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A Taste Of High School Football In June ... And A Look Back
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/27/2012 10:05:24 AM

The 39th annual Minnesota High School All-Star Football Game will be held Saturday at Husky Stadium on the campus of St. Cloud State University. The kick-off will be at 1 p.m., making this the first afternoon All-Star Football Game since 2004.

The game will showcase outstanding senior players from the 2011 football season. Players and coaches representing 78 schools and 31 conferences will participate in this year’s game. They were selected by members of the Minnesota Football Coaches Association. The 88 players and 14 coaches are spending this week at St. John’s University, the site of training camp for the game, which will pit teams from the North and South.

I’ve been spending time this week compiling my annual “Best Of” column, highlighting some of my favorite moments from 2011-12. This popular tradition began years ago when I was working at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and I’m happy to continue it with the MSHSL (that column will be posted next week).

With football in the air this week, I’m providing a preview of the “Best Of” column, with three football-related items from last season. Each item is from the football playoffs and all three vignettes come from the postgame words of coaches, speaking either to their players or to the media.

While all three items are football-related, they also are great examples of the types of people who coach our state’s young people in all sports and activities. You can tell by these coaches’ words that they care deeply about their athletes, now and in the future…

Best Postgame Words (Part I): After Eden Prairie defeated Wayzata in the Class 5A football championship game, Wayzata coach Brad Anderson (pictured) spoke to his players, who were tearfully gathered around him on one knee. His words were simple yet powerful.

“It hurts because it means something to you,” he told the boys. “And I'm proud of every one of you.”

Best Postgame Words (Part II): After Fairmont was defeated in the Prep Bowl, I asked coach Mat Mahoney what he had said to his players.

“I told them that I loved them,” he said. “I told them that this season they became better people, they became better teammates, they became better football players. We grew as a team as the season went on.

“These boys have done everything that we’ve asked them to do, and to be able to make a run like this is very special for our community. Just look at all the fans we had in the stands today; that’s what it’s all about. At the end of the day, football’s only a game. The support we saw out there with our crowd, our community was just phenomenal.”

Best Postgame Words (Part III): Brooks Bollinger, a former University of Wisconsin and NFL quarterback, had just finished his first year as head coach at Hill-Murray with a narrow loss in the state semifinals.

After leaving the locker room with moist eyes, he said, “I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms, and that was just a special one. I’m fortunate to be a part of it. It’s pretty emotional. We have a great group of seniors. It’s one of the reasons I love being a high school coach; what makes it great also hurts you so much when it ends; just being a part of these kids’ lives and getting so attached to them.

“We were so lucky to get the experience we did and have some success. It hurts when you get that close and don’t get it done, but my message to them was we lost today, but we won, I won, to be able to be part of something like this.”

A few months later, Bollinger left Hill-Murray to become an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 690
*Miles John has driven: 9,119
(*During the 2011-12 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

All Day Fore Africa Continues To Grow And Inspire
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/21/2012 11:24:48 AM

Ten days ago, I wrote about Worthington High School golfer Kate Lesnar and the project she started two years to raise money for children and their school at a village in Rwanda. The effort, called All Day Fore Africa, is a simple thought that goes a long ways … 8,000 miles, in fact, from Minnesota to Rwanda.

The third annual All Day Fore Africa golf outing was held Wednesday at Worthington Country Club. I drove to Worthington and spent part of the day with the golfers. The weather was a bit cool and rainy, but the enthusiasm by participants of all ages was unchecked and smiles were abundant.

Sports editor Chris Murphy of the Worthington Daily Globe wrote about Wednesday’s event, and I’m happy to reprint his story here (along with some photos I shot; a full photo gallery from the day is posted on the MSHSL Facebook page). Congrats to everybody associated with All Day Fore Africa!

Going for the green for Africa: WHS’s Lesnar combines her 2 loves to connect with Rwanda

By Chris Murphy, Worthington Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — The eyes of a golfer are always targeted on the green. Worthington’s Kate Lesnar is no different, seeing as she finished 14th in the state in her second career trip to Jordan.

A deeper look into Lesnar’s eyes, however, reveal the undoubtable need to make a difference.

Lesnar was eyeing the green Wednesday at the Worthington Country Club, but it wasn’t for her score. It was for Africa at the third annual “All Day Fore Africa” (ADFA) golf tournament.

The tournament, along with a speech from Immaculee Ilibagiza in Sioux Falls, S.D., Monday, a musical performance from Kate’s sister, Annie, and Kailey Wendland Tuesday in Worthington and a golf tournament in California later this week, have raised more than $25,000. The funds will go toward building housing for teachers and a medical center in the Rwandan town of Kibeho.

“It’s what the community needs,” Kate said. “People would get a simple cut and some would end up dying because the nearest place to go is hours away and they have to get a stretcher or walk.

“It was amazing that they could get a little cut and end up dying from it. It makes me remember that we have a lot in the United States.”

What began as Kate playing 100 holes of golf by herself with the idea of raising $1,000 for a town she was about to visit, but had never seen two years ago, has grown into events across the country raising an amount 25 times that much.

“I never thought it would grow this much,” Kate said. “It’s so cool to think that we can all make a difference together and all work for the same cause.”

Kate raised $10,380 the first year, $21,800 the second year and is still counting this year.

“We are definitely over $25,000, but I’m hoping for $30,000,” said Kathy Lesnar, Kate’s mother, whose pictures from her trips to Kibeho inspired Kate. “When I see all these kids helping, I see the benefit it brings them.

“It makes them realize they can make a difference in the world, rather than focusing on if they have the right shoes or what’s on Facebook. We all want to make a difference. If you know you were created to make a difference and you fulfill that, that’s the benefit.”

The want to make a difference is nothing new to Kate. Counting the $1,500 Kate raised in third grade as part of the band “The Almighty Kids” for Haiti, Kate has raised over $60,000 for people other than herself. And that’s not including the lemonade stand she had when she was little in which the proceeds went to World Vision — an African child sponsorship program.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Kathy said.

For Kate, even with school out and storm clouds looming over the golf course, there’s no place she’d rather be.

“There’s nothing I’d rather do than help people and play golf,” Kate Lesnar said.

A golf ball Lesnar brought is cemented in a wall in Kibeho and the people there touch and rub it. Golf has never meant more to people who have never picked up a golf club.

“To them, golf means water,” Kathy Lesnar said.

For Kate’s dad, Jim Lesnar, golf means opening up the wallet. For the fundraiser, Kate golfs until the sun sets or until she golfs 100 holes. For dad, it’s $50 per eagle, $10 per birdie, $2 per par, 50 cents per bogey and, of course, $500 per hole-in-one to Africa.

“We thought we’d be forking over $800 the first year when Kate wanted to raise $1,000, so it’s come a long way,” Jim said. “It’s really cool to see her use her passion to help others.

“I think it’s so amazing that a high school kid can think outside the box and our little world here. I’m going to owe a lot, but I’m hoping for the hole-in-one.”

On a day when everyone wins, Kate has a reason to keep score.

“My dad actually said he was going to charge me for bogeys,” Kate said.

It’s all money well spent.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 690
*Miles John has driven: 9,119
(*During the 2011-12 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

A Championship Day To Remember At Target Field
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/18/2012 3:51:19 PM

Bart Hill has been a high school baseball coach for 17 years but he has never witnessed anything like this season, on the field as well as off. His Lac qui Parle Valley Eagles finished 2012 in spectacular fashion with an appearance in the Class 1A state championship game Monday at Target Field.

To begin with, the Eagles lost 12 seniors – and seven starters – to graduation off last year’s 16-7 team, which reached the Section 3 finals. This season began with a young roster, five losses in the first eight games, a whole bunch of lineup changes and an injury to one of the top pitchers.

“No one ever, ever imagined this,” Hill said after the Eagles fell to St. Agnes 6-0 Monday. “Most of these guys had never been in a varsity uniform before. We had a lot of goofy things happen along the way. We believe we had some divine intervention along the way.”

The 2012 season was a testament to sticking together and growing together. And making a long postseason run electrified the communities and school district, which is headquartered in Madison. It’s the biggest thing since the boys basketball team went to state in 1992.

“We’ve never had this opportunity,” Hill (pictured) said. “And the support people had … as a coach, all the alumni that have been calling me. You just can’t believe it. Small towns get excited about these things. All the cars have banners in them, all the stores have signs in them. It’s pretty special.”

The Eagles' iron horse Monday was 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior Brandon Bornhorst, who threw 141 pitches (93 strikes).

“He probably could have thrown 180,” the coach said. “I asked him, ‘Do you want to come out?’ He said, ‘Absolutely not.’ He’s got nine wins, he’s got half of our wins this year. He was good enough to win, we just didn’t have enough defense behind him.”

True, the Eagles (18-10) committed three errors in the first inning, helping St. Agnes (23-6) score two runs. They finished with five errors.

“Up until this game we didn’t even make five errors total in the playoffs,” Hill said. “I think maybe the nerves got to them a little on the big stage, but what a thrill.”

Way back when Lac qui Parle Valley was scuffling along with a record of 6-7, Hill and the team captains were trying to find a formula to turn things around. Motivation was elusive, but the coach remembered something he had done years ago: let the players become his hair stylists. The result was a Mohawk haircut.

“I had done it once a long, long, long time ago and I said, ‘I’m not that stupid to ever make that bet again.’ I said, ‘You get us to the state tournament, then you can.’ When you’re 6 and 7, nobody’s going to a state tournament. It was a very safe bet at the time.”


--In Holy Family’s 5-0 Class 2A championship victory over St. Cloud Cathedral, Fire pitcher Kasey Ralston (pictured) gave up only two hits, struck out seven and walked none in a dominating performance. Like St. Agnes in Class 1A, Holy Family did not allow a run in the state tournament.

“It’s the biggest thing in my baseball career by far,” said the senior. “At the beginning of the season we knew we were going to be good, but we didn’t expect to be this good. We got hot in the end when we needed to, and it’s pretty awesome.”

Holy Family coach Bryan DeLorenzo was an assistant coach on the school’s first state championship team, the 2007 boys basketball squad that won the Class 2A title.

“I remember thinking it would be nice to get one myself in baseball,” he said.

DeLorenzo is in his ninth year as a head baseball coach, which isn’t much compared to the 42-year career of Cathedral coach Bob Karn. Karn owns seven state titles in coaching more than 900 games.

“It’s an honor to be on the same field as him,” DeLorenzo said, “and a school with that much tradition that’s been around a lot longer than Holy Family.”

Holy Family opened in 2000; St. Cloud Cathedral has been around since 1902.

--When Eastview defeated Bemidji 1-0 in the Class 3A championship game, it completed a historic day. For the first time since 1984 (when baseball was a two-class sport), all the championship games were shutouts. The tournament was expanded to three classes in 2000.

--Lac qui Parle Valley’s Hill was wrapping up pregame drills in a traditional way, using his skills with a fungo to hit a high foul ball for catcher Preston Kraft to catch. The coach misfired just a bit, sending the ball into the stands behind the Eagles dugout. Cries of “Heads up!” had people preparing to be conked on the head, but the ball fell safely into the seats.

“Hey, it’s a major league park,” a smiling Hill hollered to the fans. “You’ve gotta be ready for anything!”

--Twins general manager Terry Ryan is never afraid to help out. After a foul ball landed in the unoccupied Legends Club seats in front of the press box, Ryan helped MSHSL media steward Steve Anderson locate the ball.


Class 1A: Wes Snyder, Ely; Adam Snelgrove, New York Mills; Trey Volk, Blackduck; Austin Host, Browerville; Brandon Bornhorst, Ben Morken, Colby Siegert, Brandon Hill, Lac qui Parle Valley; Charlie Turch, Jack Fossand, Ryan Hernandez, Evan Morehead, St. Agnes.

Class 2A: Tyler Boyle-Hoban, Cannon Falls; Tyler Wolfe, Delano; Spencer Chirpich, Fairmont; Jake Lewis, Ian Scherber, Proctor; Eric Pelant, Brian Minks, Michael Kerber, St. Cloud Cathedral; Kasey Ralston, Keller Knoll, Joe Salz, Conner Riddle, Holy Family.

Class 3A: Zach Garner, Red Wing; Luc Henke, Hill-Murray; Jake Bischoff, Grand Rapids; Cameron Mingo, Eden Prairie; Evan DeCovich, A.J. Stockwell, Chris Narum, Quinn Trusty, Eastview; Ryan Hirt, Collin Leif, Mason Bellew, Mitch Hendricks, Bemidji.

--To see photo galleries from each championship game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 6 for the day, 37 for the spring tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 689
*Miles John has driven: 8,761
(*During the 2011-12 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

St. Agnes Claims Class 1A Baseball Title
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/18/2012 2:41:38 PM

The Aggies of St. Agnes in St. Paul finished off an impressive Class 1A state tournament run today at Target Field, defeating Lac qui Parle Valley 6-0 in the title game at Target Field.

The Aggies did not give up a run in the tournament, defeating New York Mills 1-0 and Blackduck 7-0 in the previous two rounds.

St. Agnes finished the season with a record of 23-6 and the Eagles finished at 18-10.

The rest of today's schedule looks like this...

Class 2A at 3 p.m.: Holy Family (24-4) vs. St. Cloud Cathedral (24-5)

Class 3A at 6 p.m.: Bemidji (25-2) vs. Eastview (22-4)

Target Field, Here We Are!
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/16/2012 12:27:11 PM

The lineup of state championship baseball games has begun at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. While the Twins have today off before beginning a six-game interleague road trip to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, high school teams have taken over the ballpark.

Tickets are good for all three games. Prices are only $10 for adults and $7 for students.

Here's the schedule...

Class 1A at noon: Lac qui Parle Valley (18-9) vs. St. Agnes (22-6)

Class 2A at 3 p.m.: Holy Family (24-4) vs. St. Cloud Cathedral (24-5)

Class 3A at 6 p.m.: Bemidji (25-2) vs. Eastview (22-4)

A Blown Knee, A House Fire … And A Trip To The State Tourney
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/15/2012 9:51:05 PM

ST. CLOUD – Braxton Lindow, senior right fielder for the Cannon Falls baseball team, beamed when I asked him about the experience of playing in the Class 2A state tournament this week.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s exactly what you want out of your senior year.”

That’s a pretty good attitude to have, especially for a young man who has seen his share of heartache since his senior year began. Between games in the consolation bracket Friday, I posed this question to Braxton: What’s worse? Blowing out a knee or watching your house burn to the ground?

His answer was as honest as they come: “I have to put them both at the same level.”

The knee went bye-bye last Oct. 7 during a football game at Rochester Lourdes. Braxton was running downfield on punt coverage when his left knee exploded. The first person to check on him was his father Bucky, the football defensive coordinator and head baseball coach.

“The trainer looked at me and said, ‘ACL,’ ” Bucky told me. “That hits you right away.”

Braxton had surgery later in October, missed the entire basketball season and was finally cleared to play baseball in late April. He missed the first few games of the baseball season and now wears a brace on the knee. His baseball career will continue at St. Olaf College.

This week’s trip to state was the second in school history and the first since 1997. The Bombers lost to Holy Family 8-0 in Thursday’s state quarterfinals, then defeated Roseau 5-0 Friday in the consolation bracket before falling to Delano 6-1.

Ending the season with a trip to state was another step in moving past what has happened. Braxton was nearly asleep on an evening in January when he heard people running through the house … which was on fire. Bucky, his wife Wanda and their three teenage sons escaped safely but the house was a total loss.

“It was kind of shocking to see fire come through your door, having your family standing in the front yard with the garage doors flying off, and the firemen rushing into your house,” Bucky said.

“The coolest thing about it is that I have connections with a lot of the firemen through coaching. Either I coached them or their sons or their nephews or something. The care that they had for our house was incredible. They said the chief might have been a little frustrated with them because they were hauling things out of there that they normally wouldn’t do during a fire. It was really cool.”

The Lindows found immediate shelter in the home of neighbors who made their house available while they were in California. After three weeks, the Lindows found a home to rent. A new house is being built on the site of the fire, and if things go well the family will move in around the time school starts in the fall.

“Watching the new house go up has been fun,” Braxton said. “We get to see what the whole process is like.”

Through it all – Braxton’s knee injury and then the devastating fire – the Lindows have been supported by the people of Cannon Falls.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Bucky said. “The love and the support in every possible way has just been unbelievable. We feel so fortunate to live in that town and to be a part of that whole community. We’re not surprised by it, but we’re humbled.

“It makes you wish that every time somebody went through a tragedy, you would have helped. And hopefully it’s something we can learn from, so in the future when anything happens we can be helpful.”

--THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP baseball games are set after teams in all three classes survived major weather-related schedule changes on Thursday. The semifinals were completed Friday, and here is what’s next …

Monday at Target Field

Class 1A at noon: Lac qui Parle Valley (18-9) vs. St. Agnes (22-6)

Class 2A at 3 p.m.: Holy Family (24-4) vs. St. Cloud Cathedral (24-5)

Class 3A at 6 p.m.: Bemidji (25-2) vs. Eastview (22-4)

--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 31 for the spring tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 683
*Miles John has driven: 8,761

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

After A Very Lengthy Delay, Murray County Central Makes Golf History
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/13/2012 10:28:18 PM

BECKER – The boys golf team from Murray County Central High School in Slayton came within a whisker of taking home a trophy and third-place medals Wednesday at the Class 1A state tournament. The Rebels finished fourth, however, one stroke behind Dawson-Boyd.

One stroke? That’s a single putt that lipped out of the cup instead of falling in. One putt that broke this way instead of that way.

One stroke? Murray County Central had a total team score of 668 strokes. Dawson-Boyd had 667. That was the difference between a trophy in the case and medals around their necks.

As with most small schools, trips to state tournaments are not a regular occurrence; the Murray County Central football team went to state in 2000 and the girls golf team did so in 2002. But nobody -- and I mean nobody -- wearing Rebels colors was down in the dumps about the razor-thin margin Wednesday at Pebble Creek Golf Club.

Here’s the deal: The Rebels had not even fielded a boys golf team between 1976 and 2012, according to coach Kim Delong. That’s 36 years with a ZERO chance of taking home a trophy and medals, so just playing in this week’s two-day state tournament was almost as good as winning the the whole thing.

“We didn’t really have any expectations,” said freshman Adam Christensen, one of five underclassmen on the six-man tournament roster. “We just went out there to have fun and do our best. We thought we were pretty good, though.”

The boys who played at state – senior Devin Ryan, juniors Ben Loosbrock, Devin Erickson and Cole Degreeff and freshmen Christensen and Grant Everson (pictured) – had as much fun as anybody.

“It’s been pretty awesome because I’m not used to being on a team that wins,” Degreeff said. “And we don’t lose for the most part. The pressure feels good; it’s a good kind of pressure. And I like the atmosphere around here. The people are nice, the course is nice and it was just a great couple of days.”

Murray County Central has fielded a girls golf team all these years. The boys team was resurrected when people realized that there were enough players to do so, with a booster club helping with funds and the school board approving the move.

“For several years we’ve had student-athletes who are out golfing and some of their parents are golfers, and we had enough interest,” said Delong, who coaches the boys and girls golf teams. “The majority of these kids are out there every day all summer.”

The Rebels’ first big splash this season came when they won the Red Rock Conference championship by 11 strokes. They kept winning, qualifying for state with a five-shot victory in the Section 3 tournament.

“I think conference kind of justified how good we were,” Ryan said. “I think that’s when we knew we had a good chance to go pretty far.”

Eight boys played on the team this spring and Delong thinks that number could easily be doubled in 2013. And with everybody except Ryan returning next season, the Rebels might want to think about making room for a new trophy.

“I’m a senior this year so it’s been amazing for me,” Ryan said. “I’ve never made it to state in anything so it’s just great to be here.”

--In the Class 1A tournament, Lewiston-Altura repeated as the girls team champion and Legacy Christian Academy senior Rachel Gray won the individual championship. On the boys side, Legacy Christian Academy won the team title and Cordell Weber of Martin County West was the individual champ.

--In Class 2A girls, Detroit Lakes took the team title and Detroit Lakes eighth-grader Kate Smith won the individual championship. Detroit Lakes also won the boys team championship and Hermantown's Taylor Sundbom won the individual title.

--And in 3A, New Prague won the girls title and Cretin-Derham Hall's Celia Kuenster was the individual champ. Moorhead captured the 3A team championship and the individual title was shared by Chaska's Jon Dutoit and Moorhead's Ben Welle.

--The best-dressed fans at the 1A tournament were a trio from Russell-Tyler-Ruthton. Andrew Bakker, Hudson Van Drunen and Ryan O'Toole all wore SpongeBob SquarePants t-shirts, sunglasses and matching hats.

--Culinary highlight of the day: A freshly grilled, world-class cheeseburger at Pebble Creek.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 21 for the spring tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 675
*Miles John has driven: 8,571

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

From Minnesota To Rwanda: The Drive Behind ‘All Day Fore Africa’
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/11/2012 10:37:18 PM

As Kate Lesnar plays in the Class 2A state golf tournament Tuesday and Wednesday at the Ridges at Sand Creek course near Jordan, she will surely concentrate on each shot but her mind may wander ever so slightly. The student at Worthington High School, who will be a senior in the fall, can be forgiven if her thoughts turn to children and families who live 8,000 miles away but know they can count on their friend Kate.

Kate is passionate about golf and talented at the game, also qualifying for the state tournament a year ago. Her other passion is the village of Kibeho in the African nation of Rwanda and the children who attend St. Stanislaus School there. One week after the state tournament ends, Kate will wake up very early to head for Worthington Country Club and a day of fundraising for the children in Rwanda.

It’s quite the connection; a teenage girl from Minnesota and a small village in Rwanda. It began because Kate’s mother, Kathy Lesnar, works as a personal manager for Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of genocide in Rwanda during the 1990s who has become a best-selling author and one of the world's leading speakers on peace, faith and forgiveness.

As Kate (pictured) learned about Immaculee’s background and her mission to aid people in Rwanda, the idea seemed so natural: Raise money by playing 100 holes of golf in a single day, taking pledges from anyone who wanted to contribute. The first event, in 2010, raised more than $10,000, which paid for a new water system for St. Stanislaus School as well as clothing, shoes and similar items.

“My goal was $1,000,” Kate said. “We thought that was really high but we thought we could get close to it. Every single day we’d get checks in the mail; from a person in Georgia and just random people. It was a miracle how it all came together.”

This year’s event will be held June 20 at Worthington Country Club. The non-profit project is called “All Day Fore Africa” (you can find a website under that name as well as a Facebook page). The project is subtitled “Kids Playing For Kids” because much of the work is done by teens and younger children. An example: Kate’s younger sister Annie and her friend Kailey Wendland will help raise money by performing with their guitars at BenLee's Cafe in downtown Worthington on June 19, with BenLee's donating a portion of each lunch sold to the cause. More than a dozen people have signed up to play 100 holes in Worthington the next day, so the project is growing.

“Lots of people say, ‘This is such a good idea: Kids using their passion to make a difference.’ It’s a super idea,” Kate said. “It’s going to be as big as God wants it to be.”

After all that money was raised in 2010, Kate, Kathy, Immaculee and several others traveled to Kibeho to visit and present the funds to Father Leszek Czelusniak, the Polish-born priest at St. Stanislaus. Last year’s effort spread to similar events in California, Pennsylvania and Nebraska and raised more than $30,000. Each event is followed by a trip to Kibeho.

Kate will never forget her first journey to the village.

“I was so overwhelmed. They have to walk a mile up a hill to the school. Right when we could see the school, the kids saw us and sprinted out to us. It was so cool seeing how happy they were. They were barefoot, in ripped t-shirts. … They realized that something good had happened. They were all so happy.”

Immaculee Ilibagiza and Father Celusniak will attend next week’s event in Worthington. The Lesnars are hoping that more people around the country learn about All Day Fore Africa and plan their own events.

“I feel like it’s starting,” said Kathy. “Some people may want to go bowling all day for Africa or play soccer. For me as a parent it’s so awesome to see the kids realize they can make a difference in the world. As far as building character, we push our kids to be the best they can be. This organization is focused more on shaping kids’ hearts, and the benefit is as much for the kids in the U.S. It’s planting seeds of love in people’s hearts.”

The money raised this year will go toward teachers and a much-needed medical facility. “When someone’s sick they put them on a stretcher and walk them to the nearest place,” Kate said.

Kathy said, “The medical facility is a big one. We’re talking bigger money, and we can do it.”
The Lesnars will have materials about All Day Fore Africa with them at the state tournament this week, and they will accept donations from anyone who wishes to help. They are happy to spearhead the project, but they know they are not alone.

“It seems like a story about Kate,” Kathy said. “But it’s really a story about a bunch of kids.”

To which Kate added, “And without the community support it never would have grown like this.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 664
*Miles John has driven: 8,431

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

The Seeds Are Re-Planted And The Fans Are Not Happy
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/11/2012 1:59:18 PM

Here is a quick – and unedited -- summary of comments that were posted on the MSHSL Facebook page and my Twitter stream late Monday morning and into the afternoon ...

--“Why not seed 1-8, afraid feelings will be hurt??”

--“so instead it's the 6 seed that might get screwed #makesnosense”

--“classic case of League not wanting to hurt feelings...if you're going to do it, go all the way 1-8 both genders all classes”

--“ How bout 1-8? Oh yeah, we dont want to hurt the feelings of the team that is the #8, total BS”

--“no one's self-esteem is going to be crushed bc they are the 7 seed - they just made the state tourney!”

This, uh, feedback was the result of the MSHSL Board of Directors changing the structure for seeding teams at state tournaments. The board approved a change to seeding the top five teams instead of the top four in tournaments that use seeding.

Coaches whose teams are playing at state will continue to use an electronic process to seed the teams. The change affects Class 3A and Class 4A in girls basketball and all classes in boys basketball, boys and girls hockey, boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls soccer, volleyball, wrestling and adapted sports.

The online outcry was clear and full-throated in its support for seeding all eight teams at state tournaments. But it’s just not that easy. I attempted to calm the waters during the meeting by issuing this Tweet: “Something to ponder: #mshsl board makes change verrrrrry slowwwwwwly. Seeding 1-8 remains an option. 1-5 is a step in that direction.”

The process for such changes can be ponderous. That slow pace also means that such changes are not taken lightly. Before Monday’s vote, region committees from around the state, as well as coaches associations in various sports, were asked to hold their own votes on seeding 1 through 4 or 1 through 5 at state.

The 16 region committees (eight representing small schools and eight representing larger schools) split down the middle, with eight regions voting in favor of seeding 1-4 and eight in favor of seeding 1-5. Coaches associations in four sports (soccer, volleyball, girls basketball, boys basketball) voted in favor of 1-5, coaches in four other sports (girls hockey, boys hockey, wrestling , lacrosse) are happy with either 1-4 or 1-5 and adapted sports coaches are in favor of seeding 1-4 based on season records.

With no clear direction being offered by those votes, the board jumped in anyway and made the change. It might not be the drastic change that many people wanted to see, but it was a step in the right direction … if seeding all eight teams is what you want.

As the meeting ended I thought a little levity might be in order. So I sent this Tweet: “#mshsl meeting has ended, lunch is being served. I'm hitting items 1 through 5 on the buffet. I used to eat only items 1 through 4.”


--The members approved four requests for experimental rule changes from National Federation rules. They are …

Football/ At least four members of the team kicking off must be on either side of the kicker when an onside kick is attempted, and no member of the kicking team can contact an opponent until the kicked ball has traveled 10 yards. This rule was first used in Minnesota last season and it will be continued.

Hockey/ Minnesota will continue to use the changes in rules and penalties regarding contact and player safety that were instituted during the 2011-12 season, while giving officials options for severity of penalties for contact to the head.

Track and Field-Cross Country/ The MSHSL will request an experimental exemption from a National Federation rule that bans jewelry on competitors. Monitoring jewelry can be difficult and jewelry isn’t viewed as giving an advantage or compromising safety.

Volleyball/ A change was approved to adjust officials’ hand signals so they will immediately indicate which team will serve after an infraction, allowing for a faster tempo and fewer errors in game management.

--The board voted to select officers for the 2012-13 school year. The officers will be president Mark Fredericksen, principal at Waconia; vice president John Hamann, principal at Underwood; and treasurer Rick Bleichner, superintendent at Breckenridge.

--New board members, whose terms will begin with the August board meeting, observed Monday’s meeting. They are Tom Conzemius, athletic/activities director at Sauk Rapids-Rice, representing Region 7-8AA; Bob Grey, athletic/activities director at Montevideo, representing Region 3-4A; Shelly Hotzler, softball coach at Jackson County Central, representing Girls Sports; Erich Martens, principal at Sauk Rapids-Rice, representing the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals; and Chris McDonald, speech coach at Eagan, representing the Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota. One public representative to the board remains to be selected by Gov. Mark Dayton.

--Board members whose terms ended Monday are president Mindy Sparby, athletic/activities director at Belle Plaine, representing Girls Sports; treasurer Luanne Wagner, assistant principal at St. Francis, representing the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals; Chris Laird, athletic/activities director at Heritage Christian Academy, representing Region 3-4A; Perry Aadland, athletic/activities director at Chisago Lakes, representing Region 7-8AA; Jill Lofald, speech coach at Duluth Denfeld, representing the Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota; and Kim Algoo, representing the public.

--After last week’s flurry of state tournaments in boys tennis, boys and girls lacrosse, softball and girls and boys track, Monday was a day off from tourney action. The action will resume with state golf tournaments Tuesday and Wednesday and state baseball tourney games Thursday and Friday. The spring will conclude next Monday, June 18, with baseball championship games in all three classes at Target Field.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 664
*Miles John has driven: 8,431

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Divine Intervention Or Not, He's Headed To State
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/10/2012 4:44:13 PM

Here's a great story of an injured athlete who recovered just in time to qualify for the state golf tournament. It comes to us courtesy of Joel Alvstad, sports editor of the Cottonwood County Citizen in Windom ...

Mt. Lake Christian freshman Aaron Walzak will be playing in the Class 1A state golf meet this week in Becker, after sharing Section 3A champion honors.

His appearance in the state meet is both historic and somewhat miraculous.

He becomes the first male athlete from his school to qualify for an MSHSL state event (sophomore Whitney Klassen was the first girl from the school to advance to state after she qualified for the state cross-country meet last fall).

The somewhat miraculous part is that Walzak missed a significant portion of the season. While on the yearly school-wide mission trip in mid-April, Walzak suffered a broken collarbone while playing a game of pick-up basketball with a group of classmates and other mission workers.

The recovery time from a broken collarbone is typically about six weeks, sometimes shorter. On the day he suffered the injury, the sub-section meet was just over five weeks away.

The frustrations for Aaron, who has played competitive golf in summer tournaments since he was 6, were that he couldn't even putt or chip. Making things worse, he said, was the fact that the MLC team, which only had four varsity players, was unable to post team scores at meets in his absence.

Aaron's father and coach, Kevin Walzak, serves as pastor at Alliance Missionary Church in Mt. Lake. Following the team's first meet after Aaron's injury took place, Kevin told me, "Let's just say that we're praying very hard for a speedy recovery."

As it turns out, Aaron was cleared by doctors to return to playing golf on May 16, the day after the Red Rock Conference Meet and one week before the sub-section meet -- and just over four weeks after he was injured. He was able to play in one regular-season meet before sub-sections. At the Section 3A South Sub-Section Meet in Worthington, he took third, shooting a 79. Then, on May 30 at the Section 3A Meet in Marshall, Aaron shot an 80, which tied him with Monte DeKam of Southwest Minnesota Christian/Edgerton for individual first-place honors.

Aaron said that in the three weeks since he received his medical clearance, he's been able to slowly progress back to 100 percent, but acknowledged that the time he missed left him feeling a bit rusty. However, he heads to Becker as a first-time state qualifier and said he is familiar with the Pebble Creek course and anticipates being in the hunt for a state medal.

Veterans Win More Gold; The Next Era Beckons
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/9/2012 8:29:03 PM

The high school track world said farewell to some stellar athletes as they capped glorious careers with outstanding performances during Saturday’s state championships at Hamline University’s Klas Field. The names are familiar, including Haylie Zenner and R.J. Alowonle.

We also saw impressive showings by some familiar stars who will be back for another year. Most well-known among that group are Maria Hauger and Jessica January, but we also must remember the name Nadia Lorencz.

And as is the case every year, we witnessed some young talent that has burst onto the scene like exploding fireworks. Wensia Johnson and Meleah Biermaier, we look forward to much more. Let’s talk specifics…

HAYLIE ZENNER, THE PRIDE of Fergus Falls, finished her career in rare style, winning the Class 2A girls 800 meters for the fourth time. She had previously won the 800 as an eighth-grader, freshman and junior, placing second as a sophomore. She also played on a basketball team that went to the state tournament. She will be on the track and cross-country teams at the University of Minnesota in the fall.

I have interviewed Haylie several times during the course of her career, and she is always smiling and always thankful. After she crossed the finish line Saturday, the she looked to the sky, gave thanks and then turned to the other runners, saying – as she always does -- “Great job, girls!”

Haylie was crying as she walked from the finish line to the awards tent, where her fourth gold medal would soon be placed around her neck. I was talking with a friend, who saw the tears and said, “Oh, that’s too bad.”

I explained that Haylie was not crying tears of sadness, but tears of joy and gratitude. And her words backed that up.

“I am so happy, so blessed,” she told me. “This is the end of a really great journey for me. I couldn’t have asked for a better high school career.”

PARK SENIOR R.J. ALOWONLE ended a stellar career by winning both 2A hurdles races and the triple jump as well as running a leg on the Wolfpack’s championship 4x100 relay. He won the 300 hurdles for the third year in a row; he never lost in the 300s at Park. He also won the 110 hurdles Saturday for the second year in a row. He will compete at the University of North Carolina.

“I’m a little sad but I’m happy at how I finished my high school career,” he said. “It’s like a finish line in a race, you start and end there.”

MARIA HAUGER, A JUNIOR from Shakopee, cleary stamped herself as one of the greatest distance stars in Minnesota history … and she has one more year to go. She captured the 2A distance double, winning the 3,200 meters Friday and the 1,600 Saturday. She won the 3,200 last year and also is a three-time state cross-country champion.

FARMINGTON’S NADIA LORENCZ won the 2A 100-meter hurdles, nosing out state record-holder and two-time defending state champ Jessica January, a junior from of Richfield. Lorencz’s time was 14.36 and January finished in 14.39. January had broken her own state record during Friday’s preliminaries with a time of 14.32. Both Lorencz (who also won the long jump) and January (numbers 4 and 5 in this photo) are juniors, and all eyes will be on both of them during the 2013 season.

THE YOUNGSTERS TO WATCH are Wensia Johnson and Meleah Biermaier. Both are eighth-graders who already own state championships. Johnson’s first race Saturday was a bit disappointing; she had the best time in Friday’s 100-meter prelims, finishing a tick off the state record that had stood since 1986. That mark of 11.73 seconds had been set by Windom’s Heather Van Norman. On Friday, Johnson – a 14-year-old from Alexandria – finished the prelims in 11.74.

But in the finals, Johnson finished second to Hopkins junior Taylor Anderson. Her winning time of 11.71 broke Van Norman’s record, with Johnson next in 11.83.

But later in the day Johnson (pictured with 200 third-place runner Megan Linder of Cretin-Derham Hall) claimed gold in the 200, an event she called “not my strongest race.” No record was set, but her strong performance both days in the sprints marked Johnson as a sudden star. Even if she didn’t come to Hamline thinking she would go home a state champ.

“It’s an honor running with the best of the best,” she said. “I came in thinking, ‘Have fun and do your best.’ ”

Johnson was slowed by a knee injury early in the season but quickly began running up some of the fastest times in the state. A native of Haiti, she and her younger sister Patricia were adopted by an Alexandria family eight years ago.

“I have loved all the support from my family and friends and the fans who I don’t even know,” she said. We should probably get used to the name, because Wensia predicted that Patricia,12, will soon be joining her big sister at the state meet.

“You guys will be seeing her here,” Wensia said.

THE OTHER YOUNG state champion is Biermaier, an eighth-grader from Thief River Falls. She won the 2A girls 300-meter low hurdles.


Hopkins’ Anderson had a very specific goal in mind Saturday. She said her mother had promised to buy her a car if she won both the 100 and 200. Taylor began her day with a gold medal in the 100 as well as the state record. Anderson anchored Hopkins to a first-place finish in the 4x100 relay and everything seemed to be on track for that car. But then she finished second in the 200 to Johnson.


North St. Paul won the boys 2A 4x200 in a time of 1:27.23, which is a new state record. The previous mark of 1:27.63 was set by White Bear Lake in 2010.


--Andover senior Thomas Anderson, who won the boys 2A shot put Friday, won the discus Saturday. St. Francis senior Maggie Ewen did the same thing in 2A girls.
--Blaine senior Ayuk Tambe won the 2A boys 100 for the second year in a row.
--White Bear Lake senior Eric Gebeke repeated in the 2A boys 800.
--Roseville junior DeAntre Smith won the 2A long jump and high jump.


--Michael Whitney of Breckenridge/Campbell-Tintah was a double winner, taking gold in the boys 100 and 200.

--The Osakis girls relays teams won two events, the 4x200 and 4x400. The 4x200 runners were Abby Stroup, Brittney Sadlemyer, Hannah Szech and Becka Sadlemyer. The 4x400 members were Makayla Hoglin, Cali Sadlemyer, Szech and Becka Sadlemyer.

--Blake swept the 1,600-meter races. Bears sophomore Clare Flanagan won the girls race and senior Brandon Clark was the boys champion.


--Awards announcer Mike Weimerskirch always clarifies pronunciations before athletes’ names are read and their medals given. Jackson County Central 400-meter runner Jason Vongsavanh (who finished eighth) was pleased when Weimerskirch got his name correct on the first try, saying, “Wow! Thanks for getting my name right!”

--Wayzata coach Bill Miles was standing behind the fence near the finish line when the 2A boys 4x800 relay finished. As Wayzata anchor runner Brian Jarvey crossed the finish line with a first-place finish, he fell to the track. The coach hollered, “Get up! Get him up! He’s got to run another race!” As Bill walked away, he said with a smile, “I’m a loving coach.”

--To see photos from the state track meet, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 17 for the spring tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 663
*Miles John has driven: 8,379

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

A Lucky Stick Named Gandalf, Familiar Champs And New Stars
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/8/2012 8:04:58 PM

It’s an 85-mile drive from Klas Field at Hamline University in St. Paul to Caswell Park in North Mankato. Wonderful things happened at both places Friday and I enjoyed the heck out of the day, spending the morning at the state track meet before boogeying down to Mankato for the three state championship softball games.

I saw veteran athletes continue to dominate the track scene, I saw a young sprinting phenom whose name will surely become famous before her prep career is over, and I saw a softball team rally around a stick. No, not a softball bat but a stick. Let’s start there...


To the girls on the New Ulm High School softball team, the stick is known as Gandalf. The only Gandalf I know of is a character in J.R.R. Tolkien's novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and I’m making an educated guess that the New Ulm girls saw the stick and immediately compared it to the staff carried by Gandalf (portrayed by Ian McKellen) in the movies of the same names.

Gandalf is a good-luck charm, there’s no doubt about that. And the Eagles needed a little luck Friday, when they very nearly lost to St. Anthony Village before rallying for an eight-inning victory.

New Ulm trailed 5-4 before tying it 5-5 in the top of the seventh on an RBI single by Katie Frost. The teams went to the eighth inning with that score and New Ulm made the top of the eighth count. They loaded the bases with one out and went ahead 6-5 on a passed ball. And then came a big magical Gandalf moment: Brittany Hoffman hit a long fly ball that bounced off an outfielder’s glove before dropping beyond the fence for a home run.

It was a 9-5 game, and nerves tingled on both sides when St. Anthony Village loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth before New Ulm got the final out.

New Ulm coach Kristi Andersen Loose said the result came in “typical Eagle fashion. The girls come out like rock stars, get behind maybe a little bit, but they don’t lose confidence, they don’t lose faith, they just keep coming back. You never know how it’s really going to happen.

“They came through and they did it. It wouldn’t have been a state championship win if it would have happened any other way. It had to be a come-from-behind victory or it just wouldn’t have been in Eagles fashion. What a great team to coach. I’m proud of them and they make me look so good.”

Then came the key line of questioning: What’s with the stick the girls were carrying around and passing to each other during the postgame celebration? The coach explained.

“At the beginning of the season we were at practice and they found this goofy-shaped stick. We had this infatuation with sticks; they found sticks and they’d bring them, playing music on them and making goofy noises out of them.

“One of our players, Liz Guggisberg, said, ‘Why are you messing with those stupid sticks. I have some pretty cool sticks at home; my dad whittles these sticks.’ She brought this majestic Gandalf and the girls were like, ‘Oh my God, this is better than anything we’ve ever had!’ ”

The Eagles have rallied around Gandalf all season, giving it special treatment when things are going good and hoping it will help when they aren’t.

“They know it’s a goofy little thing,” the coach said, “for them to smile and relax and take their mind off the game a little bit.”


Most of Friday’s events at the state track meet were prelimaries, setting up Saturday’s lineup of championship events. But some events were finals on Friday, and familiar names were seen everywhere.

One state record fell when junior Jessica January of Richfield broke her own mark in the 100-meter hurdles. She led the Class 2A prelims with a time of 14.32 seconds; her previous record was 14.33. She will gun for her third state title -- and maybe another new record -- in that event Saturday.

Another current state record-holder is Park senior R.J. Alowonle, who set a state mark in the 300 hurdles earlier this spring. He almost broke the record in the 2A 100 hurdles Friday, winning the prelims in 13.88 seconds; the state record is 13.85, set by Rick Schroeder of Owatonna in 1981. Alowonle led the prelims in the 300 hurdles Friday and won a state title in the triple jump.

St. Francis junior Maggie Ewen (pictured) won the 2A discus for the third year in a row and Andover senior Thomas Anderson won the 2A boys shot put; both are state record-holders. Shakopee junior Maria Hauger won the 2A 3,200, as she did in 2010, Minneapolis Southwest’s Tatyana Pashibin won the 2A girls high jump for the second year in a row and Lakeville South’s Lee Bares did the same in the 2A boys pole vault.

And here’s a new name, one which you will want to remember: Wensia Johnson. She is an eighth-grader from Alexandria whose performance Friday offered a glimpse of what could become a legendary career.

Johnson came within a whisper of the state record in the 2A girls 100 meters. She led the prelims with a time of 11.74; the record is 11.73, set by Windom’s Heather Van Norman in 1986. Johnson also had the fastest time in the 200 prelims and helped Alexandria advance to Saturday’s finals in the 4x100 relay. Who knows what she has in store for Saturday, not to mention future years?

And here’s a name that was not very familiar prior to last basketball season: Carlie Wagner. If you recall, the sophomore from New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva set the hoops world on fire in March, setting a single-game state tourney record with 48 points in the third-place contest and also setting an overall tourney record with 112 points in three games.

In Friday’s Class 1A state track competition, Wagner won the high jump championship with a height of 5 feet, 6 inches.

Saturday will be a track-only day. And I can’t wait to see what happens next.


--It was a bit warm in Mankato on Friday, and the heat even affected some electronic hardware. A fellow from Maple Grove was using an iPad to track the 3A championship game statistics, but the device was overheating. The guy peeked into the small travel trailer that serves as tournament headquarters and asked if the ceiling air-conditioning unit was working. It was (barely) and he held up the iPad in a serious search for cooler air. It seemed to help … a little.

--A special shout out to the softball coach who said to me, “I love you on Twitter.” Right back at you, coach.

--To see photos (and a fun video clip) from the state softball tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 13 for the spring tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 663
*Miles John has driven: 8,337

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

History Is Made And Longtime Sebeka Coach Enjoys Every Minute
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/7/2012 6:18:56 PM

NORTH MANKATO – State tournaments are always filled with good stories. One of the best tales here at the state softball tournament is one that resounds with longevity, dedication, love and plain old hard work.

Sebeka is making its first appearance at the softball tournament, and everybody around town was pulling for coach Diane Pettis to finally get here. She has been a teacher and coach at the school since 1976 and has coached softball, volleyball, cross-country and track … but had never taken to a team to a state tournament until now.

Diane is the kind of person who always has a bounce in her step, but she’s been a little extra giddy since the Trojans qualified for state.

“Oh my gosh, what a feeling,” she said Thurday before Sebeka met four-time defending champ New Life Academy in the Class 1A quarterfinals at Caswell Park. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve come down and watched the years that I’ve been coaching softball. And to be part of this now, it’s just an experience. And what a venue. This is wonderful.”

Pettis has come close to state tourney berths in the past, but as Sekeba athletic director Josh Haag said, “She’s knocked on the door a few times but she’s always had it shut in her face, until this year.”

Yes, this year has been special. The Trojans brought a 21-4 record to state, capped by a somewhat surprising victory over New York Mills in the Section 6 championship game. Sebeka trailed 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning when Pettis had a little talk with the players.

“I said, ‘Girls, we’re not going to hit a home run, we just need singles.’ ”

Soon thereafter, with one out and two runners on base, freshman Natalie Stiles belted a walk-off home run. All of a sudden, the Trojans were headed to state.

Pettis said, “Everybody looked at each other like, ‘What just happened?’ It was goosebumps.”

Or as senior infielder Jessica Lillquist explained, “Natalie bombed a home run and it was unbelievable.”

Pettis is a native of Bemidji and graduate of Bemidji State. Her first teaching job came in Sebeka all those years ago, and she never left. That’s the sign of a pretty good fit.

“It’s my first and only job,” she said.” In two years I was going to go back to school, but I never left.”

She has coached softball for 16 years while teaching physical education and health from the start of her career.

“I started out coaching volleyball, basketball and track and field. Then over the years it’s just evolved; it went down to two (sports), then it went down to three with junior high. About eight years ago I said we needed a young person with volleyball so I just took softball. I could have retired a couple of years ago but I’m still having fun.”

Junior pitcher Brett Brockpahler said getting the coach to state is a big, big deal.

“Yes, very much so,” she said. “She’s wanted it so bad. It’s exciting, it’s a great feeling.”
Pettis has been teaching and coaching in Sebaka longer than Haag has been alive. The athletic director said, “Diane’s a fun one to work with. And when it comes to these girls, it’s all about doing what’s best for them. She really has them at heart and goes out of her way to help them out and make sure they succeed.”

The Trojans lost a 2-1 decision to New Life Academy, but that did little to dampen the coach’s enthusiasm.

“The kids were kind of nervous batting probably more than they should have been,” Pettis said. “We batted tight. But I can’t fault our effort; we came to play and we played. I’m still excited.”


--When Stillwater wrapped up an 11-0 victory over Farmington in Thursday’s Class 3A quarterfinals, winning pitcher Hannah Heacox had no idea that she had just become part of state tournament history

Heacox threw the 33rd no-hitter in tournament history and struck out 10 batters. But she was totally unaware of the no-hitter until it was announced via the public-address system.

“I had no idea,” she said. Had she ever pitched a no-hitter before? “I don’t remember. I don’t think so.”

--When New Ulm Cathedral defeated Red Lake Falls 10-0 in the Class 1A quarterfinals, the state’s all-time leader in career softball coaching victories increased that number once more. Cathedral coach Bob Mertz, in his 33rd year, is now 672-120. His teams have been to 13 state tournaments and have won six championships.

--One of the day’s heroes was Cloquet senior Kayla Masessa. She hit a two-out, three-run, walkoff homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift the Lumberjacks past Mound Westonka 4-3 in the 2A quarterfinals.

--To see photos from the state softball tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 9 for the spring tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 643
*Miles John has driven: 8,162

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Lacrosse Announcement Is Exciting News For Minnesota Players
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/6/2012 10:41:24 PM

This is a big week for lacrosse in Minnesota, with the girls and boys state semifinals and championship games taking place at Chanhassen High School. The week’s biggest lacrosse news, however, came when Augsburg College in Minneapolis announced it will begin fielding an NCAA Division III varsity women’s lacrosse team in the spring of 2014.

There are currently no NCAA men’s or women’s lacrosse programs in the state, and lacrosse enthusiasts hope that Augsburg’s decision will spark similar announcements in other schools. Augsburg is a member of the Division III Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and most of those colleges currently field club teams for men and women.

“It’s awesome,” said Rachel Aiken, girls lacrosse coach at Chaska/Chanhassen and president of the girls lacrosse coaches association. “The club level here is very competitive and has done wonders for our sport but it still doesn’t have ‘NCAA’ next to it, which is really important.”

In 1995 Augsburg became the first college or university in the Midwest to sponsor a varsity women’s ice hockey team. Lacrosse will become Augsburg’s 21st varsity sport and 11th for women. The addition of women’s lacrosse is expected to add 25 to 30 female student-athletes to the college. That fact was exciting to coaches of the teams playing in the girls state lacrosse tournament.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Eden Prairie co-coach Judy Baxter, whose team defeated Apple Valley 11-2 in Wednesday’s semifinals. “It’s a step in the right direction for women’s lacrosse here in Minnesota. We are so excited, and hoping there is a domino effect and a lot more to follow. It offers opportunitiies for girls here in Minnesota who don’t want to leave the state for college.”

Blake coach Laura Mark, whose team defeated Stillwater 17-10 in Wednesday’s other semifinal, tried to count down the closest colleges or universities that have varsity women’s lacrosse.

“Marquette University has a DI program, so that’s huge. The University of Michigan is starting a women’s Division I program, so is the University of Colorado, Denver University. So it’s coming. But for us to have an NCAA program in the state of Minnesota, it’s huge.”

Augsburg will hire a head coach this summer and the recruiting process for the inaugural team will begin during the 2012-13 school year. Women's college lacrosse is a spring sport, and competition will begin at Augsburg in March 2014.

Apple Valley coach Alexandra Ross, who played on the club lacrosse team at the MIAC’s College of St. Benedict, said she is hoping other schools will quickly follow Augsburg’s lead.

“With how many Division III schools we have in this state, and they have such great reputations academically, I believe they can pull men and women players from all around the nation and keep some of these great athletes, instead of having them leave the state to play,” she said.

“It means a lot of these girls who are high-caliber athletes won’t be leaving the state to find colleges to play for, which is only going to help grow the sport. Our youth girls don’t have college games to go watch, so this is big to get them to see high-level lacrosse.”

Lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport for women at the collegiate level, with a 31.7-percent increase in NCAA schools sponsoring the sport from 2006 to 2011, according to U.S. Lacrosse. There are currently 216 NCAA Division III schools that sponsor lacrosse, up from 169 in the 2006-07 season.

“There are such great athletic traditions here in Minnesota,” Mark said. “So let’s keep them here.”

--To see a photo gallery from Tuesday’s girls state lacrosse semifinals, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 5 for the spring tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 619
*Miles John has driven: 7,982

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Lacrosse Lightning In A Bottle: Eastview’s Big Two Lead The Way
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/5/2012 10:43:50 PM

After his team won a big game Tuesday night and advanced to the state championship contest, Eastview boys lacrosse coach Tim Roche talked about one key component – or maybe two key components -- of his team.

“We thought all year we had the No. 1 and No. 2 best players in the state,” Roche said, talking about senior Jacob Heppner and junior Ryan McNamara, who just happen to own two of the game’s most prestigious awards.

Heppner was named this season’s Mr. Lacrosse by the state coaches association and the St. Paul Pioneer Press has named McNamara its player of the year. That’s a pretty tough combination to beat, as all but one of the Lightning’s opponents have discovered this season.

Tuesday evening’s 15-6 victory over Edina at Chanhassen High School pushed Eastview’s record to 15-1. The lone loss was a 9-8 decision against Lakeville North; the Lightning avenged that defeat with a 9-5 win over Lakeville North in the Section 4 playoffs.

McNamara (right) was the star of Tuesday’s game, finishing with four goals and four assists. Three of his goals came in the third quarter, when Eastview outscored Edina 5-1 to open an 11-5 lead.

“He’s a great player,” Roche said of McNamara. “He’s been doing that all year for us. He’s a complete player, he can put the ball in the net, he makes his teammates better. He did a great job of making his teammates better today.”

Heppner assisted on McNamara’s third goal and scored Eastview’s final goal unassisted before hobbling off the field with an injured ankle.

“On that last goal I kind of rolled it a little bit but it’ll be all right,” he said with a bag of ice taped to his right ankle.

Roche said of Heppner, “He brings veteran leadership. He’s righthanded but we put him in spots where he’s lefthanded a lot, so over half his goals this year are with his left hand. He’s right up there, top 10 in goals and top 10 in assists in the state. The Mr. Lacrosse award recognizes what he’s doing and how he’s doing it.”

Roche has been Eastview’s coach throughout the varsity program’s six-year history. This is the Lightning’s fourth appearance in the state tournament; their best finish was runner-up to Minnetonka in 2009. None of the current players were on that team.

Last season ended with Eagan beating Eastview in overtime in section play. Ever since that day, the Lightning’s No. 1 goal has been getting to state and taking home a championship trophy.

“It’s what we’ve been working for,” Heppner (left) said. “Now we’ve got one more game to finish it.”

Top-seeded Eastview will meet No. 3 seed Eden Prairie in Thursday’s championship game at Chanhassen. The Eagles advanced with a 15-2 victory over Totino-Grace in Tuesday’s second semifinal. Brooks Armitage made a pretty significant statement, scoring five goals for Eden Prairie.

Eden Prairie has never won a state title in three championship-game appearances. The Eagles lost to Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the inaugural 2007 title game, to Blake a year later and to Benilde-St. Margaret’s last year.

If Eastview is to win its first title on Thursday, McNamara and Heppner will have a great deal to do with the outcome. I asked each of them to describe the other.

“There are not too many people who are better than that kid,” Heppner said of McNamara. “He works harder than anyone I know and that’s why he’s so good. In lacrosse, lifting or conditioning he’s always the hardest worker. Playing alongside that kid is nice because you’ve got someone to back you up if you’re not doing well.”

Conversely, McNamara said Heppner has “speed, vision, he can go with both hands, he’s so quick he always finds seams to find me or Tanner (Hamill) wide open. He’s just got great vision.”

McNamara also spoke about Tuesday’s big victory, while looking toward Thursday.

“As a team we had a great game, probably one of our best,” he said. “But we can still play better.”

That’s a scary thought.

--To see a photo gallery from Tuesday's games, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 601
*Miles John has driven: 7,906

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Baseball, Golf, Lacrosse, Tennis, Softball, Track …
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/4/2012 9:04:44 AM

Take a few deep breaths, make sure your gas tank is full and pack a lunch ... and a dinner and maybe some snacks. This is the single busiest week of the year when you look at all the action taking place around the state in spring sports.

There are section tournaments in baseball, girls golf and boys golf as well as state tournaments for girls and boys lacrosse, boys tennis, softball and state girls and boys track. In other words, if you can’t find an event to attend this week you’re not looking very hard.

Section tournaments can be found on baseball diamonds and golf courses all over the state. State lacrosse tourney games will be played at Chanhassen High School, boys tennis at the University of Minnesota Baseline Tennis Center (Class 2A) and Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in south Minneapolis (Class 1A), all three classes of softball will be played at Caswell Park in North Mankato and the two-class state track meet will be held at Hamline University’s Klas Field in St. Paul.

The weather is always a factor, but so far the forecast for this week looks excellent. I always have an umbrella in my car, but hopefully we won’t need any such equipment this week. The biggest issue for me when the schedule is so packed with big events is trying to figure out where to be.

I sat down Sunday evening with a calendar, the tournament schedules, a Minnesota highway map and an Ouija Board and tried to come up with a tentative plan. At this early point in the week, this is what I came up with…

Monday: Baseball.
Tuesday: Tennis and lacrosse.
Wednesday: Tennis and lacrosse.
Thursday: Softball, tennis and lacrosse.
Friday: Track and softball.
Saturday: Track.

My driving plan looks something like this: Minneapolis to Chanhassen to Minneapolis to Chanhassen to Mankato to Chanhassen to St. Paul to Mankato to St. Paul. I think.

I’ll be posting frequent updates and photos throughout the week on Twitter (follow @MSHSLjohn), with photo galleries and tidbits going up on the MSHSL Facebook page.

Honk when you see me driving by!

*Schools/teams John has visited: 597
*Miles John has driven: 7,846

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Adapted Softball Dynasties Add More Championship Hardware
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/2/2012 6:00:51 PM

Two teams that have become very familiar with state championships added to their trophy cases Saturday by winning titles in the adapted softball state tournament at Coon Rapids High School.

In the PI division, Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka won its fourth straight state title with a 9-2 win over Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville. And in the CI division, Anoka-Hennepin captured its third consecutive state champinship with a 7-2 victory over Dakota United.

Here are the All-Tournament Teams …

PI Division: Chris Reichel, South Suburban; Grayson Nicolay, Dakota United; Josh Heim, Steven Fletcher, Wayzata/Minnetonka; Erik Santa, Corey Gieske, Anoka-Hennepin; Natanael Bernard, Mark Braun, Devian Thompson, Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville; Jordan Klein, Andy Madson, Charlie Wittmer, Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka.

CI Division: Andy Brown, Osseo; Bruce Matusovic, Mounds View/Irondale/Roseville; Amanda Henderson, Lucas Coy, South Washington County; Michael Dedeker, Tyler VanDerWerf, Burnsville/Farmington/Lakeville; Quintin Nicolay, Ricky Arends, Joe Sandey, Dakota United; Troy Couch, Zach Theroux, Tyler Korkowski, Anoka-Hennepin.

Photos from the tournament can be viewed at the MSHSL Facebook page.

Boys State Tennis Tournament Is Ready To Roll
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/2/2012 3:52:30 PM

In a week packed with state tournaments, boys tennis will be contested at two sites in Minneapolis. The Class 2A competition will be held at the University of Minnesota Baseline Tennis Center and 2A will take place at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in south Minneapolis.

Team competiton will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, with singles and doubles matches taking place Thursday and Friday.

Here are the team brackets…

Class 1A Quarterfinals
Breck vs. Duluth Marshall
Blake vs. Thief River Falls
Mound Westonka vs. Fergus Falls
Rochester Lourdes vs. Luverne

Class 2A Quarterfinals
Eden Prairie vs. Wayzata
Rochester Mayo vs. Eagan
Maple Grove vs. Elk River
Mahtomedi vs. St. Cloud Tech

Field Is Finalized For State Softball Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/2/2012 3:24:15 PM

The brackets are set for the state softball tournament, which will be held Thursday and Friday at Caswell Park in North Mankato. Congrats to all the teams who qualified.

Here are the quarterfinal matchups…

Class 1A
Eden Valley-Watkins (16-7) vs. Blooming Prairie (20-3)
Red Lake Falls (22-4) vs. New Ulm Cathedral (20-4)
Cherry (23-0) vs. Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (24-0)
Sebeka (21-4) vs. New Life Academy (16-7)

Class 2A
New Ulm (20-2) vs. Kasson-Mantorville (23-2)
Albany (19-1) vs. Maple River (18-7)
Hawley (16-3) vs. St. Anthony Village (22-3)
Mound Westonka (16-9) vs. Cloquet (13-9)

Class 3A
Stillwater (18-8) vs. Farmington (17-4)
Bloomington Jefferson (17-2) vs. Mankato East (24-3)
Big Lake (14-7) vs. Maple Grove (22-2)
Forest Lake (23-1) vs. Orono (23-1)

State Lacrosse Pairings Are Set
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/2/2012 10:05:58 AM

The coaches of the teams involved in the girls and boys state lacrosse tournaments completed the electronic seeding procedure Saturday morning, finalizing the pairings for the state tournaments.

Boys semifinals will be held Tuesday and girls semifinals will be played Wednesday, with third-place and championship games on Thursday. All games will be held at Chanhassen High School.

The top seeds are the Eastview boys and Eden Prairie girls. Here are the tournament schedules...

Boys Lacrosse State Tournament
Tuesday’s Semifinals
6 p.m.: #1 seed Eastview (14-1) vs. #4 seed Edina (7-9-1)
8 p.m.: #2 seed Totino-Grace (13-3) vs. #3 seed Eden Prairie (14-2)
Thursday’s Games
Third-place game at 6 p.m.
Championship game at 8 p.m.

Girls Lacrosse State Tournament
Wednesday’s Semifinals
6 p.m.: #1 seed Eden Prairie (16-0) vs. #4 seed Apple Valley (13-4)
8 p.m.: #2 seed Blake (14-2) vs. #3 seed Stillwater (14-2)
Thursday’s Games
Third-place game at 2 or 4 p.m.
Championship game at 2 or 4 p.m.

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