John's Journal
After A Very Lengthy Delay, Murray County Central Makes Golf History 6/13/2012
BECKER – The boys golf team from Murray County Central High School in Slayton came within a whisker of taking home a trophy and third-place medals Wednesday at the Class 1A state tournament. The Rebels finished fourth, however, one stroke behind Dawson-Boyd.

One stroke? That’s a single putt that lipped out of the cup instead of falling in. One putt that broke this way instead of that way.

One stroke? Murray County Central had a total team score of 668 strokes. Dawson-Boyd had 667. That was the difference between a trophy in the case and medals around their necks.

As with most small schools, trips to state tournaments are not a regular occurrence; the Murray County Central football team went to state in 2000 and the girls golf team did so in 2002. But nobody -- and I mean nobody -- wearing Rebels colors was down in the dumps about the razor-thin margin Wednesday at Pebble Creek Golf Club.

Here’s the deal: The Rebels had not even fielded a boys golf team between 1976 and 2012, according to coach Kim Delong. That’s 36 years with a ZERO chance of taking home a trophy and medals, so just playing in this week’s two-day state tournament was almost as good as winning the the whole thing.

“We didn’t really have any expectations,” said freshman Adam Christensen, one of five underclassmen on the six-man tournament roster. “We just went out there to have fun and do our best. We thought we were pretty good, though.”

The boys who played at state – senior Devin Ryan, juniors Ben Loosbrock, Devin Erickson and Cole Degreeff and freshmen Christensen and Grant Everson (pictured) – had as much fun as anybody.

“It’s been pretty awesome because I’m not used to being on a team that wins,” Degreeff said. “And we don’t lose for the most part. The pressure feels good; it’s a good kind of pressure. And I like the atmosphere around here. The people are nice, the course is nice and it was just a great couple of days.”

Murray County Central has fielded a girls golf team all these years. The boys team was resurrected when people realized that there were enough players to do so, with a booster club helping with funds and the school board approving the move.

“For several years we’ve had student-athletes who are out golfing and some of their parents are golfers, and we had enough interest,” said Delong, who coaches the boys and girls golf teams. “The majority of these kids are out there every day all summer.”

The Rebels’ first big splash this season came when they won the Red Rock Conference championship by 11 strokes. They kept winning, qualifying for state with a five-shot victory in the Section 3 tournament.

“I think conference kind of justified how good we were,” Ryan said. “I think that’s when we knew we had a good chance to go pretty far.”

Eight boys played on the team this spring and Delong thinks that number could easily be doubled in 2013. And with everybody except Ryan returning next season, the Rebels might want to think about making room for a new trophy.

“I’m a senior this year so it’s been amazing for me,” Ryan said. “I’ve never made it to state in anything so it’s just great to be here.”

--In the Class 1A tournament, Lewiston-Altura repeated as the girls team champion and Legacy Christian Academy senior Rachel Gray won the individual championship. On the boys side, Legacy Christian Academy won the team title and Cordell Weber of Martin County West was the individual champ.

--In Class 2A girls, Detroit Lakes took the team title and Detroit Lakes eighth-grader Kate Smith won the individual championship. Detroit Lakes also won the boys team championship and Hermantown's Taylor Sundbom won the individual title.

--And in 3A, New Prague won the girls title and Cretin-Derham Hall's Celia Kuenster was the individual champ. Moorhead captured the 3A team championship and the individual title was shared by Chaska's Jon Dutoit and Moorhead's Ben Welle.

--The best-dressed fans at the 1A tournament were a trio from Russell-Tyler-Ruthton. Andrew Bakker, Hudson Van Drunen and Ryan O'Toole all wore SpongeBob SquarePants t-shirts, sunglasses and matching hats.

--Culinary highlight of the day: A freshly grilled, world-class cheeseburger at Pebble Creek.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 21 for the spring tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 675
*Miles John has driven: 8,571

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
The Seeds Are Re-Planted And The Fans Are Not Happy6/11/2012
Here is a quick – and unedited -- summary of comments that were posted on the MSHSL Facebook page and my Twitter stream late Monday morning and into the afternoon ...

--“Why not seed 1-8, afraid feelings will be hurt??”

--“so instead it's the 6 seed that might get screwed #makesnosense”

--“classic case of League not wanting to hurt feelings...if you're going to do it, go all the way 1-8 both genders all classes”

--“ How bout 1-8? Oh yeah, we dont want to hurt the feelings of the team that is the #8, total BS”

--“no one's self-esteem is going to be crushed bc they are the 7 seed - they just made the state tourney!”

This, uh, feedback was the result of the MSHSL Board of Directors changing the structure for seeding teams at state tournaments. The board approved a change to seeding the top five teams instead of the top four in tournaments that use seeding.

Coaches whose teams are playing at state will continue to use an electronic process to seed the teams. The change affects Class 3A and Class 4A in girls basketball and all classes in boys basketball, boys and girls hockey, boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls soccer, volleyball, wrestling and adapted sports.

The online outcry was clear and full-throated in its support for seeding all eight teams at state tournaments. But it’s just not that easy. I attempted to calm the waters during the meeting by issuing this Tweet: “Something to ponder: #mshsl board makes change verrrrrry slowwwwwwly. Seeding 1-8 remains an option. 1-5 is a step in that direction.”

The process for such changes can be ponderous. That slow pace also means that such changes are not taken lightly. Before Monday’s vote, region committees from around the state, as well as coaches associations in various sports, were asked to hold their own votes on seeding 1 through 4 or 1 through 5 at state.

The 16 region committees (eight representing small schools and eight representing larger schools) split down the middle, with eight regions voting in favor of seeding 1-4 and eight in favor of seeding 1-5. Coaches associations in four sports (soccer, volleyball, girls basketball, boys basketball) voted in favor of 1-5, coaches in four other sports (girls hockey, boys hockey, wrestling , lacrosse) are happy with either 1-4 or 1-5 and adapted sports coaches are in favor of seeding 1-4 based on season records.

With no clear direction being offered by those votes, the board jumped in anyway and made the change. It might not be the drastic change that many people wanted to see, but it was a step in the right direction … if seeding all eight teams is what you want.

As the meeting ended I thought a little levity might be in order. So I sent this Tweet: “#mshsl meeting has ended, lunch is being served. I'm hitting items 1 through 5 on the buffet. I used to eat only items 1 through 4.”


--The members approved four requests for experimental rule changes from National Federation rules. They are …

Football/ At least four members of the team kicking off must be on either side of the kicker when an onside kick is attempted, and no member of the kicking team can contact an opponent until the kicked ball has traveled 10 yards. This rule was first used in Minnesota last season and it will be continued.

Hockey/ Minnesota will continue to use the changes in rules and penalties regarding contact and player safety that were instituted during the 2011-12 season, while giving officials options for severity of penalties for contact to the head.

Track and Field-Cross Country/ The MSHSL will request an experimental exemption from a National Federation rule that bans jewelry on competitors. Monitoring jewelry can be difficult and jewelry isn’t viewed as giving an advantage or compromising safety.

Volleyball/ A change was approved to adjust officials’ hand signals so they will immediately indicate which team will serve after an infraction, allowing for a faster tempo and fewer errors in game management.

--The board voted to select officers for the 2012-13 school year. The officers will be president Mark Fredericksen, principal at Waconia; vice president John Hamann, principal at Underwood; and treasurer Rick Bleichner, superintendent at Breckenridge.

--New board members, whose terms will begin with the August board meeting, observed Monday’s meeting. They are Tom Conzemius, athletic/activities director at Sauk Rapids-Rice, representing Region 7-8AA; Bob Grey, athletic/activities director at Montevideo, representing Region 3-4A; Shelly Hotzler, softball coach at Jackson County Central, representing Girls Sports; Erich Martens, principal at Sauk Rapids-Rice, representing the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals; and Chris McDonald, speech coach at Eagan, representing the Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota. One public representative to the board remains to be selected by Gov. Mark Dayton.

--Board members whose terms ended Monday are president Mindy Sparby, athletic/activities director at Belle Plaine, representing Girls Sports; treasurer Luanne Wagner, assistant principal at St. Francis, representing the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals; Chris Laird, athletic/activities director at Heritage Christian Academy, representing Region 3-4A; Perry Aadland, athletic/activities director at Chisago Lakes, representing Region 7-8AA; Jill Lofald, speech coach at Duluth Denfeld, representing the Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota; and Kim Algoo, representing the public.

--After last week’s flurry of state tournaments in boys tennis, boys and girls lacrosse, softball and girls and boys track, Monday was a day off from tourney action. The action will resume with state golf tournaments Tuesday and Wednesday and state baseball tourney games Thursday and Friday. The spring will conclude next Monday, June 18, with baseball championship games in all three classes at Target Field.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 664
*Miles John has driven: 8,431

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
From Minnesota To Rwanda: The Drive Behind ‘All Day Fore Africa’ 6/11/2012
As Kate Lesnar plays in the Class 2A state golf tournament Tuesday and Wednesday at the Ridges at Sand Creek course near Jordan, she will surely concentrate on each shot but her mind may wander ever so slightly. The student at Worthington High School, who will be a senior in the fall, can be forgiven if her thoughts turn to children and families who live 8,000 miles away but know they can count on their friend Kate.

Kate is passionate about golf and talented at the game, also qualifying for the state tournament a year ago. Her other passion is the village of Kibeho in the African nation of Rwanda and the children who attend St. Stanislaus School there. One week after the state tournament ends, Kate will wake up very early to head for Worthington Country Club and a day of fundraising for the children in Rwanda.

It’s quite the connection; a teenage girl from Minnesota and a small village in Rwanda. It began because Kate’s mother, Kathy Lesnar, works as a personal manager for Immaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor of genocide in Rwanda during the 1990s who has become a best-selling author and one of the world's leading speakers on peace, faith and forgiveness.

As Kate (pictured) learned about Immaculee’s background and her mission to aid people in Rwanda, the idea seemed so natural: Raise money by playing 100 holes of golf in a single day, taking pledges from anyone who wanted to contribute. The first event, in 2010, raised more than $10,000, which paid for a new water system for St. Stanislaus School as well as clothing, shoes and similar items.

“My goal was $1,000,” Kate said. “We thought that was really high but we thought we could get close to it. Every single day we’d get checks in the mail; from a person in Georgia and just random people. It was a miracle how it all came together.”

This year’s event will be held June 20 at Worthington Country Club. The non-profit project is called “All Day Fore Africa” (you can find a website under that name as well as a Facebook page). The project is subtitled “Kids Playing For Kids” because much of the work is done by teens and younger children. An example: Kate’s younger sister Annie and her friend Kailey Wendland will help raise money by performing with their guitars at BenLee's Cafe in downtown Worthington on June 19, with BenLee's donating a portion of each lunch sold to the cause. More than a dozen people have signed up to play 100 holes in Worthington the next day, so the project is growing.

“Lots of people say, ‘This is such a good idea: Kids using their passion to make a difference.’ It’s a super idea,” Kate said. “It’s going to be as big as God wants it to be.”

After all that money was raised in 2010, Kate, Kathy, Immaculee and several others traveled to Kibeho to visit and present the funds to Father Leszek Czelusniak, the Polish-born priest at St. Stanislaus. Last year’s effort spread to similar events in California, Pennsylvania and Nebraska and raised more than $30,000. Each event is followed by a trip to Kibeho.

Kate will never forget her first journey to the village.

“I was so overwhelmed. They have to walk a mile up a hill to the school. Right when we could see the school, the kids saw us and sprinted out to us. It was so cool seeing how happy they were. They were barefoot, in ripped t-shirts. … They realized that something good had happened. They were all so happy.”

Immaculee Ilibagiza and Father Celusniak will attend next week’s event in Worthington. The Lesnars are hoping that more people around the country learn about All Day Fore Africa and plan their own events.

“I feel like it’s starting,” said Kathy. “Some people may want to go bowling all day for Africa or play soccer. For me as a parent it’s so awesome to see the kids realize they can make a difference in the world. As far as building character, we push our kids to be the best they can be. This organization is focused more on shaping kids’ hearts, and the benefit is as much for the kids in the U.S. It’s planting seeds of love in people’s hearts.”

The money raised this year will go toward teachers and a much-needed medical facility. “When someone’s sick they put them on a stretcher and walk them to the nearest place,” Kate said.

Kathy said, “The medical facility is a big one. We’re talking bigger money, and we can do it.”
The Lesnars will have materials about All Day Fore Africa with them at the state tournament this week, and they will accept donations from anyone who wishes to help. They are happy to spearhead the project, but they know they are not alone.

“It seems like a story about Kate,” Kathy said. “But it’s really a story about a bunch of kids.”

To which Kate added, “And without the community support it never would have grown like this.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 664
*Miles John has driven: 8,431

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Divine Intervention Or Not, He's Headed To State6/10/2012
Here's a great story of an injured athlete who recovered just in time to qualify for the state golf tournament. It comes to us courtesy of Joel Alvstad, sports editor of the Cottonwood County Citizen in Windom ...

Mt. Lake Christian freshman Aaron Walzak will be playing in the Class 1A state golf meet this week in Becker, after sharing Section 3A champion honors.

His appearance in the state meet is both historic and somewhat miraculous.

He becomes the first male athlete from his school to qualify for an MSHSL state event (sophomore Whitney Klassen was the first girl from the school to advance to state after she qualified for the state cross-country meet last fall).

The somewhat miraculous part is that Walzak missed a significant portion of the season. While on the yearly school-wide mission trip in mid-April, Walzak suffered a broken collarbone while playing a game of pick-up basketball with a group of classmates and other mission workers.

The recovery time from a broken collarbone is typically about six weeks, sometimes shorter. On the day he suffered the injury, the sub-section meet was just over five weeks away.

The frustrations for Aaron, who has played competitive golf in summer tournaments since he was 6, were that he couldn't even putt or chip. Making things worse, he said, was the fact that the MLC team, which only had four varsity players, was unable to post team scores at meets in his absence.

Aaron's father and coach, Kevin Walzak, serves as pastor at Alliance Missionary Church in Mt. Lake. Following the team's first meet after Aaron's injury took place, Kevin told me, "Let's just say that we're praying very hard for a speedy recovery."

As it turns out, Aaron was cleared by doctors to return to playing golf on May 16, the day after the Red Rock Conference Meet and one week before the sub-section meet -- and just over four weeks after he was injured. He was able to play in one regular-season meet before sub-sections. At the Section 3A South Sub-Section Meet in Worthington, he took third, shooting a 79. Then, on May 30 at the Section 3A Meet in Marshall, Aaron shot an 80, which tied him with Monte DeKam of Southwest Minnesota Christian/Edgerton for individual first-place honors.

Aaron said that in the three weeks since he received his medical clearance, he's been able to slowly progress back to 100 percent, but acknowledged that the time he missed left him feeling a bit rusty. However, he heads to Becker as a first-time state qualifier and said he is familiar with the Pebble Creek course and anticipates being in the hunt for a state medal.
Veterans Win More Gold; The Next Era Beckons6/9/2012
The high school track world said farewell to some stellar athletes as they capped glorious careers with outstanding performances during Saturday’s state championships at Hamline University’s Klas Field. The names are familiar, including Haylie Zenner and R.J. Alowonle.

We also saw impressive showings by some familiar stars who will be back for another year. Most well-known among that group are Maria Hauger and Jessica January, but we also must remember the name Nadia Lorencz.

And as is the case every year, we witnessed some young talent that has burst onto the scene like exploding fireworks. Wensia Johnson and Meleah Biermaier, we look forward to much more. Let’s talk specifics…

HAYLIE ZENNER, THE PRIDE of Fergus Falls, finished her career in rare style, winning the Class 2A girls 800 meters for the fourth time. She had previously won the 800 as an eighth-grader, freshman and junior, placing second as a sophomore. She also played on a basketball team that went to the state tournament. She will be on the track and cross-country teams at the University of Minnesota in the fall.

I have interviewed Haylie several times during the course of her career, and she is always smiling and always thankful. After she crossed the finish line Saturday, the she looked to the sky, gave thanks and then turned to the other runners, saying – as she always does -- “Great job, girls!”

Haylie was crying as she walked from the finish line to the awards tent, where her fourth gold medal would soon be placed around her neck. I was talking with a friend, who saw the tears and said, “Oh, that’s too bad.”

I explained that Haylie was not crying tears of sadness, but tears of joy and gratitude. And her words backed that up.

“I am so happy, so blessed,” she told me. “This is the end of a really great journey for me. I couldn’t have asked for a better high school career.”

PARK SENIOR R.J. ALOWONLE ended a stellar career by winning both 2A hurdles races and the triple jump as well as running a leg on the Wolfpack’s championship 4x100 relay. He won the 300 hurdles for the third year in a row; he never lost in the 300s at Park. He also won the 110 hurdles Saturday for the second year in a row. He will compete at the University of North Carolina.

“I’m a little sad but I’m happy at how I finished my high school career,” he said. “It’s like a finish line in a race, you start and end there.”

MARIA HAUGER, A JUNIOR from Shakopee, cleary stamped herself as one of the greatest distance stars in Minnesota history … and she has one more year to go. She captured the 2A distance double, winning the 3,200 meters Friday and the 1,600 Saturday. She won the 3,200 last year and also is a three-time state cross-country champion.

FARMINGTON’S NADIA LORENCZ won the 2A 100-meter hurdles, nosing out state record-holder and two-time defending state champ Jessica January, a junior from of Richfield. Lorencz’s time was 14.36 and January finished in 14.39. January had broken her own state record during Friday’s preliminaries with a time of 14.32. Both Lorencz (who also won the long jump) and January (numbers 4 and 5 in this photo) are juniors, and all eyes will be on both of them during the 2013 season.

THE YOUNGSTERS TO WATCH are Wensia Johnson and Meleah Biermaier. Both are eighth-graders who already own state championships. Johnson’s first race Saturday was a bit disappointing; she had the best time in Friday’s 100-meter prelims, finishing a tick off the state record that had stood since 1986. That mark of 11.73 seconds had been set by Windom’s Heather Van Norman. On Friday, Johnson – a 14-year-old from Alexandria – finished the prelims in 11.74.

But in the finals, Johnson finished second to Hopkins junior Taylor Anderson. Her winning time of 11.71 broke Van Norman’s record, with Johnson next in 11.83.

But later in the day Johnson (pictured with 200 third-place runner Megan Linder of Cretin-Derham Hall) claimed gold in the 200, an event she called “not my strongest race.” No record was set, but her strong performance both days in the sprints marked Johnson as a sudden star. Even if she didn’t come to Hamline thinking she would go home a state champ.

“It’s an honor running with the best of the best,” she said. “I came in thinking, ‘Have fun and do your best.’ ”

Johnson was slowed by a knee injury early in the season but quickly began running up some of the fastest times in the state. A native of Haiti, she and her younger sister Patricia were adopted by an Alexandria family eight years ago.

“I have loved all the support from my family and friends and the fans who I don’t even know,” she said. We should probably get used to the name, because Wensia predicted that Patricia,12, will soon be joining her big sister at the state meet.

“You guys will be seeing her here,” Wensia said.

THE OTHER YOUNG state champion is Biermaier, an eighth-grader from Thief River Falls. She won the 2A girls 300-meter low hurdles.


Hopkins’ Anderson had a very specific goal in mind Saturday. She said her mother had promised to buy her a car if she won both the 100 and 200. Taylor began her day with a gold medal in the 100 as well as the state record. Anderson anchored Hopkins to a first-place finish in the 4x100 relay and everything seemed to be on track for that car. But then she finished second in the 200 to Johnson.


North St. Paul won the boys 2A 4x200 in a time of 1:27.23, which is a new state record. The previous mark of 1:27.63 was set by White Bear Lake in 2010.


--Andover senior Thomas Anderson, who won the boys 2A shot put Friday, won the discus Saturday. St. Francis senior Maggie Ewen did the same thing in 2A girls.
--Blaine senior Ayuk Tambe won the 2A boys 100 for the second year in a row.
--White Bear Lake senior Eric Gebeke repeated in the 2A boys 800.
--Roseville junior DeAntre Smith won the 2A long jump and high jump.


--Michael Whitney of Breckenridge/Campbell-Tintah was a double winner, taking gold in the boys 100 and 200.

--The Osakis girls relays teams won two events, the 4x200 and 4x400. The 4x200 runners were Abby Stroup, Brittney Sadlemyer, Hannah Szech and Becka Sadlemyer. The 4x400 members were Makayla Hoglin, Cali Sadlemyer, Szech and Becka Sadlemyer.

--Blake swept the 1,600-meter races. Bears sophomore Clare Flanagan won the girls race and senior Brandon Clark was the boys champion.


--Awards announcer Mike Weimerskirch always clarifies pronunciations before athletes’ names are read and their medals given. Jackson County Central 400-meter runner Jason Vongsavanh (who finished eighth) was pleased when Weimerskirch got his name correct on the first try, saying, “Wow! Thanks for getting my name right!”

--Wayzata coach Bill Miles was standing behind the fence near the finish line when the 2A boys 4x800 relay finished. As Wayzata anchor runner Brian Jarvey crossed the finish line with a first-place finish, he fell to the track. The coach hollered, “Get up! Get him up! He’s got to run another race!” As Bill walked away, he said with a smile, “I’m a loving coach.”

--To see photos from the state track meet, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 17 for the spring tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 663
*Miles John has driven: 8,379

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