John's Journal
Q & A: Bloomington Jefferson Senior Jacob Sandry (Part I)5/20/2010
Jacob Sandry is a very successful three-sport athlete, serving as team captain advancing to multiple state meets in cross-country, Nordic skiing and track and field. He placed fourth in the Class AA 1,600 meters last year and has the fastest 1,600 time in Minnesota this spring. But his high school experience isn’t limited to sports. He’s involved in Policy Debate on a high level and helped start a club at Jefferson called Global Unity Project, which raises funds for such causes as the genocide in Darfur and providing solar cookers in Malawi. He also is a peer tutor at his school. He was Jefferson’s male nominee for the MSHSL Triple A (Academic, Arts and Athletics) Award.

Jacob was diagnosed at a young age with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as well as Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Being involved in school activities has helped him focus his energy and concentrate on what he calls “the goal of my life, helping make the world a better place.” After graduation he plans to take a year off to travel, learn and volunteer before beginning college.

I interviewed Jacob before track practice...

Q: Why three sports?

A: It’s logical; cross-country running, Nordic skiing and distance running, that makes sense. I joined Nordic just to stay in shape for track when I was in eighth grade. I used to play basketball. At first it was really hard and I kind of hated it, but eventually, once I kind of figured out the technique, I basically fell in love with it.
A lot of guys from warmer states run all year, and then in college they’ll start to burn out because they’ve been pounding themselves when they’re young.

Q: What are your goals for this track season?

A: I would love to win a state championship, but I realize that the end of the season is just like the icing on the cake. Every day when we come out to practice, running every day with all these guys who have basically become family for me, putting in the hard work even though it seems at times I’d like to be at home on the couch; having these goals and being determined, making up my mind that I’m going to get there, really the end result is like icing on the cake and everything else is really what it’s about. I think that’s kind of how I’ve matured as a runner. I realize it’s not just about the end.

Q: What do you like about Policy Debate?

A: Policy debate is a very intense activity. This year our topic is social services, people and poverty. We spend a lot of time doing research; it’s another thing where you put a lot of work into it. Me and my partner Tom Zimmer were actually second alternates for nationals, then people dropped out so we’re going to go to nationals in June (the National Forensics League nationals in Kansas City). It challenges me intellectually a lot more than school does. To me, school is either boring or easy a lot of times. Policy debate allows you so much room to do whatever you want with it. Between keeping up on current events and reading Marx and Nietzsche and all these philosophers, this is really interesting to me. It’s like a really intellectually charged game. It’s a fun way to learn.

Q: Tell me about the Global Unity Project.

A: That started with me and a couple friends when we were freshmen and sophomores. We’re interested in global issues and we were like, ‘We can do something about this.’ I guess a lot of it goes back to my synagogue. It’s a ‘change the world’ type place and that’s kind of how I was brought up and that’s how I first heard about the genocide in Darfur. Somebody said, ‘How about you do a fundraiser at school.’ And I was like, OK, cool. So I started the club. Eventually we developed into, ‘Well, maybe we don’t just want to focus on Darfur because there are plenty off issues going on in the world that we’d like to learn about.’ So we changed our name from Africa Project to Global Unity Project so we would focus on global issues. Right now we’re working with an organization called New Global Citizens and they help out clubs like ours at high schools. They give us resources, but the coolest thing they do is they hook you up with a grassroots organization somewhere in the world. This year 100 percent of our money is going to a solar cooker project in Malawi. Solar cookers are awesome for a bunch of different reasons: environmental sustainability, killing food-borne illnesses, not using any electricity, preventing deforestation, all these great things and they each cost like five dollars. So far this year we’ve raised around $2,000, which is 400 solar cookers. Which is incredible. Mostly what we do is run organized fundraisers. We had a teacher dance battle, we just had a big battle of bands, with high school bands coming from all over. The people who get interested in this kind of stuff are people who are already driven, so it’s like we kind of fit that in. I think it’s been a super meaningful experience for a lot of us, and hopefully for the people who receive the money, too.

Q: What drives you to do these things?

A: I think that is supposed to be the goal of my life, helping make the world a better place. That might not seem to connect to running at all, but I want my life to be a good experience, too, and if I’m not happy how will I be able to do something for anyone else? The basis of my religion isn’t really as much the God aspect as it is to make the world a better place. The number one thing you can do is help other people. Sometimes when I’m sitting around thinking about what I’m spending my time doing, I think ‘should I be spending my time playing Call of Duty or organizing a fundraiser?’ It’s kind of a moral issue. That’s nothing against people who make their own decisions with their own lives, but that’s just kind of my own moral calculus.

(Click below for Part II.)
A Visit to Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf5/19/2010
One of my favorite places to visit is the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault. In the past I attended football and basketball games there, and on Tuesday I saw my first track meet at MSAD.

A report from the track meet is forthcoming. While at MSAD, I shot some photos of one of the most beautiful campuses in Minnesota. MSAD’s historic buildings and grounds rival anything found on any college campus in our state.

I have posted several photographs on our MSHSL Facebook page (hint, hint … go there and become part of our Facebook club).

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Having Fun at a “Quiet” Track Meet 5/19/2010
I have attended hundreds of track meets over the years, going all the way back to the dark ages when I was a track athlete myself. I have never had more fun than I did Tuesday during the third annual Leo Bond Invitational, hosted by the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault.

Actually, only the shot put and discus were held on the MSAD campus; everything else was contested on the track at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, which is next door to MSAD. The sun was bright, the smiles were wide and the competition was strong. (To see more photos -- and video from the start of the 1,600 -- from the event, go to the MSHSL page on Facebook.)

Teams competing were MSAD, The International School of Minnesota (Eden Prairie), Liberty Classical Academy (Maplewood), Minnesota North Star Academy (St. Paul) and Calvin Christian (Fridley). MSAD finished first in the boys’ competition and The International School won the girls’ team title.

This was easily the quietest track meet I have experienced. There were deaf athletes from schools other than MSAD, and sign language was used everywhere from the starting line to the finish line and the scorer’s tent.

The meet is named for Leo Bond, one of the greatest athletes in MSAD (and Minnesota) history. Leo was the state champion in the 440-yard dash in 1971, 1972 and 1973. He won four events at the World Games of the Deaf (now known as the Deaflympics) in Sweden in 1973 and won three gold medals at the same event in Romania four years later. He still holds the Deaflympics world record in the 800 and was chosen as the deaf athlete of the decade (1970s) by Deaf American magazine.

Leo, who lives in Bloomington, said he visits MSAD as often as he can. “Davey (MSAD athletic director David Olson) says, ‘Come and share your stories.’ I’m proud to be here,” Bond told me with the assistance of interpreter Nettie Peters. “It’s so tempting to get back out on the track. I would love to do it again. There are so many good memories.”

Leo spent a lot of time during the meet talking with athletes from MSAD and the other schools, which is a testament to his strong ties with his school and its current students.

Communicating during the meet was very straightforward. As starter Bradley Cohen gave instructions at the starting line, Peters or other interpreters were there to aid the deaf athletes. With no P.A. system in use, Cohen kept everyone up to date on upcoming events. Shortly after the start of the 4x200 relay, for example, he yelled, “First call, 1,600!”

Kids sat on the infield and visited, some tossed a football around, parents and other family members sat on lawn chairs or on the grass. It was a grand day for a wonderful event.

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MACCRAY Golfer Trisha Kienitz: A Smile, An Inspiration5/17/2010
Trisha Kienitz has heard the question several times during her golf career. She doesn’t know when it will be asked -- maybe at the first tee, maybe a few holes into a round -- but eventually a competitor’s curiosity at seeing Kienitz use a golf cart to get around the course will lead to the inevitable question.

It happened a couple weeks ago as Kienitz, a senior at MACCRAY High School, hit another tee shot straight down the heart of the fairway. A girl in her foursome asked, “Why do you have a cart?”

Trisha’s answer was short and sweet: “Artificial leg.” The reply was even shorter: “Oh.”

Oh. Right. Artificial Leg. Sweet.

Trisha, 18, tells the story – as she does just about everything else -- with a smile. She walks the school hallways in Clara City with a smile. She smiles as she pulls up the fabric of her jeans to reveal the flesh-toned prosthetic right leg that begins at her hip and is strapped around her waist.

She smiles as she recounts qualifying for the Class A state tournament the past two years, and continues to smile as she talks about her goal of returning this year.

Artificial leg? No big deal.

She played in several Junior PGA events last summer, wearing shorts on occasion. The prosthetic skin on her knee was stretched and torn, and contrasting-colored tape had been used to repair the damage. Her playing partners didn’t realize that Trisha had a fake limb; they saw the tape and thought she just had a knee injury.

“I said, ‘No, I have an artificial leg.’ And they said, ‘We can’t even tell.’ Most people can’t.”

She walks with a slight limp. Because carrying her clubs for 18 holes would be difficult, Trisha has a special exemption from the Minnesota State High School League to use a cart during competitive rounds. And that’s the only difference between her and every other high school golfer in the world … except for the fact that she is gunning for her third trip to state.

“She’s got a great swing,” said MACCRAY girls’ golf coach Terri Zondervan. “And a lot of it is mental, and she’s pretty steady and very focused. She practices a lot, she has great dedication to the game.”

Balance is crucial when hitting a golf ball, and the simple fact that Trisha basically does so while standing on one leg is remarkable. She was born without a right leg and spent much of her early years hopping on her left leg. She smiles (of course) as she talks about it.

“When I was little I just hopped around the house,” she said. “So I have good balance. Mainly all my weight’s on my left foot all the time (while swinging a golf club). That’s why it doesn’t go very far.”

No, her length off the tee doesn’t draw oohs and aahs. But her accuracy is another matter. Trisha rarely sees anything but the middle of the fairway. MACCRAY boys’ coach Gary Nelson recalls watching Trisha hit a shot out of bounds during the state tournament two years ago; she had to stop and think about the proper procedure when that happens.

“She said, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ She just hasn’t hit one off to the side too many times,” Nelson said.

“I hit it straight,” Trisha said. “They don’t go very far but they go straight. Some of those girls can hit it so far, but then they go right or left.”

She tied for 39th at state as a sophomore and tied for 17th last year. This year’s Class A state tournament will be held June 16-17 at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker.

“I just want to make it,” she said. “I’ve seen kids go to state before and then they don’t make it back their senior year. I’m just working on getting there and hopefully finishing in the top eight.”

Trisha finished second in last Friday’s Camden Conference tournament at Marshall Golf Club. Minneota’s Taya Kockelman was the medalist with an 86 and Trisha was three shots back. The Wolverinesof MACCRAY (which is shorthand for the communities of MAynard, Clara City and RAYmond) will compete at a subsection tournament in Benson on May 28 and the Section 5A tourney in Marshall June 4.

Between those tournaments, graduation at MACCRAY will take place May 30. Trisha is the oldest child of Wendell and Kelli Kienitz. Her sister Katie is 16 and brother Brady is 6. Trisha plans to attend Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, study agribusiness and try out for the golf team.

Trisha began playing golf with her grandfather when she was 7 years old. Then came summer leagues and a growing love for the game.

Asked what she likes about golf, Trisha lit the fuse on another big smile.

“Oh, everything,” she said. “You learn more than golf. You learn the rules and you learn how to be more responsible.”

And you learn how to answer a few questions along the way, too ... with a smile.

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A Celebration of Hennepin County’s Youth Sports Program Capital Grant5/16/2010
St. Anthony-New Brighton School District invites community members to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Central Park on Monday, May 17, at 6 p.m. Food and refreshments will be provided.

This event celebrates the completion of field improvements at Central Park, which resulted from a $345,000 Hennepin County youth sports program capital grant. St. Anthony’s capital project included the installation of lighting on fields three and four and improved spectator seating on the varsity baseball and softball fields.

Central Park is a recreational area shared jointly by the City of St. Anthony and St. Anthony-New Brighton School District. Funding for the grants comes from the Twins ballpark sales tax. This revenue provides capital grants for youth and amateur sports facilities and expands library hours in Hennepin County.