John's Journal
Board Approves Basketball Changes, Clay Target Partnership 12/6/2012
During a meeting Thursday that was filled with big decisions, the MSHSL board of directors approved changes to state basketball tournaments and approved a partnership with the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League. The board also made decisions that affect cooperative sponsorships and nine-man football.

Due to a facilities conflict with Target Center, the board approved changes in the girls and boys state basketball tournaments that will take effect in 2014 and extend through at least 2018. The new National Collegiate Hockey Conference will hold its annual postseason tournament at Target Center beginning in 2014, meaning Target Center is not available for one of the weeks that was the traditional time for one of the basketball tournaments.

Here is what the future will hold …

--The state tournaments will continue to be eight-team events.

--In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the boys state basketball tournament will be played one week before the girls state tournament.

--The boys will use Williams Arena and Target Center as their tournament sites. The girls will primarily utilize Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena, although some girls quarterfinals will be played at Target Center.

--In 2014, 2015 and 2016 the girls will play a Tuesday-through-Saturday tournament schedule. During those same years the boys will play the usual Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule.

By a 9-8 vote, the board approved a motion to become a presenting partner of Minnesota State High School Clay Target League state tournament. The Clay Target League has held competitions involving students on school-sponsored club teams.

As the vote shows, board members were split on the proposal. Rosemount High School athletic director Mike Manning said, “I’ll be honest, I’d like to keep this at an arm’s length. I worry about guns in parking lots, I worry about guns at home…I just worry about the potential negatives. I would like this to stay at an arm’s length and not become a Minnesota State High School League tournament.”

Board member Roz Peterson, a school board member from Lakeville, said, “Just being afraid of firearms isn’t teaching our kids respect for them. Hunting and fishing and things of that nature are the culture of Minnesota, and proper training in how to use a firearm and how to handle it would probably be a better lesson than learning it on the street. … I don’t think it gives a negative stigma to the Minnesota State High School League to sponsor this.”

In other actions…

--The board approved a change in the timetable for cooperative team sponsorships. The move means that applications for coops be submitted to the MSHSL no later than 30 days prior to the start of the season. Previously, applications were due no later than the first day of practice for that sport season.

--An MSHSL football committee recommended that the the enrollment cutoff for nine-man football be dropped from 165 students to 150, beginning with the 2013 season. The board approved the change but moved the effective date to the 2015 season.

--Athletic directors Les Zellmann of St. James, Bruce Remme of Marshall and Rob Norman of Blue Earth, citing scheduling issues, asked the board to reconsider using section football during the regular season. There was discussion but no action was taken.

--An award presentation was made to Roger Cersine in recognition of his years of service as MSHSL state rules interpreter for boys and girls swimming. Roger, who retired earlier this year, began officiating swim meets in 1967.

--Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, made a presentation about the new Vikings stadium project. Plans call for ground to be broken in late 2013, with the Vikings (as well as the MSHSL) using TCF Bank Stadium in 2015 and the new stadium opening in 2016.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 368
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,981
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
State Basketball, Clay Target League On Board Of Directors Agenda12/5/2012
The 20-member MSHSL board of directors will hold its December meeting on Thursday morning at MSHSL headquarters in Brooklyn Center with a full agenda. The action item that will probably receive the most attention from high school sports fans is a possible change in the structure of the girls and boys state basketball tournaments.

Because the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference will hold its annual postseason tournament at Target Center beginning in 2014, there is a scheduling conflict with the high school basketball tournaments. Currently, Target Center is the main site for the basketball tournaments, but Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota – where some quarterfinal games are currently played – may become the site of some or all of the state quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games. Mariucci Arena, the Gophers men’s hockey arena, also could be the site of some basketball games.

Along with possible venue changes, the sequence and structure of the state basketball tournaments also could change. Under one scenario, the boys state tournament would be played first, followed by the girls state tournament one week later. Another possibility is that Class 1A and 2A state tournaments for both girls and boys would be held one week, with Class 3A and 4A girls and boys tournaments played a week later. Another possibility is that four teams would advance to state in each class (instead of the current eight teams) with all semifinals and finals continuing to be played at Target Center.

No changes will be made for the 2013 state basketball tournaments. The girls tourney will be held at Williams Arena and Target Center March 13-16, with the boys tourney at the same sites March 20-23.

The board of directors is expected to vote on a request that the MSHSL become a presenting partner of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League state tournament each spring. The Clay Target League currently holds competitions involving students on school-sponsored club teams.

The discussion portion of the agenda includes information on summer practices and section football. Schools in the South Central and Southwest conferences have requested that the board consider having schools play football teams in their section during the regular season as a way to alleviate scheduling problems.

The board meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. I will post instant updates from the board table on Twitter. Stay in touch by following @MSHSLjohn

*Schools/teams John has visited: 368
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,981
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Announcing A New Partnership with Twin Cities Toyota Dealers12/3/2012
It’s a big day for John’s Journal as we formally announce an exciting new partnership with Twin Cities Toyota Dealers. Whenever you see me driving around the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota, I will be hard to miss. Thanks to Twin Cities Toyota Dealers, I am now behind the wheel of a 2012 Toyota Camry SE Limited Edition.

It’s not just any car, either. As you can see in the photo, it’s quite noticeable, with a caricature of me on both front doors, plus several MSHSL logos and Facebook and Twitter links all over the vehicle.

It’s a real head-turner and it provides a great ride. I am really looking forward to visiting schools and events all around Minnesota in the Toyota Camry.

The car is part of an MSHSL sponsorship agreement with Twin Cities Toyota Dealers. They have provided the car free of charge to the MSHSL in exchange for sponsorship benefits that include advertising in all state tournament programs, identification on the MSHSL website, digital and electronic signage at state tournaments and more.

Toyota supports high school activities through a broad range of programs, including Drive for Education, which enhances academic and extracurricular programs through grants to qualifying schools.

This partnership between Twin Cities Totoya Dealers and the MSHSL is very special, and we cannot thank Twin Cities Toyota Dealers enough for their commitment to high school activities.

--To see more photos, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

John’s Journal … Driven by Toyota.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 366
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 4,931
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Happy Trails To Retiring Minneapolis Administrator John Washington12/1/2012
John Washington is now officially retired. A late-afternoon gathering was held in his honor last week at Minneapolis Public Schools headquarters, where John was the district athletic director for 14 years. Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson stood alongside John in front of a large group of co-workers and other friends and said, “He has led this work with pride. He’s had a stellar reputation with our community. I want to thank you for your leadership and for the work that you’ve done.”

Dave Wicker, who worked with Washington at Patrick Henry High School and the district office, said, “John is a wonderful learner, teacher, mentor and leader. John’s strengths include his calm demeanor and his ability to help others grow.”

I knew a lot about John, having known him for years. I knew he was a former teacher and coach at Henry. I knew of his stellar work with the athletic departments in all the Minneapolis high schools.

But I did not know this: John Washington was a driver’s education instructor. That fact alone makes him a hero. John is a lover of Western movies, and his background guiding new drivers puts him on par with John Wayne.

John, a 1963 graduate of Minneapolis North, was first hired by the Minneapolis school district in 1969 as a teacher at Henry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Mayville State in North Dakota and later picked up a master’s degree from St. Thomas. He coached baseball and basketball at Henry, worked as an assistant principal, served on numerous MSHSL committees and boards and was a member of the Police Athletic League.

During the retirement party, Wicker talked about John’s final job evaluation.

“John was decribed as a champion for athletics who is remarkable at managing a diverse group of people,” Wicker said. “John fulfills his responsibilities with integrity, grace, honesty and with a strong work ethic. And we all know that John stands for everything that’s good in life. That’s what makes us so happy to work with such a fine person.”

John has always wanted to learn how to ride a horse, so folks pitched in to buy him riding lessons. During that presentation, a cowboy hat was placed on his head.

“First of all, thanks to everyone for being here today, this is really overwhelming,” he said. “And thank you to my wife, Anna Mae, who’s been there to let me go to all those games at night all these years.

“I really enjoy what I’ve done. I don’t know how many people can say they did one job for so long and really enjoyed what they did. I really have enjoyed my time here at Minneapolis Public Schools and it’s something that I will always cherish. All the building athletic directors who are here, they work hard and they need all the support we can give them. Any time they come to you, help them out when you can. Just remember one thing: you’re here for the kids. As long as we remember that, your job will be easy.”

Happy trails, John.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 348
*Miles John has driven: 4,877
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
NRHEG’s Carlie Wagner: Small-Town Attitude, Big-Time Talent11/30/2012
NEW RICHLAND – Carlie Wagner exploded onto the high school basketball scene last season, leading New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva to a 32-1 record and third-place finish in the Class 2A state tournament. She broke state tourney records for single-game (48) and total tournament points (112), records that had been held by Jordan’s Brittany Chambers (now at Kansas State) and Minneapolis South’s Tayler Hill (Ohio State).

As her junior season begins, Wagner already has scored more points than any male or female basketball player in school history. She is being pursued by big-time college coaches, she attracts crowds wherever the Panthers play and her star continues to rise.

So as the 5-foot-10 guard and I talked before Thursday evening’s game against Belle Plaine, my mission was to find out what it’s like to be Carlie Wagner. I phrased the question like this: Looking back to two years ago, how is your life different?

She pondered the question for a second or two. “What’s different? I have more Facebook friends, that’s about the only thing that’s different.”

It’s an amazing thing. Carlie Wagner is as down to earth as the rich black soil that covers southern Minnesota. Did you know that she is the reigning Class 1A high jump state champion, as well as a stellar volleyball player? She is absolutely untouched by her celebrity status and remains a poster child for small-town America.

“I like it that everybody treats me the same,” she said before scoring 32 points with six assists and six steals in limited playing time as the Panthers defeated Belle Plaine 80-37. “I don’t feel any extra pressure. I guess I’m just here to play ball. I’m not worried about outside influences.”

NRHEG, which is No. 2 behind Providence Academy in Minnesota Basketball News’ Class 2A rankings, will meet Chaska (No. 3 in 3A) at 1:15 p.m. in Saturday’s Breakdown Tip Off Classic at Hopkins. Fifteen games will be played in three gyms Saturday, and NRHEG is a major draw.

Wagner is the star of the team, but the Panthers are solid everywhere. Junior Jade Schultz and senior Raelin Schue combined for 26 points and 17 rebounds Thursday and junior Hannah Lundberg had eight rebounds and blocked two shots. Two younger Wagners, eighth-grade twins Maddie and Marnie, scored nine points off the bench.

Schultz made the hustle play of the game in the second half, diving for a loose ball and tipping it back into play as she slid out of bounds. The ball was quickly in Carlie Wagner’s hands for an off-handed layup and 73-35 lead.

“They are all nice kids, they work hard, and they all play their roles,” said NRHEG coach John Schultz. “Some don’t score that much but they don’t care. They know their role is defense, rebounds and that’s what made us effective last year.”

Last year was NRHEG’s first trip to the girls state basketball tournament, and that experience is paying off this season. “It gives them kind of a swagger, a confidence,” Schultz said. “Nothing’s too big for them right now.”

Carlie Wagner said her memories of last year’s state tourney begin with the fans.

“I just loved it when I looked up at the crowd and saw all the fans going absolutely insane,” she said. “I feel like we didn’t have pressure to (win a state title). It was getting a taste of it, we got a foot in the door. I didn’t expect us to win it last year.”

What about this year? “I hope so. I really hope so.”

But nearly a full season remains to be navigated before the 2013 state tournament. The Panthers know that every opponent wants to knock them off, and they remain focused on one step, one game at a time.

“We don’t talk about (returning to state) as much as our fans do,” Wagner said. “We look forward a little bit but we don’t talk about it that much because we have tough games to get through to get there.”

THE ATMOSPHERE THURSDAY NIGHT in the little NRHEG gym was spectacular. The band, under the direction of Tim Siewert, played great tunes from the stage behind one basket. When one of the cheerleaders said to me, “I follow you on Twitter!,” I snapped a photo of the cheerleaders and posted it on Twitter. Then I walked to the other end of the gym, where that cheerleader’s father was looking at the photo on his phone and hollered, “Nice shot of the cheerleaders, John!” What a country.

There were walking tacos, popcorn, a vibrant crowd, youth basketball at halftime and everything else you want in high school athletics. I hadn’t been in the gym for more than 10 minutes before NRHEG athletic director Dan Stork handed me a Diet Coke. While the junior varsity game was being played, Dan found interview space in an office; Carlie walked in wearing a pretty dress and nice shoes, then took off her shoes, relaxed and chuckled as we chatted.

If the Panthers had their names printed on the backs of their jerseys, it could say “Easygoing” on Carlie’s. Even on the court, she is smooth and under control but always hustling, almost effortlessly. If defenses focus too much on her, she will whip passes to her teammates for easy baskets. Her only fault may be that she is too unselfish.

After the game, Carlie walked to her locker to fetch a notebook from her Algebra II class. Her other classes are Anatomy, College Literature, World History, Youth Leadership Service and Computer Aps. (Does she ever sleep? Smiling answer: “Not very often.”)

“I’m really happy,” she said of the game. “I thought we were aggressive, we hit the boards hard, we were scrappy on defense. I guess it was just a really good game. It was a fun game, it was really fun.”

The spotlight on Wagner began glowing brightly at the first practice of her sophomore season when University of Minnesota coach Pam Borton walked into the gym. Carlie told me that Minnesota and Iowa State are at the top of her college list right now, but she is in no hurry to make a decision. Her love of the small-town lifestyle may bode well for Iowa State.

“I just have that country side of me,” she said. “(Iowa State is) not that huge city feel, it’s more the small-town feel I’m used to. The campus is beautiful, it has all the programs I’m looking for.

“I want to stay close to home. I want to keep my options open. I want to wait. I’m waiting for that moment when I just realize what I want. I’m waiting for that moment when I just know. When I’m certain.”

She’s thinking of a career path that involves some form of medicine mixed with sports.

“I want to stick around sports,” she said, smiling. “Who wants to miss all this fun?”

--To see a photo gallery from NRHEG, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 348
*Miles John has driven: 4,877
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn