John's Journal
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.

*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.”

*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.

Indoor Options: Teams Scramble To Find Places To Play 5/1/2014
For the second year in a row, uncooperative spring weather has saddled Minnesota high school sports schedules with rain, snow, soggy fields and growing frustrations. Teams that are fortunate to have indoor options are doing all they can to find dry places to play, which is why the softball teams from Apple Valley and Eastview played a doubleheader inside an inflatable dome at the Savage Sports Center on Thursday.

The arrangement comes at a price. The two schools rented the dome from 1 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. for a total cost of $1,200, which was shared by the schools, their school district (both are in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district) and booster clubs from both schools. When Eastview athletic director Matt Percival called the year-old Savage Sports Center on Monday and learned there was time available for a doubleheader on Thursday, he also was told that the slot would be held for only 45 minutes because other schools also were calling.

“We’re fortunate in the metro that facilities like this have popped up in the last few years,” Percival said. “It’s a huge advantage to have that available.”

Savage Sports Center facilities manager Jeff Freund said the number of inquiries about using the dome “has been crazy. I can’t even give you a number, it’s been so many.”

Teams from nearby Prior Lake and Burnsville high schools are the main occupants of the dome, but teams from Edina, Eden Prairie and Lakeville also have used the facility this spring.

“If it’s available we’ll book it,” Freund said “It’s kind of a first-come, first-serve basis.”

Rules are modified for indoor softball. Any ball that hits the ceiling is declared a dead ball, for instance. And since the entire field is artificial turf, the pitching rubber is taped to the turf and the plastic home plate often moves a few feet when runners slide in. Eastview swept Thursday's doubleheader 10-5 and 10-0.

Lacrosse games also have been played indoors this spring and tennis teams can find indoor courts, but baseball, golf and track teams are bound to outdoor competitions. The situation is similar to a year ago but the 2013 conditions included more snow, which made things simpler for administrators.

“I think the biggest difference is last year when it snowed, we just knew we couldn’t have games. It was just blocking out weeks at a time,” Percival said. “This year you’re living day to day; I think this is worse. Last year we just revamped schedules and started over. This spring you’re living day by day and trying to manage it all. It’s a puzzle. And this week’s really done a number because of field conditions.”

Outdoor artificial turf can pay off during these weather conditions, when natural-grass fields have been turned into wet slop. Eastview’s lacrosse field is grass, so two home lacrosse games have been moved to the original visiting schools’ turf fields; boys at Burnsville and girls at Bloomington Kennedy.

The forecast calls for improved conditions next week, but the high number of already-postponed events could mean games are played at a furious pace before postseason play begins.

“That’s the thing,” said Apple Valley athletic director Pete Buesgens. “Once it gets dry, what do you do? You want to keep the safety of kids in mind and not play nine games in five days or something like that.”

Administrators are doing all they can to find games for their varsity teams, but junior-varsity, sophomore and other lower-level teams are sometimes left without games or even practices.

“You really feel bad for lower levels,” Buesgens said. “You want to get varsity games in because you’ve got sections coming up, so you’ll drop a lower-level game because you have one field open. Today we have one field available at our place, so we cancelled our lower-level baseball because that was all we had.”

Geography can mean a lot in Minnesota, with conditions in the southern part of the state often better than in the north. The softball team from Hermantown, for example, will play in an eight-team tournament hosted by Eastview this weekend.

Hermantown coach Tom Bang called Percival this week and asked, “Is there any chance when we get to town (Friday) that’s there’s any dirt? Because we haven’t been on a dirt field yet.”

Percival said, “Everything will work as long as the weather cooperates the rest of the spring.”

Cross your fingers.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 431
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,578
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
National Hall of Fame Preparations For Chisholm's McDonald4/30/2014
CHISHOLM – Bob McDonald was slowly walking across the basketball court inside tiny Roels Gymnasium, the home of Chisholm Bluestreaks basketball since 1921. McDonald, who retired at the close of the 2013-14 season after 59 years as a high school basketball coach, was being filmed as he walked and talked Tuesday morning.

He was asked about his memories, which have been shaped by his upbringing in Chisholm as well as his 53 years as coach of the Bluestreaks boys team. McDonald, 80, looked up into the balcony that surrounds the court on two sides as the memories flowed. He talked about all the people who came to the games many years ago, always sitting in the same places, always cheering for the Bluestreaks. Most of them are gone now, but the coach remembers.

“I can look up there and see their faces, even today,” he said.

The video crew was from the National Federation of State High School Associations. McDonald will be one of 12 inductees into the National High School Hall of Fame during the NFHS convention in Boston this summer, and interviewer Laura Allen and videographer Rick Waggener are traveling around the country to conduct interviews with all 12. During the Hall of Fame banquet, videos about each inductee will be shown.

Allen asked McDonald about his career highlights, his six children (who all became basketball coaches), what Chisholm has meant to him, etc. Allen and the coach sat on folding chairs on the gym floor for much of the interview time, with other segments being filmed as he walked across the court, stood in the balcony overlooking the court, and pointing to a photo of the 1950 Bluestreaks team (with McDonald sitting in the front row) in the gym lobby.

The camera also rolled as McDonald sat in his favorite booth at at the McDonald’s restaurant in Chisholm, which is where he and family and friends gathered after most home games.

The Hall of Fame banquet will be held July 2 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place hotel. The other inductees include former NBA star Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who scored more than 3,000 points during his three-year basketball career at Treadwell High School in Memphis, Tennessee, from 1987 to 1990; 13-year NFL player Ozzie Newsome, who was a three-sport standout (football, basketball, baseball) at Colbert County High School in Leighton, Alabama, in the early 1970s; and former major league baseball player Casey Blake, who was named the top male high school athlete in Iowa in 1992 at the conclusion of his four-sport, four-year career at Indianola High School.

Other inductees include Michael Devereaux, one of the greatest athletes in Wyoming history at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper (1979-81); Suzy Powell, one of the top discus throwers at all levels of competition beginning with her days at Thomas Downey High School in Modesto, California, until her retirement in 2012; Sheryl Solberg from the North Dakota High School Activities Association; coaches from Arkansas, Ohio and Vermont; an official from Colorado; and a performing arts inductee from Missouri.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 429
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,556
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn