John's Journal
Class 2A Volleyball Rankings8/18/2017
By the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

Class 2A Rankings
1. Maple Lake (8)
2. Stewartville
3. Kasson-Mantorville
4. Southwest Christian
5. Marshall
6. North Branch
7. Sauk Centre
8. Roseau
9. Totino-Grace
​10. Concordia
Class 1A Volleyball Rankings8/18/2017
By the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

Class 1A Rankings
1. Mayer Lutheran (8)
2. Hayfield
3. Caledonia
4. Bethlehem Academy
5. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
​6. Rush City
7. Mabel-Canton
8. Wadena-Deer Creek
9. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
10. Underwood
Running And Coaching: Apple Valley’s Heather Kampf8/16/2017
After her first practice as the new girls cross-country coach at Apple Valley High School on Monday, Heather Kampf issued this message on Twitter: “Today was my first day as HEAD COACH for @AVCCGirls! So excited to empower them to confidently chase down big dreams, on and off the grass.”

I don’t know if there are any other professional runners who also serve as high school head coaches in Minnesota. And I don’t know how much the cross-country athletes at Apple Valley know about their coach’s running pedigree, which is quite impressive.

Kampf (who was Heather Dorniden before getting married) won Class 2A state track championships at 400 and 800 meters for Rosemount High School, where she graduated in 2005. She finished as high as 15th in three appearances at the Class 2A state cross-country championships.

She was a nine-time all-American runner at the University of Minnesota, winning an NCAA indoor title in the 800 in 2006. In her time with the Gophers, she was the only team member who competed at every NCAA championship in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. She set school records in nine individual and relay events.

As a professional runner Kampf, 30, has become one of the nation’s top milers, winning four U.S. championships in one-mile road racing. She finished seventh in the 800 at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials and was third in the 1,500 at the 2014 USA Indoor Championships.

She worked as an assistant coach at Apple Valley for the last seven years, taking over when head coach Raedi Zimmer retired over the summer.

“Raedi had been grooming me for a couple years, I think,” Kampf said Wednesday morning between high school practice and a chiropractic appointment. “She had retired from her job in the building and I think she was ready to be completely done. We talked a little this summer and decided it was time.”

Before Kampf signed on as an assistant in 2010, she was in Belgium for a race when she received an email from Zimmer. “A year turned into another and turned into going on eight years now,” she said. “You fall in love with the kids.”

Kampf was a three-sport athlete at Rosemount, which is in the same district as Apple Valley. Her first sports love was gymnastics and she set a school record in the pole vault at Rosemount.

Asked about her high school memories, she said, “I was a pretty busy kid. Most of my memories involve the coaches and the things they taught us about character building and lessons for life.”

“I’ve never heard anybody say a bad word about her,” said Chris Harder, boys and girls head cross-country coach and assistant track coach at Rosemount. “She knows her stuff and she’s been through a lot of experiences. She’s just a great person with great character.”

Harder recalled a memorable moment from Kampf’s sophomore track season, when she false-started and was disqualified from the 400 meters at the section championships. She had not run many 800s that season, but it was her next event that day.

“The silver lining was she was fresh for the 800 in a very good field, qualified for state and ended up placing fifth at state,” Harder said. “She kind of showed herself that she could run the 800, that she could overcome adversity. She’s really positive, she has a can-do attitude. She saw that not as a setback but as opportunity.”

As a professional runner, Kampf occasionally must travel for races. This weekend she will be running the Falmouth Elite Mile on Cape Cod.

“This is the one odd time when I have to go for a couple days during the season,” she said.

Having a professional runner as a coach leads to scenes such as what took place after Apple Valley’s workout Wednesday morning. The coach was preparing for a professional race and the high school runners were preparing for an intrasquad race.

“I think they really appreciate having that connection with someone who’s still competing,” Kampf said. “After practice we were all saying ‘Good luck!’ to each other.”

Harder said Kampf has the perfect coaching combination of knowledge, work ethic, compassion and attitude.

“She always had time for people and she never acted like she was better than anybody else,” he said. “She always encouraged everyone to do their best. After races she always shook hands with everyone, no matter where they finished.

“It doesn’t surprise me that she’s a coach. I think she could coach a lot of things because of the type of person she is.”

Kampf studied kinesiology and psychology in college. She isn’t sure what life will hold when her professional running career comes to an end, but it’s a safe bet that coaching will remain part of it.

“I definitely want to stay connected with youth running,” she said, “and somehow give back and hope kids in this area have a role model to look up to and see what they can do if they work at it.”

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
A New Season, A New Team For Elk River Football8/14/2017
On Day One of practice for the 2017 high school football season, I chatted with four seniors from Elk River, the team that came out of nowhere last year, went unbeaten and claimed the Class 5A state championship, the first in the team’s 125-year history.

The first question I posed to Ronnie Audette, Mitch Stroh, Sherrod Kpahn and Reese Norby was very straightforward: Describe last season in one word.

Their answers: Incredible. Amazing. Surreal. Fantastic.

After finishing with a 5-5 record in 2015, last year’s Elks went 13-0, held seven opponents to seven points or less, won by an average score of 45-12 and defeated Spring Lake Park 42-14 in the Prep Bowl. Nine of their 13 games used running time.

“It was lightning in a bottle, it was nuts,” said Elks activities director Mike Cunningham, whose school’s girls basketball team won the Class 4A state title a few months later.

Nobody predicted the Elks’ 2016 football dominance, but the players knew they had a chance to be successful. Elk River sophomore teams were unbeaten in 2014 and 2015 (and did the same last year), so there was reason for optimism.

“We knew we had a lot of talent,” said Kpahn, a running back who carried the ball three times for 56 yards in the Prep Bowl, including a 50-yard touchdown. “We knew we had to stay disciplined and determined if we wanted to achieve the goal that we had.”

The eye-opener last season came in Week 4. Their opponent was St. Michael-Albertville, the 2015 5A state champ. Both teams came in with 3-0 records and the Elks came away with a resounding 43-6 victory. Elk River beat the Knights again in the Section 6 championship game, this time by a 56-0 score.

“The expectations were somewhat muted until we played them in Week 4,” said Elks coach Steve Hamilton. “After that, the coaches and players kept believing.

“It was the least stressful year I’ve ever had coaching. We were behind one time last year. We scored on our first drive, then Alexandria scored and went for two, so we were behind 8-7 (in the state quarterfinals). To be behind once in an entire year is pretty unheard of.”

This is a new year, of course, and the Elks have the proverbial target on their backs. They fully embrace that role.

“It makes you play harder,” said Kpahn. “Knowing that everyone is the state is gunning for you and wants to be in your position makes you practice harder. We play like No. 1 but we pratice like No. 2 at all times.”

Hamilton, a Michigan native who coached there and in Georgia, was hired as Elk River’s coach in 2011. With family ties in Minnesota, the job was easy to accept. And he steadily built the program with the help of his coaching staff and talented, committed athletes.

“Last year we had the best leadership I’ve ever been around, with a couple back-to-back classes that were really talented,” he said. “And the best thing about that group was 15 or 16 of those seniors had a 3.5 or above GPA. They were all great students.”

“The seniors really stepped up and led the team last year,” said Audette, a lineman.

Those are big shoes to fill, and the returning Elks are ready for that challenge.

“I think the biggest thing to replace is the relationships we had, the blend we had,” said quarterback/safety Mitch Stroh. “You couldn’t tell a junior from a senior last year. The relationship we need to create with the juniors this year is something we need to mirror.”

Guard/linebacker Reese Norby added, “Last year our team chemistry was really good. That’s something we need to repeat here if we want to do what we did last year.”

Chemistry and teamwork, of course, can be major factors in athletic success on any level. And that’s part of the formula for all sports at Elk River.

Cunningham said, “The biggest thing always is, ‘Are we doing the right thing for kids?’ In a coaches meeting I said, ‘What we expect out of all our coaches is our kids are going to leave our program better than when they came in.’ Sometimes you get championships and sometimes you don’t. But as long as they’re doing that, you’re doing the right thing.”

The Elks will open the season at home vs. Moorhead on Aug. 31. The expectations will be on a much different level than in past years.

“I think people are going to think because we had nine seniors on offense last year that maybe we won’t be real good,” Hamilton said. “Everybody got to play a lot last year. We have some youngsters, with 40 juniors this year and close to 70 players. Last year I think we had 72.

“I really like our group this year. In some ways we might be more talented than last year.”

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

*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Bob McDonald Court: Honoring The Chisholm Legend8/12/2017
CHISHOLM – Bob McDonald was standing in the locker room that his Chisholm Bluestreaks boys basketball teams called home for 53 seasons. On this Friday afternoon, it was the waiting room where McDonald and family members gathered before a ceremony to name the basketball court inside Roels Gymnasium after the coach.

Now 84 years old and three years past retirement, McDonald is as witty as ever. He said to me, “I hope they’ve done renovations in the gym after all the paint I peeled off the walls with my shouting.”

Then he smiled the wonderful Bob McDonald smile that is known to basketball coaches, players, officials, fans and others who came to know, love and respect him during a coaching career that lasted from the 1960s well into a new century.

“I’m happy to see all my friends and players,” he said before walking through a short hallway, shaking hands with a receiving line of current Bluestreaks players, and onto the court that would soon bear his name. “Without basketball, you don’t see them anymore.”

He misses the game and the game misses him. But he knows that time marches on, and Friday’s ceremony included steps back in time as players from five decades spoke to the large crowd. The gym has long been named for Harvey Roels, who coached the Bluestreaks from 1922 to 1954; McDonald (a 1951 Chisholm graduate) took over in 1961.

Bob’s career, as has been well-documented, lasted for 59 total seasons (he coached at McGregor and Barnum before returning to his hometown) and ended with a record of 1,1012-428, 11 trips to state and state titles in 1973, 1975 and 1991. He taught history, social education and physical education, and coached track for 47 years.

The impact and influence that McDonald had on his players was clear from those who spoke Friday.

“We were an ordinary bunch of athletes, and Bob turned us into an extraordinary team,” said Mike Koshmrl, Class of 1974.

Ted Krize, Class of 1991, said “Coach McDonald is a man of integrity, a man of principle, and a man with great values and faith,” later adding, “He’s a legendary coach, an outstanding teacher and an even better man.”

Jon Maturi (Class of 1965 and brother of former University of Minnesota athletics director Joel Maturi) talked about how he still plays basketball at age 70. He recalled working on his shot at a YMCA 10 years ago and thinking about his coach.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m 60 years old. Who cares about my shot?’ Well, I care and Coach McDonald cares.”

Paul Sentiere (Class of 1982) mentioned the countless hours of practices, workouts and drills McDonald oversaw for Chisholm children of all ages, including his famous Saturday morning clinics. “He’s been here for all those kids all these years.”

A video presentation began with a black and white photo of 4-year-old Bob McDonald. There were photos of his Bluestreaks playing days, team photos from his coaching career and TV interviews when his teams played at state. (Pictured are Bob with his six children.)

Before Bob spoke to the crowd, a large sign on the gym wall was unveiled. It carried these simple words: BOB McDONALD COURT.

The old coach talked about the old days. About spending time with Chisholm doctor Archibald (Moonlight) Graham, who became a character in the movie “Field of Dreams.” About the men who spent years driving the team bus, about players, about friendships, about the joys of coaching in his hometown.

He ended his remarks by saying, “It’s wonderful to see my old friends and my old players.”

He didn’t mention this fact: When Bob was a senior at Chisholm in 1951, the following statement appeared in the school yearbook: “Bob McDonald plans to go to college to become a dentist.”

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

*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn