John's Journal
The Year In Review: Time For The Best Of The Best7/3/2013
I’ve been reliving the 2012-13 school year by sifting through the stories posted on John’s Journal; more than 200 of them since August. They provide a great reminder of the amazing things that take place every day across our state, and I am honored and humbled to write about all the people and places that make high school activities in Minnesota so special.

After driving nearly 10,500 miles during 2012-13 to schools, games and fine arts activities, I am ready to squeeze in a little summer vacation time. The time will go quickly and before you know it the 2013-14 calendar will be upon us. But before that happens, let’s look back at 2012-13 …

Shortly before the start of the 2011 season, St. Clair officials – noting a roster short on numbers and size -- forfeited all varsity games and played only junior varsity contests. In 2012, the Cyclones returned to varsity action and advanced to the Class 1A state playoffs.

When the Osseo Orioles (enrollment of almost 2,000 students) traveled to Nevis (fewer than 150), it was more than a volleyball match. The weekend included both teams coming together for pizza, a hayride, a football game, a bonfire, breakfast and finally a volleyball match. As Osseo coach Bill Quan explained, “Nevis opened its arms and put us first.”

Matt is legally blind, but that doesn’t stop him from competing on the wrestling and cross-country teams. He runs with a “guide” runner, both hanging onto a lanyard which keeps them connected yet allows each to run freely.

The 1952 Buffalo Bison played eight football games, winning seven and having one end in a scoreless tie. The most remarkable statistic is this: They did not give up a point all season. Sixty years later, they gathered as honored homecoming guests.

Franz Boelter of Bethlehem Academy, Dan Westby of Marshall and Walt Weaver of Lakeville North led their teams to state volleyball championships on the same day in November. All three are class people and great ambassadors for their schools and their sport.

One family in Breckenridge was very grateful for the blessings they have received. They are especially thankful that the phrase “cancer-free” can now be spoken. Jack Hiedeman, 16, who plays football, basketball and baseball at Breckenridge, was diagnosed with lymphoma in May 2011. Jack completed cancer treatments in 2012. “We live in a community that kept Jack in their prayers all the time,” said his mother, Ann. “We always felt great support from the town and the school.”

During an interview early in the basketball season, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva star Carlie Wagner was asked this question: Looking back to two years ago, how is your life different? “What’s different? I have more Facebook friends, that’s about the only thing that’s different.”

The senior hockey goaltender is quick on her skates, she uses her stick to efficiently sweep away pucks and has a great glove hand … even though there is no hand inside the glove. Caitlin was born without a right hand.

When Rhett McDonald was named boys basketball coach at Duluth East, he became the third branch of Minnesota’s No. 1 coaching family. His grandfather is Chisholm’s Bob McDonald, who has coached for 57 years. Rhett McDonald was coached by his father, Mike, at Cambridge-Isanti High School.

Harvey became a teacher and coach in Fulda in 1980. He taught sixth grade and was head or assistant coach of basketball, football and track teams. He helped run the elementary basketball program, had a hand in summer recreation programs and worked as a volleyball official for 10 years. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2005, and on a winter Saturday he was honored at a girls-boys basketball doubleheader and fundraiser.

Minnetonka came away with a 4-3 victory in the state semifinals, scoring the game-winner in the sixth overtime around 1 a.m. Remarkably, both teams played again – and won – later that same day.

The KoMets won their first state title a short time after 14 of them were trapped in a hotel elevator. “For the first five minutes, it was fun,” said Noah Ryan, “and then we got worried.”

Before the Cardinals’ first trip to the girls state basketball tournament, Kaelin was a reserve who averaged 2.53 points and had made seven three-point shots all season. But in Upsala’s 66-51 loss to Bethlehem Academy, she scored a game-high 23 points and made seven of 10 three-point shots (tying the tournament record for three-point baskets).

Before the Warriors met Apple Valley in the boys basketball state quarterfinals, the players and coaches did what they always do, standing in a semi-circle on the three-point line, hands on their hearts. After losing the game, the giant contingent of Brainerd fans stood and applauded their boys.

Since 1968, Mike has called the boys state basketball tourney every year but one for KDHL in Faribault. That’s 45 years and a heck of a run. Mike has now retired and he will be missed .

The St. Francis athlete, who finished her career as the state record-holder in the discus and shot put, was asked about competing when she knew no one else could come close to her distances. “For me, throwing is not about winning the meet, it’s about doing better than I’ve ever done,” she said. “I just want to do better than I did before, even if it’s an inch.”

As bad spring weather wiped out all sorts of events, the Cardinals (enrollment 74) made a 300-mile round trip to compete at Minnetonka’s Joe Lane Invitational against the host school (2,750 students), Burnsville (2,530), Rochester Century (1,275) and Minneapolis Patrick Henry (747).

The senior from Houston was asked about her injuries from a February car accident. “My elbow, my jaw, my nose, my eye, my foot, my ankle, my femur. And my fibula, because the emergency brake went through my shin.” Amazingly, she was back on the softball field 11 weeks later. “She is hands down the toughest kid I have ever met,” Houston athletic director Casey Indra said.

Wessel collapsed on the field during a game in Wadena, died twice and was brought back to life, thanks to people in the stands who rushed to his rescue. Jay Stewart of Glenwood and Gary Bentz of Browerville are trained first responders, as is Long Prairie police officer Ryan Hanson.

“I have never seen anyone die before and he died twice, right in front of me, said Daryl Oja, Dan’s umpiring partner. “He was not breathing or responding and they were able to bring him back. Those three guys are heroes because they knew what they were doing.”

Dan underwent triple-bypass surgery and will recover completely. There’s no better ending than that.


*Schools/teams John has visited: 747
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,628
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
New Coaches At Andover And New ADs In Region 1A7/1/2013
It was announced last week that Andover boys basketball coach Nick Tibesar had been named interim coach at Wayzata, where Phil Ward stepped down after 17 seasons.

Tibesar, a former Wayzata assistant coach, was Andover's head coach for the past two years and led the Huskies to the state tournament last season.

Andover has named Matt Aune as the Huskies' new boys basketball coach. Aune has been an assistant coach at Andover since 2008.

Also, Robb Belschner has been named girls’ basketball coach after the resignation of Ray Brodeur. Like Aune, Belschner has been an assistant coach at Andover.

--Several new activities directors have been named at schools in Region 1A in southeastern Minnesota. They are ...

Caledonia – Paul DeMorett

Chatfield – Dan Schindler

Leroy-Ostrander – Joseph Kuechenmeister

Rushford-Peterson – Dan Bieberdorf
Several Short Items Of Note … (With Updates)6/26/2013
Things are quiet on the competitive front, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t happening with high school activities. Here are a few news items…

--Congratulations to St. Cloud Tech grad Nate Wolters and Roseville grad Mike Muscala, who were selected in Thursday night's NBA draft. After several trades, Nate is now a member of the Milwaukee Bucks and Mike is with the Atlanta Hawks.

--Former Eastview girls basketball coach Paul Goetz is the school's new boys basketball coach. In 14 years, his girls teams made four trips to state. He stepped down as girls coach three years ago in order to watch his son Garrett play basketball at Rosemount.

--After 17 seasons, Phil Ward is retiring as boys basketball coach at Wayzata High School. Former assistant Nick Tibesar has been named interim Wayzata coach. He was Andover's head coach for the past two years and led the Huskies to state last season. (Full details of the Wayzata coaching change and interim/permanent coaching situation are posted on the MSHSL Facebook page.)

--1992 Staples-Motley High School graduate Dave Joerger has been named head coach by the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. He has been a Grizzlies assistant coach for six years.

--Congratulations to Eden Prairie graduate Nick Leddy on being part of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup championship.

--Coaching news: Kelly Lund has been named girls basketball coach at Blake. Jon Graff is the new baseball coach at Farmington.

--Named activities director at Mankato West is Brian Fell, formerly of Bloomington Jefferson.

--Faribault’s Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf was awarded the first-ever Deaf America Cup. The award is based on a series of criteria across all seasons and both boys and girls sports.

--Reminder to coaches and athletes: the no-contact period is June 29 through July 5. (Baseball and softball are exempt.)

--Returning officials: renewal registration for 2013-14 is due July 1. If you register after July 1 you will be assessed a late fee.
Congratulations To Maggie Ewen, National Champion6/23/2013
Maggie Ewen, St. Francis High School class of 2013, was a four-time MSHSL state champion in the Class 2A discus and won three state titles in the shot put.

On June 22 she added a national junior championship, winning the discus title at the 2013 USA Track and Field national meet in Des Moines, Iowa. Her winning distance of 179 feet, 6 inches was a personal best.

Maggie has qualified to represent the United States in the Pan American Junior Championships in Medellin, Columbia, Aug. 23-25.
Pressbox View: John's Journal job even better than his old one6/19/2013
Editor's note: Rochester Post-Bulletin sports editor Craig Swalboski wrote about John's Journal this week. My thanks to Craig for taking the time to chat and writing a great story. Here is what he wrote ...

John Millea loved three decades of writing sports for newspapers.

But these last three years have been even better.

Millea writes the blog "John's Journal" for the Minnesota State High School League's Website.

"I'm a 30-year newspaper guy, 20 years at the Star Tribune," Millea said during a recent short break between spring sports state tournaments. "It's all I thought I'd ever do.

"With this job I don't need to be revitalized. Basically it's what I did with them (the Star Tribune)."

Feature stories, opinion pieces, news articles and short bits of information. His posts on subjects like Board of Directors meetings are far more interesting than a press release.

One thing has changed regarding the opinions.

"I used to often be critical of the High School League," he said. "One of my jokes has been that they hired me to shut me up.

"I'm almost entirely positive now. I work for the High School League now."

Talking about values

In the spring of 2010, MSHSL executive director Dave Stead developed an idea for a position of "media specialist," and in a conversation Millea said he said, "whether it's me or someone else, the High School League could use someone with more of a public face."

Stead was impressed with Millea's work at the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune and aware of the potential goodwill and pragmatic benefit of getting the League's message out to the public.

"I was looking for someone who could talk about the values of high school activities and who had a history with readers and our member schools," Stead recalled.

"I had talked with John several times at our tournaments and learned about his interests, and when the board agreed that the media position was a good idea, we sent out information about the application process, our staff conducted eight interviews with many good people, and ultimately we hired John.

"I'm really glad John chose to work for the MSHSL because his stories and his statewide connections support all the good things coaches, schools, and school communities choose to do for education-based athletic and fine arts programs. John is the best advocate for Minnesota schools I know of."

Millea said, "I never dreamed I'd be driving a car with the (MSHSL) shield on the side."

That car is recognized when Millea rolls into one of Minnesota's small towns (he has visited 725 schools or programs and piled up more than 10,000 miles on his car in the school year that just ended.)

"It's been well-received. People often notice when I'm at an event.

"My only frustration with the Star Tribune, and it was a minor one, was that over time it got more Twin Cities-centric.

"I'm just trying to spread the good news of what we do. And that's not only athletics. It's one-act plays, speech, debate…"

A recent entry — one of nearly 200 for the school year — was a feature on John Johnston, who is retiring after 50 seasons as golf coach at Becker.

"Frequently small-town newspapers ask to reprint our stories and there is no charge, we are happy to do it," Millea said.

Late last month, one of his posts was about an umpire who collapsed during a section tournament game and was revived by three spectators who knew medical procedures.

"I got an e-mail from someone who heard about it," Millea said. "I didn't even have to travel, I did that one over the phone. Those are great stories, the human stories."

Loves Twitter

Millea was laid off from his first newspaper job at Des Moines when the afternoon paper was discontinued in the early 1980s. He then headed up a two-man sports staff at Ottumwa, Iowa, then worked a few years out West before coming to Minnesota.

He covered some pro sports in Minneapolis, then settled into a high school coverage role full-time in 2000. In 2005, he wrote a Newsweek magazine "My Turn" column headlined "My Happy Adieu to Professional Sports," in which he said covering the high school sports is the best job in the business.

"A huge difference is I am on my own now," Millea said. "The original plan was for me to check with Dave Stead regarding my plans and early on we found there was no need to do that."

If Stead needs to reach Millea, he can always find him on Twitter.

"I'm like a smoker," Millea said. "The last thing I do before going to bed is check Twitter and instead of a cigarette, the first thing I do when I wake up is check Twitter."

He might jot off dozens of tweets on a busy game night, forwarding scores and highlights from all over the state.