John's Journal
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.
Three Schools, Three States, One Team: The Tri-State Tigers1/17/2020
The communities of Campbell, Tintah, Fairmount and Rosholt have a combined population of barely a thousand people. Rosholt is the largest with 423 residents, Tintah is the teeniest with 63. When high school athletes compete, the four little towns are one.

The teams are known as the Tri-State Tigers. That's because the schools involved in the cooperative athletic programs are in three different states. The Campbell-Tintah school district is in Minnesota, Fairmount in North Dakota and Rosholt in South Dakota. Where the state lines intersect, Tigers rule the countryside.

"They're all my friends," Alyssa Hensch, a Campbell-Tintah junior, said of her basketball teammate who live in both Dakotas. "Honestly, I wouldn't know them without sports.”

One day this week, the Tigers girls basketball team was practicing inside the historic little gym in Campbell. That evening, the boys basketball team played the visiting Central Cass Squirrels inside the modern, well-lit gym in Rosholt. The Squirrels are from the town of Casselton, 95 miles away on the prairie west of Fargo, N.D. They traveled on a charter bus.

For the Tigers, spending time in a school bus is part of the deal for almost all practices as well as games. It's a 12-mile drive from Campbell to Fairmount, and another 19 miles from Fairmount to Rosholt. If conditions are good it can be a 40-minute drive from Campbell through Fairmount and on to Rosholt; vehicles pass signs that proclaim “Welcome to North Dakota/Legendary” and “Welcome to South Dakota/Great Faces, Great Places.”

“We've grown up having to commute to practice and stuff every day,” said Campbell-Tintah senior basketball player Sam Viger. “So we've gotten used to it.”

The basketball players from Campbell-Tintah are the only high schoolers in Minnesota who play with shot clocks in every game. That's because both North Dakota and South Dakota use shot clocks (as well as eight-minute quarters instead of Minnesota’s 18-minute halves). During the regular season the Tigers are part of a basketball league, the Eastern Coteau Conference, which consists entirely of South Dakota schools. When the postseason arrives, the Tigers play in the North Dakota High School Activities Association playoffs.

But wait, there’s more. The Tigers also compete in North Dakota in football, volleyball, softball and golf, but in South Dakota in cross-country, and track and field. The softball team is a five-team coop, with North Dakota schools Hankinson and Lidgerwood joining in.
The cooperative agreement was originally formed for football in 2007, with other sports added to the arrangement in recent years.

Boys basketball coach Adam Krueger is Rosholt graduate and teacher who played football for the Tigers coop team. But when he was in school there were no golf, softball or cross-country teams, opportunities which are now available.

Girls basketball coach Brenda Dahlgren (who teaches in Fairmount) said, “When we were alone, we just didn't have enough athletes. South Dakota probably didn't need us yet, but they're at the edge of their state and they didn't have anybody else to coop with and we knew eventually it would happen. So they took us in and it's been nice. It does give everybody an opportunity.”

There is tremendous history to be found in the hallways of the century-old school in Campbell, including trophies from both the MSHSL and the NDHSAA. There are displays honoring Campbell native Errol Mann, a kicker who was a member of the Oakland Raiders’ winning Super Bowl XI team; Mike Cannon, another Campbell product who now lives in Hutchinson and is a high-ranking NCAA football official; and Eugene McCarthy, who taught social studies in Campbell in 1939-40 and went on to a political career that took him to the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and five presidential campaigns.

The 2019 graduating class from Campbell-Tintah consisted of six students, three fewer than in 2018. The local communities, no matter the state, work hard in providing opportunities for their students.

“We're really lucky because the kids, the schools and the parents are all really flexible,” Krueger said. “If something comes up we make a switch and we don't really hear much.”

The athletes often spend time together away from their sports.

“There are a lot of times where we will show up in Fairmount to pick up the Fairmount kids and we'll have Campbell kids already there,” Krueger said, “or we'll get a call that a bunch of Campbell kids are already in Rosholt because they're hanging out with the guys from Rosholt. So they're a really close group.”

Since the team members don’t attend school together, practice time can be disrupted just a bit with small talk, Krueger said with a grin.

“The only issue we've ever had with it is they miss each other. Not seeing each other in school, they get to practice and they want to talk and chat about what's going on.”

Campbell-Tintah sophomore basketball player Mary Rupp said playing for the Tigers is special.

“It's definitely different,” she said. “But I like how you can experience a whole different aspect of people because you're not stuck in one state or one school. We’ve got lots of friends from the other schools.”

--See photos from the Tri-State Tigers on the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Remembering Pete Veldman1/14/2020
Pete Veldman, one of the greatest supporters of high school activities in Minnesota history, has passed away. Veldman was the longtime athletic director at South St. Paul High School. He also was one of Minnesota's leaders in the fight for the addition of women’s athletics in the early 1970s and was co-coordinator of the Minnesota state high school wrestling tournament for 25 years.

His accomplishments and service to others have been much recognized. He was inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was also been inducted into the Minnesota State High School Athletic Directors Hall of Fame and the Albert Lea High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He received the Minnesota High School Athletic Directors Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009. There he was honored as "one of the greatest contributors to athletics and education in Minnesota.”

The below story appeared in the Albert Lea Tribune in 2015 wen Veldman was recognized as a Distinguished Alumni of Albert Lea High School.

Peter Veldman grew up on a farm near Hollandale, the sixth of seven children of Hemmo and Titia Veldman who were immigrants from Holland. He attended what was then known as Westside Elementary, one of four rural elementary schools in the Hollandale area for first through eighth grade. He thinks back fondly of his days in that school with its two rooms, one for grades one through four and one for grades five through eight. Veldman said he always had wonderful teachers.

He entered Albert Lea High School in ninth grade and graduated in 1951. Veldman’s focus was on sports. He was a three-season athlete and high school star in football, wrestling and track and field. In football, he was considered one of the best long-range punters in the state. In track, Veldman threw weights. In wrestling, Veldman won the Minnesota Heavyweight Championship his senior year. LeRoy Maas, his coach for all three sports, said that Veldman was the most accomplished athlete he ever coached or observed throughout his 40 years as a high school educator. Veldman was also in Hi-Y, on the Senior Executive Council, a class officer, and a Junior Rotarian representing ALHS in sports. He was appointed to the Homecoming Court representing athletics and was also the Heart King for the Heart Dance his senior year.

Veldman attended and graduated from the University of Minnesota, where he was a contributing member of the 1957 and 1959 Big Ten Championship wrestling teams. Veldman served two years in the U.S. Army in Korea in 1954 to 1955 then came back and finished college, graduating in 1959 with a degree in physical education/health/history. Veldman received his master’s degree in educational administration and physical education from the University of Minnesota in 1968.

Veldman began his professional career mirroring his high school interests as a physical education teacher and coach of football and wrestling in the South St. Paul school district in 1959. In 1964 Veldman became the athletic director of South St. Paul Schools. He was one of Minnesota’s leaders in the fight for the addition of women’s athletics in the early 1970s.

Veldman was the co-coordinator of the Minnesota State High School Wrestling Tournament for 25 years while also continuing as athletic director in South St. Paul.

Veldman stayed actively involved with wrestling as a referee and official of high school and collegiate wrestling tournaments for 42 years. Recognized as one of the best officials in the country, Veldman was repeatedly selected to officiate hundreds of high school wrestling meets, Minnesota State Wrestling Tournaments, and NCAA Division I, Division II, and NCAA Big 10 Wrestling Tournaments. He held these positions part-time while he continued his teaching/administrative career, and continued the work in his retirement.

Veldman’s volunteer work included being president of the University of Minnesota Graduate M Club, serving on the board of directors for the Minnesota State High School League and serving as executive secretary of the Classic Suburban Conference. In retirement he worked as executive secretary of the Minnesota Athletic Administrators Association. Pete was also the co-founder and president of the ALHS LeRoy Maas Wrestling Scholarship Fund.

His accomplishments and service to others have been much recognized. He was inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was also been inducted into the Minnesota State High School Athletic Directors Hall of Fame and the Albert Lea High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He received the Minnesota High School Athletic Directors Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009. There he was honored as “one of the greatest contributors to athletics and education in Minnesota.”

He has also received the NIAAA State Award of Merit. For his career-long dedication and successes, South St. Paul High School honored Veldman’s extensive service to the district and community by establishing the Pete Veldman Wrestling Room and creating the Annual Veldman Invitational Wrestling Tournament.

Veldman’s success has been shared and supported by his wife Arlene since their marriage in 1958. They have four wonderful sons and 13 grandchildren, who Pete said are his most important pleasures in life. They have all been successful in their scholastic and athletic endeavors.

He completely retired in 2014. He said he enjoys spending time at his lake cabin and watching his grandchildren in all their activities.
Everybody In Moose Lake And Beyond Knows Mary Ellen Dewey 1/10/2020
MOOSE LAKE – My plan in going to Moose Lake for a boys basketball game on Thursday night was pretty simple. The subject of the story that would result was Mary Ellen Dewey. I didn't know much about Mary Ellen until a couple days earlier, other than the amazing fact that she has kept a scorebook for every basketball game she has attended over 58 years. We talked on the phone Tuesday and I knew I was in for a real treat.

She was a 15-year-old sophomore (then she was Mary Ellen Funda, "Like in fun," she told me on the phone) at St. John's Academy in Jamestown, N.D. The fact that a boy she liked, Pat Dewey, was on the basketball team probably played a role in Mary Ellen learning how to keep a scorebook. They graduated from high school in 1965 and got married several years later as Pat became a coach. Mary Ellen and her scorebook have always been there for basketball games when Pat was coaching, when their two sons played, and now as they have grandsons playing at Moose Lake-Willow River.

While in Moose Lake for the game, I Tweeted some photos of Mary Ellen and a brief description of her 58 years with a scorebook in her lap. I soon learned that the best way to describe Mary Ellen and Pat is to let people who know them best do it. The Tweets began to fly …

I don't think Mrs. Dewey ever missed a game that Dew coached. She's a wonderful woman, thanks for sharing her story. … Josh Weise.

She and her husband are both amazing human beings. Kindest and nicest people you'll ever meet in your life. They always greet everyone they meet with a warm and genuine smile. I had the honor of playing for her husband and I don't think she ever missed a game. … Ben Drilling.

A perfect story to share statewide on a wonderful woman and family. … Tim Franklin.

I was fortunate to grow up in Sandstone with the Dewey family as my "other parents." I would often tease my Mom that her many wonderful home cooked meals were excellent, but not on the same level as Mary Ellen Dewey! … Rob Lundorff.

Mary Ellen and Pat Dewey! Two of the greatest people in the world!! … Tom Wetschka.

Her and Pat are two of the nicest people I've ever met and worked with in my broadcasting career. Mary Ellen also makes a killler "Death by Chocolate" dessert. … Jim Erickson.

I received a little gift from Mary Ellen and her kitchen; she sent me home with some delicious blueberry muffins. She is well-known for bringing bars for officials and goodies for her family’s teams. It’s remarkable that Pat is so fit and trim from a lifetime of those treats; he coached for 32 years in nearby Sandstone (the school is now East Central), including basketball, track and field, football and baseball, and also worked as the athletic director before retiring.

Mary Ellen has been there in the gym every time, while also maintaining baseball scorebooks and joining Pat on football scouting trips.

“When you are married to a coach and they come home after a game, they replay the whole game,” said Mary Ellen, who was a basketball player in high school. “There weren’t computers, you did stats with a pencil.”

When the Moose Lake-Willow River Rebels score – which they did a lot in Thursday’s 84-40 victory over the Silver Bay Mariners – the hometown fans cheer and Mary Ellen’s head quickly dips into her scorebook as she notes who got the points. She has spent a lot of time as an official scorekeeper over the decades, but now she primarily keeps a book from her bleacher seat.

“She does a fantastic job,” said Rebels coach Wes Cummins. “I’ve had managers do my stats but I can go to her after games because she keeps real detailed stats. And (Mary Ellen and Pat) do scouting for us; they’ll email me a whole scouting report.”

Mary Ellen and Pat are called Grandma and Grandpa by lots of young folks, most of whom are not their grandchildren. Their grandsons who play for the Rebels are senior Ben, sophomore Sam and eighth-grader Luke. Their father, Paul Dewey, is an assistant coach and they have a little sister, Isabella, who is on a sixth-grade basketball team coached by her (actual) Grandpa Dewey.

Mary Ellen is a very busy 72-year-old. She writes high school sports stories for the local newspaper, writes a weekly recipe column and has been handling local folks’ taxes with H&R Block for 43 years.

Thursday’s game had all the typical trappings of a classic high school event. There was a 50-50 raffle with proceeds going to the choir and band spring trip, root beer floats sold to benefit the post-prom party, hot pizza at the concession stand, a large group of enthusiastic student fans, and senior basketball player Michael Olson singing a splendid national anthem. Everybody knew Mary Ellen and Pat.

“I keep track even if my kids aren’t involved,” she said. “I pay attention to the game instead of people-watch. I’ve always done that even if I don’t have people playing.”

How different would it be if Mary Ellen and her scorebook weren’t in the gym?

“It's never happened,” Cummins said. “I guess we’d probably first call the police.”

As grandson Sam put it, if his grandma wasn’t on hand “There'd be a hole for sure.”

Mary Ellen and Pat also travel to the Twin Cities for games involving two more grandkids, children of their son Dan. Mary Ellen has saved all her scorebooks from multiple sports but has no idea how many games she has witnessed. There are periods in which she has kept score for 10 games in seven days.

“I would never go to Arizona in the winter,” she said. “I don’t know how people do that when they have kids playing.”

Pat said, “She's passionate about it. Sometimes she's the first fan here.”

Mary Ellen and Pat have attended every boys state basketball tournament since 1970. By that time of the year, basketball is winding down. Mary Ellen doesn’t much care for that.

“I go through popcorn withdrawal in April,” she said with a smile.

--See photos of Mary Ellen Dewey on the MSHSL Facebook page.

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