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Waseca’s Shane Streich: Racing With The Big Dogs
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/29/2014 2:21:43 PM

When Shane Streich reached the finish line in Saturday’s Roy Griak cross-country invitational at the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course, five other runners had already completed the 5,000-meter Larry Zirgibel Boys Gold race. Those five were from out of state, giving the senior from Waseca High School the high honor of being the top Minnesotan in one of the nation’s most prestigious cross-country events.

For Streich, finishing sixth at the Griak was a testament to planning and execution on a warm day. The temperature was in the 80s Saturday, and many of the high school and NCAA Division I, II and III runners who competed had trouble with the heat.

“I knew that today was going to be a warm day,” he said. “I executed my race plan, I saved perfectly. My plan was just to go out a little easier, probably five seconds off the leaders, which I did, and in that second mile start working my way up with them.”

As the race went along he moved into the lead pack, which included runners from Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota, including Wayzata senior Connor Olson. Wayzata is a Class 2A cross-country school and Waseca competes in Class 1A. Wayzata won the boys team title at the Griak for the second year in a row, with Olson finishing one spot behind Streich in seventh.

“At 3k I was able to get up in the lead pack with Connor Olson and the last 1.1 miles I knew I had to gut it out and just hang with them,” said Streich, who finished in 16 minutes, 8.61 seconds. Olson’s time was 16:14.06.

“Just for the opportunity to come up here and race with the big dogs, being from a small town, I just wanted to hang with them,” said Streich. “I knew that once I hit the top of the hill with about 200 left,it was going to be kicking point and I wanted to hold on as long as I could. I was about 10 meters behind Connor right when we hit that spot and I just kicked it in. I think today was my day.”

Indeed it was. But whether in cross-country or on the track, Streich is one of the most decorated runners in Minnesota. He was the Class 1A state cross-country runner-up last year; the champion was Perham senior Keeghan Hurley. As a sophomore, Streich finished third at the state meet, as a freshman he was fifth, an an eighth-grader he finished 14th and as a seventh-grader he placed 41st. The 2014 state cross-country meet, Nov. 1 at St. Olaf College in Northfield, will be Streich’s sixth time at state.

On the track, Streich won the 800- and 1,600-meter titles at the Class 1A state meet last spring. When he was a sophomore he won the 1,600 and finished second in the 800; as a freshman he was second in both races; and as an eighth-grader he was eighth in both.

At the Griak Streich ran as an individual, but he was backed by plenty of support from Waseca.

“I like coming up to this meet because of the competition,” he said. “Not only with the bigger schools in Minnesota but also schools from Wisconsin and Iowa and the opportunity to race against these guys; coming from a small town, just being able to come up and have this competition and being able to see what I can do against these guys.

“It feels pretty good. I know some people doubted me, being from the small town of Waseca. It’s nice to come out as the top Minnesotan in this race, and I’d say it’s definitely somewhat of a surprise to some of the other runners in Minnesota and somewhat of a surprise to myself. But I had faith in myself, my coaches had faith in me, my parents and especially my brother (Cole, a sophomore cross-country teammate) and my other teammates had faith in me.”

The Griak result further endorses Streich as the runner to beat in Minnesota, regardless of class.

“It’s definitely a confidence booster for the upcoming meets,” he said. “I expect to keep dropping my times. And to be able to say I’m the top Minnesotan after this race definitely helps from the standpoint of the state meet and also my bigger goal of making the Nike nationals. I think this definitely puts me in position and definitely builds my confidence.”

(photo from www.southernminnesota.com)

*Schools/teams John has visited: 84
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 2,765
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Mahnomen: A Special Place With Football At The Core
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/24/2014 10:07:10 AM

MAHNOMEN – The hospital in this northwest Minnesota town is close to the high school football field. Very close. Maybe too close. It’s right across the street, just a few paces from the home sideline for the Mahnomen Indians.

After Week 3 of the football season, Mahnomen Health Center appeared to be on the brink of being home away from home for the Indians. Was it a coincidence that a big red electric sign screamed “EMERGENCY”?

“We’re in disarray right now,” coach John Clark Jr. said a few days before the Indians hosted Lake Park-Audubon last week in a game between unbeaten teams. In a 35-14 victory over Fosston seven days earlier, injuries stacked up like firewood.

The starting quarterback suffered a shoulder injury and left the game, the backup quarterback went out with a broken wrist, and the third-string quarterback was already sidelined with a concussion. Jon Hoffner, a senior running back who played a little at quarterback as a freshman and then missed two seasons because of injuries, became the emergency QB. And that’s not all. The Indians’ two starting running backs also left the Fosston game with injuries.

Mahnomen has won the last two Class 1A state championships and came into the Lake Park-Audubon game on a 31-game winning streak, the longest current streak in Minnesota (the state record is 76 by Stephen-Argyle from 2003 to 2008).

But heading into Week 4, questions surrounded the Indians: Are they vulnerable? Was this a true emergency?

It took all of two plays to find the answer. Junior quarterback Tom Pavek -- with his left (non-throwing) shoulder all strapped up after suffering a separation and three sprained ligaments a week earlier – ran 65 yards for a touchdown on the second snap. The next Mahnomen possession ended with another strong statement of the same distance, a 65-yard pass from Pavek to Luke Warnsholz.

Pavek added scoring runs of 61 and 23 yards, Dylan Reitan (another resurrectee from the Week 3 injured list) ran for touchdowns of 11 and nine yards and Mahnomen sailed to a 45-7 win. Crisis averted.

“We kind of went through this last year and we were able to weather it,” Clark said of the injuries. “The kids are excited, they know they are close to playing. That’s small-town football.”

Small-town football indeed. A few hours before kickoff Friday, Clark was walking across Main Street in this town of 1,214 people. A guy sitting in a parked car hollered out the window, “Clark! Good luck!” The coach replied, “Thanks bud! See you there!”

There is plenty more to Mahnomen than football. The Health Center cares for people from all over the area, White Earth Tribal and Community College and the Mahnomen Public School District provide quality educational opportunities, and Shooting Star Casino and Hotel is a popular destination. But in the autumn, football is king.

“This is a special place and football is at the core of that,” said Clark, who grew up in the nearby town of Ogema and graduated from one of Mahnomen’s longtime rivals, Waubon High School, in 1990.

Football fans in Mahnomen know how to get to the Prep Bowl, whether it’s held in the Metrodome, the University of Minnesota stadium (the championship game site for 2014 and 2015) or the new Vikings stadium, which will begin hosting the Prep Bowl in 2016. The Indians made their first state tournament appearance in 1974, and they have been regulars ever since.

In fact, no high school team in the state has played in more Prep Bowls than the Indians, who have done so 13 times. They own eight state championships, coming in 1980, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2012 and 2013.

The first six of those state titles came when Hall of Famer Ken Baumann was the head coach. Clark was an assistant for two years before becoming head coach when Baumann retired in 2000. Baumann ranks fifth among Minnesota high school football coaches in career victories with a record of 287-66-2.

“It’s all about tradition here and we follow it every year,” Pavek said after the victory over Lake Park-Audubon, in which he carried the ball 12 times for 209 yards and completed three of seven passes for 106 yards.

Before putting on a varsity uniform, Pavek was a student manager beginning in sixth grade. Like most of the kids in town, he has been attending games as long as he can remember.

When I asked Pavek why the team has been so consistently strong, he said, “It’s all about winning the next play.We just fight through each thing, whether it’s getting that extra yard before the first down or stopping the other team on fourth team.”

When Clark was growing up in Waubon, he wondered what made Mahnomen special on the football field. And even now that he’s the Indians coach, he doesn’t seem completely certain of the specific reasons for the success.

“You always wondered, ‘How are they so good?’ or ‘What makes them so good?’ You hear about the tradition and all that. And to be a part of it, it’s a special deal. It’s hard to explain, hard to describe. It’s in the blood, it’s in the water up here.”

Clark had warned me that Friday’s crowd wouldn’t be as big as when the postseason rolls around. It was impressive nonetheless, with fans watching intently and cheering throughout the game. The noise level will only increase as the season moves along toward the ultimate competitive goal: another Prep Bowl.

“When you’re in the playoffs or at the Metrodome and you hear the crowd roar, that’s pretty special,” Clark said. “It’s too bad more people don’t get to experience that.”

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

*Schools/teams John has visited: 74
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 2,663
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

A Brief Note About Something Neat
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/23/2014 10:03:57 AM

Here’s another wonderful example of all the positives that are part of high school activities…


This is a note that Coach Haugen and myself received after the Pelican Rapids vs. Warroad football game on Friday night. With all the negatives in pro football, it is nice to receive an email like this. We’re proud of the kid’s parents for teaching him and his brothers to do the correct thing. This player has a twin brother; both are starters on the offensive line, linebackers, and one is the punter and the other is our place kicker.


Derrick Nelson
Assistant Principal/Activities Director
Pelican Rapids High School

Coach Haugen

Just wanted to send you this message on something that I saw on Friday night in Warroad.

As I was leaving the football complex with my children after the game was delayed by weather, I saw #53 on your team reach down and pick up some money that a girl had just dropped and then he caught up to her and gave it back.

While many high school students would have hung on to it and considered it their lucky day, he did the right thing and returned it to her.

I tell my teams every year that in addition to being great athletes they need to strive to be great people. People always want to focus on athletes when they do something negative and it is often overlooked when they do something positive like this.

Please shake this young man's hand for me and tell him to keep up the good work. Good luck on the rest of your season.

Jay Hardwick
Warroad Head Boys Hockey Coach

Everything Is Big At The Milaca Mega Meet
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/21/2014 5:59:45 PM

MILACA – Every year when the Milaca Mega Meet is held, the key word is Mega. This is the big one, with 150 schools and more than 5,900 cross-country runners registered for the 2014 Mega Meet, which was held Saturday at Stones Throw Golf Course.

And it’s not just runners and coaches. It’s parents, grandparents, siblings, dogs, cars, buses, picnic lunches and more. The little town of Milaca (population 2,946) was absolutely inundated Saturday, with buses parked everywhere near the golf course and fans parking across town and being brought to the meet via shuttles.

The Mega Meet is a logistical challenge, including setting up and taking down all the course markings, flags, finish-line chute, etc., to the simple (or not-so-simple act) of running 19 different races between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Teams come from all over Minnesota plus North Dakota and Wisconsin, and a starter’s pistol is fired every 15 minutes as another race begins.

“This year it’s the biggest since I’ve been involved, and I believe these are the biggest numbers in the history of the race,” said meet director and Milaca cross-country coach Dave Dillan.

This was the 44th year of the Mega Meet, which began as the Princeton Invitational. It changed locations in Princeton a couple times, was moved to Milaca and a big area in the country in 1997, shifted to Foley for two years, returned to Milaca when the golf course became available and and has gotten larger every year.

“When we were in the field we loved the course but it was a little rough for the runners,” Dillan said. “The golf course is great.”

The racing order is straightforward. The day begins with races for seventh-, eighth, ninth- and 10th-grade boys and girls, followed by boys and girls varsity races with teams split into four classes. The final event of the day is an alumni race; the instructions read “participants must be an alumni of something.”

Now that the 2014 Mega Meet is in the books, these next few days will bring messages of thanks from all over.

“It’s probably the best part of doing this meet,” Dillan said. “We get emails and letters from parents and kids, saying this is the highlight of their running career and they look forward to coming every year. Those things are really nice to hear.”

The MSHSL state cross-country championships include a total of 696 runners, split into two classes for boys and two for girls (174 in each).

So imagine how hard it is to plan and execute a day of racing for nearly 10 times as many entrants.

“The logistics can be a litte hairy,” Dillan said. “We use every port-a-potty in town, I’ll tell you that. And it’s still not enough.”

--To see a photo gallery from the Mega Meet, visit the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 74
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 2,663
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

For Years, Volleyball Has Been A Family Affair At Hopkins
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/17/2014 2:29:41 PM

Nine years ago this week, I wrote a story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about Hopkins volleyball coach Vicki Seliger Swenson, who was about to give birth to twins. Back then, she and her husband Erik Swenson had one child, eight-year-old Samantha.

That story, from Oct. 14, 2005, included this passage:

--While mom and dad are anxious, big-sister-to-be is pumped. Samantha - the back of her shirt said “Lil' Swens” at Tuesday's match - cannot wait for the happy occasion. (She was a February baby, by the way, which made the whole thing much easier for all.) “She is pretty excited about this whole thing," Erik said. "She is a huge volleyball fan, a gym rat, she's at all of Vicki's practices, she goes to all the tournaments, all that stuff."--

On Tuesday evening I checked in with Vicki and Samantha (pictured) once again. Samantha Seliger Swenson is now a senior volleyball star on her mom’s team at Hopkins. Samantha, who has committed to the University of Minnesota, is ranked as the No. 8 recruit in the country by prepvolleyball.com, is a USA Today All-American and had been listed on virtually every state and national all-star team.

When I asked Samantha what she remembers from that 2005 season, she smiled and said, “I remember that Hopkins went to state that year and there were so many exciting things happening. My mom was having twins, I was going to be a big sister, the team was going to state. That was a really happy time.”

Six days after that 2005 story was published, Vicki gave birth to Stella and Olivia. Less than a year later, the family dynamic changed dramatically when Vicki’s sister Teri Lee and her boyfriend Tim Hawkinson were murdered by an ex-boyfriend. Lee’s four children were in the home when the crime took place; their father had been killed in a car accident a few years earlier.

Vicki and Erik adopted Teri’s children, and the family immediately was too large for its small home. Through the television program “Extreme Makeover Home Edition,” a spacious new home was built for the family of 10.

Now, niece Taylor is a junior at Marquette University, nephews Tyler (senior) and Trevor (sophomore) play football at Hopkins, niece Tara is a ninth-grader on the Hopkins varsity volleyball team, Stella and Olivia (who will turn nine on Saturday) are starting to play volleyball and six-year-old Eva will soon be doing the same.

Vicki, who helped author legislation to protect victims of domestic violence, gave up teaching when the twins were born and has devoted her life to her family. Erik, who was the head football coach at Blake in 2005, now teaches social studies and is an assistant football coach at Hopkins.

As Samantha plays for her mom in her final year of high school, she is grateful for the lessons she has learned.

“She’s a role model in all aspects of life, not just volleyball,” Samantha said Tuesday at Eden Prairie, where the Class 3A top-ranked Eagles defeated the eighth-ranked Hopkins Royals 3-0.

“She’s kind of taught me everything I know. I’ve been with volleyball and with her at all times, and it’s kind of shaped me into what I value and how I look at things. Having someone who supports me so much and is always there with me is pretty special.”

Vicki said, “It hasn’t really hit me yet. I looked at the schedule and realized we have three home matches left. So the reality is starting to sink in. We’ve been pretty spoiled with her in our program for six years.”

Samantha has basically run the show from her setter position for years and years. When she was in eighth and ninth grade, college coaches told Vicki that the youngster played like a college setter because she knew so much about the nuances of the game.

“Coaches like coach’s kids or little sisters for that reason, because they’ve grown up with the sport,” Vicki said.

Samantha’s decision to play for the Gophers was easy, despite some thoughts early in the process about attending college in California.

“When I was in middle school I thought I would want to go to Cal Berkeley or Stanford,” she said. “But then I realized if I went to California my family would only be able to go to a couple games a year, so it was really important to choose the U because they will be there at every match.

“I know how much I enjoyed watching volleyball when I was younger, and to have my little sisters watch me play is really important, too. Definitely being close to home is important.”

Samantha grew up with her mom’s volleyball teams, hanging around at practice, traveling to road matches and basically soaking everything up.

“I think she played on my ninth-grade team for about seven years, unbeknownst to me,” Vicki said with a laugh. “Because she would just disappear at practice. Most kids want to go to the after-school care, but she would choose to walk over to my gym and play with a ball, play with the older girls.”

And now, history is repeating itself. Stella and Olivia, who were the focus of a newspaper article before they were born, are now hanging around at practice, watching the Royals play, soaking it all up.

“They’re doing the same as Sam,” said Vicki.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 30
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 2,116
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

On “Play For Nat” Night, Communities Come Together In Fun, Support
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/15/2014 2:19:38 PM

KENYON – The message was simple: “Play For Nat.”

Nat is Natalie Hildebrandt, a sophomore volleyball player at Kenyon-Wanamingo High School. She was recently given a clean bill of health after two years of a knock-down, drag-out fight with cancer. Natalie’s hair is growing back, she has returned to playing volleyball and Thursday night was a celebration that will be remembered forever by those who packed the gym.

There were smiles. And a tailgate party. And a silent auction. And smiles. C-squad, JV and varsity volleyball between the Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights and the Cannon Falls Bombers. And smiles. Money was raised, including a “Dash for Cash” through the stands by head volleyball coaches Jen Nerision of K-W and Melissa Huseth of Cannon Falls – who are sisters – between the first and second sets of the varsity match. Ribbons were sold as another way to raise funds. There was a tug-of-war between the football teams from the two schools. Oh, and did I mention the smiles?

“It’s overwhelming,” Natalie told me. “It’s nice to see everybody come out and put this together.”

This was a team effort by lots of people; the Twitter hashtag was #TEAMNAT and that’s how I found out about the evening. Folks from Kenyon-Wanamingo began sending me Tweets about #TEAMNAT night, and making the decision to be there was mighty easy for me. All the money raised went to help Natalie’s family with medical expenses.

Natalie has been through more than anyone should have to face. She was diagnosed in March 2012 and went through chemotherapy and radiation. The cancer returned earlier this year, and she spent about a month and a half of the summer hospitalized in Rochester, where she underwent more rounds of intense chemo and a stem-cell transplant.

All the way through, she has been supported not only by her parents, Kevin and Renee, and her big sister Sarah, but by classmates, teammates and many others. After Natalie learned last March that the disease had returned, more than a dozen boys in town shaved their heads in support and several girls donated hair to Locks of Love.

“It’s very overwhelming,” said Renee, a second-grade teacher at Kenyon-Wanamingo. “To see the support and the love that all the people and all the kids have showed Natalie, we appreciate that so much. It’s just been unbelievable.”

“Play For Nat” was a culmination, a celebration, a turn for everyone to share in the Hildebrandt’s happiness.

Some of the biggest cheers of the night came when Natalie entered the JV volleyball game and served three consecutive points before returning to the bench. Players from both schools wore green socks and green Team Nat t-shirts as warmup tops; many of the fans also wore the same green shirts.

This clearly was not a typical high school athletic event. The purpose of supporting Natalie and her family was the focus, not the final score. Sportsmanship was strong but the effort of the athletes never wavered; whether on the volleyball court or when the Kenyon-Wanamingo and Cannon Falls football teams grabbed opposite ends of a thick rope and tugged on that sucker.

The most frenetic activity of the evening was the Dash for Cash. Nerision and Huseth (who has coached Natalie in offseason volleyball), carried plastic pails, ran up bleacher steps, leaped over seats and people as the fans cheered, all in an attempt to gather as much cash as possible before a timer expired. Wads of bills were squashed together and jammed into the pails.

When the volleyball match resumed, Nerision was not only the Knights’ head coach but head cheerleader, as well. When her sister called a timeout, Jen leapt to her feet and screamed, high-fiving each player as they came to the bench.

This went way beyond winning and losing. This went to the heart of everything that matters most in high school sports: working hard, supporting each other, learning, growing.

“I think it has definitely raised the school spirit around here,” Nerision said of all the support for Natalie. “It brings everybody together, it brings communities together, and that is pretty darn special.”

--To see a photo gallery from “Play For Nat,” go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 28
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 2,066
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Thinking Back To Thirteen Years Ago This Week
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/11/2014 1:02:37 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.

Seeing Triple On The Kasson-Mantorville Boys Soccer Team
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/10/2014 2:19:05 PM

KASSON -- When the Kasson-Mantorville boys soccer team takes the field, the opposition is sometimes confused. The KoMets, it seems, have one player who is everywhere. He wears a blue headband over his dark hair, and somehow, someway, he is all over the field.

When the game ends and the teams are shaking hands, a sudden realization strikes the opponents. KoMets senior Chris Pathoulas explains: “When you’re walking through the line at the end of the game, they’re like, ‘Wow! There’s three of them!”

Yes, there are three Pathoulas brothers. And they are triplets. Nick, Joe and Chris are seniors who have helped the KoMets open the season with an 8-0 record, the best start in school history. The brothers have combined to score 10 of the team’s 34 goals and they have 17 of the KoMets’ 28 assists. Nick is the leading setup man with 11 assists, more than twice as many as anyone else on the team. (Pictured left to right are Joe, Chris and Nick.)

Now, if everybody could just tell them apart. Fifth-year coach Dave Bahr jokes that he looks at their feet, because Nick wears black shoes, Chris blue shoes and Joe green shoes.

“Chris is pretty easy to tell apart from the other two,” Bahr said. “With Nick and Joe, I’ve learned over the years to look closer.”

Joe Pathoulas is the KoMets’ third-leading scorer with five goals. Cooper Rose leads with seven goals – including one in Tuesday night’s 2-0 victory over Stewartville -- and Andy Plein has six goals. Nick Pathoulas has three goals and Chris scored his second goal of the year Tuesday.

“They’re outstanding individuals,” Bahr said of the triplets. “They’re very quiet, they’re very driven. They have the complete respect of the rest of the team and they are natural leaders. They work as hard as they possibly can in practice and in games.”

The triplets have one older brother, James, who is a student at St. John’s University in Collegeville. The three want to go to college together, and they mentioned St. John’s as a possibility.

“If you find out, call us,” their mother, Karen, said with a laugh. “We’ve been pressing them and we haven’t gotten an answer.”

All three of the boys are top students who plan to study biology and go into careers in the medical field. They have the same classes and the same teachers and they share the same bedroom. “We took out a wall, so it’s a big bedroom,” said Nick.

Expectations for the KoMets this season were high, based on plenty of returning experience after an 11-6-1 record in 2013.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Bahr said. “I thought we’d be pretty good this year. We only had three seniors last year and two of them didn’t play much. … I’m just really pleasantly surprised that we’re not only scoring a lot of goals, which has always been a struggle for us, but we’re also allowing very few goals. It’s just a good mix of ages, with kids who are seniors and playing really, really well and some good team chemistry.”

Goalkeepers Jack Peterson and Alex Peters have been brick walls, giving up a total of only four goals. Peterson’s goals-against average is 0.24 and Peters’ is 0.75; they each have three shutouts.

“Most of (the success) has to do with our coach,” said Chris Pathoulas. “He’s been a really great coach. Throughout the years he’s been here, he really connects with the kids and he really knows the game very well and he teaches it very well.”

And, thanks to the shoes, he can tell the Pathoulas brothers apart.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 24
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 1,952
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Minnesota State High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame Selections
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/9/2014 11:23:12 AM

The Minnesota State High School Coaches Association is honored to announce its Hall of Fame Selections for 2014. The coaches will be inducted at the annual Hall of Fame and awards banquet on Oct., 11 at the Minneapolis Marriott West Hotel in St. Louis Park. The social hour will start at 5:30 p.m. with the banquet to follow. Family, friends and former players are invited to attend. Tickets may be purchased for $30 by contacting the MSHSCA offices at (218) 8947-6796 or Jim Baker (651) 357-2937.

The four Hall of Fame inductees have accumulated impressive success in the sports they have coached. They have reached a pinnacle of coaching success that ranks them in a very special status and exemplify the greatness of Minnesota High School Coaches.

--Geri Dirth has served as the head girls track and field coach since 1980 at Apple Valley high school The Apple Valley girls track and field teams collected 15 state championships under Geri’s guidance.

--William Frantti is often called the Central Minnesota Hockey Godfather. Bill started coaching hockey in 1955 at St. Cloud Tech and continued in that capacity for 30 years. Bill continued serving in several leadership areas in promoting the growth of hockey in the state of Minnesota

--John Eberhart served as the girls tennis coach in Pine City from 1976-2000, winning many conference championships and six section championships on his way to compiling a record of 280-92. John has received numerous coaching awards, including induction into the Pine City Hall of Fame, the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame and the George Haun award from the Minnesota State High School Coaches Association.

--Zigurds “Ziggy” Kauls served as the head boys basketball coach at Mounds View from 1968 -2012. During that time Ziggy’s teams won 11 conference championships and made 12 state tournament appearances. Mounds View compiled a record of 739-357 during Ziggy’s 45 years. Coach Kauls is currently enshrined in five Halls of Fame: the Hamline University Hall of Fame, the Mounds View High School Hall of Fame, The Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, The Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame and the Forest Lake High School Hall of Fame.

Please join us in celebrating a great honor for these most deserving coaches who exemplified what it means to be called "Coach"

Family, friends, and former players are invited to attend. For ticket information contact Jim Baker, Hall of Fame Banquet coordinator (phone 651-357-2937 or email jbad154@q.com).

The MSHSCA will also recognize all 2012-13 championship coaches as well as all Coach of the year and Assistant Coach of the year winners.

District Football Plan A Hit In Southwest Minnesota
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/8/2014 8:16:07 AM

When district football comes to Minnesota next year, it will mean big changes in regular-season scheduling. Each team has been placed into one of 18 districts, with districts able to break down their teams into sub-districts in order to make scheduling easier.

(Key point to remember: Nothing will change in regards to the postseason. Teams will remain in sections, as has been the case for years, and the section system will continue for postseason play.)

In many areas of the state, the switch from conferences to districts won’t be a big change, and the Southwest district is in that category. The Southwest will consist of 18 teams, with most of them coming from two current conference. Southwest district schools have made the decision to split into two divisions, largely along conference lines.

There were skeptics about district football among those schools, but the plan has proved to be a sensible move.

“I was an opponent of it because we had a good strong conference and lots of rivalries,” said Springfield coach Paul Dunn. “It appears that’s going to remain, so I’m very happy with that.”

The Southwest district will consist mainly of teams that currently are members of the Little Sioux and Southern Minnesota conferences. The current Little Sioux teams are Adrian, Canby, Dawson-Boyd, Lac qui Parle Valley, Lakeview, MACCRAY, Minneota, Murray County Central, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton. The Southern Minnesota Conference teams this fall are Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, Cedar Mountain/Comfrey, Martin County West, Minnesota Valley Lutheran, New Ulm Cathedral, Sleepy Eye, Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s, Springfield, Red Rock Central and Wabasso.

The Southwest district will include those teams, with these exceptions: MACCRAY and Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart will play nine-man football in the 9 West district and Martin County West will play in the South Central district. One additional team in next year’s Southwest district is Ortonville (currently in the Pheasant Conference).

“Our district is unique because for the most part they took two conferences and combined them, and that’s how we split our district up,” said Minneota coach Chad Johnston. “From that standpoint there’s not a lot of change. The big difference is the terminology; instead of saying we’re part of the Little Sioux Conference, now we’re part of a sub-district. Our conference schedule really won’t change.”

Not surprisingly, there was plenty of trepidation about district football before the plan for 2015 was announced in early June. But once coaches and others saw the plan and their individual district lineups, that fear of the unknown dissipated.

“For the most part we’re a 1A district,” Johnston said. “From that standpoint, there were not a lot of big changes. That’s always the magical question, the uncertainty.”

Dunn said, “For us, it turned out as good as it could have.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 22
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 1,826
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Nominate Your Favorites For Old Dutch Athlete/Team Of The Week
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/5/2014 5:48:11 AM

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

We also honor a Team of the Week. The Team of the Week will be recognized on WCCO AM 830 every Tuesday morning on "The WCCO Morning News With Dave Lee."

Honored individual athletes are 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 be honored live on-air at WCCO-AM 830 and online by Old Dutch and the MSHSL.

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

Athletes and teams can be nominated by anyone by sending an email to MSHSL media specialist John Millea at jmillea@mshsl.org

Nominations for athletes 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.

Nominations for teams should include a summary of what the team accomplished during the week and a team photo or school logo.

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