As we turn the calendar to a new year, this is a prime time to reflect on what has taken place in 2011. I spent some time clicking through the John’s Journal archives and selected some highlights, some touching moments and plenty of memories from the year that was.
--The year opens in fine style with a trip to Duluth for a hockey doubleheader.
--The state debate tournament proves to be a fast-talking, quick-thinking event.
--Four days after a Perham basketball player named Zach Gabbard collapses on the court at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, I wrote about a fund at United Community Bank in Perham to help his family defray medical costs.
--A visit to Ellsworth is made for the annual Coaches vs. Cancer event
--Headline: Support For Zach Gabbard Continues
--My debut at the one-act play state festival at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.
--It’s 57 degrees at Giants Ridge near Biwabik for the state alpine ski competition on Feb. 15.
--Tales from the girls state hockey tournament include Edina junior goaltender Maddie Dahl (right) being given a stick by Wild goalie Josh Harding.
--Senior Elisa Reinsma of Fulda/Murray County Central repeats her own history by wrestling at the state tournament for the second year in a row.
--At Xcel Energy Center, hockey fans see Duluth East students chanting Rachel Sandell’s name and holding signs in support of Rachel, who is in Nevada undergoing cancer treatment.
--Headline: Great Debate: Indiana Basketball, Texas Football or Minnesota Hockey? (You’ll have to go back through the John’s Journal archives to find the answer.)
--The Anoka girls basketball team had won 17 games and lost 157 over seven seasons … until they qualified for the state tournament in 2011.
--Zach Gabbard surprises his Perham teammates by appearing in the locker room at Williams Arena before the Yellowjackets play in the state quarterfinals.
--Boys state basketball champions include Perham in Class 2A. Zach Gabbard is unable to attend the game at Target Center but watches the game on TV from a rehabilitation hospital in St. Paul.
--In one of my favorite days of the year, I visit the Cambridge-Isanti adapted bowling team during a practice.
--Fairmont High School senior Sarah Bankson wins the Class A championship in the Informative Speaking category of the state speech tournament at Chanhassen High School. She is the first four-time state speech champion in Minnesota history.
--I write about former Twins catcher Terry Steinbach, working as an assistant baseball coach at Wayzata High School.
--I enjoy researching and writing a story about a program in Spring Lake Park that has high school athletes visiting elementary schools to work with young students on reading skills.
--Headline: State Adapted Bowling Tournament: Where Smiles Dominate
--I journey to Heron Lake to report on Ben Cunningham (left), a senior at Round Lake-Brewster who returned to the baseball (and basketball) team after a vehicle accident in which he suffered massive injuries and lost the vision in one eye.
--You knew summer had arrived by reading this headline: Heat Alert: Boys Lacrosse Semifinals Delayed One Hour
--Thief River Falls senior Brendan “Beezer” Skime is the busiest athlete in Minnesota, competing in the state tennis tournament and state track meet in the same week.
-- Jerry Loegering, 78, ends his career as the girls golf coach at Barnesville in fine style. After beginning his career in 1975, Jerry brings his team to the state tourney … the first girls state golf trip in school history.
--During a month that is a shut-down period for high school activities in Minnesota, one evening is very special. At the Comet Theater in downtown Perham, a documentary film premiers: “For Three” is the story of Zach Gabbard and the Perham basketball team.
--I visit Brainerd for the first day of football practice at Brainerd High School. It’s also the 50th year as a head coach for Ron Stolski, who has won more football games than any other coach in the state.
--Another highlight of the year: spending time with the volunteer army that takes care of the football field at New London-Spicer High School. It might be the finest playing surface in the state.
--A great series of road trips takes me to Fulda and St. Peter for Zero Week football games and Bethlehem Academy in Faribault for the opening of the volleyball season. Great fun.
--I write about one of my favorite athletes of the year: Orono soccer player Nick Manzoni. Nick missed the season while he was undergoing cancer treatments. I don’t think his middle name is Inspiration, but it should be.
--Headline: Future Gophers QB Helps Journalist Break The Rules. This concerns Mankato West’s Philip Nelson and it’s a neat tale.
--One of the most remarkable, special stories of this year or any other unfolds at Wabasha-Kellogg when three-sport athlete Cole Younker – who was killed in a vehicle accident a year earlier -- is remembered with the planting of a tree and the release of balloons before the football season opener vs. Southland.
--I profile Eastview High School’s Matt Percival for a story about the day in the life of an athletic director.
--A story about another inspiring athlete: Pierz junior Beth Broschofsky (right), who returns to the cross-country team after cancer surgery and treatment. A metal rod replaced the humerus in her right upper arm and she runs with a large brace to keep her arm strapped close to her body.
--A profile of soccer official Adalberto Villalobos, a native of Costa Rica who has lived in Minnesota for many years and became a U.S. citizen in 2011.
--A great evening of history: St. Paul Academy and Blake mark the 100th anniversary of their first football meeting with a game at Blake.
--Trevor Schmidt has a lot of wonderful friends at Mound-Westonka High School. Many of his male buddies shave their heads in support of Trevor, whose own hair was thinned out while he is being treated for a condition called angioma.
--Rachel Sandell, the ailing Duluth East student who was remembered and honored by her schoolmates during the boys state hockey tournament, passes away.
--Headline: A Gatorade Bath, Sweet Caroline And Some Football History. When Prior Lake wins a big game to make its first appearance in the state football tournament, it’s quite a night.
--First-year Hill-Murray football coach Brooks Bollinger, a former NFL quarterback, takes his team to the state semifinals. After losing in that round, the rookie coach’s postgame words are special: “We were so lucky to get the experience we did and have some success. It hurts when you get that close and don’t get it done, but my message to them was we lost today, but we won, I won, to be able to be part of something like this.”
--A family profile of Tom and Leah Dasovich, the husband and wife who coach the boys and girls basketball teams at Minnetonka High School.
--The remarkable story of Zach Gabbard continues when Zach is cleared by medical professionals to return to game action. When the senior sees his first playing time in January, it will be almost a year since he collapsed and nearly died.
--A story about the Duluth East boys hockey team, which will travel 3,356 miles this season for road games, spending 56 hours on buses. The Greyhounds travel almost as much as I do.
My total miles for 2011: (Drum roll please) … 11,698.
Here's wishing everyone a great 2012!