John's Journal
Remembering Martin Carter1/6/2011
(The following was originally published in the Park Rapids Enterprise. It was written by Anna Erickson of the Enterprise.)

Martin Carter, well-loved instructor and drama coach in Park Rapids, will be remembered for his selfless commitment to others.

He passed away Wednesday, Dec. 22, at age 76.

Students were a priority for Carter. Each one was important and there was no such thing as a small part, in his opinion.

“Martin was magic,” said Joey Collins, who taught with Carter for five years in Park Rapids. “It was never about Martin. It was always about the other person.”

Carter was a mentor for Collins, who began student teaching in Park Rapids in 1975. Although she only taught with Carter for five years, she said their lives were intertwined over the years and they stayed in touch. (In this photo, Martin sat on stage in 1993.)

He started teaching in Park Rapids in 1958. Although he initially thought he would stay in Park Rapids for just a few years, he made a career here, retiring 35 years later, in 1993.
The drama program rose to fame under his dedicated leadership.

During his career, Carter brought 19 one-act plays to state competition, with star performances at eight. He also led speech students to a high level, placing Park Rapids fourth overall in the state, including 10 years in competition with AA schools. He was also a coach for National Forensic League champions.

In March 1993 he was inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame with 10 other individuals from various disciplines. His photo is on the Hall of Fame wall in Brooklyn Center depicting all of Minnesota’s great achievers.

He racked up a collection of trophies unprecedented by any other Park Rapids organization. His classroom had two walls worth of shelves filled with trophies and additional trophy cases in the hall.

He formally retired in 1993 but continued to be involved in theater and speech at Park Rapids Area High School.

Juliann Kjenaas, current drama director in Park Rapids, has fond memories of working with Carter.

“He was quite the fixture at the school here,” she said. “He continued to come in and help critique students and make them better.”
He also helped judge one-act competitions after he retired. Kjenaas said Carter lived for bringing out the best in kids.

“The thing about Martin was that he was always there for the kids,” she said. “He was just a bigger than life character."

“He has sacrificed himself entirely. There is not anyone more dedicated to the kids in getting their full potential,” according to retired teacher Bruce Burkman for a previous story for the Enterprise. He worked with Carter as an English teacher and drama director.

Carter was also involved in community theater productions, including “The Music Man,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “The King and I,” and the “Wizard of Oz.”

He received the honor of Coach of the Year in 1988 for helping his own students as well as students from other schools. He also received the Outstanding Individual in Communication and Theatre Award by the Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota.

Carter worked with many students over the years and had a lasting impact on them. His legacy will remain at Park Rapids Area High School.
A New Arena, Great Hockey And Oh, The Food 1/3/2011
Duluth is a special place. I’ve been visiting the North Shore for a long time now, with summer visits during vacations and winter trips centering around hockey. Hockey was again the theme Monday when I rolled north up Interstate 35, but this time there was much more than sticks and pucks.

As I wrote a couple days ago, my journey involved a high school hockey doubleheader, an MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors workshop and a visit to the new Amsoil Arena, which opened its doors just last week. The 6,764-seat arena is part of an $80 million expansion project at the DECC (Duluth Entertainment Convention Center), and it is a showplace.

I covered many hockey games at the DECC arena, which was one of the great old places to watch hockey. Amsoil retains some of that charm, but it is much roomier and brighter than the DECC arena. The two dozen high school students who gathered for Monday’s workshop were treated to a private tour of the arena, and they all loved it. As one of them told our tour guide from the DECC staff, “This place is awesome.”

The arena made its debut last week when a full house watched a men’s college hockey game pitting Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota. Monday’s event – a girls’ game between the Duluth Northern Stars and Proctor/Hermantown/Duluth Marshall and a boys’ game between Duluth East and Duluth Central – was very festive, with intermission fun that included pie-eating contests, mini-mite games, prizes and raffles. (Question of the night, posed during one of the pie-eating contests: “How much pie can a high school administrator eat?”)

And then there was, ah yes, the food at the concession stands. I kicked off the gastronomical festivities with a Polish sausage. What really caught my eye was seeing “Smoked wild rice brat” on the menu, but they weren’t quiet grilled to perfection during my first foray to the concession stand nearest the press box. I had one a little later, however, and that experience alone is enough to keep me coming back to town.

The day’s Diet Coke Count (the total is below) began at lunch with an actual Diet Coke, consumed as I drove north. Amsoil Arena, however, is a Pepsi joint, so the Diet Cokes the rest of the day were disguised as Diet Pepsi or Diet Mountain Dew. One was even a freebie; during the Student SID workshop I talked briefly about the monster that is the Diet Coke Count and how I sometimes drink Diet Mountain Dew. One of the students had come equipped with a Diet Mountain Dew in his backpack, and he presented it to me after the workshop. What a nice young man.

The hockey was outstanding. In the first game, the Duluth Northern Stars (6-8-1) came away with a 2-1 victory over Proctor/Hermantown/Marshall (8-6-1). The deciding goal was scored by ninth-grader Alexia Klaas for the Stars.

In the boys’ game, East led 2-0 after one period and went on to a 7-1 victory over Central, with seven different players getting the goals. Monday’s game marked the last time Central and East will play each other; Central will close in the spring and Denfeld will re-open next fall after being closed for a year during renovations. Central students will then attend Denfeld.

Duluth East (9-3), ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, has lost only to No. 1 Wayzata and No. 5 Edina, both by one-goal margins. Central (6-7) is ranked No. 15 in Class 1A

--One of the great mascots in Minnesota is the Duluth East Greyhound (pictured with the East cheerleaders). Whomever is inside that suit somehow manages to skate while wearing a giant dog head. Very, very impressive.

(To see more photos and a video from Amsoil Arena, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

--Diet Coke Count: 4

*Schools/teams John has visited: 306
*Miles John has driven: 6,559

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
We’ll Kick Off 2011 With A Full Day In Duluth1/1/2011
Hello and welcome back to the show. The holiday break is about at its end and the John’s Journal staff is gearing up for a blockbuster beginning to 2011. The new year will open in Duluth, and I’ll get to those details after this brief Hollywood interlude ...

Mr. and Mrs. John’s Journal have been spending time at the local cinemas over the holidays. In a one-week span, we saw “The King’s Speech”, “True Grit”, “The Fighter” and “Black Swan.” According to the Twitter messages dispatched to the universe by Mrs. Journal, “Black Swan” topped her list. My order of preference: “The King’s Speech”, “The Fighter”, “True Grit” and “Black Swan”. I loved ‘em all, and I put those four and “The Social Network” in my Top 5 for 2010.

OK, back to reality. By which I mean Duluth. We’ll be in the Air-Conditioned City on Monday for a day filled with good stuff. Our headquarters will be the brand new Amsoil Arena, hockey home of the UMD Bulldogs. The arena has been open for just a few days.

Monday’s big athletic draw will be a high school hockey doubleheader. The Duluth Northern Stars will meet Proctor/Hermantown/Duluth Marshall in a girls’ game at 5:30 p.m., followed by a boys’ game at 7:30 between Duluth East and Duluth Marshall. The evening has been dubbed “High School Hockey Frenzy.”

Our day will also include a gathering of high school students who are interested in the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program. Duluth East activities director Shawn Roed has been instrumental in setting up a workshop in which I will meet with students from several area schools. The students will learn about the Student SID program and maybe get a journalism tip or two along the way.

The students will be given a tour of the arena before the workshop, and they will be encouraged to stick around for the evening’s hockey doubleheader. It has the makings of a very special day.

I’ll be shooting photographs throughout the day in Duluth, with Twitter and Facebook activities highly likely.

--On another note, I’m looking for an event to attend on Tuesday evening. Basketball, hockey, dance team; you name it and I might be there. I have posed this question on the MSHSL Facebook page, so feel free to post suggestions there or send me an old-fashioned email. I’ll be back in the Twin Cities on Tuesday, so anything too far outside the metro might be a stretch that evening. But I’m open to any and all possibilities.

See you soon.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 302
*Miles John has driven: 6,249

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of John Millea is on Twitter at
A Holiday Story From Hawley: Family, Football And Staying Strong12/22/2010
Kevin Olson is a gifted athlete. Strong, skilled and determined. His coaches at Hawley High School use words like “drive” and “heart” and “desire” when they talk about the 5-foot-10 three-sport senior.

Olson is an all-state football player, an all-conference basketball player and he has gone to state in track. But there is much more to Kevin Olson’s story, which began in the Central African Republic and has taken him to Hawley, a town of less than 20,000 people 22 miles east of Fargo, N.D. Through a stellar athletic career that includes a devastating injury, one thing is clear: Kevin Olson is sure to be a success no matter where life takes him.

“I think everybody is in awe at his athletic ability,” said Hawley boys’ basketball coach Jon Hinrichs. “But I guess I’m a person who’s in awe of Kevin as a human being.”

Kevin (pictured at right) was adopted at a young age. His adoptive father is Tom Olson, a minister in Hawley who spent 15 years working as a missionary in Cameroon and the Central African Republic. In 1995, Tom married Eunice, a native of the Central African Republic. And soon after, through adoption, their family quickly expanded.

“Within six months we had three kids,” Tom Olson said. “And we got two more in 1997.”

Kevin is the middle child and all five are related. His older brother Con and older cousin Fedilia also were adopted by Tom and Eunice, as were his sister Laure (a junior at Hawley High School) and cousin Olivia (an eighth-grader).

“They are really neat kids who have done a lot with the opportunity to come to the U.S. and have a better life,” Hawley athletic director Brett Schmidt said.

As a youngster in Hawley, Kevin gravitated towards sports. He suffered a knee injury playing basketball in seventh grade, but it didn’t seem serious and as Kevin said, “I just put it aside.” As an eighth-grader he was on the junior varsity football and basketball teams, and got a taste of the varsity level in those sports as well as track. But his left knee began nagging him.

After running in the state track meet as an eighth-grader, a doctor told Kevin that he needed surgery on the knee, where a piece of bone had been chipped off. He missed most of his freshman football season, and during the summer before his sophomore year he spent two months visiting relatives, including his birth parents, in the Central African Republic.

“That was an eye-opener because we hadn’t been there for eight years,” Kevin said. “There were a lot of emotions. I met my younger brother, who looks just like me, and my younger sister, who looks just like (Laure). I was amazed.”

He trained for football while in Africa, with his siblings tagging along. “It was hard to get the workouts done because they hadn’t seen you for so long and they wanted to do what you did,” he said. “I figured I might as well let them join in.

“The last day was kind of hard for me and my younger sister, having to say goodbye to our mom and dad. I remember breaking down and crying at the airport. I made myself a promise that I’d try to get them all here. “

His sophomore football season was a breakthrough year, as he rushed for 1,800 yards and helped the Nuggets reach the Class 2A state semifinals. His junior year was hampered by knee problems and a groin injury, but last summer he was invited to the North Dakota State football camp.

“The coaches started talking to me there. They said ‘If you can dominate your senior year, we’ll talk.’”

But on the third day of practice last fall, he reinjured his knee. Then came the worst news of all. In the original surgery, three screws had been used to stabilize the knee. The screws, as planned, had dissolved but bone in the knee had also dissolved. The boy who had dreamed of playing college football was told by doctors that his dream was an extreme long shot, if not an impossibility.

“It was really tough,” Kevin said. “It was really hard to take all that in at once.”

He was allowed to play football this year, wearing a knee brace normally used by athletes with torn ACLs.

“It was one of the most painful things we had to do when he had the knee injury,” Hinrichs said. “You sit down and you see the hurt in a kid’s eyes.

“Kevin’s initial thought was, ‘Why is this happening to me? Why is God doing this to me?’ One day I said to Kevin, ‘Maybe God did this for you. Maybe you were meant to be a coach and you still have that burning passion for sports and that's what the sports need.’ ”

Nuggets football coach Peder Naatz said, “I think the thing that makes him so special is his desire and his drive. As a sophomore he had well over 200 yards in a state quarterfinal game against Eden Valley-Watkins in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. It took five, six, seven kids to bring him down. He’s physically tough, and it hurts him so much inside that he can’t do some things all the time because of his knee.” (In photo at left are Tom, Kevin, Laure and Olivia.)

Hinrichs said the greatest challenge in working with Kevin is helping him realize how talented he is. He can be modest almost to a fault, his coaches say. At halftime of one basketball game, Hinrichs told the entire team, “Raise your hand if you think Kevin needs to take more shots.” Every hand went up, with the exception of Kevin’s.

“He’s a tremendous kid to work with, he gets along great with other people, you can have fun with him,” Hinrichs said.

“I just think the world of him and I think the world of the family. With kids like him, it’s not the wins and losses that make coaching worth it, it’s the kids.”

Kevin is playing basketball this winter with a knee brace. He plans on attending North Dakota State and studying computer engineering; if no further surgery is needed he may try walking on with the NDSU football team.

And once he has that college degree, he has another goal in mind: he would like to help bring computers to people in the Central African Republic.
Three Days And 674 Miles Later, Here’s What I Learned 12/19/2010
Here’s what you learn from driving 674 miles over three days, crossing into North Dakota on day one and hitting southeastern Minnesota on day three: This is a big state where people know how to move massive amounts of snow off the roads. This is especially true in small towns, if my experience this week is any indication.

I had never been to Breckenridge until Thursday. School began two hours late there that day because of seven inches of snow. I pulled into town shortly after noon and every street was clear. As I told students at Breckenridge High School during my afternoon visit: “Here’s what I know about Breckenridge … you guys know how to move snow.”

That evening I was in Hawley for a basketball game and the scene was similar. Snow had been pushed to the side and business was getting done.

Saturday was my annual trip to Rochester for the Minnesota Christmas wrestling tournament, and – we have found a theme here – traffic was moving easily despite way too much snow at this point in the winter.

This was a great week for a guy who loves to wander. Here are a few items scribbled in a notebook…

--Great scene: As I passed through Barnesville, a kid walked along the side of the highway with a hockey stick and a puck, working on his stickhandling.

--Hawley has a gymnasium that almost every high school in the Twin Cities would envy. It’s roomy, the lights are first-rate and it’s a tremendous place for fans as well as players.Those are some lucky Nuggets.(And those are the Barnesville cheerleaders, posing in the Hawley gym.)

--You know it’s a small town when fans can hang their outerwear on coat racks outside the gym.

--Nice touch: During introductions of the starting lineups, the boys’ basketball players from Hawley and Barnesville shared fist bumps with the opposing coach as well as all three officials.

--Best-dressed list: Barnesville had a couple of elementary boys acting as ballboys/managers, and they wore dress shirts, slacks and ties. You stay classy, Barnesville.

--Best save: Near the end of the Barnesville-Hawley game, one of the officials had a quick request for Hawley athletic director Brett Schmidt. The official was supposed to provide beef sticks for he and his partners to enjoy on the ride home, but he had forgotten. He asked Schmidt if he could save him, and Brett rounded up some goodies from the concession stand for the men in stripes.

--It was no surprise that Apple Valley won the Christmas wrestling team title and Eagles senior Destin McCauley became the event’s first four-time champion. The surprises came when two Class 2A wrestlers defeated opponents from 3A power Apple Valley in title matches pitting defending state champs. Jackson County Central’s Bronson Steuber (pictured at left) beat Matt Kelliher 4-2 in overtime at 135 pounds, and Simley’s Jake Short recorded a first-period pin against Brandon Kingsley at 140.

--You will be hearing more about the latest phenom from Apple Valley. Mark Hall, wrestling at 130 pounds, became the first seventh-grader to win a championship at the Christmas tournament. Yes, that’s right, he’s a seventh-grader.

--Everybody was happy for Donny Longendyke, defending state heavyweight champion from White Bear Lake. Donny pinned Sam Stoll of Kasson-Mantorville in the first period of the championship match, giving him 150 career wins and 100 career pins.

--The only cheerleaders I saw Saturday at the Christmas tournament were from Kasson-Mantorville. The girls sat matside on pillows and slapped the mat as they performed their routines to perfection.

--My car and I have become overly acquainted in the past week. So I think I’ll keep the miles to a minimum for a few days. Yes, my backside needs the rest.

(To see a photo gallery from the Christmas wrestling tournament, including photos from all 14 championship matches, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

*Schools/teams John has visited: 302
*Miles John has driven: 6,249

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