John's Journal
Eastview Basketball: The Pride of South Dakota 1/23/2015
The first family of Eastview basketball has a decidedly South Dakota feel. No wonder, when you learn that the Lightning girls coach is one of the legendary players in South Dakota high school and college history, and her twin children will continue their basketball careers at South Dakota colleges.

Here’s the rundown...

--Coach Melissa Guebert was South Dakota’s Miss Basketball in 1982, her senior season at Sioux Falls Lincoln High School, and she remains the all-time scoring leader at Augustana College, also in Sioux Falls.

--Madison Guebert, a 5-foot-8 Eastview senior on her mom’s team, is one of the top players in Minnesota and will continue her career at South Dakota State.

--Drew, a senior on the Eastview boys team and Madison’s twin brother, is a 6-foot-7 forward who will play college basketball at the University of Sioux Falls.

The family’s South Dakota roots run deep. Dan Guebbert (husband of Melissa and father of Madison, Drew and eighth-grade daughter Maci) also attended Augustana, as did Melissa’s parents and three brothers.

So when Madison and Drew embark for college, they will have grandparents and other relatives close by … even if they won’t be attending the “family” college.

“I think we would have been happy if one of them had picked Augustana,” Melissa said with a smile. “And we love Sioux Falls. So the fact that Drew is going to be at the University of Sioux Falls and Madison will be in Brookings; having family right there, it’s going to be great for us.”

The twins had plenty of other schools to choose from. Madison also took close looks at Creighton, Drake and Illinois, and Drew considered several schools in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, three in South Dakota and American University in Washington, D.C.

Family roots wasn’t the sole reason for their college decisions, but it came into play.

“I didn’t want to base my decision on it, but it was definitely a factor,” Madison said. “It was hard just because there wasn’t anything I didn’t like at any of the schools. It’s hard to explain, it’s kind of like a feeling you get. And every time I went there (South Dakota State), even the first time I went there I was like, ‘Oh, I can see myself here.’ I said that about the other places, too, but there was just something else (about SDSU).”

Drew said, “For me it wasn’t a huge deal to stay around here but it kind of felt right and it’s nice for our family.”

One of the hurdles Madison had to deal with was her grandfather’s not-so-favorable feelings about South Dakota State, stemming from the rivalry between Augustana and South Dakota State.

Madison explained it like this: “Our grandpa has a hard time with South Dakota State.”

Melissa said, “My dad played basketball at Augustana. And even at the time when I played, South Dakota State was in our conference and there was a huge rivalry between Augustana and South Dakota State. It was a really tough place to go play at South Dakota State. My dad just had this almost bad feeling because the rivalry was so intense. So when Madison was first looking at the school, we said, ‘Hey, do you want to meet us at a game there?’ We had to really work to get him to come to a game.

“When Madison decided, I called him before Madison did. I just said to him, ‘She’s super excited and I hope when she calls you are excited for her.’ And he started to realize that he was going to get a chance to see her play. I think it became more about that than the school itself. It all boils down to an old rivalry for him and what that used to be like.”

Both Eastview teams are having good seasons. The girls (the defending Class 4A state champions) are 14-1 and ranked second in 4A; the boys have a record of 12-5.

Melissa said she is not certain that she will return as coach next season, because of the tug of wanting to watch her twins play in college. Juggling basketball lives and time commitments is nothing new for the Gueberts, however.

Eastview is playing several girl-boy varsity doubleheaders this season, which makes watching both children play an easy task. But on many game nights the girls and boys teams are in different places, with Dan watching Drew’s team play while Melissa and Madison are at their game.

“The only hard thing to me is not having my mom at some of my games,” said Drew.

Melissa said, “It’s hard for both of us. My decision to coach this year, I had to really think about it because it was Drew’s senior year, too. At the same time, if I wasn’t coaching it would still be a split, with my husband at his games, me at her games and we would have been switching.

“That sacrifice has been the hardest part about coaching. And our younger daughter, she sacrifices because of that, too. I know it hasn’t been easy but Drew’s been great about it.”

Melissa is an elementary teacher and Madison is considering a career in education (Drew is undecided). Their family life centers on basketball, but they find time for fishing trips and other family getaways.

“They eat, sleep and breathe basketball,” said Eastview activities director Matt Percival. “They can’t get enough of it, but in a really good, positive family way. Their family has been a very unifying thing for the basketball programs. Not only are they well-known but they are certainly very well-respected by everyone in our building and our community.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 290
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 6,322
29th Annual Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day1/19/2015
Some of Minnesota’s most inspiring and influential student-athletes, coaches and athletic leaders will be recognized at an award ceremony at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. The award ceremony will be conducted in conjunction with the 29th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day – a nationwide celebration recognizing the accomplishments of individuals in the promotion and advancement of girls’ and women’s sports. The 2015 ceremony will honor 18 individuals and one program receiving awards in seven separate categories. Award recipients are nominated by schools, community organizations, recreation centers, and amateur and professional sports organizations. All are invited to attend this special event. Award winners are below.

The Marie Berg Award for Excellence in Education – Carol Enke, Augsburg College

The Girls’ and Women’s Sports in the Media Award – Kwame McDonald (the Media Award will henceforth be named in honor of McDonald with a formal announcement to take place at the ceremony)

The Wilma Rudolph Award for Courage and Inspiration – Ronda Jo Donatucci,
Co-Director Metro Deaf School, former professional basketball player

Special Merit Award – Myron Glass, Rochester Lourdes High School

Special Merit Award – Jean Havlish, Former professional baseball player and bowler

Special Merit Award – Nicole M. LaVoi, University of Minnesota, Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sports

Minnesota Legacy Award – Joan Parent, Former MSHSL President

Minnesota Milestone Award – Edina High School Girls Tennis Program

2015 Breaking Barriers Awards
Pat Arens, Princeton community
Connie Boyum-Erzar, Deer River High School
Raquel DeBeltz-Bushman, Hutchinson Parks & Recreation
Ron Gunderson, New Prague High School
Bill Halbrehder, Minnesota Girls Hockey Coaches Association
Betty Haukebo, Park Rapids Area High Schools
Deb Johansen, A Recreational Inclusion Sport Endeavor (ARISE)
Jessica Just, Lakeville South High School
Mary Lager, St. Peter High School,
Mike Silk, Randolph High School
Erica Upton-Wurst, Houston High School

Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day is organized by the Minnesota Coalition of Women in Athletic Leadership.
From Far And Wide, Skating For Dodge County1/14/2015
KASSON – The Dodge County girls hockey team is a southern Minnesota independent squad that isn’t afraid to travel, with regular trips to games in the Twin Cities and forays this season to New Ulm and Warroad.

Spending time on the highway is not an issue for the Wildcats, many of whom are accustomed to lengthy commutes just to get to practice and home games. That’s because Dodge County is a cooperative team with eight different schools involved.

Those schools stretch from Zumbrota-Mazeppa to the north, Dover-Eyota to the east, Dodge Center in Triton to the west and Blooming Prairie to the south. Other members of the coop are Byron, Pine Island, Hayfield and Kasson-Mantorville, which is the host school for the coop.

How far-flung are the Wildcats? Well, consider that Dover-Eyota, Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Pine Island and Byron aren’t even in Dodge County.

Members of the girls hockey team come from seven of those eight schools, and the Wildcats are one of the top teams in the state, holding a 15-3 record and No. 8 ranking in Class 2A by Let’s Play Hockey. They were ranked as high as third earlier in the season.

Eleventh-grader defender Hollywood Hermanson (yes, that’s her real name) is a student at Dover-Eyota who spends 40 to 45 minutes on the road getting to and from Four Seasons Arena in Kasson.

“When you come here, everybody’s always happy,” she said. “And it’s different from school because we’re all from different communities. It’s really cool.” (Pictured are, left to right, Hermanson, Dana Rasmussen, Elly Strunk, Katie Robinson and Maggie Wick.)

Seventeen of the 28 players on the roster attend Kasson-Mantorville, with four from Byron, two each from Dover-Eyota and Hayfield, and one each from Pine Island, Zumbrota-Mazeppa and Blooming Prairie. The players are responsible for their own transportation to the rink.

“We have a really good following,” said coach Jeremy Gunderson, who lives in Mantorville. “Our communities do a good job. Girls basketball here is big, and Kasson-Mantorville athletics is good all around. We’ve got kids who are pretty good athletes. But hockey here is definitely not like at Edina or Warroad. We have a bunch of good athletes playing hockey, but it’s not a hockey hotbed by any means.”

Despite the lack of hotbed status, the Wildcats sport a talented roster. Senior forward Dana Rasmussen, who will play at Ohio State, leads the state with 41 goals. Junior defender Katie Robinson has committed to play at the University of Minnesota, three seniors will play Division III hockey and juniors Bella Wagner and Molly Shelton will decide among several Division I schools. Gunderson’s daughter Emily Gunderson is a freshman playing at Division I Lindenwood University.

The Wildcats have never qualified for the state tournament, but that is one of their goals this season and one of the reasons why the schedule includes opponents like Edina, Hill-Murray, Breck, Warroad and Lakeville North.

Dodge County lost to Lakeville North in the Section 1 title game the last two years, and fell to the Panthers in the section semifinals three years ago.

“It’s mentioned a lot,” Gunderson said of the goal of getting to state. “No more losing section final games. First it was, ‘Hey, let’s make the section final.’ Last year it was, ‘Let’s win this thing.’ They’re actually setting a higher goal this year, they want to win the state championship.”

The Wildcats lost to Lakeville North 1-0 in the Warroad holiday tournament (where Dodge Center beat Warroad and Eastview), but Gunderson said he saw a change in his team after that game.

“We hit five pipes, we outshot them, we outplayed them,” he said. “I got to see their eyes in the locker room afterwards, and it was a different group of kids. That game really got them past that hurdle. Now they’re no longer nervous or afraid, they’re more like hungry or wanting.”

Dodge County’s other losses this season were against Hill-Murray and Edina, both by 4-2 scores. Their final seven games of the regular season include contests with ranked teams Eden Prairie, Centennial, Breck, St. Paul United and Rochester John Marshall.

“We try to play a full metro schedule as much as possible,” Gunderson said. “Play the best to be the best, that’s our philosophy.”

The Wildcats players may be spread far and wide geographically, but they are a very close-knit group. They communicate during non-hockey time via group text messages, with as many as 80 texts flying through the air daily.

“I think it’s just a great team atmosphere,” Robinson said. “And since we’re from different towns we don’t see each other often, so it’s always fun to see each other. We have a fun group of girls.”

Rasmussen said, “It’s different, because we don’t see each other in school every day. I think it’s a great kind of different.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 288
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 6,198
A Very Special Event For Pillager And Menahga1/10/2015
Here's a remarkable, inspiring story that was sent my way. Enjoy!

Hi John,

I want to share an experience that I was a part of on Thursday night January 8, 2015! On a cold windy night in Northwestern Minnesota a great event took place. The stage was a conference girls basketball game between two young, building programs with coaches who have a great deal of respect for each other and for the programs they are each leading. That was only part of the script for this night. Several months ago the Special Olympics coaches from each school started planning. Never doubt what two determined and caring people can accomplish. Isaiah Hahn from Menahga and Kim Lund from Pillager started to plan for this night. They wanted to have their Unified Special Olympics teams compete against each other and they did on Thursday night!

The lights in the gym were turned off and a spotlight shined on the locker room door. As the announcer read off each name, the athletes came running into the gym to a standing ovation. The atmosphere was set! Part of the Unified sports team concept has regular education students playing alongside Special Olympic Athletes; Special Olympic Athletes were playing alongside the varsity athletes! The teams went up and down the court shooting for and scoring baskets. Fans were on their feet for most of the game! The Special Olympic Athletes were the stars for this night! Fists were pumping in the air, high fives were being passed around and throughout the game everyone was included in the action and a part of the team! What a rewarding experience for our Special Olympic Athletes and our varsity athletes.

Our National Honor Society members and adviser made the trip to Pillager and were a part of their very own cheering section, complete with posters and banners! It brings chills to me as I think of the look on the faces of the students on both teams. Once again, never doubt what caring people can accomplish! On this night the action of two individuals and the Special Education teams of each school made memories that will last a lifetime for anyone and everyone in attendance.

Daniel J. Stifter
Menahga High School

(I have included a photo of the teams! The picture kind of sums it all up! I thought maybe this would be something for your Journal! I always enjoy reading of your travels and the things you are able to see and observe happening in high school activities. We hope to make this an annual game and would love to have you be a part of it! Thanks for your efforts to promote the good that so many people do for our students.)
For Edina and Richfield Wrestling, A Team Of Their Own 1/7/2015
There has been a downward trend in wrestling: Schools faced with shortages of athletes forming cooperative teams with neighboring schools as a way to keep the sport alive.

Ten years ago, there were 262 high school wrestling teams in Minnesota; this season there are 254. And the number of schools involved in wrestling has fallen from 353 in 2004-05 to 343 currently.

In a dramatic reversal, however, two schools in the Twin Cities have ended a lengthy cooperative agreement and this season are striking out on their own … with their own teams, wearing their own school colors.

Wrestlers from Richfield and Edina had an on-again, off-again cooperative team for 20 years. The team was known as the Richfield/Edina Rampage, and there were some years when none of the wrestlers came from Edina. Now wrestlers from those schools proudly represent the Edina Hornets and the Richfield Spartans.

It’s a new thing, and it’s bringing excitement to both schools and the sport of wrestling.

“It only strengthens the sport,” said Josh Burhans, who was the head coach of the cooperative team for the previous four years and is now the head coach at Edina.

“Edina’s numbers were going up, Richfield was kind of leveling off,” he said. “It seemed like the right time for both schools, trying to take advantage of the numbers and being able to sustain two programs.”

The rosters of both teams are packed with sophomores and freshmen, some of them wrestling for the first time. The teams are taking their lumps this season, but it’s all part of the process.

“We have some nice leaders, some good experience but we’re very young. It’s a great group to build on,” said Richfield head coach Carl Maiers, who was an assistant at Bloomington Kennedy the last three years.

Richfield has had more of a wrestling tradition over the years. The cooperative team was always based at Richfield, with wrestlers from Edina responsible for their own transportation to and from practices.

Edina activities director Troy Stein said, “It’s been 20 years since Edina had its own team. There were quite a few years when we didn’t have any wrestlers or any connection or coop with Richfield.

“When I took this job last year, Josh was one of the first coaches to come to me. We started a conversation about the prospect of splitting and growing. Josh has been the driving force behind this.”

Burhans had prior coaching experience at Farmington, Richfield and Eagan before running the Richfield/Edina team.

“First it was just kind of an initial conversation with Troy, to see what was involved,” he said. “If it was going to happen the time had to be now.”

Edina’s first home wrestling competition in 20 years took place on Dec. 16 with a triangular involving Champlin Park and Burnsville. With two mats being used, the pep band playing and fans cheering, it was a festive night. But as all wrestlers know, what happens in practice pays off in competition.

“The kids are working hard, the focus of the program is improving each day,” said Burhans, whose Edina roster of 31 wrestlers includes six seniors, six juniors and 21 football players. “They step on the mat for each practice and they practice with a purpose to improve. That goes for the first-year guys or guys who have been with us four or five years now.”

At Richfield there are two seniors and one junior on a roster of 20 wrestlers.

“We have a good mixture,” said Maiers, who at 24 is among the youngest head coaches in the state. “We have some nice leaders, some good experience but we’re very young. It’s a great group to build on.”

Richfield activities director Todd Olson (a former football coach at Edina) said, “Participation in athletics can be fleeting and Carl’s done a great job, he’s linked the program with the community, middle school and ninth-grade wrestling. We’ve been more competitive than I thought. When you take away forfeiture matches, we hang in there pretty well.”

Richfield defeated Edina in a December match, and the Spartans also took pride in a win over Hopkins.

“I’ve loved it so far,” Maiers said. “To see these kids grow has been awesome, and to see middle school and youth kids get involved is great.

“I think it’s amazing that Edina and Richfield are kind of bucking the trend.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 276
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 6,010