John's Journal
A Big Move For Perham’s Zach Gabbard4/5/2011
The last time we saw Zach Gabbard, he got out of his wheelchair to walk and high-five his Perham basketball teammates during introductions before the Class 2A state semifinals at Target Center. The Yellowjackets went on to capture the state championship the next day, with a worn-out Zach watching on television from Bethesda Rehabilitation Hospital in St. Paul.

Zach has made another big move. He and his parents have returned to Perham, where Zach is in a transitional rehab unit at Perham Hospital. Zach was able to sleep in his own bed at home on Saturday and Sunday and moved into the hospital unit on Monday.

Here’s a message that was posted on Zach’s CaringBridge site Saturday evening:

“Unfortunately, I didn't have access to a computer yesterday. Zach had a great day. Today was an even better day! He was very willing and happy to accompany his parents on a road trip home! We made a surprise entrance into the middle school during the Spring Fling tournament and received a very warm welcome. He gets to sleep in his own bed for two nights and on Monday will be admitted into the transitional rehab unit in the Perham Hospital. We are looking forward to spending a quiet, restful Sunday at home alone because we need to monitor his blood pressure throughout the weekend.”

This update was posted on the site Monday:

“Zach is settled into his new surroundings. What a nice facility!!! He likes the fact that he can help himself to food! :) He met with each of his different therapists and his doctor today. Tomorrow full blown therapy will begin. It is so nice that his friends are close by and can visit him daily. Therapy, however, is first priority. There is a Wii at the facility so he and his friends can have a good time while visiting. :) I will try to update here but it won't be as often. Maybe once or twice a week until he is home for good. Thank you ALL for the generous posts and so many prayers throughout this ordeal. God is Great!”
A Few Scattered Tidbits On A Spring Day4/4/2011
Happy spring! It’s a balmy 38 degrees (above zero) today at MSHSL World Headquarters, where spring is the thing as we get into April. Before we know it, spring state tournaments will be held and another school year will be over.

But first we need to get a warmup going across Minnesota. According to a weather report from Fairmont – via the MSHSL Facebook page – it was 62 degrees down there in that beautiful city on Sunday and the first track meet of the year will be held Tuesday.

A report from Springfield in southwestern Minnesota, home of the Class 1A boys basketball state champions, says that flooding and wet ground are slowing things down for spring athletes.

The forecast looks like things should improve this week, but that usually depends on where you live. Especially from south to north, there can be a wide range of conditions for outdoor activities this time of year. It’s safe to say that Fairmont’s 62 degrees wasn’t felt in, say, International Falls. But I am certain that warm weather will arrive (fingers crossed).

--While taking a few days off last week, I did some traveling. Nothing exotic, no warm beaches or palm trees. Looking at this photo, see if you can figure out where I went (while wearing my “One Clap for Zach” t-shirt).


Warming weather gives me the itch to get in my car, visit schools and teams and write about the great things taking place around our state. I’m always on the lookout for story ideas, so feel free to send me an email telling me what’s happening where you are.

The best stories are the true human stories. Take a moment to think about what’s happening with your team, your school, your conference, your area. I always tell people that there’s at least one dynamite story at every school in Minnesota. Let me know about yours.


As the school year begins winding down we start seeing coaching changes. There are a couple I’d like to mention today. One is at Park Center High School, where former University of Minnesota quarterback Ricky Foggie has been named head football coach. Foggie, 44, replaces former Minnesota Vikings player Rufus Bess, who coached at Park Center for four years.

Foggie played for 10 years in the Canadian Football League and also played in the Arena Football League. He previously worked as an assistant football coach at Burnsville High School.

The other coaching change is at Ellsworth, where Tyler Morris has resigned his positions as sixth-grade teacher and boys basketball coach. He will move to Tekamah, Nebraska, to become head boys basketball coach and teach fifth grade in the Tekamah-Herman school system.

I have been a regular visitor to Ellsworth, which is one of the great little communities in Minnesota. You may recall a story that appeared here – as well as in the program for the boys state basketball tournament – about Coaches vs. Cancer. Ellsworth was a primary focus of that story, and Tyler has done great work in organizing Ellsworth’s annual Coaches vs. Cancer event.

The move to Nebraska means Tyler and his family will be closer to his wife’s family. He told me it was not an easy decision because of how much he enjoyed his time in Ellsworth. And knowing how special Ellsworth is, I can appreciate the difficulty of his decision.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,807

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
Memorable Moments, Big Numbers … And Now A Little Downtime3/28/2011
The Minnesota high school version of March Madness – which actually begins in February every year – has come to an end. It was a thrilling ride, wasn’t it? I tried to tell as many stories as possible here on John’s Journal, and there were some great tales.

The emotional journey of Zach Gabbard and the Perham boys basketball team was something we’ll always remember, and there are many other memories, too. On the MSHSL Facebook page, I have asked our nearly 3,000 Friends about their favorite memories from the winter tournaments. The Perham Yellowjackets seem to have made a real impact with people from all over, and not just in Minnesota.

Here’s one of the Facebook messages:

“This year was all about Perham!!! They did an awesome job and deserved winning ;-) It was an emotional moment for everyone having Zach supporting and walking out on the court!!!!! Great job Yellowjackets.... You have fans in Idaho!”

Here is another memory, posted on Facebook:

“The classy postgame after the 4A girls championship game between Eden Prairie and Hopkins, with both teams gathering in a huddle for encouraging words from the coaches and heartfelt good sportsmanship.”

And here’s a fun message:

“Hey- I'm maggie I'm the manager for the freeze.. It was our second straight tournament trip.. This year was great.. Even though we lost. That made the team become really close!! It was an amazing experience either way!! But my favorite memory was actually, on our way down to the cities! Our charter bus broke down 15 ft from the state pen for an hour and a half!!”

Thanks to Maggie the manager from Northern Freeze and everyone who participates on our Facebook page. We have more than 2,800 Facebook Friends and that number is growing all the time.

In fact, our Facebook page had more than 1.2 million views in the past month alone.

And here is another great big number: 6,235,071. That’s the number of page views on from Feb. 21 to March 27, which is essentially the winter tournament season. Yes, you read that number correctly … more than 6.235 million page views.

That is an all-time record, and it’s more than a million page views beyond what we saw during the same period in 2010.

I have posted a series of photos from the winter state tournaments on our Facebook page, just in case you want to look back at one of the best times of the prep season. It’s a mad dash through all the tournaments, involving long days and great competition. And there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

I’m going to duck out for the rest of this week and catch up on things like sleep and reading and walking the dog and changing the oil and getting a haircut and taking my wife out to a movie or two.

The ground is still a little damp as we wait for spring sports to get cranked up. But it won’t be long!

*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,807

--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 Championship Saturday3/26/2011
Wow! After four games and seven overtimes on Friday at Target Center, who the heck knows what Saturday will hold.

Here’s the lineup of games …

Noon (Class 1A): Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (32-0) vs. Springfield (25-3)

2 p.m. (2A): Rochester Lourdes (24-7) vs. Perham (30-1)

6 p.m. (3A): Columbia Heights (25-6) vs. Orono (27-4)

8 p.m. (4A): Hopkins (30-1) vs. Eden Prairie (27-4)
A Springfield Surprise in Class 1A Championship Game3/26/2011
The conventional wisdom turned out to be not so wise. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa was the only undefeated basketball team in Minnesota – boys or girls – going into Saturday’s Class 1A title game against Springfield, and many fans thought B-B-E was simply too talented to lose.

In stepped the Tigers of Springfield. Out they came with a 70-58 victory and the state championship. The Tigers closed the season with a 26-3 record; B-B-E is 32-1.

I’ll write more about Springfield later in the day, including a special story about a special member of the team ...

--Basketball wasn’t the only thing on Saturday’s MSHSL schedule. The MSHSL held its annual AAA (Academics, Arts & Athletics) Award luncheon, held across the street from Target Center at the Graves 601 Hotel. The luncheon honored 32 high school seniors from all over Minnesota. Afterwards, the AAA award winners were introduced on the court during halftime of the Class 2A championship game.

Again, I’ll write more about the AAA Award later today.


Class 1A All-Tournament: Brady Boike, Seth Hinrichs, MACRAY; Aden Casey, Tyler Simonson, Chisholm; Jesse Kieper, Alex Fink, Cody Milbrath, Springfield; Kevin Kuefler, Connor Goodwin, Brady Koehler, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa.

Class 1A Consolation: MACCRAY 72, Chisholm 53.

Class 2A Consolation: Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 67, Redwood Valley 64.


Here’s an email I received Saturday. It is self-explanatory…

“Would you please help make corrections to comments made during Perham's state championship games concerning the fact that Perham has no "Band" because of budget cuts? The fact is that Perham's budget cuts caused the Band to not operate at the same capacity, but the PHS Band and Pep Band is alive and well. It is directed by Mr. Larry Wankel who puts his heart and soul into each students' musical success and they love him for it. It was very disheartening for Band members to not be able to play at State games but the Garage band won the luck of the draw. This correction would mean so much to the already "let-down" Perham Band members. Thank you so much!”

--Diet Coke Count: 1 for the day, 16 for the tournament, 77 for the winter tournaments.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 566
*Miles John has driven: 8,807

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