John's Journal
Time To Hit The Road For Breckenridge and Hawley12/15/2010
It’s Thursday, and you might see me on the highway today. I’m heading out of town to visit two new places (for me): Breckenridge and Hawley. The weather experts are talking about some snow falling, but my fingers (and a few toes) are crossed in hopes that the roads do not present any issues.

This will be a fun trip. I’ll be spending Thursday afternoon at Breckenridge High School, talking to students about journalism and the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program. Breckenridge superintendent Rick Bleichner is a member of the MSHSL Board of Directors and has helped coordinate my visit.

After the school day ends in Breckenridge, I’ll head to Hawley for a boys’ basketball game between the Nuggets and the Barnesville Trojans. I’ll also be researching a very special story in Hawley, which I will keep to myself for now. But it is an extraordinary story that is very fitting for the holiday season.

I’ll be shooting photos at both schools, and I’ll post them on the MSHSL Facebook page first chance I get.

My drive time looks like about three and a half hours to Breckenridge and then another hour to Hawley. The timetable for arriving home? We’ll figure that out later.

Honk if you see me.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 265
*Miles John has driven: 5,575

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Hockey Night In Minnesota ... Specifically, Minnetonka12/14/2010
The John's Journal caravan will head to Minnetonka tonight for a girls' hockey game between the Skippers -- ranked No. 1 in Class 2A -- and the St. Cloud Icebreakers.

Minnetonka is 7-1, losing only to Shattuck St. Mary's. The Skippers are coming off a 2-1 victory over Blake -- ranked second in 1A -- on Friday.

The Icebreakers are 6-2 with losses to Blake and Sartell/Sauk Rapids.

I'll be Tweeting score updates during the game, and the postgame coverage will include a story right here on the Journal plus photo/video on the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 261
*Miles John has driven: 5,531

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
An Interesting Day, An Inspiring Athlete12/14/2010
It’s mighty interesting what can happen during a day in the life of a journalist. When I woke up Tuesday morning, I knew I would be at Minnetonka High School in the evening for a girls’ hockey game. But the biggest story of the day turned out to be a remarkable return to the athletic arena by a boys’ basketball player.

Stay with me here.

The plan was to attend a girls’ hockey game between Minnetonka and the St. Cloud Icebreakers, a cooperative team with players from Tech, Apollo and Cathedral high schools. And that did happen. I was inside the arena at Minnetonka when the Skippers and Icebreakers began their game. It ended with a 7-0 victory by Minnetonka.

The Skippers (9-1), who are ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, have lost only to Shattuck St. Mary's. Last Friday the Skippers defeated Blake, the No. 2 team in Class 1A, 2-1. Next up for Minnetonka is a game against Benilde-St. Margaret’s (No. 7 in 2A) on Saturday.

Minnetonka had outscored its opponents 13-4 in the first period prior to Tuesday. The opening period this time was scoreless, which was agood omen for the Icebreakers. But the Skippers sealed the deal with four goals in the second period by Hadley Cookson, Amy Peterson, Laura Bowman and Carolyn Draager.

The Icebreakers fell to 6-3. Tuesday’s game was their first trip to the Twin Cities this season; they also will play at Blake on Jan. 6.

Earlier Tuesday I had received this email from Tom Dasovich, the boys’ basketball coach at Minnetonka:

Hi John,

I know it is short notice but I wanted to make sure he was healthy enough to play. Larry Rice, a senior at Minnetonka, is going to play in our varsity basketball game tonight against Rosemount. He had open-heart surgery in late August and has been cleared. He is a great kid, I haven’t seen many kids work as hard to come back or overcome as much.

I hope all is well!

Thanks,
Tom

A little sleuthing uncovered the fact that this would be a home game for Minnetonka. Knowing the gym is a very short walk from the ice arena – like about 50 feet – this was a doubleheader jackpot.

After arriving at the school, I walked back and forth between the rink and the gym several times, darting across a road on the school grounds. I watched the basketball teams warm up for a while, snapped a photo of the Minnetonka pep band and put it up on my Twitter feed, chatted with one of the officials briefly and talked with Dasovich for a minute about Larry Rice.

Then I hit the rink for the opening faceoff and scoreless first period. Back to the gym in time to see Rice come off the bench for the Skippers in the first half. Back to the rink as the Zamboni finished its work and the teams came out for the second period. Then it was bang-bang-bang-bang and Minnetonka had a 4-0 lead.

I returned to the gym for the last eight minutes of the basketball game, which was close throughout until Rosemount won 61-57. As the teams went to the locker rooms, I asked Dasovich if I could talk with Rice. We chatted for a few minutes about his heart, his surgery and his return to action.

Rice (shown in the photo at left with Dasovich) is a top-flight football player and he missed the entire football season after a heart defect was found over the summer.

“Basically I was conditioning and I felt a little tightness in my chest so I had to go get it checked out,” Rice said. “A cardiologist said one of my arteries wasn’t pumping enough blood to my heart. I had to get that taken care of as soon as possible because it’s sometimes fatal.”

He had surgery on Aug. 27. There were some complications along the way, but two weeks ago he was given medical clearance to play basketball. Tuesday’s game was Larry’s first competitive activity since the last game of the 2009-10 basketball season.

Being cleared to play again “was just a relief after everything I’ve been through and all the training I’ve been through,” he said. “Just to be out there and compete again is a blessing.”

Before the game, Dasovich had told me that Rice was wearing an undershirt with a special pad over his heart. I assumed that it was a specialized piece of medical equipment. But after the game, when Larry had taken off his jersey, it was clear that his special shirt was homemade.

A pad had simply been sown into a blue sleeveless shirt. My question: Did you make that yourself?

“I did some of it,” he said as he smiled. “Well, my mom helped me. I can’t take the credit for this.”

No, maybe not for the shirt. But he can take plenty of credit for being an inspirational young man. Have a great season, Larry.

--To see photo galleries from both games, check out the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 265
*Miles John has driven: 5,575

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
Winter Weather Results In A Crazy Weekend12/10/2010
When weather experts predicted up to two feet of snow and drifts high enough to bury an elephant, we all knew it was time to hunker down for the weekend. High school activity schedules took a hit over the weekend from the storm that brought snow, cold and wind to Minnesota.

The biggest surprise from the storm was the deflation of the Metrodome. If you haven't seen video of the heavy snow making the roof cave in early Sunday morning, it's definitely worth a look.

One of the big early events on the boys’ basketball schedule was postponed; the 14-game Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Minnetonka High School. It was scheduled for Saturday and the organizers say they plan to reschedule. Many other events across the state also were affected by this weekend's storm.

But now, as we begin a new week and move closer to the holidays, let's be grateful that the storm has passed and we made it through safely.

Have a great week!
A Volunteer Morning For The MSHSL Staff12/9/2010
MSHSL World Headquarters was a pretty quiet place Thursday morning as much of the MSHSL staff volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit organization that engages volunteers to hand-pack meals formulated specially for starving children. The meals are distributed in nearly 70 countries around the world.

MSHSL employees, along with volunteers from several other organizations, helped prepare more than 23,000 meals, which will feed 65 children for a year. The meals, consisting of rice, soy, vegetables, vitamins, minerals and a vegetarian chicken flavoring, are hand-packed in small pouches, with each pouch providing six highly nutritious meals.

A total of 104 volunteers at Feed My Starving Children’s Coon Rapids facility also packed the pouches into boxes for shipping on Thursday morning; 110 boxes, with 216 meals in each box, were filled. That totals 23,760 meals.

It was an enjoyable, rewarding experience for the MSHSL staff members.

For more information on Feed My Starving Children, go to www.fmsc.org.