John's Journal
Andover’s Anderson Is An All-Weather Record-Holder5/16/2012
For a guy who craves warm sunshine in the desert, Thomas Anderson does pretty well under cold Minnesota conditions. The first-person evidence is this Twitter message dispatched by the Andover High School senior on April 21: “Broke the minnesota state shot put record today 65'8 in 45 degree weather.”

The 6-foot-4, 260-pound redhead made history on that chilly day during the Pony Relays at Stillwater. His distance of 65 feet, 8 inches bettered the previous state shot put record by two inches; the prior mark had been set by Mounds View’s Nate Englin in 2003 in the same Stillwater throwing circle. Anderson will return to Stillwater on Saturday for the Class 3A True Team state championships (1A and 2A competition will be held Friday).

The forecast for Saturday predicts temperatures in the 80s, which is more in line with Anderson’s warm-weather wishes. He has signed a letter of intent with Arizona State, and that decision was two-pronged: his affinity for warmth and a desire to be coached at the highest level. He called Sun Devils throwing coach David Dumble “one of the best coaches in the world, hands down.”

Anderson knows about quality throwing coaches because he has been raised by two of them. He is the only child of Colin and Lynne Anderson, two Olympic throwers turned coaches. Lynne, a former American discus record holder and an Olympian in 1976 and 1980, is in her 31st year as a throws coach at the University of Minnesota. Colin, a 1980 Olympian in the shot put, is a former Gophers assistant coach who now coaches the throwers at Andover.

The first college to offer Thomas a track scholarship was not Minnesota, but Iowa. That happened long ago.

“It’s a pretty funny story,” Thomas said. “The coach at Iowa offered me a full scholarship at birth. So when he was recruiting me, he technically had first dibs.”

Despite his family’s ties to the University of Minnesota, Anderson said he didn’t feel any pressure to become a Gopher. He took official recruiting visits to Arizona State, Minnesota and Kansas before making his decision, and his choice was not very popular on the Minneapolis campus.

“They were not happy with me choosing ASU,” he said of the Gophers coaches who are not members of his immediate family. “They understood but they weren’t happy.

“There wasn’t any pressure; it was wherever I wanted to go. When it finally came down to it, (my parents and I) were discussing where I wanted to go. I had already made my decision and I was getting their unput, and we all agreed that Arizona State was the best place.”

Anderson was the MSHSL Class 2A state champion in the shot put last year and finished second in the discus. This season Anderson has a discus best of 177-2, which ranks second in the state behind Champlin Park’s Bryce Johnson (185-3).

Anderson easily won both events during a dual meet with Anoka on Tuesday at Andover. His distances were 63-10 in the shot put and 170-10 in the discus. (He is pictured here with his father and fellow Andover throwers Kevin Olson and Joe Putz.)

“It wasn’t a bad day,” he said. “It was a dual meet so there wasn’t much adrelanine pumping.” (On the same day a few miles away, St. Francis junior Maggie Ewen threw the discus 172-7, breaking her own girls state record.)

Anderson’s performance Tuesday was a tuneup for Friday’s True Team event in Stillwater. When Anderson thinks back to his record-setting performance there in April, he still seems slightly surprised.

“It was really cold and I wasn’t feeling all that great. I didn’t think I was going to break the state record. I got into the right position and got a big one off.”

Among Anderson’s goals during this final season of high school competition is reaching 70 feet in the shot put.

“That’s the benchmark number that I’m looking for,” he said. “It’s going to take getting in the right position and it’s going to take warm weather. When it’s cold the muscles don’t fire like they do when it’s warm.”

There’s a message on Twitter that says otherwise.

--To see more photos of Anderson, plus video, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 513
*Miles John has driven: 7,553

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Representative Assembly Rejects Ski Change, Waits On Other Proposals5/14/2012
When references were made to former University of Michigan and NBA player
Chris Webber, it became clear that Monday morning’s annual meeting of the MSHSL Representative Assembly was going to be interesting. And that was certainly the case, as two proposed MSHSL bylaw changes were put on hold and the 48-member legislative body defeated another proposal.

By the time the meeting at Edinburgh USA Conference and Event Center in Brooklyn Park ended, after one hour and 20 minutes, the result was that no bylaws were changed.

Webber was brought into the discussion because of what took place during his high school career in Michigan. When he was in the NBA, claims were made that Webber and his family had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a University of Michigan booster while Webber was in high school in Detroit. After that was revealed, the Michigan High School Athletic Association attempted to have Detroit Country Day School forfeit three state championships it won while Webber was a team member. In 2004, Webber was sentenced to community service after pleading guilty to criminal contempt for lying to a grand jury about his dealings with Martin.

And why did this matter to the Representative Assembly? Because of a proposal to change the wording in two eligibility bylaws. After the meeting was called to order, MSHSL Executive Director Dave Stead asked the members to refrain from voting on those changes. He said that because of questions that were gathered during recent MSHSL area meetings, more discussions needed to be held before those proposed changes were considered by the assembly.

The proposed bylaw changes deal with student eligibility and violations that are discovered after students have participated. In Bylaw 205 (Chemical Eligibility) and Bylaw 304 (Student Eligibility), it was proposed that the following language be added: “Student who has violated an MSHSL Bylaw; has participated; and is subsequently found to be in violation of an MSHSL Bylaw shall forfeit any honors won as an individual as determined by the MSHSL Board of Directors.”

The issues with the proposed changes included a worry that there may be no end to the time limit of when questions could arise ... as in the Chris Webber situation. For example, what if an athlete competes in a state tournament but it is revealed a year or more later that the athlete violated eligibility rules shortly before the tournament? Should there be some sort of statute of limitations?

The only item on which the Assembly voted involved post-state tournament training between Alpine skiing coaches and athletes. Under the proposal, coaches would have been allowed to continue working with their school’s skiers after the state ski meet through the second Saturday in March. Thirty votes were needed for passage and it received only 18 votes. The ski proposal may be amended and returned to the Representative Assembly in the future.

The Representative Assembly is the legislative body of the MSHSL. In order for proposed bylaw changes to reach the Representative Assembly, they must be approved by a majority of the state’s 16 region committees. Once that has happened, the MSHSL Board of Directors can recommend that the proposal be sent to the Representative Assembly for final approval.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 7,523

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
5,000 Games And Counting: Brainerd’s Scearcy Still Going Strong5/8/2012
BRAINERD -- Lowell Scearcy estimates that he has been involved in somewhere around 5,000 athletic contests over the past 45 years or so. That’s not bad for a guy who jokes about studying engineering in college but wondering if that meant he would learn to operate trains.

Scearcy is best known as the baseball coach at Brainerd High School, a job he has held for 40 years. His teams won state championships in 1995 and 2000, went to state 10 times between 1981 and 2010 and own 14 conference titles. But there’s more. Much more.

Scearcy, 66, also has coached basketball. And track. And cross-country. And football (a job he still holds). And he worked for many years as a basketball and football official, working state tournaments and Prep Bowls. Add up all those games, and the number he comes up with is 5,000. Plus, the total is growing because he isn’t thinking about retiring.

“At my age it’s like it’s always been, a year-to-year thing as far as coaching,” Scearcy told me Tuesday evening, after the Warriors dropped a 7-0 game to Rocori at Don Adamson Field. “I think when you get to the point where you can walk away and not look back, it’s probably time to walk away. And you never really know, I think, when that’s coming.”

Scearcy was a three-sport athlete before graduating from high school in 1963 in Pillager; that’s where he first coached in 1967 and where he returned as the head football coach in 2007. Before that, he was an assistant football coach at Central Lakes College in Brainerd for 35 years.

He taught and coached in Pillager for two years, spent three years at Verndale and arrived in Brainerd in 1972. This all came after he began college (at Brainerd Community College and Bemidji State) with a plan to study engineering.

“I’m not even sure I knew what an engineer was at that time; I probably thought I was going to learn how to drive a train,” he said with a chuckle. “After a couple years in that I decided I wanted to stay involved in athletics in one way or another, and the way to do that was to go into teaching.”

Oddly, Scearcy – who retired as a math teacher in 1999 -- said he has never considered himself a career coach.

“It was always kind of, ‘Well, let’s give it another year and see how it works out,’ ” he said. “It’s a strange thing because I don’t know how many years ago that was, 45 or something like that? But it’s been a lot of fun. It’s rewarding and I don’t really know what I could have done that was more rewarding than working with young kids every day and listening to what they have to say about things and how they feel about things. That’s an interesting part of the job.”

Brainerd’s baseball success has helped Scearcy build a career record that currently stands at 664-265. His victory total ranks No. 2 in Minnesota high school baseball history behind retired New Ulm coach Jim Senske (707-171). It’s been so long since Brainerd had a losing season that nobody can easily recall it happening.

“I’ve always hoped that we would have a program here that if we were really down, it would still be at least a .500 year,” Scearcy said. “And we played another one of those teams tonight, Rocori. And they’re not down this year.”

Having coached for all these years, Scearcy has seen a lot of changes. But the ballplayers, whether you’re talking the 1970s or now, haven’t really changed, he said.

“I hear people say kids are different. I don’t think kids are different, I think everything around kids is different,” he said. “With all the disruptions around them, it’s so different from what it was 30, 40 years ago. My gosh, when we were in athletics you either played ball or you went home and milked the cows. That was pretty much it. Things are so different now. Everything that’s pulling on the kids is different today.”

Another thing that hasn’t changed is Scearcy’s firm belief that school activities play a vital role in the development of young people.

“I preach to kids constantly about the value of activities. I tell them, ‘Don’t go through school and not be involved in something.’ That’s really the way I feel about it. You can probably learn as much about later life in activities as you can in the classroom. And I taught math for an awful lot of years.”

Lowell and his wife Diane will celebrate 45 years of marriage in June. Watching from the press box during Tuesday’s game, Diane was asked how many games she has seen as a coach’s wife. Her answer was in perfect sync with her husband’s count. She said, with a smile but no hesitation, “5,000 games.”

--To see a photo gallery from the Rocori-Brainerd baseball game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 511
*Miles John has driven: 7,523

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Championship Experience Pays Off For Hastings Softball Team5/4/2012
Last year was a dream softball season in Hastings. After finishing third in the Class 3A state tournament the previous two years, the Raiders capped a 23-2 season by capturing the school’s first state softball championship.

Let’s fast-forward. Today the Raiders have a record of 5-9 with more close defeats than they care to remember. There is a level of frustration, but it is swamped by a work ethic and determined attitude to keep improving as the season continues.

“I think we’re getting better each game,” sophomore infielder and team captain Michaela Mills told me before the Raiders hosted Cretin-Derham Hall on Thursday. “We started off a little bit rough but our defense is really coming along, our hitting is really coming along, more people are starting to step up. It’s cool to watch.”

Hastings began the season with five consecutive losses and then won five of seven games before losses this week to Forest Lake and Cretin-Derham Hall, both by two runs. The Raiders have lost seven times by two runs or less, and getting over that hump is high on the team agenda right now.

“We’ve been in every game, that’s the big thing,” said coach Dean Robinson. “We’ve been right there, it’s just a matter of having that big hit. We’ve gotten girls on base, had the bases loaded in every game; a couple games ended with the bases loaded and we couldn’t get the hits we needed.”

Hastings lost some key players to graduation. Two of them, Treya Connell and Brittani Robinson, had been on the varsity since eighth grade. Both were named to the all-tournament team at state last year, as was Mills. Connell’s departure left a big hole in the pitching circle, and sophomore Courtney Van De Velde (pictured) has stepped in.

“Courtney’s learning as she’s going along and she’s pitched every game this year,” Robinson said. “She’s playing a huge role, too. It’s a matter of our defense stepping up and helping her out. I told her she doesn’t need to replace Treya from last year, she just needs to do her part.”

The returning players from last year’s championship team know what it takes to get to the state tournament, and they hope to put that knowledge to good use as the regular season winds down and the Section 1 playoffs begin.

“The biggest thing I think our team learned (last season) is team unity,” said junior center fielder Hailey Lundquist. “In order to win we have to be playing together and be focused.”

Senior right fielder Kaitlin Stark said, “I don’t think our record shows how good we’re playing, but I think by the end of the season people will know we’re a good team. It’s kind of cool because we’re kind of under the radar. When the end of the season comes, no one expects us to do what we hope to do.”

Losing so many close games can become discouraging, but Mills said the Raiders are using it as motivation.

“You have to make it a positive thing and learn from it,” she said. “If you see someone kind of getting down, you have to go over and say, ‘You’re fine, just let it go and just be you. Don’t let whatever happened before affect you. Play like we know you can.’ ”

Robinson said it’s encouraging to see his players continually stick together and keep moving forward.

“That’s the big thing, they’re backing each other and the parents have been awesome,” he said. “We’re right there and everybody can see that. It’s just a matter of one or two things in each game. The big thing is that we peak at the end of the season and that’s what we need to do, just keep working hard.

“They’ve been there, they know what it takes. You can’t coach experience; they either have it or they don’t. It’s just a matter of coming together.”

--To see a photo gallery of the Hastings softball team, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 509
*Miles John has driven: 7,369

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
A Game For The Ages: Orono’s Flemmer Hits The Record Book5/2/2012
Before a baseball game at Orono High School on Tuesday, I asked Jake Flemmer what he thought of the new bats that are required across the nation on prep diamonds this season.

“They don’t have as much pop but I don’t mind them,” said the Orono sophomore catcher. “They’re all right.”

Yes, they indeed are all right. Judging by Flemmer’s accomplishments this season – including a state-record-tying performance in a game last week – you get the feeling the lefthanded hitter could swing a crooked tree branch and knock the ball all over the park.

In an eight-inning, 14-8 victory at Dassel-Cokato on April 26, Flemmer (pictured) went 6-for-6 to tie the state record for the most hits in one game. The mark is the state’s oldest hitting record, established 61 years ago (in 1951) when New Ulm’s Walt Keckeisen had six hits against St. Peter and matched in 2001 when Bryan Kramer of Blooming Prairie did the same thing vs. Medford.

Flemmer, who had six singles at Dassel-Cokato, said, “I’ve had pretty good days but I’ve never seen the ball as well as I did that day.”

As the Spartans’ leadoff hitter, Flemmer singled in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings, then batted twice in the eighth and got two more singles. His hitting streak actually was eight in a row, because he had ended the previous game with a hit and did the same in his first at-bat in the next game.

Flemmer, who also is a talented hockey player, became Orono’s starting catcher early last season.

“This year he’s continued to grow and learn,” Spartans coach Dick Crandall said. “He has a really good awareness in the batter’s box, he knows what pitchers are trying to do. He’s a smart hitter.”

Flemmer’s statistics are astounding. Through the season’s first 10 games he had a .639 batting average with 23 hits in 36 at-bats. He had three doubles, one triple, one home run and 15 RBI with five walks and two strikeouts.

Orono has a solid lineup, with Will Sperduto hitting .500, Jack Halverson .486 and Tommy Wachman .469. The Spartans are 6-6 after losing to Hutchinson 2-1 Tuesday.

Immediately after Flemmer’s 6-for-6 game, no one was aware that he had tied a record. He learned about it the next morning in school via a text message from his mother.

“I hadn’t really thought about it too much,” Jake said. “We were just thinking about winning.”

Offense in high school baseball has been dialed down this season by the mandated use of BBCOR (Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution) bats. The bats, which reduce the speed of the ball as it is struck, are now required by the National Federation of State High School Associations as well as the NCAA.

Crandall said the changes in the game are clear.

“I’ve only seen one go out of the park in batting practice this year,” he said. “There were some in every round in past years. Everybody will get used to it and it will be fine. But there is a difference.”

In an odd twist, the new bats may have played a role in Flemmer’s 6-for-6 game.

“Maybe that had something to do with the bats,” Crandall said. “Maybe he would have flown out instead of hitting singles.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 507
*Miles John has driven: 7,332

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