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Nominate Your Favorite Athlete For Old Dutch Athlete Of The Week
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/29/2013 1:41:52 PM

Nominations are open for this weekly honor, and you can find all the details by clicking here

All Smiles In Esko: New Stadium, New Turf And A Big Win
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/28/2013 2:24:47 PM

ESKO – First, some relevant numbers from a fun-filled Friday at a football game in northern Minnesota: 28, 14 and one.

The final score in the Great Polar Alliance White Division contest was the Esko Eskomos 28, Two Harbors Agates 14. The key number, however, is one. As in one community coming together for one purpose. And Friday was the one night when everything culminated in one glorious celebration.

After the game/celebration had ended, I asked Esko senior quarterback Marc Peterson about the day.

“Oh, it was fun,” he said, speaking for the whole town. “It was awesome.”

Let’s go back a few years to where Friday’s story began. In the town that’s 10 miles south of Duluth, Les Knuti Field had been in use since the early 1970s. But it was aging as the new century began and everyone knew something should be done. In 2009 a referendum seeking funds for a facility upgrade failed. In 2012 the field’s bleachers were condemned and the fast-failing stadium lights were removed. The knockout blow came in June 2012, when the old ballyard fell victim to massive flooding, as did nearby baseball and softball fields and other places to play.

At this point, drastic action was needed. A committee called Esko Pride was formed last year. The group put together efforts to raise community awareness of the need for improved facilities, and students pitched in to go door to door, do TV interviews, write letters to the editor and hold events. On election day, voters approved an education levy as well as a facilities referendum. The facilities plan called for a grass field, but people in town wanted to strive for more.

Another new group, the Esko Turf Club, was formed in January of this year with the goal of raising enough money to add artificial turf to the football/soccer field that was under construction. In no time, the goal was reached. Installation of a SprinTurf surface began when the snow melted.

“To see the transformation from before to now, the way we envisioned it and the way it is now, it’s even more grand than what we imagined,” said Esko activities director Chad Stoskopf. “When you see it on paper, it looks nice and it makes sense, but to see it now kind of takes your breath away. It’s better than we could have ever anticipated.”

It is a showplace. The playing surface is raised so it’ll take a whale of a flood for high water to ever reach it. An igloo is painted on the 50-yard line, and both end zones are painted blue with “ESKOMOS” in large white letters. A new metal grandstand sits on one side of the field, topped by a roomy pressbox; new baseball and softball fields are under construction behind the bleachers, and windows in the “back” of the pressbox will allow it to be used for those fields, too.

The scoreboard is behind the visitor’s bench, opposite the grandstand. That’s a unique spot for a scoreboard and it works amazingly well … why didn’t anyone think of that before? On a fence behind the scoreboard is a long line of banners from businesses that supported the project.

The Eskomos played their first four football games this season on the road at Cloquet, Moose Lake-Willow River, Deer River and Duluth Marshall. All that time, finishing touches were being put on the new stadium. A flagpole had not yet been installed by Friday’s game, but local Cub Scouts proudly held the stars and stripes at midfield while the Esko choir knocked out a tremendous rendition of the national anthem.

The Esko football players had not practiced on their new field before facing Two Harbors. In fact, none of the Eskomos had even stepped on the field until early Friday morning.

“We were all hootin’ and hollerin’ and having a good time,” said Peterson, who completed nine of 11 passes for 170 yards. His favorite target, junior wide receiver Aaron Olson, caught four passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Imagine that … a football game in Minnesota with a Peterson throwing to an Olson.

The victory gave Esko (which reached the Class 3A state quarterfinals last year) a 3-2 record, and the loss was the first after four wins for the Agates. The Eskomos were thrilled with their dominant victory, in which senior John Carr ran for two short touchdowns and senior Earl Brinkley returned a fumble 51 yards for a score. But the thrills went much further.

“It’s great,” Olson said. “I’m thankful for everybody who donated to the Turf Club and the school and the whole community for giving money.”

The sense of anticipation had been growing since voters approved the facilities referendum, and it grew exponentially when turf became a reality. This is a great big deal for a great small school; Esko’s 9-12 enrollment is 367 students. The only smaller school in Minnesota with a turf field is Sauk Centre (306 students).

“Ever since the flood, ever since the suggestion that they were going to do something like this, we’ve been looking forward to this,” Peterson said.

And oh, what a night it was. The game capped Homecoming week, which is always festive in itself. During the pregame ceremonies, skydivers delivered the game ball, a soccer game ball (the Eskomos girls soccer team played its first game on the field Saturday vs. Princeton) and an Esko flag … although the parachutist carrying the football lost a battle against a strong breeze and landed outside the stadium. Another neat touch: the word "Family" on the back of every Two Harbors jersey.

At the coin flip, four members of the 1946 Esko football team were honored; that was the first football team in school history. The head official wore a microphone so everyone could hear the explanations for penalties (there weren’t many).

There was a long line for food at a mobile barbecue stand. There was popcorn and commemorative T-shirts. The field is located a few blocks from the high school, and one of the most impressive pregame sights was a parade on foot – cheerleaders, football players, soccer players and students of all ages – from the school to the stadium.

And the band. My goodness, the Esko band. I go to a lot of high school events all over the state, and this band is something very special. No uniforms, no marching, but no matter. The orchestra, under the direction of Richard Mowers, was positioned on small bleachers behind the north end zone. And once they began playing, they seemingly never stopped playing. They played during timeouts, they played during halftime, between quarters … they even played between plays. A referee’s whistle would blow, Mower would wave a hand, and we would hear the Flintstones theme song or the Scooby Doo theme song or a snippet of a rock and roll classic … and as the ball was snapped for the next play the music stopped. Only to resume at the next whistle. Amazing. Incredible. Pure entertainment and fun.

After the game, the Esko football players stood in front of their band and applauded. The football team applauding the band. How stunningly cool is that?

That scene was the perfect ending to a perfect celebration that was years in the making. What has happened in Esko is a testament to hard work, commitment, community involvement and reaching a goal through total teamwork. And there’s no better lesson for our young people than that.

Eskomos, you are my heroes.

--To see a photo gallery from Esko, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.


*Schools/teams John has visited: 71
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 3,638
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn

Congrats To Waseca's Thomas O'Neil, Old Dutch Athlete Of The Week
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/25/2013 8:32:32 AM

Thomas O’Neil, quarterback at Waseca High School, has been named the Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior amassed 507 yards of total offense and had a hand in five touchdowns as the Waseca Bluejays remained undefeated last week with a 43-27 South Central Conference victory at Fairmont.

Thomas carried the ball 26 times for 309 yards and four touchdowns, while completing 10 of 17 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown. His touchdown runs, all in the second half, were from 46, 44, 83 and 5 yards. For the season he has rushed for 11 touchdowns and thrown for eight. He is a three-year starter for the Bluejays and is a captain on the football and basketball teams.

O’Neil is on the A honor roll and is involved in Advanced Placement courses. He is involved in Waseca Community Education, volunteers as a youth football and basketball coach and referee, and is active in his church.

Waseca, which is ranked ninth in Class 4A, will play at home on Friday vs. undefeated Blue Earth Area, the top-ranked team in Class 3A.

Congratulations to Thomas O'Neil for being this week's Old Dutch High School Athlete of the week!

Nominate Your Favorite Athlete For Old Dutch Athlete Of The Week
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/22/2013 6:58:31 PM

Nominations are open for this weekly honor, and you can find all the details by clicking here.

A Coach Tells His Team: ‘This Has Gotta Be Fun’
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/20/2013 12:41:48 PM

Through many years of writing about high school activities, I often have been fortunate enough to go behind the scenes. Sometimes that means I’m standing on a practice field or court as a team goes through a workout. And sometimes I am inside a locker room as a coach says a few final words to the team before a contest begins.

Every time I step inside a high school locker room and listen to a coach talk to athletes, I have the same thought: If every parent, grandparent and fan of this team could be here, they would realize how lucky their children are. I have listened to dozens of pregame talks by dozens of different coaches in different sports. The messages are similar, because our coaches realize what is most important. Yes, winning is definitely part of the equation. But the coaches who truly understand the life lessons that they are teaching rarely even use the word “win” in pregame talks.

Earlier this football season, I was behind the scenes with the Farmington High School football team a few minutes before kickoff. The Tigers gather in the school’s weight room before home games, where they sit and listen to coach Mark Froehling’s final instructions. Froehling’s words are similar to what other coaches say to their athletes; this is just one example of many such talks. I happened to record audio from inside the weight room, and Froehling has granted me permission to publish his words.

Please read this coach’s words, understand his message, and realize how important our coaches and teachers are to shaping the lives of our young people ... who are in great hands.

Here is what Farmington football coach Mark Froehling told his team …

“We’ve got to be ready to play. I want to see effort and I want to see execution, right away. Let’s be moving out there, let’s get this thing going at our pace, not at their pace. Let’s dictate the pace, let’s run ‘em out of gas and take care of business, fellas. We’ve got to withstand any initial surge they might have.

“We know how to face adversity. This is football, gentlemen. There is always going to be adversity, nothing’s going to be perfect. There are going to be things we’ll have to overcome. Let’s not pretend that nothing bad’s never going to happen. We’ve just got to be prepared for it; how are we going to react to it? It’s a sign of the character of this team. And we know what kind of character we have, right? We know we can handle anything if we handle it together, can’t we?

“We’ve got to be able to play this one play at a time, right? Whatever happened on the last play, do we really care about that? No. Does it really matter what the next play is, the play after the one that’s being played right now? No. Will you please give me great focus on that play? Work your technique, do your job; you know your buddy’s counting on you to be focused right then, don’t you? He needs you. We all need each other, and let’s be sure we’re all taking care of our friends out there on the football field.

“Let’s show respect for our opponents tonight by the way we play the game. Every time we walk out on that field, we’re going to respect the game and make sure that we’re playing good, tough Tiger football. Gentlemen, let’s bring it in here and take a knee. What a beautiful night for the game of football, right fellas! This has gotta be fun, and let’s be thankful for being able to be here.”


*Schools/teams John has visited: 68
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 2,455
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn

Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week: Carter McCauley, Owatonna
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/19/2013 9:56:23 AM

Owatonna High School senior Carter McCauley had an outstanding week for two different Owatonna teams, helping the soccer team win two games and kicking a game-winning field goal on the final play in the biggest football game of Week 3.

In an 8-2 soccer victory over Albert Lea, Carter moved from his normal position as goalkeeper and scored one of the Huskies’ goals in the Big 9 Conference victory. Two days later he recorded the shutout in goal and had nine saves as the Owatonna soccer team defeated Mankato West 3-0. It was his third shutout and sixth victory of the soccer season.

Carter capped his big week by kicking a 38-yard field goal on the game’s final play, lifting top-ranked Owatonna to a 24-21 victory at second-ranked Mankato West in a matchup of Big 9 Conference teams and the top two teams in the Class 5A rankings.

Carter, who also is a star on the Owatonna baseball team, is one of the top students in his class, excels in math and science and hopes to study biochemistry in college.

Congratulations to Carter McCauley for being this week's Old Dutch High School Athlete of the week!

Perham Cross-Country: Enjoy The Journey And Have Fun
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/16/2013 2:46:56 PM

LITTLE FALLS – It can be difficult to wrap your head around the accomplishments of the Perham High School cross-country teams. The boys have been to the Class 1A state meet for 11 years in a row, with four state titles and five second-place finishes. The girls have qualified for state 10 consecutive years with two runner-up finishes. And that’s just the varsity teams.

Add in all the junior varsity and junior high runners for the Yellowjackets, and then attempt to wrap your arms around that entire group and get them all into one single photo. It’s not easy, but I managed to snap such a photo during last week’s 48th annual Lucky Lindy Invitational at Little Falls Country Club. The photo included 70 runners and three coaches wearing Perham yellow and black and big smiles.

The section titles, the state appearances, the state championships mean one thing. The number of kids who take part in cross-country at Perham means something else. It means coach Jeff Morris and his assistants – his wife Kay Morris and Brent Hanson – are doing more than telling runners how to run. The climate is inclusive and family-oriented, with equal does of training, fun and togetherness. It’s an outstanding example of what school activities can mean to a community and its students.

“I started building a philosophy around trying to create a culture for kids,” said Jeff Morris, a North Carolina native who coached for two years in that state before coming to Perham in 2002 (Kay is a Verndale native). “The two big things I want the kids to learn is that hard work is really hard and you need to have a positive mental attitude. If you do those two things you’ll enjoy the journey and have fun.”

When Morris arrived in Perham the cross-country program was small in numbers but with one outstanding runner. Gabriele Anderson was a junior on Morris’ first team, and she had three top eight finishes at state before running for the University of Minnesota and going on to become a professional distance runner.

The year before Morris arrived, the boys had finished last in their section meet; in his first year there weren’t enough girls to fill out a varsity team during the regular season. But in 2002 the boys went to state, beginning their 11-year run that continues today. In 2003 the girls qualified for state and have been back every year since. Two Yellowjackets have claimed individual state titles: Kevin Lachowitzer in 2006 and Maddie McClellan in 2009.

At last week’s Lucky Lindy meet, the Perham boys finished first by a wide margin over runner-up Bemidji and third-place Hopkins; both are 2A teams, as were the teams that finished fourth through ninth. Perham’s Keeghan Hurley was the individual champion in a course-record time of 15 minutes, 36.9 seconds. Sam Carlson of Bemidji finished second, followed by Perham’s Billy Beseman and Jayden Cullen. The Perham girls placed seventh, with ninth-grader Brynna Covington the top Yellowjacket in 20th place.

In the cross-country coaches association Class 1A rankings, the Perham boys are No. 1 and the girls are No. 4. Hurley is No. 2 among boys individuals, Cullen is No. 6 and Ben Sullivan is No. 11.

The Perham boys were honored as last season’s National High School Coaches Association Division II national champions; the division is for schools with enrollments of fewer than 500 students. The St. Cloud Cathedral boys team finished fourth in Division II; on the girls side Esko finished seventh. The rankings are based on computer power rankings.

That’s just further validation that the Yellowjackets are one of the state’s – and the nation’s – top cross-country programs. But again, what’s happening in Perham goes far beyond winning and losing.

“Being on the team and all of the girls always having my back, I always know that I’m not only running for myself but also for my teammates and my coaches and for my family, and that they’re all supportive,” said senior Lizzie Fudge. “I would never choose anything over cross-country and my team

“My girls definitely know how to push me and make me work as hard as I can, and that will definitely be a life skill.”

Hurley, who finished fifth at last year’s state meet, said, “This team is very family-oriented and we do support each other. And I think every team says it’s a family. I think the main thing with Perham cross-country is we try to maximize everyone’s gift. Whether it’s from junior high all the way up to the number one runner, if you have a dream we’re going to get you to it. We give you that chance. And with coach Morris and coach Kay, they help you all the way through.

“We expect the best. You go out and you give 100 percent, no matter what. And the dreams are so much higher; it’s not just make state, we expect to win state. We shoot big. We’ve been going for national titles now.”

The all-inclusive nature of the program extends beyond junior high students. There is a cross-country program for fifth- and sixth-graders, which Jeff Morris described as “lots of running games, lots of fun stuff.”

Morris, whose job titles in the school district also include math teacher and tech integrationist, maintains a first-class web site (www.perhamxc.com) for the cross-country program. The words atop the site are “Yellowjacket CC … You run … We fly…”

“They feel like this is a place where they can dream big, they’ll always be supported, they truly have fun,” Morris said. “At the end of the season we’ll have kids say it went too fast.”

--To see a Perham cross-country photo gallery, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.


*Schools/teams John has visited: 67
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 2,106
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn

Nominations Are Open For Old Dutch High School Athlete Of The Week
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/15/2013 10:57:45 AM

In partnership with Old Dutch and WCCO-AM 830, the MSHSL is proud to announce the Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week award. The Old Dutch High School Athlete of the Week honors Minnesota high school athletes for their contributions as athletes, students and community members.

Honored athletes will be recognized on WCCO-AM 830 every Thursday evening during the "Sports To The Max" show with Mike Max and every Friday morning during "The WCCO Morning News With Dave Lee." Winners of the award will not only be honored live on-air at WCCO-AM 830 and online by the MSHSL, but they will also receive a commemorative plaque for this recognized achievement.

Old Dutch is the proud to recognize the Quality that lives within each of these honored athletes.

Athletes can be nominated by emailing MSHSL media specialist John Millea at jmillea@mshsl.org

Nominations should include the following ...
--Student's name, school and grade.
--Athletic accomplishments during the past week. Please offer detailed statistics.
--Information about the student's academics and/or community involvement.
--A photo of the student.

A Big Game And A Big Kick … Even For The QB Who Couldn’t Watch
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/14/2013 12:22:14 PM

MANKATO – Owatonna quarterback Ian Langeberg, who threw for three touchdowns Friday night, was on the bench and averting his gaze during the game’s final play against Mankato West. Huskies kicker Carter McCauley was lining up a 38-yard field goal. If he makes it, Owatonna wins. Miss and the Big 9 Conference game goes to overtime between the two highest-ranked football teams in Class 5A: No. 1 Owatonna and No. 2 West.

There was plenty of drama, however, even before the kick sailed off into the night. First, West called a timeout. No surprise there, it’s the old “ice the kicker” theory. Make him think about it too much. Make a little doubt creep into his mind. And then came the unthinkable … Owatonna called a timeout. Yes, the Huskies iced their own kicker.

Holder Ty Sullivan had noticed that something was missing. Specifically, the Huskies were missing a player. Only 10 of them were on the field.

“We subbed out our entire PAT team this year to try and shore it up and one of the kids forgot he was on it,” Huskies coach Jeff Williams explained. “So I iced my own kicker.”

No matter. After the dueling timeouts, long snapper Tyler Vogt whistled the ball to Sullivan and McCauley boomed that baby through the posts. Owatonna wins 24-21.

“It didn’t really faze me or anything, it was more a time to get focused, I guess,” McCauley said of the double icing. “I was focusing on my target, I wasn’t thinking about the crowd or anything.”

Now, back to Langeberg. The senior had an exceptional night, throwing touchdown passes of 40 yards to Sullivan, 11 to Sam Fenske and 10 to Luke Wanous. But as the kicking team lined up, the quarterback couldn’t look. And that had nothing to do with a lack of confidence in McCauley.

“Carter’s awesome,” Langeberg said. “He’s worked hard at that for the last couple years. I have complete confidence in the guy. I did not watch it, though. I was just looking at the ground. I felt everybody around me stand up and our side just go crazy. It was crazy.”

Crazy good. For Owatonna certainly, but also for the Scarlets and their giant crowd of fans. The sportsmanship on both sides of the field was exceptional; I heard no grumbling from the West fans, one of whom said to another as they left picturesque Todnem Field, “That was a heck of a game.”

In fact, it was nearly two different games. Owatonna ran a wide-open spread offense in the first half (passing for 219 yards) but switched to a power game in the second. West ran only 19 plays in the second half, thanks to the Huskies’ clock-killing attack (and 30 plays).

“We have the spread concept and we have a power concept and there’s a bleed-in between,” Williams said. “The pendulum kind of swung toward the power game. I had a nice talk with our O line coach, Doug Wanous, at halftime, and he said we need to go off tackle and get outside on these guys. We were still able to throw the ball pretty effectively, I thought, but we started to control the line of scrimmage in the second half and that made all the difference.”

The biggest play of the game – pre-field goal – was a turnover. West was on the Huskies 6-yard line late in the first quarter when a shotgun snap bounced around and was recovered by Owatonna lineman and future Minnesota Gopher Andrew Stelter. It wasn’t long until Langeberg threw to Sullivan for the 40-yard score and 7-0 Huskies lead.

The Scarlets tied it 7-7 when Ryan Schlichte hit Will Claussen for a 40-yard score late in the first quarter, and the same duo hooked up for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left in the first half, putting West in front 14-7 at the break.

Owatonna put together a powerful drive in the third quarter, running the ball with authority. The Huskies tied it 14-14 when Langeberg dropped back, escaped pressure, scrambled and hit Fenske from the 11.

The Huskies flexed those same muscles on their next drive, which was kept alive when Andrew Petersen ran for five yards on fourth down at the West 20. The go-ahead score came on the 10-yarder from Langeberg to Luke Wanous, making it Owatonna 21, West 14 as the third quarter ended. West’s Schlichte capped the Scarlets’ next drive with a 1-yard quarterback draw for a score, and it was 21-21.

Schlichte completed 14 of 26 passes for 170 yards. Claussen caught six of those passes for 102 yards and the two touchdowns.

McCauley began getting loose and going through his warmup routine when the Huskies got the ball with two and a half minutes to play. After the double icing, he did his job.

“Right when I hit it, I knew it was in,” he said.

In last season’s Class 5A state quarterfinals, Owatonna beat Mankato West 28-0. Should the Huskies and Scarlets meet again this season it will be in the Prep Bowl.

Langeberg, in keeping with his decision to not watch McCauley’s kick, does not want to even speak of the state championship game.

“We don’t like to talk about that very much,” he said. “It’s a long ways away, a lot of things have to happen right for us to get there.”

--To see a photo gallery from the Owatonna-Mankato West game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.


*Schools/teams John has visited: 67
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 2,106
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn

Congratulations To The Old Dutch Athlete Of The Week
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/11/2013 2:04:24 PM

The first Old Dutch award of 2013-14 goes to St. Cloud Cathedral quarterback Jeff Fasching. Read about Jeff by clicking here

Thinking Back To Twelve Years Ago This Week
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/10/2013 10:41:59 PM

I’ll always remember where I was on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I had an appointment to speak to a class at Bloomington Jefferson High School, and I turned on the radio at home as I was getting dressed for the day.

There was talk of something bad happening in New York City. I turned on the TV in the kitchen and saw a big black smoldering hole in the side of one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. A plane had apparently struck the building, but nobody knew anything more than that. Before long another aircraft blasted into the other twin tower.

I drove to Bloomington Jefferson, arriving a few minutes early. I listened to the radio in the car for as long as I could and then walked into the school and was escorted to the room where the Sports Literature class was meeting. There were televisions in the classrooms, but because of construction work in the school none of the TVs were working. I told the class everything I had learned from listening to the radio, and then we were all in blackout mode.

After the class period ended, I drove to the Star Tribune building in downtown Minneapolis. Like everyone else in the newsroom, I watched the scenes on television. The Pentagon was on fire … a plane had apparently gone down in Pennsylvania.

Fast-forward a few years and I was back at Jefferson, writing about a memorial stone that had been installed at the school in honor of former Jaguars quarterback Tom Burnett, who died when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. I also wrote about former Blake linebacker Gordy Aamoth, who died in one of the twin towers on Sept. 11. The stadium at Blake now bears his name and a twisted beam from the World Trade Center is on display at the stadium.

In the Sept. 14, 2001, edition of the Star Tribune, I wrote a column under the headline “High school sports can help the healing.” I had spoken with people at Colorado’s Columbine High School as well as Osceolo High School in Wisconsin, where a traffic accident had claimed twin brothers a few weeks before Sept. 11. That column seemed to resonate with readers at the time, and to this day people occasionally will mention it to me. I have heard from a few people who say they saved that column, and they read it every day as Sept. 11 comes around. That is equally touching and humbling.

Here is that column as it appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Sept. 14, 2001…

High School Sports Can Help The Healing

In the horrible wake of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, all after-school activities were canceled Tuesday in the Jefferson County (Colo.) School District. This didn't surprise Ed Woytek, the athletic director at Columbine High School.

The day's events hit Columbine hard, especially the senior class. They were freshmen on April 20, 1999, when two students shot and killed 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

"Our coaches and all of us are on kind of a fine line, especially with what happened here previously," Woytek said.

Columbine still is recovering from that day. Recovery also is an ongoing process in Osceola, Wis., where twin brothers Eric and Aaron Kipp, 18, died in a car accident on the way to football practice 30 days ago.

With thousands of innocent people presumed to have perished this week, what do you say? How do you heal? Maybe it's best to listen to the kids. That's among the lessons learned at Columbine and Osceola.

"Pretty much all of them are saying to us, 'We need to be a family,'" Woytek said. "Because that's what happened a few years ago; they got with family. And that's where we need to be, that's where our American people need to be, is with family."

After the Kipp brothers died, football practices were stopped for a short period. But soon, everyone wanted to return -- or try to return -- to some sense of normalcy.

"Very soon, the kids were ready to go back," said Osceola coach/principal Mike McMartin. "They said, 'Coach, I need to keep busy.' And they were right. When we jumped back into it, although they weren't the best practices in the world, there was almost a big sigh of relief that they could start moving forward and take with us all the good things that the boys had shared with us for so many years, instead of thinking about the bad."

Activities went on as scheduled Tuesday in Osceola, the day of the attacks.

"We just really felt during that time it was massively important that we show to the kids, 'Hey, we're going on. We're not going to let these people defeat us or take us off our feet here. We're going to move forward and be proud,'" McMartin said.

At Columbine and Osceola, tragedy struck a specific community of people. This week, tragedy struck us all.

The Columbine Rebels take a 1-1 record into tonight's game at Dakota Ridge. Osceola is 3-0 and the homecoming opponent for rival St. Croix Falls. The games go on, as do our lives.

"Everybody keeps saying we'll never get back to normal, just like our nation will never get back to normal," Woytek said. "But hopefully we're going to get as close to normal as we can."

So if sporting events are part of your normal routine, stick with it. If you haven't been to a high school game in years, tonight would be a wonderful time to go. Get away from the television, escape the headlines. Find a seat in the bleachers and take a break, however temporary, from all that's gone so wretchedly wrong in this world.

Watch the team captains shake hands before the coin flip. Hold your hand over your heart during the national anthem as the flag flutters at half-staff. Bow your head during the moment of silence to honor this week's victims. Get on your feet for the opening kickoff. Watch our young people -- players, cheerleaders, fans -- as they smile, holler and laugh together during this evening that is tradition both athletic and social. Buy popcorn, listen to the band, cheer first downs, simply celebrate.

Maybe administrators at every school can find a recording of God Bless America, and across our states -- Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado and beyond -- we'll sing together when the game ends. Just like a family.

The Tractor Trophy: Northfield, Farmington Go Out In Style
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/8/2013 3:29:17 PM

One of the great rivalries in Minnesota high school football came to an end Friday when Northfield and Farmington played for the Tractor Trophy. Read about it by clicking here

Richie Olson, Coach Of 1960 Edgerton Basketball Team, Has Died
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/6/2013 10:58:08 PM

The architect of Edgerton’s historic 1960 one-class state boys basketball title, coach Richie Olson of Virginia, Minn., died Thursday from injuries he suffered in a fall last week north of Virginia, his brother, Floyd, told the Duluth News Tribune. Olson was placed on a respirator and never recovered. He was 76.

Olson was only 23 years old when he was hired to coach the Flying Dutchmen before the 1959-60 season.

Read more about Olson's death by clicking here.

On The Iron Range, Where Runners Run And A Volleyball Hero Returns Home
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/6/2013 12:58:20 PM

COLERAINE – It’s no secret that I have a lot of fun in my job. I also drive a lot of miles. The fun and the miles I accumulated Thursday was something special.

I was enticed via Twitter to drive to Greenway High School – a 450-mile round trip for me – to attend two events: the second annual Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin Titan Invitational cross-country meet at Eagle Ridge Golf Course, followed by a big rivalry volleyball match between Hibbing and Greenway.

It was an outdoor/indoor bash, featuring lots of outstanding competition, enthusiastic fans and community pride.

Speaking of Twitter, that electronic messaging system has clearly taken over the world. The invitation to come to Coleraine arrived via this Tweet: “@MSHSLjohn Would love to have you visit the Range for big CC meet and great VB rivalry on 9/5 in Coleraine!”

Several Tweets later, my trip was booked. Then came this Tweet from a member of the Greenway volleyball team, senior Kate Kuck: “Excited for @MSHSLjohn to come and watch our game against Hibbing! Everyone else should come too! #volleyballgame #Thursday #bethere!”

Greenway (high school enrollment 239) and Nashwauk-Keewatin (129) have cooperative teams in cross-country, football, golf and boys hockey. The Greenway-only teams are the Raiders; Nash-Kee teams are the Spartans; the coop teams are the Titans. One of the key participants in Thursday’s action, however, was not affiliated with any of the “home” teams … at least not officially.

Hannah Johnson, 23 (pictured), is the first-year volleyball coach at Hibbing, as well as one of the most famous athletes in Greenway history. Hannah was an all-state volleyball player for the Raiders, played collegiately at Minnesota Duluth and began her coaching career last season at Mesabi East. She took over at Hibbing this season when Gail Nucech retired after the most illustrious coaching career in Minnesota high school volleyball history. Nucech – who was in the Greenway gym as a fan Thursday night – began the Bluejackets volleyball program in 1969, led the team for 44 years and finished with a state-record 884 victories.

“Of course I would like to follow in her footsteps, success-wise,” Johnson said. “She’s built a great program. I came into this program and I started from scratch from a lot of aspects, but these girls knew what they were doing and they’re very coachable kids. They make my job easy.”

Johnson had not been in the Raiders gym since graduating from high school. Her return didn’t go exactly as she had hoped; Greenway swept the Bluejackets 25-22, 25-21, 25-23 in front of a large crowd that included a vocal band of Raiders students.

“I haven’t watched a Greenway volleyball game since I played in one,” Hannah said after the match. “And nothing has changed, nothing. The fans are still amazing. The fans are really what keeps the energy going; the atmosphere in here is great. It’s fun to play here.”

The cross-country meet and the volleyball match began in the same way: with the Greenway band playing the national anthem. Kudos to the musicians and their director, Sander Grotjohn, for hauling their instruments to the golf course, where they warmed everyone up with “Born To Be Wild,” “Louie Louie” and other tunes.

Also, I would like to officially extend personal kudos to the officers of the Coleraine Police Department. When I arrived at the golf course, the officers were allowing teams and coaches to park in the crowded clubhouse lot while fans were asked to park along the roadway and walk to the course. One of the officers looked at my, uh, graphically enhanced car and said, “Are you guy who’s on Twitter?” Yup. Busted … and getting a good parking spot. That evening at the volleyball match, I was standing outside the gym in a line of fans waiting to buy tickets when another officer came out and waved me through. “I thought that was you,” he said. Love those guys.

The cross-country meet was everything anybody could have hoped for. Seventy-five degrees, bright sunshine, a beautiful golf course. Esko won the girls team title and Esko and Proctor tied for first on the boys side. The individual winners were Esko’s Kailee Kiminski and Mesabi East’s Samuel Johnson.

Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin cross-country coach Will Floersheim is a young coach who knows how to make a meet special. The first event was a short run for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, followed by junior high and junior varsity races before the varsity competitions. Winning teams received delicious trophies: sheet cakes commemorating their accomplishment. I’m not kidding. Sheet cakes.

I arrived at the volleyball match as the teams were finishing warm-ups. Karen Tomberlin Gym is named after a former Greenway coach; Karen’s daughter, Rhaya Tomberlin-Anderson, is now the Raiders volleyball coach. Lineage is big in this story, and yes, Rhaya was Hannah Johnson’s high school coach.

“When she was a freshman at UMD and we took our varsity team to their team camp, she coached them throughout the team camp,” Tomberlin-Anderson said. “I was there to watch and at the end of that camp I said, ‘Hannah, you’ve got a gift. You’ve got to coach.’ I don’t know if she had thought about it before that, but I knew then that she would be an excellent coach.”

The Greenway players certainly remembered Hannah from her high school days. And Hannah was familiar with them, as well.

“I worked with them almost every single summer at UMD camps,” she said. “I know every single one of these kids.”

And just about everybody in the gym knew Hannah Johnson. It had to be a little strange, however, seeing their hometown hero wearing Hibbing blue instead of Greenway Green.

“It’s cool to see their fan base, and I know a lot of people were out here tonight for Greenway, but I know a lot of people came to support me,” Hannah said. “I come from this community and I’ll be part of this community forever.”

It's a great place to call home.

--To see a photo gallery from Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.


*Schools/teams John has visited: 45
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 1,818
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn

Congratulations To 2013 Hall Of Fame Inductees
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/4/2013 2:26:01 PM

Several high school Halls of Fame have announced their upcoming inductees, and here’s a rundown…

--The Minnesota State High School Coaches Association will induct six individuals into its Hall of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 12 at the Crown Plaza Riverfront Hotel in St. Paul.

The inductees are:
--Matt Shetka, New Prague, Girls Golf and Gynmastics
--David Barnum, Crookston, Track and Field
--Sandra Boss, Owatonna, Gymnastics and Track and Field
--Bill Bauman, North Branch, Boys Basketball
--Robert Stewart, Mounds View, Cross Country/Track and Field
--Milan Mader, Lakeville North, Volleyball and Gymnastics

--The Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association has named four men who will be inducted into the MBCA Hall of Fame. The induction ceremonies will be held Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis.

The inductees are:
--Laurin Carroll, Luverne
--Vern Johnson, Grygla-Gatzke
--Ken Novak Jr., Hopkins
--Bob Vaughan, Braham

--The Minnesota Girls Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame will induct eight individuals Oct. 11 at the Schwan Center in Blaine.

The inductees are:
--Dave Palmquist, South St. Paul
-- Chuck Scanlon, Apple Valley
-- Tim Morris, Eden Prairie
--Bob May, pioneer
--Jane Ring, pioneer
--Tom Maeckelbergh, pioneer
--Charlie Stryker, SPA/Visitation
--Brano Stankovsky, Blake

Congratulations to all!

Hurry Up: Dimke Sets The Pace For Blaine Volleyball Team
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/4/2013 9:49:57 AM

Lydia Dimke is in a hurry. The Blaine High School senior volleyball star is in a hurry to get to the net, where she smacks and blocks the ball with authority. She is in a hurry to get under a pass and set the ball for her teammates to pound. She is in a hurry to get into position to dig the ball, after which she often is at the net for a kill.

The 6-foot-2 Dimke did all that and more Tuesday night at Minnetonka, where the Bengals defeated the Skippers 28-26, 25-22, 25-22 in a non-conference matchup of top 10 teams. Blaine (2-0), which finished third at the state tournament last season, is No. 3 in this week’s Class 3A rankings. The top two are defending state champ Lakeville North and Chaska. Minnetonka is No. 6.

Dimke (pictured) finished Tuesday’s match with 14 kills, 17 assists and eight digs. Her final season of high school volleyball will end shortly before her high school days, because she will graduate early. If all goes well, the Bengals will play their final matches of the season in the Nov. 7-9 state tournament at Xcel Energy Center, and Dimke’s final day of high school will be Nov. 26.

Having committed to play volleyball at Purdue University, she will begin classes there in January. Yes, she’s in a hurry.

“I had to take a few online classes just to make sure I get all the credits done,” she said with a smile. “Other than that, it’s easy. Just don’t fail.”

Tuesday was also Lydia’s final first day of school at Blaine, which she admitted was kind of weird.

“I’ve never really been the oldest and I’ve always looked up to people,” she said. “But it’s kind of rewarding knowing that the younger kids look up to you now. It’s kind of cool.”

Lydia has always looked up to her sister Sydney, who is a 5-11 sophomore volleyball player at the University of South Dakota. Lydia now is one of 10 seniors on the Blaine team, but the roster is a mix of experience and newcomers; eight of the 14 varsity players did not see action in last year’s state tournament.

“Many of our kids in key spots are new and aren’t very experienced, and they’re really showing great poise,” Bengals coach Celeste Gorman said. “Honestly, I’m pleasantly surprised by the level of ball that they’re playing, I really am. The mental toughness is definitely key for this team.”

The Bengals have plenty of size, with 6-1 senior Jessica Jorgensen, 6-foot senior Brooke Christenson and 5-11 junior Taylor Morgan at the net. Jorgensen and Morgan each had six kills against Minnetonka, defensive specialist Ellen Anderson had 15 digs and setter Rebecca Hawkins had nine digs.

For the Skippers (6-2), 6-1 senior Hannah Weidner (13 kills), 5-9 senior Mikaela Purnell (11) and 5-10 junior Caroline Shelquist (10) led the attack. Ninth-grader setter Isabelle Aragon-Menzel had 33 assists and senior Laura Herman finished with 21 digs.

Tuesday’s match could have gone differently if not for the Bengals’ ability to close out a very close first game. Minnetonka held a 24-21 lead after a kill by Purnell and had three game points, but Blaine rallied in a game that had 15 ties and six lead changes.

“Game one could have gone either way and I thought Blaine played great at the end,” said Skippers coach Karl Katzenberger. “Plain and simple, I think both teams are state tournament teams and I think Blaine deserved to win tonight because they played better.”

--To see a photo gallery from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.


*Schools/teams John has visited: 24
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 1,368
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John onTwitter: @MSHSLjohn

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