John's Journal
Best Way To Describe Hawley’s Parker Hanson? Pure Astonishment6/13/2014
ST. CLOUD -- When Parker Hanson was born, not everything was perfect. One thing was very clear: he didn’t have a left hand. There was something else, however, something unseen that is now very apparent in the junior from Hawley High School.

“I don’t care if you’re playing baseball in the state tournament or you’re playing checkers, Parker wants to win,” said Hawley coach Beau Lofgren on Friday at the Class 2A state baseball tournament. “He’s very competitive. He has that drive, which is something you don’t coach. That’s something you’re born with. We’re very proud of him.”

Parker is the Nuggets’ top pitcher, coming into this week’s state tournament with a record of 7-1, a 2.92 earned-run average and 70 strikeouts in 48 innings. The Nuggets lost to Kasson-Mantorville 5-3 in Thursday’s quarterfinals and fell to Aitkin 5-4 in Friday’s consolation bracket.

Hanson also plays football, including time at wide receiver. So yes, in the baseball field he hits and plays defense, and on the football field he catches passes and carries the ball. All with one hand.

“I don’t know what it’s like to play with two hands,” he said very simply. He calls baseball his passion, and there’s no doubting his talent. Before the state tournament, Parker was hitting .346 with four home runs and 24 RBIs in 23 games.

On the mound and at first base, he puts his glove on his right hand. As he catches the ball he seamlessly takes the glove off, tucks it into his left arm and throws with his right arm. At the plate, he wears a prosthetic sleeve that attaches to the bat. As he drops the bat and runs to first base, the prosthesis remains attached to the bat.

“Regardless of what he has or doesn’t have, in terms of other human beings, he’s a phenomenal ballplayer,” Lofgren said. “He just shows a lot of tenacity and grit, and he’s able to lift a team when needed.”

Parker has been a varsity baseball player since eighth grade, and he has been an everyday player since the start of the 2013 season.

Lofgren said when opposing coaches got their first look at Hanson, the reactions were what you would expect.

“It’s pure astonishment. They’re almost beyond belief that he can do what he does. They see him throw and they say, ‘Oh geez, this kid’s for real.’ ”

The Nuggets made their first trip to state since 2009 the hard way, winning five consecutive elimination games to win the Section 8 championship. In all five games Hawley trailed in the sixth inning or later.

Teams don’t qualify for state without a lot of hard work, and Hawley is no exception. Parker, for example, has worn out his coaches while working to improve his defense at first base.

“He’s our leader, for sure,” Lofgren said. “I have hit him countless bags of groundballs. He’ll ask, ‘Can I have one more bag?’ It’s not, ‘I only want five more balls and then I’m done.’ ”

Parker isn’t onld enough to remember when Jim Abbott, who also was born with just one hand, spent 10 years (1989-99) as a major league pitcher. But Parker has done research on Abbott, including a school project in sixth grade. Parker has conversed with Abbott on Twitter.

“I’ve messaged him and he gave me a couple hints,” Parker said. “He’s really helped me, given me some confidence. He’s a really nice guy.

“He really set the bar high and gave me a lot of confidence to keep battling through all the struggles I’ve faced and keep going.”

STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES MOVED TO MONDAY

Because of weather concerns, the baseball state championship games have been moved to Monday at Target Field. The games were originally scheduled for Saturday at Target Field but will be played Monday. Game times will be as originally scheduled, and here are the matchups…

Class 1A at noon: New Life Academy vs. New York Mills

Class 2A at 3 p.m.: St. Cloud Cathedral vs. Fairmont

Class 3A at 6 p.m.: Mounds View vs. Eden Prairie

LACROSSE, CLAY TARGET SHOOTING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Saturday’s schedule also includes state championship events in lacrosse and clay target shooting. Both activities can be held in rain, but lightning can cause delays.

The lacrosse schedule…

Girls title game at 5 p.m.: Eden Prairie vs. Blake at Chanhassen

Boys title game at 7 p.m.: Eden Prairie vs. Rosemount at Chanhassen

The clay target shooting competition will be held at Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake. Opening ceremonies will be held at 8:30 a.m. and the first of three flights in team competition will begin at 9 a.m. The team awards ceremony is scheduled for 12:45. Individual competition will begin at 1:15 with awards scheduled for 5 p.m.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 639
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,932
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Marshall Boys Golf Team And The Coach They Love6/11/2014
JORDAN – One of the more interesting figures at the Class 2A state golf tournament was not one of the golfers, but one of the coaches. He’s a retired golf pro who lives in a motor home on a farm, is beloved by his team members and is newly retired from coaching now that the high school season is over.

Allen Lucht has been coaching the Marshall High School boys golf team since 2009. He was the pro at Marshall Golf Club from 1993 until 2011, wintering in Florida with his wife, Shirley. Once he became the high school golf coach, he cut his warm-weather winters short to return to Marshall in March for the start of the golf season.

The impact on his players is immeasurable. He’s part father figure, part grandfather, part mentor and part friend.

“Allen’s one of the nicest, most kindhearted people I’ve ever met,” said Tigers senior Alex Buysse. “He knows the golf swing better than anybody. He’s just a great person, too, so what he’s taught us goes beyond golf.”

The Tigers were tied for fourth in the eight-team 2A boys field after Tuesday’s first round of play at Ridges at Sand Creek. They came back Wednesday with a strong performance, climbing two spots to finish second behind state champion Providence Academy. That was a great way for Lucht to end his high school coaching career.

As the club pro in Marshall, Lucht has had a long history with most of his players on the high school team. Five years ago one individual qualified for state and the team has represented Section 3 at state for four years in a row now. Marshall’s Max Deutz was the individual state champ in 2011 when the team also finished second.

This year’s Tigers were undefeated all season before the state tourney, which is a first for them.

“As far as I’m concerned these young men are champions all the way through,” Lucht said. “The greatest thing is their courage and demeanor and how they react to what you try to make them do. And you hope they react to it and they play the game the way you want them to play, and it’s the same thing in life. They work together very well and it’s really kind of cool to watch.”

The players enjoy hearing their coach tell stories from his own life and golfing career, as well as a steady string of jokes.

“He’s just always upbeat,” said senior Matt Bennett. “ He always tries to get us laughing and keep us calm as best he can. He’s always there; if you ever need something, he’s always got your back. He has stories for us and he always tells jokes, probably things we shouldn’t repeat. (insert laughter here)”

About that motor home. With their primary residence in Florida, the Luchts didn’t want to purchase another home in Marshall after retirement. So Allen bought a motor home from a member of Marshall Golf Club and parked it on a farm owned by another member.

The members of the golf team are the main recipients of Lucht’s decision to take over as coach.

“We were like six or eight years old and we went to lessons with him every day, all these guys,” said senior Matt Christianson. “Almost our whole team has been with him our whole life, basically. He’s like a grandpa. He keeps coming back and there’s really nothing in it for him other than seeing us every year.

“I think when I’m 25 or 35 or 45, I’ll still be thinking about Allen Lucht.”

GIRLS RESULTS

--Class 2A/ Detroit Lakes captured its third consecutive state team title with a score of 590, followed by Pequot Lakes (648) and Red Wing (650) in the top three. Detroit Lakes sophomore Kate Smith and Pequot Lakes junior Maggie Heggerston shared the individual championship, each shooting 73-70-143. It was Smith’s third state title, making her the fifth girl in Minnesota history to win three state golf titles. She could become the second to win four and the first to win five.

--Hole-in-one: Pequot Lakes junior Megan Snyder used a 9-iron to ace the 101-yard third hole at Ridges at Sand Creek.

--Class 1A/ Legacy Christian of Andover led the team race with a 718 score, followed by BOLD (732) and Fillmore Central (733). The individual champ was Christina Piwnica of Southwest Christian in Chaska, who shot 79-80-159. The runner-up was Abby Herding of Westbrook-Walnut Grove at 80-88-168.

--Class 3A/ Wayzata won the team competition with a score of 622, followed by Alexandria (641) and Edina (650). New Prague’s Kenzie Nielsen, who shared the individual title last year with Wayzata’s Sarah Burnham, won it outright with a 67-68-135, followed by Burnham at 67-69-136.

BOYS RESULTS

--Class 2A/ Providence Academy won the team title with a 602 total, followed by Marshall 612, Blake 614, Mankato East 618 and Fergus Falls 629. The individual title was shared by three players who had a 144 total: Andrew Sederlund of Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl, Andrew Israelson of Staples-Motley and Carter Haley of Mankato East.

--Class 1A/ Dawson-Boyd won the team title at 660, followed by United South Central (675) and Legacy Christian (679). The medalist was Mounds Park eighth-grader Brock Bliese (76-74-150), followed by Cordell Weber of Martin County West 77(-75-151).

--Class 3A/ Edina captured the team title with a 590 score, followed by Wayzata at 591 and Hastings at 617. Rochester Century's Chris Captain was the medalist with a 71-71-142. There was a three way-tie for second at 145: Jack Holmgren of Wayzata, Max Savini of Anoka and Sam Foust of Edina.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 623
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,690
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Fillmore Central Girls Golf: Building A Program, Getting To State6/10/2014
BECKER -- After Tuesday’s opening-round scores were posted at the Class 1A state girls golf tournament, Fillmore Central coach Lane Powell said this: “It’s OK to be under the radar.”

That’s how the Falcons flew into the state tourney at Pebble Creek Golf Club. It’s the school’s first appearance at state and the six players on the roster are a seventh-grader, an eighth-grader, a ninth-grader, a sophomore, a junior and a senior. How’s that for symmetry?

Fillmore Central – the school is in Harmony in southeastern Minnesota – stands in third place at the halfway point of the tournament and is within range of a state title by tourney’s end Wednesday. BOLD leads the team race with a 365 score, followed by defending champion Legacy Christian (367), Fillmore Central (369) and Windom (379) in the eight-team field.

Christina Piwnica of Southwest Christian and Lauren Laffen of Sleepy Eye lead the individuals with 79s, followed by Abby Herding of Westbrook-Walnut Grove at 80 and Elizabeth Hennessy of Lewiston-Altura at 81.

Fillmore Central is a golf team (pictured) that has been building toward this first trip to state. Powell is in his third year as the varsity girls coach after spending eight years coaching the junior high boys team. Powell, the band director at Fillmore Central, also represents the Minnesota Music Educators Association on the MSHSL board of directors.

Fillmore Central is well-known for its music program. In the 2013-14 school year, the high school had an enrollment of 131 students and 98 of them were involved in band, including every member of the varsity girls golf team.

“Powell has completely changed the (golf) program,” said junior Katie Tammel. “You see the band program and how strong it is; that’s what’s happened with the golf team.”

Senior Keeley Todd said, “Last year we had eight or nine players and now we have 15. They’re mostly young but that’s good for the program.”

Powell said his philosophy of building a golf team is just like his philosophy of building a successful band program. For example, a summer golf program was started three years ago and it’s paying dividends now.

“You’ve got to have a five-, 10-year plan; ‘Here’s where we want to be and here’s how we get there,’ ” he said. “You keep preaching the same things over and over until it’s second nature. Our goals were incremental, small steps. We’ve knocked down each small step, and that’s like any success. It can’t happen overnight.”

The Falcons’ top scorer Tuesday was sophomore Laura Donney with an 88. Todd shot an 89, eighth-grader Grace Miller a 95, seventh-grader Madison Scheevel a 97, Tammel a 100 and ninth-grader Elayna Kiehne a 111.

After all the players finished Tuesday’s round, Powell gathered them in a tight circle and talked about what they had accomplished and what’s in store.

“I told them I was very proud of them,” he said. “They’re playing our style of golf, which is conservative, smart. We’re not big hitters. We try to score on what’s in front of us. It doesn’t have to be pretty. And to be honest, nobody expected us to be here. We’re four strokes out of first and people are like, ‘Who is this?’ ”

A year ago the Falcons didn’t advance from their subsection tournament to the Section 1 meet as a team. Five individuals did advance to sections a year ago, with one player missing a trip to state by one stroke and another coming two strokes short.

“We knew we were getting closer but they’d never been on a big stage before,” Powell said.

Tuesday’s round on that big stage was a team effort, explained Tammel.

“Today was one of those days where your teammates really come up big,” she said. “I was golfing in the No. 1 spot but I shot a No. 5 score. My teammates buckled down and shot really well. I think the pressure was taken off even when I knew I wasn’t playing my best golf, because I knew my teammates were playing so well.”

Another major part of the story is how the community has rallied around the team. The Falcons had no matching team shirts to wear during the season, but their attire at state is first-class: Sharp-looking teal shirts (the school colors are silver, black and teal) with their first names on one sleeve and “State 2014” on the other sleeve.

Families, the public and local businesses have raised money for all kinds of purposes, including practice rounds at four courses near Harmony that are similar to Pebble Creek (“that was 250 bucks a shot,” Powell said). A local bank paid for the team’s dinner Tuesday night.

“People have been great,” Powell said. “Sometimes the non-gate sports can get a little neglected in the eyes of the public. But once it got out that the girls were doing so well, all these things keep going on and on.”

With the first round in the books, the Falcons are primed for the final 18 holes Wednesday. Expectations?

“I have no expectations,” Tammel said. “Just play well. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. If we win it, we win it. if we get second place, it’s one of those things. It’s icing on the cake to be here.”

“We want to play well,” Keeley said. “And if we do, it’ll be awesome.”

No matter what happens, it’s already pretty awesome.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 607
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,638
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Teams Of Two Score Big At State Track Championships 6/7/2014
Discussions about team scoring at the state track and field championships often evolve into this question: Could one or two superstar athletes accumulate enough points to take home a team title?

That question was answered in a big way by two young sisters from Minneapolis Edison on Saturday at Hamline University’s Klas Field. Eighth-grader Jia Lewis won the Class 1A 100- and 200-meter races, and ninth-grader Jada Lewis finished third in both sprints. Adding to the symmetry, Kayla Stowell of LeSueur-Henderson placed second in both.

With 12 points for each first-place finish and eight points for third, the Edison duo’s total of 40 points gave the Tommies the team title. Belle Plaine/Holy Family Academy was second with 32.7 points, followed by Holy Family Catholic (31) and Osakis (29).

“It’s the best competition to have your sister with you,” said Jia Lewis.

There was a similar outcome in the Class 2A girls competition, where two sprint stars from Cretin-Derham Hall were the headliners. Sophomore Brieasha Hunter finished first and senior Megan Linder was second in the 100 and 400, and those finishes were reversed in the 200, with Linder winning and Hunter placing second.

No other female athletes from Cretin-Derham Hall scored points, but the Hunter-Linder total of 66 team points was good for second place behind state champion Minnetonka, which scored 80 points. Lakeville South was third with
62 points; 24 of those came from victories by Shaina Burns in the shot put and 100 hurdles.

Linder and Hunter didn’t discuss the possibilities before the state meet, but “I think it was kind of on our minds, even though we never really talked about it,” said Linder, who capped a stellar high school track career.

Last year at state Linder won the 400, was fourth in the 200 and seventh in the 100, while Hunter was third in the 400 and ninth in the 200. As a sophomore, Linder won the 400,was third in the 200 and fifth in the 100. When Linder was a ninth-grader she finished eighth in the 400. She will continue her track career at the University of Tennessee.

“I was just trying to get in the zone and soak it all in,” she said of Saturday’s experience. “I think I’ve been really privileged to do so well the past four years and I felt a little choked up today. I think I’ve truly left a legacy behind me, not just from my times but also from my attitude and the relationships I’ve made.”

--The morning began with a late start due to stormy weather which included lightning. The Class 2A portion of the competition started at 9:30, half an hour behind schedule. The Class 1A meet began on time at 3:30

CLASS 2A HIGHLIGHTS

--Mia Barron of Minnetonka (pictured in the 4x100) won both the girls long jump and triple jump, setting a state-meet record of 40 feet, 5 ½ inches in the triple jump. The all-time state record is 41-1 ¾ by Wayzata’s Jordan Helgren in 2008. Barron won the long jump Friday with a distance of 19-1 ½; she set the state record of 19-10 earlier this spring.

--Terrance Bowers of Hopkins won the boys long jump and triple jump and was a member of the Royals’ championship 4x100 relay team. He also won the triple jump last year.

--Stillwater sophomore Eli Krahn repeated as the boys 1,600 champ, adding to the 3,200 title he won on Friday.

--Hopkins’ Shaheed Hickman was a repeat champion in the boys 100.

--Bloomington Jefferson’s Matthew Rosen won the boys 800 for the second year in a row.

--Akeem Sirlead of North St. Paul was the repeat gold medalist in the boys 200.

--Marissa Bartels of Delano set a meet record in the 800-meter wheelchair race, winning in 3:08.04. She also won the wheelchair 100 and shot put.

--Senior Payton Otterdahl of Rosemount captured the boys discus and shot put crowns.

CLASS 1A HIGHLIGHTS

St. Croix Lutheran junior Jon Tollefson continued his domination of the hurdle world, sweeping the 100 and 300 races for the second year in a row. He set a 1A state-meet record of 14.36 seconds in the 100 hurdles (the all-time state record is 13.85).

The closest finish of the day came in the 300 hurdles, with the results delayed while meet officials looked at photos of the finish. The victory went to Tollefson with a time of 38.317 seconds, and the time for runner-up Samuel Lundquist of Minnehaha Academy was 38.318.

-- Staples-Motley senior Jaelin Beachy won her third consecutive title in the girls 100 hurdles.

--Tyler Beehler of Foley won both the 100 and 200 for the second year in a row and anchored the Falcons’ victorious 4x100 relay team.

--In the girls shot put, Katelyn Weber of St. Clair was a repeat champion.

--Jayme LaPlante of Chatfield swept the boys discus and shot put titles.

--The girls 1,600 winner was Kayla Huhnerkoch, a junior from Redwood Valley. She also won the 1,600 (and the 800) as an eighth-grader in 2011 and was second in the 1,600 as a freshman.

--In the boys 1,600, junior Shane Streich of Waseca repeated as champion (he also won the 800, in which he placed second last year). Streich set a 1A meet record in the 1,600 with a time of 4:13.80. Runner-up Keeghan Hurley (4:13.98) also beat the previous 1A meet record.

--To see photo galleries from state track by Minnesota Prep Photo, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 599
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,498
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Even In Defeat, Maple Grove Coach And Team Know What’s Important 6/6/2014
NORTH MANKATO -- In the midst of tournament mania -- as every team and every athlete and every fan is hoping and dreaming to celebrate glory in the form of a gold medal -- a very special scene took place Friday afternoon during the state softball tournament at Caswell Park.

The team was the Maple Grove Crimson, who a few minutes earlier had lost a heartbreaking contest to Lakeville South in the Class 3A state championship game. The Crimson were great sports, shaking hands with and congratulating the South Cougars, accepting their second-place medals and smiling as they held up the second-place trophy.

But you just know that losing had to sting. The Crimson had experienced a dream season, bringing a record of 22-3 into Friday’s game and taking a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. That’s when South scored twice to take a 3-2 lead that held up the rest of the game. The Crimson had their chances in the bottom of the seventh, getting runners to second and third with two outs before the game ended with a strikeout.

Heartbreak? Well, sure. But when coach Jim Koltes spoke to his players afterward, as they sat quietly on the outfield grass, his message was one of congratulations and pride. Every word, every syllable was absolutely and totally positive.

“You didn’t quit,” the coach said. “You played to the end and you gave us a chance to win the game. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but I’m proud of you and I’ll be proud of you forever.”

Then he asked for “put ups” … meaning the opposite of putdowns. The assistant coaches and players took turns, raising their hands and offering positive comments on specific things that teammates had done during the game; running out groundballs and beating the throws to first base, making tough fielding plays, working hard in the dugout and keeping the energy up.

“We out-cheered them, that’s for sure,” Koltes said with a smile. And as the Crimson posed with their second-place trophy, everyone grinned. What a great way to end a great season.

SOFTBALL NOTEBOOK

--Kasson-Mantorville finished the year as the only undefeated team in the state, defeating LeSueur-Henderson 3-0 in the Class 2A title game. As usual, KoMets junior pitcher Maddie Damon was dominant in giving up only one hit, a bunt single to the first batter she faced, Veronica Sinell. Damon struck out 11 (as she did in the two previous games at state) and finished the season with a state-record 1,260 career strikeouts.

Here’s what might be the most amazing statistic of the entire softball season: the KoMets (28-0) won by shutout 20 times, gave up one run in seven games and allowed two runs only once, in a 4-2 win over Zumbrota-Mazeppa on May 6. They gave up nine total runs, only five of them earned runs.

--New Ulm Cathedral took home the Class 1A state title with a 3-1 win over New Life Academy in a matchup of two powerful small-school programs.

Cathedral has now played in seven championship games and won all seven, with previous crowns coming in 1993, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2005 and 2007. New Life won state titles in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 while finishing second in 2007 and 2013.

TRACK NOTEBOOK

The state track and field championships began Friday at Hamline University in St. Paul, and will conclude Saturday. Most of Friday’s events were prelims, but finals in half of the field events were held as well as the 3,200-meter races.

On the track, Stillwater sophomore Eli Krahn made headlines by winning the Class 2A boys 3,200. A year ago he won the 1,600 at state.

--In a very competitive 2A girls 3,200, Emily Castanias of Chanhassen was the winner, followed by Shaelyn Sorensen of Tartan in second. The next to finish were sisters Bethany and Megan Hasz of Alexandria.

--Minnetonka’s Mia Barron repeated as the 2A girls long jump champion, leaping 19 feet, 1½ inches. She owns the state of 19-10.

--Terrance Bowers of Hopkins repeated as the 2A boys triple jump champion.

--New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva senior Carlie Wagner – a basketball star who has signed with the University of Minnesota – won her second 1A high jump title in three years.

--Kasson-Mantorville’s softball victory wasn’t the only title for the KoMets on Friday. Junior Taylor Wiebke won the girls high jump, leaping 5-9. She set the state record of 5-11 earlier this spring.

--Blaine junior Alexandra Williams, who set the girls 100-meter hurdles state record of 14.21 in her section meet, led Friday’s state prelims in 14.22.

TENNIS NOTEBOOK

--Blake junior Charlie Adams repeated as the Class singles state champ, defeating Ty Misialek of East Grand Forks 6-1, 6-0 in the finals.

--Nick Beaty of Wayzata won the 2A singles title with a 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-2 win over Toby Boyer of Forest Lake.

--The 1A doubles crown went to Ben Ingbar and Taylor Parr of Blake, who defeated Jake Duxbury and Austin Wong of Breck 6-2, 6-4.

--In 2A doubles, Charlie Adkins and Rory Calabria of Maple Grove defeated Anthony Rosa and Carter Mason of Eden Prairie 6-1, 6-3 in the title match.

--To see photos from some of Friday's events (including a spectacular photo gallery from state track by Minnesota Prep Photo), go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 569
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,456
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn