John's Journal
Celebrations That Are Hard To Beat6/11/2010
Friday was a day of celebrations, and I saw four great ones. During the state softball tournament, Burnsville, Park Center and New Life Academy all won state championships in one-run games, and the joy was evident.

Later in the day at Mounds View High School, the boys’ lacrosse team from Benilde-St. Margaret’s recorded a 7-3 victory over Totino-Grace in the state title game, and the Red Knights capped the day with an exuberant celebration.

(To see video of each and every one of these celebrations, along with photos from the tournaments, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

Friday was a long day for all of us in the Media Specialist profession, starting with the first Tweet around 9:30 a.m. and ending around midnight. I wasn’t able to attend the boys’ state tennis tournament or the opening day of the state track meet, but I have spies at all these events and was plugged in from my perch in Mankato.

We’ll be back at it Saturday morning, with the first event of the state track and field meet at 9 a.m.

As I neared Mankato on Friday morning, I hit the “scan” button on my radio and landed on New Ulm’s KNUJ – one of the premier radio stations for high school sports in our state – and listened to coverage of New Ulm Cathedral’s victory over Cherry/Cotton in the Class 1A fifth-place game.

Later in the day, when the three softball state title games began, we took a leap from radio to the internet. The championship games were all webcast live on 45.grandstadium.tv, with the camera crews and on-air talent doing a very professional job.

Next Saturday’s state championship baseball games also will be webcast on 45.grandstadium.tv, and Channel 45 will pick up the webcast for live television coverage from Target Field.

The softball championship teams will be honored during the baseball championships, as well, with all three gold medal softball teams being recognized on the Target Center field.

That will be a fitting end to the school year, but first things first: the second day of the state track meet on Saturday and next week’s tournaments in baseball and golf.

INTERESTING T-SHIRT: An older fellow at the softball tournament was wearing a black shirt that in big gold letters read “Burnsville Braves.” The nickname was changed to the Blaze several years ago, but traditions often linger.

BUSIEST PERIOD OF THE DAY: Four tennis matches and two softball games all ended within a few minutes of each other between Minneapolis and North Mankato. The Tweets, texts and emails were arriving in my lap rapidly, and fingers were flying on Facebook and Twitter in an effort to keep the information flowing to the rest of the world.

(And speaking of Facebook and Twitter, the number of folks who are following those sites is growing rapidly. This has quickly become a wonderful way to spread news in the fastest way possible.)

BEST QUESTION OF THE DAY: Someone I saw at the softball tournament said, “Is it true that you left the Pioneer Press?” False. I left the Star Tribune to join the MSHSL staff.

BEST DOUBLE PLAY: In the bottom of the sixth inning of the 1A softball title game with New Life Academy leading 2-0, Barnum had a runner on first with no outs. A dangerous sinking liner was hit to right-center, and New Life center field Andrea Peterfeso raced in to not only make the shoestring catch, but she then threw to first base to double up the runner. That was a big-league play.

BUDDY SYSTEM: Having working in the prep sports media world for so many years, I have come to know many of the other scribes from around the state. At tournament time, we all catch up with each other. In Mankato, it was nice to see good guys like Rick Weegman of the Duluth News-Tribune, Aaron Hagen of the Worthington Daily Globe and Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press. It’s a great little fraternity to be part of.

BEST SPORTSMANSHIP: After a tough defeat in the lacrosse championship game, the boys from Totino-Grace shook hands with the officials. In most sports, the officials quickly leave the field of play as soon as the game ends. In lacrosse, they stick around. It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if coaches and players in all sports lined up and shook hands with the officials after every game.

--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
Softball, Rainfall, Graduation Plans, Lacrosse6/10/2010
Ah, the sweet smell of Diamond Dust. In other words, the state softball tournament and rain both arrived in North Mankato on Thursday.

I wrote on Wednesday that “I may attempt a long-distance doubleheader Thursday, driving to North Mankato in the morning and heading to Mounds View for Thursday evening’s boys’ lacrosse semifinals.” I indeed motored on down to the first day of softball, arriving shortly before play was suspended due to the trifecta of weather troublemakers: Rain, thunder and lightning.

The fields were cleared at 12:15 p.m. and everybody went into siesta mode for a couple of hours. Most of the fans were under umbrellas, but the teams, coaches and umpires were plenty wet. “This is a good time to find a laundromat,” one guy said as his team headed back to its hotel to wait out the delay. I also saw an enterprising fellow find a novel way to remove the moisture from his clothing: he held them under a hot-air hand dryer in the men’s restroom.

Later on, I saw two dads of players use the same method to dry out their daughters’ batting gloves. Good thing they didn’t have to put in quarters to keep the things running.

BEST JOKE I HEARD during the rain delay: “What’s the latest we could play today? 11:59.”

The Diamond Dust – a substance spread on wet infields to help remove the moisture – arrived in the backs of several Caswell Park maintenance vehicles. Watching the grounds crews rake the stuff in once the rain stopped, it was amazing how quickly they got the fields back into playing shape.

With all the spring tournaments come conflicts with big events, especially graduation ceremonies. Graduation at Forest Lake High School was held Thursday evening, so after the Rangers lost to North St. Paul in the Class 3A quarterfinals -- followed by the rain delay – their consolation-bracket game with Richfield resumed earlier than the others. That was done in order to let the Forest Lake folks get home in time for the ceremony.

The Richfield-Forest Lake game began at 2:30 and the darn thing lasted until 4:30, when Forest Lake scored in the bottom of the 11th inning to win 4-3. Had the game still been tied, it would have been suspended in order to allow the Forest Lakers to get home for graduation.

COOL MOMENT: During the final stages of the Forest Lake-Richfield game, the Forest Lake players chanted over and over (at a very rapid pace), “I Believe! You Believe! We Believe!”

I left North Mankato around 4:45 and scooted up Highway 169 toward the Twin Cities; specifically Mounds View High School and the semifinals of the boys’ state lacrosse tournament. By the time I got home around 10:30 p.m., I had put 190 miles on my car. I’ll do the same on Friday ... weather permitting, of course.

My lacrosse experience is limited, but here’s what I know: This is a very entertaining sport. It’s a mixture of football, hockey and soccer. Benilde-St. Margaret’s defeated Wayzata 19-4 in the first game and Totino-Grace got past Eagan 4-3 in a thrilling nightcap, setting up Friday’s 8 p.m. title game.

The Mounds View stadium is a great venue, with a backdrop of trees and terrific views of the action. Just the slightest mist fell late in the second game. No weather delays, no suspended play, no problem.

Oh, wait a minute. There was one slight problem: I forgot my umbrella in Mankato.

I’ll get it on Friday.

--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



Apple Valley Coach Receives National Honor6/9/2010
Chuck Scanlon, whose Apple Valley boys’ soccer team captured its eighth state championship under his guidance last fall, has been selected by the National High School Coaches Association as the National High School Boys Soccer Coach of the Year for 2010.

The Eagles had a perfect record of 24-0 last season, including a 4-0 victory over Wayzata in the Class 2A state championship game at the Metrodome.

A letter from the NHSCA informing Scanlon of his award said in part, “this is a tremendous honor for you, your team, and your school, and signifies that you are one of the best of the best in the coaching profession.”

Congratulations to Coach Scanlon and everyone at Apple Valley.
A State Championship, and a Special M.C.6/9/2010
All it takes to understand the depth and breadth of high school sports taking place in Minnesota right now is one quick gander up a few inches, at the top of this web site.

Everything is laid out for us: Scores and brackets in girls’ lacrosse, boys’ lacrosse, boys’ tennis, softball …along with clickable tabs with information on the upcoming state track meet as well as the state baseball tournament, which will culminate the spring season in a very sweet way at Target Field.

Take a step away from the worldwide web, however, and visit one of the many scenes of all these events. There we see cheering crowds, celebrating student-athletes and the culmination of countless hours of hard work, planning and even a little bit of dreaming.

I always try to gather up my favorite moments from tournament time and savor them. I already have a frontrunner in that category this spring, and it is something new: a smiling female student manager, taking center stage during the presentation of state championship medals for a boys’ sport.

Her name is Lauren Brumback. After the Eagles defeated Eagan 6-1 Wednesday at the University of Minnesota’s Baseline Tennis Center to claim the school’s first Class 2A boys’ tennis team title, coach Dean Rudrud had Lauren take over as master of ceremonies. She announced the names of each player as they stepped forward, bowed their heads and had a gold medal draped around their necks. Then she stood and smiled some more, in the midst of the boys as they posed for a team photo. It was tremendously neat.

Speaking of tremendous things, Eden Prairie is experiencing a sports year that is something to behold. The boys’ tennis championship was part of a long line of success stories since the 2009-10 school year began. The Eagles football team went to state last fall for about the 99th time in the last 100 years, falling to Cretin-Derham Hall in the Class 5A championship game. But there’s plenty more where that came from…

--The Eden Prairie girls’ lacrosse team fell to Blake 11-10 in Wednesday night’s state championship game at Chanhassen. The Eagles had won two of the first three state titles since that sport came under MSHSL sponsorship. Blake's title capped a darn good day for the Bears, by the way; the boys' tennis team also won a state title earlier in the day.

--The baseball team won the Class 3A, Section 2 title Tuesday night and will play in next week’s state tournament.

--Heading into next week’s state track and field meet, the Eagles have the state’s best time this spring in the boys’ 4x100 relay, along with the top long jumper (Rumeal Harris) and triple jumper (Mike Sandle) in the state.

--In cross-country, the boys’ team won the Class 2A state title last fall and junior Aaron Bartnik was the individual champion.

--Sophomore Meghan Cummings won a state swimming title in the 100-yard butterfly last fall.

--In girls’ tennis last fall, senior Makenna Borg and sophomore Maddie Buxton won the Class 2A doubles title.

--The boys’ basketball team went to state in Class 4A last winter, finishing fourth.

--And the wrestling team went to state in Class 3A, also finishing fourth.

Rudrud said Eden Prairie’s success begins with athletic director/football coach Mike Grant.

“Mike Grant’s philosophy at our head coach’s meetings is that everybody should have 100 percent great experiences,” Rudrud said. “If the kids are having fun and they’re improving, winning will take care of itself. Mike is such a great leader and he’s not just about football. At least in our meetings, he’s like, ‘OK, tennis, what do you need? Choir, what do you need?’ He’s really kind of raised the bar. It starts at the top and just kind of works down.”

Wednesday’s tennis championship was not a world-class surprise, at least not to the coach. Rudrud began the season with a very young team and saw it take home the gold with a lineup that featured ninth-graders in the No. 2 (David Zhou), No. 3 (Salam Bachour) and No. 4 (Sam Doud) singles spots. The No. 1 singles player Wednesday was a relatively seasoned veteran: sophomore Scott Elsass.

“I’ve got four ninth-graders, and they could have made the team as seventh- and eighth-graders, but we can’t take seventh- and eighth-graders because of district policy,” Rudrud said. “My focus was winning the state championship this year. It would have been disappointing if we hadn’t won the state championship.”

Eagan, which also was seeking its first boys’ team tennis title, is almost as young as Eden Prairie. The top singles players – Vishal Yelsetti and Brian Fisk – are seniors, followed by sophomore Ben Ekstein at No. 3 singles and eighth-grader Zach Eckstein at No. 4. Half of the Wildcats’ six doubles players also will return next season.

NOW IS WHEN MILES begin to be added to a few odometers. The state softball tournament kicks off Thursday in North Mankato, leading to a stream of vehicles coming in from all over the state. I may attempt a long-distance doubleheader Thursday, driving to North Mankato in the morning and heading to Mounds View for Thursday evening’s boys’ lacrosse semifinals. If not on Thursday, that will definitely happen for me on Friday.

Let's see, driving from my house to North Mankato to Mounds View and then back home; how many miles is that?

I better go get my oil changed …

--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

State Tourney Week Begins With Bubble Trouble6/8/2010
Bright, sunny skies can cure a lot of ailments, and improving weather would sure offer some assistance to the Class A boys’ state tennis tournament. One of the two inflated bubbles at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis slowly deflated a few days ago because of electrical problems.

As a result, all of today’s Class A team matches are being held under the other bubble. If it weren’t raining today, efforts to raise the second bubble might be successful … but it’s raining today.

If the weather clears in the next three days, outdoor courts at Reed-Sweatt may be used. But for now, the tournament is being held on five indoor courts instead of 10. That means we’re behind schedule, but other than that everything is running smoothly.

Results-wise, Breck has defeated Rochester Lourdes 4-3 and Virginia has clinched a victory over Luverne (although the match hasn’t concluded). Over at Class 2A tennis at the U of M, Rochester Mayo has defeated Mounds View 5-2 and Eagan beat Forest Lake 4-3.

I’ll be hanging out here at Reed-Sweatt for a while yet, then heading over to the U of M Baseline Tennis Center to see some Class AA tennis. This evening is when the weather could really come into play. The girls’ lacrosse state semifinals will be held at Chanhassen High School, with Eden Prairie vs. Mounds View at 6 p.m. and Blake vs. Lakeville North/South at 8 p.m.

And yes, I do have an umbrella in the car…

--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