John's Journal
It’s 57 Degrees? Hey, Let’s Go Skiing!2/16/2011
Yes, the high temperature in Biwabik on Wednesday was 57 degrees … above zero. Wednesday was also the day that the state Alpine ski meet was held at Giants Ridge, and things turned out just fine.

All skiers take two runs, and the conditions were superb for the morning run. Things got a little squishy for the afternoon run, but everyone agreed that a touch of warmth was much better than frigid cold.

“I thought the first run was pretty perfect,” said girls champion Brenna Murray, a senior from Bloomington Jefferson. “The snow was a little firm and it wasn’t too cold, wasn’t too warm. The second run, it really warmed up and it was a lot softer and slushier, so I think it was a lot tougher for everyone.”

The boys champ was senior Dylan Thomas of St. Thomas Academy, who captured the gold medal for the second year in a row. St. Thomas Academy also won the boys team title, with the girls crown going to Minnetonka.

It was amazing how the day changed as the temperature soared. In the morning I was wearing two pairs of socks and four layers of upper-body clothing. By the afternoon I had removed one pair of socks and was draped in a t-shirt and jacket. Kids were seen in shorts and t-shirts, and I saw a couple of boys who will compete in Thursday’s Nordic state meet skiing without shirts. Kids had snowball fights while wearing tank tops. Some kids wore t-shirts as they received their medals.

I overheard one man ask another man, who had … shall we say? … a lack of hair on top of his head, this question: “Are you wearing sunscreen?” I think he was serious.

People who are up here in Biwabik may come home looking as if we spent two days at a tanning salon. This is my first trip to the state ski meets, and here are some other things I jotted down in my notebook today…

--There were lots of firepits blazing in the morning as skiers stayed warm. I did not see or smell a fire in the afternoon

--Dogs come to this event. I didn’t see any Scottish deerhounds Wednesday … that’s the breed that won Best in Show in Tuesday evening’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York.

--Skiers here have first names like Lars and Bjorn and Steig and Thor. Nordic indeed.

--I heard a few cowbells in the crowd Wednesday. I bet there will be more on Thursday.

--“That’s OK, you’re a junior. You have another year.” Those were the words of a coach talking to a skier who wasn’t perfectly thrilled with his performance.

--A guy slammed the door as he exited the timer’s shack, and his reward was being dumped on by a load of snow falling from the roof.

--Veterans of this meet have been telling me horror stories of past meets cursed by bitter cold. Thus, I am taking all the credit for this weather. You are very welcome.

--*Diet Coke Count: This gets an asterisk today. Bag lunches were provided for MSHSL employees and meet workers, and they came with Pepsi or Diet Pepsi. Warm Pepsi or Diet Pepsi. I drank parts of one of those, then found a machine and happily paid two bucks for a nice cold Diet Coke. So, the day’s count is… 2.

For photo galleries from Wednesday's action, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 455
*Miles John has driven: 8,049

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Gearing Up For State Dance 2/14/2011
Target Center will be transformed into "Dance Center" on Friday and Saturday for the MSHSL state dance tournament.

Section competitions wrapped up last weekend and the three-class state tourney is set. Here are the section results with the teams advancing to state...

1. Cannon Falls, 2. Zumbrota-Mazeppa, 3. St. Charles
1. Cannon Falls, 2. Lake City, 3. St. Charles

1. Duluth Marshall, 2. Aitkin, 3. Concordia Academy
1. Aitkin, 2. Duluth Marshall

1. Yellow Medicine East, 2. BOLD, 3. Tracy-Milroy-Balatan

1. Lac qui Parle Valley-Dawson-Boyd, 2. Montevideo, 3. Yellow Medicine East, 4. BOLD

1. Frazee, 2. Pelican Rapids, 3. Crosby-Ironton
1. Albany, 2. Pelican Rapids, 3. Bagley

1. Benilde-St. Margaret's, 2. Simley, 3. Academy of Holy Angels
1. Academy of Holy Angels, 2. Austin, 3. Benilde-St. Margaret's

1. Totino-Grace, 2. Rogers, 3. Hill-Murray
1. Totino-Grace, 2. Rogers, 3. Fridley

1. Mound Westonka, 2. Holy Family Catholic, 3. Marshall
1. Marshall, 2. Waconia, 3. Mound Westonka

1. St. Cloud Cathedral, 2. Sartell-St. Stephen, 3. Sauk Rapids-Rice
1. Sartell-St. Stephen, 2. Sauk Rapids-Rice, 3. St. Cloud Cathedral

1. Eastview, 2. Lakeville North, 3. Burnsville
1. Eastview, 2. Apple Valley, 3. Faribault

1. Maple Grove, 2. Wayzata, 3. Chaska
1. Eden Prairie, 2. Chaska, 3. Maple Grove

1. Spring Lake Park,2. Mounds View, 3. Henry Sibley
1. Spring Lake Park, 2. Centennial, 3. Eagan

1. Blaine, 2. Anoka, 3. Duluth East
1. Blaine, 2. Brainerd, 3. St. Cloud Tech

Detroit Lakes Comes Through For Zach 2/10/2011
The Perham boys’ basketball team played at Detroit Lakes onSaturday, and the folks in Detroit Lakes went all out in gathering donations and raising funds to help Zach Gabbard and his family. Zach, a junior basketball player at Perham, collapsed during a game on Jan. 20 and is hospitalized at the University of Minnesota.

The players and coaches from Perham and Detroit Lakes posed for this photo. Notice the coaches are wearing "One Clap For Zach" t-shirts.

A total of $4,425 in donations was raised in Detroit Lakes. Here’s the breakdown …

TWO MINUTES FOR ZACH - Students go through crowd at boys basketball game on 2/25 vs Pequot gathering donations - $900

THRIVENT LUTHERAN - matching grant for Two Minutes for Zach - $1,000

LAKER SWIM MEET - Free will donation. - $175

LAKER BOOSTER TURKEY SANDWICH FEED before Perham/Laker doubleheader on 2/5- $1,500

PAPER AIRPLANE contest at halftime of Laker/Perham boys game - $200

SIGNED BASKETBALL RAFFLE - sold chances for two basketballs signed by Perham and Laker boys team. - $200

RUBBER WRISTBANDS - Laker varsity basketball players went through crowd selling rubber ZG3 wristbands at Laker/Perham doubleheader. - $450

Estimated total of donations for Zach Gabbard family raised during Detroit Lakes school activities. = $4,425

And here’s the latest update, courtesy of Zach’s family, from his CaringBridge website:

“I can’t believe it's time for another update! Zach’s dialysis has been changed to conventional which means he will be able to get up and move around more. Not that he is able to jump out of bed yet, but occupational therapy will be able to do more with him! :) Therapists worked a little today on strengthening his muscles. Zach did very well when he was able to focus on what he was supposed to do. After the therapist left I asked Zach if he wanted to move some more and he nodded YES! So he started moving on his own. :) :) We look forward to each new day and more baby steps for Zach.”
The Play’s The Thing … And It’s Really Really Cool2/10/2011
I entered O’Shaughnessy Auditorium on the campus of St. Catherine University in St. Paul through a back door Thursday. In fact, it was the backstage door. I walked inside and immediately knew I was in uncharted territory.

The first issue was that I was still wearing my sunglasses, and going from bright sunshine to dim backstage light simply did not work. And once I dropped my bag and took off the shades I was in the midst of several strange creatures, creatures that seemed a little on the non-human side of things.

The creatures were young actors from Mountain Lake High School. They were in costume for their presentation of a play titled “Wiley and the Hairy Man.” Their performance was sensational, as were all eight of the performances by Class A schools at the one-act play state festival.

The event was the latest stop in my tour of new things. Coming from a newspaper background as a sports reporter, my job with the MSHSL has definitely expanded my boundaries. Debate, speech, one-act play; they are among the non-sporting high school activities that I had little or no knowledge of when I joined the MSHSL staff almost a year ago.

One-act play continues Friday with eight performances by Class AA schools. It is all kind of fun, too. There are four plays in the morning and four more in the afternoon.

On Thursday I saw an elderly lady in a wheelbarrow … a cellist … several spooky characters … teens dealing with loneliness, stress, fear … and even the angel of death. I heard the sounds of ocean waves … the chirping of crickets … the bell sounding the start of a workshift in an 1800s factory. I saw kids putting on makeup in a backstage dressing room and students cheering like mad when their classmates finished a performance.

Some schools brought fan buses, just like they do for state tournaments in athletics. As well they should, because students involved in fine arts work just as hard and are just as committed as their athletic counterparts. And many of the actors on stage Thursday and Friday are involved in other school activities, as well.

My major contribution Thursday was coming to the rescue of some of the judges. They use small flashlights to write notes in the darkened theater during performances, and some of the flashlight batteries were losing their mojo. I always carry some spare AAs in my bag, and I was glad to help out.

And one final note from a very enjoyable day …

--Diet Coke count: 2

*Schools/teams John has visited: 339
*Miles John has driven: 7,641

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Support For Zach Gabbard Continues, And Other Notes2/8/2011
As I travel around the state this winter, it’s amazing to see how many people are pulling for Zach Gabbard. Zach is a 17-year-old Perham junior who collapsed during a game at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Jan. 20. After receiving emergency medical treatment in the gymnasium, he was taken to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, where open-heart surgery was performed. Once he was stable, Zach was moved to the University of Minnesota, where he remains.

Everyone wants to do something to assist Zach (pictured at right), his family and the folks in Perham. If you see a team wearing yellow shoelaces or yellow wristbands, it’s probably because the Perham colors are yellow and black.

A major event has been scheduled in Perham, called One Clap For Zach. The benefit will be held Sunday, Feb. 27 at Mulligan’s Pub & Eatery in Perham from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. A spaghetti feed, gun raffle and silent auction will be held. One of the raffle prizes is a youth elk hunt in Colorado valued at $4,500.

More information on the auction can be found at In fact, the website is a great place to make a donation and order a One Clap For Zach t-shirt; on the back they say “GABBARD” and Jake’s Number 3. I ordered my t-shirt today.

In addition, Schwan’s is holding a truckload sale in support of Zach. The details…
Pre-order at
Click tab for Place an Order Online
Enter campaign ID: 32955
Complete your name and contact info and place your order.
Item product numbers can be found at
Or call 1-888-SCHWANS to order gift cards that you can use anytime. Inform the representative that you would like to purchase a gift card for campaign 32955

The game in which Zach collapsed was not completed, but it has been rescheduled.
Thanks to Concordia College in Moorhead, the make-up game will be held Friday, February 25 at 7 p.m. at Concordia Field House. Concordia will waive its rental fee, with admission consisting of a free-will donation and all proceeds going to the Zach Gabbard Fund.

Here's the latest news from Zach's CaringBridge site: "Zach had another great day (Monday)!He was awake most of the day and continues to show signs of response to simple yes and no questions. He really hates the breathing tube that is in his throat. We can't wait for it to be removed so he can talk to us. He continues to be on dialysis for his kidneys." The site can be found at

IN OTHER NEWS, I spent Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center, where the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota High School Press Association held their annual student media day. Student journalists from Lakeville South, Champlin Park, Eastview, St. Francis, St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy, Robbinsdale Cooper and St. Louis Park took part. (In this photo, students view the ice from the press box.)

They toured the arena, watched the Wild practice and listened to several speakers, including Wild coach Darby Hendrickson, sports reporter Dawn Mitchell of Fox 9, Star Tribune Wild reporter Michael Russo, Wild TV play-by-play man Dan Terhaar and analyst Mike Greenlay, Wild vice president Bill Robertson, Wild radio pregame and postgame host Kevin Falness, Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press, Paul Rovnak from the University of Minnesota athletic communications staff, Xcel Energy Center director of public & media relations Kathy O'Connor and yours truly.

As part of the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program, I am in the process of setting up a similar student media day with the Timberwolves, and the Twins, Vikings and Gophers also will see me knocking on their doors.

THIS IS A BIG week as we start cranking it up for winter tournaments. We've got section competition in girls' hockey, Nordic and Alpine skiing and dance team, and the one-act play state tourney will be Thursday-Friday at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.

Stay warm out there. Spring is on the way … I think.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 335
*Miles John has driven: 7,609

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