John's Journal
Family Takes Priority Over Hoops For Apple Valley’s Goring5/1/2020
Tyus Jones has accomplished many great things on the basketball court. He scored 13 of Duke's final 21 points, including a dramatic three-point shot, as the Blue Devils beat Wisconsin in the 2015 NCAA national championship game; he was named the Most Outstanding Player. He was a first-round draft pick of the Timberwolves that year and is currently playing with the Memphis Grizzlies.

But one of his favorite memories came at the end of his junior year at Apple Valley High School. In the 2013 Class 4A state championship game at Target Center, the Eagles defeated Park Center 74-57. As Apple Valley coach Zach Goring sent in reserves and starters headed to the bench late in the game, Jones and Goring shared an emotional moment.

"We hugged on the court and we both started crying," Jones said. "That moment meant a lot to both of us. We started together and the program went to places we never imagined. We had gone through so much together, we could finally say that we won a state championship. We wanted to bring that first one to Apple Valley.”

The Eagles also won state titles in 2015 and 2017 during a historic run of success led by Jones, Gary Trent Jr. (now with the Portland Trail Blazers), Tyus' younger brother Tre (who has declared for the NBA draft after two seasons at Duke) and a host of other talented players.

Goring, who recently stepped down after 11 years as head coach, took five teams to the state tournament. He's a homegrown Apple Valley Eagle, graduating from the school in 1995 before playing basketball at St. Cloud State. He was an assistant coach at Apple Valley for seven years before replacing Mike Fritze as the head coach.

Goring, 43, is the father of 11- and 13-year-old children. As they got older he was pulled in two directions – coaching and fatherhood – and his family is the priority.

“When I took the job at Apple Valley I had a two-year-old and a newborn baby,” he said on a recent episode of the Preps Today with John Millea podcast. “That was 11 years ago, and now fast forward to today and I have a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old. I think all coaches come to a point where you're so busy with your own kids and then trying to run a basketball program, and that's just what I ran into.
“So I just felt out of fairness to my kids and also the kids at Apple Valley High School that I'd step away at this time and let them have someone that can really get after it.”

Goring will miss a lot about being a head coach, but not the year-round duties that never seem to let up. In the spring his players had speed and strength training four days a week after school. There were 20 summer workouts plus summer league games. The fall brought more speed and strength training after school, booster club meetings, fundraising and more, followed by a regular season and postseason that can be a grind.

“It just adds up,” Goring said, “and you get moving so fast. I just felt like it was time for me to step back and take a little bit of a breath. It was a very hard decision, one I really wrestled with a lot. But I think it's the right one.”

Goring is forever grateful to Fritze, was the Eagles head coach in football as well as boys basketball; he later became head football coach at the University of Minnesota Crookston. As an assistant coach, Goring ran summer basketball camps at Apple Valley. One day Fritze said to him, “What would you think about you being the head coach and me being your assistant, just flipping roles?” (This photo is of the 2013-14 team.)

Starting with the 2012-13 season and continuing through 2017-18, Apple Valley lost only 14 games over those five campaigns. In two of those seasons the Eagles did not lose after Jan. 1.

“Me and Zach have a great relationship,” Tyus Jones said. “Zach kind of followed me coming up in the grade school system and I think in the back of his mind he wanted to be the head coach one day at Apple Valley. It's kind of crazy how the timing worked out. His first year coaching was my first year playing varsity as an eighth-grader, with both of us not really knowing what to expect for our own individual careers. I think that brought us closer.”

The Jones brothers and Trent were the well-known stars, but Goring coached a long list of other players who went on to play college basketball.

“Obviously Tyus and Tre were the top point guards in the country but we just kind of had every position filled in there for nine years,” he said. “Tom Schalk was a Division 1 player (William and Mary) with us when Tyus was in ninth and 10th grade. Brock Bertram played at Texas Tech, Cam Kirksey had a great college career at Mankato, Dennis Austin played at Upper Iowa, Harry Sonie played at Augsburg, Dustin Fronk at St Thomas. Luke Martens at Winona State, Zach Korba played at Bethel.”

Another former player, Trey Pipkins, is now an offensive lineman with the San Diego Chargers.

“You get groups that come up together and know how to play with each other, and you're bound to have success,” Goring said.

With the highest-profile players drawing interest from the nation’s top college programs, Goring developed relationships with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self of Kansas, Tom Izzo at Michigan State and many others.

“It was a treat,” Goring said. “I could tell you so many stories. Coach K would come to open gyms so you're sitting with him in the corner and then Bill Self would walk through the door. Scott Drew from Baylor would be there and Tom Izzo and just all these great names.

“Tyus was going to commit on a Friday and I'm driving to school that Wednesday morning two days before he commits. It’s 6:45 in the morning and my cell phone rings. I answer and this gentleman says, ‘Are you here.’ And I said, ‘No, I'll be there in about 10 minutes, who's this?’ And he says, ‘This is Bill Self, I'll meet you at the gym.’ And he was there, doing his last push to get Tyus. He hopped a plane at 4:30 in the morning from Kansas and zipped up here to try to lure Tyus to Kansas.”

Goring – who operates a busy landscaping and lawn care business and works as a substitute teacher at Apple Valley -- doesn’t offer any guarantees that he will be able to completely stay away from high school basketball, even next season, although he doesn’t want to work as a head coach right now.

“I might coach somewhere else, maybe showing up in November and spending two hours at the gym and then being able to go home at night,” he said. “The year-round thing just kind of wore me out and I didn't think that I could commit to that.”

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Shutdown Diary: We'll Get Through This Together4/29/2020
The previous entry on this blog came from a coach in northern Minnesota. Today we hear from an activities director in southern Minnesota, with an honest and sad yet optimistic message to students and the community. I invite you to submit your own thoughts about the shutdown to me via email at jmillea@mshsl.org

April 24, 2020
Rebel Country,

I wish I could be contacting you today with some better news. I've been going back and forth, trying to come up with the perfect words in response to Governor Walz and the Minnesota State High School League's latest determination in regard to the school year and the cancellation of spring activities and athletics. The unfortunate reality is that it's such a struggle because this is uncharted territory. We've never seen anything like this before. There is no blueprint for handling the cards we've been dealt in the last month, let alone the last 24 hours.

I want to start by saying that I'm in full support of the decisions that have been made for our Minnesota schools. As always, the most important thing is the health and safety of our students, and I firmly believe our leaders have acted in the best interest of our kids given the current circumstances. As an Activities Director, I want more than anything for our kids to be able to step out there, compete, and proudly represent our school and communities the way they always have. That said, through it all I've been impressed with the open lines of communication from our leadership. While some gut-wrenching decisions have had to be made, I know the well-being of our students and student-athletes has never been in jeopardy. For that, I am thankful.

Unfortunately, that doesn't make this any easier. It's not easy on our schools and communities. It's a challenge for our staff, coaches, and advisors. It's tough on our parents, and most importantly, it's hard on our kids.

To our underclassmen, stay the course. My hope is that through this challenge, you gain a greater appreciation for the privilege of participating in high school athletics and activities. While we're unable to compete this season, use this hurdle as motivation and fuel for the future. I look forward to seeing you get back out there.

To our seniors, we're here with you. I have a hard time putting into words how I feel that you didn't get to finish your final chapter here. I'm so proud of your dedication to the silver, red, and navy blue. Our programs were the better for your efforts. While this didn't end the way any of us would have liked, I'm confident in the direction you all are moving because of the resolve you've shown through this trying time. I look forward to celebrating your future accomplishments and thank you for your commitment to USC. You are a special class and you will be missed!

To the USC community, we'll be back. If I've learned anything over the last few years, it's that the people of Rebel Country are resilient. The type of people who are willing to help their neighbors and who rise to the occasion when the going gets tough. I've had the privilege of seeing this firsthand in the face of our most recent adversity, and this leadership by example is perhaps the most valuable thing our youth will learn from this experience when all is said and done.

In a time where there is still so much uncertainty, I'm sure of one thing. We will get through this, and we'll get through this together. We'll rally and we will fight back. We'll take the hardship, learn from this experience, and end up on the other side a stronger USC. As we continue to battle one of our toughest opponents, I'm reminded of a line in our fight song that rings so true. "As Rebels we stand together, showing our might forever." It's what we've always done here in Rebel Country. I see no reason we'd change that now.

Joe Kuechenmeister
United South Central Activities Director/Dean of Students
Shutdown Diary: Sadness Shows You Care 4/27/2020
With spring sports cancelled in Minnesota, we again find ourselves in uncharted waters. We all are processing this in our own ways. Here is a message from Nathan Johnson, boys track and field coach at Proctor High School, to athletes and parents.

Greetings,

By now I am sure all of you know that our season is officially "over" - it never really got to start I guess.

I am sad. I know that you folks are sad. I KNOW the athletes are sad!

This is a time that is hard, maybe even impossible to process right now. So many things are changing and they seem to change daily. Our routines are thrown off. What is normal anymore?? I don't know if I am smart enough to answer those questions, but we want the answers!

Right now things seem to be overwhelming. It seems hopeless. And this is how we are SUPPOSED to feel right now. BUT - I also KNOW without any doubt that this too shall pass. My grandpa used to say this a lot. It is a saying that I have held on to my whole life.

The coaches MISS you. We LOVE watching you work hard and compete. We LOVE seeing you triumph. I know that I like to see people win events, but to me as a coach "success" for me in sports is more about striving to be better as a person, a student and as an athlete. Your performances and your PR's ARE successes and I LOVE seeing them. This seems to have been taken away from us.

We are in a different environment now. It is hard to see past the sadness. You SHOULD be sad - it shows you CARE!

So how do we move forward - as a team, as coaches, as parents/guardians, as athletes? I don't have the magic answer for that. But - know that your coaches are here for YOU. Anytime!

Here is a video I found that helped me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLYECIjmnQs

How does this video apply? EVERY ONE of the people listed in the video were thrown something they had no control over that could have devastated them. Yet they persevered.

Every one of us will persevere. We will pick ourselves up. It may take a while but we WILL BE BACK!

Sometimes we joke and mock the idea of #RailStrong - but let's think about that. We are a railroad town and what does a RR locomotive ride on? STEEL. OK - Coach J is getting cheesy right? Well - maybe - but think about that rail. The steel in that rail is STRONG. It has to be to take the weight. But it bends a little, the rail flexes to carry the weight. That is what being a RAIL means. And ALL of you are RAILS! That rail cannot perform without ALL the other rails on the track. As a team we are like those rails working together. Thus? We are RAILS - strong, tough, flexible, working together, supporting each other to achieve, to conquer whatever is put in front of us. And we are in a situation that none of us want to be in. We have lost something that we wanted. So now is the time to be that RAIL.

Let's support each other! We are still a TEAM. Know that your coaches are still here for you. Be sad, but start thinking about being that RAIL. Who do you know who needs support? Your siblings? Your parents/guardians? An elderly person that you know? Reach out to the seniors! Seniors - you lost your last season - you are sad. You might be angry. That is NORMAL. You are going to go on and do GREAT things! Your class is united forever because of this. Know that as your coach my respect of you may be unmeasurable. You have my everlasting respect.

Reach out if YOU need support! But know that in time this too shall pass and WE WILL BE BACK. The steel in our RAILS cannot be broken.

Stayed tuned to the Social Media Pages. I will continue to post things. I will continue to send e mails. We are still a team!

Parents/Guardians thanks for your understanding during this wild time! Please show this to your athlete(s). I am going to send this message to their school email account, too.

I will be staying in touch! THANKS and PLEASE STAY SAFE!!!!

Nathan P. Johnson
Social Studies/English Teacher
Mallet Adviser
Head Boys Track Coach/Assistant Football Coach
Proctor High School


I invite you to submit your own thoughts about the shutdown to me. Send them via email to jmillea@mshsl.org
A Young Runner Goes The Distance For Others4/21/2020
All of a sudden, Maya Mor had some rare free time on her hands. When Minnesota schools were closed and distance learning began, the Minnetonka High School ninth-grader's schedule abruptly changed.

In a normal spring, Maya would be in school during the day, at track and field practice after that, then take care of homework in the evening. But this is not a normal spring; she's schooling at home and sports are shuttered. So she had an idea.

"I was out on a bike ride when everything had started to get really bad, really fast," she said. "School was cancelled, track was postponed indefinitely, everything started going downhill. I heard stories about people on the front lines and I wanted to help out. I started brainstorming ideas.”

Maya, who loves to run, created a virtual event. It would be a 5-kilometer race with runners registering, covering the distance on their own with a route of their choosing, and reporting their times. She created a logo, a website and the Stronger Together Virtual 5K was born.

“I thought it would be really cool to do for our community, especially with track cancelled,” she said. “Personally, it was a huge loss for me and everyone's in the same boat, feeling the same way. It seemed like a great way to bring the running community together. We all could have a chance to race, get a fast time if we wanted to, get out of the house and run and have some fun for a good cause.”

Funds raised would be donated to the COVID-19 Response & Recovery Fund at Greater Twin Cities United Way.

Remember, Maya is only in ninth grade. She’s just 15 years old. But she also is fearless, said Minnetonka girls cross-country and track coach Jane Reimer-Morgan.

“I’m so impressed with her attitude,” the coach said. “If I tell her to run five miles, she’ll run 10.

“She’s a very sharp young lady. She’s not one bit shy. She is very confident, really a great kid.”

Maya lined up businesses as sponsors and accepted donations from runners and others. She contacted 150 Minnesota high school coaches in the hopes of spreading the word to as many runners as possible.

“Once I get passionate about something, I go all in,” she said. “Running is like that.”

She set a goal of raising $5,000. Participants were instructed to report their times by midnight Sunday, and anyone who donated $10 or more would be mailed a complementary bib from the event.

Some big names in running got on board. Support came from steeplechase world champion Emma Coburn, who runs a virtual 5K in her home state of Colorado, and professional runners Will Leer (a Minnetonka alum) and Reed Fischer (a Hopkins graduate).

Maya admits that she had some creative ideas in the past, while not having the time to follow through with them. She had considered starting a business to sell shirts to raise money for various cause and she also thought about getting a job.

“And that never happened,” she said with a laugh.

But the Stronger Together Virtual 5K? Oh, it definitely happened.

The goal, remember, was $5,000.

“Obviously when I started out I hoped it would turn into something big, but I had no clue,” Maya said. “I had no clue how people would receive the idea.”

Nearly 500 individuals took part with an average donation of around $25. Do the math and that’s $12,000. Yes, the 15-year-old ninth-grader who had a brainstorm during a bike ride raised twelve thousand dollars for a great cause.

The runners reporting the fastest times were Minnetonka senior Max Lauerman among males and Wayzata ninth-grader Abbey Nechanicky among female athletes.

Participants were from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Florida, Colorado and other states.

“The fact that we raised $12,000 and got participants from all around the country and around the state, being able to come together with all the other runners, it was fun to see how much we had in common,” Maya said. “Schools in our area were extremely supportive. We only see them in a quick glimpse when we’re competing, but to see we’re all so similar is so cool.

“It’s been really exciting.”

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
From 1981 To 2020, A Friendship That’s Right On Track 4/16/2020
Ryan Young was a ninth-grader at Princeton High School when he started pondering the list of school records in cross-country and track and field. Dreaming of someday seeing his own name on the board, he did something else back in ninth grade.

He tracked down the holder of the school records in his own specialties – cross-country in the fall and the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races in the spring – and wrote in an October 2016 email: "I would love to hear from you as I have some questions about your record and how you got such a fast time."

The record holder is Doug Burns, a 1981 Princeton graduate whose records at the 5K cross-country distance and in the two track events have stood for nearly four decades. Doug is the athletic director and coaches track and cross-country at Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, where he has taught math since the late 1980s. (Ryan and Doug are pictured here at a cross-country meet when Ryan was a freshman.)

Ryan's times have steadily improved since his freshman year and before this spring he seemed to be on the threshold of knocking Doug's track records into second place on Princeton’s all-time lists. Now a senior, Young’s quest has been sideswiped by COVID-19 and the shutdown of spring sports.

“It’s pretty heartbreaking for me as a parent,” said Ryan’s mother, Kim Young. “That’s been tough; talking about the potential of not having a season and then this (shutdown) started, that was really his only breakdown moment. He’s been working toward them for four years. It’s tough.”

The clear downside is that Ryan is missing out on his final track season. But the upside is a bright ray of sunshine in a gloomy sky: the friendship that has developed between Princeton athletes from the Class of 1981 and the Class of 2020.

Ryan’s original email began like this: “My name is Ryan Young, and I am a freshman at Princeton High School. I just joined cross-country this year and noticed that Doug Burns holds the boys cross-country record for Princeton and was wondering if you are the Doug Burns from Princeton?”

Burns quickly replied. One of the first things he told Ryan was, “It’s about time somebody broke those records.”

Burns’ school records are 15:54 in cross-country, 4:22 in the 1,600 and 9:30 in the 3,200. Ryan’s high school cross-country career ended last fall with a personal best of 16:44, and his best times on the track are 4:34 and 9:56.

“They were realistic goals,” Ryan said of breaking the track marks this spring.

One of Ryan’s classmates, Lexi Duscher, broke the girls cross-country school record back when they were in ninth grade. That had an impact on Ryan.

“Seeing her do that was kind of inspirational,” he said. “I put that in the back of my head and started working for it.”

Ryan and Doug have corresponded over the years and have talked in person when both teams were at the same competition. Doug went to state in cross-country and track and Ryan has competed at the state cross-country meet twice.

“Ryan is one of those great kids, such a natural leader,” said Princeton cross-country and track coach Tom Ostroot. “He can bring the team tighter. He has goals and he gets the rest of the team to buy in and follow along. He’s one of those perfect athletes who makes himself and others and even the sport better.”

The Princeton boys cross-country team won the Mississippi 8 Conference championship last fall – with Ryan winning the individual title -- the first time the Tigers had done so since Doug Burns was an eighth-grader.

“There’s no way our boys team won the conference without (Ryan) leading the way,” Ostroot said.

Burns has been careful to offer very general advice to Ryan out of respect for the Princeton coaches.

“I’ve been thinking about him,” Burns said this week. “I didn’t tell him about the spot where I used to jump the fence. I lived a couple hundred meters from the track so I was over there a lot. The contact with him has brought back so many great memories.”

Doug even sent information from his own training journals to Ryan, offering a glimpse into how he prepared in the 1970s and 1980s.

“That was super helpful and really inspiring,” Ryan said. “Knowing him on that level gives me a boost and motivation.”

In an email sent to Doug two days after the 2020 spring season was put on hold, Ryan wrote: “It’s been really hard thinking my senior year might be over and I could very likely not have a last chance to try and run as fast as you did. Through it all, I’ve still been working just as hard if not harder then I usually do during the season.”

Over the winter, Ryan worked especially hard to prepare for the track season. Along with other Princeton athletes, he competed in several USA Track and Field indoor competitions and felt confident in his conditioning as the spring neared.

“This winter I’ve been working my butt off,” he said. “And now I don’t have a way to show what I did this winter. We were all pretty excited, we were dropping some decent times. But it’s so tough. One of the best things about running in high school is running with your friends all the time.”

Even before the spring, Ryan had completed enough credits to graduate. He is taking mostly elective classes now and will continue his athletic career at Minnesota State University.

“That’s helped me a little bit, knowing I’m going to keep running,” he said.

Burns is a graduate of Minnesota State and lives in Lake Crystal, which is 14 miles from the university campus.

Even if Ryan is unable to get on the track and take aim at Doug’s records, the Young family might not be done with that quest. Ryan’s brother Adam is currently a ninth-grader who has shown potential as a runner.

“Having my junior times as low as they are, I hope that gives him a push to try to get those records, too,” Ryan said. “If anyone breaks them, it would be awesome if he did.”

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.