John's Journal
Rainy Days And Mondays...4/16/2012
It's another cold, wet day in Minnesota, and we all know what that means for spring sports.

That's correct ... lots of outdoor activities today have been/will be postponed or cancelled. We've got a growing list of changes posted on the MSHSL Facebook page and I'm re-Tweeting every change I see on Twitter. It's easy to follow me on Twitter; I'm @MSHSLjohn

Have a great day and stay dry!
Burnsville Baseball: Miraculous Memories And A New Season4/12/2012
At 8:04 p.m. last June 21, rain was falling at Target Field during the bottom of the final inning of the final game of the high school baseball season. That’s when lightning struck … lightning in the form of a two-run, two-out, bases-loaded single by Burnsville junior Bo Hellquist. The game-winning hit capped a six-run rally that gave the Blaze the Class 3A state championship with an improbable 6-5 victory over Maple Grove.

“I think everybody knew we could do it, even though we were down five runs,” Hellquist told me before Burnsville’s home opener Wednesday afternoon. “We hadn’t really been hitting the ball, things weren’t going our way, we’re weren’t getting the bounces, but faith in each other and faith in ourselves helped us pull it off.”

The comeback was miraculous. Maple Grove had scored five runs in the fifth inning and led 5-0 when Hellquist opened the bottom of the seventh with a single. When his turn to bat came around again later in the inning, the score was 5-4. Then came the hit that will be long remembered.

Ten months after that game, Blaze coach Mick Scholl is still trying to catch up with all the emails and letters of congratulations.

“I’ve had over 300 emails from all over the United States and around the world,” he said. “I heard from people serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, I had letters from people who graduated back in 1964 and ’65. Winning a state championship really meant a lot to this community.”

The state title was Burnsville’s first in baseball; the Blaze had finished as the 3A runner-up a year earlier. But in the What Have You Done For Me Lately Department, a new season has begun. It is no surprise, however, that the Blaze are No. 1 in the first rankings of the season, released this week by the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association. They return a solid group of veterans, forged by last year’s run to the championship.

There is one missing piece, though, and it’s a big piece. Righthanded senior pitcher Adam Lambrecht, whose 9-0 record last year (with 54 strikeouts in 48 innings) included victories in the state semifinals as well as the state championship game, is on the sideline all season after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery last fall.

“Having Adam Lambrecht going down, that put a hole in our lineup. That one hurt us,” said Scholl (pictured here). “He’s the kind of kid you hand the ball to and you know you’re going to get the best. Our Achilles heel this year, I guess, will be pitching but it gives other kids some opportunities to step up.”

Lambrecht was pitching in a fall league when his elbow blew. He had surgery to replace a ligament in November and is on track to begin his collegiate career at North Dakota State next spring. Despite being unable to play, he remains a big part of the Burnsville team, helping other pitchers, working on conditioning and doing whatever he can for his teammates.

“He’s 100 percent part of the team,” Scholl said. “He said he wanted to help out and he’s been here every day.”

Lambrecht said, “So far everybody’s been really supportive and made me feel like part of the team, and I’m really happy about that. I love this team. I’m here to support and cheer for the guys.”

Burnsville took a 3-0 record into a Thursday game at Edina. After spending spring break in the Phoenix area – where they spent eight hours a day practicing – the Blaze have defeated Eagan, Duluth East and Lakeville North. The lessons that were so valuable a year ago – never quit, always stay together – are already a valuable tool for the 2012 Blaze.

“Coach talks about that all the time, being humble and not taking anything for granted,” Hillquist said. “We know we’re the team that everybody wants to get and we put a target on the back of our shirt like we did last year. Last year the target represented just getting to Target Field, and this year it’s a target on our back. We can’t take anything for granted, we’ve got to work hard and never give up.”

No matter how this season ends, the members of the 2011 team will always treasure their memories from Target Field. The 5-0 deficit … the six-run seventh … Hellquist’s winning single … the celebratory dogpile in the rain.

“When you break it down and think of all the individual aspects of it, it just becomes so unreal,” Hellquist said. “Not many teams put up six runs in an inning, let alone in the state championship game. With all the different aspects all coming together, it’s just amazing that we did it.

“I watch the final at-bat and I still get chills when you see everybody jumping on top of each other.”

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

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 495
*Miles John has driven: 7,088

--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 Day With The Wolves I’ll Never Forget4/9/2012
(This article was written by one of the high school students who attended a Timberwolves game through the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program.)

By Turner Blaufuss
Breckenridge High School Student SID

Wow. What an experience. If I told you I was lucky enough to meet some of my favorite sportswriters, get an amazing seat to watch Kevin Love light up the Denver Nuggets and interview Anthony Tolliver in the same day, you’d expect me to finish my story with “Yeah. And then I woke up.”

Thanks to Minnesota Timberwolves public relation senior coordinator Aaron Seehusen, John Millea and the Minnesota State High School League, it wasn’t a dream, but a dream come true.

On March 25, I was lucky enough to attend the first MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors day with the Timberwolves. I had always wondered what it would be like to be a sportswriter covering a professional team and I once made a promise to myself I’d work my way there to find out. After getting a taste of what I hope is my future, I’m that much more determined to make my dream a reality.

We jumped right into the good stuff at the beginning of our day by meeting with some long-time idols of mine. My fellow Student SIDs Thomas Elness, Katelynn Halter and Nick Wagner and Luke Sleeper from the University of Minnesota were given loads of advice from an incredible group of men. The all-star cast included Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski, KARE 11 sports reporter/anchor Dave Schwartz, Timberwolves public relations senior coordinator Aaron Seehusen, Augsburg College SID Don Stoner, Timberwolves play-by-play announcer Tom Hanneman and my personal favorite Jerry Zgoda, who is the Timberwolves beat writer at the Minneapolis Star Tribune (my dream job).

They all stressed that hard work gets you anywhere you want to be, and nothing is more important to an individual’s success. It was incredible listening to them talk about their profession with such passion. It made me realize how perfect a job in sports will fit me and hopefully I can follow in their footsteps with the same love for my career.

After that we switched gears and Aaron took us for a tour. The Wolves’ locker room was my favorite and seeing reporters talk to the players and coach Rick Adelman gave me a great feel for the relationship you develop with athletes and coaches as a writer. Our next step was the dining room, where we hit up the pasta bar. It. Was. Amazing.

The game tipped off and the atmosphere was incredible. We were four rows up in the press seats, which was a view I could definitely get used to. The Timberwolves and Love are definitely worth the price of admission. The game was free for us, but you know what I mean. The Timberwolves put on a show for the MSHSL crew, scoring a season-high 68 first-half points on their way to a 117-100 victory. It was hard not to cheer while being unbiased media.

After the game Aaron approached us and I initially thought he was going to thank us for coming, but he said something that made my heart skip a beat. “Would you guys want to interview Anthony Tolliver?” All of us were a little slow to respond because we were a bit surprised. It was an amazing first interview with a professional athlete and it couldn’t have been with a nicer player. Thank you, Mr. Tolliver. You are way taller in person.

I would like to thank Aaron and John for organizing the day. It was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget. Meeting Jerry Zgoda and other sports writers I’ve always adored, attending a Timberwolves game, interviewing a real professional athlete all in one day? If I could have gotten K-Love’s autograph for my sociology teacher it would’ve been perfect, but that’s part of being media and not a fan. I’m happy and proud to be an MSHSL Student SID.
A Little Bit Of Everything At Board Of Directors Meeting4/5/2012
The April meeting of the MSHSL board of directors was an action-packed affair Thursday morning, with some proposed changes approved and others rejected. The topics ranged from the basketball postseason to seeding at state tournaments to hockey scrimmages to swimming to cross-country to golf and more. Here’s a summary of what happened…

--State Basketball Seeding/ The boys and girls basketball advisory committees recommended that teams be seeded No. 1 through No. 8 at state tournaments for all classes of boys and 3A and 4A in girls; the current format for those classes has teams seeded 1 through 4 and their opponents determined by a blind draw. The 20-member board tabled the proposal, wanting more information before making any decisions. The board was told that at least half of the state’s region committees opposed the change, and the board also was informed that making the change for basketball would mean doing the same for other state tournaments that are seeded. The possibility of seeding 1 through 5 was mentioned, and the board will discuss this issue in the future.

--New Format For 4A State Basketball/ The basketball advisory committees also proposed that boys and girls 4A basketball use a new system for the postseason, with 64 teams forming an NCAA-style tournament. The board rejected the proposal on a near-unanimous voice vote.

Board members’ concerns included travel and who would be on committees that would seed the 64 teams. Board vice president Mark Fredericksen, principal at Waconia High School, said, “I’m really concerned about the philosophical change. I think this changes our whole model. If our goal is to create competitive balance it’s hard to limit it to one class and one sport. I don’t know that the model is necessarily broken in basketball.”

Board member Mike Manning, activities director at Rosemount High School and a former basketball coach, said, “I think every other sport will be at our door and I’m not ready to do this for every sport. As much as I think this is a good idea for basketball, I’m not in favor.”

And board member Chris Laird, activities director and boys soccer coach at Heritage Christian Academy, asked, “If the rationale is to make it as competitive as you can, wouldn’t that apply to 3A, 2A and 1A?”

--Hockey Scrimmages/ Hockey coaches asked for a change in rules regarding scrimmages, but the board voted against the change. Currently, each team is allowed three calendar days to hold three days of scrimmages or two days of scrimmages and one jamboree day. The proposal asked for unlimited scrimmages during the first two weeks after practice begins, and a limit of two scrimmages following the third Monday of the season.

--Baseball/Softball/ The board approved a request from baseball and softball coaches to use a double-elimination format for the final eight teams in section tournaments. Currently, the final four teams use double-elimination. This change will take effect in the 2013 season. The board also approved a policy change for game-ending procedures at the state softball and baseball tournaments, allowing games to be suspended rather than ended due to bad weather or other circumstances.

--Also, the board approved a change from four sections to six in Class A boys swimming and approved a format change in section qualifiers for the state cross-country meet. Currently, the top 10 individuals from each section go to state, regardless of team qualifiers. Under the change, the top eight individuals not on state-qualifying teams will go to state.

IN OTHER NEWS FROM THE BOARD ROOM…

--A survey concerning golf showed little support for adding a fall state tournament (and retaining the spring tournament) for teams that would like to play golf in the fall.

--The board watched a video replay of Perham students Emily Peterson and Joe Alfs singing the national anthem during the boys state basketball tournament. As I wrote after their performance, “We have heard some excellent performances during the tournaments, but Perham students Emily Peterson and Joe Alfs topped them all with a wonderful duet before Friday night’s games. They mixed in a bit of “America the Beautiful” with the anthem, and then got high fives from Perham coach Dave Cresap as they exited the court.”

--The board honored Andover junior cross-country runner Josh Ripley with the Spirit of Sport Award, one of eight such awards given across the country. In an act that received national acclaim last September, Josh stopped running during the Applejack Invitational in Lakeville and helped an injured runner. Lakeville South’s Mark Paulauskas had been spiked and was on the ground, holding his ankle and bleeding profusely. Josh picked him up and carried him a half-mile down the course, where he handed him off to a Lakeville South coach. Once assured that Paulauskas was in good hands and medical help was on its way, Ripley made his way back to the race, finishing 211th out of 261 runners.

Josh, who was nominated by the MSHSL for the national Spirit of Sport award, was named the winner in Section 5, which includes Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 490
*Miles John has driven: 7,043

--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
Previewing Thursday’s Board of Directors Meeting4/4/2012
The MSHSL board of directors will meet at MSHSL World Headquarters in Brooklyn Center on Thursday morning, with some interesting items on the agenda.

Several advisory committee recommendations will be discussed, with major changes possible. Advisory committees, made up of representatives from specific sports and other activities, frequently pass along recommendations to the MSHSL board.

Two recommendations revolve around basketball...

--One recommendation asks the board to seed all eight teams in all four classes of the boys state basketball tournament and also seed teams one through eight for 3A and 4A girls state basketball. Currently, teams are seeded 1-4 in all four classes of boys state basketball and 3A and 4A in girls state basketball.

--Another recommendation asks the board to make a change to the section playoff structure for girls and boys basketball in Class 4A only. This is the so-called “NCAA 64-team tournament” that has been discussed and publicized in recent months. The proposed change reads: “In Class AAAA basketball only, eight sections are identified by Region Secretaries and an appointed basketball committee will assign and seed teams to each site based on geographic and competitive balance.”

The advisory committee’s rationale for the proposed change are…

1. Increase the fan interest in high school basketball playoffs. Improve and create more of a tournament atmosphere in the entire playoff system from Section Quarterfinals through the State Tournament Finals.

2. Maintain geographical integrity with respect to location of cities/communities in Minnesota, while keeping travel costs and out of school time similar or less.

3. Create a playoff system that provides more equity to all schools in their opportunity to qualify for the MSHSL State Tournament by removing geography as the sole reason for Section assignment.

4. Provide an opportunity to showcase Minnesota athletes and athletics by incorporating a “Selection Sunday” type show and atmosphere.

5. Enhance playoff tournament atmosphere by copying a format that we know already works (NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball). Bringing all of the teams to one site will provide for larger crowds with interest in potential next round opponent, enhancing the excitement for semifinal games. The enhanced tournament atmosphere will alse create the possibility of increased revenue for the administrative regions.

The hockey advisory committee will recommend a change in scrimmage policies. Currently, each team is allowed three calendar days to hold three days of scrimmages or two days of scrimmages and one jamboree day. The change would allow for unlimited scrimmages during the first two weeks after practice begins, and a limit of two scrimmages following the third Monday of the season. A rationale is that scrimmages are important for team selection and season preparation.

Softball and baseball advisory committees have asked for a change in the section tournament double-elimination policy. Currently, a double-elimination format is used in section tournaments for the final four teams only. The proposal asks that the final eight teams in each section play under a double-elimination format.

Also in baseball and softball, game-ending procedures in state tournament games will be discussed and possibly changed to allow games to be suspended (instead of ended) and resumed later if certain conditions are met.

The board of directors also will discuss and possibly vote on two items that could be forwarded to the MSHSL Representative Assembly, which will meet May 14. One item concerns a request to allow alpine and Nordic ski coaches to work with their skiers for three weeks after the state ski meet. The other item concerns student violations of MSHSL bylaws, stating that students who deny violations, then participate in events and are later found guily of the violation will forfeit any honors won as individuals.

Discussion items for the board will include a survey that was sent to golf coaches, asking if the season should be changed for those who wish to play golf in the fall. The board also will discuss sportsmanship and student/school behavior.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. I will post instant updates on Twitter, keep the news flowing on Facebook and summarize the meeting here on John’s Journal.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 490
*Miles John has driven: 7,043

--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