John's Journal
The Waiting Ends ... And A New State Record Is Set6/1/2011
Michael Sandle was growing weary of hearing the question, over and over and over. After every track meet for the last month, the Eden Prairie senior has been peppered with the same query: How close did you come to the state record?

The cross-examinations came to an end during Wednesday’s Class 2A Section 6 meet at Hopkins. Sandle broke the all-time state record in the boys triple jump, going 50 feet, 4 1/2 inches on his first attempt in the preliminaries. The previous record was 50-4, set by Blaine’s Reondo Davis in 1999.

Sandle has made a steady advance toward history. As a sophomore his best mark was 45-3 ½, and as a junior he won the state championship with a season-best leap of 49-5 ½. The questions about the state record began popping up after he jumped 50-3 ¼ at the Hamline Elite Meet on April 29. That was the second-best triple jump in Minnesota high school history, and since then Sandle has been thinking about the record.

“Every day,” he said. “Three quarters of an inch. It was like less than a fingernail, and it kept biting at me. That’s all everybody said: ‘How close were you? How close were you?’ ”

Sandle’s record jump was initially measured at 50-8, but when meet official Steve Gerber methodically re-checked the distance – ensuring the tape was not twisted – the official distance was announced as 50-4 ½. That was more than good enough for the record, and for Sandle.

“They pulled it back a little,” he said. “I’m just grateful that it was enough.”

He also was grateful that a new takeoff board had been painted at Hopkins earlier in the day. Knowing Sandle’s abilities and wanting to ensure the landing pit was long enough to contain him, Hopkins officials got out some white paint and put down a new broad stripe.

“They painted him a new board, and he was happy about that,” said Eden Prairie jump coach Bill Terriquez, a former longtime coach and administrator at Carleton College. “That was helpful. Prior to that he was hitting the long jump board and he actually had a little bruise on his foot from it.”

Sandle had leaped over 50 feet at Hopkins a couple weeks ago at the Lake Conference meet, and he woke up Wednesday expecting good things … once he realized that it wasn’t raining.

“I woke up this morning and I could have sworn it was raining. I was like, aaaahhh. But then when I took out the trash it was beautiful. For the last three years every section meet was a P.R. day and an amazing day. So I knew I was going to do something amazing today.”

He jumped twice in the prelims, going 50-2 on his second attempt. He passed on his first two jumps in the finals, concentrating on the 200-meter prelims (in which he had the fastest time in the prelims). On his only jump in the finals he went 48-10 ¼. He said he had figured he would go 49 feet on his first try and break the record on a subsequent jump.

“I said I was going to get a 49 and then I was going to break it. But I broke it on the first one; I had a little more than I thought I did.”

After the section meet, the only remaining opportunity to break the state record would have come at next week’s state meet at Hamline.

“I was counting down,” Sandle said. “But I knew that at either this meet or the next one, I was going to break it.”

And he’s not done yet, saying he thinks he can jump 52 feet at the state meet.

“I think I have a 52 in me, so I’ll definitely do that at Hamline,” he said. “When you work so hard, you know what your limits are and what your abilities are. When you get a 49, a 50, you know the big one’s coming pretty soon. I have no doubt in my mind that’s coming.”

--A new 2011 statewide season best was set in the girls high jump at the Section 6 meet Wednesday. Minneapolis Southwest junior Tatyana Pashibin (right) won the event with a leap of 5 feet, 8 inches. Prior to Wednesday, Pashibin in 2A and Caledonia/Spring Grove sophomore Emma Lange in 1A had both cleared 5-7 this season. The state record is 5-10 ¾.

--Edina senior Devin Crawford-Tufts, a Gophers football signee who won the Class 2A 100 and 200 at last year’s state meet, reinjured his left hamstring in the prelims of the 100 Wednesday. He finished the race behind several other runners and did not qualify for the finals. He later scratched in the 200 prelims.

--To see video and photos from Sandle’s record triple jump, as well as video of Crawford-Tufts running the 100 and photos of Pashibin and others, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 675
*Miles John has driven: 10,273

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Owatonna Wrestling Coach Scot Davis Announces Retirement5/28/2011
Scot Davis, who has compiled an outstanding record of success during a 40-year career as a wrestling coach, has announced that he is retiring from teaching and coaching at Owatonna High School.

Davis compiled 984 wins on the high school level, which leads the nation. He was at Owatonna for 25 years after previously coaching at Belcourt, N.D., Bird Island-Lake Lillian and Hutchinson. His Owatonna teams won state championships in 1998 and 2005.

"I am extremely proud of the great people that have helped build our wrestling program here at Owatonna." he said. "Several being nationally recognized demonstrates their great value to not only our program but wrestling in general. I have been truly blessed to be associated with these great people.”
It's A Special Day For The MSHSL On Facebook5/27/2011
If you are a follower of the MSHSL on Facebook, you may already know what has taken place on the aforementioned social media site.

The magic number of 3,000 Friends has been reached. This is an outstanding accomplishment, a testament to people of all ages all over Minnesota and beyond who have a passion for high school activities in our state.

One year ago, when the MSHSL Facebook page was in its infancy, we had 250 Friends. To reach 3,000 so quickly is simply amazing and we can't say Thank You enough to all our Facebook Friends.

Many high school governing bodies around the country have Facebook pages, and our MSHSL numbers rank right up near the top.

Thanks to one and all!
Do You Believe In Miracles? Ben Cunningham Is Living Proof5/25/2011
HERON LAKE, Minnesota -- Trying to hit a nasty curveball can be a challenge for Benjamin Cunningham. Tracking the arc of a high fly ball and getting in the spot to make the catch is much easier now than it was a few weeks ago. Standing on the mound, the 18-year-old throws serious stuff.

Ben, who graduated last week from Round Lake-Brewster, is wrapping up his high school athletic career on the baseball field this spring. None of this is headline-grabbing stuff. But when you consider where Ben has been and where he is now … well, it’s no stretch to use the word “miracle.”

Let’s start with a skull that was turned into fragments of bone. And a broken neck. And facial injuries so crushing that Ben has no vision in his right eye. There were bloodclots, there was a tracheotomy. After his pickup truck went off a road in Nobles County last August and sailed into a guardrail on a bridge over Lake Ocheda, Ben began a lengthy journey that included a week-long coma, seven surgeries and countless prayers. Back then, back when no one knew for sure if Ben would even survive, the last thing anyone thought about was baseball.

But here was Ben on Tuesday, playing the outfield, pitching and swinging the bat for the Southwestern United Wildcats, which is a cooperative team between Round Lake-Brewster and Southwest Star Concept. He throws and bats righthanded, and everyone is amazed at what he can do.

“He’s a walking miracle,” said his mother, Miriam. “His determination is what got him through. There’s no stopping him.”

The right side of Ben’s face droops, but further surgery this summer will help in that area. A titanium plate covers the part of his skull that was crushed in the accident.

Sitting in the dugout before Tuesday’s game against Windom, Ben used a finger to trace the cranial scars that are now covered by hair. “I was cut from here to back here and kind of around here,” he said, drawing a half circle on his head. Then he pointed to the right side of his face, saying, “I don’t have vision in this eye and won’t ever until science comes up with something, which is possible with the things they come up nowadays.”

His smile, however, remains fully intact. Just like his positive attitude.

“His philosophy on life is really kind of amazing for being 18 years old,” said Southwestern United coach Tim Owen. “He’s been to the brink and nothing bothers him.”

BEN WAS DRIVING HOME from the Nobles County Fair in Worthington when the accident happened. He had been showing livestock at the fair, which meant long days, short nights and hard work. He was saying goodbye to friends when his mom left the fairgrounds to head home and begin preparing pork chops for dinner. Miriam was cooking when a sheriff’s deputy knocked on the door.

Ben said, “I remember going through town and out of town. Right after that I don’t remember anything until I woke up about a week later. Nobody knows what happened. They said I could have fallen asleep but nobody knows.”

Ben was alone in the pickup, wearing his seatbelt. When his family and friends saw him in the hospital, it was a jarring sight.

“I had just talked to him about 20 minutes before it happened,” said fellow senior and baseball teammate Tim Kennedy. “I went to the races (in Worthington) that night and I got a text and it was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I didn’t know what to think.”

Ben is a big, strong kid; 6 feet, 3 ½ inches and no stranger to working out and lifting weights. His physical condition surely was a factor in his survival. But as Ben began the recovery process, doctors told him to be patient about a possible return to athletics. They said he would be in the hospital until Thanksgiving and maybe until Christmas. But he was home by late September, a little more than a month after the accident. He was out of school through Christmas break, but was cleared to play basketball in late December.

“In November the neurosurgeon said I probably wouldn’t be able to play basketball for six months,” Ben said, smiling. “I only missed a few games.

“Ever since I was 3 or 4 I was shooting baskets with my older brother. It was hard not to be able to play when he said I couldn’t. And then when he said I could, I got right in there.”

SINCE THE CUNNINGHAMS LIVE across the street from the school, Ben was able to visit while he recovered at home. He returned to school full-time after the holidays. Once basketball ended, the focus turned to baseball.

Owen admits to being concerned about the dangers of Ben playing baseball.

“There was some fear early in the spring when we were practicing indoors and baseballs were flying around,” Owen said. “But I talked to him and he said he wanted to give it a try, and I said ‘Whatever you can do for us, we’ll take.’ Because he is a great kid. As it turned out, we kind of moved slowly with him. At about the middle of April we gave him a couple innings here and there on the mound and he was fine. He does very well.

“We were obviously concerned with his hitting. With his eye gone, that’s a tough position. Again, he’s battled. He’s had a few strikeouts and he struggles a little bit with the curveball, but he really doesn’t have any trouble.”

Ben said, “It was really different and hard to get used to. It wasn’t just the reaction time, it was the depth perception, too. It’s been getting way better.”

One of Southwest United’s biggest victories came three weeks ago against Adrian. After losing to Adrian 10-0 in their first meeting, the Wildcats won the rematch against the Red Rock Conference co-champs 8-3, with Ben belting a two-run single in the fifth inning to put them in front.

“When you see him playing with one eye, it really gives our whole team the thought that we really have no excuses for anything,” said Wildcats senior Alex Meyer. “To see him progress from day one, when he couldn’t catch a ball on his left side, to now when he’s starting and pitching, he’s come a long ways. “

As Ben fought his way back to health, he talked about what he wanted to do. His mother recalls him saying, “If I can have one thing back, I want it to be sports.”

Ben is the youngest of Paul and Miriam’s three kids; Thomas is 28 and Sarah is 27. Ben celebrated his 18th birthday on May 19. Miriam is a little agitated at her youngest child for not following his doctor’s instructions to wear protective eyewear when he pitches, but other than that everyone is overjoyed at how far Ben has come.

In the fall he will attend Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington, studying animal science and agronomy. The future is bright.

“I made some fast progress,” he said. “I’m doing everything I did before.”

--To see a photo gallery of Ben and a short video clip, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 657
*Miles John has driven: 10,233

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
A Visit To Coon Rapids High School, And A Tuesday Road Trip5/23/2011
I spent some time Monday visiting a class at Coon Rapids High School. Faculty member Stephanie Hicks invited me to her English classroom to talk to her students about journalism.

This was my second trip to Coon Rapids to discuss journalism, and the hour flew by. The students (pictured) asked great questions, many of them about writing and interviewing techniques. Students always like to ask about people I have interviewed, so today I went throught my mental checklist: Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, Charles Barkley, Cal Ripken, Bobby Knight, Joe Mauer I (high school) and Joe Mauer II (Twins).

I also talked with the class about the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program, which is a wonderful way for students to gain journalism experience.

Thanks Cardinals!

--My assignment on Tuesday is a drive to southwestern Minnesota for a baseball game in Heron Lake. The Southwestern United Wildcats (a coop involving Southwest Star Concept and Round Lake-Brewstar) will face Windom Area at 4:30. There's a special story in play here, but my lips are sealed until the story appears here...