John's Journal
A Magic Moment For St. Cloud Tech Gymnastics Family 2/19/2016
Something very quiet, very special, very emotional took place Friday evening during the awards ceremony that capped off the Class 2A gymnastics team competition at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.

As the gymnasts from St. Cloud Tech were called to the podium to receive their gold medals and championship trophy from members of the MSHSL board of directors, a woman in a wheelchair – behind the gaggle of gymnasts standing, cheering and applauding in front of the podium, and out of sight of many of those in attendance – ducked her head ever so slightly as Dave Swanberg, athletic director at LeSueur-Henderson High School and a member of the MSHSL board, smiled and placed a medal around her neck.

It didn’t take long for the Tech gymnasts to rush to the side of the woman in the wheelchair, because she is their coach, their mentor, their inspiration.

Colleen Stark-Haws has been dealing with multiple sclerosis since 2005, and she has little control of her body below the shoulders. She and husband Joel Stark-Haws have been coaching gymnastics at Tech since 1997, and Friday’s results were special on many levels.

It was the Tigers’ very first state team gymnastics championship. They have qualified for state for 11 years in a row, every year since 2006, and never won. Tech has never even had an individual all-around state champion. And to do it this year, when Roseville was attempting to win its fifth consecutive state title, and seeing that big blue ribbon and big gold medal hanging around Colleen’s neck … words really don’t do it justice.

“This has been so many years of work,” Colleen said. “We love this sport and we coach the beginner’s classes from kindergarten all the way through the high school. And to see the years and years of effort that the coaches and the gymnasts have done, and to keep believing that an outstate team could get it done. We’re just so proud, so proud.”

The Tech athletes were in tears as they huddled around Colleen. She spoke to them, but that was a private moment between her and eight high school kids, and they deserve to own that moment themselves forever. They posed for photos with Colleen and Joel, smiling the kind of meaningful smiles that arrive through hard work, commitment and a love for those you spend so much time with.

“It was a celebration tonight for all of us, and I wanted to make sure she was a part of this, and so did the kids,” Joel said. “It wasn’t even a thought; we all wanted to come over and share that moment and make sure that she was a part of that. Because she is the backbone of this program and it was just so exciting, it really was.”

Colleen and Joel were high school sweethearts at St. Cloud Cathedral and classmates at St. Cloud State. Their son Eli is also part of the coaching staff.

I asked Joel a question that I knew he couldn’t answer: Is it possible to measure the inspiration that Colleen provides for the team?

“You certainly cannot measure the inspiration that Colleen gives to our program, to me, to our family, to the people who are in our lives,” he said. “No, absolutely not. You can’t measure it. She just continues to inspire. It’s a group effort and we know it, and it’s always concentrate on what you can do; which easily falls into gymnastics. That’s what you’ve got to do. Don’t focus on the bad things that happen or the mistakes you made, concentrate on what’s coming up and what you can contribute. It’s unbelievable. Very special.”

When I asked Colleen what the moment meant to her, her answer said everything.

“It means that it’s all worth it. The everyday struggles just get washed away in a moment like this.”

Here are the Class 2A gymnastics team scores:
1. St. Cloud Tech 149.125
2. Roseville 147.925
3. East Ridge 147.375
4. Champlin Park 146.800
5. Cambridge-Isanti 146.200
6. Owatonna 146.125
7. Eden Prairie 144.225
8. Lakeville North 141.175

In Class 1A, Detroit Lakes put on a very strong performance and repeated as the state champion. The final standings looked like this:

1. Detroit Lakes 150.225
2. Melrose 147.025
3. Becker 144.325
4. Austin 144.275
5. Watertown-Mayer/Mound-Westonka 143.175
6. Mankato West 141.650
7. Mahtomedi 141.325
8. Worthington 134.450

HOCKEY TITLE GAMES ARE SET

At Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, state semifinals were held in the girls state hockey tournament. Top-seeded Blake and third-seeded St. Paul United advanced to Saturday’s Class 1A title game. Blake beat Proctor/Hermantown 5-1 and St. Paul United beat Warroad 4-3.

In Class 2A, Saturday’s championship game will be between third-seeded Eden Prairie and fourth-seeded Maple Grove. Eden Prairie defeated Edina 1-0 and Maple Grove beat unbeaten defending state champion Hill-Murray by the same 1-0 score.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 506
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,360
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
It’s Time For Class 2A At Girls State Hockey2/18/2016
If it’s Thursday we must be at the Xcel Energy Center for the Class 2A girls state hockey quarterfinals. The Class 1A field completed their quarterfinals Wednesday and are playing consolation-bracket games today at Ridder Arena.

The 1A quarterfinal results were …

--Warroad beat Northfield 3-0

--St. Paul United beat Alexandria 2-0

--Blake beat Luverne 10-0

--Proctor/Hermantown beat New Prague 2-1

And here are today’s Class 2A quarterfinal games…

--Eastview (18-6-4) vs. #2 Edina (19-7-1), 11 a.m.

--Forest Lake (18-7-3) vs. #3 Eden Prairie (19-7-2), 30 minutes after conclusion of 11 a.m. game

--Sartell/Sauk Rapids (21-7) vs. #1 Hill-Murray (27-0-1), 6 p.m.

--#5 Lakeville South (20-5-2) vs. #4 Maple Grove (20-5-2), 30 minutes after conclusion of 6 p.m. game

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 490
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,311
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

52 Minus 1 Equals A Victory For Edina2/18/2016
Fifty-two. Or if you prefer brevity, 52. That’s how many shots on goal were recorded in Thursday’s Class 2A girls hockey state semifinal game between Edina and Eastview.

Of those 52 shots, 51 were stopped by goaltenders Anna Goldstein (Edina) and Emma Tschida (Eastview). The shot that mattered the most got past Tschida at 7:44 of the third period, fired into the net by Edina’s Emily Odin.

Edina’s 1-0 victory moved the second-seeded Hornets into Friday’s semifinals. It also moved Eastview into the consolation bracket at Ridder Arena. And for fans of pure hockey, it was moving indeed.

The Hornets had allowed only 34 goals in 27 games this season. Eastview’s opponents had scored 50 times in 28 games. The teams had arrived at state in strikingly different manners, though.

Edina defeated Section 6 opponents Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Wayzata by identical scores of 6-0. In Section 3, Eastview opened with an 8-1 win over Rosemount, followed by two overtime decisions: 3-2 over East Ridge and 4-3 over Eagan.

“Our girls didn’t quit. They were solid until the end,” Eastview coach Herb Harvey said after Thursday’s game. "We just didn’t get the bounce. Pucks were hitting skates and shin pads. They got the one decent opportunity and ended up scoring.”

This game was a lesson in defense … but with a capital D. The skaters had to work hard to put those 52 pucks on net, with defenders buzzing and swatting and goaltenders stretching and bending.

“Their goalie played awesome,” said Oden. “I just knew I had to get a shot at least on net.”

Eastview had not previously lost a 1-0 game this season; its only 1-0 decision was a victory over Hastings.

“They definitely crash the net hard and try to create opportunities with rebounds,” Tschida said in the postgame news conference. “Our defense did a real good job of trying to shut them down.”

At which point her teammate Natalie Snodgrass turned to Emma and said, “So did you.”

Capital D.

EDEN PRAIRIE 4, FOREST LAKE 2

The Eagles scored twice in the first period and twice in the third to advance to the semifinal round against Edina.

Eden Prairie and Edina met twice during the Lake Conference season, with Eden Prairie winning 1-0 and Edina winning 2-1 in overtime. Close finishes is a trend when those teams meet.

“The last four times we played them, it was either in overtime or decided in the final minute of play,” said Eagles coach Jaime Grossman. “Every time we play them it’s a 50-50 game. I think we’re fairly evenly matched teams.”

Eden Prairie junior Naomi Rogge, who had a goal and an assist Thursday, said, “Oh yeah, there’s nothing better than playing against Edina. Getting the opportunity to play the game here is going to be really incredible.”

HILL-MURRAY 5, SARTELL/SAUK RAPIDS 0

The two-time defending state champion Pioneers outshot Sartell/Sauk Rapids 50-9 and got goals from five different players in advancing to Friday’s semifinals.

MAPLE GROVE 4, LAKEVILLE SOUTH 1

Lauren Kauffman had a hat trick as the Crimson moved into Friday’s semifinals against Hill-Murray.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Forest Lake junior forward Madi Nolan, asked about the large contingent of Rangers students who were in attendance: “They were happy. They got to miss school.”

FRIDAY’S SEMIFINAL GAMES

CLASS 1A
--Warroad vs. St. Paul United, 11 a.m.

--Blake vs. Proctor/Hermantown, 30 minutes after conclusion of first game

CLASS 2A
--Edina vs. Eden Prairie, 6 p.m.

--Hill-Murray vs. Maple Grove, 30 minutes after conclusion of 6 p.m. game

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 490
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,311
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Welcome To The Girls State Hockey Tournament2/17/2016
This is the week that all girls hockey teams dream about, and 16 such teams are gathered for the state tournament at Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul.

The spotlight today (Wednesday) falls on Class 1A, with four state quarterfinals being played. First up today is Northfield (19-9) vs. third-seeded Warroad (23-3-1) at 11 a.m., followed by …

--Alexandria (18-7-1) vs. third-seeded St. Paul United (21-5-1)

--Luverne (20-6) vs. top-seeded Blake (23-2-2)

--Fifth-seeded New Prague (17-8-1) vs. fourth-seeded Proctor/Hermantown (19-7-1).

It’s going to be a great day of hockey.

Class 1A Girls Hockey Semifinals Are Set2/17/2016
The Warroad Warriors have been to the girls state hockey tournament six times before this year, and they have played in five state championship games. The second-seeded Warriors moved one step closer to another title appearance Wednesday with a 3-0 victory over first-time entrant Northfield in the Class 1A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.

In the day’s second game, fourth-seeded St. Paul United beat Alexandria 2-0. In the evening session, top-seeded Blake beat Luverne 10-0 and fourth-seeded Proctor/Hermantown beat fifth-seeded New Prague 2-1.

Warroad won state titles in 2010 and 2011and were runners-up in 2006, 2009 and 2013. The Warriors' other trip to state came in 2012.

The first period Wednesday was as even as they come, with each team putting seven shots on goal and neither team scoring. The third period also was pretty well an even affair. The spillway opened for Warroad (24-3-1) in the second period when the Warriors outshot Northfield 15-2 and scored all three goals.

Demi Gardner cracked the ice at 6:26 and she scored again at 10:27. Sara Baumann made it 3-0 with a goal at 11:44. The final shots on goal were 36-12 in Warroad’s favor.

“I was really proud of them,” said Northfield coach Brent Bielenberg. “That first period, we played solid. We stepped back a little bit in the second period.”

One side story to the game was the large crowd from Northfield (19-10).

“How about that fan base from Northfield, huh? That was good to see,” Bielenberg said. Northfield sophomore Mallory Tidona said, “Everyone from our school came and it was really cool seeing all the support we had.”

Warroad coach David Marvin said, “Tip your cap to Northfield. That was maybe the biggest following I’ve seen from a school in the six years I’ve coached here.”

--St. Paul United (22-5-1) outshot Alexandria 32-23, getting goals by Joie Phelps in the first period and an empty-net shorthanded goal by Samantha Burke late in the third.

--Blake didn’t give up a shot on goal until the third period, by which time the Bears led 7-0 and had put 51 shots on net. Carly Bullock scored four goals and Lily Delianedis scored two for the Bears.

--Proctor/Hermantown (20-7-1) outshot New Prague (17-10-1) by a margin of 29-10 but the game went down to the wire. After a scoreless first period, New Prague led 1-0 on a second-period goal by Catie Skaja. The Mirage took control on goals by Reilly Albert and Sophie McGovern in the second.

FUN FACT OF THE DAY

The Proctor/Hermantown “Mirage” nickname was chosen by the team's first members. They wanted something different, and the name was taken from a car driven by one of the players: A Mitsubishi Mirage.

--Class 2A quarterfinal games will be played Thursday. Here is the schedule...

--Eastview (18-6-4) vs. #2 Edina (19-7-1), 11 a.m.

--Forest Lake (18-7-3) vs. #3 Eden Prairie (19-7-2), 30 minutes after conclusion of 11 a.m. game

--Sartell/Sauk Rapids (21-7) vs. #1 Hill-Murray (27-0-1), 6 p.m.

--#5 Lakeville South (20-5-2) vs. #4 Maple Grove (20-5-2), 30 minutes after conclusion of 6 p.m. game