John's Journal
Boys Basketball Rankings 2/13/2020
From Minnesota Basketball News

Class 4A
1. Eden Prairie
2. Eastview
3. Cretin-Derham Hall
4. Shakopee
5. Hopkins
6. Spring Lake Park
7. Park Center
8. Robbinsdale Armstrong
9. Chaska
10.Lakeville South
11.East Ridge
12.North St. Paul
14.Prior Lake
15.Maple Grove
17.Champlin Park
18.Lakeville North
19.Mounds View
20.Rochester Century

Class 3A
1. Minnehaha Academy
2. Mankato East
3. DeLaSalle
4. Totino-Grace
5. Marshall
6. Waconia
7. Delano
8. Austin
9. St. Peter
13.Holy Angels
14.Bloomington Kennedy
15.Mound Westonka
16.Minneapolis Henry
17.St. Cloud Apollo

Class 2A
1. Caledonia
2. Waseca
3. Lake City
4. St. Croix Prep
5. Minneapolis North
6. Perham
7. Minnesota Valley Lutheran
8. East Grand Forks
9. Osakis
10.Eden Valley-Watkins
13.Fergus Falls
18.Pine City
19.Moose Lake-Willow River

Class 1A
2. Henning
3. Ada-Borup
4. Southwest MN Christian
5. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
6. New Ulm Cathedral
7. Springfield
8. West Central Area
9. Fertile-Beltrami
10.Mountain Lake-Comfrey
11.Blooming Prairie
15.Cass Lake-Bena
16.Parkers Prairie
18.North Woods
19.Norman Co. East/Ulen Hitterdal
Girls Basketball Rankings2/13/2020
From Minnesota Basketball News

Class 1A
1. Minneota
2. Cromwell-Wright
3. Henning
4. Walker-Hackensack-Akeley
5. Mountain Iron-Buhl
6. Mayer Lutheran
7. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
8. Blooming Prairie
9. Cherry
10. Hills-Beaver Creek
11. Heritage Christian
12. Sleepy Eye St. Mary's
13. Springfield
14. Southwest MN Christian
15. Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart
16. Warren-Alvarado-Oslo
17. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa
18. East Grand Forks Sacred Heart
19. Underwood
20. Fillmore Central

Class 2A
1. Sauk Centre
2. Fergus Falls
3. Rochester Lourdes
4. New London-Spicer
5. Providence
6. Goodhue
7. Pelican Rapids
8. Proctor
9. Pine City
10. Albany
11. Lake City
12. Waseca
13. Duluth Marshall
14. Minnehaha Academy
15. Belle Plaine
16. Winona Cotter
17. Mesabi East
18. Roseau
19. Stewartville
20. Hawley

Class 3A
1. DeLaSalle
2. Becker
3. Simley
4. Marshall
5. Holy Angels
6. Red Wing
7. Austin
8. St. Paul Como Park
9. Hill-Murray
10. Waconia
11. St. Croix Lutheran
12. Alexandria
13. Mankato West
14. Mahtomedi
15. Hermantown
16. Hutchinson
17. St. Peter
18. Totino-Grace
19. Richfield
20. Big Lake

Class 4A
1. Hopkins
2. Farmington
3. Wayzata
4. Park Center
5. Stillwater
6. Chaska
7. St. Michael-Albertville
8. Maple Grove
9. Rosemount
10. Centennial
11. Eden Prairie
12. Forest Lake
13. Elk River
14. Blaine
15. Lakeville North
16. Rochester Mayo
17. Minnetonka
18. New Prague
19. Minneapolis South
20. Burnsville
Owatonna High School Honored As Winner Of MSHSL Food Drive2/13/2020
This article was written by Bridget Kranz of the Owatonna People's Press and is reprinted with permission.

OWATONNA — The Huskies kicked off their annual Snow Week festivities with a pep fest Monday morning, where Owatonna High School was honored by the Minnesota State High School League as the winner of its Sack Hunger food drive.

Taking place in conjunction with the state football championship, the fundraiser invited all schools participating in the tournament to host an accompanying food drive throughout the month of November.

In Steele County alone, Owatonna and Blooming Prairie weighed in with over 5,000 pounds total — the majority of which went to the local food shelf. The two area districts ended up taking first and second place statewide, with Owatonna bringing in 3,108 pounds of donations and the Blossoms weighing in at 2,171 pounds.

Blooming Prairie beat out third-place winner Dassel-Cokato High School by two pounds to take home the silver medal.

Owatonna's drive was run by the student council with the help of staff adviser Sandra Justice, who said the group initially found out they'd won in early December. Alongside Activities Director Marc Achterkirch and Principal Kory Kath, Justice then coordinated with the Minnesota State High School League to find an event at which the achievement could be honored.

Ultimately, it was decided that league media specialist John Millea would attend the Feb. 10 pep fest in order to reach the broadest audience possible.

"It was a little bit of a wait, but we just wanted to make sure it was acknowledged as a big deal because it is," said Justice.

Although it was exciting to get confirmation of the first-place win, the orchestra director said she had been feeling good about the amount students has raised even before getting the official results from the league. She attributed the fundraiser’s success to the fact that all four local elementary schools, Owatonna Middle School and local business Complete Health with Destinee all participated —setting up individual collections and then bringing everything back to the high school.

“That’s more than a ton and a half,” noted Millea, of Owatonna’s total donation weight. “That’s pretty remarkable, and it’s all going to stay right in town and in the county.”

Although the drive is presided over by the league, Millea noted that it was himself and his wife who initially came up with the idea for Sack Hunger a couple years back.

“We were talking about my job and how fortunate I am to travel around the state. We were thinking about ways we could do something good and my wife came up with the idea of a food drive,” he explained.

Knowing that they wanted to link it in some way with the state football tournament, Millea said the initial plan was to have spectators bring nonperishable items to U.S. Bank Stadium. After logistical concerns, he explained it was ultimately decided to have participating schools opt in to doing their own drives at home.

This year marks the program’s second, and Millea said it brought in more participants — a trend that he hopes will continue in 2020.
While in town, Millea brought commemorative T-shirts for Owatonna students, which were thrown out into the crowd during the pep fest. Additionally, he said he was sure to get a few photos of the high school’s historic entrance.

“I got a couple pictures of the front, and a couple of the beautiful trees,” he added, of the morning hoarfrost that had formed just in time for Snow Week.

With the school’s Sack Hunger win celebrated, students were then looking forward to the rest of this week’s festivities — watching skits from Snow Week royalty nominees and going over the first clue for the school’s medallion hunt, a new activity this year.

While she has also been doing a fair amount of planning for Snow Week, Justice took a minute to think about future food drives and noted that, whether or not the school is able to participate in Sack Hunger again next year, similar fundraisers are in its future.

“It’s always needed, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is,” said Justice.

--Reporter Bridget Kranz can be reached at 507-444-2376. Follow her on Twitter @OPPBridget.

--See photos on the MSHSL Facebook page.
Despite Cancer Diagnosis, Joel McDonald Feels Very Fortunate 2/5/2020
Joel McDonald isn't asking for your sympathy, but he wouldn't mind if you kept him in your prayers.

The 47-year-old boys basketball coach at Hibbing, who was the state's all-time scoring leader when he finished his Chisholm High School career in 1991, is being treated for bladder cancer. His mother, Darlene, died of bladder cancer in 1997, three weeks before the wedding of Joel and his wife Carrie.

McDonald was 24 years old, a St. Cloud State graduate in his first year teaching and coaching in Hibbing when his mom died. Hearing the words "bladder cancer" from his doctors was difficult.

"That was easily the hardest thing I had ever done, watching my mom pass away from bladder cancer," Joel said during a Wednesday phone conversation while returning to Hibbing from a weekly visit for treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. “There hasn't been anything tougher for all of us. With a diagnosis of bladder cancer, you’re instantly afraid. Once you hear that, your world changes. But you give it time to process, and I know I’m in good hands and it’s in God’s hands, too.”

After seeing blood in his urine last year, tests found a tumor on his bladder in October. Surgery to remove the tumor was done on Nov. 1. While returning home he had complications, including severe bleeding, and was in critical condition back in Rochester. A follow-up surgery was performed.

Wednesday’s treatment was the fifth in a six-round weekly regimen of what’s called BCG. Bacillus Calmette-Guerin is an immunotherapy plan in which a form of tuberculosis bacteria is inserted into the bladder in the hope that the body will build up immunities to the cancer cells.

This isn’t McDonald’s first serious health scare. In 2007 he suffered from severe atrial fibrillation with a heart rate of more than 300 beats per minute. A procedure in which diagnostic catheters were inserted into his heart resulted in scarring in three of the four pulmonary veins, and three stents were put in place.

“That was my first round at the Mayo and now I’m back again,” he said. “Fortunately, it’s there. Unfortunately I’m a patient dealing with some significant things. It’s a little bit of a drive, more than four hours, but well worth the trip.”

The McDonalds are the first family of Minnesota basketball. Joel is the youngest of six children of Bob and Darlene McDonald; all six became basketball coaches. Bob retired from coaching in 2004 after 53 years on the job in Chisholm and a state-best 1,012 victories. Joel scored 3,292 points playing for his dad, besting the previous state record of 2,852 set by Foley’s Norm Grow in 1958. McDonald’s record was eclipsed by Braham’s Isaiah Dahlman in 2006, and six others have set new records since then.

Joel and Carrie – who is the principal at Greenhaven Elementary in Hibbing -- have two kids. Abbey is a freshman at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth and Ayden is a sophomore on his father’s basketball team.

“Finding out it was cancer and having to break that news to your kids is a pretty tough thing,” Joel said. “I like to believe I’m still relatively young at 47. The first time I found out it was a cancerous tumor, you shake your head and wonder how could this happen? My kids took it pretty well. They took it as 15- and 18-year-olds would, I think. At the same time I’m sure they were scared to death just because it’s that word.”

Joel and Carrie broke the news to Abbey over the phone, and “It was really scary,” Abbey said. “I think now that he has been through most of his treatments, it’s nice to know that he’s this far along and it’s going as well as it is.”

Joel said, “Carrie has done everything we’ve needed, and obviously you need somebody who kind of props you up when the world seems to be beating you down. She’s had lots of support to keep her chin up, as well.”

After telling his siblings, Joel broke the news to his dad a week later. Bob McDonald, who was treated for prostate cancer in the 1990s, recently moved from an assisted-living facility in Chisholm to a nursing home in Hibbing.

“I didn’t tell him I was having surgery because I didn’t want to worry him, I didn’t want to stress him out. He was concerned, he was shocked. Being the youngest of the six of us, I think it took him a while to process the reality of it.”

The basketball season has kept everyone busy. Joel has generally hit the road after games on Tuesday evenings, spending the night with relatives of Carrie in the Twin Cities before finishing the drive to Rochester on Wednesday morning, then returning home after his treatment. That means missing a day of teaching World History to sophomores and World Geography to seniors.

Joel told his basketball players of his diagnosis right away, as well as students in his classroom.

“I’ve taken a very open route with all of this, to try and prevent people from hearing things that may not be true,” said McDonald, who was an assistant basketball coach with the Bluejackets for three years and now is in his 21st season as head coach.

“I was very upfront with (the players),” he said. “They are great kids from great families and I just wanted them to know the truth and not hear it in a roundabout way. I’m sure it’s affected them. We go back a long way.”

McDonald has been fortunate in not suffering any serious side effects from the cancer treatments. His trips to Rochester mean missing practices on Wednesday, but he has total trust in his assistant coaches.

“Everyone that talks to me, they’re surprised that he’s coaching,” Abbey said. “At the same time, if he wasn’t coaching I don’t think he would be as happy as he is.”

Joel knows he is in good hands, medically as well as in his network of family and friends. His diagnosis isn’t the same specific type of bladder cancer that his mother had, and “She was tougher than she should have been and didn’t go in until it was too late,” he said.

“It’s been quite a deal. It’s crazy, the kind of support you get, dealing with things like this. And the level of concern, with tons of people praying for you, willing to do anything for you. I feel very fortunate.”

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
The End Of An Era As Ron Stolski Retires From Coaching1/22/2020
Listening to Ron Stolski speak, I have been brought nearly to tears on three occasions. The third time was during a Wednesday afternoon phone call. This was a few hours after word of Stolski's retirement following 58 years as a high school head football coach came via Tweet by former Brainerd Dispatch sports editor Mike Bialka, who himself retired a year ago.

Stolski's record is well-known around Minnesota. Fifty-eight years as a head coach, the last 45 at Brainerd; he ranks second in all-time football victories and coached longer than anyone else in Minnesota.

He informed Brainerd athletic director Charlie Campbell of his plans in December, and Stolski, 80, told me he was "98 percent" sure at that point. Once he had settled on retirement, he called a players meeting Wednesday morning. The only other people there were assistant coaches Chet Stevenson and Scott Parsons, who also chose to retire. Stevenson played for Stolski at Princeton and Parsons did the same at Park Center; Chet was on the Brainerd coaching staff for 44 years, Scott for 42.

As the kids gathered, Stolski asked them to turn off their cell phones because he didn’t want them to spread the news via text and social media; he had promised Bialka that he would have that privilege once the meeting ended.

He told the young Warriors, “I promised that I wouldn’t have tears today. But I never trusted a man who couldn’t cry.”

Through his tears, the coach talked to his now former players about the football program’s history, what it was like when Stolski came to Brainerd in 1975, and how the story flowed from there.

“I said, ‘Your job now is to continue the legacy that is Warrior football. Be good teammates, be good friends, be good sons and someday be good fathers and good husbands.’ I told them I was most proud of the number of people that played for us and are now in the trades; construction, surgeons, preachers, teachers, doctors. I said, ‘That’s your goal.’ ”

I was unable to speak for a few seconds listening to the old coach talk over the phone. I gathered myself and told him that I was on the verge of tears. I think he was, too.

The first time Stolski had that affect on me came long ago, probably 15 or 20 years back. I was in the Warriors locker room before a home game. The room was crowded as the players sat on benches and stood in front of lockers. A white board served as a background as assistant coaches focused on offense, defense and special teams offered their final instructions before the head coach took over the room.

And man, could he take over the room. Stolski began talking in a calm voice, reminding the boys -- boys who today are adult men -- of who they were and the legacy they represented. His voice rose as he talked about all the hard work, all the preparation, all the pride involved in that night’s endeavor. The volume began to climb as he hollered, “One heartbeat!” … meaning the team must play as one on this beautiful autumn evening.

And now, the boys were standing, hooting and hollering, filing out of the locker room, heading for a decades-old stairway on a hill that overlooks the field, steps on which a million Warriors cleats had gone downhill and back up for every practice and game. Now, Stolski was giving it all he had, yelling, “Relentless! Relentless! Relentless!”

The second time Stolski had this effect on me came in the first game of the 2019 season. The Warriors opened what would be Stolski’s final season at Elk River.

As I got out of my car a couple hours before kickoff, Stolski was walking from the locker room in the school out to the field. We shook hands and chatted, as we have done countless times over the years. It was a cool, breezy night … rare for Week 1 of the football season in Minnesota.

I hadn’t even asked the “retirement” question before Ron said he had no such plans. He said, “I don’t feel like I’m 80,” adding what he had told me several times in prior years; as long as he felt like he was doing good things for kids, he would stay on the job.

After the Brainerd and Elk River teams completed their warmups, the Warriors gathered behind one end zone for their final instructions. Again, assistant coaches talked about offense, defense and special teams. Then it was the head coach’s turn.

He spoke in that strong, familiar voice, the decibels steadily climbing, “We’ve talked about some past teams, the 2017 team, the 2010 team that stopped Eden Prairie on the 3 in the playoffs. Listen! It’s your story now! One day, God willing, somebody will be telling the story of you! A coach will stand up and say, ‘Let me tell you about the Warriors of 2019!’

“Play clean. Play sharp. Rattle the pads. It’s going to be a beautiful journey. I envy you. Tonight, we stand as one.”

As the team returned to the field, I shook Stolski’s hand with misty eyes. I said, “Coach, I love to listen when you talk to your kids.” He smiled and said, “And I never write anything down.”

After the news came out Wednesday, I asked Charlie Campbell, who has been the activities director in Brainerd for nine years, what he will remember most about Stolski 10 years from now. The question seemed to catch him off guard

“Oh, John. This is hard,” he said. “Wow.”

“Ron is just so wise. His heart was always in the right place. The experience of the kids always mattered. And I think coaches, administrators and school people have learned a lot from Ron. And I think 10 years from now, we could still learn a lot from Ron.”

Stolski has many good friends, of course. One of the closest is a man named Steve Nunnink. He coached with Stolski, specializing in strength training, in the early 1970s at Park Center and came to Brainerd with him. Steve, who was the national high school strength coach of the year in 2001, suffered a massive brain trauma on the sideline during the 2003 season opener.

Stolski visits Steve and his wife, Randi, often. Some days are better than others for Steve as far as being able to communicate. When Stolski was finalizing his decision to retire, he visited the Nunninks.

“I probably talked to Steve for an hour and he probably didn’t hear anything,” Ron said. “He’s been my inspiration forever.”

Two days later, Randi called and said Steve was having a good day. So Stolski went back to the Nunninks and said to his friend, "Stephen, our work here is done. Steve waited a minute and he asked, ‘Why?’ I said we’ve done what we set out to do, Steve. Forty-five years ago we set out to create a good program and do good things for people. He said, ‘No.’ I broke down. He thinks we’re still coaching together. I asked him why he said no and he said, ‘Because the kids need you.’ ”

As we continued our emotional conversation, Ron said this: “When we choose a life in teaching and coaching, we choose to help those we come in contact with. My computer is going crazy with messages from former players. This will be hard for a few days.”

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.