John's Journal
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
Lakeville South's Swiss Army Knife Among Stars At Elite Meet 4/26/2014
Track and field is a sport for specialists. There are sprinters and distance runners, throwers and jumpers, hurdlers and pole vaulters. This makes Shaina Burns a remarkable athlete, because the Lakeville South senior is the Swiss army knife of track and field athletes.

Burns (pictured) was the individual star of Friday’s Hamline Elite Meet, winning the shot put and 100-meter hurdles and finishing second in the 300-meter hurdles and anchoring the Cougars’ 4x400 relay to a runner-up finish. Had she done the same at last year’s Class 2A state meet she would have accumulated 44 points … which would have given her a third-place finish in the team competition all by herself.

“She’s one of a kind,” Lakeville South coach Andy Hilliard said. “Where are you going to find that combination? It’s just a very unique skill set that she has, she trains hard and she puts a lot of time into it.”

Burns set one of 13 meet records Friday at the ninth annual Elite Meet, winning the 100 hurdles in 14.60 seconds. Also in the field was defending 2A state champ Rachel Schow of Rosemount and hurdlers who finished second, third and fifth at state in 2013.

In the shot put Burns set a personal best of 44 feet, 6 inches. Her second-place time in the 300 hurdles beat the meet record, as did first-place Schow. And in the 4x400, Burns and teammates Rachel Mickelson, Haley Lubow and Caraline Slattery finished a close second to Minnetonka.

“Oh man, it was a crazy day,” Burns said after the meet. “This is my last year at Hamline so there are mixed feelings. I was super excited but it was a little sentimental and sad at the same time. I started out really great; I PR’d in the shot put and won that, in the 100 hurdles I pulled out a win and a meet record. I was really excited about that one. I was a little tired by 300 hurdles and 4x4. I still ran decent times but I could have done better. It’s early in the season.”

Burns will continue her track career at Texas A&M. She will compete in the 400 hurdles as well as the heptathlon; she won the Intermediate division of the heptathlon at the USATF National Junior Olympics in 2012.


Friday’s meet at Hamline featured a couple of breakout stars who probably surprised even themselves. In the boys 1,600 meters, Farmington junior Justin Hyytinen outran Richfield senior Obsa Ali in a meet-record time of 14:04.05. Ali won the 3,200 at last year’s 2A state meet and last fall won the 2A state cross-country title. And Eagan senior Jacob Gourley won the 100, 200 and anchored the Wildcats’ winning 4x200 relay team.

Hyytenin said he had never before finished close to Ali on the track or in cross-country. But a winter dedicated to running is making a difference.

“It’s hard to believe, it almost seems like I’m in a dream,” he said. “I was always one of those guys who was like, ‘Wow, look at that kid.’ But two nights ago a college coach told me, ‘You’re one of those kids now.’ It’s kind of surreal.”

Gourley finished sixth in the 100 at last year’s state meet and didn’t qualify for state in the 200. He struggled with a stress fracture in his left shin last spring.

“I was feeling pretty good coming into today but I didn’t expect three titles at all,” he said. “Over the winter I kind of had a fire under my butt. Sixth place (at state) was definitely not what I imagined. But this year I definitely put in the most work I ever have, put in a bunch of rehab and obviously it’s paying off for me.”


--Sophomore Alexandria sisters Megan and Bethany Hasz (pictured) finished first and third in the 3,200, building a resume that includes first- (Bethany) and second-place (Megan) finishes at last fall’s 2A state cross-country championships.

“Knowing that we were the top in the state in cross-country, it’s really a nice boost of confidence,” Megan said Friday.

--Minnetonka's Mia Barton won the girls long and jump triple jump. Her winning distance in the long jump was 19-2 3/4; the state record is 19-5 1/4.

--The Minnetonka girls won the 4x400 (Rebecca Moore, Meghan Janssen, Lucille Hoelscher, Elizabeth Endy) and 4x800 relays ( Meaghan Borowski, Janssen, Hoelscher, Endy).

--Wayzata won the boys 4x100 (Keante' Johnson, Steele Berg, Anthony Clarke , Joseph Kolpin ) and 4x400 (Tyler Didier, Obinnaya Wamuo, Mitchell Walber, Michael Smith).

--Payton Otterdahl of Rosemount won the boys discus and shot put.

--Jordan Feder of Nevis won one for the Class 1A schools, topping the field in the high jump with a leap of 6-6. The runner-up was another 1A athlete, West Spier of Caledonia-Spring Grove. Another winner from Class 1A was Jon Tollefson of St. Croix Lutheran in the 110 hurdles.

--Hands down the best name at the Hamline Elite Meet: Farmington hurdler Nehemiah Rockett.

--To see a photo gallery from the Hamline Elite Meet, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 428
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,106
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
State Track Champions Abound At Friday’s Hamline Elite Meet 4/24/2014
The Hamline Elite Meet has become one of the premier events of the high school track and field season. The ninth annual Elite Meet will be held Friday at Hamline University in St. Paul, beginning at 5:30 p.m. And as usual, many of Minnesota’s top athletes will compete.

Entries for the Elite Meet are based on performances so far this spring. The top nine submitted entries for each event are accepted and all races are finals (with the exception of the boys and girls 100 meters, in which 18 runners qualify and prelim races are held). As is always the case at the Elite Meet, the field includes a raft of defending state champions.

Friday’s field includes 21 athletes who were state champions last season. Eight of those champs won titles in the Class 2A girls state meet, five come from 1A girls, five from 1A boys and three from 2A boys.

Among the marquee events Friday will be the girls and boys 1,600 meters. The girls entrants include the top three from the 2013 Class 2A state meet: champion Jenna Truedson of Bemidji, runner-up Tess Misgen of Shakopee and third-place Rachel King of St. Michael-Albertville.

The boys 1,600 field includes defending state champs Eli Krahn of Stillwater in 2A and Shane Streich of Waseca in 1A, as well as Obsa Ali of Richfield (state champ in the 3,200 and third-place finisher in the 1,600) and the second- and third-place 1A state finishers, Nick Golebiowski of St. Cloud Cathedral and Keeghan Hurley of Perham.

The girls 300 hurdles field includes state champs Rachel Schow of Rosemount (2A) and Taylor Grandgenett of Blue Earth (1A). Schow also is the defending 2A state champ in the 100 hurdles; also in that event Friday are the second- and third-place 2A state finishers, Michaela Preahchuk of Lakeville North and Alex Williams of Blaine.

The girls high jump field includes the top three finishers at state in 2A a year ago: Caraline Slattery of Lakeville South, Taylor Wiebke of Kasson-Mantorville and Morgan Pieri of Lakeville South.

The fields for these events also include defending state champions from both Class 1A and Class 2A …

--Girls pole vault/ Andy Jacobs of Rochester Century (2A) and Carolyn Nye of Blake (1A).

--Girls triple jump/ Piper Jensen of Minnetonka (2A) and Katie Heilman of Watertown-Mayer (1A).

Other athletes and events of note …

--Tyler Beehler of Foley is the defending 1A state champion in the 100 and 200.

--Jon Tollefson of St. Croix Lutheran is the defending 1A champ in the 100 and 300 hurdles.

--The top three state finishers in the 1A girls 100 are in Friday’s field: Vanessa Lane of Pequot Lakes, Haley Jensen of Martin County West and Claire Oberle of Holy Family Catholic.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 428
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,064
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Detroit Lakes Opens Girls Golf Season With A Bang4/22/2014
BRAINERD – The Legacy golf courses at Cragun’s Resort opened for the season on Saturday. Two days later, 14 high school girls teams gathered for the first big tournament of 2014, the Cardinal Invitational hosted by Staples-Motley.

Season opener or not, it appears that the team from Detroit Lakes is already in great shape. The Lakers are the two-time defending state champions in Class 2A, and they put on a show Monday in winning the team title by 37 shots. Detroit Lakes’ total was 305, followed in the top five by Alexandria 342, Minnewaska 354, Pequot Lakes 356 and Staples-Motley 366.

In the individual competition, Detroit Lakes sophomore Kate Smith finished first with a 2-under-par 70 and senior teammate Natalie Roth was second with a 72. The next players, finishing at 78, were Emily Israelson of Staples-Motley, Mandy Boyle of Moorhead and Amanda Bigger of Alexandria.

Smith and Roth are familiar names because they shared the individual title in last year’s 2A state meet at Ridges of Sand Creek in Jordan. The journey from Cragun’s on Monday to the 2014 state meet June 10-11 in Jordan will go quickly, and the Lakers are excited about pursuing a third consecutive state championship.

“The pressure’s definitely on,” said Smith, who hit every green Monday except the final three holes. “I feel it. You can’t just ignore it, you accept it and keep going.”

There is pressure to repeat as individual and state team champs, but there also is pressure within the team itself, pressure to compete with teammates for spots on the roster.

“It’s fun pressure,” Roth said. “We motivate each other so much. It’s a good competition and that’s what builds a strong team.”

Detroit Lakes’ two state titles have been earned on the backs of young players. Experience, however, is a strength this spring with four seniors on the squad.

“This team has been together for five seasons,” said Lakers coach Cali Harrier. “It’s kind of an emotional season for us, with four seniors. They’re good teammates and they also push each other. The six of them will be competing for the spots on the team, which prepares them.”

A few inches of snow fell at Cragun’s last week, but there were very few remnants of snow on the course Monday. Temperatures were in the upper 50s and the wind kicked up on occasion, but the picturesque course was in exceptional condition.

“The wind was a factor for a couple of shots,” Smith said. “It wasn’t just a one-club wind, it really affected your shots. Sometimes the wind is fun, it makes it a little more challenging. I just had a lot of fun today.”

Staples-Motley coach and tournament director Glen Hasselberg said, “A week ago, the likelihood of this event happening was not very good.”

But the tournament went off without a hitch. After a short awards ceremony in the clubhouse, there was a wonderful display of sportsmanship and appreciation. As they walked to the parking lot for the drive home, every player and every coach shook Hasselberg’s hand and offered their thanks for a great event.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 420
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,000
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn