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 …
BEST COMEBACK, PART I: ST. CLAIR FOOTBALL
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.
BEST BONDING: OSSEO AND NEVIS VOLLEYBALL
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.”
BEST INSPIRATION, PART I: SAUK RAPIDS-RICE’S MATT KRUGER
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.
BEST REUNION: 1952 BUFFALO FOOTBALL
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.
BEST COACHING TRIO AT ONE TOURNAMENT
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.
BEST THANKSGIVING: THE HIEDEMAN FAMILY
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.”
BEST INSPIRATION, PART II: PARK’S CAITLIN TATE
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.
BEST FAMILY TREE: THE McDONALDS
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.
BEST TRIBUTE: FULDA’S HARVEY CARROLL
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.
BEST OVERTIME GAME: MINNETONKA-LAKEVILLE NORTH GIRLS HOCKEY
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.
BEST ESCAPE: KASSON-MANTORVILLE WRESTLING
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.”
BEST BREAKOUT STAR: UPSALA’S KAELIN SMIEJA
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).
BEST COMMUNITY SPIRIT: BRAINERD
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.
BEST BROADCASTING LEGEND: MIKE MORRISSEY
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 .
BEST COMPETITIVE ATTITUDE: MAGGIE EWEN
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.”
BEST FEARLESS ATTITUDE: CROMWELL TRACK
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).
BEST COMEBACK, PART II: BAILEY PROUDFOOT
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.
BEST STORY OF 2012-13: SOFTBALL UMPIRE DAN WESSEL
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.
BY THE NUMBERS
*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