A short snippet of video, just 37 seconds long, was directed to me Monday morning via Twitter, and it was spectacular. In a scene repeated in towns all around our state at tournament time, the video showed police and fire vehicles – sirens blaring – escorting a school bus as it departed Crookston for the 300-mile trip to the Twin Cities. Behind the bus, a line of family vehicles joined the parade with horns honking and flashers flashing.
On board the bus was the Crookston Pirates boys tennis team, bound for the Class 1A state team tournament Tuesday and Wednesday at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis. The Pirates had no individuals or doubles teams survive the Section 8 tournament and qualify for state, so this was truly a team endeavor. The video was provided by KROX radio in Crookston.
“It’s a great time,” said Crookston coach Mike Geffre. “Probably 75 percent of these kids have never been here so this is new for them. Just taking it all in is a lot of fun. The parent support, the community support, coming down and playing in this atmosphere is pretty cool.”
For some schools, particularly large schools, advancing to state in any sport can nearly become commonplace. That is not the case in Crookston, even though the boys tennis team has made several recent state appearances (placing fifth in Class 1A a year ago)
The Pirates boys basketball team was the state runnerup in in 2005, the girls basketball team had the same finish in 2006 and went back to state in 2008. The Crookston football team last went to state in 2003 and the girls hockey team made the trip in 2007. Nobody in town takes these things for granted.
“It’s a special thing for a little school,” said Crookston activities director Greg Garmen.
Some of that specialness comes via the relationships that develop through MSHSL activities. A terrific example is a gentleman named Hal Miller (pictured), who lives in Alexandria. Hal, who was inducted into the MSHSL Hall of Fame in 2015, has been a site manager for girls and boys state tennis tournaments for 31 years, and this week’s boys tournament is his 62nd in that role. He was a teacher and coach in Willmar for 34 years before retiring and returning to Alexandria, where he graduated from high school in 1966.
To see tennis coaches, players and fans greet their friend Hal with a smile, handshake or hug is very special. And a lot of other special things will take place in the coming days as tournaments continue.
This is high time for spring state tournaments; events in badminton, adapted bowling, robotics, synchronized swimming and adapted softball have already been completed. The boys tennis tournament will be held over four days this week (with singles and doubles competition on Thursday and Friday).
The state softball tournament will take place Thursday and Friday in North Mankato, and the state track and field championships will happen Friday and Saturday at Hamline University in St. Paul. Next week it will be state tournaments in girls and boys golf, girls and boys lacrosse and baseball. The spring tourney season will come to a grand conclusion with baseball state championship games at Target Field on June 19.
When you break all that down, you come up with an amazing number of competitions. By the time everything ends in boys tennis, softball, baseball, girls lacrosse and boys lacrosse, a total of 224 games/matches will have been played. And that number does not include golf or track and field.
Lots of teams and individuals will pose with trophies and medals, wearing the biggest smiles of their lives. Those are wonderful moments for sure, but the simple joys of competing, learning, sharing and growing are what’s most important.
So by all means get those sirens blaring, honk those horns and celebrate your teams’ accomplishments.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Crookston’s Geffre. “The kids get a real kick out of it.”
That’s the point.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 686
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 11,391
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn