John's Journal
Orono vs. Hutch: Vacation’s Over And The Real Fun Begins1/30/2016
HUTCHINSON – I was sitting in the high school gymnasium here on Friday night, watching the ebbing and flowing of a matchup between two highly ranked girls basketball teams. My favorite moment while watching Orono vs. Hutchinson came midway through the second half.

Hutch senior Erica Ellefson, daughter of coach Tim Ellefson, fired up a three-point shot in the hopes of cutting Orono’s lead from eight points to five. The basketball looked to be right on target, but as it bounced on the rim and fell away, the Tigers fans – as if they had been practicing in unison for days – uttered the same elongated word: “Ohhhhhhh.”

Twenty-four earlier, the scene was much different for me. On Thursday evening my wife and I were hustling through the Denver airport while changing planes on our way home from a California vacation. At that point, the realities of life were pretty simple: What gate do we need? How far away is it? Do we have time to grab something to eat? We made the flight, pounding down a Pizza Hut personal pan pizza (me) and a pretzel (my wife) before boarding.

It was nearly midnight when we arrived home from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. As I unpacked I had this thought: I sure hope there’s a great game I can find to attend Friday night. That surely happened, and watching Orono (ranked No. 1 in Class 3A) and Hutchinson (No. 3 in 3A) was the finest way imaginable to transition from vacation back to the magical world of high school sports.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great trip. Our oldest son and his wife of several months live in the San Francisco Bay Area and -- bonus -- they have a guest room. We looked out the windows at palm trees, ate in great restaurants, explored San Francisco and a few vineyards, wore light jackets. By golly, I even came face to face with a hummingbird on one sunny afternoon.

The highlight of the last few days for me however, just might be Friday’s crowd exhaling out that loud “Ohhhhhhh.”

“To think of girls basketball and how far it’s come, to see crowds enjoying girls basketball like they did tonight. I’m proud to be a part of that,” Tim Ellefson said after his Hutch Tigers came out on the short end of a 52-50 decision won by the Orono Spartans.

Orono’s record is 15-2 with losses to Hopkins and Eastview, which are ranked second and third in Class 4A. Hutch is also 15-2, losing earlier to Annandale. Friday’s game was a Wright County Conference contest, and the Spartans and Tigers will meet again Feb. 16 at Orono.

Hutch came out like the home team should, with two layups by Morgan Kurth and one by Erin Corrigan staking the Tigers to an early 7-6 lead. Orono then put on a scoring run, which set a theme for the rest of the game; defensive stands and offensive outbursts on both ends of the court. Orono used a 5-0 run to lead by five late in the first half. Hutch answered with eight unanswered points, cutting an eight-point deficit to a slim 28-26 Orono lead at halftime.

After halftime, a 7-0 Spartans run (three layups and a free throw) put them up by nine and then 10. The margin was still 10 with 10:23 left in the second half. Kurth drove the lane, attempted a layup and one of her teammates on the bench yelled “Yeah Morgan!” a full second before the ball went through the hoop. That made it Orono 48, Hutch 44.

Morgan’s layup was made easier because 6-foot-4 Orono senior Meghan Mandel was on the bench. Spartans coach Ellen Wiese put Meghan and her long shot-blocking arms back in soon after. Things looked a bit dire for the home team when sophomore starter MaKenzie Rensch fouled out with 3:52 left and Orono up by six.

The Spartans went to the stall at the three-minute mark, dribbling and passing outside the three-point line. A traveling call gave Hutch (trailing 52-47) the ball with 1:45 to go. Tori Wortz missed a three-point shot and Hutch was called for a foul on the rebound. The Tigers’ press led to an Orono turnover and Kurth scored from the baseline with 1:26 left. Orono 52, Hutch 49.

The teams traded turnovers, Orono retained possession on a jump ball. Wiese called timeout with 21 seconds remaining and the Tigers fans chanted “LET’S GO HUTCH!” Wortz stole the ball, she was fouled by Tori Andrew and it was the fifth foul for Orono’s season scoring leader.

Wortz made one of two free throws and it was Spartans 52, Tigers 50; 13.7 seconds on the clock. Hutch had to foul but the ploy worked when Danielle Jorgenson missed the front end of a one-and-one. The final shot of the night was attempted by Wortz in the lane as the clock wound down to zero.

The shot may have been right on track, but we’ll never know for sure. Mandel, with her 6-foot-4 frame stretched from floor to what seemed to be the ceiling, put those two lengthy arms straight up as she faced Wortz and the ball hit nothing but flesh. Orono 52, Hutchinson 50. An old-timer exiting the bleachers said to me, “Well, that’s about as good a game as you’re gonna see.”

Wortz scored a game-high 15 points, Corrigan had 13 and Erica Ellefson nine for Hutch. Orono’s Andrew had 12, Lily McKown 10 and Mandel nine.

Neither postgame locker room was especially jovial.

“We got up by 10 and then we lost it,” Wiese said. “It was a very quiet locker room. We know that we did not play that well in the second half and we didn’t shoot well the whole game. But we came out of here with a win. It was a hard environment to play in, and I told them that. I told them this was going to be the hardest road trip you’re going to have. They did what they had to do to win.”

Tim Ellefson said, “Both teams played their hearts out. They took us out of our offenses, we took them out of their offenses, and the girls just had to make plays. And they made a couple more than we did. We had the ball in the air with a chance to win it, and the 6-4 girl got there and swatted it.”

Yes, there will be a February rematch. And maybe a third game between the two teams. They are both in Section 6, and unless one or both of them go belly up they will be the top two seeds in the section playoffs.

Hutch’s last trip to the state tournament was in 2012. Orono finished third at state last season, losing to Marshall in the 3A semifinals. Marshall has defeated Hutchinson in section title games the last two years but section shuffling has moved Hutchinson from Section 2 (with Marshall) to Section 6 (with Orono).

“I sure hope the next two games are like this one,” Tim Ellefson said, “because it’s worth the drive to come out and watch a game like this.”

Indeed, it’s well worth the drive. As well as a couple of flights from California.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 378
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 7,449
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Behind The Headlines: Cleveland At Madelia Boys Basketball 1/15/2016
MADELIA – As the final horn sounded on one whale of a boys basketball game here Thursday evening, the word spread quickly via two types of media: social and traditional. Tweets, radio reports and newspaper scoreboards carried the word that Cleveland had been defeated for the first time this season.

The Clippers came to Madelia with a record of 16-0; the homestanding Madelia Blackhawks were 10-5. The result of this game would have implications on the Valley Conference race and the Class 1A Section 2 postseason playoffs, as well as the civic pride of residents of two towns in southern Minnesota.

After the game, one of the coaches said to me, “It was an awesome crowd. This was a great high school basketball atmosphere.”

The stage had been set in Thursday’s Mankato Free Press. The Clippers headlined veteran reporter Chad Courrier’s Prep Basketball Notebook: “Cleveland enjoying hype of winning streak.” As Chad’s story noted, “It’s not like Cleveland sees this kind of success very often. The Clippers, who were 9-18 last season, haven’t had a winning season since going 14-10 in 2005-06. The best season in program history came in 1960, when the team went 19-3.”

Clippers coach Dan Fredrickson reiterated this point when we chatted before the game. He wondered how the spotlight of being unbeaten so deep into a 26-game regular season would play out with his young team, which has three sophomores among the top seven players.

Both schools reached the nine-man football state playoffs last fall (both were defeated in the state quarterfinals), and the basketball rosters are stocked with multi-sport athletes who know how to work and how to win.

Before tipoff, I made two key realizations: 1) Chad Courrier, who is an MSHSL basketball official as well as a journalism pro, would work the game with partner Mike Barten, the softball coach at Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton; 2) Madelia has the sweetest warm-ups I have ever seen.

Madelia coach Jeff Van Hee had told me as much in an email inviting me to the game. The warm-ups are black and orange with vertical stripes on the arms and legs and a casual hoodie look.

Before tipoff, Van Hee’s son Derrick (who would end the night with a game-high 23 points) was honored in a brief ceremony for recently scoring his 1,000th career point. The Madelia pep band played songs from Taylor Swift and the Blues Brothers, the lights went out and a spotlight came on for the home-team introductions and the game began.

Madelia had the edge in size and experience, starting four seniors who included 6-foot-3 Kyle Schultz, 6-5 Jack Kortuem and 6-6 Austin Denn. Cleveland’s tallest starter is 6-3 senior Tyler Piotter, with 6-4 junior Jaiden Zishka coming off the bench. Sophomore guard Carter Kopet, already in his third year as a starter, quarterbacked the Clippers to the football state tournament and is also the QB on the basketball court. He leads the team with an 18-point average and Piotter is at 17.

The atmosphere was high-level from the get-go. Three minutes into the game, an exuberant Clippers fan sitting behind me hollered at his team, “Speed it up! They’re tired!”

Cleveland wanted to run, Madelia wanted to throw down roadblocks in the lane. The Blackhawks focused on Kopet, with three or four defenders collapsing on him when he drove to the hoop. Fredrickson is not a teacher, but he sounded like a high-intensity geography instructor as he called out plays: “ALABAMA!” “OHIO!” “ARIZONA!”

The score was tied 12-12 midway through the first half. Fouls came fast and furious, and Cleveland’s final eight points of the half came on free throws. Madelia caught a nice break in the final minute when Kortuem, attempting an off-balance, up-in-the-air, one-handed pass from the lane – intended for Augie Reihs – watched the ball bounce off the rim and drop through.

The Blackhawks led 32-25 at halftime and came out hot in the second half. They went hard to the hole, scored eight straight points on layups and led 40-30 with 15:20 to play. Fredrickson winced when one of his players missed an open layup, but the Clippers regrouped. Two layups by sophomore Austin Plonsky (who would lead Cleveland with 18 points) bookmarked an 8-0 run that cut the deficit to four.

A three-pointer by Plonsky and a drive by Zishka put Cleveland in front 43-42. Steals by Kopet and Zishka resulted in a free throw (Kopet) and layup (Zishka) and the Clippers were up 48-44 with five-plus minutes remaining. A three by Mitch McCabe and a fadeaway shot by Kopet made it 55-49 and the Clippers appeared to be in control with 4:12 left.

Zishka, who played 20 minutes off the bench, came out for a breather with 2:27 left. Fredrickson told him, “As soon as you’re ready, we need you back in.” He didn’t sit for long.

The teams traded free throws. McCabe hit a three to make it Cleveland 62, Madelia 56 with 1:59 to go. During a timeout the fans on either side of the gym traded proud chants: “CHS! CHS!” was countered by “MHS! MHS!” The place was electric.

The darn thing came down to the final 17 seconds. Two free throws by Kopet gave Cleveland a 64-61 lead. The Clippers allowed Madelia’s Van Hee to drive and score a layup, because two points wasn’t the dagger that three would have been. His layup made it Clippers 64, Blackhawks 53 with 11.5 seconds to go.

Madelia had to foul somebody and Kopet wasn’t their first choice, but he held the ball and they swiped at him. Courrier’s story that day had noted that Carter shoots 73 percent from the line and came into the game having made 31 of his last 34. I didn’t hear anybody yell “jinx!” but this time he missed the front end of a one-and-one. Madelia got the rebound, Denn – the tallest player on either team -- got the ball down low and scored the biggest two of his 12 points. Madelia 65, Cleveland 64. Two seconds to play.

The Clippers had to go the length of the court, and 84 feet looks like a football field at times like this. One pass, another pass and the ball was outside the three-point line. Shot went up, shot missed and the Madelia students – all wearing black on Blackout Night – rushed the court with a whoop and surrounded their boys.

“You’ve got to hand it to them,” Jeff Van Hee said. “They battled. I was thinking, ‘These (Cleveland) sophomores, eventually they’re going to cave.’ They really didn’t cave. Carter Kopet is a heck of a player; I don’t know what his free throw percentage was, but he missed one. And that was the one we needed him to miss.”

Fredrickson said, “We’re a young team, and I’ve got to do a better job of making sure they know situational basketball. The kids played their tail off in the second half. I thought we really fought to come back. I outcoached myself in the first half, went triangle-and-two, box-and-one, they got hot a little bit, got some confidence. The second half we came out man-to-man and the kids came back and fought hard.”

For the home team and their families and friends, there was postgame cake in celebration of Derrick Van Hee’s 1,000 points. Holding cake in one hand and a big victory in the other made the night especially sweet for the Madelians.

Jeff Van Hee said of Cleveland, “When they look back, they’ll probably say, ‘This helped us more than it hurt us.’ It helped us immediately. It gave us the confidence we needed.”

And then came the statement of the night.

“It was an awesome crowd,” Van Hee said, totally unable to conceal a satisfied grin. “This was a great high school basketball atmosphere.”

No argument here.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 376
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 7,295
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Mounds View vs. MSAD: A Game To Remember 1/11/2016
FARIBAULT -- One of the most interesting matchups of the basketball season took place here Saturday afternoon in an 85-year-old gymnasium.

The visiting team was from a big school: Class 4A Mounds View has 1,650 students. The home team from Class 1A Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf represented a high school with just 50 students.

What a matchup it was. And in the long run, the final score is almost meaningless.

“This is a game I think our kids will remember forever,” said Mounds View coach David Leiser. “When they get together 30 years from now, they’ll talk about this game.”

The Mustangs broke free from a 31-31 halftime tie to win 75-40. Not surprisingly, Mounds View had more size and depth than the Trojans of MSAD. But when you look at hustle and determination, this game was a dead heat.

“One of the things that impressed me about them was you could see how much playing for this academy means to them,” Leiser said. “This is everything to them, they put their heart and soul into this. I told our guys, ‘We’re Mounds View. We’ve got a lot to play for, too. We need to be proud when we come out on the floor and give the kind of effort that we have to give.’ ”

Nobody at MSAD – which was founded in 1863 -- could remember one of their teams playing a team from the state’s largest class. The game came about after Leiser saw MSAD play a year ago. One of his former assistants now coaches at Academy for Sciences and Agriculture in Vadnais Heights. When Leiser went to a game, the opponent was the Trojans. He came away very impressed and contacted MSAD athletic director David Olson about scheduling a game.

“I was just honestly mesmerized,” Leiser said. “I thought it was so cool how they communicated with each other, and they were good, too. We saw that in the first half; they’ve got guys who can play. They can compete.

“I’m a big believer that one of the great things about basketball, really all sports, is that it brings people together from different cultures, communities, cities. We play teams from small towns and I love to take our team to a small town. We get treated so well when we go to a small town.”

MSAD’s Lauritsen Gymnasium, built in 1931, is a showplace of a bandbox: Limestone walls, balcony seating behind one basket, sunlight streaming through windows.

“When we walked in, I thought, ‘What a great honor to be here,’ ” said Mounds View senior Nate Albers, who led all scorers with 24 points. “I’ve never played in anything like this gym before. It’s definitely unique.”

MSAD coach Lee Jones, his assistants and the players communicate via sign language. MSAD staff member Cheryl Anderson acted as a sign-language interpreter for the Mounds View coaches, officials and media. The public-address system wasn’t working Saturday, so Anderson and Olson stood at center court with Anderson verbally announced the starting lineups as Olson did the same in sign language.

“You could see a couple signs and they played through a couple whistles,” Albers said of the Trojans. “But it felt like it was just another game and we had to play like we always do.”

Trojans junior Kyrell Cummings, who led his team with 16 points, said, “The first half was great. We were just really hungry. In the second half we kind of went down, but we wanted to stay positive. Mounds View is pretty good. It’s important to taste what 4A tastes like. It was a good experience.”

Mounds View (12-2) had lost to Woodbury the previous evening, and the short period of time between that game and Saturday’s contest might have had something to do with the Mustangs’ slow start.

MSAD is 7-6, including victories over deaf academies from Wisconsin, Kansas and Iowa.

“All my boys, this week, were really talking all about Mounds View, Mounds View, Mounds View,” Jones said after the game. “They knew it was a big school with a lot of players. We have a small school with less kids so we wanted to try and match their level. The first half was a surprise; we played our best offense of the season. The boys took care of the ball really well. Until the second half. They changed their defense and frustrated us. The game changed very quick. But the concept of the game with a bigger school was a great experience.”

The Mounds View players will certainly remember the game for a long time. And the same can be said for the Trojans.

“We’ll remember, ‘Wow. We played against a 4A school,’ ” Cummings said. “We’ve checked it off our bucket list.”

--To see photos from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 374
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 7,111
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Grand Rapids, Duluth East And A Night To Remember 1/8/2016
GRAND RAPIDS -- The first-year boys hockey coach at Grand Rapids High School said something before Thursday’s game against Duluth East that was comical, yes, but also wise: “I’m smart enough to know I’m stupid; I’m not stupid enough to think I’m smart.”

The rookie coach has been around the game for a long time, and hockey fans certainly know about him. His name is Trent Klatt. He was named Mr. Hockey in 1989 after a spectacular high school career at Osseo, he played three years for the University of Minnesota and then spent 13 years in the NHL. That’s a big-time pedigree.

Junior Drake Anderson, who scored the winning goal in overtime as the Thunderhawks defeated East 4-3, said this about his coach: “I really like Trent. He came in at the start of the year and the big talk was how he was an NHL player. I like how he coaches and everything about him.”

There was a lot to like Thursday night, especially for fans of Grand Rapids as well as spectacular old-time arenas. The IRA Civic Center in Grand Rapids is a must-see for any hockey historian, and taking in a game – especially one against a rival like Duluth East – can make your head spin. The building dates from the early 1960s, and the wooden beams and ceiling are a throwback to the glory days of old-time hockey.

Thursday’s game was another kind of throwback. There were few penalties, no cheap shots and the entire game was a back-and-forthfest of skating and skill. The Grand Rapids pep band, one of the finest you will ever hear, added to the energized atmosphere, as did the Thunderhawks cheerleaders and mascot, all on skates.

“It’s a great high school venue, the best,” said East coach Mike Randolph. “And when the two of us get together it brings out the best in both teams. I thought it was a great, entertaining game for the fans.”

Goals by Mitchell Mattson in the first period and Alex Adams in the second had the Thunderhawks in control 2-0 heading into the third period. A breakaway goal by East’s Austin Crist narrowed the gap; Grand Rapids’ Michael Heitkamp scored his first varsity goal 27 seconds later and the Thunderhawks led 3-1.

Ian Mageau scored for East to make it 3-2 and the tie was forged on a goal by Ash Altmann with 2:50 left in regulation. When Anderson ended the evening in overtime by jamming home a rebound of a shot by Adams, the place erupted.

Randolph is one of the legends of hockey coaches in Minnesota. He has won 567 games during a career that’s in Year 29. He has retired as an elementary teacher, devoting his winters to the game he loves.

Thursday’s result did not make Randolph especially pleased. He was unhappy when the officials waved off a Greyhounds goal in the final minutes of regulation, and he’s still sorting out his player rotations.

“We’ve always approached it the same way; the regular season is 25 lesson plans and we look at a lot of people in a lot of different spots,” he said. “We give people an opportunity and then come February we start solidifying who deserves to be there.”

East’s record is 6-6 (Grand Rapids is 9-5-1). East’s season so far may seem like reason for major concern, but Greyhound followers know what happened last season. The Hounds were 11-10-4 in the regular season and ended up playing in the Class 2A state championship game (where they lost to Lakeville North).

Pulling that kind of rabbit out of a hockey helmet two years in a row might be a tough task, but Randolph trusts in the process.

“They’re really good in this rink,” Randolph said of the Thunderhawks. “They’re very tough to beat. They played hard. I think Trent, the same as we are, is trying to find who’s going to be where in the end. He’s still putting it together just like we are.”

Klatt is no stranger to Grand Rapids, where he has lived for years. His wife, Kelly, is the Thunderhawks head softball coach. Trent had stepped down as head scout for the New York Islanders before the high school coaching job opened up, and he was a natural choice. He had worked as a volunteer assistant with the team a year ago.

“I just love being at the rink,” he said. “The kids want to learn, they want to get better. It’s something that we share.”

Klatt is 44, Randolph is 64. Their teams are both in Section 7, and you know what that means: they could meet again in the postseason. That’s certainly something that was a topic of discussion by the fans who witnessed Thursday’s spectacular show.

“They’re the favorite,” Randolph said. “They’re the team we have to chase. We learned a lot about them and we learned a lot about ourselves.

“Who knows? We might see each other in the playoffs.”

Wouldn't that be something?

--To see a photo gallery from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 365
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 6,954
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
That Winning Smile: Moose Lake’s Inspirational Megan Wegge 1/1/2016
Watch Megan Wegge skate. Watch her stride down the ice -- forceful and smooth -- as a member of the Moose Lake girls hockey team. Afterwards, when her helmet and facemask have been removed, watch her smile. Oh, that smile.

As a new year begins, Megan’s smile is something to feel good about. Really good.

Megan is a miracle. When she was born 16 years ago she was placed on life support and doctors doubted that she would survive. But here she is, along with her brother Nick and sister Brooke (yes, Megan is a triplet).

Cancer came later, when Megan was 11. The technical term was stage 3 undifferentiated embryonal sarcoma of the liver. It’s rare, it’s vicious and it wins a lot of the fights it starts.

Megan was battling cancer long before she had cancer. Ten years ago, a friend named Johnny Murphy died because of cancer. After that, Megan began raising money to fight the disease. She made chocolate treats and sold them herself. She donated her own hair to Locks of Love.

“My friend Johnny died when I was pretty young and that really impacted me,” Megan said. “I wanted to help, and I never knew that I was going to get cancer.”

She had a tumor the size of a softball in her liver. The tumor ruptured before surgery, which added another layer of complications and concern. Doctors removed the tumor and most of Megan’s liver. That was followed by chemotherapy and radiation. She underwent chemo and proton beam therapy treatments, 29 in all, over the course of two and a half months in Bloomington, Indiana.

I asked Megan about her memories from that time. And she smiled.

“I have a lot of memories, most of them are actually good,” she said. “I know that I felt really sick at some points, but I’ve kind of pushed those memories out of my mind. We’ve met a lot of really good people. A lot of hockey people have come together. The Edina team did a lot; they sold lemonade and raised money for me. The Gophers women’s team has done a lot for me. One player in particular, Megan Bozek, has been a huge inspiration to me. She would come visit me in the hospital, she let me come and skate with her team and visit them.

“We’ve made a lot of connections with a lot of people and we’ve made some really good friends from everything.”

Megan won’t be declared cancer-free until the disease has been absent for 10 years. She’s halfway to that mark. Her current medical status is N.E.D., which stands for No Evidence of Disease. Because of the treatments she went through, there are times when she feels tired, when it’s a little hard to get a good breath, when there is pain.

“Other than that, I’m doing super well,” she said, busting out that smile again.

Moose Lake coach Joe Mohelsky said, “One of our team values is being grateful. And Megan really brings that gratitude to the team. She battled that cancer. It was really touch and go there for a while, and a lot of these girls spent a lot of time with her and came up through youth hockey with her.

“She’s a fighter and you can see it on the ice. Her motor never quits running. Megan’s a great kid. She’s smart, she’s a great teammate, she’s a real pleasure to coach.”

Playing hockey and being part of the team is important to Megan. Her mother, in fact, said returning to the ice was a goal that helped Megan get through cancer treatments.

“Her doctors advised her not to skate,” Jodi Wegge said. “She had almost her whole liver removed and a lot of things shifted, so if she got run into the boards it could be not good. But that’s what got her through, that’s what she looked forward to. I can’t take away the thing that saved her. We never know what’s going to happen to any of us at any time, so we just enjoy life and let her do what she wants to do.”

The Wegge family is grateful. Jodi and her husband Dan, the triplets and their older sister Lindsey … grateful doesn’t even begin to explain how they feel about all the support they have received.

“We couldn’t have done this journey without our community,” Jodi said. “It was unbelievable. Especially the hockey community and our Moose Lake family. It’s just been unreal. Even to this day they still rally around us and want to know how she’s doing. It’s amazing to me that there are so many people who care. There were a lot of people we didn’t even know.”

While her treatments were taking place, Megan told her family and her doctors that she could not imagine ever being a doctor and dealing with such things on a daily basis. But guess what she wants to do with her life?

“I actually want to be a doctor,” she said. “After becoming N.E.D. and getting better, I realized these doctors had a huge impact on me and I want to be like them.”

Don’t doubt her. The baby who wasn’t expected to survive, the cancer patient who beat cancer. She’s all of 5-feet-4 and not even 120 pounds. And she’s a fighter.

“I always give my all, no matter what I’m doing,” Megan said.

And she smiled that beautiful smile.

Happy New Year.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 353
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 6,430
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn