John's Journal
Amid The Disappointment: Memories, Smiles And Appreciation3/16/2020
So here we are. Minnesota schools are closing, sports and activities are shutting down and our girls and boys state basketball tournaments crowned no champions in 2020. Everything has fallen victim to the spread of Covid-19.

As I write this, officials in Italy have announced 368 deaths in just a single day with a total death toll (so far) of 1,809 and total reported cases of 24,747.

Events happened in a hurry. In the midst of last week's girls state basketball tournament, it was announced that limited spectators would be allowed for games Friday and Saturday. Basketball consolation-bracket games were canceled, as was the state adapted floor hockey tournament. As the seriousness of the situation became more apparent, the decision was made to cancel the remainder of the girls state tournament, as well as Friday’s boys section tournament games and the boys state tournament.

In conversing with several people at the time, I expressed the sentiment that it was better to be too cautious rather than not cautious enough. And today I saw an anonymous quote that sums it up very well: "In the end, it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much, but it will be QUITE apparent if we underreacted or did too little.”

We all feel terrible about this, especially for the high school seniors who saw their basketball seasons end so abruptly. One coach referred to the decision as “tragic” and a headline said players were “gutted.” Honestly, we all recognize real tragedy. That would be the case if a player or coach or parent or grandparent attended an event, someone unaware that they were carrying the virus spread it, and serious illness or death resulted. That would be tragic. And that’s what everyone is trying to avoid.

As disappointing as this is, it has been heartening to see how so many teams and schools have responded. The Farmington High School girls basketball team, which was in line to meet Hopkins in the Class 4A championship game Saturday, Tweeted a team photo with this message: “Just because we couldn’t play basketball tonight doesn’t mean we would waste an opportunity to spend time with each other!”

In Perham, where the boys basketball team was undefeated heading into their section championship game, the players gathered in someone’s home and had a great time. They ran through their warmup routine, sang the national anthem, put together a two-on-two tournament bracket and played it out in the garage to hollers and hoots.

The Pierz boys basketball team, whose season ended before the section title game (and their possible first trip to state), got together in a home for video games, pizza and photos.

The Becker girls basketball team was set to play DeLaSalle in the Class 3A championship game before the plug was pulled. The Bulldogs’ Courtney Nuest realized what was important when she told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Right away, we were super bummed out, but when the team circled together and we talked with each other, we realized how great it was that we got the chance to play together and all of the great memories we made.”

When the postseason banquet for the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted wrestling team was called off because of recommendations for no large gatherings, they did the next best thing and made plans to hold the banquet via Facebook Live so everyone could watch together.

Rick Grammond, who operates the popular You Are There Sports website and streaming service in Pierz, is posting a different podcast from previous seasons each night. KDWA Radio in Hastings has begun rebroadcasting high school games from the last couple of seasons.

St. Charles High School activities director and baseball coach Scott McCready Tweeted: “We have always been grateful for the opportunity to play. We have always talked about controlling what we can control (Effort-Energy-Attitude). That will get us through this trying time and whenever it presents itself again, we will appreciate the opportunity to play.”

Kate Leavell of Minneapolis is a former college coach who works as a consultant and speaker. She posted this important message on Twitter: “Athletes, who are young and healthy and would likely get a mild version of virus, have been asked to sacrifice to help slow the spread to save the lives of the compromised population. That’s what teammates do. They make sacrifices to make sure the bigger team thrives.”

And a story in the Rochester Post Bulletin quoted Austin High School boys basketball coach Kris Fadness. The Packers were scheduled to play Albert Lea in a section championship game before everything ended.

“Obviously you want to play the games, but I understand the rationale for not playing,” Kris said. “We just don't know (how serious the virus is). The bottom line is one human life is more important than any basketball game.”

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Home Is Not Where I Planned To Be Right Now3/12/2020
This has been a very strange day all around. As I begin typing these words, it's 6:10 p.m. and I’m sitting at my kitchen table watching TV coverage of the girls state basketball tournament. That was not at all my plan when this day (Thursday) began.

I arrived at Williams Arena/Maturi Pavilion a little after 8 a.m. today – three hours before the first game -- knowing things were going to heat up in the wake of the Coronavirus news. Indeed, a few hours later we announced that only a limited number of spectators would be allowed at the girls tournament Friday and Saturday. Later in the day, this weekend’s adapted floor hockey state tournament was canceled.

Before I left to drive home around 5 p.m., I was sitting courtside at Maturi Pavilion with my good friend Pat Ruff from the Rochester Post Bulletin. Pat wiped off the tabletop with Clorox disinfecting wipes he had brought, and I used the bottle of hand sanitizer that has been my constant companion lately.

Pat and I like to have a laugh and solve the world’s problems, but our conversation this time was quite serious. It’s simply the not knowing … about this virus, what it may do, how and where it may spread, what impact it will have. The fear.

I belong to a high-risk group for the Coronavirus. I am over 60 with a chronic condition; specifically, I am 61 and have diabetes. I also have a loving family and an infant grandchild.

If you have read my writing and/or followed me on Twitter for any length of time, I trust you know how passionate I am about high school activities. I had tears in my eyes driving home today, and I have tears in my eyes as I watch the games on television. I really do not want to be at home right now.

I have missed a few … very few … big events because I was ill. And it’s so odd to be absent this week because I am fearful of this specific illness.

I so want to be at the games, sharing the stories of these kids, these teams, these communities. Hearing the great bands, enjoying the enthusiastic crowds, seeing all those excited faces. There are schools that have never sent a team to the state basketball tournament prior to this week. There is a coach whose family is grieving the death of a beloved teenage niece. How about the Henning Hornets, following in the steps of last season’s boys basketball team and getting to state for the first time? What grand tales to tell.

One of the last people I spoke with before exiting today was Henning head coach Mike Hepola. He’s also a longtime MSHSL football official and a good guy. Mike and the Hornets were waiting to take the court at Maturi Pavilion and face Fillmore Central, another first-time state entrant, in the Class 1A quarterfinals.

Mike and I exchanged an elbow bump instead of a handshake. I bumped a lot of elbows Wednesday and Thursday, the first two days of the tournament, and also used a lot of soap and hand sanitizer. I’m trying to be smart about this.

As I got in the car, I received a text message from my daughter. Allison is a high school English teacher. One of her colleagues, whose name is Marie, is someone I know. Like me, Marie is diabetic. Allison’s text read: "Marie’s doctor called her and told her to stop leaving the house and that diabetics should be staying home. I encourage you to do the same!!!”

My wife, Beth, has been saying the same thing this week, reminding me that the Centers for Disease Control has warned those over 60 with chronic health conditions to avoid crowds. As I sat courtside with Pat, Beth called and encouraged me to come home right then. She closed her argument by saying, “I can’t lose you.”

This note is posted on the CDC website: “If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or because you have a serious long-term health problem, it is extra important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.”

And this: “Avoid crowds as much as possible.”

Before beginning to write these words, I posted this message on Twitter: “A personal note... I have arrived home from the girls state basketball tournament. I won't be there tonight, Friday or Saturday. I'm not ill but I am fearful since I am in a high-risk group for this virus (over 60 with a chronic condition...diabetes). More thoughts to come...”

That message was followed by so many wonderful, sweet, heartfelt comments from people. Just now I noticed that one of the Twitter accounts that “liked” my message belongs to my oldest son in California. He is our beloved grandson’s father.

Now my screen is extra blurry because I’m typing through more tears.

As I packed my bag and stood up to leave the tournament, the last thing I said to my friend Pat was this: “Say a prayer for all of us.”

Be well, my friends.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Home Is Not Where I Planned To Be Right Now3/12/2020
This has been a very strange day all around. As I begin typing these words, it's 6:10 p.m. and I'm sitting at my kitchen table watching TV coverage of the girls state basketball tournament. That was not at all my plan when this day (Thursday) began.

I arrived at Williams Arena/Maturi Pavilion a little after 8 a.m. today – three hours before the first game -- knowing things were going to heat up in the wake of the Coronavirus news. Indeed, a few hours later we announced that only a limited number of spectators would be allowed at the girls tournament Friday and Saturday. Later in the day, this weekend’s adapted floor hockey state tournament was canceled.

Before I left to drive home around 5 p.m., I was sitting courtside at Maturi Pavilion with my good friend Pat Ruff from the Rochester Post Bulletin. Pat wiped off the tabletop with Clorox disinfecting wipes he had brought, and I used the bottle of hand sanitizer that has been my constant companion lately.

Pat and I like to have a laugh and solve the world’s problems, but our conversation this time was quite serious. It’s simply the not knowing … about this virus, what it may do, how and where it may spread, what impact it will have. The fear.

I belong to a high-risk group for the Coronavirus. I am over 60 with a chronic condition; specifically, I am 61 and have diabetes. I also have a loving family and an infant grandchild.

If you have read my writing and/or followed me on Twitter for any length of time, I trust you know how passionate I am about high school activities. I had tears in my eyes driving home today, and I have tears in my eyes as I watch the games on television. I really do not want to be at home right now.

I have missed a few … very few … big events because I was ill. And it’s so odd to be absent this week because I am fearful of this specific illness.

I so want to be at the games, sharing the stories of these kids, these teams, these communities. Hearing the great bands, enjoying the enthusiastic crowds, seeing all those excited faces. There are schools that have never sent a team to the state basketball tournament prior to this week. There is a coach whose family is grieving the death of a beloved teenage niece. How about the Henning Hornets, following in the steps of last season’s boys basketball team and getting to state for the first time? What grand tales to tell.

One of the last people I spoke with before exiting today was Henning head coach Mike Hepola. He’s also a longtime MSHSL football official and a good guy. Mike and the Hornets were waiting to take the court at Maturi Pavilion and face Fillmore Central, another first-time state entrant, in the Class 1A quarterfinals.

Mike and I exchanged an elbow bump instead of a handshake. I bumped a lot of elbows Wednesday and Thursday, the first two days of the tournament, and also used a lot of soap and hand sanitizer. I’m trying to be smart about this.

As I got in the car, I received a text message from my daughter. Allison is a high school English teacher. One of her colleagues, whose name is Marie, is someone I know. Like me, Marie is diabetic. Allison’s text read: "Marie’s doctor called her and told her to stop leaving the house and that diabetics should be staying home. I encourage you to do the same!!!"

My wife, Beth, has been saying the same thing this week, reminding me that the Centers for Disease Control has warned those over 60 with chronic health conditions to avoid crowds. As I sat courtside with Pat, Beth called and encouraged me to come home right then. She closed her argument by saying, “I can’t lose you.”

This note is posted on the CDC website: “If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or because you have a serious long-term health problem, it is extra important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.”

And this: “Avoid crowds as much as possible.”

Before beginning to write these words, I posted this message on Twitter: “A personal note... I have arrived home from the girls state basketball tournament. I won't be there tonight, Friday or Saturday. I'm not ill but I am fearful since I am in a high-risk group for this virus (over 60 with a chronic condition...diabetes). More thoughts to come...”

That message was followed by so many wonderful, sweet, heartfelt comments from people. Just now I noticed that one of the Twitter accounts that “liked” my message belongs to my oldest son in California. He is our beloved grandson’s father.

Now my screen is extra blurry because I’m typing through more tears.

As I packed my bag and stood up to leave the tournament, the last thing I said to my friend Pat was this: “Say a prayer for all of us.”

Be well, my friends.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Brayden Weber: ‘A Good Indication That I Was Dead’ 3/11/2020
Brayden Weber was right where he wanted to be Wednesday afternoon, in the midst of a large, enthusiastic crowd of Becker High School students missing class while cheering for the Bulldogs in the Class 3A girls basketball state quarterfinals at Maturi Pavilion.

Becker came away with a 63-55 win over Alexandria and will meet Waconia at Williams Arena in Thursday's televised semifinals. It's been a good week in Becker.

But go back 11 days and everyone in Becker feared the worst. Brayden was wrestling in the semifinals of the state tournament at Xcel Energy Center when the unthinkable happened. He collapsed, medical personnel could not find a pulse and performed CPR on the 220-pound junior.

Seeing Brayden having the time of his life Wednesday was an amazing turnaround. He feels fine, he knows he was lucky and he's walking around wearing one heck of a nice smile.

Doctors have diagnosed ventricular tachycardia, a heart rhythm disorder caused by abnormal electrical signals. He's taking medication and genetic tests are in the works as doctors try to narrow down treatment options. Brayden said surgery is a last resort.

"I feel totally normal, like it never really happened," he said after the basketball game. "But, yeah, it did. It definitely happened."

While wrestling Orono senior Danny Striggow, he didn't feel right.

"I was so far gone, I couldn't even stand up right so I just kind of laid there and let him pin me. Then I closed my eyes and that's the last thing I remember.”

He has no memory of shaking hands with Striggow or taking a few steps away from the center of the mat or going down hard. There were no warning signs, no previous indications of any problem. All he knew was that he passed out and then came back to life. It was a Miracle on the Mat.

“I woke up and I thought I heard my alarm clock but it was the AED beeping,” he said (the AED was activated but not used). “I was trying to open my eyes and I couldn't open them. And that's when I was coming to. Then all of a sudden I open my eyes and there’s like 55 people around me.”

For fans in attendance, the best signal came when Brayden raised one arm, giving the thumbs-up sign, as he rode out of the arena on a stretcher.

“I just wanted to make sure everyone knew that I was alive, because I wasn't really moving,” he said. “I was strapped down and I had a towel over my face. They couldn’t see if I was talking or anything like that, so I just gave them a thumbs up.”

The doctor who performed CPR was Mark Berg of M Health Fairview, assisted by athletic trainers Jenna Arnold and Karin Shelstad from the Institute for Athletic Medicine. Doctors and athletic trainers are on hand at all MSHSL state tournaments, for which Brayden is very thankful.

“What if I'm home alone or whatever, somewhere by myself? That goes through your mind,” he said. “Because if it happened at practice, I would have been screwed because we don't have a trainer that's so close; she’s in another building.”

Brayden went back to Becker after a couple days in the hospital. He stayed home from school for a week; when he returned this past Monday there were more hugs than you could count.

He will sit out the spring track and field season but has high hopes to being on the football field for the Bulldogs this fall. He’s a talented linebacker who has Division I college aspirations.

“Honestly, it still hasn't really set in,” he said. “They don’t know if my heart actually stopped; they just couldn’t find a pulse. They said with an irregular rhythm it could just be hard to detect a pulse. But they said I wasn't breathing on my own for five minutes, which is like a good indication that I was dead.”

And here he was, with his buddies, cheering for the Bulldogs. Laughing, smiling, enjoying life.

What a lucky dude.

Girls State Basketball Tournament

Wednesday’s quarterfinals
Class 4A
Hopkins 85, Cambridge-Isanti 55
Stillwater 82, Park Center 52
Farmington 58, Eden Prairie 54
St. Michael-Albertville 67, Lakeville North 58

Class 3A
DeLaSalle 85, Hermantown 52
Simley 70, Holy Angels 62
Becker 63, Alexandria 55
Waconia 52, Red Wing 45 (overtime)

Class 2A
Rochester Lourdes 71, Concordia Academy 55
Waseca 38, Pelican Rapids 22
Providence Academy 47, Sauk Centre 42
Duluth Marshall 60, New London-Spicer 56

Thursday’s quarterfinals
Class 1A
11 am: Red Lake vs. Minneota
1 pm: Heritage Christian vs. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
3 pm: Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa vs. Cromwell-Wright
5 pm: Fillmore Central vs. Henning

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Hopkins' Bueckers Named Gatorade National Player Of The Year3/9/2020
Congratulations to Hopkins High School senior Paige Bueckers, who has been named the Gatorade national girls basketball player of the year. She is the fourth Minnesotan to receive this national honor. The others were...

--Chris Walsh, Cretin-Derham Hall, football 1992
--Joe Mauer, Cretin-Derham Hall, football 2001
--Ashley Wittman, Shakopee, volleyball, 2010