John's Journal
After 41 Years, Pine Island’s Anderson Goes Out On Top 6/17/2016
ST. CLOUD – There was emotion in Craig Anderson’s voice for a second or two shortly before he walked off the baseball diamond for the final time Friday. But the Pine Island coach, who is retiring after 41 years with the Panthers, was quickly greeted by his grandchildren. And after that it was all bear hugs and great big smiles.

Anderson, 63, had announced during the season that 2016 would be his last go-round. The Panthers took him out in style, reaching the Class 2A state tournament. Unseeded Pine Island lost to top seed Belle Plaine 1-0 in Thursday’s quarterfinals, and the season ended Friday with a 12-5 loss to Proctor in the consolation bracket.

As he spoke to his final team after his final game, Anderson told the boys how proud he was to be their coach.

“I couldn’t think of a better group of guys to finish my career with,” he said.

Pine Island’s previous trips to state came in 1991, 1992 and 1993. So there was some poetic justice that the Panthers (18-9) got back to the show in 2016.

“I’m reflecting on a lot of fun,” Anderson told me. “This community has been good to me for 41 years. I’m just appreciative, because I’ve had a lot of fun. It’s emotional. It’s a special time in my life. I’m just reflecting on all the happy times. And there have been a ton of them. Great community support, administrative support, and obviously these are some great kids.”

Craig and his wife Sue – sweethearts since a homecoming dance when they were sophomores at Mabel-Canton – are closing in on 42 years of marriage. Sue retired as a social worker in December. The Andersons have two daughters: Sarah lives in Denver with her husband and two kids, and Rachel lives in Pine Island with her husband and two kids. They were all at the games Thursday and Friday.

“I could hear the grandkids yelling for grandpa there at the end, that was pretty cool,” Anderson said. “They’re going to love me no matter what the score is, and that’s the best part of having a family.”

Anderson is revered by his peers. In 2015 the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association awarded the inaugural Craig Anderson Ethics in Coaching Award to St. Charles coach Scott McCready. The award is given to a coach “who, like Craig, has displayed ethics in coaching and teaching the game of baseball. The coach who is selected will be someone who displays class, integrity, character, and respect for the game, the players, the spectators, and the officials.”

Anderson’s career record is 526-381, placing him fifth in all-time victories among Minnesota high school baseball coaches. But winning has never been uppermost in his coaching philosophy.

Last season I went to a game in Pine Island a few days after Anderson recorded his 500th victory. After the Panthers lost a 2-1 decision to Cannon Falls, Anderson told me, “We want to win but we have a bigger message. And that’s, ‘Hey, come play hard, represent your community and your family with dignity.’ And if you do those things, then it’s a win no matter how the result comes out.”

Cannon Falls coach Bucky Lindow said that day, “The first game I ever coached as a high school coach, he was the other guy and beat us 10-0. But more important is the way he treats people. He’s the guy who’s going to congratulate you if you do something. He’s just classy. That’s truly what he is. And through the state coaches association, he’s been on the leadership team for a long, long time and he just makes a positive impact. He’s a great ambassador for high school baseball. I really appreciate all that I’ve learned from him.”

Anderson, who in 2014 was inducted into the National High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, spent 36 years as a sixth-grade science teacher. He has been the Pine Island athletic director for four years and will continue in that role. But he now will have more time to spend with his grandkids and travel with Sue.

The Pine Island fans wore state tournament T-shirts in the school colors of maroon and gold. The players’ and coaches’ names were printed on the back, under this statement: “It’s a great day for baseball! -- Coach Craig Anderson.”

Anderson wore jersey No. 23 when he played baseball at Winona State and continued to wear 23 from day one in Pine Island. He likes to point out that he wore 23 before it became Michael Jordan’s signature.

“I’m just proud to wear this maroon and gold for the last time,” he said. “I’ll probably wash it, turn it in, and somebody else will have it next year.”

That’s doubtful. It’s a pretty safe bet that No. 23 will be retired in Pine Island.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 858
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 12,450
A Short Putt, A Nervous Moment, And History Is Made 6/15/2016
JORDAN – In six years of competing at the Class 2A state golf tournament, Kate Smith of Detroit Lakes put clubface to ball 826 times. The scariest swing of all was No. 826.

After 17½ holes Wednesday, Smith -- a senior who will play collegiate golf at Nebraska -- knew what she needed to do: two-putt the 18th green in order to clinch a first-place tie with Visitation junior Anni Heck and become the first MSHSL golfer, male or female, to win five state titles.

A three-putt would mean a second-place finish. Smith’s first putt, uphill from about 35 feet, stopped six feet short of the hole. Uh oh. Crank up the drama.

“It was the longest six-footer ever,” she said later.

With her teammates, family members and others watching, Smith stroked the putt … and immediately thought oh no is it even going to reach the cup? The little ball rolled, it made a few more agonizingly slow revolutions, it somehow reached the lip, it stopped and gazed at the crowd gathered around the green, wobbled for a split second and then finally, after all that, succumbed to gravity as cheers rang out, followed by tears and hugs.

That gave Smith and Heck identical 36-hole totals of 139, putting them atop the field at the Ridges at Sand Creek; Smith shot 69-70 and Heck went 71-68. Detroit Lakes also won the team title with a nine-shot margin (633-642) over Lake City.

Smith’s state title last year made her the second four-time champ in MSHSL history. Katie Detlefsen of Minnehaha Academy captured Class 1A championships in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. Detlefsen, who played college golf at Florida Gulf Coast University, competed in her first LPGA tournament earlier this month, the ShopRite Classic.

Smith’s best state tournament score came last year when she had 18-hole totals of 68 and 69 for a 137. As an eighth-grader she went 70-70-140, her score was 72-36-108 in a rain-shortened tournament her freshman year and she went 73-70-143 as a sophomore. She first qualified for state as a seventh-grader and finished tied for fifth with a 159 total.

“I just feel really grateful for the last six years at this course,” Kate said. “It was so amazing. I feel extremely blessed that everything worked out today.”

She was emotional after play ended, saying the pressure of being a defending champion grew each year.

“And this year was by far the worst,” she said. “I mean, I did it to myself, but golly, having such a big target on your back? In a kind way, everyone’s expecting you to win. Seeing how well Anni played yesterday, I was like ‘I have to really push it on the last day.’ ”

She will long remember the 18th green on the final day of her last MSHSL tournament, including strokes No. 825 and 826.

“On the first putt I knew I had to hit it really hard and I thought I did, and it didn’t get there,” Kate said. “I knew I was tied with Anni and I knew I had to two-putt.

“I hit (the second putt) and I thought it was halfway there. I don’t know how that ball made it to the hole. I don’t know how that putt went in.”

--In the Class 2A boys tournament, Blake led the way by winning the individual and team races. Bears sophomore Derek Hitchner was a wire-to-wire winner, shooting a 7-under-par 65 in the first round and closing with a 69 for a tournament-record 10-under 134 total. Second place went to Alex Wilson of Holy Family Catholic at 145. Blake’s team total of 589 was followed by Holy Family at 604.

CLASS 3A
--Girls/ New Prague senior Taylor Ledwein repeated as the state champion with a six-shot margin (143-149) over Edina senior Hannah Hankinson and Lakeville North sophomore Megan Welch. Edina won the team title for the second year in a row with a 36-stroke gap (600-636) over second-place Forest Lake.

--Boys/ Minnetonka swept the individual and team titles. Ben Sigel rolled to a dominating victory, finishing with a six-shot edge (139-145) over runnerup Harrison Cooper of Simley. The Skippers’ team total of 594 was 13 strokes better than second-place Lakeville North.

CLASS 1A
--Girls/ Kiera Smith, a junior from Heritage Christian, won her second consecutive individual title with a one-shot margin (156-157) over sophomore Sophie Gray of Legacy Christian. Fillmore Central, which held a 20-stroke margin after the first round, rolled to the team title with a 692 total, 32 strokes in front of second-place Windom. Fillmore Central finished second last year and third two years ago.

Boys/ Blake Kalbaugh of Mahnomen/Waubun claimed the individual title with a 138 total, followed by Dylan Merchant of Mounds Park Academy and Brady Madsen of MACCRAY at 149. Mounds Park Academy repeated as team champion with an 11-shot edge (623-624) over Mahnomen/Waubun.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 842
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 12,204
Six Years Later, Reuniting With An Exceptional Athlete 6/14/2016
BECKER – Six years ago this spring, I met an amazing high school athlete. In the years since, I have thought of her whenever I heard anyone use the word “inspirational.”

I first wrote about Trisha Kienitz in May 2010. I spoke to a gathering of athletic directors that month in Marshall, and I told them that as the new media specialist for the MSHSL I was always looking for stories to tell. “I’m convinced that there is at least one great story at every school in Minnesota,” I said.

The next day I received an email from Mike Dammann, the athletic director at MACCRAY High School in Clara City. The subject line said “Story?” It was indeed a story, a wonderful story.

Mike told me about Trisha and her goals, as a senior in 2010, to qualify for the Class 1A state golf tournament for the third time and hopefully finish high enough to take home a medal for the first time. I drove to Clara City to interview Trisha and write about her.

That 2010 story began like this …

Trisha Kienitz has heard the question several times during her golf career. She doesn’t know when it will be asked -- maybe at the first tee, maybe a few holes into a round -- but eventually a competitor’s curiosity at seeing Kienitz use a golf cart to get around the course will lead to the inevitable question.

It happened a couple weeks ago as Kienitz, a senior at MACCRAY High School, hit another tee shot straight down the heart of the fairway. A girl in her foursome asked, “Why do you have a cart?”

Trisha’s answer was short and sweet: “Artificial leg.” The reply was even shorter: “Oh.”

Oh. Right. Artificial Leg. Sweet.

Trisha, 18, tells the story – as she does just about everything else -- with a smile. She walks the school hallways in Clara City with a smile. She smiles as she pulls up the fabric of her jeans to reveal the flesh-toned prosthetic right leg that begins at her hip and is strapped around her waist.

She smiles as she recounts qualifying for the Class A state tournament the past two years, and continues to smile as she talks about her goal of returning this year.

Artificial leg? No big deal. …

The 2010 state tournament ended up being very special. Trisha finished eighth among individuals and indeed took home a medal. Trisha is now 24 years old and we had a wonderful reunion Tuesday at the 2016 state tournament.

She contacted me last week, asking if I would be in Becker for the tournament. Trisha was following Windom junior Hallie Will on the course; Hallie’s big sister Megan was one of Trisha’s college golf teammates at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall. Because Trisha has a handicapped placard for her vehicle, she was allowed to use a golf cart at Pebble Creek Golf Club, and I rode along with her for a few holes. We had a blast, catching up, smiling and laughing.

Trisha graduated from MACCRAY in 2010 and earned a degree in agricultural business at Southwest Minnesota State in 2014. Her work career has taken her to an internship with the South Dakota Wheat Growers in Redfield, S.D.; a job as an agronomist with Cargill in Maynard, Minnesota; district sales manager for Simplex Seed in Ames, Iowa; and on Monday she will start a new job as a sales representative for Northwest Manufacturing in Red Lake Falls.

Eight individual medals are awarded at the state golf tournaments, so in 2010 Trisha received the last one. Her mom took a picture of Trisha and me that day, and a copy of that photo is framed in my office. (We posed for an updated photo Tuesday.)

“It was pretty awesome,” Trisha said. “ I remember on the last hole there was like a 35-mile-per-hour wind in my face and I hit a high drive so it went only 150 yards or so. The last hole was nerve-wracking.

“Getting that medal was surreal. That’s what I wanted to do for so long and I had watched everyone else do it the two years before.”

Trisha wore a SMSU sweatshirt and rain pants Tuesday. She talked about how much she had enjoyed playing college golf. (Trisha is pictured, left, with her friend Megan Will and the John's Journal Toyota Camry.)

“I absolutely loved it. We played all over the country.”

She was born without a right leg. Her flesh-toned prosthetic leg is long gone and she was proud to show me her newest prosthesis. She pulled up her pants leg, revealing a high-tech device that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie.

I thought she was, uh, pulling my leg when she told me that she needs to charge the battery in her leg at night. That’s right, the prosthesis has electronic components that help Trisha walk smoothly, and they need to be refueled with electricity. Amazing.

Trisha and her boyfriend Jake ( a non-golfer) live in Thief River Falls, where Jake works as an engineer at Arctic Cat. Trisha coached middle school golfers this spring and gives lessons at Thief River Golf Club.

“I’m trying to teach Jake to golf but he doesn’t listen very well,” Trisha said with her ever-present smile.

That state tournament medal from 2010 remains where Trisha put it six years ago: Hanging in her bedroom at her parents’ farm.

“It doesn’t like feel like six years ago,” she said.

I agree.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 826
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 12,138
Wadena-Deer Creek Track: Running For Sam6/13/2016
Something very special took place at last weekend’s state track and field championships. Nobody noticed, but one of the medal-winning relay teams had five members.

Sam Kelderman wasn’t there in body but he was there in spirit with the boys 4x200 team from Wadena-Deer Creek High School. Two members of that relay team were honorary pallbearers – along with the rest of the Class of 2017 -- at Sam’s funeral in January.

Sophomore Jonathan Pantages, eighth-grader Bereket Loer, junior Josh Daigneault and junior Konnor Stueve finished sixth in the Class 1A 4x200 relay on Saturday. They wore their medals proudly, but had even more pride in the t-shirts they brought to honor Sam at state. Sam was a track star who would have been a member of the relay team this season. (Pictured, left to right, are Josh, Konnor, Jonathan and Bereket.)

“When it came to track that guy was by far the fastest kid in our team,” Konnor said. “When it came to a relay, no one could beat him. In an open event, yeah maybe you could beat him here or there. But in a relay there was no touching him.”

The t-shirts dedicated to Sam show a running shoe with a halo above it, and the words “Wadena-Deer Creek Track & Field ’16 … Sam’s Season … Forever a Wolverine.”

Sam was 17 when he died in an afternoon auto accident. He lost control of his south-bound vehicle and collided with a vehicle driving north. He was taken to Tri-County Hospital in Wadena, where he died. Sam’s obituary included this…

“He was a Junior at Wadena-Deer Creek High School. He enjoyed the outdoors, whether it was snowmobiling, ice fishing, 4-wheeling, running track, playing football, Ultimate Ping Pong or beach volleyball. Sam also favored gaming with ‘the guys,’ being at the Pizza Ranch, church youth group activities or anything that involved his family and friends. He will be remembered as funny, smart, kind and very social.”

The members of the 4x200 relay team told me how hard Sam worked on handoffs; getting the baton from one runner to the next as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“He was the best at handoffs,” Konnor said. “He never messed one up. He would walk us through every single one and make sure we got that thing off cleanly.”

Pantages, Loer, Daigneault and Stueve also qualified for state in the 4x100 relay, but didn’t advance past Friday’s preliminaries to Saturday’s finals. They broke the school record in the 4x200 four times this spring, the fourth time coming Saturday when they finished in 1 minute, 31.84 seconds. The winning team from Foley finished in 1:30.49.

It’s obvious that the Wadena-Deer Creek kids miss their friend.

“Sam was a really good guy. Everyone in the school loved him. You really never realized how much he touched people until he was gone,” Konnor said.

Jonathan said, “He was the most passionate kid I ever met. When it came to school, he was passionate about doing his homework. When it was friends, he would call his friends and we would hang out. Every weekend we would go to his cabin and fish for 12 hours a day. And when it came to track, we would be the last ones there, until at least 7 or 8 o’clock.”

Sam’s death left a hole on the relay teams, filled by first-year runners Daigneault and Loer.

“At the beginning of the season we didn’t even know if there was going to be a 4x2 team,” said Jonathan. “We didn’t know if these two were going to come out. And them coming out was the best thing that could have happened to us. It made me happy because without Sam I was really sad when track started. And when they came, I felt like he was still there and he helped us to get them out.”

Joshua said he came out for the track team this year for Sam.

“These guys talked to me and asked me to run track with them. All I know is that no one on earth could take Sam’s place on this team and do better than he did.”

Jonathan is the first runner on the 4x200 team, and he asked Sam for help before every race this season. As he placed his feet in the starting blocks and got settled, he touched his forehead and pointed to the heavens.

“I ask Sam to push me the whole way,” he said. “Before every race. I can feel it. He’s definitely there with me.”

Konnor said, “We’re the only relay team with five people. Every single time, he was there with us.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 810
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 11,998
Saluting Three-Sport Athletes Who Specialize In Success 6/11/2016
Two of Minnesota’s greatest all-time multi-sport athletes live 280 miles apart, one of them way up in the northwest part of the state and one way down in the southeast. But while mileage separates Meleah Biermaier and Andrianna (Andy) Jacobs, athletic accomplishments do not.

The two seniors – Biermaier from Thief River Falls and Jacobs from Rochester Century – ended their MSHSL careers in grand fashion at Saturday’s state track and field championships, which is no surprise considering their gold-medal history. Biermaier won the Class 2A 300-meter hurdles for the third time and broke her own state record. Jacobs claimed her fourth state title in the 2A pole vault; she holds the state record in that event.

The duo is testament to what can be accomplished by athletes who choose not to specialize in just one sport. Both will be track athletes in college, Biermaier at the University of Minnesota and Jacobs at Nebraska.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I think it’ll sink in later tonight,” said Jacobs, whose career-best height is 13-7 ¼. She won with a vault of 13-3 Saturday at Hamline University’s Klas Field, three inches better than runner-up Julia Fixsen, a ninth-grader from Mounds View.

Biermaier won her first 300 hurdles title as an eighth-grader, finished second as a ninth- and 10th-grader, broke a 28-year-old record last year at state and set another record Saturday. Her time was 41.35 seconds.

“Honestly, my goal this year was to go 41 (seconds),” she said. “When I finished and I kind of heard it, I was like, ‘There’s no way. I must have heard it wrong.’ It felt fast, it felt really good, actually. Normally I die at the end or something but this time my adrenalin was going so fast.”

Meleah has also played volleyball and basketball for the Prowlers; in addition to going to state in track five times she has played in two state volleyball tournaments and two in basketball. She was a member of the third-place 4x100 relay team Saturday along with eighth-graders Carley Johnson and Miah Nelson and senior Kira Johnson.

“This whole thing has been awesome,” Meleah said. “My teams in my other sports have been phenomenal, the relay this year was great, the coaches who always pushed me to do my best. It’s been really fun.”

Saturday’s event was Jacobs’ 14th state tournament. She also has been a regular on the medal stand as a diver at the state swimming championships as well as in gymnastics.

She suffered a sprained right ankle three weeks ago, which hampered her down the stretch of the track season. At the Big Nine Conference meet she attempted only one vault, clearing 10-6 to win the competition after all the other vaulters had gone out at lower heights.

“I was feeling pretty good today,” she said with a big smile. “It felt a lot better.”

MORE STATE RECORDS

In addition to Biermaier’s 300 hurdles mark, two other all-time state records were broken over the weekend. East Ridge senior Karina Joiner set a 100-meter hurdles record of 13.94 in Friday’s preliminaries; she won the event Saturday in 14.01. The Edina girls 4x800 relay team set an all-time record of 8:59.69 Saturday.

TRIPLE CROWN WINNERS

Two distance runners completed the Triple Crown in that specialty, sweeping first-place finishes in the state cross-country championships last fall and winning the 1,600 and 3,200 meters on the track this weekend. That was accomplished by Wayzata senior Jaret Carpenter in 2A boys and Winona Cotter seventh-grader Grace Ping in 1A girls.

Ping’s success at such a young age marks her as someone who could, if she swept the Triple Crown each year for six years, finish her high school career with 18 individual state championships.

TEAM SCORES

Class 2A girls: 1. Alexandria 44.25; 2. Chanhassen 44; 3. Armstrong 42; 4. St. Michael-Albertville 40; 5. Mounds View 35.

Class 2A boys: 1. Wayzata 75; 2. Edina 44; 3. Woodbury 34; 4. Eden Prairie 32; 5. Elk River 31.

Class 1A girls: 1. Minneapolis Edison 46; 2. Blake 42; 3. Pequot Lakes 37; 4 Watertown-Mayer 34; 5. Tri-City United 33.

Class 1A boys: 1. Rushford-Peterson/Houston 57; 2. Pine Island 55; 3. Minnehaha 53; 4. Pipestone 37; 5. Foley 33.

--Senior twins Bethany and Megan Hasz of Alexandria ended their illustrious high school careers by finishing first and second in the 2A 1,600 Saturday. They were the top two finishers at the state cross-country meet the last three years and Bethany won the 1,600 and 3,200 last year at state.

--Chanhassen senior Jedah Caldwell repeated as the 2A champion in the 100 and 200 and Wayzata senior Ruby Stauber won her second 800-meter title in two years. Other repeat 2A girls champs were Honour Finley of Bloomington Kennedy in the 400, Eden Prairie senior Ashley Ramacher in the high jump, St. Michael-Albertville in the 4x100 relay and Waconia in the 4x200.

--On the 2A boys side, Armstrong senior and state record-holder Evan McClellon repeated as champion in the 100, as did Elk River senior Lucas Trapp in the 800 and Hopkins in the 4x800 relay.

--Minneapolis North’s T’Nia Riley was a double winner among Class 1A girls, sweeping the 100 and 200 titles. Jaime Salone of Blake won the girls shot put and discus while Millie Klefsass of Staples-Motley won the pole vault and 100 hurdles. Boys relay teams from Foley finished first in the 4x100 and 4x200, and Blue Earth girls relay squads won the 4x200 and 4x400.

--Winning back-to-back state titles in Class 1A were Jordan’s Jenna Kes in the girls triple jump, Noah Carlson of Rushford-Peterson/Houston in the boys long jump (he also won the 200 meters), St. Clair sophomore Mitchell Weber in the discus and shot put and the Minneapolis Edison girls in the 4x100.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 810
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 11,998