John's Journal
A Northfield Tradition: Lace For The Cure 10/10/2016
NORTHFIELD – Six years ago, tragedy struck at Northfield High School when the mother of a member of the girls soccer team died as a result of breast cancer. Teammates pitched in immediately to show support. The first effort was simple: ask athletes on all Raiders teams to wear pink shoelaces.

“That’s how they started, and it’s really grown from there,” said Raiders junior soccer player Bri Forster. “We do all sorts of events during the season to raise money.”

The biggest event of the soccer season is the annual Lace for the Cure game. The 2016 version took place Thursday night when the Raiders hosted Red Wing in a boys-girls doubleheader. Pink was everywhere, from balloons in the bleachers to Lace for the Cure t-shirts to shoelaces on the soccer players.

“I feel like it’s very important. I feel honored to be a part of it,” said junior soccer player Maddi Goldsworthy; she and Forster are the Raiders’ 2016 Lace for the Cure captains. That’s right, captains. Lace for the Cure is so important to the Northfield girls soccer team that two players each year are chosen as captains to spearhead the fundraising and support efforts.

“They get to run the show,” said Raiders girls soccer coach Troy Cohrs. “They do what worked last year and they bring in new ideas. It’s become a real memorable tradition for us.”

Northfield is among many schools in Minnesota that have embraced the MSHSL’s Why We Play program. Why We Play stresses that the purpose of education-based athletics is not to win, but to help athletes become better people, learn to work together, enjoy the experience of being on a team and take positive lessons into adulthood.

The Raiders’ Lace for the Cure efforts are a perfect example of Why We Play. The athletes, coaches and families put great effort into Lace for the Cure as a way to help others. After six years of Lace for the Cure events, Northfield has raised approximately $50,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which since 1982 has funded more than $889 million in research, more than $1.95 billion in medical care, community and provider education, and psychosocial support, serving millions in more than 60 countries.

“It’s been a blessing and I love the idea that we are contributing and yet paving the way for more years to come, more people to help lead,” Maddi said.

The Northfield girls soccer team takes a trip to Duluth before every season starts. It’s a time for important team bonding. Lace for the Cure was born during that trip six years ago.

“A lot of people know exactly why we started this,” Maddi said. “And they tell other people who don’t really know how important it is to the players and the older players who were affected.”

On Thursday night, there were countless ways for people to contribute. T-shirts were sold, items were on display for a silent action, raffle tickets were sold for a chance to win prizes. Fans were given the opportunity to throw tennis balls onto the soccer field at halftime, with prizes going to those who came closest to the center of a pink breast cancer ribbon that had been painted on the turf.

The event took place during Homecoming week in Northfield, and as Bri said, “We get the whole school completely decked out in pink. People on the Homecoming court walk around school with donation buckets. It’s awesome.”

Indeed it is.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 104
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 3,386
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Volleyball Rankings: Class 3A10/9/2016
CLASS 3A
1. Eagan (17) - 255
2. Lakeville South - 223
3. Hopkins - 221
4. Champlin Park - 212
5. Prior Lake - 178
6. Wayzata - 171
7. Shakopee - 132
8. North St. Paul - 120
9. Lakeville North - 78
10. Cretin-Derham Hall - 46
Others Receiving Votes: Roseville - 36, Bloomington Jefferson - 27, Waconia - 22, Osseo - 18, Rochester Century - 16, Northfield - 16, Blaine - 7, East Ridge - 7
Volleyball Rankings: Class 2A10/9/2016
CLASS 2A
1. Kenyon-Wanamingo (14) - 210
2. Maple Lake - 196
3. Rocori - 172
4. Belle Plaine - 165
5. Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta - 157
6. Kasson-Mantorville - 116
7. Stewartville - 112
8. Hill-Murray - 110
9. Concordia Academy - 100
10. SW Christian - 44
Others Receiving Votes: Sauk Centre - 35, Jackson County Central - 32, Roseau - 15, Academy of Holy Angels - 6
Volleyball Rankings: Class 1A10/9/2016
CLASS 1A
1. Bethlehem Academy (14) - 224
2. Mayer Lutheran (1) - 196
3. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (1) - 194
4. Heritage Christian - 176
5. Caledonia - 154
5. Minneota - 154
7. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown - 132
8. Mabel-Canton - 106
9. Kittson County - 97
10. Hayfield - 85
Others Receiving Votes: Underwood - 14, Verndale - 6
Champions On The Run For Edina Girls Cross-Country 10/6/2016
In late September 2015, the Edina High School girls cross-country team finished second in the top high school race at the Roy Griak Invitational, hosted by the University of Minnesota. The winning team from Naperville North in Illinois had a team score of 77 and the Hornets were next at 142.

Yes, that’s a 65-point gap. But placing so high among 49 of the top teams from across the country was a big step for the Hornets. And it vaulted them to history a few weeks later when they won their school’s first state cross-country championship.

Edina owns more MSHSL state titles in all sports than any other school and it isn’t close. The Hornets finished the 2015-16 school year with 125 state championships, followed by Blake with 64, Apple Valley with 60 and Stillwater with 59.

In girls sports alone, Edina owns a state-best 67 state titles. The cross-country team rolled to the Class 2A championship last November at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The Hornets’ team score of 68 topped second-place Marshall’s 76.

And here’s the kicker: The Hornets had exactly zero seniors among the seven athletes who ran at state last year. The crew consisted of two freshmen, one sophomore and four juniors. And here’s the double kicker: The top returning runner in Class 1A transferred to Edina this fall.

The Hornets have not been defeated in an MSHSL event since the 2015 Griak, including a 43-point victory over second-place Mountain View, Idaho, in this year’s Griak. And yes, they are absolutely the undisputed team to beat in 2016.

The newcomer is Morgan Richter, now a freshman. She placed second at state in 1A last year behind Winona Cotter seventh-grader Grace Ping, who moved to Utah over the summer. Richter was the Hornets’ No. 2 runner (placing 14th) at the Griak this season behind senior Amanda Mosborg, who placed seventh. The other runners were freshman Sadie Schreiner (17th), sophomore Maria Rickman (25th), senior Anna Hage (50th), senior Hannah Mitchell (56th) and senior Tate Sweeney (70th) in a field of 448 individuals.

“It’s just really cool to be up on that stage, you have the trophy with Roy Griak’s picture on it,” said Edina coach Matt Gabrielson. “And it’s not outlined in silver, it’s outlined in gold. It was a really big deal for us.”

The Hornets continued their winning ways at Tuesday’s 28th annual Victoria Lions Invitational in Chaska, with Richter finishing second behind Farmington eighth-grader Anna Fenske. Mosborg was fourth, Rickman eighth, Schreiner ninth and junior Emily Kompelien 16th for a dominating team score of 39 (Hage was 17th and Mitchell 36th). Second-place Eden Prairie had a team score of 102.

After claiming last year’s state championship and the Griak title this year, the Hornets know that focusing on the too-distant future – such as the 2016 state meet – may not bode well for success.

“In some ways it’s too easy to think too far in advance,” Sweeney said. “That’s why one of the things we like to focus on is making sure we are in the moment and on the day of the race we’re thinking of the race we’re at. If we’re focusing only on the state meet, then we won’t give our all the rest of the season. It’s a process. You have to start from day one and build up. That’s what we’re doing.”

Leadership from the team’s seniors – what Gabrielson called “great leadership” -- is an important part of the story this season.

“There are six or seven seniors who have been here for five or six years and four of them are captains,” he said. “They’re all leaders in different ways. Tate is a vocal leader. Amanda leads by example, she’s quiet. Hannah is the statistics geek and keeps us informed of what’s going on. Brynn (Liabraaten) is sort of, ‘Let’s get down to business, here’s what we’re going to do.’ It’s nice to have that mix.”

Is there pressure on the Hornets? No question. They recognize it and almost relish it.

“I think there is for sure pressure and we know there’s a target on our backs,” Mosborg said. “But we’re trying to not get comfortable and always know that there are people who can be a threat to us. We try to race every day like we don’t expect to win or like we don’t have an advantage.”

Sweeney said, “I think the idea of pressure can scare some teams but for our team, when we went into the season, one of the goals we pointed out right away was we want to be state champion again. So I think this whole season has been about pushing ourselves in every race.

“We try to treat every race like it could be the state championship and work hard every race. So far it’s been pretty good for us. The pressure will always be there and we’ve always had girls who have been in the top part of every race. We’ve always had to deal with pressure but I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job so far.”

In Class 2A girls rankings by the state cross-country coaches association, Edina is No. 1 ahead of No. 2 Willmar and No. 3 Wayzata. Individually, Mosborg is ranked No. 2 behind Minneapolis Washburn sophomore Emily Covert, Richter is No. 4, Schreiner is No. 6, Rickman is No. 9 and Kompelien received honorable mention notice.

Gabrielson said the athletes didn’t all perform as well as they could have on Tuesday, and that was part of the post-race discussion.

“We learned a lot from today,” he said. “I think some of the girls let the rankings and things get to them a little bit today. We talked about that afterwards and I think we learned something from that. That’s not what we’re focused on. We’re getting focused on getting the best out of ourselves every day. And we didn’t do that today because we were so focused on the external.

“I think the team is on the cusp of greatness and I think they know that. And I think they recognize that we need to focus more on what we’re here to do rather than what other people are expecting us to do.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 102
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 2,822
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn