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Class 1A Boys Tennis Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/30/2017 8:30:32 PM

Provided by the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association.

1 Blake
2 Rochester Lourdes
3 Breck
4 St. Paul Academy
5 Litchfield
6 Hibbing
7 Mound Westonka
8 Holy Family Catholic
9 Luverne
10 St. James

1 Ben Ingbar, Blake
2 Jack Barker, Blake
3 Joe Mairs, Blake
4 Karthik Papisetty, Breck
5 Thomas Metz, Breck
6 Mathew Metz, Breck
7 Justin Bobo, Rochester Lourdes
8 Ryan Ortega, Winona Cotter
9 Jose Williamson, Minnehaha
10 Josh Prahl, Litchfield

Class 2A Boys Tennis Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/30/2017 8:28:20 PM

Provided by the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association.

1 Minnetonka
2 East Ridge
3 Rochester Century
4 Lakeville South
5 Wayzata
6 Edina
7 Mounds View
8 Rochester Mayo
9 Eastview
tie 10 Orono
tie 10 Minneapolis Washburn

1 Ben van der Sman, East Ridge
2 Nikita Snezhko, Armstrong
3 Sebastian Vile, Rochester Mayo
4 Conner Olsen, Orono
5 Chase Roseth, Lakeville South
6 Gavin Young, Eastview
7 Varun Iyer, Rochester Century
8 Maxim Zagrebelny, Eagan
9 Carter Mason, Eden Prairie
10 Petro Alex, Mounds View

Eagan’s McKenna Melville: Two Sports, One Hectic Schedule
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/28/2017 12:17:45 PM

If the life of an NCAA Division I athlete is hectic, Eagan junior McKenna Melville will face few surprises when she leaves high school to play volleyball at the University of Central Florida. That’s because she is a two-sport competitor who is also part of the Wildcats’ softball team, a rare combination for such a high-level athlete.

Melville can focus solely on her No. 1 sport during the high school volleyball season in the fall. The spring, however, is a flurry of school, softball and club volleyball that means plenty of long and hectic days. A recent softball game at Shakopee provided an example.

McKenna started the game at third base and went 1-for-2 at the plate with three runs-batted-in. In the middle of the game, however, she gathered her belongings from the bench and scurried, along with her grandfather, to his car for a drive to Northern Lights club volleyball headquarters in Burnsville.

McKenna’s club team was practicing for a weekend tournament that could vault them to a national tournament this summer. The workouts were mandatory so she knew she would have to leave the softball game early.

Before the season Melville met with first-year Eagan softball coach Christian Duncan, who was willing to let her miss time due to her volleyball responsibilities. Classmate and softball teammate Taylor Anderson, who will play hockey at Minnesota Duluth, has similar commitments with that sport.

For McKenna, getting from the softball game to volleyball practice wasn’t as logistically simple as it may sound. Her dad, Corey Melville, was out of town, her twin brother Michael was running in a track meet and their mom, Eagan volleyball coach Kathy Gillen Melville, was at the track meet to cheer for Michael. Grandpa and grandma came to the rescue.

“I called Grandpa and he drove me,” McKenna said. “Grandma made me dinner, I ate it in the car, changed in the car and got there with five minutes to spare.”

Such is life for Melville, whose Eagan volleyball team has won the last two Class 3A state championships.

“I’ve missed some practice time and there are games when I’m the first person in line to shake hands and then I sprint to the car,” she said. “It helps to have my parents pack food for me. And I definitely wouldn’t be able to do it without people driving me around.”

One day this week was fairly typical for McKenna: Her alarm went off at 6 a.m. and she was at school by 6:55 for some help with history homework before school started at 7:25. Her class schedule -- including Honors Chemistry, Advanced Placement Language, Honors Pre-Calculus, History and Spanish – filled the day until the last bell at 2:15. She went home and took a nap before softball practice. She left a few minutes before practice ended, made it home for a quick dinner and had volleyball practice from 6 until 8 p.m. Bedtime was around 10 p.m.

“I wanted to play softball but it was the whole juggling two-sports thing that was throwing me for a loop,” she said. “Our new coach seemed like a really nice guy and he said, ‘Let’s try it, why not?’ ”

Through the first eight games of the season, McKenna is hitting .333 with seven runs-batted-in, three doubles, three walks and no strikeouts.

“We knew going in there would be conflicts, but usually there’s not,” Duncan said. “It’s been a good mix. A couple times she’s had to leave practice early, but she’s certainly not the only player with things like that. We have kids who are doing things to prepare for the next step in life.”

McKenna is an energetic force on the volleyball court, and she plays a similar role on the softball field.

“She’s got a rocket arm, I’m sure from serving all those years,” Duncan said. “At Shakopee we were down 8-1 (before winning 13-8) and she was in the huddle saying, ‘We’ve got this, we’re fine, let’s go.’ She’s special, mentally and physically.

“She’s smiling and having fun but when she’s batting her eyes are as big as quarters. She’s locked in and ready to do it for the team.”

Kathy Gillen Melville, who was inducted into the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014, said she has had a few volleyball players who participated in other sports, usually track athletes who were long, high or triple jumpers. That allowed them to compete in the early portion of track meets before leaving for club volleyball.

“The time commitment is big,” mom/coach said of McKenna’s two-sport lifestyle. “There are some days, when she drives to softball practice and then to volleyball practice, I’ll put something in the car for her to eat.”

McKenna grew up playing both sports and plays club softball in the summer. She didn’t play high school softball last season because of volleyball recruiting trips. This spring, having a hectic schedule is part of life.

“It’s another ball in the air, for sure,” she said. “It definitely takes away from my social time a little bit, but half the fun of softball is the girls on the team. They are so funny and they’re so great to be around.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 614
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 10,159
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Wabbasso Wrestling Coach Calls It A Career
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/26/2017 2:28:40 PM

The evening before the 2017 MSHSL state wrestling tournament, wrestlers and coaches were at Xcel Energy Center for weigh-ins and skin checks. The wrestling tournament is like a great big family reunion, because it seems as if almost everybody knows everybody else.

As I walked around the arena I ran into an old friend. Gary Hindt is the only head wrestling coach Wabasso has ever had since the program began in 1968, and we both smiled as we shook hands and chatted. The next time I see Gary, however, he won’t be the coach. He has retired after 49 seasons, the last seven co-coaching with Brett Bartholomaus in a cooperative program involving Wabasso and Red Rock Central.

Gary’s career record is 807-214-6. He ranks second in Minnesota high school wrestling history in career victories. But what he accomplished in nearly half a century goes far beyond winning. He had a tremendous impact on his wrestlers and the entire community.

Four years ago, I spent time in Wabasso while writing about Hindt. The story below was originally posted here on Feb. 1, 2013…

700 Wins And Counting For Wabasso/Red Rock Central’s Hindt

WABASSO – Except for one big banner, the walls inside the wrestling room at Wabasso High School are pretty bare. But that banner speaks volumes about a program and the only coach the team has ever had.

The banner commemorates the 2003-04 Wabasso team, which was the state runner-up in Class 1A. In advancing to that state championship match, the Rabbits recorded the 500th victory in school history. It also was the 500th career victory for coach Gary Hindt, but his name is nowhere to be seen on the banner. And that’s exactly how he wants it.

“I just guide them,” Hindt said. “I didn’t do that. I helped, I had a hand in it.”

Since that 2004 state tournament, he’s had a hand in a couple hundred more victories. The 67-year-old Hindt, who was hired in Wabasso right out of college in 1968 and started the wrestling program, now has 702 career wins, which ranks third all-time in Minnesota and No. 1 among active coaches.

In 45 years of coaching he has had only two losing seasons. Victory No. 700 came Jan. 19 when the Wabasso/Red Rock Central Bobcats (the schools have had a cooperative wrestling team for four years) defeated Luverne. The only Minnesota wrestling coaches with more victories than Hindt are former Owatonna coach Scot Davis with 984 and former Goodhue coach Bill Sutter with 760.

No. 702 for Hindt and Wabasso came Thursday night when the Bobcats defeated visiting Minneota 40-21. Wabasso/Red Rock Central is ranked No. 4 in Class 1A by The Guillotine and Minneota is No. 8.

Before the varsity match began, Hindt was honored with a plaque commemorating his 700th victory and a framed team photo that was autographed by this year’s wrestlers. He made no speech, and school officials knew better than to ask him to make a speech. That’s because it’s never been about him.

He said to me, “You want to know the truth? The last wrestling match that I won by myself was in 1963.”

That was when Hindt was a high school senior in Fulda, another southwest Minnesota town. He played basketball through his sophomore year, but joined Fulda’s new wrestling team as a junior.

“I thought it sure beats getting slivers on my butt, being about the 10th guy on the basketball team,” he said. “I knew nothing about wrestling. I wasn’t sold on it because I didn’t know anything except grab on and hang on.”

He wasn’t sure he would wrestle as a senior, but then he was voted a team captain. “I thought I better stay with it,” he said. “I’m not a quitter.”

It’s safe to say, however, that he didn’t plan to be the Wabasso wrestling coach for nearly half a century. When he was hired to teach, he agreed to take over the school’s new wrestling program with the expectation that he would hand the reins to someone else after a few years. All these years later, he has no plans to retire.

He underwent a knee replacement after the 2005-06 season, but the spark is still there when he enters the wrestling room.

“I can get down, but it’s hard to get back up,” he said. “That’s why we’ve got younger assistant coaches. I still enjoy it. I don’t want to see the program go to pot. I have seen some programs that were very successful get into wrong situations and have no consistency.”

Hindt also coached football at Wabasso for many years but gave that up when his daughter Heather was playing college volleyball at Southwest State in Marshall and his daughter Erika was in high school. (“I got to watch my girls grow up,” he said.) Hindt and his wife Jenni have been married for 43 years.

His co-head coach is Brett Bartholomaus, who teaches at Red Rock Central. The wrestling team splits its practices and meets between Wabasso and Red Rock Central, which is 12 miles away in Lamberton.

“He’s the papa bear,” said Bartholomaus. “If they need a wake-up call he’ll give it to them, and then he’ll explain why.”

Hindt is a coach who will bark at a wrestler, then smile and put his arm around the kid’s shoulder.

“If he gets mad, he’ll say what he has to say and then he’ll sit back down in his chair and he’ll pop a smile right back on,” said senior captain Tanner Rohlik. “He’s an all-around great guy.”

Another senior captain, Blake Altermatt, said, “If you do something wrong, he’ll make you do it again to make sure you do it right and don’t get into any bad habits.”

Before the Bobcats took the mat against Minneota, Hindt talked to the team about always being on the attack. He offered these words of wisdom: “Your feet are made to move forward. If God wanted you to move backwards he would have put toes where your heels are.”

Hindt, who was inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1994 and is retired from teaching physical education, health and social studies, has coached three teams to state tournaments (the most recent in 2011). Five Wabasso individuals have won state titles: Dan Zimmer in 1976, Johnny Frank in 2004, Cory Schunk in 2004 and A.J. Jenniges and Brandan Schunk in 2005.

“I’ve been pretty blessed to have some kids who have bought in,” Hindt said.

Before and after Thursday’s match, Hindt was approached by many former wrestlers and other friends who offered congratulations on his milestone. After the night’s wrestling had been completed, he joined 42 alumni wrestlers who were on hand and posed for a photo. Some of them are now old-timers and some of them are still fresh-faced. Some of them are fathers and sons who both wrestled for Hindt.

The coach, the link between them all, sat in their midst and wore a big smile.

Class 1A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/26/2017 2:22:49 PM

The Associated Press poll for Minnesota baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. Springfield
2. Parkers Prairie
3. Legacy Christian Academy
5. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley
6. Deer River
7. Hinckley-Finlayson
8. Heritage Christian Academy
9. Mankato Loyola
10. Randolph
11. Adrian
12. Red Lake County
13. New Ulm Cathedral
14. New York Mills
15. Wabasso
16. Minneota
17. Fosston
18. Cleveland
19. Menahga
20. Wabasha/Kellogg
Also receiving votes: Hill City/Northland, South Ridge, Canby, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, Nevis, Ely, Mayer Lutheran, Norman County, Cherry, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Sleepy Eye, Kittson County Central, ML/GHEC/Truman
Boost Post

Class 2A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/26/2017 2:22:20 PM

The Associated Press poll for Minnesota baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. Belle Plaine
2. Minnehaha Academy
3. Pierz
4. Cannon Falls
5. Maple Lake
6. Jackson County Central
7. New Life Academy of Woodbury
8. Holy Family Catholic
9. Foley
10. Glencoe-Silver Lake
11. Rochester Lourdes
12. St. Cloud Cathedral
13. Warroad
14. Pequot Lakes
15. St. Charles
16. New London-Spicer
17. Caledonia
18. Pine Island
19. Aitkin
20. Paynesville Area
Also receiving votes: Mora, St. Peter, Duluth Marshall, Proctor, Sauk Centre, Fairmont, Kenyon-Wanamingo, Park Rapids Area, Frazee, Fillmore Central, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Providence Academy, St. Paul Academy

Class 3A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/26/2017 2:21:48 PM

The Associated Press poll for Minnesota baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. New Ulm
2. Waconia
3. St. Cloud Tech
4. Bemidji
5. Mahtomedi
6. Alexandria
7. Winona
8. Benilde-St. Margaret’s
9. Mankato West
10. Holy Angels
11. Little Falls
12. Henry Sibley
13. Albert Lea
14. Northfield
15. Hibbing
16. Jordan
17. Fridley
18. Sauk Rapids-Rice
19. Marshall
20. Kasson-Mantorville
Also receiving votes: St. Thomas Academy, Rocori, Hutchinson, Delano, South St. Paul, St. Anthony Village, Worthington

Class 4A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/26/2017 2:20:51 PM

The Associated Press poll for Minnesota baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. Wayzata
2. Minnetonka
3. Forest Lake
4. Lakeville North
5. Stillwater Area
6. Blaine
7. St. Michael-Albertville
8. Centennial
9. Edina
10. Champlin Park
11. Osseo
12. Andover
13. Eastview
14. Burnsville
15. Maple Grove
16. Eden Prairie
17. Woodbury
18. Prior Lake
19. Cretin-Derham Hall
20. Shakopee
Also receiving votes: Park Cottage Grove, Anoka, Duluth East, Tartan, Chaska, Mounds View, Chanhassen, Roseville, St. Francis, Rochester Century, Rochester Mayo, Grand Rapids, Totino-Grace, Hopkins, Minneapolis Southwest, Minneapolis Washburn

A Monument To A Career Of Service In Shakopee
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/25/2017 10:45:59 PM

In 1975, a fresh-faced farm kid from Kiester, Minnesota, graduated from Mankato State and was lucky enough to get a job teaching high school math in the small town of Shakopee. The position was as a long-term substitute teacher, and it wasn’t until his fourth year that the young teacher shed his “sub” status.

In the spring of 1976, the young man – Neil Johnson – was named head coach when Shakopee started a girls softball program. For the first couple years the Sabers played softball on two fields that now are used for physical education classes. The team then moved to Tahpah Park, where the softball fields had baseball-length fences and men’s slow-pitch players grumbled while waiting for the girls to finish practices and games.

The first steps toward a top-notch softball facility came 17 years ago when a piece of land that had included a gravel pit became the home of the Sabers. Over the years, uncountable amounts of sweat equity shaped the complex into what it is today: three of the most pristine fields any softball team will ever see.

What began when Johnson was hired more than four decades ago culminated in a special event Monday before the Sabers hosted Eagan in a South Suburban Conference game. The facility was named the Neil Johnson Softball Complex, complete with a beautiful archway bearing that title and a plaque affixed to it with the coach’s name, likeness and the words “For all the years of dedication and support of softball in the Shakopee community … We thank you.”

“It’s kind of unbelievable,” Johnson said. “It’s very humbling and it’s an honor. It’s kind of special. There has been a lot of time spent at these fields.”

Johnson, who remains the only head softball coach in Shakopee history, is in his 42nd year coaching the Sabers. He retired from a 39-year career as a math teacher in 2014. Combine those dual careers working with kids and there is no way to account for all the lives he has positively impacted.

During the dedication ceremony, Shakopee athletic director John Janke called Johnson “a people person and a kid magnet. … He was always at school early to help kids with homework. He always had time for them.”

Johnson is the longest-tenured softball coach in Minnesota high school history, and Monday’s game was the 869th of his career. The only softball coach with more career games is New Ulm Cathedral’s Bob Mertz with 877; Mertz is in his 37th season and is currently the co-head coach along with Jamie Portner.

The Sabers have gone to the state tournament in three different decades – the 1970s, 1980s and most recently in 2011 – and Johnson has been in the Minnesota softball coaches association Hall of Fame since 1995. He was inducted into the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015.

Monday’s dedication ceremony, attended by parents, current and former players and community members, was special. The master of ceremonies was Shakopee resident Dick Jonckowski, longtime public-address announcer for University of Minnesota men’s basketball as well as MSHSL state tournaments.

During the ceremony, heads nodded in approval when school board chairman Scott Swanson described Johnson with the words “honor, integrity and class.”

“Our softball alumni, the people they have become, are a living testament to your leadership and dedication,” Swanson said to Johnson.

When Johnson spoke to the crowd, he thanked current and former players, their parents, boosters, school administrators, the volunteers who helped build and maintain the fields, and “everyone who comes to work in the spring and in the fall to make this the best complex in the conference and one of the best complexes in the metro area.”

The coach grew emotional as he thanked his family. He looked upward while mentioning two siblings who were “here in spirit.” His brother Larry and sister Karen died within five days of each other in late February. Larry retired about a decade ago as the longtime head track and cross-country coach at Edina High School, where he was working when Neil came to Shakopee.

In concluding his remarks, Johnson said, “Parents, I want you to remember these thoughts for your daughter. I mentioned it at our preseason meeting: when the game is over walk up to your daughter and say, ‘I enjoyed watching you play today.’

“For the team, remember what we always say, ‘Remember who we are and what we represent.’ Let’s go play softball.”

And for 42 years and counting, that’s just what they did.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 614
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 10,159
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Class 1A Boys Tennis Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/25/2017 12:34:15 PM

Provided by the tennis coaches association.

1 Blake
2 Breck
3 Rochester Lourdes
4 St. Paul Academy
5 Litchfield
6 Hibbing
7 Mound Westonka
8 Holy Family Catholic
9 Luverne
10 St. James

1 Ben Ingbar, Blake
2 Jack Barker, Blake
3 Joe Mairs, Blake
4 Peter Erickson, Rochester Lourdes
5 Karthik Papisetty, Breck
6 Thomas Metz, Breck
7 Mathew Metz, Breck
8 Ryan Ortega, Winona Cotter
9 Rafait Solaiman, St. Peter
10 Jose Williamson, Minnehaha

Class 2A Boys Tennis Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/25/2017 12:33:40 PM

Provided by the tennis coaches association.

1 Minnetonka
2 Rochester Century
3 East Ridge
4 Lakeville South
5 Rochester Mayo
6 Wayzata
7 Edina
8 Mounds View
9 Eastview
10 Orono

1 Ben van der Sman, East Ridge
2 Nikita Snezhko, Armstrong
3 Sebastian Vile, Rochester Mayo
4 Ben Wheaton, Minnetonka
5 Varun Iyer, Century
6 Conner Olsen, Orono
7 Chase Roseth, Lakeville South
8 Gavin Young, Eastview
9 Maxim Zagrebelny, Eagan
10 Sam Hochberger, Maple Grove

State Speech: A Day In The Life Of The Spuds
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/22/2017 8:08:32 PM

“Kaden, how do you feel?”

“You feeling good, Maryn?”

Rebecca Meyer-Larson was checking on her team a few minutes before Friday’s Class 2A state speech competition began at Apple Valley High School. The Moorhead coach knew the hay was in the barn after months of hard work, and she also knew the final day of the season held high expectations.

There are 13 categories in speech, ranging from Creative Expression to Extemporaneous Speaking to Storytelling to Original Oratory. Last year Moorhead went home with a state championship in one category (Izzy Larson and Devon Solwold in Duo Interpretation) and won enough second- through eighth-place medals to share the 2016 team championship with Eagan.

A few days before Friday’s event, Meyer-Larson talked to me about speech and what makes it different from other MSHSL activities.

“It’s not like wrestling, it’s not about getting a pin, it’s not about getting faster,” she said. “It’s so subjective. All you can control is how much you can control; sleep, preparations.”

This is Meyer-Larson’s 25th year as the Spuds coach. (She is on the right in this photo.) In her first year, the team consisted of five students. This year there are 74; 28 of them qualified for state via the Section 8 tournament.

“We always start with, ‘Who do you want to be later in life? What kind of person do you want to become?’ ” she said. “I’m biased of course, but I think this activity is the best at preparing these kids for the future. I’m amazed by their intelligence, their drive, their desire to do good and be good.”

As the Spuds knew, there were no guarantees Friday. Izzy Larson (the coach’s daughter) and Solwold were back to defend their Duo Interpretation title. That category has been a Spud specialty, with Matthew Wisenden and Jordan Hartjen winning state in 2014. Could Izzy and Devon make it three Moorhead Duo Interp titles in four years?

State speech is a torrent of cross-current performance streams. Classrooms are the competition sites, with speakers, judges, room managers, coaches and fans studying maps of the school to find the room and speaker(s) they want to see. In the first three rounds, six speakers are in each room and their lineups change during those rounds so different judges can see them. Following the first three rounds, the top eight in each category advance to the championship round, with each category viewed by five judges.

In Extemporaneous Speaking, Moorhead’s Bridget McManamon’s first-round presentation centered on President Trump’s relationship with American workers and labor unions. As she made her points while discussing things like NAFTA and jobs in the coal industry, Bridget quoted articles from The Economist, Politico and other sources.

Evyn Judisch -- competing in Creative Expression with a highly entertaining presentation that he authored (titled “Greetings Mr. Ducksworth”) -- sat at a classroom desk waiting for the room manager to start the round. All the speakers dress in business attire; males in dark suits and females in skirts and jackets. Evyn (pictured), with slicked-back hair and large eyeglasses, owned the room as he voiced three characters and physically “became” them. He had seemed small as he sat at the desk but was larger than life during his performance.

In a nearby classroom a few minutes later, Moorhead’s Kaden Moszer was the opposite of teammate Evyn during his Serious Interpretation of Prose speech: “I’m Not a Serial Killer” by Dan Wells. While Evyn made Room 219C laugh, Room 211 was buried in absolute silence as Kaden glared, glowered, muttered, screamed and raised an invisible knife (no props are used).

“By the end of the season they’ve been giving these speeches for a while,” Meyer-Larson said. “It’s fresh every weekend, but we always tell them you walk up to the front of the room and they ought to see in you that you love your words, you love this activity, love your team and represent the activity and your school.”

After three rounds, lists of those who qualified for the championship round were posted on TV monitors throughout the bright, spacious school. As everyone waited, Meyer-Larson reiterated with a hint of nervousness, “This isn’t wrestling. You just don’t know.”

The results, as it turned out, were very good for the Spuds: 16 of them advanced to the final round. That meant 16 medals would be traveling home to Moorhead, but even after the competition ended there was more waiting. The awards ceremony was scheduled to begin in the gymnasium at 5:30 but there was a lengthy delay while results were finalized. Music was played in the gym as students sang and swayed to the likes of U2’s “Beautiful Day” and Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance.” When the Village People classic “YMCA” began to play, it was parents who were doing the dancing.

And then the results were announced, with MSHSL speech rules clinician Cliff Janke at the podium. One by one, the eight finalists in each category came to the stage and stood in a line as winners of the eight medals were revealed, from eighth to first.

It quickly became clear that this was going to be Moorhead’s day. Storytelling state champion: “From Moorhead, McKensie Bedore.” Informative Speaking state champion: “From Moorhead, Sarah Schulz.” Serious Interpretation of Prose state champion: “From Moorhead, Noel Kangas.”

The first three categories to be announced resulted in three champs from Moorhead. Meyer-Larson sat in the bleachers with the team, standing, applauding and seeming breathless at times.

The Spuds’ Carolyn Solberg won gold in Great Speeches and teammate Maryn Cella placed third. In Serious Interpretation of Drama, Luke Seidel was second and Kenan Stoltenow was sixth. In Humorous Interpretation, Ariana Grollman finished as a state runner-up and Sophia Klindt was fourth.

The closers came through, too. Izzy and Devon were awarded their second consecutive state championship in Duo Interpretation and teammates Abby Dahlberg and Skyler Klostriech were fifth. Then came the team scores: Moorhead 84 points, Apple Valley 62, and Eagan and Lakeville North sharing third place with 34 points.

For the jubilant Spuds, this had become a day of Non-Extemporaneous Peaking.

“It was definitely kind of a trial to get through it,” Devon said of winning another title with Izzy. “I was really, really eager this year, even more than last year, to just be here. You of course want to do it again but you’ve got to swallow whatever happens. The fact that it went down this way is phenomenal.”

“The reason why these kids are so good is because Minnesota is so good,” said Meyer-Larson. “And that’s because of the Minnesota State High School League, the way they treat these kids. They treat them like rock stars. If you ask any kid here, they believe what they’re doing is every bit as important as what happened at state hockey or state wrestling. Because it is. The high school league does a brilliant job of making these kids feel special.”

After photos, hugs and even a few tears, the day – a remarkable day for the kids who were 250 miles from home -- had ended.

“It’s just so fun,” Izzy said. “One thing my mom says the most is that it’s not about the trophies and how well you do; it’s about the heart and how much passion you have for your speech and your team and sticking together and having an awesome time. And that’s we did. Sometimes it works out.”

Class 1A Softball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/22/2017 12:23:28 PM

Provided by the softball coaches association.

Rank.(prev) School (Section) -(Points)
1.(1) Edgerton/SWC (S3)-(63)
2.(1) New York Mills (S6)-(54)
3.(1) Sleepy Eye St. Mary's (S2)-(45)
4.(1) New Ulm Cathedral (S2)-(42)
5.(1) Sebeka (S5)-(36)
6.(1) Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (S3)-(33)
7.(1) Maranatha Christian Academy (S4)-(23)
8.(1) Randolph (S1)-(21)
8.(1) Sacred Heart* (S8)-(21)
10.(1) Bethlehem Academy (S1)-(20)
Others receiving votes: Cherry (S7)-(17), Mankato Loyola (S2)-(15),Kimball Area (S4)-(14), Badger/GB-MR* (S8)-(13), West Lutheran (S4)-(13), Brandon-Evansville (S6)-(11), Carlton (S7)-(11), B O L D (S3)-(8), Red Lake Falls (S8)-(4), Springfield (S2)-(2), Hillcrest Lutheran Academy* (S6)-(1), Nashwauk-Keewatin (S7)-(1)

Class 2A Softball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/22/2017 12:22:51 PM

Provided by the softball coaches association.

Rank.(prev) School (Section) -(Points)
1.(1) Pipestone Area (S3)-(73)
2.(1) Albany (S6)-(70)
3.(1) Maple Lake (S5)-(69)
4.(1) Cotter (S1)-(64)
5.(1) Chatfield (S1)-(49)
6.(1) Zumbrota-Mazeppa (S1)-(47)
7.(1) Fairmont (S2)-(35)
8.(1) Pine Island (S1)-(25)
9.(1) Park Rapids Area (S8)-(23)
10.(1) Rockford (S5)-(21)
Others receiving votes: Pequot Lakes (S6)-(16), Annandale (S5)-(15),Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta* (S3)-(15), Le Sueur-Henderson* (S2)-(14), Jordan (S2)-(13), Moose Lake/Willow River* (S7)-(13), Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (S8)-(12), Esko (S7)-(12), Jackson County Central (S3)-(8), Hawley (S8)-(7), St. Peter (S2)-(7), Minnehaha Academy (S4)-(6), Belle Plaine (S2)-(4)

Class 3A Softball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/22/2017 12:22:01 PM

Provided by the softball coaches association.

Rank.(prev) School (Section) -(Points)
1.(1) Mankato West (S2)-(77)
2.(1) Hermantown (S7)-(53)
3.(1) Visitation (S3)-(44)
4.(1) Becker (S5)-(42)
5.(1) Stewartville (S1)-(40)
6.(1) St. Anthony Village (S4)-(37)
7.(1) Benilde-St. Margaret's (S6)-(32)
8.(1) Hutchinson (S2)-(29)
9.(1) St. Paul Como Park (S4)-(28)
10.(1) Detroit Lakes (S8)-(27)
Others receiving votes: Academy of Holy Angels (S3)-(26), Rocori (S5)-(26),Totino-Grace (S4)-(18), Winona (S1)-(17), Chisago Lakes (S7)-(16), Mankato East (S2)-(13), Kasson-Mantorville (S1)-(9), Mahtomedi (S4)-(4), Alexandria Area (S8)-(3), Delano (S6)-(2), Waconia (S6)-(2), Big Lake (S5)-(1)

Class 4A Softball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/22/2017 12:21:18 PM

Provided by the softball coaches association.

Rank.(prev) School (Section) -(Points)
1.(1) Chanhassen (S2)-(84)
2.(1) Forest Lake (S7)-(57)
3.(1) Anoka (S7)-(44)
3.(1) Farmington (S1)-(44)
3.(1) Park (S3)-(44)
6.(1) Buffalo (S8)-(41)
7.(1) Stillwater Area (S4)-(38)
8.(1) Woodbury (S4)-(27)
9.(1) Blaine (S7)-(26)
10.(1) Bloomington Jefferson (S2)-(25)
Others receiving votes: Rosemount (S3)-(21), Hastings (S3)-(18),New Prague (S1)-(15), Hopkins (S6)-(14), Maple Grove (S5)-(10), Eastview (S3)-(9), Prior Lake (S2)-(9), Spring Lake Park (S5)-(8), Eagan (S3)-(7), North (S4)-(5)

Jackson County Central Tradition: The Twitter Barrage
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/20/2017 11:01:04 AM

Several members of the Jackson County Central track and field team were sitting around a backyard fire one evening after a track meet, doing what teenagers do. They talked, they laughed, they shared moments from that day’s competition. But they also kept an eye on their cell phones, because they knew something good was coming on Twitter.

It’s known as a “Twitter barrage” and it’s the work of their coach, Rafe York. Following each competition, after everyone has returned home and York is looking through the results, he begins issuing Tweets that are a mixture of results, jokes and entertaining observations. Some samples …

Kailey Koep discovered that if she sprints on the runway, she'll jump farther in the long jump. Who'd a thunk?

Matt Strom threw the shot 37' 7.5, which I believe is one foot farther than the average flight of a North Korean missile.

“It’s so fun,” said sophomore track team member Hailey Handevidt. “My mom was in Rochester and she texted me because she wanted to know when the Twitter barrage was coming out.”

Huskies junior Molly Boyum said, “They’re funny. Everybody waits for them to get done. We all want to see what he has to say about us and what sarcastic comments he has.”

The account can be found at @JCCTandF on Twitter. Several hundred people follow the account.

York, who teaches English, also is the head coach of the Huskies girls and boys cross-country teams (and yes, he posts Twitter barrages after cross-country competitions, too) and an assistant boys basketball coach. He has been the Jackson County Central track coach for seven years.

Clayton Cavness made his varsity debut and learned a valuable lesson. Distance runners shouldn't eat like throwers.

In the second heat of the girls' 300 Hurdles Zoe Pohlman left a face-shaped dent in the track... but she popped up, finished the race, and placed 9th...the scrapes all over her body are going to burn in the shower.

“When I took over I thought we needed a way to get results out,” York said. “Twitter was the way to go. At first it was just basic results and I guess my personality started coming through.

“I figure track is a hard enough sell. If I can make it look a little more fun by goofing off a little and having fun, maybe it will get more kids out.”

We didn't run a girls' 4x200 or 4x800. The blame should be placed squarely on Annika's tonsils.

Easton Bahr placed 5th in the 100. He also learned that if the gun is fired a second time, it means stop because there was a false start.

Clearly, York isn’t afraid to give his athletes an elbow in the ribs via Twitter. They know him – and his sense of humor – well and they look forward to seeing their name in the latest barrage.

“Sometimes we’ll say stuff that is kind of dumb or funny or just like weird, and he’ll put it in his barrage and make fun of us,” Boyum said. “And then we’re like, ‘OK, now the whole world knows about that.’ ”

Handevidt said, “He likes to Tweet a lot, and they’re always funny to read. And it won’t just be about the track meet. It’ll be about something that happens on the bus and we’ll just laugh about it.”

York said one of the benefits of being in a small town is that he knows the kids and their parents.

“It works as long as the kids and the parents are going to appreciate the joke,” he said.

He ends every barrage with the same message: I love Track season. That’s a statement heard frequently around the Huskies in the spring.

“I’ve been saying that in practice for years,” York said. “I was a head coach in Colorado and one day in practice I just sort of blurted it out. When we’re out practicing in the rain, I’ll yell. 'I love track season!’ ” (Pictured here is York with Hailey Handevidt, Molly Boyum and Jessica Christoffer.)

If you're a junior and you're still reading tonight's barrage, GO TO BED! You have the ACT tomorrow.

Did I mention @jamiek1980 brought cookies from the Lakefield Bakery to celebrate Kailey's birthday? I only ate three.

“I think it’s really great,” junior Jessica Christoffer said of the coach’s post-meet social-media habit. “I always stay up super late just to hear what York has to say. It’s also great to see what he has to say about the other people that I may have missed in the meet.

“If our 4x4 does really good, we’ll say, ‘York, our 4x4 needs a Twitter barrage. Say something about the starter, and then second, third and fourth!’ ”

Reaction to the Twitter barrages comes not only from athletes and their parents.

“It’s kind of crazy,” York said. “I’ll come into school the next day and people will ask me about it; ‘Hey, what did that one mean?’ I like seeing the reactions. Sometimes I get distracted seeing who’s liking and who’s re-Tweeting.”

Hailey lists The Shawshank Redemption, Saving Private Ryan, and Avatar amoung her favorite movies. None of them would make my Top 5. I used the British spelling of "among" intentionally there.

Sophie Johnson, Hailey Handevidt, Zoe Pohlman, Regional Manager Kaitlin Feroni, and I talked Prom, movies, and music on the way home.

The Huskies’ next track meet will be Monday in St. Peter.

A new barrage will follow.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 592
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 10,105
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Class 1A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/19/2017 2:19:55 PM

The Associated Press polls for Minnesota baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. Springfield
2. Parkers Prairie
3. Legacy Christian Academy
4. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley
6. Deer River
7. Hinckley-Finlayson
8. Heritage Christian Academy
9. Randolph
10. Mankato Loyola
11. New York Mills
12. New Ulm Cathedral
13. Adrian
14. Red Lake County
15. Wabasha/Kellogg
16. Wabasso
17. Minneota
18. Ely
19. Fosston
20. Cherry
Also receiving votes: Cleveland, South Ridge, Canby, Hill City/Northland, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Murray County Central, Menahga, Mayer Lutheran, Lyle/Austin Pacelli, Sleepy Eye, Norman County, Ortonville, Hayfield, PACT Charter School, United South Central

Class 2A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/19/2017 2:19:18 PM

The Associated Press polls for Minnesota baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. Belle Plaine
2. Minnehaha Academy
3. New Life Academy of Woodbury
4. St. Cloud Cathedral
5. Holy Family Catholic
6. Jackson County Central
7. Pierz
8. Rochester Lourdes
9. New London-Spicer
10. Fairmont
11. Paynesville Area
12. Maple Lake
13. Aitkin
14. Pine Island
15. St. Charles
16. Glencoe-Silver Lake
17. Cannon Falls
18. Kenyon-Wanamingo
19. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
20. Caledonia
Also receiving votes: Pipestone Area, Foley, Annandale, Proctor, Luverne, Pequot Lakes, Norwood Young America, Sauk Centre, Mora, Lake City, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, Frazee, Maple River

Class 3A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/19/2017 2:18:38 PM

The Associated Press polls for Minnesota baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. Northfield
2. New Ulm
3. Mahtomedi
4. Benilde-St. Margaret’s
5. Little Falls
6. Marshall
7. Waconia
8. St. Cloud Tech
9. Bemidji
10. Henry Sibley
11. Winona
12. Fridley
13. Delano
14. Rocori
15. Hibbing
16. Mankato West
17. Holy Angels
18. South St. Paul
19. Worthington
20. Chisago Lakes Area
Also receiving votes: Sauk Rapids-Rice, Alexandria, Hutchinson, Albany, St. Thomas Academy, Orono, Sartell-St. Stephen, Kasson-Mantorville, Jordan, Duluth Denfeld, Albert Lea, Mound Westonka

Class 4A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/19/2017 2:18:05 PM

The Associated Press polls for Minnesota baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. Minnetonka
2. Champlin Park
3. Forest Lake
4. Wayzata
5. Burnsville
6. Centennial
7. Stillwater Area
8. Lakeville North
9. Edina
10. Maple Grove
11. Eden Prairie
12. Woodbury
13. Osseo
14. Blaine
15. Cretin-Derham Hall
16. Eastview
17. Chanhassen
18. Chaska
19. St. Michael-Albertville
20. Anoka
Also receiving votes: Shakopee, Duluth East, Totino-Grace, East Ridge, Prior Lake, Hill-Murray, Grand Rapids, Buffalo, Park Cottage Grove, Andover, Apple Valley, Tartan, Hopkins, St. Francis

St. Clair’s Mitchell Weber: Winning With Either Hand
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/17/2017 8:39:37 PM

Mitchell Weber is not Superman, but the well-decorated junior from St. Clair High School has certainly accomplished some super things.

He was the Class 1A state champion in the discus as a freshman and finished second in the shot put. In his sophomore season last year he swept both throwing events at state and ran a leg on the Cyclones’ fifth-place 4x200-meter relay team.

This season began in a weird way for Mitchell, who stands 6-foot-6, weighs around 230 pounds and also plays football and basketball. His basketball season ended early when he suffered a broken left wrist – his throwing wrist -- in a snowmobile accident.

“I rolled over on top of the wrist,” he said. “Right away I knew it was broken. There was a huge hump on it. I knew it was definitely broken.”

The wrist was encased in a cast as Weber waited for track and field season to begin. And this is where the superhero theme begins: In the first three meets of the season, all indoors, the left-handed Weber threw the shot with his right hand. And he finished first in two of those three meets.

Did he even consider not competing?

“That definitely was not going to happen,” he said. “I was definitely going to compete whether it was with my right hand or whatever it was going to be. I just thought I could give it a try and do it for the first couple meets. It ended up not being too bad, but I’ve got to get back to it with my left hand.”

He was speaking after he had finished competing in the Chuck Halliday Invitational at Norwood-Young America. It was a pretty typical day for Weber: he finished second in the discus and won the shot put, long jump and joined senior Caleb Hall, junior Jack Thompson and sophomore Noah Schruin in winning the 4x200 relay.

That’s right. He runs, he jumps, he throws. And he wins.

The cast was removed from his wrist nearly a month ago and now he’s working on building up strength and focusing on technique.

“It’s definitely a struggle to get back to it, that’s for sure,” he said. “I’ve got to fix a lot of form and I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

His winning distance in the shot put at Norwood-Young America was 48 feet, 11 inches, which ranks as the fourth-best among Class 1A athletes this spring. His best discus attempt was 143-2; winner Frank Turek, a senior from LeSueur-Henderson, threw 147-3.

The all-time state records are 65-8 in the shot put and 201-7 in the discus. With nearly two full track and field seasons remaining, Weber is aware of those records and nearly offered a guarantee that he would break both.

“Those are definitely the records that I’m looking for. They will be beaten by the time I get done,” he said before restating: “They should be.”

Weber threw 59 feet in the shot and 174-0 in the discus in sweeping those events at the state meet last year. He said his goals this season are to hit around 63 feet in the shot and 195 to 200 in the discus.

He grew up watching his sister Katelyn compete in the throwing events at a championship level. She won both events at state as a senior in 2014 and also won the shot put as a junior. She now is on the track and field team at the University of North Dakota.

“I’ve been around it for I don’t know how many years and I still go to her meets,” Mitchell said.

He has made no college decision and is unsure which sport he would like to compete in after high school. He’s certainly hearing from lots of colleges.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet,” he said. “Right now I’m leaning towards track; it’s either going to be track or basketball.”

The Halliday Invitational was held on a chilly, overcast day and Weber kept his head warm in a noticeable way. He wore a woolly winter hat that was black with a monkey face on top and monkey ears on the sides.

It had a lot to do with staying warm but more to do with being someone who doesn’t always conform.

“I’m not usually the kid who wants to be like everybody else,” Mitchell said with a smile. “I always like being that kid who’s a lot different.”

He’s had unique headgear each year in high school: a dinosaur in ninth grade and a Minion in 10th grade.

“I just like to be different, that’s for sure,” he said.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 590
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 10,045
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

DeLaSalle to Drake: Dave Thorson Returns To College Hoops
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/15/2017 4:47:49 PM

Saturday was Dave Thorson’s second day on the job as an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. After 23 years as the head coach at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis – where Thorson’s teams won nine state championships, including the last six in a row in Class 3A -- the 51-year-old is beginning a new adventure with a new team at a new school in a new town. And he’s making an impression.

After a GPS-aided drive from a Des Moines hotel to the Drake campus Saturday morning, he was walking from his car to the basketball offices when he crossed paths with a member of the university maintenance staff.

The maintenance guy said, “You’re here early.” To which Thorson replied, “You’ll get used to seeing me.”

Thorson’s hiring was announced by the university Friday. Soon after, he was greeting a recruit and the young man’s family for a campus visit. When it was time for the visitors to take a tour of the campus, Thorson tagged along to make himself more familiar with his new school, a private liberal-arts university with an enrollment of 5,000. The Bulldogs play Division I basketball in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Thorson, his wife Rita and their 8-year-old daughter Ella will be moving to Des Moines, and the coach is excited about their new adventure.

“I’m only officially two days in,” he said during a Saturday afternoon phone conversation as he drove from Des Moines to the Twin Cities. “All of it’s been great. I love the fact that the school has a sterling reputation. It reminds me a lot of DeLaSalle, frankly.”

Thorson, a native of Fargo, N.D., began his coaching career as an assistant at South Dakota in 1989 and was an assistant at the University of Minnesota from 1990 to 1994 before taking over as coach at DeLaSalle. His Islanders teams had a record of 527-130 but the numbers mean less to him than the bonds he forged at the Catholic school that was founded in 1900.

“It was an incredibly hard decision,” he said. “I love my kids. The relationships that I have with them is something that I really value and cherish.

“As much as I loved going to DeLaSalle, I wouldn’t have predicted that I’d be there for 23 years. It was absolutely the greatest decision of my life. To be a part of the DeLaSalle culture; when I stepped into it I had no idea how it would impact me.”

Thorson initially taught social studies at DeLaSalle and was the school’s athletic director from 1997 to 2004, when he became the vice president of development. In that position, he helped secure nearly $30 million in funds for DeLaSalle.

During Thorson’s time as a Gophers assistant coach under Clem Haskins, one of the student managers (and later an assistant coach under Dan Monson) was a Roseville High School graduate named Niko Medved. After four years as the head coach at Furman University in South Carolina, he was named Drake’s head coach the day after this year’s MSHSL boys state basketball tournament ended. One of his first calls was to Thorson; they have been friends for two decades.

“He and I philosophically are a lot alike,” Thorson said. “Niko was kind of my right-hand guy at Minnesota; he was way more than a manager. And the relationship we have extends beyond basketball. My daughter was the flower girl at his wedding. His wife and my wife are very good friends. Our families have spent time together. That part of it, for me, that personal part, is extremely important.”

Medved, 43, was an assistant under Monson for one year before becoming an assistant at Furman for seven years. He then was an assistant at Colorado State for six years before returning to Furman as head coach.

“Adding a coach of Dave's caliber is tremendous for Drake basketball,” Medved said. “Dave is the entire package. He's one of the best coaches in the history of Minnesota and one of the best coaches I know. He's a tremendous leader and communicator who develops players in all areas of their lives. His vision is in direct alignment with my vision and the mission of Drake University.”

Thorson said, “Some would say that being a college basketball assistant coach is a young man’s game. I would say that I know right now I still have the passion.’

Anyone who has watched DeLaSalle play over the years has never doubted Thorson’s passion. He has been known to be in a full sweat before tipoff and he spends most of the time during games standing and exhorting his players, yelling “Contain! Contain!” while his teams play defense. At the end of his final game at DeLaSalle, as the starters were replaced one at a time at the end of a 72-44 state-championship victory over Austin at Target Center, he smothered each of them in a bear hug.

“I just felt like from a timing perspective that DeLaSalle basketball is at an apex right now,” he said. “I think it’s a premier program in the state and it will continue because it’s built on people. I was just the guy who happened to be the head coach, but there are so many people who make it happen. The program’s in great shape.

“If there was any wavering on that I wouldn’t leave because I believe too much in the place. Now someone can come in and keep it going. Some of the grinding work of getting it going, that field’s been plowed. From that perspective, I just felt like the timing was right.”

Thorson said he will miss his DeLaSalle players, along with other people he came to know so well there. Asked about the memories he holds, he said, “Without question it’s all the relationships. First with my basketball players. We sort of stand on the shoulders of others, and with that understanding, I think back to my first team that really sold out and worked hard. Frankly I think there was a little fear to buy in, in terms of preparation and intensity, but it’s grown to a championship level.

“It took a few years to establish that culture. I’ll forever be indebted and grateful to those players. And the relationships I’ve had with other students and people I’ve worked with over the course of time. One of the things I say all the time is ‘Once an Islander, always an Islander.’ I may be a Bulldog now but I’ll be an Islander for life.”

The Drake men’s and women’s basketball teams play home games at the on-campus, 7,152-seat Knapp Center, which is next door to a new $8 million, 44,000 square-foot practice facility that includes locker rooms, team lounges and a film room.

“They raised the money for the practice facility in one year,” Thorson said. “There’s no question that Drake wants a winner. If I didn’t think we couldn’t be competitive, I wouldn’t have done this.”

One of Thorson’s former DeLaSalle players is on the Drake roster. Samm Jones is a redshirt freshman who transferred from Northwestern at the end of the fall semester. Also on the team is Edina graduate Graham Woodward, who played in all 62 games the Bulldogs have played in the last two seasons, starting 27 games last season when Drake went 7-24 overall and 5-13 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

It’s a safe assumption that Thorson will work extremely hard in recruiting Minnesota players.

“I’m a Minnesota prep basketball fan, and Minnesota basketball is a place that in my mind is fertile for Drake,” he said. “I’m going to spend time in Minnesota making sure all the guys who want to play college basketball understand that Drake is a great option.”

--John Millea is a graduate of Drake University.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 590
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 10,045
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

So High So Early: Pipestone’s Woelber Makes His Mark
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/13/2017 11:02:39 AM

LUVERNE -- Tyl Woelber had a pretty good day at his first track and field competition of the 2017 season. The junior from Pipestone competed in three field events, finished first in all three, and ran a leg on the Arrows’ winning 4x400 relay team at Tuesday’s Cardinal Relays.

The high jump stood out, with Woelber surpassing his own expectations and posting a mark that rang out statewide. The 6-foot Woelber cleared 6 feet, 7 inches, matching his personal best as well as his school record. He finished second at last year’s Class 1A state meet with a height of 6-5, and Tuesday’s 6-7 is the best performance in the state so far this season.

That he went so high so early in the spring was a surprise to everyone, maybe especially to Tyl.

“I was hoping to get to 6-5 because that was the meet record here,” he said. “But it’s the first meet of the year and I didn’t really know if it was going to happen.”

That meet record had stood for 20 years, and Woelber joined some familiar company among the record-holders at the Cardinal Relays. His sister Bree, a 2011 Pipestone grad, holds meet records in the girls 300-meter hurdles and long jump.

Bree was a two-time state champion in the 100 meters, also won a title in the 300-meter hurdles and was a state runner-up in the 100 hurdles and long jump. She competed in track at Iowa State for three years before transferring to Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., where she was a first-team All-American in the high jump, was named Field Athlete of the Year in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and earned All-Region honors in the heptathlon, high jump and javelin. She is now a graduate assistant coach at Augustana.

Tyl has three older sisters; Bree, Sarah and Brooke were all athletes.

“It’s a track family,” said Tyl, who watched Bree compete at Pipestone, Iowa State and Augustana. “I just wanted to grow up to be like Bree. She’s great. My other sisters were athletes, too, and I wanted to keep the family name going.”

Ty went to state in all three jumps and as part of the Arrows’ 4x400 relay team last year. Along with his runner-up finish in the long jump, he placed fifth in the triple jump, seventh in the long jump and joined Carter Nesvold, Devin Tinklenberg and Eli Stevens in a fifth-place 4x400 fifth.

With Stevens graduating, Woelber ran the third leg Tuesday on Pipestone’s winning 4x400 team along with Justin Kooiman, Nesvold and Tinklenberg.

“The 4x4 is my most favorite event, because it gets so hyped at the end. Everyone’s screaming and it’s awesome,” said Tyl, who also plays football and basketball.

Woelber’s winning distances in Tuesday’s other events were 21-2 ½ in the long jump and 43-2 ½ in the triple jump. The Pipestone school records are 22-2 ¾ (a mark that has stood since 1970) and 45-6 ½ (set in 1990).

In the high jump, he made three unsuccessful cracks at clearing 6-foot-8 on Tuesday. The state record in the high jump is 7-1, a mark first set by Rochester John Marshall’s Rod Raver in 1973 and matched by Chaska’s Jon Markuson in 1993.

“6-8 is super high,” Tyl said. As for 7-1? He smiled and said, “Maybe next year I’ll get it.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 582
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 9,959
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Class 1A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/12/2017 6:55:12 PM

The Associated Press rankings for Minnesota high school baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. Springfield
2. Parkers Prairie
3. Legacy Christian Academy
4. Randolph
5. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley
6. Wabasha/Kellogg
8. Hinckley-Finlayson
9. Cherry
10. New York Mills
11. Ely
12. Heritage Christian Academy
13. New Ulm Cathedral
14. Mankato Loyola
15. Adrian
16. Wabasso
17. Deer River
18. Minneota
19. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa
20. Ortonville
Also receiving votes: Mayer Lutheran, Red Lake County, Hayfield, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s, Fosston, Canby, Lewiston-Altura, South Ridge, Central Minnesota Christian, Kimball Area, Cleveland, PACT Charter School, ML/GHEC/Truman, Murray County Central, Menahga, Nevis, Lyle/Austin Pacelli, United South Central, Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, West Central, Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton, Hill City/Northland, North Woods

Class 2A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/12/2017 6:54:40 PM

The Associated Press rankings for Minnesota high school baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. Minnehaha Academy
2. Belle Plaine
3. St. Cloud Cathedral
4. New Life Academy of Woodbury
5. Holy Family Catholic
6. Pierz
7. Paynesville Area
8. Annandale
9. Maple Lake
10. Jackson County Central
11. Fairmont
12. Rochester Lourdes
13. Foley
14. Melrose Area
15. Aitkin
16. Pine Island
17. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
18. Minnewaska Area
19. New London-Spicer
20. Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove
Also receiving votes: Glencoe-Silver Lake, Kenyon-Wanamingo, Cannon Falls, St. Charles, Pipestone Area, Caledonia, Norwood Young America, Proctor, Frazee, Sauk Centre, Pequot Lakes

Class 3A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/12/2017 6:54:01 PM

The Associated Press rankings for Minnesota high school baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. Henry Sibley
2. Northfield
3. Mahtomedi
4. Little Falls
5. New Ulm
6. Marshall
7. Benilde-St. Margaret’s
8. Winona
9. Delano
10. Rocori
11. Mankato West
12. Waconia
13. Fridley
14. St. Cloud Tech
15. Bemidji
16. South St. Paul
17. Chisago Lakes Area
18. Hibbing
19. Faribault
20. Worthington
Also receiving votes: Albany, Hutchinson, Sartell-St. Stephen, Albert Lea, Alexandria, Kasson-Mantorville, Mankato East, St. Thomas Academy, Detroit Lakes, Red Wing, North Branch, St. Anthony Village, Orono, Austin, Willmar, Holy Angels, Jordan

Class 4A Baseball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/12/2017 6:53:02 PM

The Associated Press rankings for Minnesota high school baseball, provided by Let's Play Baseball newspaper.

1. Minnetonka
2. Burnsville
3. Woodbury
4. Maple Grove
5. Eden Prairie
6. Champlin Park
7. Wayzata
8. Lakeville North
9. Forest Lake
10. Edina
11. Centennial
12. Eastview
13. Chanhassen
14. Chaska
15. Blaine
16. Stillwater Area
17. Anoka
18. Cretin-Derham Hall
19. St. Michael-Albertville
20. Coon Rapids
Also receiving votes: Totino-Grace, Shakopee, Duluth East, Hill-Murray, Apple Valley, Elk River, Grand Rapids, Buffalo, Osseo, Moorhead, Andover, Eagan, Hopkins

Class 1A Boys Tennis Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/12/2017 1:35:51 PM

Provided by the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association.

1 Blake
2 Breck
3 Rochester Lourdes
4 St. Paul Academy
5 Litchfield
6 Hibbing
7 Holy Family Catholic
8 Mound Westonka
9 St. Peter
10 Luverne

1 Ben Ingbar, Blake
2 Jack Barker, Blake
3 Joe Mairs, Blake
4 Peter Erickson, Rochester Lourdes
5 Karthik Papisetty, Breck
6 Thomas Metz, Breck
7 Mathew Metz, Breck
8 Ryan Ortega, Winona Cotter
9 Rafait Solaiman, St. Peter
10 Jose Williamson, Minnehaha

Class 2A Boys Tennis Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/12/2017 1:35:17 PM

Provided by the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association.

1 Minnetonka
2 Rochester Century
3 East Ridge
4 Mounds View
5 Lakeville South
6 Rochester Mayo
7 Wayzata
8 Edina
9 Eastview
10 Benilde

1 Ben van der Sman, East Ridge
2 Nikita Snezhko, Armstrong
3 Sebastian Vile, Rochester Mayo
4 Ben Wheaton, Minnetonka
5 Gavin Young, Eastview
6 Maxim Zagrebelny, Eagan
7 Varun Iyer, Century
8 Connor Olson, Orono
9 Chase Roseth, Lakeville South
10 Sam Hochberger, Maple Grove

Getting Back On Track As A New Season Begins
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/9/2017 2:03:44 PM

The first weeks of the track and field season are all about preparation. Individual athletes and relay teams work on technique, speed and endurance while trying not to overdo things and risk injury. The goal is to be reaching top form near the midway point of the season and pushing through to – hopefully – the state championship meet in June.

A perfect example is Bloomington Kennedy senior Honour Finley, one of the top athletes in the state. She is coming off basketball season and working to get into track shape, with the goal of winning the Class 2A state title in the 400 meters for the third time and lowering the all-time state record of 53.96 seconds she set in 2016.

In her first outdoor meet of the season Friday, Finley won the 400 in 56.83, the 200 in 25.71 and was 13th in the long jump during the 14-team Knights Under the Lights Invitational at Irondale High School.

“I focus on getting back into track shape, making sure my form is still good and fine-tuning the little things,” she said of her early-season goals.

She’s focused less on her times right now and more on transforming from basketball condition to track condition, saying training for track takes more endurance.

“It’s a lot different,” she said. “There’s a lot of running in basketball but it’s not the same.”

Another high-level athlete making the change from basketball to track is Genuine Matthews. The senior from St. Francis placed second at state in the 2A boys 400 meters last year. After running one indoor meet, the Irondale invitational was Matthews’ first outdoor competition of 2017.

Matthews, who will be a college track athlete at North Dakota State, has focused his training on the 400 this year.

“It’s definitely different. I’m doing way more distances than last year, because I didn’t know that the 400 was going to be my main race until the end of the year,” he said.

One of the state’s top returning relay teams is the girls 4x200 unit from Waconia. They were state champs in 2016 with a time of 1:40.79; the state record is 1:40.08, set by Hopkins in 2010.

Allie Marrs was a senior on Waconia’s 4x200 team last year, but the other three runners return: current senior Molly Reighard and juniors Danielle Pioske and Madison Voigt.

“We know we kind of have that target on our back,” Pioske said after the Wildcats won the 4x200 at Irondale. “But it really pushes us to work harder and run better times. We definitely want to stay healthy and just keep working hard in practice and meets to get our times consistent to where they were at the end of last season.”

Voigt said, “Our goal is definitely to be better than we were and keep getting better. I think last year our plan developed through the season, where we just kind of moved things around, tested things out from meet to meet and saw how things went. We showed at the state meet that it worked.”

Another returning state finisher competing Friday was running on her home track. Irondale junior Julia Hayes was third at state in the 2A 100 and 300 hurdles last spring. She won both events Friday.

“I just want to improve from where I was last year at this point,” she said. “I didn’t have the fastest times at the beginning last year and I’m hoping to improve that.”

One of the most experienced state-meet athletes in Minnesota is North Branch senior distance runner Rhianna Rinke. She has qualified for state in track and cross-country every year since eighth grade and won the 1,600 on Friday at Irondale. She will run collegiately at Minnesota Duluth.

“I just want to PR as much as I can,” she said. “It’s my last high school season and I would love to go out with a bang and be happy.”

After running one indoor meet prior to the Knights Under the Lights Invitational, Rinke spoke for all the athletes when asked about competing outdoors for the first time in 2017.

“It feels good. I love the fresh air.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 572
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 9,559
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Baseball History Is Made Under A Glass Roof
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/4/2017 6:39:10 PM

Terry Ryan was trying to do something he has done thousands and thousands of times in his life as a baseball man: enter a ballpark.

The former Minnesota Twins general manager, now a special assignment scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, had recently returned to his Twin Cities home from spring training in Florida, and Tuesday’s plan was to scout some prep baseball in Minneapolis. The only stumbling block was gaining access to U.S. Bank Stadium, which was hosting high school baseball for the first time. Ryan was delayed getting through security, waiting as personnel made phone calls and peered at a computer screen before admitting him.

For Ryan, the day was like many others: he watched young ballplayers, hoping to find someone who may be worth a closer look. For the boys from Moorhead and Sartell-St. Stephen, however, they were making history as the first high school teams to play in the new billion-dollar home of the Minnesota Vikings, as well as MSHSL soccer and football state tournament games.

Baseball is usually the same no matter the location, with balls and strikes and fly balls and groundouts. It’s not quite the same at U.S. Bank Stadium –where the University of Minnesota and other college baseball teams also play -- because the sky is behind a glass roof and no dirt can be found. The entire playing surface is artificial turf, including home plate, the base paths, the pitcher’s mound and the mounds in the bullpens down the left- and right-field lines. Anyone looking for a place to spit or dig in their spikes came up empty.

The Moorhead Spuds arrived a couple of hours before the 12:45 to 3:45 p.m. time slot that they and the Sartell Sabres had been allotted. Coach Greg Salvevold didn’t know what the result of such an early arrival would be, but the Spuds were allowed on the field, giving them extra time for practice before scrimmaging the Sabres for three hours.

“Usually we’re still inside,” Salvevold said. “Being able to be outside for this whole week and coming to U.S. Bank and getting live reps on the field, it’s awesome.”

The Sabres and Spuds brought a total of 56 uniformed players, and everyone got on the field. Two more three-hour time slots followed Tuesday, with Kasson-Mantorville and Holy Family in the stadium from 4 to 7 p.m., and Kenyon-Wanamingo and Medford taking their turn from 7:15 to 10:15 p.m. Other teams will follow throughout April; by the end of the month 60 Minnesota high school teams will have played inside the stadium.

Each team pays the stadium $975 for their three-hour slot; part of those funds go toward paying umpires. Until recently, Salvevold and Sartell coach Jerome Nemanich were not aware that they would be the first high school teams to play at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“We didn’t know that,” Nemanich said. “They gave us the dates, and we just wanted to go during the third week of practice.”

Fans pay five dollars to watch from front-row seats if they wish. There was a smattering of spectators for the Moorhead-Sartell game, protected from foul balls and errant throws by a net that also covered the field-level suites that are used for Vikings games. The teams are housed in temporary dugouts, metal boxes with fenced fronts and rubber floors. Nemanich called them “chicken coops,” which was pretty accurate.

The football markings remain on the field, with additional white stripes put down for foul lines, batters boxes and outlines of the base paths.

The sounds of the game were standard stuff: “Let’s go 11!” and “Way to hang!” A second baseman was told to play as deep as he wanted, because “The ball’s gonna get there quick” on the turf. When the ball bounced, whether off the bat or into the ground on a pitch, tiny shards of rubber were kicked up in a strong imitation of infield dirt. The Sabres wore their full game uniforms while the Spuds were in numberless team T-shirts.The first pitcher to take the mound was Moorhead junior Sam Haiby, a Division I basketball recruit who is in her first year on the varsity baseball team.

As players wearing metal spikes walked from a behind-the-scenes batting cage to the field through a concrete corridor, a stadium employee said, “It sounds like an army marching in.”

Some outfielders and players sitting in the right field bullpen wore sunglasses to protect against the sun streaming through the roof. It was warm in the ballpark, warmer than any Minnesota ballplayer is accustomed to in April. The outdoor temperature was 62 degrees, and it was warmer than that inside.

“You don’t know how hot it is out there,” one of the Sabres said to his teammates after coming off the field and sitting in the shade of the chicken coop.

Afterwards, Moorhead senior Carter Howell said of the stadium, “It was pretty crazy, walking in and seeing it. I thought it would be more air-conditioned, be a little cooler.”

While the teams played, the business of the big stadium continued. Employees put a fresh shine on the floor in the exclusive Delta 360 Club behind the third-base dugout, a place for big spenders to hang out on Vikings game days. Later, a tour guide stood in the Delta 360 Club with a group of visitors. He explained how much club users pay for tickets, to which one of the tourists responded, “HOW much!?”

No scoreboards were used during the scrimmage and there was no stadium announcer. The three-hour time slot was counted down on a digital clock near one of the giant video screens, which are dark during high school play. As the window for Moorhead and Sartell began to close in the final minutes, players sprinted on and off the field as coaches yelled, “Go! Go! Go!”

On their team Twitter account (@SpudBaseball), the Spuds had been counting down the days until they walked onto the field in downtown Minneapolis.

“Ever since day 100, we’ve been counting it down on Twitter so the boys have been getting excited to be here and now it happened,” Salvevold said. “We’re getting our feet wet and getting ready for the season, I think that’s the most important thing.”

As the clock struck zero, the Spuds and Sabres exchanged handshakes and then posed for a two-team photo as parents and others put their cell-phone cameras to use from the stands.

One of the fans said with a laugh, “You don’t even have to rake the field before you leave!”

A few minutes later, the keys were turned in two buses that were loaded with ballplayers and their gear in the stadium’s airplane-hanger-sized loading dock. Everybody went home happy.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 562
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 9,489
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

In A New Baseball Season, The Miracle Of Henry Sibley Lives On
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/1/2017 12:26:35 PM

It’s a new season of high school baseball in Minnesota but you have to forgive people who want to talk about what the Henry Sibley Warriors accomplished last season. It’s a remarkable, one-in-a-million saga that will be remembered for a long, long time. Because how many teams in any sport anywhere go from a record of 4-14 to a state championship?

The Warriors – whose school is in Mendota Heights -- began the 2016 season with five losses before stringing together four consecutive wins. But that was followed by nine defeats in a row, giving them a record of 4-14. They closed the regular season with two wins and took a 6-14 mark into the double-elimination Section 3 playoffs.

They opened the postseason by beating St. Paul Highland Park 9-3 and losing to St. Thomas Academy 1-0. One more loss in the section tournament would have ended their season, but the Warriors won four games to claim the section title, then went to state and defeated Northfield, Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Mahtomedi to become Class 3A state champs.

Looking back from the doorstep of the 2017 season, returning members of the team can only shake their heads at the memories.

“We had our banquet before the section tournament started,” said current senior catcher Matt Richards. “Coach gave a little talk and said, ‘We’re not done yet. We still have to go out and finish the section tournament and try to make the most of it.’ The timing of that was funny because we were 4-14 and the regular season was done and nobody had any idea what was going to happen next.”

It was remarkable. After the state championship game at Target Field, Henry Sibley coach Greg Fehrman tried to explain, saying, “I can’t. I really can’t. I wish I could but I can’t. It’s one of those things that turned out the way it did.”

Henry Sibley’s only previous baseball state championship came in 1994; the team also went to state in 2005. It’s pretty easy to figure out the team’s goal this spring: Get back to state, but maybe without so much drama and high-wire intrigue.

“I’m one of those people that believes every time you start a new year, ultimately your goal is to win a state title,” said Fehrman, who is beginning his 27th year as the Warriors head coach. “You’re always trying to make sure you play the game as clean as you can play it. Make sure you throw the ball across the plate, get the outs you’re supposed to get and battle as best you can.”

Eight of last year’s 15 losses were by one run, so the Warriors weren’t as far behind the pack as their record may have made it look.

“It looks one way on the outside looking in, and on the inside looking out you get another look at it,” said Fehrman (pictured). “From my perspective, it’s one of those deals where we weren’t that bad. We lost a lot of games by one run. We had some concerns as far as injuries and a couple other issues. In the end, we started cleaning up our game a little bit. Once you start playing good it’s kind of contagious. We had a good understanding of how we wanted to go about the plan.”

The hope this season is that the Warriors’ contagious spirit continues.

“I think last year we just took it one day at a time,” said senior infielder and pitcher Joe Ihrke. “Earlier in the season we were probably trying to do too many big things. When we were unsuccessful at that we kind of took a step back and took it one day at a time, one practice at a time, one pitch at a time. I’m excited for this year. I think we have a chance to be successful this year.

“After the first day of practice (this season), coach Fehrman took us aside and said we made our hay last year but it’s a new year so that’s over with.”

There are six returning starters this year, but other than Richards behind the plate there are players who may be plugged in at several positions.

“We bring back a little pitching, catching, we’ve got to find a shortstop,” Fehrman said. “These kids nowadays, they love to play the game and it’s fun to be with them.”

One of the lessons of last season is that you never know what might happen when you stick together and play the game one pitch, one out at a time.

“Last year was unbelievable, crazy,” said senior outfielder Sam Gantman. “But it’s in the past. It’s a new team this year, a lot of young guys.”

There should be little reason for overconfidence, Fehrman said.

“You’ve always got to guard against kids hanging on to yesterday,” he said. “We talk about it. We make sure that for the kids who had a role in playing the game last year, they have to understand they need to extend themselves from that point. And for the kids filling in, they have to be contributing.”

If all goes well this spring, the Warriors seniors will finish their high school career with an overall winning record. They’re not there yet.

“We’re two games under .500, ” Irhke said, smiling. “We still have a losing record in our high school career but we’re state champs.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 560
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 9,443
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Class 2A Boys Tennis Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/1/2017 12:21:40 PM

Provided by the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association


1 Minnetonka
2 Rochester Century
3 East Ridge
4 Mounds View
5 Lakeville South
6 Rochester Mayo
7 Eastview
8 Wayzata
9 Edina
10 Benilde

1 Ben van der Sman, East Ridge
2 Nikita Snezhko, Armstrong
3 Sebastian Vile, Rochester Mayo
4 Ben Wheaton, Minnetonka
5 Gavin Young, Eastview
6 Maxim Zagrebelny, Eagan
7 Varun Iyer, Century
8 Connor Olson, Orono
9 Chase Roseth, Lakeville South
10 Sam Hochberger, Maple Grove

Class 1A Boys Tennis Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 4/1/2017 12:20:54 PM

Provided by the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association


1 Blake
2 Breck
3 Rochester Lourdes
4 St. Paul Academy
5 Litchfield
6 Foley
7 Holy Family Catholic
8 Hibbing
9 Mound Westonka
10 Luverne

1 Ben Ingbar, Blake
2 Jack Barker, Blake
3 Joe Mairs, Blake
4 Peter Erickson, Rochester Lourdes
5 Karthik Papisetty, Breck
6 Thomas Metz, Breck
7 Mathew Metz, Breck
8 Ryan Ortega, Winona Cotter
9 Rafait Solaiman, St. Peter
10 Jose Williamson, Minnehaha

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