John's Journal
Brave Like Gabe: Grunewald Inspires Perham’s Historic Day 11/2/2019
NORTHFIELD -- Saturday was a history-making day for the cross-country teams from Perham High School. Both Yellowjackets squads captured Class 1A state championships at St. Olaf College, and the historical record will forever state that Perham became the first school to win both crowns for three years in a row.

Jeff Morris is the head coach of both teams, and this is his 18th year in that post. Every fan of Minnesota high school cross-country is familiar with Perham's success; the boys cross-country team now owns eight state championships and the girls have won it four times. Individually, Kevin Lachowitzer of Perham won cross-country state titles in 2006 and 2007, Keeghan Hurley did the same in 2013 and Maddie McClellan was the 1A girls champ in 2009.

One of the first Perham stars under Morris’ watch was Gabriel Anderson, who as a senior in 2004 won a track state title in the 800 meters. That was the first state championship won by a Morris-coached Perham runner.

Anderson went on to compete at the University of Minnesota and then as a professional runner. After her marriage to fellow Gophers runner Justin Grunewald, she was known as Gabe Grunewald. Gabe died in June in Minneapolis at age 32; a decade earlier she had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Her fight, her inspiration lives on in the running community nationally and around the world. Gabe and Justin began the Brave Like Gabe Foundation during her days with cancer, and runners of all ages have been inspired.

Gabe died a few weeks before the start of the 2019 high school cross-country season. Her loss hit folks in her hometown hard.

"We’ve actually had a kind of rough season, just a lot of things that have been going on mentally, physically, emotionally with our team,” Morris said Saturday. “And it started out with everything that happened with Gabe this past summer.

“We started off the season with the Brave Like Gabe (an inaugural early-season invitational) and I told the kids we’re going to focus on being thermostats, not thermometers, kind of letting our attitude and effort being where we want it to be. And it seemed like after that, everything that could happen wrong happened. We have one kid running on a non-displaced fracture, another kid with a stress fracture. We’ve had sickness. And the cool thing with the kids was they made no excuses. They stepped up to the moment and it was just fun.”

It’s not hard to imagine that the Yellowjackets felt pressure coming into the state championship races. Facing the prospect of making history can do that.

“I think they feel pressure from not wanting to let people down,” Morris said. “That’s the biggest thing. My daughter (Mya) is a ninth-grader and last night in the room her and her friends were saying, ‘We’re so nervous.’ At the start line today I just reminded them that the most important thing was that they were doing this for each other. We kind of focus on faith, love and hope. And we said if we run with that and kind of make it about that, it doesn’t matter how we do. It matters in our eyes what we do, and the rest of the what-ifs and what other people think, that doesn’t matter and that’s a good life lesson to learn.”

In the days leading up to the state meet, the Yellowjackets watched a documentary about Gabe, which brought some of the runners to tears.

“I think it’s taught the kids that in a moment like that, where you had everything that Gabe went through, you realize that the running doesn’t matter anymore,” said Morris, who became head coach in Perham when Gabe was a junior. “The running is secondary, and I think these kids learn that, ‘Hey, these races are important and we had a great moment and we want to do something great,’ but to realize it’s just a race. There are bigger things that are way more important. Because you’re not always going to win. I’ve been here when we’ve been on the other side of it. If you can learn from that and take that with you for the rest of life, it’s going to matter. And that’s how Gabe will live on in these kids.”

A little extra motivation arrived in the form of some special gifts in preparation for state: sweatshirts carrying the slogan “Running On Hope” ... that’s a phrase made famous by Gabe and the Brave Like Gabe Foundation. They were sent to the Yellowjackets by Justin Grunewald.

“The kids were pretty emotional about that,” Morris said. “Every kid and every coach got one, and he wouldn’t even let me pay for them.”

Justin, in New York for Sunday’s New York City Marathon, said via phone Saturday night that he is inspired by lots of people from Perham.

“The Perham community, their cross-country teams, their volleyball team, their boosters, KLN, which is a wonderful company, they’ve all shown so much support for Gabriel and the foundation,” he said. “On top of that, right when I came out of college, myself and another guy became the first post-collegiate runners Jeff coached. He gave me some of my best years of running, and he never took a penny. It was a long-overdue thank you. I just felt with all that their kids have done and how inspirational they’ve been, buying them sweatshirts made a lot of sense.”

Through souvenir sales and donations from teams that participated in the first annual Brave Like Gabe Invitational, the Yellowjackets raised $5,680 for the Brave Like Gabe Foundation.

“These kids are who is going to change the future," Justin said. “I can only do so much, and Gabriel gave her heart and soul. Seeing these kids be good stewards, raising money for the foundation, I’m speechless.

“They’re raising money to make the world a better place. Hopefully none of them are afflicted with cancer, but they’re spreading hope for those who are. They’re all winners in my book.”

--On the boys side, Perham was led individually by Jakob McCleary in fourth place and Brandon O’Hara in eighth. In the girls race, the top Perham finishers were Liz Berkeland in 14th and Aspen Rohde in 25th.

--Class 1A individuals: Junior Geno Uhrbom of Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin won the boys title for the second year in a row with a 15-second margin over runner-up Emmet Anderson, a junior from Staples-Motley. Junior Morgan Gehl of Murray County Central/Fulda was the girls winner, outdistancing ninth-grader Jade Rypkema of Nevis by 37 seconds.

--Class 2A teams: Edina won the girls state championship with 55 points, followed by Wayzata (109) and St. Michael-Albertville (115). Mounds View was the boys winner with a one-point margin (86-87) over Eden Prairie. St. Paul Highland Park was third at 135.

--Class 2A individuals: St. Paul Highland Park senior Oliver Paleen claimed the boys championship with a five-second margin over second-place Nicholas Scheller, a senior from Chanhassen. The girls winner was Stillwater junior Analee Weaver of Stillwater with a six-second margin over Wayzata freshman Abbey Nechanicky.

--For complete results, go to

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Cheers And Tears As The Soccer Season Ends 10/31/2019
Whether it's the World Series on Wednesday night or a high school soccer game on Thursday morning, similarities are everywhere. In the final, deciding game of the season, one team will win and one team will not. One team will celebrate with hugs and high-fives and one team will tearfully hug it out.

In the final Class 1A girls soccer game of the 2019 season Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium, Mahtomedi defeated Orono 3-2 by scoring two goals on penalty kicks in the game’s final 12 minutes. The game-winner came with a little more than three minutes to play.

The result was the same as in the two previous 1A girls title games. Two years ago, Mahtomedi defeated Orono 2-1; the 2018 season ended with the Zephyrs defeating the Spartans 1-0 in overtime. Three games, three one-goal decisions.

There are 12 seniors on the Mahtomedi team this year, and they ended their careers with three state titles.

"Our seniors have really stepped up at the end,” said Zephyrs coach Dave Wald, who has been at the helm for 14 years. “It's going to be sad here, we're losing 12 of them. It's our second-biggest class ever coming through. And they've been a major part of all three state championships.”

One of those seniors, Lauren Heinsch, scored the penalty-kick goal that won Thursday’s game. Asked if she had ever dreamed about such a moment, she talked about dreams and teams.

“I honestly didn't even ever imagine it,” she said. “I remember when I was in elementary school and I went to go watch the girls high school team at the Metrodome. I remember all the spirit there and I was like. ‘I want to be those girls.’ And then sure enough. But I never would imagine that I would be that girl with an amazing team.”

Orono senior Claire Gagne, whom Wald called the best goalkeeper that Minnesota has produced in several years, said her team certainly wanted to win their last game together, but the fact that it was their last game together was more important than the setting.

“I think this team just wanted to go out with pride and we really just wanted to win our last game as a team,” Claire said. “And it wasn't necessarily that it was the state championship. It was the small things and the memories we've made that we wanted to really preserve, instead of having this memory. I think going into the game it was really more about playing for each other than playing for the state championship.”

The team. The friendships. The memories. Those are always more important than the outcome.

“I knew that it was like the last 20 minutes I'd ever play for this team, so let’s give it everything I have,” said Mahtomedi senior Anna Wagner, who scored the game’s first goal. “Why not put everything I have out there?”

As the postgame interview session came to a close, Heinsch and Wagner could have been speaking about either team when they said these words:

Lauren: “We're all kind to each other and there's no one that really stands out. So I think our chemistry is really strong.”

Anna: “We get along really well and that's what helps us get through games. We're willing to do anything for each other. We stick together.”

Class 1A Boys: Holy Angels 3, Blake 2 (2 OT)

Sophomore Nick McGrane scored with 10 seconds remaining in the second overtime to life Holy Angels to the victory over the defending champion Bears.

Blake had rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the score with two goals within three minutes near the end of regulation. The score remained that way through one 10-minute overtime period and nearly to the end of the second overtime.

“We just try to stay confident,” said Holy Angels senior Conor O’Rourke, who was named Class 1A Mr. Soccer by the Minnesota State High School Soccer Coaches Association. “Belief is one of our pillars for our soccer program. So you’ve just got to keep believing in each other. And that belief comes down to it. I mean with 10 seconds left in the second overtime and you still believe you can win? You never know what's going to happen.”

Class 2A Girls: Maple Grove 2, Centennial 1

Kelly Kloncz scored in the 18th minute to give the Crimson a one-goal advantage and Emma Fournier made it 2-0 in the 42nd minute. Centennial scored with slightly more than 12 minutes remaining in the second half on a header by Khyah Harper.

Class 2A Boys: Edina 2, East Ridge 1

The Hornets completed an unbeaten season by edging the Raptors. Oscar Smythe scored both goals for Edina and Cullen Featherstone scored for East Ridge.

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A girls/ Emma Dean, Bemidji; Kiana Bender, Cloquet-Carlton; Bella Talbot, Rochester Lourdes; Grace Seim, Waconia; Amelia Reyes, Blake; Ali Fine, Blake; Rachel Kawiecki, Holy Angels; Mia Van der Heide, Holy Angels; Ally Swenson, Orono; Sadie Koltes, Orono; Anna Tesar, Orono; Nora Chouanard, Orono; Lauren Heinsch, Mahtomedi; Audrey Sexson, Mahtomedi; Anna Wagner, Mahtomedi; Lindsey Handke, Mahtomedi.

Class 1A boys/ Henry Tolbert, Austin; Kee Rah, Austin; Nicholas Lundberg, Mankato West; Calder Erickson, St. Croix Prep; Jack Russum, St. Francis; Zakaria Mohamud, St. Cloud Tech; Ethan Miller, St. Cloud Tech; Reece Clifford, Orono; Ben Summers, Orono; Will Mortenson, Blake; Howard Henderson, Blake; Jake Shapiro, Blake; Porter Ball, Holy Angels; Mackie Zabinski, Holy Angels; Carter Hermanson, Holy Angels; Noah Hermanson, Holy Angels.

Class 2A girls/ Kaitlyn Hansen, Lakeville South; Emme Lindberg, Minnetonka; Paige Peltier, Cretin-Derham Hall; Marissa Bonilla, Stillwater; Paige Kalal, Champlin Park; Megan Carlson, Champlin Park; Kenzie Jacobson, Rosemount; Lexi Orlando, Rosemount; Olivia Kraemer, Rosemount; Khyah Harper, Centennial; Olivia Lovick, Centennial; Sydney Kubes, Centennial; Luca Ralph, Maple Grove; Emma Fournier, Maple Grove; Hannah Zahn, Maple Grove; Sarah Cortez, Maple Grove.

Class 2A boys/ Demetrius Benardy-Nelson, Centennial; Owen Johnson, Eastview; Wyatt Hall, Lakeville South; Caleb Robinson, Maple Grove; Vilas Stolpman, Mpls. Washburn; Darley Florvil, Mpls. Washburn; Ronald Hall Jr., St. Paul Central; Riaz Kelly, St. Paul Central; Reese Dodd, East Ridge; Nick Wagner, East Ridge; Brennan Featherstone, East Ridge; Alex Hager, East Ridge; Jordan Carter, Edina; Sammy Presthus, Edina; Hank Stechmann, Edina; Oscar Smythe, Edina.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Edina, East Ridge Advance To 2A Boys Soccer Title Game 10/29/2019
Edina boys soccer coach Dave Jenson has been with the Hornets for a long time. So long, in fact, that players from his early teams are reaching 50 years of age.

Now in his 36th year as Edina's coach, Jenson will direct the Hornets in a state championship game for the fifth time when they meet East Ridge in the Class 2A title game at 5:30 p.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium.

In Jenson’s first championship game, Edina lost to St. Paul Academy & Summit School 3-1 in 1986. That team included some big names in Minnesota soccer history, which Jenson referred to after Tuesday’s 2-0 semifinal win over Minneapolis Washburn.

Asked about East Ridge and Central a few minutes before the second semifinal began, Jenson replied, "Well, they don't have Tony Sanneh or Manuel Lagos or Gerard Lagos.”

After that initial championship game, Edina won in its next three appearances, defeating Minnetonka in 1999, Bloomington Jefferson in 2000 and Wayzata in 2001.

Edina has a 2019 record of 21-0 and the Hornets will take six consecutive shutouts into Thursday’s game.

“Our defense has just really picked it up,” said junior goalkeeper Hank Stechmann. “They've been locking down the forwards and just not giving them any opportunities, so most of the credit goes to our midfield and back line.”

After a scoreless first half against Washburn, Sammy Presthus and Oscar Smythe scored in the second half.

East Ridge 1, St. Paul Central 0 (shootout)

Following a goal-free 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, the Raptors came out on top in a six-round shootout to advance to Thursday’s title game against Edina. The shootout score was 5-4 in favor of East Ridge.

“It was a great game and there has to be a winner,” said Central coach David Albornoz. “I couldn't be prouder of my boys. It was an absolutely fantastic performance this season.”

Soccer State Semifinals

Class 2A girls
Maple Grove 3, Champlin Park 0
Centennial 2, Rosemount 1 (OT)

Class 1A girls
Mahtomedi 3, Blake 0
Orono 2, Holy Angels 1 (OT)

Class 1A boys
Holy Angels 4, St. Cloud Tech 1
Blake 4, Orono 1

Class 2A boys
Edina 2, Minneapolis Washburn 0
East Ridge 1, St. Paul Central 0 (5-4 shootout)

Thursday’s state championship games

10 a.m.: Class 1A girls/ Mahtomedi vs. Orono
12:30 p.m.: Class 1A boys/ Holy Angels vs. Blake
3 p.m.: Class 2A girls/ Maple Grove vs. Centennial
5:30 p.m.: Class 2A boys/ Edina vs. East Ridge

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Practice Makes Perfect Penalty Kicks For Centennial 10/28/2019
Like all soccer teams, the girls squad from Centennial High School practices penalty kicks on a regular basis. That preparation paid off Monday for the Cougars, who used two penalty-kick goals to defeat Rosemount 2-1 in double overtime in the Class 2A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Senior Madison Monson scored on a PK in the second half, which was quickly answered when Rosemount's Lexi Orlando scored. The tie held up until Lauren Ahles scored on a penalty kick in the second overtime.

The Cougars didn't practice Saturday, but Ahles did. She went to the soccer field at University of Northwestern in St. Paul for an individual workout that included drills on penalty kicks.

"We practice a lot of PK's during the season, and on Saturday I actually went out and practiced them," she said. "And I just thought that it was all repetition. I just thought in my head (Monday), '1, 2, 3, hit!' I even said it out loud."

As Lauren told the story after Monday's game, Centennial coach Ginger Flohaug smiled and said, "When she said she went out on Saturday and practiced it, that's all on her own. And so this is the first time I'm actually hearing about that."

Centennial will meet Maple Grove in the championship game at 3 p.m. Thursday.

It's All About The Memories

The Mahtomedi girls team will play in its third consecutive Class 1A state championship game when the Zephyrs meet Orono Thursday at 10 a.m. Mahtomedi is no stranger to the title game; the Zephyrs are at state for the 15th time since 1995, winning championships in 1997, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2017 and 2018. Mahtomedi defeated Orono in the past two state championship games, 2-1 in 2017 and 1-0 in overtime last season.

That kind of big-game background can provide a payoff, not only in game scores but also in what the players know is most important: the experience.

"These are the memories that you'll always remember,” said Mahtomedi senior Audrey Sexson. “I just go into it and tell everybody, ‘All you can do is try your hardest and hopefully make some memories.’ ”

Senior Anna Wagner added, “It's amazing, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not many teams get to do this. And so, to be a part of it and be a senior who's been on all three trips is just amazing.”

No Place Like Away From Home

Every girls and boys soccer team that qualifies for the state semifinals is thrilled to be playing inside U.S. Bank Stadium. After closing the regular season and then playing postseason games in what can be less-than-ideal weather conditions, the indoor home of the Vikings is very special.

No team, however, is happier with the field conditions than the Rosemount girls. Because their grass home field has taken a beating during a wet autumn, the Irish were forced to play their final four home games elsewhere. The Rosemount football had its two most recent playoff games moved, as well.

“It was a bummer,” said Irish coach Gretchen Stramel. “It's a tough field to play on, especially when you're a more controlled team, with a higher skill level. Playing a ball that bounces around and gets stuck in the grass and kind of redirects is very difficult for a highly skilled team.

“But it also was a bummer that we had to give up our home-field advantage and had to go on the road. Our fans did a great job of traveling with us but there would have been more if you're at your home stadium, a different atmosphere. It's just an unfortunate thing for us.”

Irish midfielder Lexi Orlando said, “The field definitely messes with my mind sometimes just because the conditions are pretty crappy for our team. And I just feel more comfortable when we have our fans. I just like that home feeling and excitement, and I feel like that almost helps us push through the fact that our conditions on the field are kind of crappy.”

Soccer State Semifinals

Class 2A girls
Maple Grove 3, Champlin Park 0
Centennial 2, Rosemount 1 (OT)

Class 1A girls
Mahtomedi 3, Blake 0
Orono 2, Holy Angels 1 (OT)

Class 1A boys
Holy Angels 4, St. Cloud Tech 1
Blake 4, Orono 1

Class 2A boys
Noon: Edina vs. Minneapolis Washburn
2 p.m.: St. Paul Central vs. East Ridge

Thursday’s state championship games

10 a.m.: Class 1A girls/ Mahtomedi vs. Orono
12:30 p.m.: Class 1A boys/ Holy Angels vs. Blake
3 p.m.: Class 2A girls/ Maple Grove vs. Centennial
5:30 p.m.: Class 2A boys/

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
Class 6A Football Rankings10/25/2019
From The Associated Press.

Class 6A
School Total Points Prv
1. Wayzata (5) (7-0) 50 1
2. Lakeville South (6-1) 45 2
3. Lakeville North (6-1) 39 T4
4. Champlin Park (6-1) 36 6
5. Eden Prairie (5-2) 28 8
6. Centennial (5-2) 22 10
7. Totino-Grace (5-2) 17 T4
8. Mounds View (5-2) 16 7
9. St. Michael-Albertville (5-2) 15 3
10. Rosemount (4-3) 4 NR
Others receiving votes: Farmington 1, Maple Grove 1, Woodbury 1.