John's Journal
Monson The Miler: Albert Lea Champion Balances Work, Fun 5/1/2012
ALBERT LEA -- Chrissy Monson works hard, trains hard and loves to run. But the Albert Lea junior is learning that the work of being an elite athlete can sometimes interfere with the fun. An important reminder came early this spring.

Monson made a big splash at last year’s state track championships, outpacing some of the state’s headliners in winning the Class 2A 1,600 meters. She finished third in the 3,200 at state last year; she also ran those events at state as an eighth-grader and ninth-grader.

But she had a disappointing cross-country season last fall, was coming off an injury when the spring track season began and did not win her first outdoor 1,600 race of 2012. There was a reason for that.

“One of our captains, Ashley Tewes, said to me, ‘Chrissy, your parents have been trying to tell you but you just aren’t seeing it. You’re getting too worked up, you’re getting too involved. You need to smile. I’ve never seen you run a race without a smile on your face, and you haven’t had that. There’s something different.’ ”

Chrissy was smiling as she told me that story last week during a four-team meet at Hammer Field. But then, she almost always is smiling. When she doesn’t smile, people notice.

“I think it was kind of a rocky winter,” she said. “My dad was like, ‘Chrissy, smile. This is fun, that’s why you do it.’ I have great support that can get me focused. I have so many different people looking out for me. I love the sport and I’ve met so many great people and have had so many great opportunities. Obviously I want to be the best I can but I don’t want to get caught up in it.”

As an eighth-grader Monson placed seventh in the 3,200 and 13th in the 1,600 at state. As a freshmen she finished third (3,200) and sixth (1,600). Last year’s big-school title in the 1,600 catapulted her into the top echelon of Minnesota milers, and she is continually committed to improving.

“She’s totally focused,” said Albert Lea coach Margo Wayne. “She eats, lives and breathes track and running. She’s a wonderful spokesman and role model and just does everything right from the amount of sleep she gets to what she eats to how she trains. She is the whole package.”

My first chat with Chrissy came after she outdueled Shakopee’s Maria Hauger and Alexandria’s Jamie Piepenberg to win the 2A 1,600 last year at Hamline University’s Klas Field. Her father, Maurie, was cheering near the finish line and their embrace after Chrissy’s victory is one of the scenes that endures from that day. When I was in Albert Lea last week – where Chrissy won the 1,600 and 3,200 against competition from Rochester Mayo, Winona and Owatonna -- athlete and father continued the tradition of post-race hugs.

Chrissy has not run as well as she would like in the early part of the season, but she knows that thousands of strides remain to be taken before the state meet June 8-9. In past seasons she would often scan the statewide honor rolls, checking the competition. She doesn’t do that any more.

“I think it was always like, ‘Where can I go next?’ I told myself, ‘You are there. Act like it. Present yourself like it. Don’t get cocky.’ My dad checks (the honor rolls) and I’ll ask him what’s going on?

“He’ll say, ‘Some girls are running some really fast times and you’re not running as fast as they are.’ He’ll tell me, straight out. And I’ll say, ‘OK, let’s do some crunches!’

That’s the kind of commitment that builds state champions. Wayne, however, said Monson can sometimes push herself too hard.

“We talk about that a lot,” the coach said. “If she feels fairly fresh after a workout, she thinks, ‘Should I be doing more?’ It can hard to convince her, ‘Nope, you’re done. That’s your workout.’ ”

The competition among female distance runners in Minnesota is historically strong. Hauger and Piepenberg have battled each other for numerous state tites on the track and in cross-country, and Monson has inserted herself into the discussion. She said the transformation from young unknown to state champion was as simple as trying to run faster than the competition.

“It’s kind of strange,” she said. “I came in as a seventh-grader, eighth-grader, just thrown into varsity right away. No one knew who I was. There was this little girl, ‘Is she in the wrong race?’ All I was trying to do was get the next person. The people in the running world are amazing. Everyone who competes is a down-to-earth, great person. Just getting to know the people has made me want to be that sort of person. I can see that they have fun, they love what they do and they have a passion. I wanted to get that passion, and I have gotten there.

“I want everyone to do their best, and I obviously hope my best is better.”

*Schools/teams John has visited: 505
*Miles John has driven: 7,290

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Once In A Lifetime Opportunity4/29/2012
(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 Katie Halter
Red Rock Central High School Student SID

How many high school students can say they have interviewed an NBA player? That’s right, I’m betting close to zero. Well, on March 25, myself, Thomas Elness from Windom High School, Turner Blaufuss from Breckenridge High School, Nick Wagner from Ada-Borup and Luke Sleeper from the University of Minnesota all got the opportunity of a lifetime.

We are involved in an MSHSL program called Student Sports Information Directors. Through this program there have been many perks: Meeting various media personnel at the local level, getting into games free, and the best thing of all is writing about different sporting events we witnessed. I’m sure not all of us thought when we initially got involved in this program that we would ever go to a Timberwolves game and interview a player.

We started the first-ever Student Sports Information Day with the Timberwolves getting a tour of the team offices by Aaron Seehusen, the public relations senior coordinator for the Timberwolves and the coordinator of the student SID day.

We stopped at the boardroom where the team holds various meetings on multiple subjects. We were then joined by various media personnel. Star Tribune beat reporter Jerry Zgoda, Augsburg College sports information director Don Stoner, Fox Sports North television play-by-play man Tom Hanneman, Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski and KARE-11 sports anchor/reporter Dave Schwartz all shared the stories of their success and answered some of our questions.

When asked if they believe ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’, they all agreed that it’s a combination of both in this business. You have to know how to handle situations, meet deadlines, and work together; but on the other hand, who you know might impact how far you move up the job chain as well.

We finished our hour-long roundtable discussion and were treated with a tour of the Target Center. We walked around the court and eventually made it into the Timberwolves locker room, which is probably even smaller than my high school locker room! While in the locker room, Nikola Pekovic had just come in from his pre-game shoot around. The media immediately surrounded him, which showed me that you truly have to honor the time and relationships that media gets with players and coaches.

After our tour, it was time for one of the best pasta bars in the world. It was honestly the best pasta I’ve ever had. We enjoyed the company of each other and talked about our experiences being involved in the MSHSL SID program.

We found our seats in the fourth row of the press area. As we got situated, it hit me that we were sitting in the same area as some of the great media personnel in Minnesota.

As the game proceeded we received quarter notes, injury reports and next game previews. The Timberwolves went on to beat the Denver Nuggets 117-110.

After the game, Aaron asked if we would like to stick around and interview a player if they agreed. Of course, all of our immediate answers were YES!

It took about five minutes after the game to get the interview set up. Aaron told us that Anthony Tolliver had agreed to be interviewed by us. I’m not going to lie; I was very star-struck during this, as you can see from this picture. He was a very genuine and down-to-earth player, one that every little kid should look up to.

As our interview came to a close, so did our day. It was one of the best days any up-and-coming journalist could ask for. Thank you to John Millea for setting up this experience and to Aaron Seehusen and the entire Minnesota Timberwolves staff making this day possible. It truly was a day I will never forget.

Smithsonian Museum To Feature Apple Valley Girls Hockey4/26/2012
American history was made on March 25, 1995, when a team from Apple Valley High School was crowned the first girls state hockey championship team in the United States. The Eagles defeated South St. Paul 2-0 in that championship game.

Seventeen years have passed, and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., has chosen Apple Valley’s hockey history to be part of an exhibit called “Hometown Teams” and the Smithsonian program known as Museum on Main Street.

The exhibit is about the spirit, diversity and love of sports in towns across America. “Hometown Teams” will shine a spotlight on teams at the local, high school, college and amateur level, but also on some of the most iconic professional landmarks in America. The exhibition is divided into themes that will feature personal stories from players in audio and video presentations, historical photographs, archival footage, replicas and even objects donated by minor league, college and high school teams. There are six major thematic sections in the exhibit:

“Sports Everywhere”
“Fields of Glory”
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (fan experiences)
“Root, Root, Root for the Home Team” (stories from families and supporters)
“Playing the Game” (athlete stories)
and “Sports Explosion” (the future of sports).

The focus on Apple Valley High School will revolve around the girls hockey team. Minnesota was the first state in the U.S. to sanction girls ice hockey as a high school varsity sport.

Smithsonian staff members will be at Apple Valley High School during the first week of May to conduct interviews with current and former players and coaches.

A note to MSHSL staff from Pete Buesgens, Apple Valley assistant principal and athletics director, included these words: “Thank you to the MSHSL for having the foresight to be an advocate and supporter of women’s athletics and for being at the forefront in the United States! I cannot even begin to imagine the number of young women impacted in such a positive way because of the skills and lessons taught through sport.”
Reporting from Phoenix: A State Record Falls In Minnesota4/22/2012
PHOENIX – There was some major news on the high school track scene in Minnesota on Saturday, and I’m writing about it while sitting in a hotel room in the Valley of the Sun. This is how news travels these days … distance doesn’t really matter much.

The backstory is that my wife and I are spending a long weekend in the Phoenix area. One of our children is a doctoral student in the school of music at Arizona State University, and we are here to watch him perform with the Scottsdale Arts Orchestra in two concerts over the weekend. And coincidentally, the person who broke a Minnesota state track record Saturday has signed a letter of intent with Arizona State.

His name is Thomas Anderson and he is a senior at Andover. He set a state record in the shot put Saturday during the 12-team Pony Relays at Stillwater. And again, there is a tie-in.

I was at the Stillwater track on a spring day in 2003 when Mounds View’s Nate Englin set a new state shot put record at the same Pony Relays. On that Saturday nine years ago, Englin threw the shot 65 feet, 6 inches to set a state mark.

In the same circle Saturday, Anderson threw 65-8, topping Englin’s record by two inches. Andover coach Mike Bobbe told me in an email that after the big throw, the competition was stopped and the throw was measured again to ensure sure there were no twists in the measuring tape.

Anderson’s previous career best was 65-4 ½, coming last season when he won the Class 2A state championship.

Anderson has a career best in the discus throw of 177-3. The state record in that event is 201-7, set by Rochester Century’s Karl Erickson in 2001.

Anderson’s parents, Colin and Lynne Anderson, are both Olympians. Lynne, a former American discus record holder and an Olympian in the event in 1976 and 1980, is a throws coach at the University of Minnesota. Colin, a 1980 Olympian in the shot put, is an assistant coach at Andover.

After Thomas Anderson signed his letter of intent with Arizona State, Sun Devils head track coach Greg Kraft said, “Thomas Anderson is really exciting. (ASU throws) coach (David) Dumble is able to bring in the top-rated shot putter in the country and continue a great tradition here at Arizona State. The fact that his parents are both Olympians speaks well for the work that he’s put in in his career.”

On the heels of his new record, Anderson will be one of the marquee performers next Friday evening in the Hamline Elite Meet at Hamline University in St. Paul. The Elite Meet brings together the best track and field athletes in the state, regardless of class.

It’s now nearly 1 a.m. in Arizona and 3 a.m. in Minnesota. So I’ll close with this message: John’s Journal never takes a day off.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 501
*Miles John has driven: 7,130

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Faster, Farther: Girls Track Record Holders Strive For More4/18/2012
The state track record book is a document that lists 36 events – 18 for girls, 18 for boys – and the all-time bests cover a span of 39 years. The oldest record is in the boys high jump, where Rochester John Marshall’s Rod Raver cleared 7 feet, 1 inch way back in 1973 (Chaska’s Jon Markuson tied that record in 1993).

Raver’s mark is the only current record that was set in the 1970s. Six marks were set in the 1980s, including the oldest on the girls side: Blooming Prairie’s Jeanne Kruckeberg set the 800-meter record of 2:08.24 in 1984. Two records were set in the 1990s and 28 have been established since 2000.

Now imagine all those outstanding athletes, spanning all those years, and ponder the odds of two state record holders competing at the same place at the same time. It happened at last year’s state meet and it happened Tuesday. That’s because the two newest records were set in 2010 and 2011, and the holders of those records won’t finish their high school careers until 2013.

Jessica January of Richfield and Maggie Ewen of St. Francis, who have barely reached the halfway point of their high school years, competed at Tuesday’s Heidi Kunz Invitational at Mahtomedi. The two juniors won their events, which is no surprise to anyone.

January set the state record in the 100-meter hurdles when she was a freshman, and one of her goals is to break her record of 14.33 seconds. Ewen set a new state mark of 166 feet, 8 inches in the discus last season. January easily won the hurdles Tuesday with a time of 15.38 and Ewen threw the discus 159-5 while also winning the shot put.

Ewen (right) won the Class 2A discus state championship as a freshman and won both the discus and shot put as a sophomore. January also holds three state title titles, winning the 100 and 300 hurdles as a freshman and the 100 hurdles as a sophomore.

Their goals are similar: Beat their own records.

“Definitely,” January said. “I’ve just got to keep working at it.”

Ewen said, “My goals are just to throw an inch farther than my best.”

Faster, farther. That sums up January and Ewen. One runs and jumps and the other spins and throws. They told me Tuesday that they have never met, but it was clear that they have great respect for each other. Both of them wore souvenir state tourney pullovers at Mahtomedi; January wore a grey basketball pullover and Ewen was in a black pullover from state track.

January is also a talented basketball player and plans to play that sport in college. In fact, she is splitting her spring sports time between track and AAU basketball; after running the 100 hurdles and the 4x200 relay Tuesday, she left the track meet for basketball practice.

She plans to concentrate on the 100 hurdles this spring while possibly also running the 300 hurdles. She has ranked among the state's best in the long jump but said she isn’t competing in any jumping events this year.

January (left) competed at state as a seventh-grader and was a state runner-up in the 100 hurdles as an eighth-grader. Ewen’s first trip to state came when she was in eighth grade; she placed third in the discus. Now in their fourth year as varsity track athletes, the duo knows how important all that experience is.

“I think it helps a lot,” January said. “I don’t think it would be the difference between winning and losing, but definitely the nerves and just being comfortable with the environment, it helps you stay relaxed.”

Tuesday’s meet was a bit on the chilly side, but Ewen said she prefers competing when the weather is colder rather than warmer.

“I really like the cold,” she said, smiling. “I’m not sure why, but I like it more when it’s colder instead of hot.”

Ewen has the state’s best performances this spring in her two events, with season-bests of 162-1 in the discus and 48-6 in the shot put (the state record in that event is 52-4 ¾, set by Lakeville’s Liz Podominick in 2003).

January’s 15.38 in the 100 hurdles Tuesday was her best so far this season. Farmington junior Nadia Lorencz has the fastest reported time in the state in 2012, running a 15.21.

January is starting to think about college, listing Stanford, DePaul and Miami as her top three choices. Ewen has not yet settled on a list of possible colleges.

When I told Ewen that January would play basketball in college, Maggie said, “That’s a lot of track talent.”

She was talking about Jessica, but that statement stands for herself as well.

--To see a photo gallery of Ewen and January, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 501
*Miles John has driven: 7,130

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