John's Journal
Luke Moorhead Beat Cancer, Now Plays Top-Level Tennis6/4/2014
Watching Luke Moorhead play in the state tennis tournament might seem like a run-of-the-mill endeavor for those who are unaware of the Mound Westonka sophomore’s history. Moorhead defeated Foley sophomore Zach Kantor at No. 1 singles in Wednesday’s Class 1A fifth-place team match, and both players gave maximum effort in a grind-it-out contest that lasted nearly 90 minutes.

Moorhead is ranked second among Class 1A singles players, and 1A singles and doubles competition will be held Thursday and Friday at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in south Minneapolis. The top-ranked singles player is Blake junior Charlie Adams, the defending state champ who defeated Moorhead in last year’s semifinals.

Moorhead (pictured) and Adams, who frequently practice together, could meet once more in Friday morning’s semifinals.

“The next two days will be interesting,” Luke said Wednesday. “I could have a good semifinal match with Charlie, although I don’t want to look ahead, past two tough opponents ahead of me. But it will be an exciting two days.”

That Luke is able to play tennis is a pretty exciting proposition, as well. He was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia when he was 14 months old and underwent chemotherapy and other treatments until being given a clean bill of health at age 5. But in his case, “clean bill of health” might be a little misleading.

Side effects of those long-ago cancer treatments mean Luke’s organs are enlarged, he has limited hearing in one ear, and he undergoes surgery every two years to – as his mother, Tricia, explained – “clean up his organs.” The next round of surgery is a month away.

“He has to work extra hard to be out here and it has taken him a while to adjust to those kinds of things,” Tricia said. “He had a great coach when he was young, early on, who really worked with that kind of stuff and kind of got him on the right path. He has to work, this doesn’t come easy. He has to put the time in.”

Luke first qualified for state as an eighth-grader, playing doubles with Arend Turner. He finished fourth in singles a year ago. His introduction to tennis came while he was undergoing cancer treatments; Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota holds an annual event called the Pine Tree Apple Tennis Classic, benefitting cancer research.

After learning about the event, Luke’s parents decided to attend. That was the first time Luke saw the game played, and he immediately picked up a racket.

“It is his passion,” his mother said. “He fell in love with the game and started playing tennis based on that tournament.”

Luke said he doesn’t remember much from his cancer treatments, which is one of the benefits of going through it at such a young age.

“I didn’t really know what was going on,” he said. As for things like hearing loss and enlarged organs, his attitude is what you might expect from a determined and dedicated athlete.

“There are still a few side effects, but they’re minor,” he said. “I don’t care about that because I survived. I’ll take the side effects.”

Boys Team Tennis Championship Results

Class 1A
Title Match/ Blake defeated Rochester Lourdes 5-2
Third-Place Match/ Breck defeated Thief River Falls 7-0
Fifth-Place Match/ Foley defeated Mound Westonka 4-3

Class 2A
Title Match/ Wayzata defeated Minnetonka 5-2
Third-Place Match/ East Ridge defeated Elk River 4-3
Fifth-Place Match/ Mounds View defeated St. Cloud Tech 6-1

*Schools/teams John has visited: 545
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,180
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
District Football Is Set For 2015 Season And Beyond6/2/2014
Football has been a major topic at meetings of the MSHSL board of directors for a long time, specifically a problem that many football teams deal with on a regular basis: finding enough games to fill the eight-game regular-season schedule.

At Monday’s board meeting, a completely new format for regular-season football was approved. The plan, called District Football, will reorganize teams into 18 districts across the state with the goal of eliminating the issue of filling schedules.

To see lists of districts and schools, click on “District Football 2015-16, 2016-17” on the MSHSL home page. Scroll to the bottom of that story and click on the link titled “District Lists and Maps.”

Here are some important points about District Football …

--It will begin in 2015. That means nothing will change this fall (2014).

--District football will have no impact on the postseason. Current section alignments will continue for section playoffs and the state tournament.

--This affects football only and no other sports.

--Districts will have between 12 and 28 teams, many with teams from different classes.

--Districts are labeled by names instead of numbers: West, South, Big Southeast, East Central, Mid State, etc.

--In most cases, districts will have the option of setting up sub-districts within the district. This means there will be plenty of scheduling flexibility.

--Schools in each district will meet to produce schedules for each team in the district. The MSHSL will not be involved in scheduling.

--In most cases, traditional rivalries will continue if the schools choose to do so. Each school with a football team filled out a form prior to the districts being created, and they were encouraged to list the rivalries they would like to continue.

MSHSL associate director Kevin Merkle worked on the plan, along with a 10-member committee that placed schools into districts. It was unanimously approved by the MSHSL activity directors advisory committee before the board of directors gave its unanimous approval Monday.

“Everyone needs to keep in mind that this is just a step in the process of developing actual schedules for our member schools,” Merkle said. “Some districts have a wide range in size and geography, but once the districts determine their sub-district alignments, most of the enrollment and geographical issues will be solved.”

In other news from Monday’s meeting …

--The board approved adding Academic Decathlon to the umbrella of MSHSL activities. The MSHSL will be a presenting partner of Academic Decathlon, as it is with robotics and clay target shooting.

--The board approved a proposal to have home schools pay the same membership/activity fees that all other members schools do.

--In discussing implementing a transgender policy, no decisions were made. Members asked that more information be provided before the next board meeting in August.

--The board did not approve a recommendation from dance team, which wanted to add an additional level of competition in which sections cross over to advance the “best” teams to state, not necessarily by geography. After discussing the request, no board member made a motion for a vote.

--The board approved a request from Nordic skiing to have two teams per section advance to state instead of the current one team.

--The board approved a slight change in Class 1A boys diving, allowing one more diver per section to advance to state.

The board also …

--Approved the hiring of an additional IT staff member at the MSHSL office.

--Honored Elaine Taggatz, who is retiring as state coordinator of gymnastics officials.

--Recognized board members whose terms ended Monday: Laurie Esau, Mike Kolness, Mike Manning and John Hamann.

Sauk Rapids-Rice principal Erich Martens was elected board vice president for 2014-15. He will become president in 2015-16.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 527
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,110
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
District Football Plan Tops Agenda For MSHSL Board Of Directors 5/30/2014
Some major decisions could be made Monday when the MSHSL board of directors meets at MSHSL headquarters in Brooklyn Center. The board will take on a busy agenda, with football probably drawing the most interest.

The board is expected to hear a proposal for the structure of district football, which will begin in the 2015 season. A committee from around the state has been holding meetings to put together district lineups, from which members of each district will create their own schedules.

District football, which has been adopted in order to help schools fill their eight-game regular-season schedules, will have no impact on the postseason. Teams will remain in designated sections for playoff games. The board may approve the plan or request that changes be made.

Elsewhere on the agenda, election of board officers for the 2014-15 school year will be held. The vice president/president-elect for 2014-15 is St. Charles activities director Scott McCready. Three board members are candidates to be the next vice president/president-elect: Montevideo activities director Bob Grey, Jackson County Central softball coach Shelly Hotzler, and Sauk Rapids-Rice principal Erich Martens. Public member Steve Eklund of Stanchfield is the current treasurer and will remain in that position in 2014-15, with no other board members running.

The board will also consider adding Academic Decathlon as an MSHSL activity, will consider adopting a transgender policy, consider approving speech material for 2014-15, consider a change in policy for home schools and consider a proposal to add to the MSHSL staff.

The board will hear several advisory recommendations regarding winter activities, which are …

--Dance Team: Coaches are looking to add an additional level of competition where sections cross over to advance the “best” teams to state, not necessarily by geography.

--Nordic Skiing: Asking that two teams per section advance to state instead of the current one team. The plan will reduce the number of competitors who qualify as individuals by two.

--Diving: In boys Class A, they would like to advance one more diver per section to state.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday. To follow the developments in real time, follow @MSHSLjohn on Twitter.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 527
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,110
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Another Girls Track Record Falls; Congrats to Minnetonka’s Mia Barron5/28/2014
For the second time this spring, a girls state track record has been set. This one took place Tuesday in the Class 2A Section 6 championships at Wayzata High School.

Minnetonka senior Mia Barron (pictured) set a state record in the long jump with a winning distance of 19 feet, 10 inches. The previous girls state long jump record was 19-5 1/4, set by Alexandria's Wensia Johnson last season.

Barron was the Class 2A state champion in the long jump last season, jumping 18-3 in the state meet at Hamline University. She also finished second in the triple jump at state a year ago.This season, Barron has the state’s top mark in the triple jump, going 39-8 in the Joe Lane Invitational at Minnetonka on April 22. The girls state record in the triple jump is 41-1 ¾ by Wayzata’s Jordan Helgren in 2008.

Earlier this spring, Kasson-Mantorville junior Taylor Wiebke broke the girls state record in the high jump, 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.
700 Club: Brainerd, St. Cloud Cathedral Coaches Reach Milestone5/21/2014
Lowell Scearcy and Bob Karn joined an elite club this week, becoming the second and third Minnesota high school baseball coaches to record 700 career victories. Brainerd’s Scearcy is in his 45th season and got No. 700 with a 10-3 victory over Rocori on Monday; St. Cloud Cathedral’s Karn is in season 44 and reached the milestone when the Crusaders defeated Mora 15-0 on Tuesday.

The all-time leader is New Ulm coach Jim Senske, who retired in 2005 with 707 victories during a 40-year career.

That’s a pretty exclusive club.

“They are great coaches, tremendous coaches, tremendous guys,” Karn said of Senske and Scearcy (pictured). “It’s a very special kind of thing. As long as we can put in the headline that I was the coach of the team that won; we don’t like headlines that say ‘The coach won 700 games.’ The coach didn’t win 700 games. It’s teams that win and it’s teams representing schools that allow players to have that kind of experience.”

Scearcy, 68, and Karn, 72, have a lot in common, most notably their careers as baseball coaches. Brainerd has gone to state 10 times since Scearcy became coach 42 years ago (after he taught and coached in Pillager and Verndale) and the Warriors won state championships in 1995 and 2000. Karn, who has spent his entire career at Cathedral, has taken 17 teams to state, winning seven titles.

But the two coaches also have differences. Scearcy like to ride his motorcycle; Karn is a daily practicioner of tai chi, a Chinese martial art that focuses on relaxation, emotional control and balance. Scearcy is an old-school coach and retired math teacher who can be equal parts gruff and giggles; Karn still teaches literature classes part-time and is more zen master than drill sergeant.

When asked about reaching 700 wins, the responses of the two shed light on their temperaments and coaching styles.

Scearcy: “Jim Senske told me that if you hang around long enough, pretty soon they start to give you stuff. It turned out to be true. I never thought I’d be around this long. It just kind of happens. We’ve got a good bunch of kids and it’s been fun.”

Karn (pictured): “It’s the families of the kids that have brought them up so that they respect the game, help each other to get better, and in our case, being a Catholic school, the religious part is important; the blessing of the Lord to allow us to be healthy enough to play the game. Those are the things that make it so valuable. Anything in isolation isn’t of any value. It’s only in the context of all those things.”

Neither coach is talking about retiring, saying that as long as they are healthy and feel good they will continue coming to the ballpark. And both of them have teams that could go deep into the postseason. Brainerd took a 15-2 record into a game Wednesday at Alexandria and Cathedral was 16-1 before playing Foley the same day. Cathedral is ranked No. 2 in Class 2A and Brainerd is No. 9 in Class 3A.

Scearcy, who graduated from high school in Pillager in 1963, has also coached football, basketball, track and cross-country, and he worked as a basketball and football official for many years. He was an assistant football coach at Central Lakes College in Brainerd for 35 years and has been the head football coach at Pillager since 2007.

Keith Peterson, who has been Scearcy’s assistant baseball coach for 26 years, said one of Scearcy’s strengths is that he’s very predicable.

“Over the years he’s stressed fundamental baseball and stayed with it. He’s very much a stickler for a high percentage of strikes from the pitchers, good defense, and we spend a lot of time in practice hitting. I think I’ve probably thrown more batting practice than anyone else over the last 25 years.

“There’s a well-organized practice behind every win. That’s the thing that I’ve noticed; you have to prepare to win.”

Karn graduated from Cathedral in 1959 and returned as a teacher and coach in 1969. At a recent reception for faculty and staff, he was honored as the longest-serving employee in Cathedral’s 129-year history.

Karn served two stints as the Crusaders’ head boys basketball coach, and one of his former assistants is current St. John’s University head football coach Gary Fasching. Fasching arrived at Cathedral in 1982 and was Karn’s assistant basketball coach for 10 years. Fasching’s son Jeff is a senior captain on the baseball team and will play collegiately at the University of Minnesota.

“There’s no one like him,” Gary Fasching said. “Our kids are so lucky and fortunate that they get to play for him. Number one, Bob has the right perspective on sports. He teaches more than the game. The advice he gives them, the books he has the kids read. My son has brought home a lot of books that he’s had to read for Bob, and they’re all geared toward making yourself better. It’s not just as a baseball player, but as a person.”

With Scearcy and Karn both in the 700 club, their players are thinking about getting them past Senske’s 707. That would be possible with a successful postseason run.

“It means a lot to us to play for a coach that good and that distinguished,” said Jeff Fasching. “But 700 wasn’t really on our radar; it’s the 707 number that we want.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 507
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,038
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn