John's Journal
Class 1A Football Rankings9/28/2019
From the Associated Press.

CLASS 1A
1. BOLD (4) (4-0) 66 1
2. Mahnomen-Waubun (2) (4-0) 65 2
3. Blooming Prairie (1) (4-0) 56 3
4. Mayer Lutheran (4-0) 41 5
(tie) United South Central (4-0) 41 4
6. Springfield (4-0) 36 7
7. Minneota (4-0) 34 6
8. Upsala Swanville (4-0) 20 8
9. Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop (4-0) 17 9
10. Underwood (3-1) 3 10
Others receiving votes: Randolph 3, Dawson-Boyd 2, Ada-Borup 1.

Nine-Man Football Rankings9/28/2019
From the Associated Press.

NINE-MAN
1. Mountain Lake Area (6) (4-0) 69 1
2. LeRoy-Ostrander (1) (4-0) 62 3
3. Southland (4-0) 37 T7
4. Brandon-Evansville (4-0) 33 T7
5. Renville County West (4-0) 30 10
6. Stephen-Argyle (3-1) 28 6
7. Hancock (4-0) 20 NR
8. Hills-Beaver Creek (3-1) 19 5
9. Verndale (3-1) 18 2
(tie) Ogilvie (4-0) 18 NR
Others receiving votes: Grand Meadow 16, North Central 11, Mountain Iron-Buhl 10, Blackduck 6, Win-E-Mac 6, Fertile-Beltrami 2.
Running With Pride: Highland Park’s Paleen Wins Griak 9/28/2019
As Oliver Paleen crossed the finish line in Saturday's Roy Griak Invitational boys Gold cross-country race, he grabbed the front of his jersey and popped the word "Highland” out as a show of pride. The senior from St. Paul Highland Park was ecstatic with his margin of less than one second over Staples-Motley junior Emmet Anderson and the rest of the field of 571 runners from across the nation.

“I don't think St. Paul gets enough recognition for what we have,” said Paleen, whose team placed eighth. “We're not a big suburban school that has thousands of kids coming in to pull from, and so the fact that we're able to do this I think says a lot. We have something really special and just being able to represent St. Paul, specifically Highland, I'm really happy about because it's a great place to be, a great place to run.”

Highland Park placed eighth in the team standings, with senior Calvin Boone finishing 17th and senior Conor Gregg Escala 19th. Another St. Paul public school runner, Central senior Mickies Kiros, was seventh. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin’s Geno Uhrbom, the defending Class 1A state champion, was fifth.

Paleen finished 10th at the Griak last year and was the highest-finishing returning runner Saturday, but he felt a sting when some pre-race stories didn’t even mention him.

“I had confidence,” he said. “Ever since that race last year I was like, ‘All right, I'm gonna come back here and win.’ So 365 days ago, that's what I was thinking, and that's what I was thinking up until the race and through the race. There's a lot more competition this year, with more out-of-state people that weren't here last year.”

He’s been to the MSHSL state meet twice, placing 101st as a freshman and 10th last year as a junior; he missed the latter portion of his sophomore season with a stress fracture. The Griak victory has raised his profile, and he’s fine with that. If he’s able to pop his jersey once more at the state championships in Northfield on Nov. 2, that’s also fine with him.

“Popping the Highland at the end?,” he said with a smile. “Hopefully I get to do that again later in the season.”

--White Bear Lake won the boys team title with a score of 304 and Edina was second at 338. Also in the top 10 from Minnesota were Highland Park in eighth and Rosemout in 10th.

--In the girls Gold race, Cherry Creek, Colorado, sophomore Riley Stewart dominated the field with a winning margin of more than 37 seconds over runner-up Anna Fenske, a junior from Farmington. Wayzata ninth-grader Abbey Nechanicky was fourth and Stillwater junior Annalee Weaver was seventh. Cherry Creek won the team championship with 75 points, Naperville, Illinois, was second at 165, Stillwater was fourth, Edina fifth, Wayzata sixth, Farmington eighth, St. Paul Highland Park ninth and St. Michael-Albertville 10th.

--Full results are available at pttiming.com

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Game Day Afternoon At Red Rock Central 9/25/2019
LAMBERTON -- On a lovely September day in 2011, I attended Homecoming festivities at Red Rock Central, a K-12 school in Lamberton. If you don't know where Lamberton is located, it’s east of Walnut Grove, south of Wabasso, west of Springfield and north of Storden. And if that doesn’t help you, I’m afraid you cannot be helped … at least when the topic is southwest Minnesota geography.

I returned last week for another round of Homecoming fun at the home of the Red Rock Central Falcons. The big event was a 1 p.m. volleyball match between the Falcons and the team from Westbrook-Walnut Grove. The WWG players had "Chargers” emblazoned on their uniforms while the RRC girls were adorned with numbers only. And that makes sense when you consider how many ways RRC athletes can be identified.

The volleyball, football and basketball teams are among those made up of homegrown RRC students. But because of cooperative agreements with other school districts, Falcons also become Bobcats (as members of the RRC-Wabasso wrestling team), Wolverines (cross-country with Mountain Lake), Chargers (track and field with Westbrook-Walnut Grove) and Cardinals (gymnastics with Redwood Valley).

So for the volleyball players on the court Friday who also compete in track and field, their autumn rivals become spring teammates. It’s a great situation for small schools that sometimes struggle to find enough kids to field teams.

Red Rock Central’s K-12 student population is around 400 students, and they come from all over the area. Once upon a time Lamberton had its own school for local kids, as did the communities of Sanborn, Storden and Jeffers, which are all surrounded by acres and acres of rich farmland. They all are now part of Red Rock Central, but you may see hints of history in unforeseen places, like the bottom of the seat on an old folding chair that still carries the words “Sanborn High School” or a plaque on the wall outside the historic school auditorium that bears the name of the president … Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In more modern times, Red Rock Central was named a 2018 National Blue Ribbon school by the United States Department of Education. There is a lot of well-deserved pride in Lamberton, and that includes the volleyball team.

The team was the center of attention for the in-school match with WWG. Every student at Red Rock Central, kindergarten through 12th grade, was on hand, as was every 7-12 WWG student who wanted to attend. The RRC band churned out tunes, including a stellar national anthem and both school songs. It was splendid.

The Falcons defeated Westbrook-Walnut Grove 25-15, 25-17, 25-16 in the midst of the packed gymnasium, giving them a four-game winning streak.

“This is such a great atmosphere for them to play in because it just brings so much more energy than any other game,” said co-coach Cierra Fast. “This is one of our biggest rivals, and to have everybody from their school here cheering them on, we knew they would come out with energy.”

The other co-coach is Brittni Baune, a 2004 Red Rock Central grad. Cierra is a 2011 RRC alum; they are sisters who are in their first year as co-coaches of the Falcons. They both work as physical therapists.

“We knew that we only wanted to coach together,” Cierra said. “Coaching is a big role to take on, especially with our jobs being out of the school, so we knew all along if we were going to coach we were going to do it together. … I coach more passing and setting and she does hitting and blocking, so it's a really good mix and we didn't want to do it without each other.”

This is the second year that RRC hosted an in-school volleyball match during Homecoming week. It’s a trend that is spreading around Minnesota and is a big hit in Lamberton, particularly with the athletes.

“You walk in and the atmosphere is just insane because everyone's there and everyone gets to watch and cheer for you,” said RRC junior Nicole Schroepfer. Classmate and teammate Bianca Weis added, “We just get pumped up a lot more.”

“It's really fun because there's a lot of people and it's just loud and fun,” said sophomore Karli Arkell.

“Yes, the girls love it,” Baune said. “It's almost like a state tournament atmosphere, with the gym full and all the kids screaming and yelling. It's so fun. I think it's a great way to promote the sport to get some of those younger kids here that might not be able to make it to a game.”

--To see a photo gallery from Red Rock Central, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Class 1A Girls Tennis Team Rankings9/23/2019
From the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association.

1 Blake
2 Breck
3 Rochester Lourdes
4 Virginia
5 Litchfield
6 Blue Earth Area
7 St. James
8 Pequot Lakes
9 Minnewaska
10 Thief River Falls