John's Journal
The Best Of John's Journal No. 10: JCC Twitter Barrages7/4/2017
It's time to begin the countdown of my Top 10 favorite John's Journal stories from the 2016-17 school year. I posted five Honorable Mention stories last week, and today we dive into the Top 10.

Here is No. 10, which was originally posted on April 20...

Jackson County Central Tradition: The Twitter Barrage

Several members of the Jackson County Central track and field team were sitting around a backyard fire one evening after a track meet, doing what teenagers do. They talked, they laughed, they shared moments from that day’s competition. But they also kept an eye on their cell phones, because they knew something good was coming on Twitter.

It’s known as a “Twitter barrage” and it’s the work of their coach, Rafe York. Following each competition, after everyone has returned home and York is looking through the results, he begins issuing Tweets that are a mixture of results, jokes and entertaining observations. Some samples …

Kailey Koep discovered that if she sprints on the runway, she'll jump farther in the long jump. Who'd a thunk?

Matt Strom threw the shot 37' 7.5, which I believe is one foot farther than the average flight of a North Korean missile.

“It’s so fun,” said sophomore track team member Hailey Handevidt. “My mom was in Rochester and she texted me because she wanted to know when the Twitter barrage was coming out.”

Huskies junior Molly Boyum said, “They’re funny. Everybody waits for them to get done. We all want to see what he has to say about us and what sarcastic comments he has.”

The account can be found at @JCCTandF on Twitter. Several hundred people follow the account.

York, who teaches English, also is the head coach of the Huskies girls and boys cross-country teams (and yes, he posts Twitter barrages after cross-country competitions, too) and an assistant boys basketball coach. He has been the Jackson County Central track coach for seven years.

Clayton Cavness made his varsity debut and learned a valuable lesson. Distance runners shouldn't eat like throwers.

In the second heat of the girls' 300 Hurdles Zoe Pohlman left a face-shaped dent in the track... but she popped up, finished the race, and placed 9th...the scrapes all over her body are going to burn in the shower.

“When I took over I thought we needed a way to get results out,” York said. “Twitter was the way to go. At first it was just basic results and I guess my personality started coming through.

“I figure track is a hard enough sell. If I can make it look a little more fun by goofing off a little and having fun, maybe it will get more kids out.”

We didn't run a girls' 4x200 or 4x800. The blame should be placed squarely on Annika's tonsils.

Easton Bahr placed 5th in the 100. He also learned that if the gun is fired a second time, it means stop because there was a false start.

Clearly, York isn’t afraid to give his athletes an elbow in the ribs via Twitter. They know him – and his sense of humor – well and they look forward to seeing their name in the latest barrage.

“Sometimes we’ll say stuff that is kind of dumb or funny or just like weird, and he’ll put it in his barrage and make fun of us,” Boyum said. “And then we’re like, ‘OK, now the whole world knows about that.’ ”

Handevidt said, “He likes to Tweet a lot, and they’re always funny to read. And it won’t just be about the track meet. It’ll be about something that happens on the bus and we’ll just laugh about it.”

York said one of the benefits of being in a small town is that he knows the kids and their parents.

“It works as long as the kids and the parents are going to appreciate the joke,” he said.

He ends every barrage with the same message: I love Track season. That’s a statement heard frequently around the Huskies in the spring.
“I’ve been saying that in practice for years,” York said. “I was a head coach in Colorado and one day in practice I just sort of blurted it out. When we’re out practicing in the rain, I’ll yell. 'I love track season!’ ” (Pictured here is York with Hailey Handevidt, Molly Boyum and Jessica Christoffer.)

If you're a junior and you're still reading tonight's barrage, GO TO BED! You have the ACT tomorrow.

Did I mention @jamiek1980 brought cookies from the Lakefield Bakery to celebrate Kailey's birthday? I only ate three.

“I think it’s really great,” junior Jessica Christoffer said of the coach’s post-meet social-media habit. “I always stay up super late just to hear what York has to say. It’s also great to see what he has to say about the other people that I may have missed in the meet.

“If our 4x4 does really good, we’ll say, ‘York, our 4x4 needs a Twitter barrage. Say something about the starter, and then second, third and fourth!’ ”

Reaction to the Twitter barrages comes not only from athletes and their parents.

“It’s kind of crazy,” York said. “I’ll come into school the next day and people will ask me about it; ‘Hey, what did that one mean?’ I like seeing the reactions. Sometimes I get distracted seeing who’s liking and who’s re-Tweeting.”

Hailey lists The Shawshank Redemption, Saving Private Ryan, and Avatar amoung her favorite movies. None of them would make my Top 5. I used the British spelling of "among" intentionally there.

Sophie Johnson, Hailey Handevidt, Zoe Pohlman, Regional Manager Kaitlin Feroni, and I talked Prom, movies, and music on the way home.

The Huskies’ next track meet will be Monday in St. Peter.

A new barrage will follow.
Minnesota Students Honored On A National Stage6/29/2017
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Thursday was a day to remember for the Minnesotans who are here in Providence for the 98th annual summer meeting of the National Federation of State High School Associations. The convention, which is attended by representatives of every high school governing body in the nation, was highlighted when two Minnesota students received national NFHS arts.

Danny Lilya, who will be a junior this fall at Moose Lake, received the National High School Spirit of Sport Award. Josie Ross, who this spring graduated from Benilde-St. Margaret’s in St. Louis Park, was the recipient of the National High School Heart of the Arts Award. People from around the nation are nominated for these awards by their state governing bodies, which are grouped into eight sections of the nation. Section winners are chosen for each award, and from those finalists the national winners are selected. This is the first time both winners have come from the same state. (Pictured are Danny with his parents, Dan and Sheryl, NFHS president Bob Gardner, right, and the MSHSL's Kevin Merkle, left.)

Danny and Josie received their awards Thursday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, with more than 500 convention attendees on hand. Each received a standing ovation.

Here are summaries of Danny and Rosie…

Danny Lilya, Moose Lake

Like most other students at Moose Lake (Minnesota) High School, a school with 184 students, sophomore Danny Lilya plays a variety of sports.

However, unlike those other students, Lilya was born with a broken back, is a paraplegic, and has been confined to a wheelchair his entire life.

Nonetheless, that has not prevented him from participating in the sports he loves, including football, sled hockey, track and wheelchair softball. By doing that, he literally has all four seasons covered with different sports. Last fall, Lilya was the holder on extra points and field goals for the Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels football team.

Despite the attention that Lilya has received from his extraordinary achievements, Moose Lake High School Athletic Director Tony Andres said, “Danny’s just an average teenager - he’s very personable, he’s fun and he participates in a lot of different things.”

Josie Ross, Benilde-St. Margaret’s

From the cultural epicenter of the Twin Cities, Josie Ross has embodied the very best the performing arts offer. Ross’ tremendous talents and accomplishments in the arts have been matched, perhaps even exceeded, however, by her selfless nature and her unyielding desire to help others. (Josie is pictured with her parents, Chuck and Debra, Bob Gardner and the MSHSL's Amy Doherty.)

In addition to her exemplary 3.96 grade-point average and membership in the National Honor Society, Ross has been involved in many activities and clubs.

Ross has participated in numerous performing arts activities, including debate, speech and choir. Among her many awards in this area are the Minnesota State High School League ExCEL Award and the Benilde-St. Margaret’s School Outstanding Character Award.

However, it is the realm of theatre that could accurately be described as her true passion.
Among her theatre accomplishments, she’s a four-year cast member of the One-Act Play, a performer in multiple school musicals and plays, and has received several Hennepin Theatre Trust Spotlight Theatre Awards.

*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
The Best of John’s Journal: Honorable Mention6/26/2017
Every year at this time, I read through everything that’s been posted on John’s Journal from the start of practice for fall sports in August through state tournaments in the spring. The goal is to come up with a Top 10 list of my favorite stories each year. This is never easy.

Looking back at 2016-17 was a delightfully time-consuming task. Going through what was posted was a whole bunch of fun, sifting through 364 total posts, jotting down notes and beginning with a very long list in the course of finalizing a Top 10.

The initial winnowing brought the number down from 364 to 46. And then the real work began. As I went through those 46 posts, struggling to shorten the list, an idea popped into my head: Adding an Honorable Mention list to the Top 10.

After deciding on the Top 10, I put together my next five favorite stories. In the coming days I’ll re-post each of the Top 10 stories individually. For the Honorable Mention stories, I’ve put together a summary for some along with the date they were posted. (If you scroll to the bottom of this post and click on “More of John’s Journal”, you will see a month-by-month list of everything that has been posted here since I joined the MSHSL staff in March 10.)

And with that, here are the Honorable Mention stories (in chronological order)…

Aug. 27/ Football season opener in Babbitt

The very first game of the 2016 football season took place way up north in the tiny town of Babbitt, where nine-man teams from Mountain Iron-Buhl and Northeast Range met on a sunny and warm Friday afternoon. An excerpt from the story:

This game and atmosphere was wildly, spectacularly, unbelievably different from what will take place on November 25 and 26 in downtown Minneapolis. Half an hour or so before kickoff, a dozen fans patiently waited in front of a little ticket booth that was as yet unoccupied. They eventually wandered through the gate and took their gratis seats on the single set of bleachers. Ticket takers arrived a little later and enough paying fans came through to almost fill the stands.

The football field, tucked in behind Ron Castellano Ice Arena, is surrounded by a very Shawshanksian metal fence topped with barbed wire ... as if there is something worth stealing inside. There once was a running track around the field, but all the lanes are grass-covered now. A thin concrete curb remains in place inside where Lane 1 used to be, presenting just enough of a lip to trip up those who aren’t paying attention.

The bleacher accommodates fans from both teams, and they can see an old scoreboard directly across the field. I don’t know the age of the scoreboard, but the thing makes a “click” sound with each second that ticks off. It is pure analog glory.

Sept. 13/ Officiaiting crew mourns a lost member

Travis Kiel was 35 years old when he was killed in a traffic accident on July 31. He graduated from Milaca High School and lived in Foley. A football and basketball official, Travis was well-liked by his fellow officials. His crew honored his memory all season by wearing patches with his initials on their caps, and for some games a moment of silence was observed in Travis’ memory before kickoff. An excerpt:

“He was very studious of the game,” said Tom Bolduc, the referee (white cap) on the football crew that Travis was part of. “Nobody ever said a bad thing about him.”

Travis’ death was doubly tough on Bolduc’s crew because back judge Paul Seaton’s daughter Erin was married to Travis for 10 years before he died. They have two children, seven-year-old Whitney and four-year-old Wyatt.

“He loved the Friday nights,” Seaton said. “He played at Milaca High School, and when the opportunity came to be an official he had that gleam in his eye. Friday nights were special for him. Right from the get-go he was a quality official.”

May 15/ Monticello’s Nick Zwack: Three Sports And A Lot More

Nick Zwack is a busy young man. As graduation nears, the senior at Monticello High School is putting the wraps on a prep career that, while hard to match, will inspire the next generation of Monticello student-athletes.

If you see his name and wonder, “Where have I heard about that kid?,” think back to the Class 1A boys state hockey tournament. That’s when Nick became a statewide star in leading the unseeded cooperative team from Monticello/Annandale/Maple Lake to a state runner-up finish.

Hockey is just one-third of his athletic career. He also was the quarterback on the football team and this spring he is the No. 1 pitcher and also plays frst base for the Magic baseball team. The lefthander will stay with baseball in college, pitching at Division I Xavier University in Cincinnati.

But athletics is only part of Nick’s legacy. He was his school’s recipient of the MSHSL Triple A Award, which recognizes achievements in Academics, Arts and Athletics. Zwack is a top student who also plays violin in the school orchestra. He was named the Region 8AA winner of the Triple A Award and was recognized with other winners from around the state at a halftime ceremony on the Target Center court during the boys state basketball tournament.

May 31/ Let’s Do This In Minnesota: Future Teacher Signing Ceremonies

A wonderful happened this spring at Norwalk High School in Iowa, when graduating seniors who planned to become educators were honored in a special ceremony. An excerpt:

“Everyone loved it. It’s been huge,” Johanna MacKenzie told me. She is a teacher in Norwalk who was asked by superintendent D.T. Magee -- it was his idea -- to put together the signing ceremony for future teachers.

“The general feedback was, ‘This is so awesome, we want to see it every year,’ ” Johanna said. “The kids felt so honored. They felt like they were a really big deal that day.”

That’s the point. Nothing is more vital to the future of our world than education, and we need to do everything we can in Minnesota and elsewhere to encourage young people to consider careers in education. (Full and proud disclosure: I am the son of a teacher and the father of two teachers.)

June 1/ Everyone In Alexandria Is Cheering For Josh Molden

While Josh Molden was in a Minneapolis hospital, his Alexandria High School track and field teammates were competing at a section meet in Moorhead. Josh, one of the top long and triple jumpers in the state, was undergoing treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. An excerpt:

Josh’s name was first on the list as the triple jump competition began. The official called his name and the 60-second timer started. The official declared a foul and the rest of the jumpers took their turns. Through three rounds of jumps, the pattern continued.

“Pretty much our entire team, everyone who was not competing at the time, was standing there by the triple jump,” (coach Mike) Empting said. “It was a special moment. It wasn’t a really big deal for anybody who didn’t know what was going on. But it was very significant for everybody who did know.

“It was emotional. It was pretty quiet. I don’t think our kids even knew how to respond, other than they knew they wanted to be there, they wanted to be a part of it.”

*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Waconia Makes History, Completes Perfect Season 6/19/2017
Waconia High School baseball coach Mark Grundhofer knew what had just happened: His Wildcats had completed a perfect season by defeating Hibbing 6-1 Monday at Target Field in the Class 3A state championship game.

They became only the ninth baseball team in MSHSL history to win every game. When that fact was mentioned to Grundhofer, he grinned and said, “That’s crazy. In this game? Seriously? Who wins all their games?”

MSHSL state baseball tournaments have been held for 70 years. The first team to finish unbeaten was Chisholm, which went 16-0 in 1948. Four other schools did the same in the one-class era: Halstad went 13-0 in 1952, Austin went 15-0 in 1954, Little Falls finished 13-0 in 1957 and Richfield went 25-0 in 1965.

In the multi-class era, Cretin-Derham Hall was 29-0 in 1998, Eden Valley-Watkins was 27-0 in 2010 and St. Cloud Cathedral finished 25-0 in 2015.

Waconia’s record a year ago was 12-12, a fact that didn’t provide much of an omen for the Wildcats’ history-making 2017 season.

“No, you can’t see this coming,” Grundhofer said. “I knew the kids, the senior guys, those six guys, they learned a lot last year. We had a lot of mistakes last year that we got through. They came back here determined.”

Waconia pitcher Dillon Whittaker held Hibbing (19-9) hitless for three-plus innings, by which time the Wildcats held a 4-0 lead. Whittaker struck out six and walked none in going the seven-inning distance. Waconia banged out 10 hits, with Robbie Smith getting three and Alex Longelin and Austin Friedrich two apiece.

The Wildcats won their state quarterfinal and semifinal games in dramatic fashion, defeating Mahtomedi and Marshall by scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.

“They’re just mentally tough kids, Grundhofer said. “You could see the confidence they have in each other. They were ready to play and they wanted to get it done and not have to wait until the last inning. It helps the old coach out, that’s for sure.”

Class 1A: Parkers Prairie Takes The Next Step

One year after falling in an 11-inning state championship game, the Parkers Prairie Panthers defeated Legacy Christian 6-3 to claim their first baseball state title. In the 2016 championship game, Springfield defeated Parkers Prairie 4-2.

Levi Arnold, who finished the season with a 12-0 record on the mound, pitched a complete-game six-hitter as Parkers Prairie finished with a 26-2 record. He threw 92 pitches, striking out two and walking two. Travis Yohnke, Casey Peterson and Matt Ferley each had two hits for the Panthers. Jarvey Hill had two hits for Legacy Christian (21-5).

Class 2A: Minnehaha Academy Repeats

In a rematch of last year’s state semifinals, Minnehaha Academy defeated Pierz 6-4 to claim its second consecutive state title. In last year’s state semis, Minnehaha Academy defeated Pierz 4-2.

The Redhawks (26-2) broke a 4-4 tie with two runs in the seventh inning. With one out, a ball hit by Simon Huyck glanced off the first base bag and rolled deep into right field as Huyck went to second. Noah Dehne singled to score Huyck, and Dehne later scored on a double by Alex Evenson.

Alex Jordan had three hits for the Redhawks, while Lane Girtz and Matthew Kummet each had two hits for the Pioneers (26-3).

Class 4A: Unseeded Eden Prairie Wins

The Eden Prairie Eagles were seeded fourth in the Section 2 playoffs and not seeded among the top five teams in the eight-team state tourney field. But they are now state champions after defeating Forest Lake 5-1.

Winning pitcher Jack Zigan gave up three hits in seven innings for the Eagles (18-9). Forest Lake starter Cameron Kline struck out 12, walked two and gave up seven hits in six innings for the Rangers (20-7). Ryan Wrobleski and Matthew Dolan each drove in two runs for the Eagles.

Special Recognition For Merkle

Kevin Merkle, who has served with passion, dedication and commitment as an MSHSL associate director for 16 years, was honored during a brief ceremony before the Class 4A championship game. Kevin will transition to a part-time role with the MSHSL later this summer; longtime Mounds View High School activities director Bob Madison will succeed Kevin as associate director in charge of baseball, football, boys basketball and dance.

Twins president Dave St. Peter presented Kevin with a Twins jersey that had “Merkle” stitched on the back. St. Peter later Tweeted: “Few have had a more positive impact on MN HS athletics + activities than Kevin.”

All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A

Jesse Sather, Brett Sundquist, Fosston; Liam Blaschko, Wabasha-Kellogg; Taylor Bunting, Trevor Pederson, Skyler Reddemann, Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove; Josh Peterson, Nils Anderson, Ethan Mocchi, Legacy Christian;
Andrew Johnson, Travis Yohnke, Levi Arnold, Parkers Prairie.

Class 2A Wyatt White, New London-Spicer; Joe Macken, Rochester Lourdes; Derrick Winn, Peter Hansen, Duluth Marshall; Hunter Malachek, Ben Reilley, Maple Lake; Lane Girtz, Matthew Tautges, Matthew Kummet, Pierz; Alex Evenson, Justin Evenson, Bennett Theisen, Minnehaha Academy.

Class 3A Jamie Berg, Mahtomedi; Jake Rascher, St. Thomas Acasdemy; Conner Hammerback, Jake Drew, Alexandria; Mason Penske, Logan Tomasek, Marshall; Travis Carruth, Dylan Mattson, Anthony Kanipes, Hibbing; Dillon Whitaker, Jacob Hendricks, Alex Logelin, Waconia.

Class 4A Charlie Horton, Maple Grove; Tyler Young, Wayzata; Ronald Sweeny III, Max Meyer, Woodbury; Nick Split, Gavin Baker, Lakeville North; Cameron Kline, Jake Wensmann, Forest Lake; Zack Elliot, Connor Kehl, Bailey DeMets, Jack Zigan, Eden Prairie.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 800
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 12,001
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
3 Sports, 3 State Tournaments For Marshall’s Ryan VanMoer6/16/2017
Ryan VanMoer managed to smile just a little as we chatted Friday afternoon at Siebert Field. The third baseman for Marshall High School had played well in the Class 3A baseball state semifinals, with a walk, a strikeout, a single and triple from his No. 2 spot in the batting order.

The outcome wasn’t what the fifth-seeded Tigers wanted. They scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take a 6-4 lead over top-seeded and unbeatem Waconia, but the Wildcats came back to score three of their own in the bottom half of the inning, with Robbie Smith’s walk-off single driving in the winning run in Waconia’s 7-6 victory.

Ryan, a senior (pictured), had one game left in his high school baseball career; Marshall defeated Alexandria 10-9 later Friday in the third-place game. When I asked him about the memories he will take from high school athletics, he smiled and said, “The great teammates. That’s something special. The bonds that we’ve built with each team, it’s a family.”

VanMoer has been a part of several teams/families. He has been a three-sport athlete throughout high school, participating in football, basketball and baseball. His senior year has been one for the ages; Ryan played on teams that (take a deep breath here) reached the state semifinals in football, the state semifinals in basketball and the state semifinals in baseball. He also is a percussionist in marching band and will compete at the MSHSL clay target shooting championships next Saturday.

Two Marshall juniors – Nicholas Klaith and Jacob Hess – also played on the Tigers’ football, basketball and baseball teams that went to state.

The football team finished with a record of 11-1, losing to eventual state champion Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the Class 4A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. The basketball team finished third in the Class 3A state tournament and had a 28-4 record. The baseball team went 20-7; Ryan had two hits in the third-place game and pitched two innings in relief.

VanMoer not only collected state tournament medals, he made lasting impressions on his teammates and coaches.

“There’s not a better kid out there than Ryan VanMoer,” said Tigers baseball coach Chace Pollock. “And I really mean that. He’s an unbelievable kid, in the classroom, out on the baseball field, football field, wherever it is. He’s a hard worker and a great kid.”

Ryan joined Marshall’s clay target shooting team as a junior. He said he usually was able to get to the shooting range one day a week after baseball practice. The state championship competition will be held next Saturday at Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake.

“One of the things I respect so much about Ryan is that he’s not only a three-sport athlete and a contributor in all three sports, he’s also in our marching band, he’s a phenomenal drummer,” said Marshall activities director Bruce Remme. “He does it all and he gets it done in the classroom, too. He’s a super leader. We feel really fortunate to have a kid like Ryan VanMoer in our programs.”

Ryan came through in a crucial spot against Waconia on Friday, stepping into the batter’s box with two outs, no one on base and the Tigers trailing 4-3 in the top of the seventh inning. He belted a triple. Dylan Criquet-Danielson reached on an error (VanMoer scored) and Logan Tomasek singled. Hess hit a two-run triple to put Marshall ahead 6-4 before the inning ended. In the bottom of the seventh, Waconia won the game on a walk, a hit-by-pitch and consecutive singles by Jacob Hendricks, Dillon Whittaker and Smith.

Despite Friday’s disappointment, Ryan was grateful for all he has been able to experience.

“It’s something special,” he said. “It’s all I could ask for in my senior year. I know there are two other guys that have been part of this, too. I’ve had great coaching, great teammates through it all. It’s really special.”

Ryan will attend Concordia College in Moorhead, where he will study biology and play football and baseball.

He’ll be a full-time college student, participating in two sports. But what will he do with all that free time?

Friday’s Baseball State Semifinals

Class 1A

Parkers Prairie 8, Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove 3
Legacy Christian 7, Wabasha-Kellogg 5

Class 2A
Minnehaha Academy 8, Maple Lake 3
Pierz 1, Duluth Marshall 0

Class 3A
Waconia 7, Marshall 6
Hibbing 8, Alexandria 7

Class 4A
Eden Prairie 14, Lakeville North 0
Forest Lake 9, Woodbury 1

Baseball State Championship Games
Monday at Target Field

1A/ Parkers Prairie vs. Legacy Christian, 10 a.m.
2A/ Minnehaha Academy vs. Pierz, 1 p.m.
3A/ Waconia vs. Hibbing, 4 p.m.
4A/ Eden Prairie vs. Forest Lake, 7 p.m.

Lacrosse State Championship Games
Saturday at Chanhassen High School

Girls/ Blake vs. Eden Prairie, 3:30 p.m.
Boys/ Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. Eagan, 6 p.m.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 792
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 11,941
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn