John's Journal
Making Beautiful Music: Tyra Wiles And The Austin Band 4/3/2019
Tyra Wiles is not always very verbal but she loves music. The senior at Austin High School has Down syndrome, which doesn't stop her from performing as a percussionist in the Packers band program. And if you saw the 160-member pep band play at the girls state basketball tournament last month – like I did -- you might have seen Tyra playing a snare drum.

I found it intriguing as well as inspiring.

"She loves to play, and there's nothing better than being on the bus and going with the other kids," said Tyra's mom, Linda Gibeau.

When Tyra started middle school, Linda asked about having her be part of the middle school band program. "I said, 'I don't care if you give her foam sticks and a foam drum, I want her in the band.' "

Watching Tyra play with the band is a real treat. Her skills have improved to the point that she can perform the national anthem perfectly. But hanging out with the other band kids and being part of the group is the best part.

"I never played a musical instrument and was never in sports," said Linda, who works as a substitute teacher in Austin, her hometown. "I live vicariously through my kid. I work the same hours as she's in school, and if the band is heading to a game in the morning I cancel my job and go. I'm the only substitute teacher at every game and I’ve got a (school employee) badge so we go for free. Wrestling, girls or boys basketball, volleyball, track meets, everything, I go."

Tyra is also a six-year member (and a captain) of the Packers adapted bowling team, which has competed at state. When a pepfest was held for the bowlers last year, Tyra entered the gym with the pep band, then put down her drum and joined the bowlers. Her mother had helped her write a speech, which went like this: “I’m Tyra Wiles, I like bowling. Go Packers!”

Another highlight of Tyra’s high school career was going to the prom with Derek Olmschenk, a 6-foot-6 hockey player who was with the Austin Bruins junior team after graduating from Cretin-Derham Hall and is now playing at the University of St. Thomas.

Band is Tyra’s only mainstream class, and Austin band director Christoph Dundas said her impact has been bigger than most people realize.

“It’s good for both Tyra and for the other students,” said Dundas, who is the parent of an elementary special needs student. “For Tyra it’s a chance to experience something that a lot of students with special needs never get to experience just because of the way life happens. And it’s good for the other students, too, because they get to experience a class with somebody they don’t see in other classes.

“Band is multi-grade, multi-age, and Austin is a big enough school that a lot of kids really don’t see kids from other grades other than in music classes. She’s impacted students three years older than she is and students who are three years younger. Tyra’s impacted seven different grades of students.”

Brad Mariska, currently a band director at Farmington High School, used to teach in Austin. In his final year there, he worked with Tyra when she was in ninth grade.

“She was involved in middle school band and had a great band director, Nino Tarara. I met with him when Tyra was in eighth grade,” Mariska said. “We asked, ‘How can we make this work at the high school level?’ We kind of brainstormed and we wanted to help her be involved as much as possible.

“It was great. She was able to be a part of the band. She comes to concert band every day, she plays in concerts. We had weekly band lessons when she and I would work one on one.”

During the 2018 football season, Dundas received an email from a member of an opposing team. The player, also a band student at his school, had noticed Tyra in the band during a game in Austin and wrote to Dundas to tell him how neat it was to see Tyra in the band.

“So Tyra even reaches students from other schools,” Dundas said.

This is Tyra’s last year as a member of the band, although she will continue attending school in a job-training program for up to three years. She will graduate with her class in June; Linda admits to shedding a few tears when she wrote a check to pay for Tyra’s cap and gown.

“She’s a cool kid,” said Mariska. “That’s why we teach. That’s why we do this.”

Dundas said, “In the grand scheme of things Tyra may not realize her impact. There can be everyday experiences that people take for granted. And she gets to take that for granted, too.”

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
“Minnesota Made Me” Is A Book For Every Sports Fan3/30/2019
While watching the NCAA basketball tournament on Friday evening, I flipped between games involving Duke and Kentucky. As this happened, I Tweeted the following: "Kinda cool to flip from Duke/Tre Jones to Kentucky/Reid Travis. Minnesota: State of Basketball."

Tre Jones, like his big brother Tyus, was a high school athlete at Apple Valley before playing at Duke. Reid Travis was a star at DeLaSalle High School before playing at Stanford and now Kentucky. As I write this, I'm watching Gonzaga play Texas Tech in the tournament; another DeLaSalle grad, Geno Crandall, plays for Gonzaga.

Minnesota is a state of hockey, a state of basketball, football, baseball, you name it. Minnesotans are a proud lot, whether that pride is focused on our lakes and rivers, our forests and other natural areas, our wonderful lifestyle or our athletes.

“Our” athletes are the focus of a terrific book published recently. It's titled “Minnesota Made Me” and it’s the perfect embodiment of the pride Minnesotans take in our favorite home-grown athletes. Thirty-eight individuals are profiled in the book, written by Pat Borzi, a longtime Minnesota journalist. The foreward is written by Sid Hartman, the 99-year-old sports columnist from the Minneapolis Star Tribune whose byline first appeared in 1945.

Pat and I have something in common: Neither of us are Minnesota natives. I grew up in an Iowa town about 20 miles south of the Minnesota state line, so I like to claim that I’m an honorary native of this great state. Pat is an East Coast guy who worked at newspapers in Maine, Florida, New York and New Jersey before moving to Minnesota for love; he is married to veteran Minneapolis Star Tribune sports reporter Rachel Blount, a romance that blossomed from their time covering several Olympics together. They are the finest people I know.

Pat is a noted freelance sports reporter, contributing to MinnPost and covering the midwestern American sporting scene for The New York Times. He’s lived in this state for nearly 20 years and has come to know many of Minnesota’s highest-level athletes. In this book, he tells their stories. I learned a lot.

For example, I always knew that Matt Birk had played football and earned a degree at Harvard. But I didn’t know that his decision to say yes to an offer from Harvard was a yes-or-go-home thing. Birk visited the campus the very day the football coach had to submit his list of recruits to the admissions office, so he asked Birk point-blank if he was in. The book quotes Birk, “And I said, ‘If I get into Harvard, I’ll come.’ And I did."

In Birk’s senior year, he thrived under first-year offensive line coach Joe Philbin (a future NFL head coach). That single season helped catapult Birk to a long NFL career with the Vikings and Baltimore Ravens.

I have known Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer for many years from my time covering the team as a newspaper reporter. I knew he had grown up in the little Minnesota hamlet of Dumont. I learned in “Minnesota Made Me” that Dick was adopted, for which he is clearly grateful.

If there is a theme that runs throughout the profiles in the book, it can be summed up by a comment from Bremer: “For work ethic, the one thing I took from my parents and the people I was surrounded by in Dumont was, if you commit yourself to something, then it is a commitment – you see it through to the end, and you devote yourself to that particular challenge.”

Many of the athletes profiled in the book are very familiar names: Lindsay Whalen, Adam Thielen, Tyus Jones, Herb Brooks and others. But Borzi didn’t just write about current athletes who everybody knows so well. He goes back in time with chapters about golf legend Patty Berg and 1941 Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith, as well as soccer stars Tony Sanneh and Briana Scurry, Olympic curling champion John Shuster and others.

The profiles are in alphabetic order, beginning with Patty Berg and ending with Lindsay Whalen. Those are two fine bookends to this project; Berg was born in 1918 and we all know almost everything about Whalen.

Whalen, the basketball legend whose playing career wound from Hutchinson High School to the University of Minnesota to the WNBA and the Olympics, is now the Gophers women’s basketball coach. After graduating from high school and before starting college, Whalen worked a summer job on a 3M assembly line in Hutchinson; that’s where her father was employed for many years.

One morning at 5 a.m., facing a 12-hour shift that would start at 6 a.m., a young, tired Lindsay begged her dad to let her skip work that day and go back to bed. Her father insisted that they were both going to work. She asked, “You can’t just tell my boss I couldn’t sleep (all night)?” He answered, “No. If you want to get fired, that’s your deal. We’re going to work.”

Borzi writes … “It taught Whalen about responsibility and accountability, lessons she still brings to everything she does; Do your best. No griping. No excuses. And most important, never disappoint those relying on you.”

Responsibility. Accountability. No excuses. Hard work. Those words provide an underlying theme to everything that’s great about Minnesota. And “Minnesota Made Me” is now part of that greatness.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Henning Hornets: Life Is Bigger Than Basketball3/23/2019
Jacob Lewis Quam, age 16, of Vining, MN, formerly of Montrose and Delano, passed away Thursday, April 13, 2017, due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

The story of Henning High School's 2019 state championship in Class 1A boys basketball begins with an obituary. Jacob's death -- but more than that his life -- inspired the Hornets, particularly the four seniors on this year's team. They played for Jacob, had his No. 33 jersey with them at all times, and wrapped up a miraculous season with a 67-42 victory over North Woods in Saturday's championship game at Target Center.

Jacob attended Henning High School, where he was active in football, basketball, trapshooting, and weight lifting. He loved the outdoors, and enjoyed deer, duck, and goose hunting, fishing, farming, snowmobiling, and riding dirt bike. His great sense of humor, sharp wit, and kind heart will be greatly missed.

Orange-clad Henning fans came out in force to cheer for their boys, often holding up three fingers in each hand to signify Jacob's number or chanting "City Boy! City Boy!" … that was his nickname because he had previously lived in the metropolis of Delano.

"It's been tremendous and small towns are that way a lot," Henning coach Randy Misegades said of the support. "We've come together even moreso through (Jacob) and kind of learned a lot about life in general and that it's bigger than basketball."

As the final horn sounded Saturday, senior Dylan Trana held up Jacob’s jersey in front of the Hornets fans as they roared. During the awards ceremony, a gold medal hanging from a blue ribbon was placed on the black plastic hanger that held Jacon’s jersey. More roars.

Jacob was an excellent student and always received academic distinction on the honor roll. He was an incredible source of pride for his family, and all who knew him considered him to be an exceptional young man.

--To see photos of the Hornets with Jacob's jersey, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

Tournament Tidbits

--There was a wonderful pregame moment at Target Center before Saturday’s first game. Grace Pingeon, a junior from Springfield, was doing a simple sound check as she prepared to sing the national anthem in half an hour or so. She sang a few bars, people started standing, and she went on to sing the entire song. It was great. And it was followed by an encore once the TV telecast began.

--At halftime of the Class 1A championship game, Distinguished Service Awards were awarded to longtime officials Len Brown, Lauren Else, Chuck Evert, Mike Karnas, Georgianne Kornfuehrer, Tim Litfin, Ron Poeschel and Ann Suits.

--At halftime of the Class 3A game, longtime St. Cloud Times sportswriter Tom Elliott was honored as a recipient of the MSHSL Media Service Award.

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A: Isaac Fink, Decker Scheffler, Springfield; Mason Miller, Ada-Borup; Ethan Matzke, Alex Folz, Spring Grove; Cade Goggleye, Trevor Morrison, North Woods; Parker Fraki, Sam Fisher, Isaac Fisher, Henning.

Class 2A: Preston Keaveny, Melrose; Finn Diggins, Perham; Nathan Heise, Reid Gastner, Lake City; Nasir El-Amin, Davon Townley Jr., Eli Campbell, Minneapolis North; Jalen Suggs, Prince Aligbe, Chet Holmgren, Minnehaha Academy.

Class 3A: J’Vonne Hadley, Mahtomedi; Max Gerstner, Holy Angels; Adam Williams, Princeton; Medi Obang, Austin; Kyreese Willingham, Andrew Morgan, Malik Willingham, Waseca; Tyrell Terry, Jamison Battle, Kameron Givens, DeLaSalle.

Class 4A: Drake Dobbs, Eden Prairie; Courtney Brown, East Ridge; Tommy Chatman, Dain Dainja, Park Center; Tommy Jenssen, Tyler Wahl, Jack Rusch, Lakeville North; Dane Zimmer, Kerwin Walton, Zeke Nnaji, Hopkins.

Tournament Scores

Class 1A
Fifth-place game: Springfield 91, Westbrook-Walnut Grove 61
Third-place game: Spring Grove 72, Ada-Borup 68 (OT)
Championship game: Henning 67, North Woods 42

Class 2A
Fifth-place game: Melrose 66, Esko 57
Third-place game: Lake City 51, Perham 47
Championship game: Minnehaha Academy 69, Minneapolis North 52

Class 3A
Fifth-place game: Holy Angels 80, Mahtomedi 73
Third-place game: Austin 88, Princeton 76
Championship game: DeLaSalle 63, Waseca 56

Class 4A
Fifth-place game: Eden Prairie 76, Eastview 65
Third-place game: Park Center vs. East Ridge
Championship game: Hopkins 55, Lakeville North 40

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea" wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Got It, Shot It, Made It: 'The Shot We’ll Remember Forever'3/22/2019
The scene was set and everyone knew who was going to take the shot. In Friday's Class 1A boys basketball state semifinals at Target Center, North Woods trailed Ada-Borup 55-54 with 30 seconds to play. North Woods senior Cade Goggleye then missed a three-point shot, committed a foul and missed another three-pointer.

With four seconds left, the Grizzlies called a timeout. They had the ball, inbounding from behind the Ada-Borup basket and everyone knew who was going to take the shot.

Goggleye. From the right corner. Three-pointer. Pandemonium. Grizzlies win 57-55.

Two years ago, in the state quarterfinals at Williams Arena, Goggleye hit a half-court bomb at the buzzer to beat Central Minnesota Christian 54-51. This time, everyone knew who was going to take the shot.

"I thought we defended it very well. The kid made a tough shot," said Ada-Borup coach Trevor Stewart.

North Woods coach Will Kleppe said, "When it came down to it, we had the ball in the hands of the man who we wanted to have it. He put up the shot that we'll remember forever."

If not for Cade's last-second heroics, the Grizzlies wouldn't be playing in their third consecutive state championship game Saturday afternoon. Their opponent, Henning, advanced with a 67-34 win over Spring Grove. Both are going after their first state title.

Mason Miller, who led Ada-Borup with 20 points, gave credit to Goggleye (who scored 18).

“That was an amazing shot. Just an incredible shot,” he said. “We played outstanding in the second half and it just comes down to dumb luck sometimes.”

Goggleye, first saying “I have no words for it,” described things this way: “Before the play began I told myself I was going to make it if I got it. I got it, shot it, made it.”

Tournament Tidbits

--Ada-Borup junior Verdis Barber made history last spring during track season when he was the last athlete to ever compete for the Panthers of Norman County West High School. The high school, located in Halstad in northwest Minnesota, closed its doors when the 2017-18 school year ended. Most of the students in grades six through 12 now attend Ada-Borup. Barber’s historic designation came in the preliminaries of the Class 1A state track meet, where he ran a leg on the 4x100-meter relay team for the then-Ada-Borup-NCW cooperative squad. He and Ada-Borup students Brady Borgen, Vitor Vac Bitu Alves and Zach Pelzman did not advance to the finals.

--A number of head coaches in the 1A boys state tournament have sons on their teams, including: Spring Grove: Wade Grinde and son Caden; Ada-Borup: Trevor Stewart and son Tommy; and North Woods: Will Kleppe and son Davis.

--Spring Grove senior Ethan Matzke lost a tooth during Friday’s game, which led to a quick search of the court before it was located. Ethan is not a hockey player, but it was a fake tooth.

--When DeLaSalle and Waseca meet in Saturday’s Class 3A championship game, history – recent and extremely past – will be part of the story. DeLaSalle is trying to win the title for the seventh time in eight years. The last time Waseca won it all, and the only time, was in 1918.

Boys State Basketball Tournament

Friday’s Class 1A semifinals
Noon: Henning 67, Spring Grove 34
North Woods 57, Ada-Borup 55

Saturday’s championship game
11 a.m.: Henning vs. North Woods

Friday’s Class 2A semifinals
Minnehaha Academy 82, Lake City 52
Minneapolis North 62, Perham 46

Saturday’s championship game
1 p.m.: Minnehaha Academy vs. Minneapolis North

Class 3A
Saturday’s championship game
5 p.m.: DeLaSalle vs. Waseca

Class 4A
Saturday’s championship game
8 p.m.: Lakeville North vs. Hopkins

--Championship games televised by KSTC Channel 45 and webcast for free by

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Remember Wabasso vs. Red Lake? Westbrook-Walnut Grove Coach Does3/21/2019
Twenty-two years ago, one of the most famous games in boys state basketball tournament history was played at the St. Paul Civic Center. Just say the words "Wabasso vs. Red Lake" and people smile at the memory.

In the 1997 Class 1A semifinals, Wabasso held a 14-point lead with 1 minute, 15 seconds to play in the fourth quarter (yes, four eight-minute quarters were used then instead of the current 18-minute halves). Red Lake rallied to tie the score and send the game into overtime, where Wabasso came away with a 117-113 victory.

The game lives on in the tournament record book: Most points by a winning team, most points by a losing team, most field goals made (48 by Red Lake) and attempted (87 by Red Lake). Red Lake sophomore Gerald Kingbird scored 37 points and Wabasso junior Derrick Jenniges scored 31.

Jenniges (pictured) returned to state for the first time (other than as a fan) on Thursday. Now 39 years old, he's the head coach at Westbrook-Walnut Grove, which was defeated by North Woods 56-39 in the Class 1A quarterfinals at Williams Arena. He's in his 16th season as coach of the Chargers but memories from that 1997 game are vivid.

"I remember the same things I'm experiencing here," he said, "the community support and excitement all around. All the well-wishes from surrounding teams and officials and coaches. That never really changes. But as far as the game itself, we knew the game was going to be fast. It was just a pretty amazing environment. Since then I've ran across Gerald Kingbird a couple times and it's kind of neat to have those conversations."

Wabasso then lost in the state championship game to Hancock 60-58.

“I remember we didn't win that game,” Jenniges said with a laugh. “Nobody else around the state remembers who won the championship that year.”

Westbrook-Walnut Grove came to state this year with a record of 23-7. In a winter marked by horrible weather, the Chargers have been something to rally around for their fans in southwest Minnesota.

“It’s been a real community event, especially this winter when all you could talk about was snow and weather and school was out again,” said Jenniges, who teaches first grade in the district and is a high-level football official, having worked two Prep Bowl games. “It’s kind of a fresh conversation.”

In a school with an enrollment of 100 students in grades nine through 12, there are only 17 boys playing basketball. The roster includes two eighth-graders, four ninth-graders, six sophomores, one junior and four seniors. Multiple players have been injured or ill at different times, but “We finally feel like in the last three weeks we’ve been healthy enough to hit our stride,” the coach said.

“I don’t think I have a kid on my roster who’s ever attended the state tournament, let alone thought about playing in it,” Jenniges said earlier this week. “We’ll get there early and take a look around. It won’t be like we’re walking on the moon. Once the ball goes up, it’s a basketball game.”

Henning Plays For Jacob

Every player on the Henning basketball team has two initials sewn on the back of their jersey, just below the neckline. The letters JQ stand for Jacob Quam, who would have been a senior captain on this year’s Hornets team. His jersey (number 33) also is with the team on the bench and in the locker room; the team brought the jersey to Jacob’s gravesite before they left for the state tournament.

Jacob was killed on April 13, 2017, when the driver of a semi crossed the center line and collided with Jacob’s vehicle.

The Hornets defeated Christ’s Household of Faith 63-56 in Thursday’s Class 1A quarterfinals and will meet Spring Grove in the semifinals Friday at Target Center.

“In every game, we know he’s there,” said Henning senior Sam Fisher, who led all scorers with 20 points Thursday.

Tournament Tidbits

--Among the assistant coaches at Spring Grove is one of the most successful head coaches in history. Before stepping down after the 2017-18 season, Tom Vix coached at Rushford-Peterson for 33 years, compiling a record of 683-229. His teams went to 16 state tournaments and won titles in 1989, 2006 and 2015. The unseeded Lions, making their first state appearance, beat top-seeded Springfield 78-67 on Thursday behind 60-percent shooting.

“I think it’s just confidence,” said Spring Grove senior Alex Folz, who quarterbacked the Lions to the last two nine-man football state championships and scored 21 points Thursday. “Coach Vix has been here multiple times. He brought us here early to get us adapted to the light, so when we came in it was just another game. You’ve just got to shoot your shots. We wanted to move the ball and get wide-open shots and that’s what we did. I think confidence is the main reason we shot so well.”

--Cromwell-Wright senior Jaden Gronner wears a cap to protect a cochlear implant and hearing aid. Coach Bill Pocernich wears an FM sound system that hangs around his neck in order to help Jaden hear him.

Boys State Basketball Tournament

Thursday’s Class 1A quarterfinals
Spring Grove 78, Springfield 67
Henning 63, Christ’s Household of Faith 56
Ada-Borup 49, Cromwell-Wright 39
North Woods 56, Westbrook-Walnut Grove 39

Friday’s 1A semifinals
Noon: Spring Grove vs. Henning
2 p.m.: Ada-Borup vs. North Woods

Friday’s 2A semifinals
6 p.m.: Minnehaha Academy vs. Lake City
8 p.m.: Minneapolis North vs. Perham

Class 3A
Thursday’s semifinals
DeLaSalle 93, Princeton 54
Waseca 79, Austin 69

Saturday’s championship game
5 p.m.: DeLaSalle vs. Waseca

Class 4A
Thursday’s semifinals
Lakeville North 47, Park Center 45
Hopkins 71, East Ridge 47

Saturday’s championship game
8 p.m.: Lakeville North vs. Hopkins

--All semifinals and championship games televised by KSTC Channel 45 and webcast for free by

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.