John's Journal
He’s A Coach, He’s An Official, He Knows What It’s Like6/12/2015
JORDAN -- New Life Academy baseball coach Dave Darr isn’t known as someone who berates umpires or second-guesses their calls. That’s because during the fall and winter seasons, Darr is an MSHSL official for football and basketball games.

“I know what it’s like,” he said Friday after his top-seeded Eagles defeated Red Lake County 4-3 in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state baseball tournament. “They’re trying to get all the calls right, they’re working their butt off and the guys who are here deserve to be here.”

Darr, 37, is an outstanding example of the people who work as officials in all sports and activities. He was an athlete at Redwood Valley High School in Redwood Falls and played baseball at Southwest Minnesota State University. He officiated intramural sports in college and now is involved in high school sports three seasons every year. He has worked football games for eight years and basketball for 15.

“It’s fun. I wanted to stay in it,” he said. “I never played football. I like basketball, played it in high school on some good teams and wanted to stay in it. I had some mentors who were teachers and coaches of mine who talked me into doing some football. I really liked it, and basketball was the same thing, It’s how I made money in college; I did intramurals and summer stuff and really enjoyed it.

“We started to get more games, better games and went deeper into the playoffs. I do it with really good guys who have the same interests and it’s fun.”

Darr, who has officiated state tournament games in football and basketball, works as an elementary special education teacher in Woodbury. He and his wife Shelly have two young children.

“She’s a saint,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, she does a lot of single parenting during the spring; actually pretty much all year round with my officiating.

“There’s not a lot of down time for me. It’s go, go, go. Football is a little easier because I’m only gone once a week. Once basketball gets going I’m gone three, four nights a week and I probably should cut back. And the spring is pretty busy. So we enjoy the summers off. We take full advantage of that.”

Summer won’t begin for the Darrs until after the state baseball tournament. New Life will meet Brandon-Evansville in Saturday’s semifinals, and the winner will play in the state championship game Monday at Target Field. New Life is the defending Class 1A champion, winning the tournament last year in the school’s first trip to state.

In Friday’s victory over Red Lake Falls, Simon Killeen drove in three runs for New Life and Thomas Gunderson hit an RBI double in the fifth to drive home the winning run. Red Lake County's Tristan Knott hit a two-run homer in the first inning, with the ball bouncing off a moving car beyond the left field wall.

Before and after the game, Darr congratulated umpires Mark Buerke, Tim Litfin and Marshall Behrens.

“The more I’ve worked both football and basketball, I know most all of these umpires,” he said. “I knew two of the three today from working with them. I tell them they’re doing a good job and congratulate them on being here. I like it when guys do that to me. No one’s trying to get any calls wrong. Let them do their job.”


New Life Academy 4, Red Lake County 3
Brandon-Evansville 5, Lewiston-Altura 0
Springfield 7, Kimball 6 (12)
New Ulm Cathedral 6, Deer River 1

St. Cloud Cathedral 5, Marshall 2
Minnehaha Academy 6, Rochester Lourdes 2

Northfield 3, Mounds View 2
Lakeville North 3, Anoka 0
Chanhassen 1, St. Michael-Albertville 0 (9)
Armstrong 2, Mahtomedi 1

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 660
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,450
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Youth Will Be Served At Class 1A Boys State Golf 6/10/2015
BECKER – Brock Bliese of Mounds Park Academy and Ryan Pederson of United South Central both wore blue ribbons and gold medals after the Class 1A boys state golf tournament ended Wednesday. And if all goes well, they will be similarly adorned in the future.

Bliese is a ninth-grader who owns back-to-back state titles. Pederson is a junior who finished seventh at state last year and fifth two years ago. If experience in the big show means anything, we might hear their names again 365 days from now. (Pictured are Bliese, left, and Pederson.)

“I felt pretty good this morning,” said Bliese, who shot a two-under-par 70 in Tuesday’s first round and closed with a 76 Wednesday for a 146 total. “I thought last year I did a pretty good job handling my emotions and I thought if I could stay focused and stay calm I could do it again, maybe.”

Bliese had some doubt about his finish after his only three-putt of the tournament on the final green Wednesday. He would have been the sole medalist without that double-bogey, but he was glad to be a co-champion.

“First place is first place and it’s a great feeling,” he said.

Pederson went 74-72-146 after surviving some jitters on the first tee. He said that was “always really nerve-wracking” in previous tournaments.

“That’s what got me started off really bad the first couple years. This year I still had the juices flowing on the first hole but it was good.”

Senior Luke Berger of New Life Academy was third at 148, followed by senior Jordan Henry of Madelia (149). Seniors Adam Christensen of Murray Central and Brady Madson of MACCRAY were next at 151.


--Class 1A/ Legacy Christian Academy captured a 22-stroke victory with a team total of 679. Fillmore Central was second at 701 and Minneota third at 706. Heritage Christian sophomore Kiera Smith was the individual champion with a two-day score of 76-77-153. Second was Legacy’s Kayla Ruf at 79-79-158.

--Class 2A/ Red Wing edged Detroit Lakes by three strokes to win the team title at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan. The Wingers had a 634 total and the Lakers finished at 637, followed by Pequot Lakes at 645. Detroit Lakes junior Kate Smith won her fourth state title and remains on track to become the state’s first five-time golf champion. Smith shot 68-69-137, followed by Minnewaska’s Jenna Jenu (68-71-139) and St. Croix Lutheran’s Emma Groom (73-71-144).

--Class 3A/ Edina won the team title with a total of 630, followed by Buffalo (657), Wayzata (665) and Winona (675). New Prague’s Taylor Ledwein was the individual gold medalist with a 73-76-149. Tied for second were Winona’s Abbe Partington (76-77-153) and Edina’s Hannah Hankinson (72-81-153)


--Class 1A/ Bliese helped Mounds Park Academy win the team title with a total score of 622. Mahnomen/Waubon was second at 634 and Murray County Central third at 642.

--Class 2A/ Mankato East and Blake tied for the team championship with scores of 602, followed by Holy Family (617) and St. Cloud Cathedral (627). The individual champion was Blake sophomore Reece Sanders, who shot 67-71-138, followed by Providence Academy sophomore Paul Stankey (74-68-142).

--Class 3A/ Wayzata was the team champion with a score of 607, followed by Edina (610) and Lakeville South (612). Moorhead senior Dane Sethre-Hofstad was the individual champ with a 74-69-143, followed by Owatonna senior Peter Jones (71-73-144).

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 652
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,400
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
A Boiling Start On A Hot And Humid Golf Course 6/9/2015
JORDAN – Kate Smith knows all about playing championship golf. The junior from Detroit Lakes already owns three state championships in Class 2A and she will try to collect title No. 4 Wednesday at Ridges at Sand Creek.

There was a buzz around the golf course Tuesday as word quickly spread that Smith was tearing up the par-72 layout. She shot a six-under-par 30 on the front nine and birded the 10th hole to go seven under with eight holes to play on day one of the two-day tournament.

The roof didn’t exactly cave in … but hot, humid conditions took a toll on Smith (pictured) and everybody else in the boys and girls fields. She finished the round with a four-under 68, which gave her a share of the lead with Minnewaska senior Jenna Janu.

Those two held a five-shot edge over the next golfers on the board, seniors Sydney Busker of Detroit Lakes and Emma Groom of St. Croix Lutheran at 73.

The lowest 18-hole score by a girls state championship golfer was 67 by New Prague’s Kenzie Neisen in the 2014 3A tournament. Two other state champs have shot 68.

“Being 7-under through 10, I thought, ‘That’s impressive,’ ” Smith said. “I don’t know if it was the heat or what, but I just kind of ran out of oil. We haven’t played in this kind of heat all year.

“The big thing was my putting. I had barely any putts on the front and I had a lot on the back. I just need to keep that confidence up with the putter. I just need to stay positive.”

Smith carries her clubs while some golfers pull them. She said she used a pull-cart for nine holes over the weekend, but she prefers to sling the bag over her shoulders.

“It’s easier (to pull) but there’s just a rhythm to carrying them for me,” she said with a smile. “And I’m stubborn, that’s pretty much the rest of it.”

Like all golfers in the 2A tournament, as well as the 3A championships at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids and 1A at Pebble Creek in Becker, Smith said her evening plans didn’t include much more than a shower and lots of rest.

“We’ll clean up, we’re a mess,” she said. “We’ll eat and sleep. I’m sure we’re all exhausted.”

--All three state golf tournaments will conclude Wednesday. Scores and tee times are posted near the top of

--State quarterfinal games in girls and boys lacrosse were played Tuesday, followed by semifinals Thursday and championship games Saturday. Brackets for those tournaments are also near the top of

--The three-class state baseball tournament will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with championship games at Target Field on Saturday. Baseball tournament brackets are also posted you know where.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 636
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,260
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Braham Basketball Coach Bob Vaughan Retires6/8/2015
Bob Vaughan, small-town coach of big-time boys basketball teams, has retired at Braham High School, where he built one of the top programs in Minnesota during a 30-year head coaching career.

Vaughan, 56, said he wants to watch his son Tyler play basketball during his senior year at Minnesota State Moorhead next season. He also said the grind of summer basketball, long winter bus rides and other coaching duties were part of his decision to retire. With the end of the school year, the Shakopee native also has retired from his position teaching history and social studies.

“To be fair to my wife (Carol), 34 years running and doing the program is a long time,” he said. “Basketball has become a year-round thing. Tyler will be a senior and I’ll get to see all his games. It’s not like I’ll get another chance at that.”

Vaughan coached the Bombers to a level that few teams achieve. They won Class 2A state titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and went to state four times after that, most recently in 2012. (photo: Isanti County News)

Between early 2004 and late 2005 the Bombers won 65 consecutive games, which is the second-longest winning streak in Minnesota boys basketball history. Edina (1965-68) and Hopkins (1951-54) share the top spot at 69. Braham owns the longest home winning streak in state history; it currently stands at 73 games, a record that could be extended next season.

Vaughan was inducted into the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2013. His 632 victories put him seventh on the career list for boys basketball coaches in Minnesota. He taught history and social studies for 34 years in Braham and was the boys basketball head coach for 30 years (after four years as an assistant). He also coached softball for 18 years and football for eight.

Among his most well-known players were Isaiah and Noah Dahlman, who were stars during the Bombers’ three-year championship run. Isaiah played college basketball at Michigan State and Noah at Wofford University. Also on those teams was Vaughan’s son Josh, who played at North Dakota State and is now an assistant coach at University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. Mary and Minnesota State Moorhead are in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, so Bob and Carol can watch their sons in the same gym at least twice next season.

The Vaughans also have a daughter, Kalli, who is a college counselor at Brophy College Preparatory School in Phoenix.

“I love the game, I love the coaches, I love everything about it,” Bob Vaughan said. “But the summer stuff was starting to get to me. I’m not complaining; it’s part of the game if you want to be successful. I was starting to think about it during the season, to be honest. When you get older, getting on a bus and going 50 or 60 miles in the snow, you start to think, what am I doing? I don’t have quite as much energy as I used to.

“The kids were great and the people of Braham have treated me very well.”

When Isaiah Dahlman was among the top recruits in the nation, Vaughan was on a first-name basis with some major figures in college coaching. After the first Associated Press college rankings were released in 2004, Vaughan looked at the top 20 teams and realized, “I know 16 of those coaches. I could call them up right now.”

Basketball fans will long remember the success Braham had on the court under Vaughan, but he is just as proud that four of his teams were state academic champions.

“Everybody talks about the three state titles and that we made it to state seven times,” he said. “I always think of the people, not just the ones who were big-time players. The people, the families, that’s what I will remember. I’ll miss the people the most.”

Vaughan didn’t rule out a return to coaching, as he put it, “Maybe on some level, someplace.”

He also said the Bombers have a bright future. “Braham will go on winning for a long, time because of the people and program and the town. It’s not about the results of the games, it’s about the people.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 620
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,212
*Follow John on Twitter. He’s @MSHSLjohn
Twenty-Eight Years Later: Champions Then And Now 6/6/2015
The person wearing one of the biggest smiles, as well as shedding a few happy tears, at Saturday’s state track and field championships was not one of the athletes. She is a coach, but the happiness came on behalf of an athlete from another school who broke a record from another era.

The smile on the face of Liesa (Brateng) Hanson came after Thief River Falls junior Meleah Biermaier won the Class 2A 300-meter hurdles. Hanson was the previous holder of the record, which she set on a hot spring day in 1987 during the state meet at Osseo High School. And now, 28 years later, Hanson was one of the first people to hug Meleah after she exited the awards stand wearing a gold medal and a fresh state record.

Hanson, the girls track coach at East Grand Forks, went to high school in Roseau. She was a track athlete at the University of North Dakota along with Meleah’s dad, Mike (the athletic director at Thief River Falls).

Hanson’s record was 42.62 seconds; Meleah Biermaier’s brand-new mark is 42.13

“I’ve been watching her since she was little,” Hansen remarked, still smiling broadly. “I said if anybody was going to break it, she was the one I wanted to do it.”

Beirmaier was stunned when she saw her time. Her goal was simply to win – she won the same state title two years ago as a ninth-grader and was the runner-up last year – and that would have been good enough. But …

“Oh yeah, I had no idea,” she said. “I finished the race in first and I was so happy, I didn’t even care about the time. Then everyone was saying, ‘You got a 42.1’ and I didn’t believe it. I’m just so happy.

“I knew for sure that getting the record would probably get first place, but I didn’t know that I could beat it by that much. I didn’t know it would happen. Before the race my legs were tired and I didn’t know how it would go, but it turned out to be amazing.”

The best part of the whole amazing deal was seeing the two record-holders, from 1987 and 2015, pose together for photos after the race, wearing matching championship smiles.

FOUR OTHER ALL-TIME STATE records were broken during the two-day meet, all by Class 2A competitors…

--Eagan boys relay teams set new marks in the 4x100 (41.52) and 4x200 (1:26.91).

--Lakeville South set a record of 3:50.12 in the girls 4x400.

--Wayzata’s Ruby Stauber won the 800 meters in 2:06.50 and broke a record that had stood for 31 years. Blooming Prairie’s Jeanne Kruckenberg set the previous record of 2:08.24 in 1984, making it the oldest girls record in the books until Saturday. Ruby is the daughter of Robb Stauber, former hockey goaltender at the University of Minnesota and a former NHL player.

One of the most surprised state champions was Eagan senior Sam Zenner (pictured), who gave up playing baseball this spring and joined the track team for the first time. All he did was anchor the Wildcats’ two record-setting relays and win an individual gold medal in the 100. Zenner’s running mates in the 4x100 were Josh Brown, Dallas Krech and Troy Brown; in the 4x200 he was joined by the Browns and Joe Williams.

“It took him three years of playing baseball to finally realize it was boring,” said Joe Brown. “There was constant nagging.” Josh Brown added, “I don’t think he knew his full ability, how fast he was.”

Zenner said, “These guys have been out here for three years, and all I really wanted to do was just help them out, help them achieve success and be happy. Honestly I came in with an open mind and had no goals. I just came out and wanted to have fun.”

The Lakeville South girls had broken the 4x400 state record in Friday’s preliminaries, then they broke it once more on Saturday. The foursome of Jocie Johnson, Haley Lubow, Kaytlyn Larson and Caraline Slattery helped the Cougars capture the 2A girls team title.

TWO SENIOR BOYS WERE among the stars of the Class 1A championships, one a hurdler and one an endurance runner.

St. Croix Lutheran’s Jon Tollefson swept the 110 and 300 hurdles for the third year in a row. He had already set the all-time state record in the 110 hurdles, running a 13.82 in the Section 4A meet. That broke what had been the oldest record in boys track, 13.85 by Rick Schroeder of Owatonna in 1981.

Waseca’s Shane Streich won the 800 and 1,600 Saturday, giving him three career titles in the 1,600 and two in the 800. And for good measure, he anchored the Bluejays’ 4x400 relay team to a first-place finish, coming from back in the pack on the anchor leg. Waseca won the 1A boys team title.

On the girls side in 1A, Redwood Valley senior Kayla Huhnerkock won the 800 and 1,600 (she also won the 1,600 a year ago) and Jonathan Webb of Minnehaha Academy swept the boys titles in the 200 and 400.

ALEXANDRIA JUNIOR BETHANY HASZ (pictured) was a double winner in 2A, taking the 3,200 meters Friday and the 1,600 Saturday. She put on a strong kick to power past defending state champion Tess Misgen of Shakopee on the home stretch of the 1,600. Her twin sister Megan missed the state meet with an injury; Megan and Bethany have traded first- and second-place finishes in the last two state cross-country meets.

“I knew that some of the girls would go out too fast, so I just went out and took it at my own pace,” Bethany said after the 1,600. “I knew Tess had an awesome kick, that’s how she beat Megan and I last year (in the 1,600, when Megan was second and Bethany third). I pretty much emptied the tank on that one.”

Elsewhere in Class 2A, Hopkins’ Joe Klecker swept the boys 1,600 and 3,200, North St. Paul senior Akeem Sirleaf won the boys 100 for the third year in a row, Rochester Century junior Andrianna Jacobs won the girls pole vault for the third time, Chanhassen junior Jedah Caldwell swept the girls 100 and 200, and Minnetonka was a repeat winner in the girls 4x800 relay.

OTHER REPEAT WINNERS IN Class 1A were Jia Lewis of Minneapolis Edison in the girls 100, Osakis in the girls 4x200 relay, Jenna Gatz of Belle Plaine in the girls 400, Webb in the boys 400 and Jaustin Culbert of Chisholm in the boys high jump. The Pine Island boys won the 4x200 and 4x800 relays and Rushford-Peterson’s Noah Carlson won the long jump and triple jump.

--Class 2A girls team results: 1. Lakeville South 49.5, 2. St. Michael-Albertville 46, 3. Chanhassen 44, 4. Eden Prairie 43, 5. Mounds View 34.5.

--Class 2A boys team results: 1. Wayzata 71.5, 2. Eden Prairie 68, 3. Hopkins 44, 4. North St. Paul 44, 5. Stillwater 43.5.

--Class 2A girls team results: 1. Belle Plaine 56, 2. Mpls Edison 49, 3. Pequot Lakes 44, 4. Redwood Valley 28, 5. Plainview-Elgin-Millville 26.

--Class 2A boys team results: 1. Waseca 70, 2. Minnehaha Academy 63, 3. Pine Island 58, 4. St. Croix Lutheran 44, 5. Rushford-Peterson/Houston 39.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 620
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,212
*Follow John on Twitter. He’s @MSHSLjohn