John's Journal
Area Meeting This Morning in Mankato4/20/2010
Good morning from Mankato. Much of the MSHSL executive staff has arrived at the Best Western Garden Inn, where an area meeting will begin at 10 a.m.

The area meetings are held every spring and fall around the state as a way for MSHSL staff to keep schools updated on what’s happening. The meetings generally last a couple hours, followed by lunch.

After today’s meeting and lunch we’ll head to Marshall for another area meeting tomorrow. Next week we’ll be in Fergus Falls, Thief River Falls and Chisholm for a back-to-back-to-back tripleheader, and the first week of May will find us in Brainerd and Rochester.

Part of my duties at the area meetings are to help kick off our Student Sports Information Director program. We’re expecting a number of students and English/journalism teachers to accompany their athletic/activity directors to the area meetings, where we will explain the program, get some feedback and possibly even hand out some gifts to the students.

It’s a beautiful day in Mankato!

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook; simply search for “MSHSL” and become a fan
A Beautiful Day in Minnesota4/20/2010
Goodness gracious sakes alive, what a wonderful day to be driving across Minnesota.

I left the Twin Cities at 7 a.m., bound for Mankato. This morning’s area meeting there went very well and the approximately 60 athletic/activity directors in attendance shared an excellent lunch afterwards.

Before leaving Mankato I stopped in at Minnesota State University to see my old friends Paul Allan and Scott Nelson in the media relations office. I’ve known Paul since my long-ago days covering college hockey, and Scott grew up in the metropolis of Ringsted, Iowa, which is just down the road from my hometown, the metropolis of Graettinger, Iowa.

I headed west from Mankato at 2 p.m., stopped at Dairy Queen in New Ulm, at Casey’s in Tracy and arrived safely here in Marshall. I saw farmers in the fields, tractors, plows and planters on the highways and beautiful scenery in every darn direction.

I’m flying solo while the rest of our MSHSL traveling crew – Dave Stead, Kevin Merkle, Jody Redman, Craig Perry and Howard Voigt – is car-pooling in two vehicles. I believe some of my colleagues are attempting to keep golf balls in the fairway right now. Me? I’m going to connect with another J. Millea while I’m in Marshall.

His name is Jon Millea, he's my nephew and a graduate student at Southwest State, as well as a grad assistant coach with the men’s basketball team. We’ll try to find some dinner tonight.

After Wednesday morning’s area meeting here, the rest of the crew will head home. I will drive south to Worthington to meet up with star runner Mubarik Musa. He is the reigning Class 1A state cross-country champion and is off to a strong start on the track. I’ll do some interviews, shoot some photos, drive home Wednesday night and post a story about Mubarik here on John’s Journal on Thursday.

That’s all the news from southwestern Minnesota, where the sun is bright, the winds are warm and everything is looking good.

NOTE: For photographic evidence from this morning’s gathering of Student Sports Information Directors, be sure to click on the MSHSL page on Facebook.

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook; simply search for “MSHSL” and become a fan

Monday Ticker: A New Track Record, A New Coach4/19/2010
Let’s kick off the week with news of a new state record and a new head coach…

Moorhead senior Macauley Spandl set a state record in the boys’ pole vault on Friday, clearing 15 feet, 8 inches at the Moorhead Athletic Association Invitational held at Concordia’s Jake Christiansen Stadium track. The previous record was 15-7, set by Anoka’s Tim Koupal at the 1997 Class 2A state meet.

Spandl comes from a pole vaulting brood. His sister Jacenta was a four-year letterwinner as a pole vaulter at the University of Minnesota and his brother Brock is a junior pole vaulter for the Gophers. Macauley has also committed to compete for the Gophers. For a full accounting of the new record,written by Kerry Collins of the Forum in Fargo-Moorhead, copy and paste this into your browser: http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id/275827/publisher_ID/1/

And in coaching news, Steve Morse, previously an assistant coach at Park High School in Cottage Grove, has been hired as the new girls’ hockey head coach. He takes over for Darren Reiter, who resigned from that position last month. Darren was the head coach at Park for the past four seasons. He stepped down for health reasons.

“Darren worked hard to build and develop our program, from the youth association up. I appreciate all that he has done for Park athletics. He will be missed,” said Phil Kuemmel, activities director.

Steve takes over the role of head coach after serving as an assistant coach for the past four years. He has been very involved in the Cottage Grove Hockey Association and is currently the District 8 ACE (Association Coaching Education) Coordinator.

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook; simply search for “MSHSL” and become a fan

St. Cloud Apollo Coach Mike Gregory Passes Away4/19/2010
St. Cloud Apollo baseball coach Mike Gregory, who was severely injured in a fall earlier this month, passed away Sunday night at St. Cloud Hospital.

His family posted this message on Mike’s CaringBridge website: “Mike died tonight, Sunday, April 18 at approximately 11:44 p.m. surrounded by his family. As the past weeks have shown us, he was loved by many. He is at peace now, but has left an ache within our hearts too big to measure. On behalf of my entire family, thank you for your thoughts and prayers throughout this ordeal. - Sheila Gregory.”

Mike was a 1977 Apollo graduate.

The MSHSL, along with everyone associated with high school activities in Minnesota, extends it sympathies to the Gregory family.
A Ballgame, A New Friend and Great Memories4/16/2010
I love to tell people that I can spend a few minutes with any team in any sport at any high school in Minnesota and find a great story. Turns out all you have to do is sit in the bleachers and the same thing can happen.

I went to a baseball game at Osseo High School on Thursday afternoon. The Orioles played Champlin Park on a lovely sunny day. I went to the ballgame with a couple of future story possibilities in mind.

There were Osseo’s Windle twins, Tom and Sam. Tom, who throws and bats lefthanded, has signed to play baseball with the University of Minnesota. Sam, who throws and bats righthanded, has signed to play baseball with North Dakota State. Both twins play hockey, too.

There was speedy Champlin Park center fielder Brandon Marquardt, a running back and Mr. Football finalist who will play football at Minnesota State Mankato.

And then there was Harry Beier. (That's him in the photo).

Osseo athletic/activities director Ray Kirch had sprung for hot dogs, and as we walked to the bleachers he said, “John, do you know Harry Beier?” I did not, so Ray introduced me to an older gentleman sitting in the first row. Ray had other things to attend to, but Harry and I chatted for the rest of the game.

Harry graduated from Osseo High School in 1941. Sixty-nine years ago, he played baseball on the same field the current Orioles use. He was a multi-sport athlete -- also playing football and basketball in high school – providing another link to current athletes like the Windle twins and Brandon Marquardt.

Harry was a pitcher who relied on a fastball. At the plate, he tried to hit the ball where it was pitched, spraying hits all over the field.

You could see the sparkle in his eye as we watched the kids from Osseo and Champlin Park play the game. There are people similar to Harry at almost every high school in America; alumni who have strong ties to their school and their community and love nothing more than remaining connected.

Champlin Park senior Tyler Ockuly pitched a two-hitter in the Rebels’ 11-2 victory, striking out the side in the fourth inning. When Osseo athletic trainer Lindsey Geesaman came onto the field to tend to an injured Champlin Park player, a mom sitting nearby said with an air of awe, “She’s at every game.” A young girl replied, “She is so cool.”

Harry and I took it all in as we chatted. He was drafted into the Army shortly after graduating from high school and spent two and a half years stationed in England. “I bought myself a bicycle and saw all the towns around the area,” he said.

One of his high school coaches always told the kids – remember, this was back in the 1930s and 1940s – that smoking was a bad idea. “I never did smoke, even in the service,” Harry said. “I saw that coach at reunions and thanked him for that.”

Harry, who was an employee of the University of Minnesota for 42 years, has seen every Gophers home football game since 1947. He knows almost everybody at the university, from President Robert Bruininks on down. He likesTCF Bank Stadium, but he liked the Metrodome, too.

Between innings, music was played on the P.A. system. The baseball field was well-manicured, the sunshine was warm and the breeze was sweet.

It was a perfect day to be at a high school event.

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook; simply search for “MSHSL” and become a fan