John's Journal
Class 2A Girls Cross-Country Rankings8/23/2018
Provided by the Minnesota Cross-Country Coaches Association.

1 Wayzata
2 Edina
3 Saint Michael-Albertville
4 Forest Lake
5 Minnetonka
6 Willmar
7 Marshall
8 Farmington
9 Eden Prairie
10 Shakopee
11 Lakeville South
12 Rosemount
Honorable Mention: Minneapolis Washburn, Andover, Visitation, White Bear Lake, East Ridge

1 Emily Covert, 12, Minneapolis Washburn
2 Anna Fenske, 10, Farmington
3 Emma Atkinson, 11 ,Wayzata
4 Lauren Peterson, 12, Farmington
5 Grace Dickel, 12, Minneapolis Washburn
6 Caroline Sassan, 11, Wayzata
7 Brianne Brewster, 12, Lakeville South
8 Ali Weimer, 9, St Michael Albertville
9 Molly Moening, 9, St Paul Highland Park
10 Heidi Schmitz, 12, Willmar
11 Liesl Paulsen 11, Eden Prairie High School
12 Sadie Schreiner, 11, Edina
Class 1A Boys Cross-Country Rankings8/23/2018
Provided by the Minnesota Cross-Country Coaches Association.

1 Perham
2 Saint James Area
3 Mankato Loyola/Cleveland
4 West Central Area
5 Staples-Motley
6 Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd
7 Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin
8 North Shore (Cook County/Two Harbors)
9 Mora
10 Jordan
11 Plainview-Elgin-Millville
12 Minnehaha Academy

1 Geno Uhrbom, 10, Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin
2 Emmet Anderson, 10, Staples-Motley
3 Cooper Lennox, 11, Mora
4 Jacob Bright, 11, West Central Area
5 Harris Anderson, 11, Math & Science Academy
6 Mitchell Johnstone, 11, Mankato Loyola/Cleveland
7 Hunter Gowin, 12, Breckenridge/Wahpeton
8 Luke Olson, 11, Ely
9 Hugo Ruiz, 11, Tri-City United
10 Symon Keiser, 11, Jordan
11 Zach Haire, 12, Breckenridge/Wahpeton
12 Mikey Kvaal, 11, Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd

Class 1A Girls Cross-Country Rankings8/23/2018
Provided by the Minnesota Cross-Country Coaches Association.

1 Perham
2 Cotter
3 Luverne
4 Annandale
5 Maple Lake
6 Stewartville
7 Belle Plaine
8 Eden Valley-Watkins/Kimball
9 Lake City
10 West Central Area
11 Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted
12 Fairmont

1 Tierney Wolfgram, 10, Math & Science Academy
2 Lauren Ping, 8, Cotter
3 Grace Ping, 10, Cotter
4 Morgan Gehl, 10, Murray County Central
5 Tenley Nelson, 9, Luverne
6 Makenna Thurston, 12, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial/Nicollet
7 Marissa Whitehead, 10, Martin County West
8 Ava Hill, 11, Mesabi East
9 Kayla Christopherson, 12, Austin Pacelli
10 Emma Fashant, 10, Annandale
11 Natasha Sortland, 8, Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kenyon-Wanamingo
12 Kailee Malone, 11, Stewartville
Lindsay Whalen’s High School Coach: Don’t Bet Against Her8/22/2018
After the Minnesota Lynx lost to the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday night in a one-game WNBA playoff that ended Lindsay Whalen’s playing career, her high school coach sent her a text.

Andy Rostberg wrote: “Congratulations on a great career.” It didn’t take Whalen long to respond: “Hey, thanks coach.”

These days, Rostberg is best-known as the football coach at Hutchinson who succeeded his father, Grady, as leader of the Tigers. Grady coached there for 34 years and Andy is beginning his 20th season. Combined, they have a record of 447-132-1.

Andy also used to coach girls basketball and was Whalen’s head coach throughout her prep career, which ended in 2000.

As a seventh-grader Whalen played on the ninth-grade team. She joined the varsity as an eighth-grader and was a starter from the beginning of her ninth-grade year. She was a four-year all-conference selection but on a statewide level never was chosen higher than honorable mention all-state. And that still bugs Rostberg. (Photo: McLeod County Historical Society.)

“I complained every year,” he said Wednesday. “I said, ‘If you watch this girl you’d go, oh my gosh.’ We never made it to the state tournament where she could showcase herself and people could watch her on TV.”

Whalen’s senior season was marred by an ankle sprain, causing her to miss about half the games. Cheryl Littlejohn, then the coach at the University of Minnesota (a job Lindsay now holds), took a chance on Whalen, and as a Gopher she finally was seen by fans around the state and beyond.

Rostberg can’t remember if he heard from any other Division I coaches, but his discussion with Whalen about the Gophers was brief and to the point.

“I just know it was a quick, ‘Hey, the Gophers would like to offer you.’ And Lindsay said, ‘OK, I’m going.’ ”

Whalen, now 36 years old, left Hutchinson as the school’s all-time scoring leader with nearly 2,000 points. After her senior season, new uniforms were ordered and her number 13 was intentionally left off the order form. Four years later, her number was retired at halftime of a game in Hutchinson with Whalen and her Gophers teammates on hand. Her jersey is now framed inside the school.

During that halftime ceremony, one of the speakers -- school board chairman Dr. Keith Kammrath – said, “You are every kid’s dream and every parent’s pride.”

When Whalen left the Gophers in 2004 she was drafted by the WBNA’s Connecticut Sun. She was traded the Lynx in 2010. Along the way she won four WNBA titles with the Lynx as well as Olympic and world championships with Team USA.

As Whalen’s playing career ended Tuesday night in Los Angeles, her impact on basketball in Minnesota is immeasurable.

“I don’t know if you would have predicted what happened, I don’t think any of us did,” Rostberg said. “I don’t think Lindsay did. But you knew there was something there, that wherever she went she was going to have an impact.”

That impact began when she was a seventh-grader. Normally, the only people in the stands for the ninth-grade games were parents and grandparents. But when Whalen joined the team with players two years older, “All of a sudden our ninth-grade games are packed,” Rostberg said. “Here was this little bobtailed seventh-grader weaving in and out of the ninth-graders, kissing layups off the glass, dishing.”

Weaving, dishing, layups … that’s the Whalen now known by basketball fans all over the world. As she transitions from player to coach, Rostberg has no doubts about her abilities.

“What a great career, and now she gets to start a new journey, being a coach,” he said. “That’ll be all new. That’s just new stuff, new responsibilities, just all new stuff. But I learned a long time ago, don’t bet against her. Just don’t do it. I’m not betting against her.

“One of the things I’ve always noticed with Lindsay, whether she was playing for the Tigers or the Gophers or the Olympic team or the Lynx, the situation at hand was never too big for her. It never overwhelmed her. For some people the situation gets too big. I’ve never seen a situation too big for her, where she hasn’t just handled it. It’s just her. And I’m not thinking anything will change because she’s a coach in the Big Ten.

“The thing Lindsay had was that ability to get the others around her to play. Everybody’s game was elevated when she was there. She brings that out in people. The players she’s coaching, she’ll bring it out in them. There are some good players in Minnesota and you have to be able to recruit. They’ve got the right one to recruit Minnesota.”

The relationship between high school coach and player – even though the player is now a college coach – has never really changed. Texts fly back and forth, and they often are focused on the hometown teams.

“She’ll text,” Rostberg said, “and say, ‘Good luck in the game on Friday.’ ”

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Maple Lake Volleyball: Fresh Start, Longstanding Tradition 8/17/2018
As the Maple Lake volleyball team, winners of the last two Class 2A state championships and owners of a 44-match winning streak, opened preseason practice in the school gym this week, something was happening on the gym walls that had absolutely nothing to do with past volleyball success or future outcomes.

Other than two scoreboards and giant lettering that read “Welcome to Irish Country,” the walls were bare. All manner of banner had been removed so a fresh coat of white paint could be applied, and the signage will be back in place before school starts.

It’s the first time such a project has been undertaken in the 20 years since Marty Kiebel was hired as a first-year teacher and volleyball coach. And if anybody looked up at the walls and then down at the volleyball team and pretended to relate the two in a “starting from scratch” fashion, they would be incorrect.

Yes, six of the eight players who competed in last year’s state championship match against North Branch – the third of three matches at state that were won by a score of 3-0 -- have graduated. Yes, the Irish will depend on some fresh faces to fill those holes. But no, they are not starting over.

Maple Lake has one of the strongest volleyball traditions in Minnesota, reaching the state tournament every year but one since 2011. And the Irish also have been a softball power, finishing second in Class 2A at the state tournament four times recently before winning the state title this spring. Of the 14 varsity volleyball players last season, 12 were also members of the softball or track teams.

“Success in small schools often bleeds into different sports,” Kiebel said.

The team slogan this season is printed on t-shirts. On the front it says “WHO KNOWS…” On the back: “WE DO.”

The first half of the slogan can be interpreted many ways: Who knows what it takes to be successful? Who knows what it means to take on responsibility and step up? Who knows what can happen in the course of a season?

There was a time, Siebel said, when the Irish felt like the hunted instead of the hunters.

“We knew when we were getting better. When we started winning those 50-50 matches, and it started to be 60-40 and 70-30, it turned around. I kind of think it’s like our slogan. Who knows how to handle having a target on the back? We do.”

There’s also this: Maple Lake’s junior varsity team had a record of 23-5 last season, finishing second while competing against some much larger schools in tournaments at Blaine and Champlin Park.

“They competed very well and had a very successful season,” Kiebel (pictured) said. “Every one of those kids played club ball and they’re just tremendous athletes.”

Senior Brielle Paumen said, “I’m excited because even though we had a packed varsity team last year, the JV was packed, too. I’m excited to see what we can do this year.”

Another senior, Maddi Maas, added, “I’m excited to see how the season goes, especially after losing so many of our seniors that have been playing on the varsity since they were eighth- and ninth-graders. It’ll be fun to see all the younger kids step up and see where we go with it.

“We’ve kind of always had a target on our backs for however many years because we’ve built such a strong program. But we don’t really think about it because we just play. We don’t think about how other people see our team. I think this year there will be some teams that might underestimate us; we have to prove that we’re still a strong Maple Lake program.”

During this first week of practice, players from seventh grade through 12th grade worked out together, giving younger athletes opportunities to do drills with veterans and allowing older players to offer advice and encouragement.

After the second of two workouts on Tuesday, the players stood in a large circle as Kiebel spoke to them. He invited older players to name younger players who had inspired them that day, and then asked younger players to do the same with veterans.

“The moment the kids are on the C team and above, I say, ‘Whether you like it or not, you are wearing the Maple Lake volleyball uniform,’ ” Kiebel said. “ ‘If you’re on the C team with a bunch of eighth-graders, that C team from the other school, if they beat you that’s a good win for them. Because of the success of our varsity team, it puts a target all the way down with you guys.’ ”

Ella Kiebel, the coach’s daughter who played an important role on last year’s team as an eighth-grader, said, “I think we’re more excited because it’s kind of a whole new team this year. We’ll have people who might say, ‘Oh, they lost basically their whole team so they won’t be as good.’ And we’ll also have people who are like, ‘Oh, they’re Maple Lake and we want to beat them.’ I think if we just play as hard as we can it should be a super fun season.”

Junior Katie Goelz added, “I think that because we’ve had two state championships, it motivates us to be better and work harder in the gym. Our younger girls will step up, also. Is there pressure? A little bit.”

--To see a photo gallery, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn