John's Journal
Hopkins' Fahnbulleh Named National Track Athlete Of The Year6/24/2019
Congratulations to Hopkins High School sprinter Joe Fahnbulleh, who has been named the National Senior Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association. He is the first Minnesota athlete to win the award.

Here is the announcement from the NHSCA...

The National High School Coaches Association ("NHSCA”) is pleased to announce Joe Fahnbulleh of Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minnesota as its National Senior Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Fahnbulleh closed-out his scholastic career by defending his 200 meter dash Class 2A state title, plus he anchored the school's 4x200-meter relay team that won its second straight state gold medal. The relay team broke its own state record with a winning time of 1 minute, 25.66 seconds. Fahnbulleh, who will attend the University of Florida on a scholarship, was named Mr. Track and Field in Minnesota by the sport’s coaches association.

“The (Florida) coaches didn’t just only care about my athletic ability, they cared about me as a human. I see coaches at UF as the father figures I never had in my life. That’s why I chose Florida,” Fahnbulleh said.

Fahnbulleh, who fled Liberia (Africa) with his family during a coup, said education is very important, “My mom says nobody can take away your education. Opportunities are there. Most people see them but don’t take them; I act on my opportunities.”

“Joe is an excellent example what this award stands for,” said Eric Hess, Executive Director of the NHSCA. “He has excelled as much in the classroom as he has on the track. We congratulate him on an outstanding high school career and wish him success at the University of Florida.”

Fahnbulleh is the first Minnesota athlete to win the NHSCA Senior Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year Award.

Throughout the 2018-19 sports season, the NHSCA has been announcing the Athlete of the Year honorees in 20 boys and girls sports. This marks the 20th consecutive year the NHSCA has honored achievers within the high school athletic community nationwide.

Each of the honorees will receive a beautiful plaque. In addition, the Athlete of the Year honoree will be displayed in the National High School Digital Sports Hall of Fame that is currently under development.

Here are the NHSCA’s past selections for the Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year:
2018 – Kieran McDermott, Bel Air HS, Maryland
2017 - Damion Thomas, Northeast HS, Florida
2016 – Norman Grimes, Canyon HS, Texas
2015 – Chad Zallow, John F. Kennedy HS, Warren, Ohio
2014 – Trentavis Friday – Cherryville HS, North Carolina
2013 – Grant Hill – Huntsville HS, Alabama
2012 – Jarrion Lawson – Liberty-Eylau HS, Texas
2011 – Gunnar Nixon – Santa Fe HS, Oklahoma
2010 – Sam Crouser – Gresham HS, Oregon
2009 – Mason Finley – Buena Vista HS, Colorado
2008 – Christian Taylor – Sandy Creek HS, Georgia
2007 – Craig Forys – Colts Neck HS, New Jersey
2006 – David Klech – California HS, California
2005 – Kevin Craddock – James Logan HS, California
2004 – Xavier Carter – Palm Bay HS, Florida
2003 – Earvin Parker – Lewisville HS, Texas
2002 – Ryan Shields – Leo HS, Illinois
2001 – Alan Webb – South Lakes HS, Virginia
2000 – David Fraser – Westfield HS, Texas
From Germany To Target Field, A Ballplayer On The Move 6/20/2019
For nearly a year, New Prague junior baseball player Joe Becker had been planning for a class trip to Germany. After finishing a third year of studying German in school, Joe was among 40 students and several chaperones who headed for Germany earlier this month.

Thirty-nine of those students are still there. Becker is back home, making a quick return after the Trojans advanced to the Class 4A state championship game at Target Field against East Ridge. It was quite the whirlwind.

"I thought, 'There's no way I can get back for that,' " Joe said. "Ten hours later I had a plane ticket."

He was with the team through the Section 1 playoffs; he was the winning pitcher when the Trojans clinched a trip to the state tournament with a 10-3 win over Lakeville North on June 5. The German class had departed on June 3 and Becker joined them in Germany after the section playoffs. As the Trojans – one of three unseeded teams in the eight-team bracket -- defeated Blaine in the state quarterfinals and Rogers in the state semifinals, Joe followed the games online late at night since Germany is seven hours ahead of Minnesota time.

"I was up until about two in the morning both those nights," he said.

After New Prague's state semifinal win on Saturday, German teacher Brittany Elsen – "She's an awesome teacher, easily my favorite,” he said -- asked Joe if he was thinking about returning home early. Then his dad, Kevin Becker, sent a text asking the same question. Joe texted first-year coach Tanner Oakes, wondering if he was still on the roster and would be eligible for the state championship game. He was.

“I had mixed feelings,” Joe said. “I was really happy and excited for the team but at the same time I was sad I couldn't be there.”

The Trojans finished 15-7 last season and a prediction of getting to Target Field this spring would have been met with some skepticism.

“It was a tough situation to put a kid in but they had to make the commitment a long time ago” said Oakes. “He did it the right way, he talked to me about it and I wasn’t going to tell him he couldn’t go. Both are kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. There was no guarantee we would be playing in the state tournament.”

Becker is a talented ballplayer. As a pitcher his record is 5-0 with a 0.84 earned-run average. At the plate his batting average is .383.

“He’s a big part of our team,” Oakes said. “He’s been phenomenal. He’s our No. 5 hitter, plays third base, second base, some first base, he’s very versatile and fills lot of needs on our team.”

The rest of the students will remain in Germany for another few days, but Joe is happy to be back home with his teammates for the biggest game of their lives.

“It feels awesome,” he said. “I’m really glad I could come home early and be with the guys. It gives me a sense of pride after all the years of work we put in to build up to this moment.”

Rain impacts the state tournament

After the first two games of Thursday’s four-game schedule were completed, rain moved into downtown Minneapolis and the Target Field grounds crew covered the infield with the tarp. The Class 3A game between St. Thomas Academy and Benilde-St. Margaret’s, scheduled for a 4 p.m. first pitch, began at 6:46 p.m. The 4A game between New Prague and East Ridge began at 9:28; the scheduled time was 7 p.m. The Class 4A game ended at 11:25 p.m.

Class 1A: BOLD 8, New York Mills 0

The Warriors received a championship performance from junior pitcher Jordan Sagedahl, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before surrendering a leadoff single to end the no-hit bid. Sagedahl struck out nine and walked three. He also went 3-for-4 at the plate, including a fifth-inning inside-the-park home run to give BOLD a 2-0 lead.

Class 2A: Duluth Marshall 4, Minnehaha Academy 2

Marshall scored a run in the sixth and three more in the seventh for a come-from-behind win over Minnehaha Academy. Cole Maccoux led off the seventh with a double, Alex Busick hit an RBI single, Carter Sullivan laced an RBI triple and Peter Hansen followed with an RBI single. Marshall pitcher Ben Pedersen retired the last seven batters he faced, finishing with nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings before reaching the pitch limit of 115.

Class 3A: St. Thomas Academy 1, Benilde-St. Margaret’s 0

St. Thomas Academy pitcher Duke Coborn went the distance, securing the shutout with nine strikeouts, six hits and a walk. Coborn outdueled Red Knights starter Blake Mahmood, who also went the distance in a two-hit losing effort, allowing just one run while striking out nine. The Cadets scored in the fourth inning on a two-out single to left field by Michael Goblisch.

Class 4A: East Ridge 7, New Prague 2

East Ridge exploded for a five-run fifth inning and a two-run sixth in a 7-2 come-from-behind win over the Trojans. New Prague pitcher Luke Tupy struck out six of the first seven and 10 of the first 12 batters he faced.

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A: Brady Nelson, Mason Tapp, Hayfield; Alex Call, Weston Gjerde, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg; Evan Sczepanski, Oscar Ortiz, Sacred Heart; Caden Roberts, Derin Gaudette, Dylan Fischer, New York Mills; Jordan Sagedahl, Luke Ryan, Hayden Tersteeg, BOLD.

Class 2A: Carter Mulcahy, Perham; Drew Beier, Foley; Andy Regner, Tyson Sowder, St. Peter; Grady Fuchs, Luke Johnson, Paynesville; Dylan Kiratli, Noah Dehne, Bennett Theisen, Minnehaha Academy; Ben Pedersen, Charlie Kleinschmidt, Carter Sullivan, Duluth Marshall.

Class 3A: Nicholas Macchio, Marshall; Jack Schwartz, Hill-Murray; Teyghan Hovland, Nathan Murphy, Austin; Jason Axelberg, Ethan Bosacker, Monticello; Blake Mahmood, Jonny Woodford, Dylan Drees, Benilde-St. Margaret’s; Duke Coborn, Carter Henry, Joseph Goulet, St. Thomas Academy.

Class 4A: Wyatt Nelson, Hopkins; Robert Hogan, Mounds View; Garrett McLaughlin, Carter VanEngen, Rogers; Drew Gilbert, Ben Borrman, Stillwater; Collin Dorzinski, Joe Weiers, Cade Pavek, New Prague; Ben North, Roman Newinski, Ryan Thelen, East Ridge.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
It's A Wrap For Lacrosse, Baseball Moves To Target Field6/16/2019
The spring sports seasons are winding down, with girls and boys lacrosse finishing their seasons Saturday and eight baseball teams remaining as championship games are at hand on Thursday at Target Field.

Prior Lake swept both lacrosse state titles in the championship games at Chanhassen High School. The Lakers girls defeated Eden Prairie 17-12 and the boys beat Benilde-St. Margaret's 5-3.

Thursday's baseball state championship games at Target Field will begin at 10 a.m. with the Class 1A game between BOLD and New York Mills and conclude with a scheduled 7 p.m. start in the Class 4A contest between East Ridge and New Prague.

Tickets for baseball's Championship Saturday are $12 for adults and $8 for students, and each ticket is good for all four games.

Boys State Lacrosse Tournament

Thursday's semifinals
Prior Lake 4, Eden Prairie 3
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 10, St. Thomas Academy 3

Saturday’s championship game at Chanhassen
Prior Lake 5, Benilde-St. Margaret’s 3

Girls State Lacrosse Tournament

Thursday’s semifinals
Prior Lake 21, Breck 3
Eden Prairie 13, Lakeville North 8

Saturday’s championship game
Prior Lake 17, Eden Prairie 12

State Baseball Tournament

Class 1A
Friday’s semifinals at Mini-Met, Jordan
BOLD 7, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 6 (8 innings)
New York Mills 5, Sacred Heart 1
Championship Thursday at Target Field
10 a.m.: BOLD vs. New York Mills

Class 2A
Friday’s semifinals at Dick Putz Field, St. Cloud
Duluth Marshall 3, Paynesville 2 (8 innings)
Minnehaha Academy 9, St. Peter 1
Championship Thursday at Target Field
1 p.m.: Duluth Marshall vs. Minnehaha Academy

Class 3A
Friday’s semifinals at Siebert Field, Minneapolis
Benilde-St. Margaret's 2, Monticello 1
St. Thomas Academy 9, Austin 5
Championship Thursday at Target Field
4 p.m.: Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. St. Thomas Academy

Class 4A
Saturday’s semifinals at CHS Field, St. Paul
East Ridge 6, Stillwater 5 (8 innings)
New Prague 12, Rogers 7
Championship Thursday at Target Field
7 p.m.: Stillwater or East Ridge vs. New Prague

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
No Sprinting Needed For Big BOLD Slugger 6/13/2019
In the final game of his high school football career, Riley Weis walked off the field in the first half with an injury and didn't return. The 6-foot-1, 300-pound senior from BOLD suffered a torn AC joint in his right shoulder and four partially torn ligaments during the Warriors' 22-21 loss to Mahnomen/Wauben in the Class 1A Prep Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium last November.

No surgery was required but Riley wore a sling for several weeks and his pitching career was over.

But the kid can still send a baseball flying. He put the single biggest swing on the horsehide during Thursday's Class 1A state quarterfinals at the Mini-Met in Jordan, belting a three-run homer in the sixth inning that lifted BOLD past Sebeka 4-2.

"All year we've been saying, 'If he gets hold of it, it’s going a mile,’ " said BOLD coach Brian Kingery. "And he didn’t hit that one 10, 15 feet in the air and it was gone, no problem."

When the ball left Riley’s lumber, everyone in the park – including Riley – thought it would bang off the wall in right field. But it seemed to find another gear as it hit the top of the wall and bounded into a parking lot.

"I knew it was going to be over his head and I was thinking double, maybe a triple because I’m fast,” said a smiling Weis. “I just put my head down and started running. I was rounding first, hard, and I heard a bunch of cheering. I didn’t see the ball.”

The blast, his third home run of the season, capped a rally after Sebeka pitcher Kolby Kiser had handcuffed the Warriors for much of the game. He finished with 10 strikeouts and one walk, giving up just four hits. Winning pitcher Jordan Sagedahl struck out 11, walked five and also gave up four hits.

Sebeka took a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning when Mason Dailey and Spencer Lake hit run-scoring singles. In BOLD’s half of the sixth, an unearned run scored before Weis stepped to the plate with two outs and two runners on base.

“I knew I had to step up, try and make something happen,” he said.

Kingery said, “When he hit it, I didn’t care if it was out or not because I knew we’d score two runs and have the lead. And for 300 pounds he actually does move really well.”

As the ball exited the ballpark and the cheering began, there was no need for the biggest speedster on the team to try to stretch a double into a triple.

Tournament Tidbits

--When Caden and Drey Roberts took the field for the New York Mills baseball team Thursday in Jordan, they completed some pretty neat family history. Caden (junior) and Drey (sophomore) are the youngest of Chris and Beth Roberts six kids; three daughters and three sons. All six kids have played in the state softball or baseball tournaments. New York Mills defeated South Ridge 10-1 Thursday.

--Kerkohoven-Murdock-Sunburg had one of the youngest pitcher-catcher combinations in tournament history when the Fighting Saints met Randolph in Jordan. Starting pitcher Alex Call and catcher Wylee Lottman are both ninth-graders. Call was the winning pitcher and had three hits as the Fighting Saints won 10-0 in five innings.


Class 1A
Thursday’s quarterfinals at Mini-Met, Jordan
BOLD 4, Sebeka 2
Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 10, Randolph 0
New York Mills 10, South Ridge 1
Sacred Heart 10, Hayfield 6

Class 2A
Thursday’s quarterfinals at Dick Putz Field, St. Cloud
Duluth Marshall 4, Glencoe-Silver Lake 3
Paynesville 3, Perham 2
Minnehaha Academy 12, LaCrescent-Hokah 5
St. Peter 11, Foley 3

Class 3A
Thursday’s quarterfinals at Siebert Field, Minneapolis
Monticello 5, Duluth Denfeld 4
Benilde-St. Margaret's 3, Marshall 1
Austin 3, Hill-Murray 1
St. Thomas Academy 3, Little Falls 1

Class 4A
Friday’s quarterfinals at CHS Field, St. Paul
Eden Prairie vs. Stillwater
Mounds View vs. East Ridge
New Prague vs. Blaine
Rogers vs. Hopkins


Thursday’s semifinals

Prior Lake 21, Breck 3
Eden Prairie 13, Lakeville North 8

Prior Lake 4, Eden Prairie 3
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 10, St. Thomas Academy 3

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
A Grand End To A Grand Season Of Track And Field 6/9/2019
The final event of the 2019 Minnesota high school track season was completed at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, with a quartet of boys from Fairmont winning the Class 1A 4x400-meter relay at Hamline University's Klas Field.

However, what I deem the official end of the track season didn't come until 10:21 p.m. Saturday, arriving via Tweet. Rafe York coaches cross-country and track at Jackson County Central and is well-known for his post-meet Twitter barrages, which always include details on how the JCC athletes fared mixed with great humor and fun (the Twitter account is @JCCTandF).

Every time Rafe Tweets about a track meet, it's tradition that the final message says this: "I love Track season." That was the dispatch that went out at 10:21 Saturday night.

The end of the season was grand, too. Championship Saturday at state track is like a family reunion and the state fair all swirled together. There were the usual great performances, including …

--The Jordan boys and Blake girls winning Class 1A team titles, and the Rosemount girls and Hopkins boys taking 2A crowns.

--Shaliciah Jones of North St. Paul winning the Class 2A girls 100 and 200 as well as running a leg of the Polars’ championship 4x100 team.

--Rosemount’s Lauren Peterson winning the 1,600 and the 3,200 and being part of the Irish’s winning 4x400 relay.

--Geno Uhrbom of Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin completing the Triple Crown of distance running, winning 1A state titles in cross-country last fall and 1,600 and 3,200 meters on Friday and Saturday.

--Winona Cotter’s Ping sisters sweeping the 1A distance races. Grace and Lauren Ping finished 1-2 in the 1,600 meters, a day after Lauren was first and Grace second in the 3,200.

Also Saturday, the Minnesota Track & Field Coaches Association named seniors Julia Fixsen of Mounds View and Joe Fahnbulleh of Hopkins as their athletes of the year. Julia holds the state record in the pole vault (13 feet, 11 ¼ inches) and won 2A state titles in 2017 and 2018. She did not advance to state this year, failing to clear a height in the Section 6 meet.

Joe ended his high school career Saturday with a state championship in the 200 meters as well as anchoring the Royals’ state-record-setting 4x200 relay team. They broke their own record in Friday’s prelims and broke it again Saturday with a time of 1:25.58. Joe holds state records in the 100 and 200 and is part of the Hopkins team that holds the state record in the 4x100.

Fixsen will continue her track career at Georgia and Fahnbulleh will run at Florida. Their final day representing their high schools provided contrasts – Joe competed while Julia did not – but how they handled things was both gracious and spectacular.

After Joe’s final race, I asked him about Saturday being the last time he will wear the Hopkins "H” on his uniform. He reply wasn’t about him, it was about those who helped him on his path.

“The H on my chest? It means a lot,” he said. “It will be forever ingrained in me. Because this is where I made my mark, this is where my journey began as an athlete. Hopkins gave me the most opportunities ever. Hopkins has been behind me 100 percent.

“You take away me being a good athlete, as a person Hopkins has always been there. Coach (Nick) Lovas, (principal) Doug Bullinger, it means a lot. And it means a lot because I came here with my boys. My boys were the ones that pushed me here. Without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today. That means a lot.”

Fixsen didn’t make it to state in the pole vault, but she did advance in the high jump, long jump and 100-meter hurdles, earning a third-place medal in the high jump. The winner of the 2A girls pole vault was Cambridge-Isanti senior Char Morke with a height of 12 feet, 4 inches.

Char is headed to the Naval Academy, where she will major in aeronautical engineering in the hopes of becoming a pilot. She also will compete in the pole vault there.

The day after Fixsen was unable to make a height at the section meet (her three attempts were all at 12-6), Morke thought her coach was joking when he told her Julia wouldn’t compete at state.

“Honestly, I thought he was kidding with me,” Char said, wearing the gold medal. “I didn’t believe it. Julia is such an amazing vaulter and I wish her the best. She’s such an amazing person and vaulter, but she’s way beyond this.”

Julia was at the pole vault as a spectator, cheering for and congratulating all the athletes. Char, who had finished third and fourth at state the last two years, was rightfully proud of her championship.

“Oh, I can’t believe how it feels, it feels really good,” she said with a big smile. “It’s nice to win it but I know that there’s someone who’s better than me who should have won it. But that’s OK.”

I chatted with Julia for a bit after the pole vault ended, and she was all smiles, wearing a Georgia cap. She talked about how grateful she is for her high school experiences, what she learned, and how excited she is for the future.

Later, I was standing in the tent where volunteer meet workers check in, and Julia walked up to ask the MSHSL staff if she could volunteer to help out with the afternoon’s Class 1A girls pole vault. And that’s exactly what she did, updating the sign every time the bar was raised and adjusting the stanchion on one side of the bar to each vaulter’s preference.

So on the same day that the most accomplished pole vaulter in Minnesota history was named female track and field athlete of the year, she asked to be a volunteer for vaulters competing in the small-school class.

I love Track season.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.