John's Journal
At Cambridge-Isanti, A Thunderous State Tourney Sendoff 5/15/2014
CAMBRIDGE – The crowd roared and the pep band played the school song as the athletes entered the crowded gymnasium at Cambridge-Isanti High School on Thursday morning. Classes had been put on hold so students and staff could honor their Bluejackets the day before they competed at state.

Principal Mitchell Clausen and athletic director Mark Solberg spoke to the crowd. So did the coach, the team managers and the team captains. It was a joy to behold.

Solberg said to the athletes, “You’re representing us with an awful lot of class, an awful lot of dignity. And you’re going to make us proud.”

This has become an annual event at Cambridge-Isanti, where the adapted bowling team receives as much attention and respect as any other squad in the school. The Bluejackets’ annual trip to state – this year’s tournament is being held Friday at Brunswick Zone in Brooklyn Park – has become as big a part of the school calendar as football Friday nights in the fall, basketball games in the winter and track meets in the spring.

Steve Tischer is in his first year coaching the bowling team after previous experiences coaching wrestling, football and softball.

“It’s been awesome,” he said after the festivities had ended. “The competitive spirit is there. The kids are really dedicated, they always try their best. The thing that’s different is they really, really, really have fun and enjoy each other’s company and encourage each other, even other teams. We’ll bowl with another team, side by side, and it’s not competitive like it is in other sports. It’s supporting and encouraging.”

In the 1990s, the MSHSL became the first statewide high school activities body in the country to create and govern adapted sports. Also part of the yearly MSHSL schedule are adapted softball, floor hockey and soccer.

“I think it’s a great way for everyone to get involved,” said Cambridge-Isanti junior Emma Schoenecker, who is active in soccer, track and mock trial. “They’re so excited, and it’s probably the most positive sport that we have in our school. I’m really thankful for them.”

Solberg encouraged the student body to attend the state bowling tournament, saying, “It’s going to flat-out make you feel good, because they’re doing things the right way. They’re doing things to support each other, but most importantly they’re having a good time. So I encourage you to go.”

There was a great deal of applause and cheering for the bowlers, assistant coaches and managers as Tischer introduced them. He also mentioned the number of strikes and spares each bowler had this spring, along with their season scoring average. A couple of the bowlers danced as they were introduced, with others giving the crowd two big thumbs up.

The top statistics belong to senior captain Victoria Koukol, who placed seventh at state last year and this season has 25 strikes, 29 spares and a 145 average. Vicki, who was born with spina bifida, bowls from her wheelchair. Bowling won’t be her only state tournament this spring; she also will compete at the state track meet in the shot put.

“I can say with great confidence that Vicki’s going to be the only Cambridge-Isanti student who’s going to be in a state tournament this spring, twice,” Solberg said to another big round of applause.

The other team members are freshmen Callie Cox, Kaitlyn Pankan and Katelyn Rumpel; sophomores Hailey Booher, Sabrina Burke and captain Megan Servaty; and juniors Brianna Hoover, Abby Keller and captain Cory Hoover. The assistant coaches are Deb Feero, Mary Eklund and April Dahlquist, and the managers are Kalli Shugren and Stephanie West.

“I would like to say that these people are wonderful and amazing people, and being a manager is really fun,” Stephanie told the crowd. “And since I am a senior I will truly, honestly miss these people. Whenever you see these people in the hall, I’m challenging you, don’t walk past them. Give them a high five or a hug and tell them how much you really appreciate them. Because these kids have to work 10 times harder than you guys. What I learned from the team is always show compassion.”

Vicki Koukol said, “I can’t believe this will be my last time to bowl with my teammates before graduation. It just seems like yesterday when I joined the adapted bowling team as a freshman. Now I look back and I remember the good times we had when we bowled together. No matter what happens, it’s always a great day to be a Bluejacket.”

Some of the other bowlers who spoke ended their short speeches with similar words: “Go Big Blue!”

School spirit, the best kind of spirit, was in the air.

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

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 457
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 11,498
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Eight Bylaw Changes Approved By Representative Assembly5/12/2014
The MSHSL representative assembly met Monday morning at Edinburgh USA in Brooklyn Park to vote on 10 proposed changes to MSHSL bylaws. Eight of those changes were approved. The 48-member assembly consists of six people from each of the MSHSL’s eight regions; three from small schools and three from larger schools in each region.

The proposals ranged widely, from eligibility bylaws to transfer and residence and other areas. The only sport-specific proposals centered on football, with one pertaining to summer football workouts and the other focusing on practice parameters before the first game of the season. A change to the rules for summer football practice was approved, but a proposal to tighten restrictions on football practice hours and days in the fall was defeated.

All changes will take effect Aug. 1, 2014. A news release outlining details of the representative assembly actions was sent from MSHSL director of information Howard Voigt to the media following Monday’s meeting, and here is that information …

The eight approved changes were made to the following bylaws:

— Bylaw 111—Transfer and Residence: It will allow a student a 15-day “trial period” to return to the student’s original school after a transfer provided the student has not competed at the varsity level in any sport during that time period. Prior to approval, two amendments were made and approved: 1) an allowance for students/parents to waive the trial period; and 2) restricting the trial period opportunity to once per calendar year.

— Bylaw 201—Amateur Status: It will allow for actual and reasonable reimbursement for participation in a camp or clinic; it prohibits participation on professional teams or signing with a professional team; it will allow a tryout with a professional team if the student can document that (s)he paid all the fees and expenses.

— Bylaw 205—Chemical Eligibility: Expands the prohibited use, consumption, possession, purchase, sale or distribution of products containing or delivering nicotine, tobacco and other chemicals (e.g. e-cigarettes); expands the definition of substances or products that alter the central nervous system (e.g. synthetic drugs, glue, bath salts etc).

— Bylaw 208—Non-School Competition and Training: It more clearly defines for coaches what exactly is prohibited during the annual no-contact period incorporating the July Fourth holiday. No contact, no travel with athletes, no open gym/weight room/training supervision, and no team-building events will be allowed.

— Bylaw 208—Non-School Competition and Training: A second amendment to this bylaw provides specific definitions and policies pertaining to football contact and practice during the summer months. Added were acclimatization rules and limits on contact practices to six days during summer.

— Bylaw 304—Ineligible Student: It removes the team penalty exception for administrative errors in using an ineligible player serving a chemical or non-school competition penalty.

— Bylaw 411—Scheduling of Contests: It will allow scheduling contests with out-of-state schools only if the opponent’s state association actually sponsors that activity and that opponent abides by its state association’s eligibility rules.

— Bylaw 502—Daily/Season Player Participation Limits: It imposes a daily limit of not more than 6.5 quarters during any consecutive three-day period for football players.

The two amendments that failed were proposed to the following bylaws:

— Bylaw 403—Cooperative Sponsorship: It would have changed the co-op application deadline from the first day of practice for a sport to no later than 30 calendar days prior to the first day of practice for a sport.

— Bylaw 508—Football: It is a complete revision of what must be done before the first game is played, spelling out specific protocols for heat acclimatization and practices. It reduces the pre-season period from three weeks to 14 calendar days.


Wheels Are Turning, Decisions Being Considered5/8/2014
Meetings are not nearly as thrilling as sporting events, but meetings are part of the business of the MSHSL as well as every school district in Minnesota. An important round of area meetings concluded Thursday At Edinburgh USA golf course in Brooklyn Park.

Thursday’s event was the final area meeting of the spring, following recent gatherings in Mankato, Marshall, Rochester, Fergus Falls, Thief River Falls, Chisholm and Brainerd. Area meetings are held in the spring and fall each year as a way to share information with administrators from every school in Minnesota and bring their input back to the MSHSL office. Approximately 150 metro-area athletic/activity administrators attended Thursday’s meeting.

A very important and different type of gathering will be held at the same site Monday when the MSHSL representative assembly meets. The assembly, a group of 48 delegates representing schools from all over the state, is the body that must approve any proposed changes to MSHSL bylaws. There are several proposed changes on Monday’s agenda, and we’ll get to those in a moment,

Two other topics of note from the area meetings are something called Success Factor and an update on district football.

Success Factor is a formula that some states are using as a way to try and level the playing field when specific teams in specific sports are dominant. Administrators at area meetings were shown an example from the Indiana High School Athletic Association, which uses a point system to decide if teams are dominant enough over a period of two years to be moved to a higher classification (no matter what the enrollment numbers are). If a dominant team is already in the largest class, the formula is not used.

“Some states say it’s not really about the enrollment you have, it’s about the success you achieve,” MSHSL executive director Dave Stead said at Thursday’s meeting. “It has nothing to do with the type of school you are, it has to do with the success you have over a period of time.”

Using a point system, teams in specific sports move up to the next enrollment class for the next reclassification period. In Minnesota, reclassification takes place every two years. Administrators at area meetings filled out a questionnaire about Success Factor and were invited to offer their input to the MSHSL staff members.

“It’s our job as a staff to bring issues to you, get input from you and take that input to our board, which is what we’re trying to do,” Stead said.

Associate director Kevin Merkle updated the meeting attendees on district football, a new format for regular-season football scheduling that will begin in 2015. Under the plan, schools will be placed into districts, and each district will put together football schedules for all teams in that district.

“In a large majority of cases, schools will be grouped with schools they’re already playing,” Merkle said. “A few districts are as small as 12 (schools), but some are as big as 20 and even 28 schools.”

A committee is working on placing schools into districts, holding several meetings with the goal of having district assignments finalized later this month. Members of the committee are Brad Johnson, Rochester; Todd Oye, Luverne; Chuck Evert, Battle Lake; Mike Biermaier, Thief River Falls; Brent Schimek, Deer River; Derek Parendo, Proctor; John Ross, Sartell; Brian Brown, Concordia Academy; Dan Roff, Fridley; and Rick Sutton, Eagan.

And finally, here are the proposed bylaw changes that will be considered by the representative assembly on Monday ...

o Bylaw 111—Transfer and Residence: It will allow a student a 15-day “trial period” to return to the student’s original school after a transfer provided the student has not competed at the varsity level in any sport during that time period.
o Bylaw 201—Amateur Status: It will allow for actual and reasonable reimbursement for participation in a camp or clinic; it prohibits participation on professional teams or signing with a professional team; it will allow a tryout with a professional team if the student can document that (s)he paid all the fees and expenses.
o Bylaw 205—Chemical Eligibility: Expands the prohibited use, consumption, possession, purchase, sale or distribution of products containing or delivering nicotine, tobacco and other chemicals (eg e-cigarettes); expands the definition of substances or products that alter the central nervous system (eg synthetic drugs, glue, bath salts etc).
o Bylaw 208—Non-School Competition and Training: It more clearly defines for coaches what exactly is prohibited during the annual no-contact period incorporating the July Fourth holiday. A second amendment provides specific definitions and policies pertaining to football contact and practice during the summer months.
o Bylaw 304—Ineligible Student: It removes the team penalty exception for administrative errors in using an ineligible player serving a chemical or non-school competition penalty.
o Bylaw 403—Cooperative Sponsorship: It changes the co-op application deadline from the first day of practice for a sport to no later than 30 calendar days prior to the first day of practice for a sport.
o Bylaw 411—Scheduling of Contests: It will allow scheduling contests with out-of-state schools only if the opponent’s state association actually sponsors that activity and that opponent abides by its state association’s eligibility rules.
o Bylaw 502—Daily/Season Player Participation Limits: It imposes a daily limit of not more than 6.5 quarters during any consecutive three-day period for football players.
o Bylaw 508—Football: It is a complete revision of what must be done before the first game is played, spelling out specific protocols for heat acclimitization and practices. It reduces the preseason period from three weeks to 14 calendar days.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 454
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,848
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
NRHEG’s Carlie Wagner Keeps Soaring Higher and Higher 5/7/2014
MAPLETON -- Carlie Wagner wasn’t feeling perfect Tuesday, but the spring of 2014 has been much better than 2013 for the senior from New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva. She’s healthy this season, and that makes all the difference.

Everyone in Minnesota knows Wagner as the superstar basketball player who led the Panthers to back-to-back Class 2A state championships, was named Miss Basketball 2014 and will play at the University of Minnesota. Fewer fans know that she is also a star of track and field and owns a state title in the high jump.

That championship came in 2012 when Wagner leaped 5 feet, 6 inches to win the Class 1A crown. As a freshman a year earlier, she placed fifth in the 1A high jump at 5-4. Which brings us back to one year ago, when tendinitis in her right knee – the knee that provides her lift for high jumping – gave her all kinds of trouble.

“It made me incapable of jumping, it hurt so much,” she said at Tuesday’s 1A Section 2 True Team meet, hosted by Maple River. “I dealt with it all season. At sections I just made 5-3 to qualify for state, and when I took my last attempt at 5-4 and I couldn’t even run. I sort of collapsed and cried; it hurt so bad and I sort of hit my breaking point with it.”

She didn’t compete at last year’s state meet, but Wagner is on track for a return this spring. She won the high jump Tuesday by clearing 5-6 before three misses at 5-8. She set a personal best of 5-9 last week; only seven Minnesota high school girls have ever gone higher. The next-best high jump among Class 1A girls this spring is 5-4, making Wagner the favorite at this point for another state championship.

“Absolutely, (winning state again) would be so much fun,” she said. “I got fifth place my freshman year and I was thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll come back next year and get second or third.’ I ended up winning it that year and it was a total shock. Maybe this year I can go up and do that again, but you never know. There’s always somebody popping up out of somewhere that can jump so well.”

Wagner is very busy at track meets. Tuesday, for example, she also ran the 100 meters, the 200 and teamed with her two ninth-grade twin sisters in the 4x200 relay. The foursome of Maddie Wagner, ninth-grader Gretchen Ramaker, Marnie Wagner and Carlie Wagner (pictured) finished second in the True Team meet.

All three Wagners were named to the all-tournament team at state. Track is a different type of sport than basketball, Carlie Wagner said.

“I feel like we’re more laid-back and can relax a little bit more,” she said. “In basketball I feel like I’m more on their case and pushing them more. But in track, it’s just running. What are you going to do to them?”

A big basketball blow for Wagner came in late March when Gophers coach Pam Borton was fired. Borton had recruited Wagner since Carlie was a freshman and they had developed a strong relationship.

On the day of the firing, Wagner received a text from classmate and basketball teammate Paige Overgaard that said, “Carlie, have you heard about Pam? She got fired.”

Wagner said, “I went on Google and the second I clicked on ‘Pam Borton’ all these articles popped up. I started crying. I’ve been so close to her and the rest of the staff, and all of a sudden they’re gone when I’m just about to get there.”

She thought about changing her college commitment “for about three seconds.” But the hiring of former Virginia Commonwealth coach Marlene Stollings by Minnesota, combined with Wagner’s home-state pride, made the decision to stick with the Gophers very easy.

“I really like coach Stollings,” she said. “I haven’t gotten to meet her yet but we’ve talked on the phone. And from everything I’ve read about her, she’s pretty awesome.

“And the thought of representing the home state and where I come from, putting on the Minnesota jersey. My family’s all here, I’ll have fan support, I know where I’m at, I’ll know everybody. I feel comfortable here.”

The state track meet will be held June 6-7 at Hamline University in St. Paul. Wagner will move to the Minnesota campus in mid-June to start summer school as well as her college basketball career.

“I have no idea what to expect. I know it will be way more intense,” she said. “I know that with everything in high school, you take that probably times 10. That’s the fun part, when you get pushed and you have to work hard. I’m really looking forward to the competition.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 454
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,838
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Kasson-Mantorville’s Wiebke Sets State High Jump Record5/7/2014
Kasson-Mantorville junior Taylor Wiebke broke the girls state record in the high jump Tuesday, clearing 5 feet, 11 inches at the Class 2A Section 1 True Team meet in Winona.

The previous state record was 5-10 3/4 by Waseca's Tressa Beckel in 2006.

Wiebke was the Class 2A state runner-up last season with a height of 5-7 at the state track and field meet. The champion was Lakeville South’s Caraline Slattery at 5-8. Both are juniors this season. At the 2014 Hamline Elite Meet on April 25, Wiebke was the champion at 5-5 and Slattery was second at 5-4.