I was chatting with a guy on Friday afternoon during the state adapted bowling tournament at Brunswick Zone in Brooklyn Park. The tourney is a frenzy of fun and smiles, but this man – the father of a bowler who is a senior in high school – said something quite serious.
“It’s hard to watch them bowl that last frame,” he said. “Because that’s the end.” He was referring, of course, to the conclusion of his daughter’s MSHSL bowling career.
Similar sentiments are expressed at all high school activities, of course, when kids are finishing this stage of their lives. And with graduation ceremonies at hand, high school days are ending all over the state and the nation. Yes, that can be emotional. But it’s also worth celebrating what goes on at our annual spring events, when chapters close and new stories begin.
These are busy days for everyone: athletes, coaches, families, school administrators and even reporters.
I attended five events during this past week, and it was quite the mix of different activities…
Monday/ Owatonna at Rochester Mayo girls lacrosse.
Tuesday/ Blake at East Ridge boys tennis.
Wednesday/ Chaska at Chanhassen baseball.
Friday/ Adapted bowling state tournament in Brooklyn Park.
Saturday/ Robotics state tournament at the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena.
From athletes sprinting toward the ball to kids in wheelchairs using a couple fingers to slowly tip a bowling ball until it succumbs to gravity and rolls down a metal ramp toward 10 pins standing 60 feet away, all these events have much in common. It begins with a sense of competition, of course, because scores are kept. You win some and you lose some but there is so much more.
Two vignettes from the week …
Chase Patchen is a student at Cambridge-Isanti. That school’s outstanding activities director, Mark Solberg, is a good friend of mine and I so respect him and the things he does for kids. Mark had told me about Chase previously, but not as a bowler. Chase is also a talented singer who has performed the national anthem at school events.
Chase bowls in a division that debuted this year. For years the MSHSL has held bowling competition for students with physical and cognitive impairments; new this year is competition for students who are autistic. Chase is in that group.
I was talking with Mark on Friday at the bowling tournament. Up walked Chase, who stuck out his hand and shook mine. He began talking about the medals that were soon to be awarded, and he was excited.
It wasn’t long before Chase had one of those shiny medals hanging around his neck. He placed seventh among boys singles players in the ASD (Autism spectrum disorder) division and he was immensely proud, deservedly so.
At the state robotics competition, the most well-known celebrity is Yoji Shimizu. His title is “master of ceremonies” but it could just as easily be “master of fun.” On Saturday Yoji wore, as per usual, a colorful outfit and multi-colored, battery-operated sneakers that lit up in varying colors with every step.
Yoji works at the University of Minnesota, where his online profile tells us this: Distinguished University Teaching Professor; Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology; Director, Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD); Assistant Dean for Graduate Education.
Go to Google and you’ll also learn about Yoji’s research interests: Signal transduction, lymphocyte activation, cell adhesion and migration. Oh.
But here he was, a man with all those impressive academic credentials, dancing around at a robotics competition in electric footwear, introducing the teams, waving their team flags and totally entertaining everyone. In many ways Yoji is the face of robotics competition in Minnesota.
As the tournament moved from qualification rounds to the semifinals, the process of selecting four three-team alliances was taking place. I won’t go into details, but each of the top four teams after the qualification rounds selects two other teams to join them for the semifinals and beyond.
Yoji took a moment to salute a special group of people: The students who are wrapping up their high school days.
“Seniors, please stand,” Yoji said. And all throughout the crowd, 12th-graders stood as everyone else applauded and cheered.
“We hope your experience in robotics,” Yoji said, “will help you do great things in the future.”
Well said. Good luck, seniors. And thank you.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 690
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 11,160