John's Journal
Growing The Game: Lacrosse State Tournaments Get Bigger, Better6/14/2013
As the high school lacrosse season came to an end Saturday with girls and boys state championship games at Chanhassen, there is a new vibe to the newish sport. As of this season and in the future, a full field of eight teams will qualify for each state tourney.

And this is a good, a very good thing, for lacrosse. The game has been played on the high school level in Minnesota since 1999, with the MSHSL sponsoring the state tournament beginning in 2007. The 2013 campaign saw the number of teams going to state increase from four to eight in both boys and girls.

Here’s an example of what that means: Until this year, the girls team from Burnsville knew it would probably run up against the teams from either Lakeville North or Lakeville South during section play. But the Blaze moved from Section 1 to Section 3 this spring, and they won their section championship before losing to Lakeville North 18-12 in the state quarterfinals. North lost to Blake 14-12 in Saturday's title game; it was the Bears' fourth straight state title.

“It definitely changed the aura, the feeling, the air around the situation,” said Burnsville coach Sarah Windhorst. “It kind of gave a little spark to the fire, where we didn’t have to beat Lakeville North or Lakeville South on top of everyone else. And that definitely inspired the team much more this year.”

The move to eight teams also brought another site into the fold. Boys and girls state tournament games have been held at Chanhassen High School for years, but Chaska High School also hosted games this year. The schools are in the same district and are only a few miles apart, making it easy for teams and fans.

That’s one more sign of how quickly the sport has grown – and continues to grow – in Minnesota. Another example: the boys team from Rochester Mayo qualified for state, marking the first time a non-metro team has done so.

“I think the more this game gets to different areas of the state, that will help,” said longtime Eden Prairie girls co-coach Judy Baxter. “That’s what we need, for more kids to get involved. It’s a good thing. It’s a great thing.”

Eden Prairie lost to Lakeville North in Thursday’s girls semifinals, which brought another change: From 2001 through last year, Eden Prairie and Blake had met in every girls lacrosse state championship game. In Saturday's boys title game, Eden Prairie beat Eastview 9-8.

Even though this year marked Burnsville’s first trip to state in girls lacrosse, Windhorst knows all about competing at that level. She was a member of hockey teams at Benilde-St. Margaret’s that played at state in 2002 and 2004.

“Any time you can go to the state tournament, it’s holy ground,” she said. “This is my third time being in a state tournament venue, and I take it very seriously and I pass that on to my players. It’s something you respect, it’s something you work for, because there are a bunch of other teams that would like to be here in your place.”

Eden Prairie defeated Champlin Park 18-0 in this year’s girls state quarterfinals, and Champlin Park is another team that might not have qualified for state under the four-team format. Champlin Park has had girls lacrosse for eight years, and this is its sixth year as a varsity sport.

“It’s an absolutely great experience to get out here and play Eden Prairie,” said Champlin Park coach Brian Finnvik. “Unfortunately we had them in the first game, but that’s all right. It’s an experience we’ve never had before. They’re all having fun with it.”

The Rebels’ fun factor was clear during halftime of their loss to Eden Prairie. The Journey song “Don’t Stop Believing” was played on the sound system at Chanhassen. The Champlin Park players – trailing by a score of 13-0 – joyfully sang along.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 741
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,392
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
State Baseball: Where No-Hitters Are The Theme Of Day One6/13/2013
JORDAN – From three Minnesota ballparks on a bluebird morning, the news was Tweeted and texted as the innings moved along in the opening three games of the three-class state baseball tournament.

“Coon Rapids pitcher Logan Shore has no-hitter thru 4 inn.” … “BOLD's Logan Sandgren doing same v Wabasha-Kellogg” … “St. Cloud Cathdral pitcher Jeff Fasching has a no-hitter through four.”

And then with a bang and a boom and a close but no cigar, the big news landed.

“Logan Shore with a NO NO in the State Tournament. Coon Rapids wins 2-0 over Wayzata in 3A.” … “Logan Sandgren throws a 6-inning (10-run rule) no-hitter as BOLD beats Wabasha-Kellogg 13-0 in 1A quarterfinals” … “State 2A baseball: Luverne's Gunnar Olson breaks up Fasching's no-hitter with a two-out double in the seventh.”

Wednesday’s downpours and lightning had left our state, to be replaced Thursday by a trio of aces. At Midway Stadium in St. Paul, Shore was king. At the Mini Met in Jordan (where I was stationed), Sandgren was on fire. And at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud, Fasching came oh so close.

Shore’s no-hitter only heightened his status as one of the top players in Minnesota; earlier in the week the senior was taken by the Twins in the 29th round of the amateur draft.

Sandgren (pictured), a junior lefthander, did what few pitchers on any level do. He tossed back-to-back no-hitters, the previous one coming against Waterville-Elysian-Waterville in the Section 2 tournament. Adding to the no-hitter mania, BOLD’s Riley Kramer had thrown a no-hitter in the game prior to that.

So yes, the BOLD Warriors have won their last three games on no-hitters.

“It was all about confidence, again,” said Sandgren, who struck out six and walked three. “We all had confidence coming into our last game, just like this. And with offense like that, 13 runs, hoo! That takes a load off my back. And when you’ve got zero errors up on that board, it’s nice.”

Sandgren was indeed helped by a strong hitting attack and solid defense, but he had a hand in the bat work, too, going 4-for-4 and driving in three runs.

“Logan has been dominant,” BOLD coach Brian Kingery said. “Today he pitched like a man. He dominated the strike zone with his fastball, he threw his curveball for strikes and he was able to keep them off balance. I think they only had two fly balls to right field and everything else was kept in the infield. And offensively he went 4-for-4. You can’t beat that kind of game for a kid, a junior who was fired up to go. He had a great day and I’m proud of him.”

Logan wanted to spread the credit, lauding his teammates’ hitting and glove work. He also said, “You can’t do it without your catcher, though. He’s calling the pitches.”

Catcher Trent Athmann deflected that credit right back to his buddy.

“That was all Logan,” Athmann said. “He threw a heck of a game. He knew what he wanted to throw the whole time and he executed on all of his pitches.

“He was hitting his spots, his pitches were perfect. His curveball had a nice bite, his changeup was really good today. He got quite a few strikeouts on his changeup today. He was just dominant.”

Final question for Sandgren: Have you pitched any other no-hitters?

His reply came with a big grin: “No, just these two.”

THE APPEAL OF CLASSIC BALLPARKS

On the scoreboard at the Mini Met in Jordan, balls, strikes and outs are revealed by bright electric buttons. But the score by innings, runs, hit and errors? Those numbers go up the old-fashioned way, with humans hanging the numbers on the beautiful old board. Oh, and there’s a rotary phone in the press box. The phone rang only once while I was there Thursday … it was a telemarketer.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--As the St. Agnes Aggies took the field for their 1A quarterfinal game against Windom, right fielder Roger Dickerson hollered, “It’s a great day for Aggies baseball!”

--The St. Agnes baseball team, which has no home field, rents its game fields and holds practices at a city playground. That’s not a great situation when the weather is great, but during this season of snow, rain, ice and cold, the Aggies had to endure a 15-day April stretch when they could not practice at all.

--A few weeks ago I wrote about Dan Wessel, an umpire who collapsed on the field during a softball game in Wadena. Dan died twice and was revived by first responders who were at the game. He has undergone triple bypass surgery and is recovering nicely. He lives in Osakis and was at the Mini Met on Thursday to watch the Osakis Bluestreaks play Blackduck. It was mighty nice to shake his hand.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 731
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,065
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Lasting Impact: BOLD Golf Coach John Johnston Retiring After 50 Years6/11/2013
BECKER -- In 1963, John Kennedy was the president, the Beatles had not yet arrived on American soil and a 22-year-old named John Johnston was hired as the boys golf coach at Olivia High School.

A lot has changed in half a century. The school is now known as BOLD and girls golf was added along the way, but Johnston still holds the coaching job ... for the boys and girls teams. At least through the end of the Class 1A state tournament at Pebble Creek Golf Club, that is. Now 72, Johnston will retire as coach when BOLD’s only state entrant, senior Cole Mertens, finishes two days of state tourney play on Wednesday.

The coach is going out with 50 years of coaching and lots of memories under his belt.

“He’s a great guy,” Mertens said after shooting a first-round 83 Tuesday. “ I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve learned golf skills and I’ve also learned things about life.”

Mertens (pictured with Johnston) is one of five seniors on this year’s boys golf team, and it’s a group that Johnston has a special affinity for. “I wanted to end it with them,” he said. “They are nice young men.”

Johnston, who grew up 40 miles to the south of Olivia in Springfield, taught elementary school in Olivia for 35 years before retiring from teaching. His philosophy about high school golf is straightforward.

“It’s a game,” he said. “We’re not going to make a living at it. It’s a game. I’ve had lots of fun at it with the boys and the girls.”

For the last 20 years, his wife Vi has helped coach the girls teams. With retirement at hand, John and Vi (pictured) will be able to spend a little more time in Arizona. “We’ve been going for January and February and then coming back because golf practice starts in March,” John said. “Now we’ll go for January, February and March.”

Johnston has had a strong impact on thousands of students and athletes. One of them, 1986 graduate Brad Kelvington, described Johnston to me this way: “He was a great teacher, he’s a great person, he’s had an impact in a lot of ways.”

Kelvington, who played in the 1985 state golf tournament and also was on the football and wrestling teams, is now the principal of Foley Intermediate School. His father also taught at BOLD and their families are close.

“Mr. Johnston was my fifth grade teacher,” Kelvington said. “He has been like a second dad to me.”

Roger Sandberg, who has been the golf coach at Ortonville for 37 years and knows Johnston well, said, “He’s always very optimistic. He’s always been very supportive of our teams and any golfers.”

Sandberg – whose girls team and boys individual Jade Hasslen qualified for state -- said he’s always liked to give Johnston the needle for being a lefthanded golfer.

“We’ve been butting heads for a long time, in a friendly way,” Sandberg said, adding that 50 years of coaching “says a lot about his dedication to the sport.”

Johnston is well-known for offering tips and advice to any golfer, whether the topic is golf-related or not. During Monday’s practice round at Pebble Creek, he noticed a girl from another school on the putting green.

“He just went over and helped her,” Mertens said. “Her coach came over and we thought he was going to chewed out, but he didn’t.”

Mark Kodet, a 2003 graduate who was a six-year varsity golfer and went to state twice, said “John was always there for me, if I wanted to talk about the swing, if I wanted to talk about life. He’s a fantastic, warm guy.”

Kodet works as an assistant golf pro at Bent Creek Golf Club in Eden Prairie, and Johnston played a role in his career choice.

“I learned my swing from John,” Kodet said. “He taught me everything from the grip to the swing plane, the whole swing. He just had a strong passion for helping students. He was so kind and super genuine. I just wanted to continue that so now I teach, too.”

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 725
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,019
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
State Track: Legends, Records, Sportsmanship And More6/8/2013
Two of the all-time greats of Minnesota high school track departed the scene during Saturday’s state meet at Hamline University in St. Paul with different results but identical smiles. One is known for strength, one for endurance.

St. Francis’ Maggie Ewen (pictured here) capped an incredible prep career with a weekend sweep of the Class 2A throwing events. She won the discus for the fourth time on Friday and went out in a blaze of glory Saturday, setting a state record in the shot put with a toss of 54 feet, 8 ½ inches. It was her third state title in the shot.

Maria Hauger of Shakopee, who has been the state’s dominant distance runner for years, saw her career come to a close with a fourth-place finish in the 2A 1,600. That was a rarity for Hauger, who won the 1,600 a year ago, captured her third 3,200 state title Friday and also has won four state championships in cross-country.

Ewen, of course, was very pleased with her performance. But accepting the fact that she will not compete as a high schooler in Minnesota again was something new.

“It’s weird,” she said. “I still can’t believe this is the last time I’m going to be here. It’s like a tradition to come back every year, and now when I come back I’ll be part of the audience.”

Ewen’s winning toss was very close to the national high school record of 54-10 ¾. She will have two more cracks at that mark, competing at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals next weekend in North Carolina and the USA Junior Championships later this month at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

“I don’t think I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t get it or anything,” she said. “I think it’s there.”

The previous state record was 52-4 ¾, set by Lakeville’s Liz Podominick in 2003. Podominick’s high school coach, Rick Ringeisen, now coaches at Lakeville South; Shaina Burns from South finished third in the shot put Saturday.

Ringeisen had alerted Podominick that her record was in jeopardy. “She said, ‘That’s probably a good thing. It’s time,’ ” Ringeisen said. “She was very philosophical.”

Hauger (pictured) seemed less concerned with her finish in the 1,600 as she was with giving advice to eighth-grade teammate Tess Misgen, who had the fastest time in the prelims of the 800 Friday but finished ninth in Saturday’s finals. Hauger has relished the role of mentor to Misgen and other younger runners.

“That is really cool,” she said. “Warming up, I just tell her different things, help her with different things. She’s like, ‘Can I warm up with you?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s fine.’ I try to encourage her.”

Ewen will continue her throwing career at Arizona State and Hauger will run at the University of Virginia.

RECORD RELAY

In addition to Ewen’s record, the Wayzata 4x200 boys relay team also set a new state record. They won the 2A title in 1 minute, 26.92 seconds. The team consisted of juniors Keante' Johnson, Michael Smith and Steele Berg and senior Jeff Borchardt.

DOUBLE INDIVIDUAL WINNERS

Rosemount sophomore Rachel Schow won both the 110-meter hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles in 2A.

In 1A, Clare Flanagan of Blake won both the 3,200 and 1,600, Warroad’s Diedre Hahn won the high jump and long jump, Tyler Beehler of Foley won the 100 and 200, Jon Tollefson of St. Croix Lutheran won the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles, and Matt Neururer of Pillager won the 800 and high jump.

SPORTSMANSHIP AT ITS FINEST

One of the greatest sights of the 2A meet came after the girls 200-meter dash. The winner was Osseo’s Phillis Webb, who nosed out Taylor Anderson of Hopkins at the wire. Anderson suffered a leg injury late in the race and was hobbled, so Webb put Anderson on her back and carried her to the medical tent and then to the podium for the awards ceremony.

After the St. Cloud Cathedral 4x800 relay team of Hallee Curtis, Paige Danielson, Morgan Durbin and Rachel Eickhoff received their seventh-place 1A medals, they waited below the podium to shake hands with the other eight teams that won medals. Well done.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--Perham’s 4x800 relay team of Billy Beseman, Dalton Dahms, Nick Carignan and Brady Speicher (pictured) not only won the 1A event, but they did it in style … thanks to four freshly shaved heads. “We just did ‘em last night,” Dalton said. “It was really quick.”

--After Amanda Allis of United South Central placed third in the 1A shot put Saturday, it marked the end of a lengthy coaching career. United South Central's Kent Viesselman, who retired with the completion of the meet, has completed 100 seasons as a head coach. During a 49-year career, Viesselman, 70, coached cross country and track for 49 years each and basketball for two years.

--Cody Walton of Forest Lake had finished third in the 2A 110 hurdles and fourth in the high jump. As he walked across the infield he saw four teammates who had just won the boys 4x100 relay. Cody motioned to the two ribbons hanging around his neck and said, “I’m gonna get a blue one.” Sure enough, a few minutes later he won the 300-meter hurdles.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 701
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,864
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
On A Busy Tournament Friday, Fun And Excitement Abound6/7/2013
How busy was Friday? Let me count the ways. And it was easy to do so simply by looking at the top of the MSHSL website. Streamed across the page were links to state softball results, state track results, brackets from the boys state tennis tournament, brackets for next week’s state lacrosse tournaments and day one tee times for next week’s state golf tournaments.

I’m no math expert, but it’s pretty clear that this current stretch of events is the busiest time of the year for postseason action in Minnesota. If some courageous soul wants to figure out how many individual athletes are involved in all these state tourneys, let me know what you come up with.

I spent Thursday in North Mankato at the softball tournament and drove home to the Twin Cities late Thursday evening. Friday began with an eye on the state track meet via social media and another eye on boys tennis. I drove back to the softball tournament, arrived in time for lunch – perfect timing! – and kept several eyes focused on all the events, including a handful of section championship games in baseball.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know how busy things are right now. But busy also means fun when the topic is high school activities.

This message was dispatched to me via Twitter at 8:30 a.m. Friday: “You gotta have the best gig in the world!”

My response consisted of two words: “ I concur.”

NEW ULM CATHEDRAL SAVES THE DAY FOR NEW ULM PUBLIC

Long before New Ulm defeated Kasson-Mantorville 1-0 in the Class 2A state championship softball game, things were looking a little dicey for the defending champion Eagles. Simply put, their bus broke down in the parking lot of a Mankato Hy-Vee grocery store. The team arrived at Caswell Park about a half hour behind schedule, went through a hurry-up warmup and played the game.

“It was a little rambunctious of a morning, but our girls are troupers,” said New Ulm coach Kristi Andersen Loose. “I’m crazy proud of them.”

The team had stopped at the Hy-Vee so the girls could get a bite at the buffet, but when they loaded the bus it wouldn’t start. Andersen Loose and her sister/assistant coach Danielle Andersen “immediately panicked,” the head coach said. “Dani said to me, ‘Do we have a backup plan for this?’ I said, ‘We will.’ ”

They tried to get a shuttle from their hotel. No good. Some cabs were called, but it didn’t seem like a good idea to put the girls into cabs with no adults along. The next call went to folks from New Ulm Cathedral, which had already finished the fourth-place game in Class 1A.

“It was a mass flurry of calling, and we finally got ahold of their coach (Bob Mertz), who is the bus driver as well,” Andersen Loose said. “They were eating at Big Dog (Sports Café). He said the bus was free and we happened to have an extra bus driver with us. We randomly flagged down a guy in the Hy-Vee parking and lot and said, ‘Can you please do us a favor?’ He gave our bus driver and our assistant coach a ride to Big Dog, they got on the Cathedral bus, we got here way late and did our thing.

“The moral of the whole thing is there is nothing that we can’t deal with as far as adjusting. I said, ‘We’ve adjusted to this, so we’ll be able to deal with anything that happens in the game.’ ”

How did I first learn of the Eagles’ predicament? Twitter, of course. Danielle Andersen alerted me with a Tweet after the team was safely en route to the park.

Andersen Loose said, “She asked me if she could Tweet about it and I said, 'Absolutely.' ”

--New Ulm’s victory over Kasson-Mantorville was decided when pitcher Sydney Schuck hit a one-out RBI single in the fifth inning. Schuck and Kasson-Mantorville pitcher Maddie Damon each allowed just five hits. Damon struck out nine.

--In Class 1A, Jenna Krell, Shelbi Swenson and Sam Ivers drove in runs as Blooming Prairie beat New Life Academy 3-1 in the title game. Swenson held New Life to four hits and struck out eight. New Life pitcher Valerie Hohol struck out nine.

--Elk River needed eight innings to beat Prior Lake for the 3A title. Elk River led 3-0 after four innings and the Lakers tied it in the fifth on a solo homer by Shayne Barton and two-run, two-out double by Libby Bingham. In the seventh, Barton hit a drive to center that was caught by Jayme Langbehn as she went over the wall to rob the home run. After the Elks took a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Courtney Jensen, Langbehn took away another possible home run in the bottom of the eighth, catching a drive by Sam Buhmann.

BOYS TENNIS CHAMPIONS

-- Junior Joey Richards of Minnetonka won the Class 2A singles state title and the Wayzata duo of senior Jack Graven and freshman Nick Beaty won the doubles title.

--In 1A, Blake sophomore Charlie Adams was the singles winner and the doubles title went to Blake senior Kai Skallerud and junior Taylor Parr.

TRACK: DAY ONE HIGHLIGHTS

No state records were broken Friday, but there were some great performances. One of the most eye-opening came from Shakopee eighth-grader Tess Misgen, who led the prelims in the Class 2A girls 800 meters with a time of 2:10.46. The state record is legendary, because it’s the oldest on the books for girls. Blooming Prairie’s Jeanne Kruckeberg holds the mark of 2:08.24, set in 1984. Misgen will run the 800 again in Saturday’s finals, and then have four more years of high school running left.

Deidre Hahn of Warroad was a double champion, winning the girls 1A long jump and high jump. Maria Hauger of Shakopee won the 2A girls 3,200 for the third time and St. Francis’ Maggie Ewen won the 2A girls discus for the third time.

The meet will conclude Saturday.

SPORTSMANSHIP ON THE MEDAL STAND

Foley senior Charlie Lawrence won his second consecutive Class 1A state title in the 3,200-meter run Friday, but the rest of the medal winners also have plenty to be proud of … and it has nothing to do with what happened on the track.

Fourth-place finisher Ashenafi Hatte, a sophomore from Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul, was injured and unable to climb up to his spot on the podium for the awards ceremony. Runner-up Perham junior Keeghan Hurley helped Hatte get up to his spot, and Ashenafi leaned on sixth-place runner Isaac Overmyer, a sophomore from Park Rapids, while medals were given out and photos were taken. Hurley and Overmyer helped Ashefani get back down from the podium.

Well done.

FACEBOOK LOVE

A nice message was posted on the MSHSL Facebook page after the softball tournament. Here’s an edited version…

“I just wanted to drop a note and say WOW. This was our first trip to state (New York Mills). From the time we got to the gate to the time we left, it was a well-run tournament. The facility was great, prices for concessions were reasonable. … Thanks for all you guys do to put this on for the girls. It has created many great memories for all.”

AERIAL SUPPORT

As New Ulm was facing Kasson-Mantorville in the 2A softball title game, the Eagles got some support from above. A single-engine plane circled the Caswell Park complex; written on the underside of the wings were “GO NU EAGLES.”

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 701
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 9,821
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn