John's Journal
A Volleyball Coach, A Fisherman And a Trip To State11/6/2014
The paths people take can be quite interesting. Case in point: Cambridge-Isanti volleyall coach Vicki Courts and her husband/assistant coach Mark Courts.

Vicki, who grew up in Bay City, Michigan, was a standout volleyball player at Michigan State, serving as team captain in 2000, her senior year. After she graduated she met a professional fisherman named Mark Courts; he was fishing in a tournament on Saginaw Bay.

Mark is a native of Monticello, Minnesota. Vicki moved to Minnesota, went to graduate school at Bethel University and earned two teaching licenses and a masters degree. They got married and they live in Harris, which is in the Cambridge-Isanti school district.

Vicki (pictured), a special eduation teacher, became an assistant coach for the Bluejackets volleyball team 10 years ago. A year later she was named head coach. The fact that Cambridge-Isanti had never been to state until this year was not lost on anybody, including the coaching staff.

“We spent endless hours in the gym, which all coaches do, but really getting in to work with the youth (was crucial),” Vicki said after the unseeded Bluejackets lost to third-seeded Eagan 3-0 in Thursday’s Class 3A quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center.

“These seven seniors were 9-10-11 years old and I just started dragging them around with me; as managers, on buses, to meals, camps. We tried to just hang in there, and it wasn’t all that easy.”

Building a successful program never is easy. But when Cambridge-Isanti defeated North Branch in the Section 7 final last week at Chisago Lakes, it was, well, it was …

“It was pandemonium,” Vicki said. “Just breaking that cycle of never going to state. We were knocking on the door last year and lost to Grand Rapids by four points in the section final match, and the girls were just relentless about getting there. That’s what we talked about every day. It was the best feeling in the world. Those kids were thrilled. It was the best bus ride ever.”

Mark Courts, who has been a professional angler for 15 years, said joining Vicki on the volleyball court was an easy decision.

“This is about the only opportunity we get to spend time together,” he said. “I’m on the road 200 days a year, so if I’m not in the gym with her we don’t get time together.”


A year ago I wrote about Taryn Tumbleson (pictured), a volleyball player from Martin County West who sat out the 2013 state tournament because of injuries sustained in a car accident early in the season. The story was headlined “The Miracle Of Martin County West.”

She was driving on a gravel road when she lost control and the vehicle rolled several times. Her injuries included 11 broken ribs, a compression fracture in her back and a serious concussion. She wore a back brace at state last year and watched from the bench as the Mavericks finished sixth.

Last year at state Taryn told me she would back in 2014, in uniform and on the court. “Next year, definitely,” she said back then.

When we talked after the Mustangs defeated Browerville 3-0 in Thursday’s Class 1A quarterfinals, she smiled and said, “I was going to Tweet you and remind you that I said I was going to be back.”

No Tweet was necessary, because seeing her on the court and playing well was more than enough.

“It’s a lot more fun to be on the court,” she said with a big smile. “It was good motivation from last year. It’s great to be back. I think that it was kind of an eye-opener to not take life for granted. I appreciate the coaches and players and every moment I have on the court. It’s great to be here in my senior year.”


The most famous elbow in Faribault belongs to Bethlehem Academy senior Payton Schultz. She is as veteran as they come, starting for the Cardinals since seventh grade and being part of three state championship teams. A year ago she suffered a knee injury in the second match; this year she blew out her left elbow in the 14th match of the season and didn’t return until the Section 1 title match (in which she entered to serve the final two points).

She was in action Thursday as the Cardinals defeated Kittson County Central 3-0. Schultz had two digs in the match; “I’m not supposed to fall or anything, which is kind of difficult for me,” she said. “Doctor told me to be careful.”

There’s a scar on the elbow, and she wears a brace on it when playing. The injury occurred when she went down for a ball and landed wrong. Bones were broken in three places.

“If you watch the video it doesn’t seem like it should have caused damage, but it was just one of those freak things,” coach Franz Boelter said. “They were able to put it back together nicely. She was given permission to play yet to be cautious. … Today we just wanted to get her in there a little bit in every set and kind of see how things went. I told her, ‘If I put you out there it’s because I care about you, and if I don’t put you out there it’s because I care about you.’ ”

Chaska beats Bemidji 25-10, 25-11, 25-19
Roseville beats Champlin Park 26-24, 27-25, 22-25, 18-25, 15-13
Eden Prairie beats Rochester Mayo 25-12, 25-18, 22-25, 25-13
Eagan beats Cambridge-Isanti 25-12, 25-21, 25-22

Stewartville beat Mora 25-19, 25-17, 25-22
Maple Lake beat Concordia Academy 16-25, 17-25, 25-17, 25-16, 15-13
Marshall beat Thief River Falls 25-23, 25-12, 25-20
Belle Plaine beat Rocori 24-16, 25-18, 23-25, 25-22

Bethlehem Academy beat Kittson County Central 25-12, 25-15, 25-13
Martin County West beat Ada-Borup 14-25, 25-18, 25-14, 26-24
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton beat Browerville 25-11, 25-15, 25-13
Mayer Lutheran beat Carlton 25-22, 25-21, 21-25, 25-17

*Schools/teams John has visited: 168
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 3,961
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
State Volleyball And Football Take Center Stage11/5/2014
We’re heading into a big three days of state tournament action, with volleyball and football taking center stage.

Volleyball, in all three classes, will play at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Quarterfinals will be played Thursday, with semifinals and consolation matches Friday, and championship, third-place and fifth-place matches Saturday.

Football quarterfinals will be played Thursday, Friday and Saturday around the state, with three games Thursday, nine games Friday and 16 games Saturday.

I’ll be spending all three days at the volleyball tournament. I will be following the football scores from Xcel Energy Center, and I will post scores from both tournaments immediately on Twitter. You can follow me @MSHSLjohn

Here are the tournament lineups…

Thursday’s Quarterfinals

Chaska (27-3) vs. Bemidji (19-11), 9 a.m.
Roseville (25-4) vs. Champlin Park (24-7), 9 a.m.
Eden Prairie (27-3) vs. Rochester Mayo (26-3), 11 a.m.
Eagan (24-5) vs. Cambridge-Isanti (27-4), 11 a.m.

Stewartville (27-6) vs. Mora (26-5), 5 p.m.
Concordia Academy (26-7) vs. Maple Lake (27-5), 5 p.m.
Marshall (23-9) vs. Thief River Falls (23-9), 7 p.m.
Belle Plaine (22-10) vs. Rocori (25-5), 7 p.m.

Bethlehem Academy (26-4) vs. Kittson County Central (25-7), 1 p.m.
Martin County West (28-5) vs. Ada-Borup (26-5), 1 p.m.
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (26-9) vs. Browerville (24-5), 3 p.m.
Mayer Lutheran (18-15) vs. Carlton (27-5), 3 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 6
9-Man/ Kelliher/Northome vs. Norman County East/U-H, Bemidji State, 7:30 pm
6A/ Mounds View vs. Totino-Grace, Maple Grove, 7 pm
6A/ Rosemount vs. Lakeville North, Edina, 7:30 pm

Friday, Nov. 7
9-Man/ Kittson County Central vs. Cromwell, Bemidji State, 7 pm
1A/ Minneapolis North vs. Blooming Prairie, Richfield, 7 pm
2A/ Hawley vs. BOLD, Alexandria, 7 pm
2A/ Maple Lake vs. Caledonia, Rochester Community College, 7 pm
4A/ Cloquet vs. DeLaSalle, Chisago Lakes, 7 pm
4A/ Holy Angels vs. Hutchinson, Minneapolis Washburn, 7 pm
5A/ Bemidji vs. St. Michael-Albertville, St. Cloud State, 7 pm
6A/ Eden Prairie vs. East Ridge, Woodbury, 7 pm
6A/ Maple Grove vs. Prior Lake, Minnetonka, 7 pm

Saturday, Nov. 8
9-Man/ Edgerton/Ellsworth vs. Nicollet, SW MN State, noon
9-Man/ Underwood vs. Grand Meadow, Irondale, 1 p.m.
1A/ Braham vs. Upsala/Swanville, Brainerd, noon
1A/ Mahnomen vs. Dawson-Boyd, Alexandria, 1 p.m.
1A/ Minneota vs. New Ulm Cathedral, SW MN State, 3 p.m.
2A/ Pipestone vs. Norwood-Young America, Gustavus Adolphus, 1 pm
2A/ Moose Lake/Willow River vs. Holdingford, Brainerd, 3 pm
3A/ Esko vs. New London-Spicer, St. Cloud State, noon
3A/ Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton vs. Pierz, Brainerd, 6 pm
3A/ St. Croix Lutheran vs. Rochester Lourdes, Farmington, 6 pm
3A/ Blue Earth vs. Glencoe-Silver Lake, Burnsville, 6 pm
4A/ Rocori vs. Becker, St. Cloud State, 3 pm
4A/ South St. Paul vs. Stewartville, Rochester Community College, 6 pm
5A/ Bloomington Jefferson vs. Mankato West, Lakeville North, 2 pm
5A/ Sartell vs. Simley, St. Cloud State, 6 pm
5A/ Spring Lake Park vs. Faribault, Lakeville North, 6 pm
Runners To Be Considered for Spirit of Sport Award11/4/2014
Two cross-country runners who assisted a fallen competitor during the Class 1A girls state meet Saturday will be considered for the Spirit of Sport Award, which is awarded annually by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The Spirit of Sport Award seeks to recognize individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of sport and represent the core mission of education-based athletics. High school governing bodies in each state can offer nominations for the award.

Esko High School senior Kailee Kiminski and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown/Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton junior Tierney Winter stopped running when they saw Jackson County Central freshman Jessica Christoffer on the ground less than 100 yards from the finish line. Kailee and Tierney helped Jessica get on her feet and had their arms around her as they completed the race together. Ninety-six runners among the field of 174 had crossed the finish line before the trio did so.

Due to national rules that prohibit competitors from assisting other runners, the athletes were disqualified, but that does not diminish from their tremendous act of sportsmanship. A meet official, who was with Jessica in case medical assistance was needed, informed the other runners that offering aid would violate the rules, yet they didn’t hesitate to assist Jessica in finishing the race.

All cross-country coaches are aware that athletes cannot assist others physically during races, whether teammates or opponents. This rule is based on fairness and the belief that each competitor must complete the course on their own, with no physical assistance. The rule states:

It is an unfair act when a competitor receives any assistance. Assistance includes:
a. Interference with another competitor.
b. Pacing by a teammate not in the race or persons not participating in the
c. Competitors joining or grasping hands with each other during a race.
d. Competitor using an aid during the race.

In addition, there could be serious health concerns for an injured runner if people who are not medically certified attempt to move the athlete.

Despite the consequences, Kailey and Tierney didn’t hesitate in coming to the aid of a fellow competitor. Because of their tremendous act of sportsmanship and selflessness, they will be considered for the Spirit of Sport Award. Congratulations to Kailey and Tierney, their coaches, teammates, families and schools.
Alexandria’s Hasz Sisters: Identical Twins, Identical State Championships 11/1/2014
NORTHFIELD – It would only be fitting if Bethany and Megan Hasz, who are juniors this year at Alexandria High School, cross the finish line at the 2015 Class 2A state cross-country meet in a dead heat and share the state championship.

Because at this point they each own one state title and one second-place finish. A year ago Bethany was first and Megan second, and Saturday at St. Olaf College it was Megan – who is 29 minutes older than her identical twin sister -- getting the win, followed closely by Bethany. (Pictured are Bethany, left, and Megan.)

“We will always race each other to win,” Megan said. “We are competitive with each other. We always want to win, but even if we don’t we’re happy for the other one.”

Megan’s winning time was an all-class state-meet-record 13 minutes, 40.9 seconds; Bethany finished in 13:44.4 and third-place runner Tess Misgen, a sophomore from Shakopee, was timed in 14:13.5. Misgen nosed out junior Emma Benner of Forest Lake, whose time was 14:13.6.

The previous state-meet record was 13:42.0, set by Maria Hauger of Shakopee in 2012.

The twins also are stars on the track. Bethany was third and Megan fourth at state in the 2A 3,200 meters last spring; in the 1,600 Megan was second behind Misgen and Bethany placed third.

On Saturday, Megan began pulling away near the two-mile mark in the 4,000-meter race. Bethany tried to stay with her sister but couldn’t maintain the pace.

“She started to pull away and I tried to go with her,” Bethany said. “I didn’t have quite the same kick as she does. I’m proud of her. She definitely deserves it.”

Megan stated it pretty plainly: “I guess I started kicking a little harder a little sooner.”

Asked if next year’s state meet will be the tiebreaker, the sisters laughed.

“I guess so,” Bethany said. “We’ll see what happens.”

--Wayzata won its third consecutive 2A girls team title with 65 points. Edina was next with 94 and Willmar placed third with 96.


After two top-five finishes in the last two years, Wayzata senior Connor Olson rose to the top level of the podium with a dominating victory. The second-ranked Olson held off third-ranked Joey Duerr of Chaska and top-ranked Joe Klecker of Hopkins, winning in 15:16.86.

Duerr was second in 15:22.96 and Klecker was third in 15:25.9

“That kid’s one tough racer and he stuck in there for a long time,” Olson said of Duerr. “I’m just happy I could pull it off at the end.”

--Olson – who placed fifth in 2012 and second last year -- led Wayzata to the team title. The Trojans finished with 47 points, and Hopkins and Stillwater shared second place with 87. It was the second consecutive state title for Wayzata.


Two years ago, Waseca’s Shane Streich finished third at state. Last year he was the runner-up. His route to a state championship was finally completed Saturday, but it came with an important boost from a race in late September.

Streich (pictured), a senior, was the top finisher in the Roy Griak Inviational when he placed sixth overall among a national field that included many of the top 2A runners in Minnesota.

“Just for the opportunity to come up here and race with the big dogs, being from a small town, I just wanted to hang with them,” he said after the Griak. “I think today was my day.”

Saturday was also his day. His time of 15:46.4was nearly 15 seconds better than runner-up Isaac Overmyer of Park Rapids. Placing third was Perham’s Billy Bessman.

“I’ve been shooting for this since I was a seventh-grader,” Streich said. “It’s nice, especially since last year I was second, the year before I was third. Ever since the end of track season this was my goal, and my main focus was going for the state championship. It’s definitely exciting to be able to fulfill that goal.”

--Mora won the 1A boys team title with a score of 104, followed by Martin County West (108) and Glencoe-Silver Lake (117).


The Donnay sisters of Eden Valley-Watkins/Kimball stole the show, with Emily – a senior and the top-ranked runner in 1A – claiming the state title and her sophomore sister Anna finishing third. The runner-up was Luverne sophomore Madison Schandelmeier.

“I figured she was right behind me at the finish,” said Emily, whose time of 14:27.5 was well ahead of Schandelmeier (14:49.0). “Tthat’s what I kept telling myself.”

Emily finished 10th at state last year; Anna had never before raced at state.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Anna. “I came and watched last year but that’s it.”

--Trinity School at River Ridge won the team title with a score of 55, followed by Annandale (87) and Fairmont (117).

--To see photo galleries from each race (provided by, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 144
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 3,921
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
A Storybook Ending To The Soccer Season 10/30/2014
ST. CLOUD -- Storybook. There is no better way to describe what the Orono girls soccer team accomplished Thursday. Yes, the Spartans won the Class 1A state championship, defeating Minneapolis Washburn in a game that was scoreless through two overtimes and was decided in a shootout at St. Cloud State’s Husky Stadium.

They did so without their best player, who also is one of the state’s best players. Senior Sophie Babo -- this year’s Class 1A Ms. Soccer winner who has made a commitment to play collegiately at Kentucky -- suffered a leg injury during the second half, which caused a lengthy delay while she was treated on the field and taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

So here’s the challenge the Spartans were dealing with: Their leading scorer was gone and they were facing the undefeated, top-seeded and unbeaten Millers, a team that had not given up a goal since the third game of the season and had been scored on only twice all year.

“We did a really, really good job of rallying after Sophie got hurt,” said Orono goalkeeper Jessica Woessner, who also scored one of the goals in the 3-2 shootout verdict. “We knew that it would be harder without her, but we also knew we had to do it for her. Because she has helped us in so many games, she’s such a strong player. We had to do it for her and we did. And it feels so good.”

After 80 minutes of regulation ended in a scoreless tie, the teams played two 10-minute overtime periods. Then came the shootout, with each team taking five penalty kicks. The Millers and Spartans each scored on their first two attempts, with Morgan Cottew and Emma Stotts finding the goal for Washburn and Carly Goehring and Woessner doing the same for Orono.

Neither team scored in the third and fourth rounds, and the winner came from Orono junior Claire Bash. When Woessner stopped the final attempt of the shootout, it was bedlam for the Spartans.

“I think the biggest thing was everyone was worried about Sophie,” Orono coach Erin Murray said. “You could tell right away that it wasn’t good. But we’ve kind of talked all year that a lot of people think our team is Sophie. And Sophie is our best player and she is a dominant player, but we have so much that surrounds her and we’ve kind of been telling people that all year.”


There was no denying Apollo’s Leighton Lommel on two fronts: on his goal-scoring ability and on his postgame smile. The junior scored on a free kick in the 67th minute to lift the Eagles past DeLaSalle 1-0, capturing the first state soccer title for any St. Cloud school.

Lommel also had scored the game-winner Wednesday in a 1-0 semifinal victory over Mankato West, capping a pretty good stretch in his hometown.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “This is stuff you dream about.”

Apollo finished the season with a record of 21-0-2, making the Eagles the only undefeated soccer team in the state. They closed the year with five consecutive shutouts and gave up only 10 goals all season.

“Once an opportunity like this knocks at your door, you have to take advantage of it,” Lommel said. “This was incredible. This was awesome.”


The Tornadoes outscored Wayzata 5-4 in the shootout to take home their second state soccer title. The previous championship came in 2007.

Arthur Parens scores for Wayzata in the 28th minute of regulation and Anoka’s Joshua Dobler tied the score in the 44th minute. The score remained 1-1 through regulation and two 10-minute overtimes before the Tornadoes won the shootout. Every shot attempt in the shootout found the goal with the exception of one by Wayzata’s Jared Stout, a rocket that caromed off the crossbar.


A goal by Jade King in the 26th minute made the difference for the Wildcats, who won their first girls soccer state championship.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 112
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 3,867
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn