John's Journal
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.

--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; click on the Twitter button on www.mshsl.org

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.

--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; click on the Twitter button on www.mshsl.org

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.

Interesting Topics: Baseball Pitch Counts and Girls' Flag Football5/15/2010
The New York Times published two interesting stories this week about high school sports. One deals with the number of pitches being thrown by high school baseball pitchers and how to determine what is best for the athletes. Here’s an excerpt …

“Whether the number of pitches that a teenage boy is allowed to throw should be left to trust or should be a matter of rule has become the subject of intense debate in New York City’s Public Schools Athletic League. Two city councilmen have pressured P.S.A.L. officials into monitoring pitchers this season with the expectation that more defined policies will be established next year.

“Under legislative threat, the P.S.A.L. agreed to have coaches keep track of pitch counts, submit them with game results and post them on the league’s Web site.”

The other story deals with girls’ flag football, which is a varsity sport in Florida and Alaska. The Times reports that some women’s sports advocates call it a dead-end activity since flag football is played only at the club and intramural level in colleges.

“No one is saying flag football isn’t a great sport to play,” said Neena Chaudhry, the senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, which has brought several cases against high schools alleging violations of Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equity in education. “But I do think it’s relevant to ask questions about whether girls are getting the same kind of educational opportunities as boys.”

We’ve started discussion sections about both of these stories on the MSHSL Facebook page. Take a look and add your own thoughts.

--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; click on the Twitter button on www.mshsl.org

Channel 45 to Televise Baseball Title Games5/13/2010
Here’s a quick, exciting note about the state baseball tournament: Channel 45, the official home of televised MSHSL championship events, will televise all three state championship baseball games, live from Target Field on Saturday, June 19. The telecast will be produced by students and broadcast on the internet at 45.GrandStadium.TV, as well. In fact, the feed that Channel 45 will be airing will be the 45.GrandStadium.TV feed.

The Class 1A, 2A and 3A title games are scheduled to begin at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. State quarterfinal and semifinal games will be played in Jordan and Chaska for 1A, St. Cloud for 2A and Midway Stadium in St. Paul and Siebert Field in Minneapolis for 3A. Those games are scheduled for June 17.

Championship Saturday will be an excellent opportunity for baseball fans to watch three title games at brand-new Target Field.

--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; click on the Twitter button on www.mshsl.org