John's Journal
State Volleyball: Changing Of The Championship Guard 11/5/2013
This week’s state volleyball tournament will have a bit of a new look, especially in the category of returning state champions. Two-time defending champ Marshall in Class 2A is the only team carrying that banner this week, with longtime tournament regulars Bethlehem Academy (1A) and Lakeville North (3A) losing in section finals.

The tournament begins Thursday with quarterfinal games at Xcel Energy Center, semifinals will be held Friday and championship matches will be played Saturday. The tournament will be webcast by

Bethlehem Academy lost to Fillmore Central in the Section 1 championship match. That result not only interrupted Bethlehem Academy’s lengthy streak of state berths, but it also assured Fillmore Central of its first trip to state in any girls sport. Fillmore Central is the No. 1 seed in Class 1A.

Bethehem Academy was the state champion the last two years and also claimed titles in 2009, 2007, 2005 and 2003, along with runner-up finishes in 2008, 2006, 2004 and 2002. The Cardinals had been to every state volleyball tournament except one since 2002. They missed state in 2010, when Wabasha-Kellogg represented Section 1 and won the state title.

In 3A, defending state champ Lakeville North lost to Eagan in the Section 3 final. North has played in state championship matches the last three years, winning titles in 2010 and last year. The Panthers also played at state 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 (all as Lakeville High), 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Eagan’s return ends a seven-year state tourney hiatus for the Wildcats, who won state championships in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003.

Marshall is at state for the 13th year in a row, and the Tigers won state titles in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012. This is Marshall’s 25th trip to state, which is a state record.

Here are some other tournament tidbits…

--Delano (3A) coach Rebecca Rue is the daughter of Ada-Borup (1A) coach Ruth Hayden. This is the third time both have had teams at state.

--In 2A, Fergus Falls, Hill-Murray and Dassel-Cokato are all at state for the first time.

--No teams in the tournament have unbeaten records. Osseo (3A) has the fewest losses with a record of 28-1. Teams with two losses are Eagan (3A, 27-2), Grand Rapids (3A, 29-2) and Fillmore Central (1A, 33-2).

--On another topic, the MSHSL Facebook page reached a new milestone this week. We now have more than 13,000 “Likes.” Wow!

--Diet Coke Count: 11 for the fall state tournaments.


*Schools/teams John has visited:131
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,698
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
The search is on for the next Old Dutch Athlete of the Week!11/4/2013
After another great week of action, nominations are open for this prestigious statewide award. See all the details by clicking here.
A Cross-Country Day Filled With Big Wins, Wonderful Storylines 11/2/2013
NORTHFIELD – Saturday was one of the finest days for cross-country state championship storylines in memory. All four races – Class 2A and 1A for girls and boys – provided epic moments and wonderful hoopla on a gloriously sunny day at St. Olaf College.

We saw a runner sprint to a state title by running with one shoe. We saw twin sisters finish first and second. We saw a two-time state runner-up finally claim a gold medal. And we saw history in the first father-son duo to win state cross-country titles. Here’s a recap…


A year ago, Richfield’s Obsa Ali finished second, four scant seconds behind Wayzata senior Wayde Hall.

Ever since that day, Ali (pictured) has been thinking, pondering, imagining how it would feel to be the first runner to finish the picturesque, wooded 5,000-meter course at St. Olaf. But in his wildest dreams, Ali never ever could have imagined what took place Saturday.

He has been battling sore shins, which caused him to take two weeks off late in the season. He has been struggling with the flu and a bad head cold. And then the kicker: he finished the state championship wearing one shoe.

Another runner stepped on the heel of his right shoe during the race, causing the back of his foot to slip out. With 400 meters left in the race, he kicked off the kick and went on to cross the finish line two seconds ahead of Wayzata junior Connor Olson. Ali’s time of 15 minutes, 15.2 seconds was five seconds off the course record.

“I took it off and went for it,” he said. “It was messing with my head; ‘Should I stop?’ I just kicked it in (to the finish line).”

It was clear from Ali’s postgame demeanor that a state title was something he dearly wanted.

“It feels amazing. I feel like I just lost a thousand pounds, a huge weight off my back. It was keeping me up at night. This was my biggest, biggest goal since last year. It’s amazing.”

Isaiah Barlow of Hutchinson finished third, followed by Jacob McDermott of Cretin-Derham Hall and Zack Benning of Hastings.

Olson’s finish helped Wayzata claim the 2A boys team title with 53 points. Edina finished second (66) for the second year in a row and two-time defending champion Stillwater (99) was third.


When twins Bethany and Megan Hasz were born, Megan was the first to appear, followed by Bethany 29 minutes later. In Saturday’s 2A girls race, Bethany was first and Megan second, adding an Alexandria family flair to the finish.

A year ago Bethany (pictured) placed third and Megan was sixth. This time, there was no denying the twins. Bethany finished the 4,000 meters in 13:53.1 and Megan was next in 14:13.9, followed by Bemidji junior Jenna Truedson in 14:19.2. The top five finishers were all non-seniors, including fourth-place Anna Van Wyk, a junior from Eagan, and fifth-place Emily Betz, a junior from East Ridge.

Wayzata junior Anna French, who was second last year and ranked No. 1 in 2A this year, finished 14th.

“We knew Anna French was ranked ahead of us so we really didn’t know what would happen,” Bethany Hasz said. “But we definitely knew it was a possibility for one of us to win it.”

Wayzata captured the 2A girls team title for the second year in a row. The Trojans’ top finishers were ninth-grader Annika Lerdall (eighth) and senior Annika Halverson ( 11th).


Emi Trost knows all about finishing second at state. The Cannon Falls senior was the second-place runner each of the last two years, but her final high school cross-country race broke the pattern in a big way.

Trost (pictured) ran to victory with a winning time of 14:40.3, 10 seconds ahead of St. Paul Academy junior Mary Naas. Becca Wilkin of Trinity School at River Ridge was third, followed by Elizabeth Schlafke of Annandale and Courtney Alama of Annandale.

In each of the last two years Trost finished behind Blake’s Clare Flanagan. Flanagan is now a senior, as well, but did not compete in the postseason because of a knee injury; she was on crutches at the race Saturday. Even if Flanagan had been healthy, it would have made little difference in Trost’s race because Blake moved up to Class 2A this season.

Schlafke and Alama led Annandale, which placed second last year, to the 1A girls team crown with a total of 85 points. Second was Lac Qui Parle Valley with 113 and third was Perham with 138.


Perham senior Keeghan Hurley wanted to win a state championship for several reasons. But mostly for his dad, who knows how it feels to wear a gold medal. Don Hurley won Class 2A state titles in 1976 and 1977 running for Cretin High School in St. Paul. On Saturday, son joined father in that very exclusive club.

“This means so much to me and my father,” said Keeghan (pictured with Don), who finished fifth at state last year. “This is a really, really special moment for us and for Perham.”

Don had a few simple words for his son Saturday morning. “He just said, ‘I love you’ and ‘Go do it. Do the best you possibly can.’ And that’s what I did today.”

Keeghan’s time was 15:36.7. Placing second was Waseca junior Shane Streich, 14 seconds behind Hurley. Third was Rochester Lourdes senior Ian Torchia.

Perham also won the 1A boys team title for the second year in a row, with a total of 51 points. Yellowjackets senior Jayden Cullen placed third among team entrants and junior Billy Beseman was seventh. Mounds Park Academy was second with 111 points and St. Cloud Cathedral was third with 145.

Keeghan Hurley had envisioned winning at St. Olaf for a long time. During training runs near his home, he ran up and down hills while thinking of the final hill in Northfield … an uphill climb that leads to the home stretch and the finish line.

“I’ve just been picturing that last hill,” he said. “It was like a dream come true when I hit that hill. It was like, ‘I’ve already seen this, I know what’s going to happen.’ It was very, very cool.”

--To see photo galleries from all four races, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 2 for the day, 2 for the state cross-country tournament, 11 for the fall state tournaments.


*Schools/teams John has visited:131
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,698
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
The Old Dutch Athlete of the Week: Lydia Sutton, Blake soccer10/31/2013
Lydia Sutton, a senior multi-sport athlete at Blake, has been instrumental in Blake’s soccer success this fall, leading the Bears to a No. 1 ranking in Class 1A and a berth in Thursday’s state championship game against Benilde-St. Margaret’s.

In the state quarterfinals against Sartell-St. Stephen, Lydia scored a goal before three minutes had been played and the Bears went on to a 3-0 victory. In Tuesday’s state semifinals against Totino-Grace she scored in the second minute in leading the Bears to a 2-0 victory. This is Lydia’s fifth state soccer tournament, and she has also played in five state lacrosse tournaments, with a sixth possible in the spring.

She has committed to the University of Southern California to play lacrosse. She holds dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship and was a member of the 2013 Canadian Olympic lacrosse team that won a silver medal at the World Cup this past summer.

When Lydia isn't playing she volunteers as a youth lacrosse coach, which she describes as a passion to give back to the sport and to help the sport grow.

Congratulations to Lydia Sutton for being this week's Old Dutch High School Athlete of the week!
Congratulations To State Soccer Champions, Goodbye To The Dome10/31/2013
Read about Thursday's soccer state championship games, the last ones to be played in the Metrodome, by clicking here.