John's Journal
Flashback to 2011: A Stroke Of Wild Inspiration7/16/2014
Here's another look back in John's Journal history. This story was posted in February 2011 under the headline "Girls State Hockey Tournament: A Stroke Of Wild Inspiration."

As Edina junior goaltender Maddie Dahl walked into the media room after the Hornets had earned a spot in the Class 2A state championship game Friday night, I said to her quietly, “That stick really IS magic.”

She whispered, “It is!”

Dahl had just finished her second shutout of the tournament as Edina beat Hill-Murray 2-0 to move into Saturday’s state championship game against Minnetonka. The stick we spoke of is a very special goalie stick, a gift that Maddie isn’t afraid to credit for her sterling performance at Xcel Energy Center.

In Thursday’s semifinals Dahl shut out Rosemount 6-0. There was undoubtedly a little magic at work, magic that began a couple hours before game time thanks to the generosity of injured Wild goaltender Josh Harding.

Harding is sidelined with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee, suffered during the preseason. So while the Wild are in California, he’s back here in Minnesota going through the rehab process. He was on the ice at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday morning when the Edina Hornets arrived at the arena for their opening game.

Some of the Hornets saw Harding from the concourse level, but Dahl was the only one to run down the stairs to reach ice level. “He’s my idol,” she told me Friday before Edina met Hill- Murray in the semifinals.

She isn’t afraid to admit that she had her face pressed up to the glass to watch Harding. As his workout ended, he began picking up pucks and gathering his equipment. Then he did something that Dahl certainly did not expect. He picked up one of his sticks and tossed it over the glass to her.

Did somebody say “stunned”?

“I was like, ‘Wow!’ I thought he was going to take it back,” Maddie said. “I got kind of nervous and I ran really fast up the stairs.”

Her teammates, having witnessed the tossing of the stick, met Maddie at the concourse level and gathered around the stick; an honest-to-goodness NHL goalie’s stick. Harding is lefthanded and Maddie is righthanded, but what the heck does that matter? It just means she is less likely to use it on the ice and break it or see some similar catastrophe take place.

The story, however, doesn’t end there. Maddie and her teammates went down to the locker room level, where Harding was standing outside the Wild locker room holding a bottle of water. He saw Maddie carrying the stick, gave her a fist bump and said to her, “Good luck.”

But, again there’s more. Maddie doesn’t know who did what, but somehow, someway, somebody had Harding autograph the stick when she was otherwise occupied before the game. All she knows is that before the game, Harding had autographed it. Plus, he came into the locker room and again told Maddie, “Good luck.”

He had written on the stick, “To Maddie. Good Luck!” He signed his name and his number, 37.

But wait. The story isn’t over. You know that Maddie shut out Rosemount, making 24 saves. When I asked her what she did with the stick after the game, she smiled. Then she told me this: she slept with it.

And it’s a pretty safe bet that she slept with it again Friday night.
Flashback to 2010: MACCRAY golfer Tricia Kienitz7/13/2014
While we're all on summer break from high school activities, this is a good time to look back on some memorable John's Journal stories. This story was originally posted on May 17, 2010 under the headline "MACCRAY Golfer Trisha Kienitz: A Smile, An Inspiration"

Trisha Kienitz has heard the question several times during her golf career. She doesn’t know when it will be asked -- maybe at the first tee, maybe a few holes into a round -- but eventually a competitor’s curiosity at seeing Kienitz use a golf cart to get around the course will lead to the inevitable question.

It happened a couple weeks ago as Kienitz, a senior at MACCRAY High School, hit another tee shot straight down the heart of the fairway. A girl in her foursome asked, “Why do you have a cart?”

Trisha’s answer was short and sweet: “Artificial leg.” The reply was even shorter: “Oh.”

Oh. Right. Artificial Leg. Sweet.

Trisha, 18, tells the story – as she does just about everything else -- with a smile. She walks the school hallways in Clara City with a smile. She smiles as she pulls up the fabric of her jeans to reveal the flesh-toned prosthetic right leg that begins at her hip and is strapped around her waist.

She smiles as she recounts qualifying for the Class A state tournament the past two years, and continues to smile as she talks about her goal of returning this year.

Artificial leg? No big deal.

She played in several Junior PGA events last summer, wearing shorts on occasion. The prosthetic skin on her knee was stretched and torn, and contrasting-colored tape had been used to repair the damage. Her playing partners didn’t realize that Trisha had a fake limb; they saw the tape and thought she just had a knee injury.

“I said, ‘No, I have an artificial leg.’ And they said, ‘We can’t even tell.’ Most people can’t.”

She walks with a slight limp. Because carrying her clubs for 18 holes would be difficult, Trisha has a special exemption from the Minnesota State High School League to use a cart during competitive rounds. And that’s the only difference between her and every other high school golfer in the world … except for the fact that she is gunning for her third trip to state.

“She’s got a great swing,” said MACCRAY girls’ golf coach Terri Zondervan. “And a lot of it is mental, and she’s pretty steady and very focused. She practices a lot, she has great dedication to the game.”

Balance is crucial when hitting a golf ball, and the simple fact that Trisha basically does so while standing on one leg is remarkable. She was born without a right leg and spent much of her early years hopping on her left leg. She smiles (of course) as she talks about it.

“When I was little I just hopped around the house,” she said. “So I have good balance. Mainly all my weight’s on my left foot all the time (while swinging a golf club). That’s why it doesn’t go very far.”

No, her length off the tee doesn’t draw oohs and aahs. But her accuracy is another matter. Trisha rarely sees anything but the middle of the fairway. MACCRAY boys’ coach Gary Nelson recalls watching Trisha hit a shot out of bounds during the state tournament two years ago; she had to stop and think about the proper procedure when that happens.

“She said, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ She just hasn’t hit one off to the side too many times,” Nelson said.

“I hit it straight,” Trisha said. “They don’t go very far but they go straight. Some of those girls can hit it so far, but then they go right or left.”

She tied for 39th at state as a sophomore and tied for 17th last year. This year’s Class A state tournament will be held June 16-17 at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker.

“I just want to make it,” she said. “I’ve seen kids go to state before and then they don’t make it back their senior year. I’m just working on getting there and hopefully finishing in the top eight.”

Trisha finished second in last Friday’s Camden Conference tournament at Marshall Golf Club. Minneota’s Taya Kockelman was the medalist with an 86 and Trisha was three shots back. The Wolverinesof MACCRAY (which is shorthand for the communities of MAynard, Clara City and RAYmond) will compete at a subsection tournament in Benson on May 28 and the Section 5A tourney in Marshall June 4.

Between those tournaments, graduation at MACCRAY will take place May 30. Trisha is the oldest child of Wendell and Kelli Kienitz. Her sister Katie is 16 and brother Brady is 6. Trisha plans to attend Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, study agribusiness and try out for the golf team.

Trisha began playing golf with her grandfather when she was 7 years old. Then came summer leagues and a growing love for the game.

Asked what she likes about golf, Trisha lit the fuse on another big smile.

“Oh, everything,” she said. “You learn more than golf. You learn the rules and you learn how to be more responsible.”

And you learn how to answer a few questions along the way, too ... with a smile.
The Hall Of Fame Welcomes A Man From Chisholm, Minnesota 7/3/2014
BOSTON – When Bob McDonald was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame this week, he didn’t go in alone. He shared the experience with his family, the thousands of boys who played on his basketball teams over a 59-year coaching career, and everyone back home in Chisholm.

McDonald’s four sons and two daughters – all of whom became basketball coaches – and several grandchildren traveled here for Wednesday’s 32nd annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel. The events also included a dinner in McDonald’s honor with board members and staff of the MSHSL on Monday and a news conference for all 12 of this year’s inductees on Tuesday.

At the news conference, the inductees sat on a dais and a moderator from the National Federation of State High School Associations introduced each of them by reading a short biography. Before questions were asked by those in attendance, each inductee gave a brief statement.

McDonald’s statement began with these words, delivered in the soft yet thunderous baritone voice that is so well-known in Minnesota: “My name is Bob McDonald and I’m from Chisholm, Minnesota.”

That said it all. McDonald, 81, will forever be remembered as the coach from Chisholm -- his hometown -- who set high standards for his players as well as the community. His influence has extended to other schools all over Minnesota, with his strict adherence to short hair, high socks, fair play, hard work, a minimum of guff and shared recognition. (Pictured are McDonald and MSHSL executive director Dave Stead during the ceremony.)

When it was mentioned by the news conference moderator that McDonald had never been called for a technical foul over the course of 59 seasons and 1,440 games, fellow inductee and former NBA all-star Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway stood, smiled and applauded.

At the MSHSL dinner, McDonald was given an MSHSL gold medal and blue ribbon. Engraved on the back of the medal were the words “Bob McDonald, MSHSL Champion, June 30, 2014.”

McDonald is the 12th person from Minnesota to be inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame. Here is the list of Minnesotans and the year they were inducted:

1986: John Mayasich, hockey
1987: Janet Karvonen, basketball
1989: Bronko Nagurski, football
1992: Jerry Seeman, officiating
1992: Willard Ikola, hockey
1998: Paul Giel, football and baseball
2000: Kevin McHale, basketball
2003: Dorothy McIntyre, administration
2007: Terry Steinbach, baseball and hockey
2008: Barb Seng, speech
2009: Billy Bye, multiple sports
2014: Bob McDonald, basketball

Wednesday’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony was held in a hotel ballroom. After dinner, each of the new inductees was featured in a video shown on giant screens on either side of the stage. McDonald’s video was filmed April 29 inside Roel Gymnasium in Chisholm, the 1921 crackerbox that is the home of the Bluestreaks.

During the video, McDonald talked about his career, his memories and the people from back home that mean so much to him.

“I’m carrying all those people on my shoulders, (people) that were backing me up,” he said. “A lot of them are gone now. I never lacked a sense of pride in Chisholm and those people were part of that.”

Following the induction ceremony, an autograph session for the new Hall of Famers was held in the hotel. (Pictured are McDonald and his wife Carol.)

The National High School Hall of Fame is operated by the National Federation of State High School Associations. The 2014 Hall of Fame class was headlined by former Cleveland Browns tight end Ozzie Newsome from Alabama and Hardaway from Tennessee.
Joining Newsome and Hardaway as athletes in the 2014 class were Casey Blake, a four-sport star at Indianola (Iowa) High School who had a 13-year professional baseball career; Michael Devereaux, a four-sport standout at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper, Wyoming, who enjoyed a 12-year professional baseball career; and Suzy Powell, a basketball and track and field star at Thomas Downey High School in Modesto, California, who competed in three Olympic Games.
Also inducted were McDonald and three other high school coaches, one contest official, one administrator and one from the performing arts.

The other high school coaches were Morgan Gilbert, who retired last year from Tuckerman (Arkansas) High School after winning more than 1,000 games as both a basketball coach and baseball coach during a 48-year career; Katie Horstman, who started the girls sports program at Minster (Ohio) High School in 1972 and led the girls track team to eight state championships; and Frank Pecora, who becomes Vermont’s first inductee in the National High School Hall of Fame after leading Northfield High School to 15 state baseball championships.

Other members of the 2014 induction class are George Demetriou, a football and baseball official from Colorado Springs, Colorado, who is a state and national officiating leader in both sports; Sheryl Solberg, a state and national leader in the development of girls athletics programs during her 34 years as assistant to the executive secretary of the North Dakota High School Activities Association; and Randy Pierce, a state and national debate leader who coached debate at Pattonville High School in Maryland Heights, Missouri, for almost 40 years before retiring in 2012.
Miles, Memories And More: The Best Of John’s Journal From 2013-14 6/23/2014
With another great year of stories and memories in the books, I’ve been looking back over 2013-14 in John’s Journal. I have posted 162 stories since August and have driven more than 13,000 miles in visiting events and schools all over our state.

There are way too many highlights to do justice to them all in one recap, but here are my personal Top 10 John’s Journal memories from 2013-14 …

NUMBER 10/ The Iron Range, Where Runners Run And A Volleyball Hero Returns (Sept. 6)

This was a highly Twitter-infused expedition for two events in one day: a cross-country invitational and a volleyball match. The invitation to come to Coleraine arrived via this Tweet from Will Floersheim, the Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin cross-country coach : “@MSHSLjohn Would love to have you visit the Range for big CC meet and great VB rivalry on 9/5 in Coleraine!”

Several Tweets later, my trip was booked. Then came this Tweet from a member of the Greenway volleyball team, senior Kate Kuck: “Excited for @MSHSLjohn to come and watch our game against Hibbing! Everyone else should come too! #volleyballgame #Thursday #bethere!”

NUMBER 9/ All Smiles In Esko: New Stadium, New Turf And A Big Win (Sept. 28)

This is one of of the greatest examples of community pride I have ever witnessed. An aging, decrepit football/soccer complex was finally sent packing by a massive flood in 2012. That’s when people stepped in and stepped up, raising awareness prior to a successful education levy and facilities referendum. The facilities plan called for a grass field, but people in town wanted to strive for more.

The Esko Turf Club was quickly formed, and money was quickly raised to install artificial turf and create what would become a first-class facility. I was there for the first event, a Week 5 football game with Two Harbors. On a glorious evening, the great Esko pep band played, the game ball was delivered by parachute and Cub Scouts held the flag as the Esko choir sang the anthem.

NUMBER 8/ The Orono Pep Band Makes Me Happy (March 12)

During the winter state tournaments, I was begging on Twitter to hear a pep band play “Happy” by Pharrell. The Mighty Mighty Orono band came through for me at Williams Arena during the boys state basketball tournament. I love it when bands take requests.

NUMBER 7/ Old Coach, New Team: Park Christian Makes History (March 13)

The Park Christian boys basketball team lost in the first round of the state tournament, but coach Erv Inniger was all smiles afterwards. The 69-year-old was joyous because he had experienced a wonderful journey, a journey that he never knew was coming until he decided to take over the Falcons for one season. He had never before coached a high school team despite a basketball resume that’s hard to match.

Inniger played at Indiana University in the 1960s and with the ABA’s Minnesota Muskies in 1967-68. His coaching career began at Golden Valley Lutheran College, followed by five years at Augsburg College and then a lengthy career as the coach at North Dakota State from 1978 to 1992. When Inniger retired at NDSU, he was the program's all-time winningest coach.

“It’s been a ball,” he said. “Who gets an opportunity like this? It’s been so special.”

NUMBER 6/ At Cambridge-Isanti, A Thunderous State Tourney Sendoff (May 15)

Several times, I had heard Cambridge-Isanti athletic director Mark Solberg talk about the sendoff when the Bluejackets adapted bowling team goes to the state tournament. He always said, “It’s the loudest our gym is all year.” He was not kidding.

The rally has become an annual tradition. Students and staff leave their classrooms and greet the bowlers with cheers as they enter the gym while the pep band plays the school song. Coach Steve Tischer spoke, as did senior members of the bowling team. The entire team was introduced, along with assistant coaches and student managers.

NUMBER 5/ Friday Was A Pretty Fair Day For Jackson County Central (Aug. 24)

How many reporters get to combine the State Fair and a high school football game into one story on the same day? Thanks to two Jackson County Central football players, I am a member of that very exclusive club. On a Friday morning I spent time in the Fairgrounds swine barn with Nolan Hohenstein and his crossbred barrow, as well as in the sheep barn with Scott Christopher and his blackface lamb.

That evening, Jackson County Central opened its season at St. Louis Park. Nolan arrived during warm-ups, putting on his football gear inside a port-a-potty.

NUMBER 4/ Caleb Thielbar: From Randolph To The Major Leagues (Jan. 3)

The first time I interviewed Caleb Thielbar was in June 2004. He was a junior at Randolph High School and part of a Rockets baseball team that was attempting to reach the state tournament for the first time in school history.

Nearly 10 years later, I interviewed Thielbar on “Caleb Thielbar Night” as the Randolph girls and boys basketball teams played host to Maple River in a Gopher Conference doubleheader. Thielbar made his major league pitching debut with the Twins in 2013 and was named the Twins’ rookie of the year. On this night back in his hometown, Caleb had autographed baseballs, hats, a jersey and other items, and he shook the hand of every raffle winner who took home a prize.

NUMBER 3/ Coaches vs. Cancer In St. Clair: Smiles, Love And Support (Jan. 31)

This event was further proof that high school activities can have positive impacts that extend far beyond a game and a final score. On a frigid winter evening, St. Clair hosted its fourth annual Coaches vs. Cancer night. Nine-hundred dollars was raised the first year and $7,800 the second year. In 2013 the total was almost $24,000, making it the largest Coaches vs. Cancer event at any school in Minnesota and the seventh-largest in the nation.

NUMBER 2/ A Selfless Act, A Hack Saw, And A Lesson For All (April 7)

I can’t take any credit for authoring this story. It came from Ryan Giles, the girls basketball coach at Lac qui Parle Valley High School in Madison, who wanted to share a story about the selflessness of one of the players. In an email, Ryan wrote about junior guard and team captain Alaysia Freetly, who was named the team MVP.

The next day, she came to Giles with a request: She wanted to share the award with junior Kaitlin Connor and eighth-grader Kelsea Lund. She told the coach that they were just as deserving as she was. Giles, who teaches Industrial Technology, used a hack saw to cut the plaque into thirds.

NUMBER 1/ Southland’s Riley Schmitz: Heart, Desire Make Up For Limited Vision (Oct. 15)

Southland football player Riley Schmitz can’t see the farm, the silos or the livestock that surround the Rebels’ practice field. Even though he has been practicing on these fields since he was a fifth-grade football player, clear vision for the senior extends no farther than the end of his arms. Those are two remarkable facts: Riley is a football player who is legally blind.

“His heart, his desire is tremendous,” said coach Shawn Kennedy. “He is absolutely so passionate about football.”
Memories Are Made, Right Through The Final Game Of 2013-14 6/17/2014
Tuesday was the final day of the 2013-14 year in MSHSL activities, ending a fall-winter-spring run that began on Aug. 12 and was filled with great stories and wonderful memories.

Back on Aug. 12, fall sports teams gathered for their first practices of the year (football teams that played Zero Week games began practice on Aug. 5), and the stories and memories continued right through to the end. The official conclusion came at 5:58 p.m. Tuesday when the last out was recorded in Mounds View’s 9-0 victory over Eden Prairie in the Class 3A baseball state championship game at Target Field.

There were two events Tuesday, both of them having been postponed by bad weather. In the boys lacrosse title game at Rosemount, Eden Prairie defeated Rosemount 13-11. That game had been originally scheduled for Saturday at Chanhassen, was washed out Saturday and postponed once more Monday.

The 3A baseball game had been scheduled for Monday at Target Field. The Class 1A and 2A games were completed Monday before heavy rain and lightning pushed the 3A contest to Tuesday. It was worth the wait, too, with good conditions for the year-ender.

There was even one big piece of off-the-field news Tuesday, when it was announced that Grand Rapids basketball star Alex Illikainen will leave Grand Rapids for his senior year and attend a prep school in New Hampshire.

The Illikainen news raced through the Twittersphere, but something completely different also was popular for folks who follow me (@MSHSLjohn) on Twitter. I asked people to Tweet their favorite memories from the 2013-14 year in MSHSL activities, and I received some great responses. Here are a few examples …

--“GBB tourney at Williams Arena filling most of the lower level and a good portion of the upper on Saturday.”

--“Mitch McKee STMA won the 120AAA Title over Malik Stewart Blaine and Stewart embracing McKee's dad, Steve.”

--“The Coliseum giving us one final colossal upset with Stillwater upsetting Hill-Murray in the Boys Hockey Section 4AA Final.”

--Boys basketball 4A semis.. Coffey with the 3/4 court winner, followed by Macura's step back triple 2 hours later.”

--“The most dramatic moment of the MSHSL season was when @MSHSLjohn ALMOST had to spend the night at Xcel Center!”

--“Our favorite #mshslmemories were from the #mshslrobots tournament! Fun to see so many great teams from across the state!”

--“Watching my hometown and @CarlieJoWagner win their second girls bball championship in a row.”

--“Redwood Valley Girls Basketball qualified for state tournament for first time since the 1970s.”

(If you want to add your own memories from 2013-14, send a Tweet to me with the hashtag #mshslmemories and I’ll re-Tweet.)

The Mounds View baseball team made some memories with its second consecutive state championship. The star for the Mustangs was pitcher Sam Hentges, who struck out eight in getting the shutout and had three hits (he's No. 34 in the photo above). After the game, it was announced that Sam had signed with the Cleveland Indians (he was their fourth-round draft pick) for a signing bonus of $700,000.

Hentges spoke glowingly of his teammates after the game, and the only major error they made came when two Mustangs attempted to interrupt a postgame interview by dumping a bucket of water on Hentges’ head. They got in too big of a hurry and dropped the Gatorade bucket before reaching their target, spilling its contents on the field instead of on Sam’s head (he’s 6-foot-7, so the prospect of lifting it high enough was iffy anyway).

“It’s obviously a really good feeling,” Hentges said. “We came in here today and scored eight runs in the bottom of the sixth inning; that’s humongous. Our defense backed me up all day long. All the credit in the world goes to them. We did it again and it’s a great feeling.”

Humongous. Great word, Sam. And a great word to wrap up the year.

Let’s take some time off and enjoy summer. The first day of practice for 2014-15? Aug. 11.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 667
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 13,105
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn