John's Journal
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
Coming From Behind To Win State Championships 6/16/2014
There were two comeback stories Monday afternoon at Target Field. One involved a team that posted come-from-behind victories to reach the state title game, and the other a team that put together a miraculous come-from-behind win to capture a state championship.

New Life Academy, making its first appearance in the Class 1A state tournament, took home the title with a 5-4 victory over New York Mills. St. Cloud Cathedral rallied with four runs in the seventh inning to beat Fairmont 5-4 in the Class 2A title game.

The Class 3A title game between Mounds View and Eden Prairie was postponed by heavy rain and was rescheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday at Target Field. In addition, the boys lacrosse state championship game between Eden Prairie and Rosemount, scheduled for Monday night at Chanhassen; it was rescheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Rosemount (the higher seed).

New Life finished with a 14-6 record last season. That maybe didn’t portend a big run in 2014, but second-year coach Dave Darr was optimistic before the season began.

“We talked about getting here. This was a serious goal,” he said. “We thought we had the opportunity, with the individual talent and the pitching and the depth that we had, to do it. Teams make a goal to get here but we felt we had a good chance. You have to be lucky, and we were very lucky in beating a couple of teams to get here.”

The Eagles lost to Mayer Lutheran in the Section 4 playoffs and had to fight their way through the loser’s bracket and then beat Heritage Christian twice to advance to state. They got to Target Field with a 3-2, eight-inning win over defending state champion BOLD in Friday’s semifinals at Chaska.

In Monday’s game, Matthew Palkovich and Sam Horner each drove in two runs and John Horner (four innings) and Sam Horner (three innings) combined on the mound.

“It’s all these guys,” Darr said. “They’ve worked their tails off these last three months and when we absolutely needed to come through, we did. That’s a testament to these guys.

“This is amazing. You hope you can get here one day, and to win the whole thing, I don’t know if I can explain the feeling. I’m really, really proud of these guys. I love them to death.”

Unlike New Life, Cathedral is no stranger to baseball state championships. The Crusaders now own eight first-place trophies, with the previous crowns coming in 1980, 1988, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2011. Cathedral's Bob Karn, the state’s all-time leader in baseball coaching wins, ended the season with 711 victories.

No. 711 was a doozy, too. Cathedral trailed Fairmont 4-1 after six innings, but the Crusaders put up four runs in the top of the seventh to take a 5-4 lead. A triple by Steven Neutzling drove in the tying and go-ahead runs. In the bottom of the seventh, Fairmont had runners on second and third when the game ended on a groundball.


New Life Academy’s Palkovich gets the award for predicting the state title. He did so before the season began, and it took place in a manner unfamiliar to those who are not up to date in the ways of social media.

It began when Palkovich sent a text to his girlfriend. I won’t name the young lady here, but Matthew told me, “She was actually my girlfriend at the time and still is, actually.”

His text to her said, “Hey, I’m calling it. We’re going to win state.”

“She posted it to Twitter and everyone saw it,” he said, wearing a big smile and a gold medal.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 665
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 13,052
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Memorable Season For Cathedral’s Karn: 710 Wins And A Heart Attack 6/14/2014
Two very memorable things happened to St. Cloud Cathedral’s Bob Karn this season. 1) He became’s the state all-time leader in baseball coaching victories; 2) He suffered a postseason heart attack.

The season will end Monday at Target Field when Cathedral meets Fairmont in the Class 2A state championship game. Win or lose, it has been quite a spring.

Karn, 72, leads the career victory category with 710 wins during 44 seasons as the Crusaders’ coach. New Ulm’s Jim Senske retired in 2005 with 707 wins and Brainerd’s Lowell Scearcy – whose team played in the Class 3A state tournament – ended the season with 706.

The heart attack came the day after the regular season ended. It was May 23, a Friday, and Karn was at the high school as the freshmen baseball players were turning in their uniforms.

Out of nowhere, he felt chest pains and began sweating profusely. “I thought, ‘This just isn’t normal, isn’t right,’ ” said Karn, whose father died of a heart attack.

He was driven to an urgent care facility, where it was immediately determined that he was having a heart attack. The next stop was St. Cloud Hospital and a very quick trip to surgery. One of the arteries in his heart was blocked and a stent was installed to allow blood to flow again.

“Through the amazing coordination of highly trained and skilled people, it took 18 minutes from the time I went into the operating room until they put the stent in and I was finished,” Karn said.

He spent two days in the hospital and was back in uniform on May 27 when the Crusaders opened Class 2A Section 6 tournament play. Eight postseason victories have followed and Cathedral will take a record of 26-1 into Monday’s 3 p.m. game against Fairmont (25-1).

Cathedral hasn’t lost since falling to Albany in its second game of the season and the Cardinals are unbeaten since a season-opening loss to New Ulm. The last time the teams met in the state tournament, Cathedral beat Fairmont 5-3 in the 2011 semifinals.

In the 2014 state tournament, top-seeded Cathedral has defeated Blake 5-1 and Glencoe-Silver Lake 6-0. Second-seeded Fairmont has beaten Aitkin 7-0 and Kasson-Mantorville 19-3 in five innings.

Karn said he is feeling “very good.” He goes to cardio rehab, is limited in how much he is allowed to lift but all restrictions should be removed in a few weeks.

The Cathedral baseball players learned about their coach’s heart attack right away, and assistant coach Charlie Burg took over until Karn returned. Burg coached third base for a time because doctors didn’t want Karn to be struck by batted balls.

Karn – who graduated from Cathedral in 1959, still teaches literature classes part-time and is the longest serving employee in school history -- said he told his players, “If you’re going to have a heart attack, make sure you have it close to a hospital that knows how to take care of heart attacks.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 665
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 13,002
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn