives in Baudette and works in health care.

He thought about going into coaching, but his job didn’t allow him much flexibility. So he turned to officiating. He became registered with the MSHSL during the 2010-11 season and is a member of the Northstar Wrestling Officials Association.

“I always thought that I wouldn’t want to be an official,” he said between rounds Thursday in St. Paul. “Then I was out of wrestling for about a year (after college).”

He talked with veteran official Brian Bakke from East Grand Forks, and that was his gateway to becoming an official.

“Brian was my mentor. I asked him about it and he got me into it. He reffed me when I was in high school, he reffed me when I was in college, and he made a difference in that sense. He gave me a good taste for reffing.”

Baudette is about as far north as you can go and still be in Minnesota. It’s isolated, which means Mooney puts in lots of mileage working high school and college wrestling duals and tournament. Last season he drove 10,000 miles while officiating. His longest road trip last year was for collegiate wrestling in Mankato, which is 370 miles (one way) from Baudette.

Mooney is staying in the Twin Cities this weekend, where he will officiate an NCAA Division III regional tournament Saturday at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

“I do a lot of weekend tournaments,” he said. “Let’s face it, we don’t want to drive 200 miles one way for a dual meet.”

He said that when he first became a registered official, he was full of confidence … some of it misplaced.

“I’ll be straight out and candid: I walked out thinking, ‘Give me a few duals and I’ll have it figured out and be the best.’ I was standing in the wrong spot, I was not in good position, I didn’t know some of the rules. As a college wrestler, I thought I would come back and know all the rules.

“I still pick up little things. After about two years you realize where to stand, what to anticipate, the appropriate verbalization, how to be professional.”

Last year’s state tournament, Mooney’s first with a whistle around his neck, was a thrill for him.

“It was crazy,” he said. “I wrestled here for five years in high school. Coming out here (as an official) is a lot less stressful, to be honest. When I walk out as an official, I’m under pressure then, and I walk off and it’s done. You don’t worry about things before and you don’t worry about them after. You leave it on the mat in all aspects.”

The best part of his job, he said, is spending time with wrestlers; one wearing a red band around one ankle and the other wearing green.

“I enjoy being on the mat with the guys,” Mooney said. “You’re wrestling every match with the kids and you don’t care who wins and who loses. I see green and I see red.”

--Apple Valley won the Class 3A team title for the 11th year in a row. The top-seeded Eagles defeated second-seeded St. Michael-Albertville 31-26 in the championship match.

--Top-seeded Kasson-Mantorville defeated third-seeded Foley 37- 21 to win the Class 2A team crown.

--Top-seeded Kenyon-Wanamingo won the Class 1A championship with a narrow 26-24 decision over third-seeded Frazee.


Minneota 41, West Central 15
Frazee 48, Sibley East 11
Kenyon-Wanamingo 39, Caledonia 26
Pierz 44, Kerhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 22

Simley 53, Totino-Grace 15
Foley 33, Perham 18
Kasson-Mantorville 64, Mora 3
Scott West 35, Wabasso/Red Rock Central 25

St. Michael-Albertville 55, Minnetonka 15
Anoka 44, Centennial 24
Apple Valley 46, Hastings 15
Willmar 37, Farmington 30

Frazee 32, Minneota 21
Kenyon-Wanamingo 34, Pierz 21

Foley 31, Simley 28
Kasson-Mantorville 36, Scott West 18

St. Michael-Albertville 35, Anoka 25
Apple Valley 46, Willmar 24

1A/ Kenyon-Wanamingo vs. Frazee
2A/ Kasson-Mantorville 37, Foley 21
3A/ Apple Valley 31, St. Michael-Albertville 26

1A/ Pierz 39, Minneota 16
2A/ Scott West 40, Sinley 20
3A/ Anoka 42, Willmar 23

1A/ Caledonia 36, 21 West Central/Ashby/Brandon-Evansville
2A/ Perham 38, Wabasso/Red Rock Central 24
3A/ Hastings 44, Minnetonka 33

--Championship matches were held Thursday night.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 530
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,449
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

A Proud Minnesota Tradition Returns: State Wrestling Tourney
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/22/2016 6:47:16 PM

The 78th MSHSL state wrestling tournament will be held this week at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, and there is no shortage of stories to follow. Team competition in all three classes will be held Thursday, with individual competition beginning Friday morning and culminating with championship matches Saturday evening.

Wrestling is very much a family-oriented sport, with thousands of committed fans who make the state tournament part of their annual plans. The crowd is always loud and proud, and there will be plenty of reasons to cheer this year.

Two families from southeast Minnesota will be cheering for their favorite wrestlers, Byron’s Alex Bertram and Kasson-Mantorville’s Aaron Berge.

The two seniors will compete in Class 2A at 182 pounds. They both represent Section 1, and they have wrestled against each other for a long time. They are in different halves of the bracket, but if they should meet this week it will be the final match in a very long string of head-to-head meetings.

One of these photos shows Alex and Aaron wrestling when they were just first-graders, and the other was taken at last week’s Section 1 tournament. That puts two really nice bookends on a wrestling connection.

THE WRESTLER UNDER the brightest spotlight this week is Apple Valley senior Mark Hall. He is expected to win the Class 3A state title at 170 pounds, which would make him the first six-time state champion in Minnesota history.

Hall is one of six five-time champs. The others are Matt Nagel of Frazee (1997-2001), Eric Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (1999-2003), Zach Sanders of Wabasha-Kellogg (2003-2007), Destin McCauley of Apple Valley (2006-08, 2010-11) and Cameron Sykora of Border West (2011-15). There have been 16 four-time state champs and 60 wrestlers have won three times.

In 2A, Kasson-Mantorville junior Brady Berge could become a four-time champion and open the possibility of joining the five-title club a year from now. He is the top seed at 160 pounds.

Five two-time champions will go for a three-peat this week. They are:

182/ Keegan Moore, Jackson County Central

132/ Garrett Aldrich, Albert Lea
152/ Griffin Parriott, New Prague

126/ Brent Jones, Shakopee
138/ Mitchell McKee, St. Michael-Albertville


113/ Ethan Cota, Kenyon-Wanamingo
120/ Noah Bauer, Pine Island
126/ Tanner Reetz, Frazee
220/ Manuel Garcia, BOLD

126/ Keaten Schorr, Kasson-Mantorville

120/ Rylee Molitor, Sartell-St. Stephen
120/ Peyton Robb, Owatonna
132/ Adam Hedin, Rosemount
182/ Lucas Jeske, St. Michael-Albertville
220/ Gable Stevenson, Apple Valley


3A/ Apple Valley is the team to beat, and that has been a theme at state for a decade now. The Eagles are the 10-time defending champions. They shared the title with St. Michael-Albertville in 2013 and the Knights are second-seeded behind Apple Valley this week. The last time Apple Valley didn’t come out on top was 2005, when Owatonna was the 3A champion. Apple Valley is at state for the 34th consecutive year and 35th time overall. The Eagles have had a state-best 89 individual champions, followed by Anoka (51) and Blue Earth and Robbinsdale (50 each).

2A/ Simley, which has won seven of the last eight championships, is seeded second behind Kasson-Mantorville. The KoMets broke up Simley’s reign by winning the title in 2013.

1A/ Kenyon-Wanamingo is the top seed and defending state champion Minnesota is seeded second. Kenyon-Wanamingo has never won a team state title.

Minnetonka (Class 3A) is the only team making its first appearance at state.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 506
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,409
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

In Age Of Specialization, She Specializes In Three Sports
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/20/2016 10:09:04 PM

Andrianna (Andy) Jacobs can fly. Her email address proves as much: it includes the words “girl” and “fly.” Yes, this girl can fly. And she does it in three different sports at Rochester Century.

In November she completed her diving career with a second-place finish at the Class 2A state meet. On Saturday she finished sixth in the all-around competition at the 2A gymnastics championships, placing fourth on the uneven parallel bars and fifth in floor exercise. Before long she will begin the track season as the top female high school pole vaulter in the nation.

The gymnastics meet was Jacobs’ 13th state tournament in a high school career that disrupts the notion of young athletes being best served by participating in only one sport. That’s something she has never considered.

“Honestly, no,” said Andy (pictured). “I started with gymnastics when I was really little. I did other sports for fun and in seventh grade I added diving and track and field. I just loved them all.”

This was her fourth time competing in the state gymnastics meet at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion. As an all-around competitor she performed on all four events: floor exercise, vault, balance beam and uneven parallel bars. She was the Section 1 all-around champion, finishing first on floor and bars at the section meet. She said those two events are her favorites.

“I like floor a lot because there’s more showmanship than other events,” she said, adding that the uneven parallel bars have similarities with pole vaulting.

“I always thought the pole vault was a mixture of vault and bars put together; with the vault you have to structure your run like in pole vault. And on bars, what you do in the air is like what you do in the pole vault.”

Pole vaulting will be her future. After making official recruiting visits to Nebraska, Ole Miss, Indiana, South Carolina and Georgia, she signed with the Cornhuskers.

She is a three-time 2A state champion in the pole vault and holds the state record of 13 feet, 7¼ inches. She wasn’t an immediate success in the pole vault – she was a varsity hurdler in seventh grade -- but her current status is a testament to hard work and not giving up.

“I tried (pole vaulting) in seventh grade,” Andy said. “I did one or two meets and I was really bad. In eighth grade I focused more on it and I kind of realized I could be good at the pole vault.

“Some of my friends who were gymnasts thought I should try it. You’ve got to be a little bit crazy. It’s kind of weird.”

Her days as a competitive diver are over, and now her gymnastics career has ended. As her high school days wind down, she has some people she would like to thank.

“I’d really like to thank my coaches,” she said. “I probably shouldn’t try to name them because there are a lot of them. I’ve been blessed with some amazing coaches and I wouldn’t be here without them and all the opportunities they have given me. I don’t want to take that for granted.”

You can say that again. Or even three times.


Big Lake senior Mallary Dick (pictured) didn’t let a little thing like a severely injured foot keep her from winning the 1A state championship on the uneven parallel bars. She was all smiles afterwards, despite wearing a protective “boot” on her left foot.

Mallary suffered the injury in last week’s Section 7 meet.

“I was vaulting and I landed and it gave out on me,” she explained. “It’s severely sprained with a chip in one of the bones.”

The injury wasn’t much of a factor while she was on the bars. But landing had to hurt, right?

“A little bit,” Mallary said. “My coach did a very good job of taping it.”


All-Around Medalists
1. Maddie Mullenbach, Austin
2. Cora Okeson, Detroit Lakes
3. Mady Brinkman, Melrose
4. Kayla Austing, Melrose
5. Beth Kurkowski, Mahtomedi
6. Haley Mottinger, Willmar

Event Champions
Vault: Greta Klaphake, Melrose
Bars: Mallary Dick, Big Lake
Beam: Maddie Mullenbach, Austin
Floor: Emma Disse, Detroit Lakes

All-Around Medalists
1. Megan Trollen, East Ridge
2. Wren Anderson, East Ridge
3. Chaney Neu, Champlin Park
4. Maria McDonough, Faribault
5. Ashley Goodlund, Lakeville North
6. Andy Jacobs, Rochester Century.

Event Champions
Vault: Sophie Redding, Henry Sibley
Bars: Natalia Jacobson, Rochester Century
Beam: Megan Trollen, East Ridge
Floor: Wren Anderson, East Ridge



Lucy Burton and Carly Bullock had hat tricks for Blake and Bullock set a career tournament scoring record with 22 goals. The previous record of 21 was set by Park Center’s Krissy Wendell in 2000. It was Blake’s third title in four years and sixth overall.


The Eagles held a 2-0 lead after two periods before Maple Grove roared back to tie the score and send the game into overtime, but Eden Prairie used a five-on-three power play to score the game-winning goal. Lauren Oberle scored the winner for the Eagles, who outshot the Crimson 44-31.

Third-place games…
1A/ Warroad 3, Proctor/Hermantown 1
2A/ Hill-Murray 5, Edina 3

Fifth-place games…
1A/ New Prague 7, Alexandria 0
2A/ Eastview 2, Lakeville South 1

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 506
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,409
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

A Magic Moment For St. Cloud Tech Gymnastics Family
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/19/2016 11:53:24 PM

Something very quiet, very special, very emotional took place Friday evening during the awards ceremony that capped off the Class 2A gymnastics team competition at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.

As the gymnasts from St. Cloud Tech were called to the podium to receive their gold medals and championship trophy from members of the MSHSL board of directors, a woman in a wheelchair – behind the gaggle of gymnasts standing, cheering and applauding in front of the podium, and out of sight of many of those in attendance – ducked her head ever so slightly as Dave Swanberg, athletic director at LeSueur-Henderson High School and a member of the MSHSL board, smiled and placed a medal around her neck.

It didn’t take long for the Tech gymnasts to rush to the side of the woman in the wheelchair, because she is their coach, their mentor, their inspiration.

Colleen Stark-Haws has been dealing with multiple sclerosis since 2005, and she has little control of her body below the shoulders. She and husband Joel Stark-Haws have been coaching gymnastics at Tech since 1997, and Friday’s results were special on many levels.

It was the Tigers’ very first state team gymnastics championship. They have qualified for state for 11 years in a row, every year since 2006, and never won. Tech has never even had an individual all-around state champion. And to do it this year, when Roseville was attempting to win its fifth consecutive state title, and seeing that big blue ribbon and big gold medal hanging around Colleen’s neck … words really don’t do it justice.

“This has been so many years of work,” Colleen said. “We love this sport and we coach the beginner’s classes from kindergarten all the way through the high school. And to see the years and years of effort that the coaches and the gymnasts have done, and to keep believing that an outstate team could get it done. We’re just so proud, so proud.”

The Tech athletes were in tears as they huddled around Colleen. She spoke to them, but that was a private moment between her and eight high school kids, and they deserve to own that moment themselves forever. They posed for photos with Colleen and Joel, smiling the kind of meaningful smiles that arrive through hard work, commitment and a love for those you spend so much time with.

“It was a celebration tonight for all of us, and I wanted to make sure she was a part of this, and so did the kids,” Joel said. “It wasn’t even a thought; we all wanted to come over and share that moment and make sure that she was a part of that. Because she is the backbone of this program and it was just so exciting, it really was.”

Colleen and Joel were high school sweethearts at St. Cloud Cathedral and classmates at St. Cloud State. Their son Eli is also part of the coaching staff.

I asked Joel a question that I knew he couldn’t answer: Is it possible to measure the inspiration that Colleen provides for the team?

“You certainly cannot measure the inspiration that Colleen gives to our program, to me, to our family, to the people who are in our lives,” he said. “No, absolutely not. You can’t measure it. She just continues to inspire. It’s a group effort and we know it, and it’s always concentrate on what you can do; which easily falls into gymnastics. That’s what you’ve got to do. Don’t focus on the bad things that happen or the mistakes you made, concentrate on what’s coming up and what you can contribute. It’s unbelievable. Very special.”

When I asked Colleen what the moment meant to her, her answer said everything.

“It means that it’s all worth it. The everyday struggles just get washed away in a moment like this.”

Here are the Class 2A gymnastics team scores:
1. St. Cloud Tech 149.125
2. Roseville 147.925
3. East Ridge 147.375
4. Champlin Park 146.800
5. Cambridge-Isanti 146.200
6. Owatonna 146.125
7. Eden Prairie 144.225
8. Lakeville North 141.175

In Class 1A, Detroit Lakes put on a very strong performance and repeated as the state champion. The final standings looked like this:

1. Detroit Lakes 150.225
2. Melrose 147.025
3. Becker 144.325
4. Austin 144.275
5. Watertown-Mayer/Mound-Westonka 143.175
6. Mankato West 141.650
7. Mahtomedi 141.325
8. Worthington 134.450


At Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, state semifinals were held in the girls state hockey tournament. Top-seeded Blake and third-seeded St. Paul United advanced to Saturday’s Class 1A title game. Blake beat Proctor/Hermantown 5-1 and St. Paul United beat Warroad 4-3.

In Class 2A, Saturday’s championship game will be between third-seeded Eden Prairie and fourth-seeded Maple Grove. Eden Prairie defeated Edina 1-0 and Maple Grove beat unbeaten defending state champion Hill-Murray by the same 1-0 score.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 506
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,360
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

52 Minus 1 Equals A Victory For Edina
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/18/2016 1:59:19 PM

Fifty-two. Or if you prefer brevity, 52. That’s how many shots on goal were recorded in Thursday’s Class 2A girls hockey state semifinal game between Edina and Eastview.

Of those 52 shots, 51 were stopped by goaltenders Anna Goldstein (Edina) and Emma Tschida (Eastview). The shot that mattered the most got past Tschida at 7:44 of the third period, fired into the net by Edina’s Emily Odin.

Edina’s 1-0 victory moved the second-seeded Hornets into Friday’s semifinals. It also moved Eastview into the consolation bracket at Ridder Arena. And for fans of pure hockey, it was moving indeed.

The Hornets had allowed only 34 goals in 27 games this season. Eastview’s opponents had scored 50 times in 28 games. The teams had arrived at state in strikingly different manners, though.

Edina defeated Section 6 opponents Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Wayzata by identical scores of 6-0. In Section 3, Eastview opened with an 8-1 win over Rosemount, followed by two overtime decisions: 3-2 over East Ridge and 4-3 over Eagan.

“Our girls didn’t quit. They were solid until the end,” Eastview coach Herb Harvey said after Thursday’s game. "We just didn’t get the bounce. Pucks were hitting skates and shin pads. They got the one decent opportunity and ended up scoring.”

This game was a lesson in defense … but with a capital D. The skaters had to work hard to put those 52 pucks on net, with defenders buzzing and swatting and goaltenders stretching and bending.

“Their goalie played awesome,” said Oden. “I just knew I had to get a shot at least on net.”

Eastview had not previously lost a 1-0 game this season; its only 1-0 decision was a victory over Hastings.

“They definitely crash the net hard and try to create opportunities with rebounds,” Tschida said in the postgame news conference. “Our defense did a real good job of trying to shut them down.”

At which point her teammate Natalie Snodgrass turned to Emma and said, “So did you.”

Capital D.


The Eagles scored twice in the first period and twice in the third to advance to the semifinal round against Edina.

Eden Prairie and Edina met twice during the Lake Conference season, with Eden Prairie winning 1-0 and Edina winning 2-1 in overtime. Close finishes is a trend when those teams meet.

“The last four times we played them, it was either in overtime or decided in the final minute of play,” said Eagles coach Jaime Grossman. “Every time we play them it’s a 50-50 game. I think we’re fairly evenly matched teams.”

Eden Prairie junior Naomi Rogge, who had a goal and an assist Thursday, said, “Oh yeah, there’s nothing better than playing against Edina. Getting the opportunity to play the game here is going to be really incredible.”


The two-time defending state champion Pioneers outshot Sartell/Sauk Rapids 50-9 and got goals from five different players in advancing to Friday’s semifinals.


Lauren Kauffman had a hat trick as the Crimson moved into Friday’s semifinals against Hill-Murray.


Forest Lake junior forward Madi Nolan, asked about the large contingent of Rangers students who were in attendance: “They were happy. They got to miss school.”


--Warroad vs. St. Paul United, 11 a.m.

--Blake vs. Proctor/Hermantown, 30 minutes after conclusion of first game

--Edina vs. Eden Prairie, 6 p.m.

--Hill-Murray vs. Maple Grove, 30 minutes after conclusion of 6 p.m. game

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 490
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,311
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

It’s Time For Class 2A At Girls State Hockey
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/18/2016 10:40:10 AM

If it’s Thursday we must be at the Xcel Energy Center for the Class 2A girls state hockey quarterfinals. The Class 1A field completed their quarterfinals Wednesday and are playing consolation-bracket games today at Ridder Arena.

The 1A quarterfinal results were …

--Warroad beat Northfield 3-0

--St. Paul United beat Alexandria 2-0

--Blake beat Luverne 10-0

--Proctor/Hermantown beat New Prague 2-1

And here are today’s Class 2A quarterfinal games…

--Eastview (18-6-4) vs. #2 Edina (19-7-1), 11 a.m.

--Forest Lake (18-7-3) vs. #3 Eden Prairie (19-7-2), 30 minutes after conclusion of 11 a.m. game

--Sartell/Sauk Rapids (21-7) vs. #1 Hill-Murray (27-0-1), 6 p.m.

--#5 Lakeville South (20-5-2) vs. #4 Maple Grove (20-5-2), 30 minutes after conclusion of 6 p.m. game

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 490
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,311
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Class 1A Girls Hockey Semifinals Are Set
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/17/2016 9:52:27 PM

The Warroad Warriors have been to the girls state hockey tournament six times before this year, and they have played in five state championship games. The second-seeded Warriors moved one step closer to another title appearance Wednesday with a 3-0 victory over first-time entrant Northfield in the Class 1A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.

In the day’s second game, fourth-seeded St. Paul United beat Alexandria 2-0. In the evening session, top-seeded Blake beat Luverne 10-0 and fourth-seeded Proctor/Hermantown beat fifth-seeded New Prague 2-1.

Warroad won state titles in 2010 and 2011and were runners-up in 2006, 2009 and 2013. The Warriors' other trip to state came in 2012.

The first period Wednesday was as even as they come, with each team putting seven shots on goal and neither team scoring. The third period also was pretty well an even affair. The spillway opened for Warroad (24-3-1) in the second period when the Warriors outshot Northfield 15-2 and scored all three goals.

Demi Gardner cracked the ice at 6:26 and she scored again at 10:27. Sara Baumann made it 3-0 with a goal at 11:44. The final shots on goal were 36-12 in Warroad’s favor.

“I was really proud of them,” said Northfield coach Brent Bielenberg. “That first period, we played solid. We stepped back a little bit in the second period.”

One side story to the game was the large crowd from Northfield (19-10).

“How about that fan base from Northfield, huh? That was good to see,” Bielenberg said. Northfield sophomore Mallory Tidona said, “Everyone from our school came and it was really cool seeing all the support we had.”

Warroad coach David Marvin said, “Tip your cap to Northfield. That was maybe the biggest following I’ve seen from a school in the six years I’ve coached here.”

--St. Paul United (22-5-1) outshot Alexandria 32-23, getting goals by Joie Phelps in the first period and an empty-net shorthanded goal by Samantha Burke late in the third.

--Blake didn’t give up a shot on goal until the third period, by which time the Bears led 7-0 and had put 51 shots on net. Carly Bullock scored four goals and Lily Delianedis scored two for the Bears.

--Proctor/Hermantown (20-7-1) outshot New Prague (17-10-1) by a margin of 29-10 but the game went down to the wire. After a scoreless first period, New Prague led 1-0 on a second-period goal by Catie Skaja. The Mirage took control on goals by Reilly Albert and Sophie McGovern in the second.


The Proctor/Hermantown “Mirage” nickname was chosen by the team's first members. They wanted something different, and the name was taken from a car driven by one of the players: A Mitsubishi Mirage.

--Class 2A quarterfinal games will be played Thursday. Here is the schedule...

--Eastview (18-6-4) vs. #2 Edina (19-7-1), 11 a.m.

--Forest Lake (18-7-3) vs. #3 Eden Prairie (19-7-2), 30 minutes after conclusion of 11 a.m. game

--Sartell/Sauk Rapids (21-7) vs. #1 Hill-Murray (27-0-1), 6 p.m.

--#5 Lakeville South (20-5-2) vs. #4 Maple Grove (20-5-2), 30 minutes after conclusion of 6 p.m. game

Welcome To The Girls State Hockey Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/17/2016 11:11:46 AM

This is the week that all girls hockey teams dream about, and 16 such teams are gathered for the state tournament at Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul.

The spotlight today (Wednesday) falls on Class 1A, with four state quarterfinals being played. First up today is Northfield (19-9) vs. third-seeded Warroad (23-3-1) at 11 a.m., followed by …

--Alexandria (18-7-1) vs. third-seeded St. Paul United (21-5-1)

--Luverne (20-6) vs. top-seeded Blake (23-2-2)

--Fifth-seeded New Prague (17-8-1) vs. fourth-seeded Proctor/Hermantown (19-7-1).

It’s going to be a great day of hockey.

It’s A Big Job Replacing A Legend In Chisholm
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/14/2016 1:43:26 PM

CHISHOLM – When Larry Pervenanze received a job promotion last year, one of the changes was very small: He slid one spot to his left on the home team bench in the Chisholm gym. The aisle seat is on a row of blue plastic bleachers, where the previous occupant sat for 53 years.

Pervenanze was an assistant coach under Bob McDonald for 12 years, and when McDonald retired after the 2013-14 season, he made it clear that he wanted Larry to take over as Chisholm’s fourth boys basketball coach since 1923.

McDonald won more games than any coach in any sport in Minnesota history and is a member of the National High School Hall of Fame.

Did somebody say pressure?

“Yeah, I think there is pressure. He’s a legend,” Pervenanze (pictured) said before the Bluestreaks played host to Hibbing last week. “Being able to be with him for 12 years as an assistant, the stuff he taught me, it was a lot. It was fun being around him, and all his knowledge from 60 years of basketball.”

McDonald’s teams had a well-known identity: Short haircuts, players in jackets and ties on game day, relentless defensive pressure. None of that has changed under Pervenanze, but other adjustments have been made.

“I think Larry wanted to put his stamp on the team, with what they do and how they do it,” said McDonald’s son Joel, who has been the Hibbing coach for 17 years. “They play more man (defense) than they ever did. They run different plays.”

Hibbing defeated the Bluestreaks 93-69, giving Chisholm a record of 9-14 this season. It’s a young team and Pervenanze is optimistic.

“I have four seniors but only two played last year. We’re young,” he said. “We have 10 freshmen and they’re getting a lot of playing time, especially four of them. But now one of them is out with an injury. I’ve got three of them that are playing a lot, and one junior, one sophomore. The future looks good. Hopefully in the next couple years we can bring Chisholm basketball back.”

Bob McDonald, not wanting to cast a shadow over his successor and the program he led for so many years, does not attend boys games in Chisholm. He’s a regular fan at Hibbing girls basketball games to watch his ninth-grade granddaughter Abbey (Joel’s daughter) play on the varsity team. Joel also has a son, Ayden, who is in sixth grade.

“There’s still a presence that he has in the program, even though he would be the first to tell you that he’s totally left it up to Larry,” Joel said. “He doesn’t come here much. I think about a month ago he came to watch my son play over here, and I think that was the first time he was in the gym since he retired. It was really cool being able to walk back in here with him for the first time, and it was really special that he was watching my son play.”

Bob McDonald sometimes attends practices in Hibbing and assists Joel’s team when he can. He also likes to surprise Joel’s family by dropping off treats at their house.

“He keeps busy by running to the bakery every day, and running to the deli every day, and dropping donuts and bread and salami and candy off at my house when I’m not there,” Joel said. “So I come home and there’s a bag of goodies waiting for me in the doorway. And if I ate everything he dropped off I think I’d be about 300 pounds.

“He’s finding ways to keep busy during the day and he ends up at our practices quite a bit. He just kind of hangs out on the side, works with some guys every now and then; maybe they’re on the side, not shooting a true jump shot, so he’ll grab them and lecture them a little bit, trying to get that out of them.”

Pervenanze is almost an outlander in Chisholm, since he grew up six miles away in Buhl. His high school teams (he graduated in 1984) played against Chisholm every year, and he has vivid memories of Bob McDonald as an opposing coach.

“The 1-2-2 press is the thing that comes back to me,” he said. “You knew it was coming and he emphasized that. Even when I came on board (as assistant coach) he emphasized the 1-2-2 press. We switched around, went to a 3-2, but the 1-2-2 was his bread and butter.”

Pervenanze, who works for the city of Chisholm public works department, laughs about a Buhl native coaching in Chisholm.

“For a Buhl guy to come over to Chisholm? Who woulda thought it? And then to become a coach here? I would have never dreamed of it.

“When the position came open, my sister-in-law said, ‘There’s an assistant boys basketball job open. Why don’t you apply for it?’ At the last minute I applied and I was basically the only one who put my name in.”

Joel McDonald coached against his dad’s teams for many years, and the father won more of those games than the son did.

“There were a lot of games, I’m sure, when it was just a matter of him outcoaching me,” Joel said. “He just seemed to make the right adjustment at the right time and he seemed to find a way to get our guys to panic a little bit. That was kind of his M.O., so to speak, to get that out of a lot of opponents, regardless of where they played but particularly here.”

Pervenanze now sits in that first seat on the bench, shouting many of the same instructions that have been heard in the Chisholm gym for half a century, in a voice that’s not quite as deep as Bob McDonald’s famous baritone.

“Larry definitely has his stamp on it,” Joel McDonald said, “and it’s really cool that there are some things that still remain from the regime that was here forever, it seemed.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 474
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,173
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Here Come The Skiers (And You Can Listen On The Radio)
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/11/2016 3:59:32 PM

BIWABIK – Nordic skiing is a very unique sport. It requires snow, for one thing, and having a great place to ski isn’t always commonplace even in Minnesota. Athletes need skis, racing footwear, poles, a race suit and the ability to compete in conditions that can range from balmy to frigid, from no breeze at all to blizzard winds.

Among the 99 boys Nordic teams and 100 girls Nordic teams in Minnesota, the Ely Timberwolves have something on their side that no other team can contemplate: Ely has a hometown broadcaster who calls skiing play-by-play on the radio.

Tom Coombe (pictured) is a human Swiss army knife. He’s the editor of the Ely Echo newspaper, sports director of WELY Radio in Ely and since August he has been the athletic director at Ely High School. He has coached American Legion baseball in Ely since 1994 and has been an assistant baseball coach at the high school.

His radio duties include play-by-play of Ely High School and Vermilion Community College sports, and at Thursday’s MSHSL state Nordic ski championships Coombe was in his usual position, broadcasting the action from a spot near the finish line at Giants Ridge.

He also called last week’s Section 7 ski meet, where Ely finished first among girls and boys.

Coombe has been broadcasting from the state meet since 2004, and nobody is aware of any other radio stations that carry skiing live.

“It’s a challenge, no question about it,” Coombe said.

Nordic skiing is unlike more traditional “stick and ball” sports. The skiers leave the start line, disappear into the hills and woods and later reappear. Plus, there are two races at sections and state; freestyle races for girls and boys, followed by classical pursuit races. The finishing order of the freestyle races (which use a staggered start) are used to set the starting times for the classical races, with the highest freestyle finishers starting ahead of the rest of the pack.

Yes, it can be just a bit confusing.

“The first races, with staggered starts, I’ll generally do live updates,” Coombe said. “I’ll come back on the air for a few minutes when the Ely kids are on the course and when they’re coming back through the finish line. I’m pretty good at math so I try to figure out times in my head, I try to do approximations.

“Generally by the time the second race begins I have results from the first race and that helps fill some airtime. The second part, in the pursuit and a true order of finish, comes close to a traditional sports broadcast. They come in boom boom boom boom and it can be hard to keep track.”

WELY – also known as “End of the Road Radio” – can be heard on the internet, and Coombe gets more feedback from web listeners all the time.

“Our internet stream has picked up through the years,” he said. “I’ve had fans of other teams outside Section 7 listen; parents and grandparents have listened.”

Coombe first did state ski play-by-play when colleagues at the radio station had kids on the Ely ski team. He had little background in skiing, but gave it a whirl.

“It’s kind of evolved through the years. The first time we did it, people at the station who had kids involved in the ski program thought it would be a neat idea to do skiing. I was skeptical at first, and I hope nobody has a recording of those first couple of meets. I really had to learn on the fly how to broadcast something like this.”


One of the busiest multi-taskers at the Nordic meet was Mesabi East junior Anna Johnson (pictured). Before the day’s races began, she joined the rest of her school’s choir members to sing the national anthem inside the timing building near the finish line. After the last note was sung, she sprinted out of the building to put on her skis.

Anna had reason to rush, because she was the 13th of 160 skiers to leave the start line in the girls 5K freestyle race. As she left the timing building, one of her fellow choir members yelled, “Go Anna!” Another singer said to the group, “Let’s go cheer on Anna!”


Margie Freed of Eastview finished ahead of the pack in the girls freestyle race and maintained her lead through the classical pursuit event to claim the individual state. Erin Moening of St. Paul Highland Park was second, followed by Anja Maijala of Cloquet-Esko-Carlton.

The girls team champion was Armstrong, followed by Wayzata, Stillwater, Duluth East and Burnsville in the top five.

The boys champion claimed his second state title in three years. Bloomington Jefferson’s Zak Ketterson won the championship as a sophomore and missed last year’s postseason because he was skiing at an international competition in Romania. Finishing second was Patrick Acton of Eagan and Xavier Mansfield of Spring Lake Park was third.

Minneapolis Southwest won the boys team title, followed in the top five by Stillwater, Wayzata, Forest Lake and Ely.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 416
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,173
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

A Family History Of Warm Hands And State Ski Championships
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/10/2016 4:46:18 PM

BIWABIK – Before Maddie Dekko held her state championship gold medal, as well as another gold medal and a shiny trophy for being part of Blake’s championship Alpine ski team, she held history in – and on – her hands.

Wednesday was a big day for the senior from Blake, who put a disastrous 2015 state meet behind her and came away with all the possible first-place hardware. It also was a big day in Dekko family history, based on a worn pair of ski gloves.

In 1984, a young man named Jeff Dekko won an Alpine state championship skiing for Edina. In 2013 and 2014, Zach Dekko was part of Blake’s boys championship Alpine teams. Zach carried his dad’s old mittens at state, and his kid sister Maddie did the same.

“It was my turn,” she said with a smile Wednesday at Giants Ridge Resort. “I got to wear them and I guess they’re lucky.”

Maddie led after the first run, just as she did one year ago. But she fell on the second of two runs in 2015 and finished 73rd. Wednesday’s results meant a happy finish to her high school skiing career, and one happy family.

Rosie Hust of Orono finished second, followed by Ide Nellie of Blake. Dekko and Nellie led the Bears to the team title with a score of 157. Orono was second at 148 and Mankato West third at 141.

On the boys side, Tommy Anderson of Eagan won the individual title, followed by Jack Lindsay of Burnsville and Luke Doolittle of Eagan, giving the South Suburban Conference a sweep of the top three places.

Edina won the boys team crown with a score of 168, followed by Minnetonka (160) and Hastings (150.)

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 408
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 7,950
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

A Skier Goes Down, And A Helping Hand Appears
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/9/2016 11:48:30 AM

Something special happened at the recent Section 6 boys Nordic ski meet. It started when a skier fell and broke one of his poles.

The letter below was sent to Armstrong assistant coach Doug Hubred, written by a parent of a skier from St. Louis Park. (St. Louis Park finished second to earn a berth at the state championship meet; Armstrong was third, two points back, and did not advance to state.)

Dear Doug,

I’ve written this letter to say thank you and to extend my deepest gratitude for your remarkable kindness at the section race Monday. My son Ben is the skier you extended the pole to after his fall around the bend.

I was nervous that morning before the race, but not about whether we would win. Ben had a tough week leading up to the race and I just wanted him to ski a good run without any falls. With marginal weather and snow, I knew it would be a hard course with treacherous terrain. He had a great first race despite a minor fall at the end. On the second race, I was standing on the sideline when he came around the bend and took that fall. I watched as he struggled to get up and my heart sank. I heard a jeering comment from a woman behind me about counting a skier out and my heart sank further. When I saw that his pole was broken, I figured that’s the end of it, he’s out. But when I saw a pole extended to him from the sideline, I knew that he could at least finish the race. I am proud of him for giving it his all and finishing.

I had assumed the pole came from one of our coaches and I thought how lucky Ben was that his coach happened to be there. When I later learned that the pole came from an Armstrong coach, I was in disbelief. I thought about the implications. Here your team was neck and neck with SLP for that second-place spot for state. You could have easily watched like the rest of us, feeling bad for the skier who fell but solidifying your team’s advance to state. Instead without hesitation, you chose to extend kindness to a kid who at the moment needed a helping hand. I have reflected on your honorable action, your selfless deed, since the culmination of that race. I wondered how many of us would have done the same thing, given the circumstances. Of course, we’d all like to think we would do the right thing. I would sure hope so, but I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that you did an honorable thing that day which made a difference in a kid’s life, beyond the results of his race. Our family and especially Ben will not forget your kindness.

While it’s great that our boys will be competing at state, it is bittersweet. Your boys earned that spot just as much as the SLP team and I wish they too could have advanced. We overheard some nice comments from your boys after the race, even after experiencing that very tough loss. Your Nordic team is a great group of kids, clearly a reflection of the culture you have created. I hope they know how lucky they are to have a coach and a role model like you. I wish all of you continued success.

With great thanks and appreciation,

Sue, Alex and Ben Chong.

Big D In The Big Nine: Red Wing Is On A Roll
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/7/2016 1:50:58 PM

RED WING – The scene inside the high school gymnasium here Saturday night was everything a road-tripping scribe could hope for. A full house and two boys basketball teams battling hammer and tong, one coming in undefeated and the other hoping to put an end to that distinction.

Implications? This one was big in the Big Nine Conference, in Class 3A Section 1 playoff jockeying and in the 3A state rankings. Red Wing was 20-0 overall, 16-0 in the Big Nine and carried the No. 1 spot in the polls. Austin was ranked No. 4 at 16-4 overall and 14-3 in Big Nine play. The first time they met this season, Red Wing won by nine points in Austin on Dec. 15.

Another key statistic: The Wingers came into the game with a sterling defensive number: their opponents had averaged only 47 points per game.

Defensive skill and intensity isn’t built from scratch starting on the first day of practice in November. The current Wingers have been learning about defense since they were little.

“To be honest with you I kind of inherited all these guys from traveling basketball way back when,” Red Wing coach Doug Toivonen said, mentioning two of his senior starters. “Ben Munson’s dad and Carson Bryan’s dad really taught these kids to take pride in their defense. When you’re the varsity coach and you inherit these kids as freshmen and sophomores, and you see how hard they work every day, it’s just a joy.

“We feel like we’re a pretty athletic group and it’s not very often that you get a team, especially high school kids, to buy into defense. But our kids really have. Every defensive drill we do in practice, these kids go 100 percent. Sometimes I have to stop practice; it’s like, ‘OK, I get it, we don’t need to get anybody hurt.’ ”

Those words from Toivonen came after the Wingers moved to 21-0 with a 56-47 (yes, 47) victory that was forged on an anvil of defense. Austin was held to nine points in the opening 16 minutes, including an eight-minute scoreless stretch. The score was 25-13 at halftime and it was all about defense and discipline.

“They put us on lockdown,” said Austin coach Kris Fadness, whose Packers lost to DeLaSalle in the 2013 and 2014 Class 3A state championship games. “They’re very good, they’re athletic and they’re physical. They’re very disciplined on defense. They make you work for every shot, they make you run through screens because they’re very physical.”

The second half was a marked change from the first. Austin played smarter offensively and hit enough three-point shots to stay in the game. Threes by Tate Hebrink and Duoth Gach cut Red Wing’s lead to seven with 10 minutes to play, but a three by Bryan and two close-range shots by the 6-foot-7 Joe Sevlie pushed the Wingers’ lead back to 10, 39-29.

The final push by the Packers was again sparked when Gach and Hebrink hit threes. The score was Wingers 47, Packers 41 with two minutes left and the large group of Austin fans who had made the 85-mile drive were whoopin’ it up.

Gach kept firing but missed back-to-back threes and teammate Oman Oman fouled out trying to snag a rebound; Bryan made two free throws. After another Packers miss, Gach fouled out; Munson hit a free throw.

You know the rest of the story: fouls and free throws. Red Wing made nine of 11 from the line in those last two minutes to seal the deal.

“Their defense is what makes them so good,” Fadness said. “And you have to be impressed with their senior leadership, because down the stretch they were making their free throws. There’s a reason they’re No. 1 in the state right now. They’re well-coached, they’re very disciplined, they do all the little fundamentals right.”

Red Wing is talented and hard-working on offense but so much of its success stems from defense that scoring can almost appear to be a secondary matter. The Wingers attempted only 32 field goals in the 36-minute game; they made 17 of them, and shooting 53 percent will win plenty of games. Austin made 19 of 44 (43 percent).

The difference was at the foul line, where Red Wing hit 18 of 26 and the Packers made four of nine. Another key number was total rebounds: 30 for the Wingers and 17 for Austin.

Credit the Packers, who are an exciting albeit young team. Their leading scorers Friday were all sophomores: Both Gach with 18, Duoth Gach with 12 and Hebrink with eight. Sevlie and coach’s kid Travis Toivonen scored 14 each for the Wingers, Munson had 12 and Bryan 10.

I asked Doug Toivonen if there was pressure from being unbeaten.

“I think the pressure you feel is when a whole bunch of people come to watch, you feel like because you’re 21-0 you have to prove things to everybody,” he said. “We’re not blowing-people-out-of-the-water 21-0. We have a nice team that’s showed up to play every night. I don’t think we have a lot of superstars on our team; I think we have a team that plays really well together and we’ve found ways to win basketball games.

“We really needed to show up against Austin and I was real proud of the effort. It was a really nice win.”

The Big Nine is having a banner year in boys basketball. Lurking behind Red Wing in the standings are Rochester John Marshall (18-3 overall, 16-1 Big Nine) and Austin (16-5, 14-4), with Northfield and Mankato East on the perimeter ready to throw wrenches.

John Marshall’s only league loss was a 10-point game at Red Wing on Jan. 12 and the rematch will come in the regular-season finale. John Marshall is a 4A team, leaving Red Wing and Austin as the top two teams in 3A Section 1.

“We’re hoping we get a shot at them again,” Fadness said.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 384
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 7,691
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

4A Girls Basketball: It’s Going To Be A Wild Ride
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/4/2016 10:35:55 PM

Three teams have held the No. 1 ranking in Class 4A girls basketball this season. That’s one sign of what should be a wide-open postseason. Two of those teams met Thursday night, with Hopkins defeating visiting Shakopee 70-54. Shakopee had risen to the top spot in the poll and came into the game unbeaten, but Hopkins will now move from No. 2 back to the No. 1 position, which is where the Royals began the season. The third team to sit on top was Eastview.

Summarizing that opening paragraph: Be ready for a wild ride.

“It’s more wide-open than I ever remember it being,” said Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff, whose team is the defending state champ. The Royals also won titles in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Thursday’s game was a treat for both teams, at least in the first half. Shakopee’s Taylor Koenen, a 6-foot-2 star who has signed with North Carolina, made a three-point shot in the final minute to force a 27-27 halftime tie. The second half was all Hopkins, as the Royals came out with intensity and hustle, seemingly grabbing every rebound and making layup after layup.

Koenen finished with a game-high 24 points but that wasn’t enough to overcome the swarming Royals, who defeated the Sabers 64-33 in last year’s state semifinals.

“I thought they brought more intensity, they were more aggressive at both ends of the court,” Shakopee coach Juan Mitchell said. “We couldn’t even get into our offense. Taylor tried to do too much and no one else really stepped up and played their game. It’s hard for her to try and carry the whole team.

“Other guys didn’t play up to their ability and we kind of got exposed; pressure, we didn’t box out right, we just didn’t do things that we talked about that we’ve done. But Hopkins does that. They bring pressure, they’re going to do what they do, and if you can’t adjust, if you can’t maintain it, you lose by 16.”

Shakopee wasn’t the only girls basketball team to lose for the first time this season on Thursday. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (Class 2A) was defeated by Pequot Lakes, meaning East Grand Forks Sacred Heart (Class 1A) is the only undefeated team remaining. Hopkins is 18-2 with losses to St. Michael-Albertville and Minnetonka.

Michigan State-bound senior Nia Hollie led Hopkins with 18 points, senior Ashley Bates had 15, eighth-grader Paige Bueckers 12 and senior Dee Dee Winston 10. Seniors Annie Rhinesmith and Caleigh Rodning each scored 10 for Shakopee.

The Sabers had practiced against their boys sophomore team in preparing to face Hopkins’ relentlessness.

“Still, that’s tough to simulate,” Mitchell (pictured) said. “But we didn’t play well and I think they had a lot to do with it. We’ve got to get better. We can’t match that tempo. We’ve got a couple girls who can get up and down, but we need five, like them. We’ve got two, they’ve got five. We got caught up in that tempo a little bit. And when you’re behind you press, press, press. We missed some shots, some fundamental little things that we’ve been doing well all season.”

Asked about the 4A playoffs, Mitchell ran down a checklist of some of the contenders.

“Eastview is good, Hopkins is Hopkins, St. Michael, Minnetonka is playing well. It’s good basketball, teams are playing well.”

Cosgriff, calling Thursday’s game “a very good confidence-booster,” added that the postseason “could be anybody’s gig this year. You’ve got to be ready to play every time.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 380
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 7,555
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

MSHSL’s Redman Among Recipients at Girls And Women In Sports Day
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/3/2016 6:57:57 PM

The 30th annual Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day was celebrated Wednesday in the 3M Auditorium at Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. The event has become an annual tradition, with awards given to pioneering women and girls who have made a difference in the sporting world.

Among the 2016 recipients was MSHSL associate director Jody Redman. She was one of 14 people to receive the Breaking Barriers Award.

Redman’s distinguished career in education warrants statements such as “passionate and an innovative leader” from her colleagues. She demonstrates leadership abilities and insights that have taken her from a teacher, coach and administrator to a national leader in the intentional growth and development of students through education-based athletic and activity programs.

Redman has developed and produced extensive curriculum: WHY WE PLAY, which is designed to bring the focus back to the purpose of high school athletic and activity programs; Anyone Can Save A Life, which was developed to establish emergency planning protocols; and Coaching for Change, a sexual harassment and violence education program. Redman is a national speaker and has presented at multiple NFHS, NIAAA, MNIAAA, CHSAA, MSBA and MMEA conferences and at student, teacher, coach and administrator leadership seminars on topics designed to develop human potential in safe and healthy environments.

Redman currently administers the Minnesota Coaches Education Program for the 500 member high schools of the MSHSL, which includes both an in-person certification program and a continuing education requirement delivered through workshop and e-learning mediums.

Gov. Mark Dayton, the featured speaker at Wednesday’s event, talked about the days when women and girls did not have the opportunities that they have today.

“When I was in high school about a hundred years ago there really were no sports for girls or women,” he said. “I remember back when in basketball the girls couldn’t cross center court. I guess they thought it was just too exhausting for them to traverse the whole court. And when they first had hockey for girls it was ringette.

"Fortunately a lot of changed. Girls and women have been pioneers in sports, not only in their own sports as tremendous athletes, but also pioneers for the public consciousness of the importance of women’s sports.”

Other recipients of the Breaking Barriers Award were…

Shelly Boyum-Breen, Foundation IX, children’s books author
Jan Eifealdt, Ortonville Public Schools
Girls’ Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports
Elizabeth Bye, Fatimah Hussein,
Salma Hussein and Chelsey Thul
Hornbills Flag Football Team - YWCA of Minneapolis
Kelly Klatt, Grand Rapids community
Bob Kuehl, Mound Westonka community
John C. Legeros, Mound Westonka community
Erin Lind, Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference
Jackie Lindsay, Crookston High School
Annette Margarit, Academy of Holy Angels
Minnesota Women’s Soccer League
Bonnie Jean Moren, Bloomington Public Schools
Wayne Olson, Glenville High School

Various other honors were awarded in several specific categories. Those recipients were …

Marie Berg Award
Cheryl King, Physical educator and coach, Anoka, Champlin Park and Park High Schools

Kwame McDonald Media Award
Anne Abicht, Former Director of Athletic Media Relations, St. Cloud State University

Wilma Rudolph Courage Award
Alexis Shifflett, US Paralympic Volleyball Team

Special Merit Awards
Kathy Fredricksen, Moose Lake High School
Barbara Knutson, Mankato West High School
Joan Paulson, Forest Lake Area Schools
Jeannie Thoren, Women’s Skiing

Minnesota Legacy Award
Eleanor “Ele” Hansen, Carleton College

Minnesota Milestone Award
Minnesota Lynx

“I have invited winners of national championships to the governor’s residence for receptions,” Dayton said. “I’ve been honored to have the Minnesota Lynx three times, Concordia University women’s volleyball, University of Minnesota women’s hockey team and other national champions. The trouble is, I’ve not been able to have a single reception for a male team.

“Female athletes are really impressive. Lynx players are going off to play somewhere else the rest of the year, they’re not overpaid, they show up for games and they actually do their very best every time. Not to make any contrasts with anybody else on professional sports teams, but there’s just a real commitment to the sport. And it’s the same with the high school girls sports and college women’s sports; there’s just a real commitment and they’re not looking for the multi-million-dollar contract if they leave college after one semester. They want to get a degree, they want to get an education and they want to play the sport they love. They want to have a chance to hopefully play at further levels.

“This is a very, very important day, I’m proud to be part of it and I’m proud to issue a proclamation that today is Girls and Women in Sports Day in Minnesota. Congratulations to all the recipients, who are not only great athletes but great leaders in our society and trailblazers.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 378
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 7,501
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

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