John's Journal
Perham's Morris Named National Cross-Country Coach Of The Year11/13/2012
Here's news of an outstanding honor bestowed on a Minnesota coach. The story is courtesy of the East Otter Tail Focus and reporter Robert Williams...

PERHAM, Minn. – For the second time in three years, a Perham coach is receiving national attention.

Perham boys cross country coach Jeff Morris was named the National High School Coaches Association’s coach of the year after guiding the Yellowjackets to a Minnesota Class 1A state title last week and the Division II NHSCA Championship awarded by

The state title is the fourth for the boys' program under Morris' direction. The national title is the first of any kind for Perham-Dent Public School's athletic programs.

Twitter was abuzz with the announcement Wednesday evening.

"So incredibly blessed to have had six amazing years under (Coach Morris)," senior Mark Huebsch said. "He deserves the national coach of the year more than anyone."

"We have the best coach ever," senior Ciarrin Covington said.

Morris was one of five finalists for the award and joins Perham head basketball coach Dave Cresap in gaining a national coach of the year honor.

"We went out there and they were prepared and they did what they were very capable of doing," Morris said of his team at St. Olaf after the state meet. "It was just so much fun. I'm really excited."

Cresap won the award from in 2011 when the Perham boys basketball team won the state championship.

The announcement from was slated to be given in December, but the dominating performance from this year's team made an early announcement possible.

"We all felt comfortable with the choice," said co-founder David Taylor. "To take a school that size and make a ranking as high overall requires a level of coaching far above that of the norm or even the elite. It is anomalous so we submitted the name for boys cross country."

Perham's cross country title avenged a one-point loss in the 2011 final, a motivating factor for a team that avenged that defeat by running one of the top five races in state meet history. By way of Morris' direction, the team set out on a mission from November 2011 not to be denied this year's trophy.

"That one point, you know, that was on us all year long and now that we've beat 'em it just feels so good," senior Dalton Dahms said. "It was just so much fun being out there with all the guys."

Today (Thursday, Nov. 8) at 5 p.m. CST, on the NHSCA National High School Sports Hour, (link with this story) host Jeff Fisher talks with Morris about Perham's season. The show can be listened to live or in the archives (show #347).

According to Taylor, will feature Perham in an annual series beginning December 15 titled "the Program".

The intent is to have the seven varsity runners and coach share a bi-monthly individual message on their team and program.

"It should be fun and it will keep Perham's name recognition growing, as well as show other programs how to be successful," Taylor said.

The national championship trophy should arrive in Perham Friday and the banner next week.

A tentative date of Friday, Nov. 30 has been scheduled to present the trophy and banner during the Minnehaha Academy/Perham boys' basketball game.

In a bit of irony, Minnehaha Academy cross country is a rather heated rival with the Perham boys' team next to the annual battles with St. Cloud Cathedral.
Caledonia Football: A Hair-Raising Tournament Tradition11/10/2012
The Caledonia Warriors, who advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals with a big win Friday, are riding a 23-game winning streak, have won the last two state championships and four of the last five. What's their secret? Look at their hair. Read Brian Jerzak's story by clicking here
State Volleyball Championships: A Day For Veteran Coaches 11/10/2012
The state volleyball tournament, like all such events, can be a blur of games and whistles and boisterious fans and bands and overtimes and winning and losing. The volleyball tournament, which concluded its three-day run at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night, fit the mold perfectly. There were tremendous athletes on display, superior teamwork and strategy as six chess pieces moved around the court for each team, with the landscape changing after every point and the fans along for a wild ride.

Scenes that stood out for me included …

--Superstars Sarah Wilhite of Eden Prairie and Alyssa Goehner of Lakeville North – who have been club volleyball teammates for four years – embracing (photo) after North defeated Eden Prairie 3-1 in the Class 3A title match.

--Caledonia football players, easy to spot with their blond mohawk haircuts, cheering for the Warriors volleyball team, which fell to Marshall 3-1 in the 2A championship match. The football team won in the state quarterfinals on Friday night and will play in the Metrodome in a few days, and you know the volleyball players will be doing the cheering.

--The teams from Bethlehem Academy and Southwest Christian gathering together after their match in a large circle and giving thanks. At that moment, the fact that Bethlehem Academy had won the 1A title with a 3-1 victory was of little importance to either team.

A common denominator for each title-winning team was the coach. All three have been coaching for a long time and all three are members of the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. None of them take any credit for their team’s success, but we all know better than that.

“We had some kids who stepped up and made some big plays,” said Bethlehem Academy coach Franz Boelter, who has been leading the Cardinals for 21 years and has won six state titles since 2002 and finished second at state four times.

The words of the other winning coaches were similar, giving credit to their players for all their hard work and commitment. During the Class 2A postgame ceremony, Marshall coach Dan Westby received his medal and applauded (photo) the Tigers fans as he walked across the court. Westby, who has been the coach at Marshall since 2004 (and also coached for 10 years at Renville County West, winning the 1A state title in 2002), has led Marshall to state championships in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011 and now this year.

The “newcomer” among the winning coaches Saturday was no newcomer, but he is in his first year at Lakeville North. Walt Weaver coached at Apple Valley for 31 years, taking teams to 13 state tournaments and winning titles two titles before retiring six years ago. He took over at North this season when Steve Willingham became the coach at Lakeville South.

North won the state title two years ago under coach Milan Mader, who retired after that season. Willingham led the Panthers to a state runner-up finish last year and Weaver was at the helm for this year’s championship.

From day one this season, the first words out of Weaver’s mouth have been about how talented the North players. The second words out of his mouth were usually along the lines of “I hope I don’t mess them up too bad.”

Boelter is the most outwardly emotional of the three coaches. As the Cardinals received their gold medals, he hugged each of them with tears in his eyes. It’s not about the end result, but the journey that the team shares.

“I’m really happy for our seniors,” Boelter said outside the locker room a few minutes later. “You see them come out here, a lot of wet cheeks. Sometimes you can’t tell if we’re the winning locker room or the losing locker room.

“The underclassmen can’t understand why the upperclassmen are crying so much and the upperclassmen can’t understand why they’re not. It’s kind of a funny situation. It’s a great group of kids and I knew that before our season ever started.”

Weaver was a late hire at Lakeville North and missed the first four days of practice because he had booked a trip to Alaska before accepting the job. He is not certain if he will return next season.

“Right now, this minute, I might be back, I might not,” he said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. We’ll see.”

ONE OF THE NEW coaches at the state tournament also knows the experience as a player. Cassie Wolpern is in her third year at Belle Plaine, which finished fourth in 2A.

As a player at Belle Plaine she became a national volleyball figure, playing at state in her sophomore and junior years before graduating in 2003. She was a four-time all-state selection and during her senior season she became the all-time national leader in career kills with 2,638; today she ranks sixth on that list. She still holds the Minnesota prep record for career kills, as well as the single-season records for kills and blocks.

Wolpern played one season at the University of San Diego before transferring to Minnesota State Mankato, where she graduated with a degree in finance. The Tigers’ appearance at state this year was their first since 2005


--My favorite pre-match moment: The Bethlehem Academy players in a tunnel that leads to the floor, standing in a circle with their arms around each other, swaying and singing quietly, sweetly.

--My favorite in-match moment: The Southwest Christian students chanting during timeouts: “Coach ‘em up, Greg! Coach ‘em up!” (The coach is Greg Sayuk).

--Tweet of the day: “Congrats to the (redacted) Vball team, consultation state champs!” The word is “consolation.” But I know what you meant; congrats indeed!

--We have turned the Xcel Energy Center over to Bruce Springsteen, who will perform there Sunday and Monday.

--Class 1A: Carly Masloski, Underwood; Riley Hanson, Megan Norby, Nevis; Shelby Kaster, Win-E-Mac; Megan Larson, Taylor Reiss, Minneota; Mackenzie Horkey, Katie Lubben, Southwest Christian; Jessie Mathews, Maddie Borwege, Bethlehem Academy.

--Class 2A: Afton Sobasky, St. Croix Lutheran; Brooke Anderson, Thief River Falls; Mariena Hayden, Belle Plaine; Macy Weller, Sauk Centre; Maria Fruechte, Emma Lange, Taylor Winjum, Caledonia; Kenzie Beekman, Hannah Bennett, Sydney Griffin, Marshall.

--Class 3A: Jessica Yost, Bemidji; Meghan Koop, Roseville; Carlee Hoppe, Shakopee; Lydia Dimke, Taylor Morgan, Blaine; Sarah Wilhite, Jamie Cairncross, Eden Prairie; Alyssa Goehner, Erica Handley, Sami Flattum, Lakeville North.

--Photo galleries from the state volleyball tournament can be found on the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 313
*Miles John has driven: 4,035
(*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
Friendship Will Take A Backseat During Volleyball Title Match11/9/2012
The Class 3A volleyball state championship matchup not only will pit the last two state champs – Eden Prairie last year and Lakeville North in 2010 – but it also will feature two of the state’s marquee players.

Eden Prairie senior hitter Sarah Wilhite and Lakeville North junior hitter Alyssa Goehner have been piling up honors for a long time: all-conference … all-state … all-America, etc. Wilhite was selected by the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association as this season’s Ms. Volleyball and Goehner was named player of the year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press.

When their teams meet at 5 p.m. Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, Wilhite and Goehner might feel a bit strange, however. That’s because they are accustomed to being teammates. The pair have played together for four years on a Northern Lights club team that won a national championship last summer.

“We’re actually really good friends,” Wilhite (right) said after Eden Prairie defeated Blaine 3-0 in Friday’s semifinals. “It’s going to be exciting.”

Last year’s 3A championship match was a bone crusher, lasting 2 hours, 6 minutes before Eden Prairie won it 22-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-18, 22-20. A kill by Wilhite was the winning point; she finished with 33 kills and Goehner had 34.

After the state tourney ends Saturday, Wilhite and Goehner will reunite as club volleyball teammates. But deciding the high school state championship comes first.

“She’s an amazing opponent, but an even more amazing teammate,” Wilhite said of Goehner. “It’s going to be a little weird seeing her on the other side of the net, but it’s exciting. I know once the match starts we’re just worrying about our side of the net and the other side is just any other opponent.”

Wilhite will play collegiate volleyball at Wisconsin and Goehner plans to play at Marquette … where they won’t be far apart.


Players like Wilhite and Goehner play volleyball throughout the year, and that kind of commitment certainly can be a boon to athletes. But not all teams at the state tournament have athletes who specialize. For example, Bethlehem Academy – which will play in the Class 1A state championship match for the 10th time in 11 years – has a host of two- and three-sport athletes.

“We have kids who would love to play volleyball all year round and they play as much as they can, but almost all of our kids play in our own club and our club doesn’t start competing until after basketball season is done,” Cardinals coach Franz Boelter said. “We have kids who don’t even practice volleyball for the most part until the basketball season is over. We just say that the time we put in, let’s make sure it’s quality time, and we need three-sports athletes in a small school.”

Talented Bethlehem Academy eighth-grader Payton Nutter (pictured) – who had a game-high 32 assists in the Cardinals' 3-0 semifinal victory over Win-E-Mac -- played only volleyball last year but will play on the Cardinals’ basketball team this winter.

“This year I’m not going to (specialize in volleyball),” she said. “It’s just a lot to do and I want to focus on both sports, because I really like basketball, too.”

Bethlehem Academy senior Jessie Mathews, who also plays basketball, said, “I’ve grown up playing both sports. I don’t think it’s a disadvantage, I think it’s kind of nice because you get different teams and different people you’re with and kind of have two families. I love both sports.”

Another Cardinals senior, Taryn Ashley, plays volleyball, basketball and softball. For a small school like Bethlehem Academy, with an enrollment of 195 high school students, everybody needs to stay busy.

“Typically because we’re so small, it’s nice to be able to play multiple sports,” Ashley said. “We need the people.”

Eden Prairie’s Wilhite, on the other hand, has been only a volleyball player since she was in fourth grade.

“I’ve loved it ever since I started playing and I haven’t really been into any other sports,” she said. “It kind of takes up my life all year round.”

Regardless of whether players are volleyball specialists or multiple-sport athletes, the level of overall volleyball talent in Minnesota continues to rise.

“The thing with these kids is they have so much strength and athleticism,” said Lakeville North coach Walt Weaver. He’s seen it all, too. Weaver coached at Apple Valley for 31 years, winning two state titles and taking 13 teams to state before retiring six years ago. He came back this season to lead Lakeville North.

--Bethlehem Academy will meet Southwest Christian in today’s Class 1A state championship match at 3 p.m.

--In Class 2A, the 3 p.m. championship match will be between defending champion Marshall and Caledonia.

--While the Marshall Tigers were warming up for their semifinal against Belle Plaine, Tigers coach Dan Westby shook my hand at the courtside table and said, “What’s a guy gotta to do to get on John’s Journal?” Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

--Photo galleries from the state volleyball tournament can be found on the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 313
*Miles John has driven: 3,991
(*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
Class 6A Football: Wayzata, Eden Prairie Advance To Semifinals11/9/2012
After a wild first few seconds in which both teams scored, Wayzata went on to beat Eastview in the Class 6A football state quarterfinals Friday at the Metrodome. In the second game, Eden Prairie held off Minnetonka 21-18. Read Luke Sleeper's report by clicking here