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Husband-wife duo spend couple time officiating track and field meets
Home Page Photo By Tim Leighton

There was a stretch last week where Apple Valley’s Greg and Theresa Utecht had officiated 10 track and field meets in a 13-day span. It was seven high school meets and three collegiate meets.

That commitment certainly doesn’t surprise anyone.

The couple has been working together as track and field officials for 10 years and for 40 years in cross country.

Between them, they serve roles as clerk, starter, recall, head judge at triple jump, long jump, javelin throw, shot put, and high jump.

“We love the variety and chances to interact with athletes in all of the different venues at a meet,” Greg Utecht said.

Now they are working behind the scenes preparing for the Hamline Elite meet Friday at Hamline University in St. Paul. They will serve as co-chief umpires with a crew of 10 additional officials.

Hall of Famer Jim Langer's high school to receive NFL honor
Home Page Photo By Tom Elliott, St. Cloud Times
ROYALTON — Joel Swenson was at his desk looking for a screwdriver Tuesday morning, attempting to open a package from the National Football League.

The Royalton principal is part of a large ceremony sponsored by the NFL and the Ford Motor Co. that is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Royalton's South Gym

Royalton becomes the 97th school to receive the NFL Hometown Hall of Fame designation in honor of Jim Langer, the Royalton graduate and Pro Football Hall of Famer.

"It's kind of exciting to have the NFL Hall of Fame making a presentation in our small town," Swenson said.

Representatives from the NFL and Ford will be there, as will Langer, the former Miami Dolphin and Minnesota Viking center who lives in Ramsey.

The public is invited.

Swenson said the plaque will be displayed in the refurbished high school, expected to open this fall. It's part of a $26 million school project approved by taxpayers in January 2015 that includes a new gym, a 4,000-square-foot fitness center and massive updates to the science departments, cafeteria/auditorium, offices and the elementary school.

"It's going to be awesome," said Swenson, Royalton's former football coach.

The NFL contacted Swenson in January about the program, which honors the high schools of NFL Hall of Famers.

At that time, Royalton was presented with a golden football in honor of Super Bowl 50. Langer was a member of the unbeaten 1972 Miami Dolphins team that won the Super Bowl.

"Jim's a really good speaker with a really good message," Swenson said.

After graduating from Royalton, Langer played at South Dakota State, a Division II school in those days. He went undrafted, but signed as a free agent by the Cleveland Browns, who cut him. He then hooked up with the Dolphins, who were an expansion team, and wound up being a six-time Pro Bowler.

The Minnesota State High School League is celebrating its 100th year of providing extra-curricular opportunities in athletics and fine arts.

The League is proud of its 100-year legacy, and in honor of the milestone in 2016, we share yearly snapshots taken along the way.

Please join us in a celebratory look at our heritage.

Epilogue --- The Countdown to 100 journey is now complete
Posted by Tim Leighton (tleighton@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/24/2016 3:40:57 PM

When the final horn sounded to end the Class AAAA girls basketball championship game between Minnetonka and Hopkins late Saturday night, it also closed the curtain on the League’s 100-year celebration.

For the past year, the Minnesota State High School League has saluted its rich heritage, in among other ways, through a commemorative book, website initiatives, TV and radio interviews by staffers and big, bold and bright signage and offerings on video scoreboards.

It was a festive time of learning and appreciating how the early days of leadership and participation have paved the way to what has now made the MSHSL one of the top high school associations in the nation.

Throughout the 100-year journey, we learned historical facts that amazed us, and also came to appreciate how the League grew amid hardships.

As the League steps into its second century of service, we invite you to follow along, too, as an active participant, be it as a student, parent, coach, administrator or fan.

The Countdown to 100 is now complete.

We thank you for joining us on this yearlong journey.

Tim Leighton

2007-2016 --- St. Paul Central girls basketball team was one for the ages
Posted by Tim Leighton (tleighton@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/16/2016 2:34:42 PM

They played with a flair and tenacity that had never been witnessed before in girls’ basketball.

From endline to endline and sideline to sideline, the St. Paul Central girls basketball team played at a tempo that illustrated equal parts finesse and power. They were creative and dynamic on offense in averaging more than 80 points per game. On defense, they suffocated opponents with pressure and left them gasping for air in only allowing just 35 points per game.

St. Paul Central was a dominating force in winning the Class AAAA championship in 2007 with a 32-0 record. That club is still considered the best Minnesota girls’ basketball team of all time.

“There is no way that there is a team that is better than that one,” former St. Paul Central coach Willie Taylor said this week. “No one really rivals that team at all. It is still so much fun talking about those times.”

The team was made up of students that were either already at Central High School or others that had transferred from other schools within the St. Paul Public School System, which was within the eligibility rules.

Point guard Angel Robinson was the director of the on-floor squad. Theairra Taylor and Kiara Bufford were interchangeable at the shooting guard and small forward position and Megan Howard was a force at power forward. Georgie Jones controlled things in the post. Ebony Black, a superstar in her own right, was the first player off the bench

Robinson (Marquette), Taylor (Iowa), Buford (Minnesota) and Jones (Indiana) were Division I recruits. Howard moved on to star at St. Anselm, a Division II school at Anselm.

In the big-school semifinals in 2007, Central built a 43-12 lead over Edina at the half en route to a 79-41 victory. Central went on to defeat Minneapolis South 81-63 in the championship game.

Despite his team’s offensive prowess, Taylor, in an act of sportsmanship, never allowed his team to score more than 100 points in a game, even though they flirted with it often. In the state tournament, Central had chances to punctuate its dominance by reaching the 100-point mark, but Taylor remained firm, and told his players, no.

“They were never fully unleashed that season,” said Kevin J. Anderson, the MSHSL’s girls basketball historian.

In the 2007-08 season, any Central repeat hopes looked doomed, especially on the heels of a 25-point loss to Minneapolis South in the Twin Cities Game.

But Taylor guided Central through the postseason to an astonishing finish, a 49-44 win over Minneapolis South in the Class AAAA championship game to end a 28-4 season.

He was selected the 2008 Sports Figure of the Year by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

In 15 seasons at Central, Taylor compiled a 336-84 record. He is now the head coach at Stillwater High School.

In other news of the day:

• The Apple Valley wrestling team wins the national title by finishing No. 1 in the rankings of all major polls during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.

• In 2012, the MSHSL becomes the first state association in the country to sponsor Robotics.

• Eden Prairie becomes the gold standard in football winning five big-school championships from 2007-14.

• In 2012, Dakota United senior Thomas Bowlin, a three-sport standout in adapted athletics, is named the recipient of the prestigious St. Paul Downtown Lions Club Amateur Athlete of the Year award.

• A Coaches Education Program was implemented by the MSHSL.

• Northfield’s Bailey DuPay wins three consecutive Class AA all-around gymnastics titles from 2013-15.

• The Perham gymnastics teams wins eight consecutive Class A crowns from 2004-11.
• A seventh football class was added in 2012.

• Minnesota becomes the first state in the country to sanction Clay Target in 2014

• Minnesota coaching legend Bob McDonald of Chisholm makes the final appearance in the boys basketball state tournament in 2011. He retired from coaching in 2014 after 59 seasons and a state-record 1,012 victories.

• In 2007, longtime adapted athletics coach Marcus Onsum, and his assistant coach and brother, Steve, are inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in Boise, ID. Together, they have built an adapted athletics powerhouse at Robbinsdale/Hopkins/Mound Westonka.

• The Hopkins boys basketball team wins three consecutive big-school championships from 2009-11 to give it six since 2002. The 2009 team finished ranked in the top five in most national polls.

• Shakopee’s Maria Hauger wins four consecutive Class AA cross country titles from 2009-12.

• Kate Smith of Detroit Lakes wins four consecutive Class AA golf championships from 2012-15.

• Fairmont’s Sarah Bankson becomes Minnesota’s second four-time medalist in speech in 2011.

• In 2010, Eden Prairie’s Rachel Bootsma sets a national record in the 100 backstroke with a time of 51.53 seconds.

• Shakopee wins three consecutive Class AAA volleyball championships from 2007-09.

• The two-day Prep Bowl begins in 2007.

Check back for more weekly looks at the MSHSL's "100 years of memories."

More of the Countdown to 100

Robotics: From Greenbush-Middle River To The World
Posted by John Millea(jmillea@mshsl.org)- Updated 4/28/2016 3:15:22 PM

St. Louis, Missouri, is the center of the robotics universe this weekend, with 29,000 students and 800 robots competing in the FIRST Robotics World Championships. The teams come from all over the world, including 24 from Minnesota -- one of the few states where high school robotics is a varsity, letter-awarding activity.

Teams are competing in three days of robotics matches, grouped into divisions. One of the teams carrying a strong tradition and high hopes hails from the tiny town of Greenbush, Minnesota. The Gators of Greenbush-Middle River High School are competing with teams from all over the United States as well as Canada, Australia, Israel, China and elsewhere.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics became an official MSHSL activity in 2012 and has grown like gangbusters. Greenbush-Middle River is in year three of robotics, and its 44 involved students is more than one-third of the entire student body.

The Gators were champions of a recent FIRST regional at the University of Northern Iowa, winning all 16 matches in which they competed. They also competed at a regional in Duluth, where they were knocked out in a late round. Now they’re competing with the best in the world, which is quite a feat for kids from extreme northern Minnesota.

“We’re a rural community, tucked away in northwest Minnesota, and our FIRST Robotics team has really become a leader in the state,” said Greenbush-Middle River superintendent Tom Jerome.

Each year, a different game is used by all FIRST Robotics teams. The 2016 game is called Stronghold. FIRST describes it as “two Alliances of three robots each are on a Quest to breach their opponents’ fortifications, weaken their tower with boulders, and capture the opposing tower. Robots score points by breaching opponents’ defenses and scoring boulders through goals in the opposing tower. During the final 20 seconds of the Quest, robots may surround and scale the opposing tower to capture it.”

Mary Anderson, who teaches science and math, is the Gators robotics “coach.” The students, however, take the lead in all sorts of tasks, from designing the robot to driving the robot to finding sponsors and raising money to publicizing the team’s accomplishments. Robotics is unlike traditional sports in that team members are always willing to assist other teams, whether it be with engineering, repairs, tools or anything else that comes up.

“My favorite part of the competitions is meeting all the different people,” said Greenbush-Middle River student Joe Hlucny. “There are so many people, and getting to communicate and work with them to accomplish a goal is a lot of fun and it’s a great experience. It gets you ready for other times in life when you’ll have to do that, for sure.”

Robotics is not an inexpensive activity. The Gators have dozens of sponsors, including the University of Minnesota, Polaris and Central Boiler, a Greenbush-based company that is one of the largest manufacturers in northwestern Minnesota.

“Central Boiler is a key player for us; they open up their facilities for our kids,” Jerome said. “Farmers and machinists in the area open their shops as work areas. When we qualified to go to the world championships on a Saturday, by Monday night Polaris had committed more than $10,000.”

A key aspect of the program is student development. Instead of staying home and playing video games by themselves, team members work long hours together.

“We require 30 hours from every student in order to go to a competition,” Gators team member Hannah Anderson said. “We had 29 eligible to go to our first competition in Duluth, and if they got their hours, they were able to go to Iowa. It was like 2,500 student hours. The mentors weren’t counted in that, but they put a lot of time in, too. The grand total was probably 5,000 hours-plus. You have people thinking about it in their sleep, and not sleeping because they’re thinking about it.”

Jon Langaas said, “During build season, when we go out to the shop or do anything here we document our hours. At the shop I usually got out there at about 3 and I left most nights around 11; Saturdays and Sundays were like 8 to 11. I spend probably way too much time on the robot, but that’s everything that I do in the winter now.”

It’s not a stretch to say that robotics changes lives in many ways, whether it be making new friends or choosing career paths.

“It’s just made me a better person, overall,” said the Gators’ Brady Kilen. “The teamwork that I’ve put in with everyone; I’ve gotten to know everyone better in working with each other. I’ve become more confident as a person, too.”

Teammate Blake Dallager said, “Over the winter months I’m not in any sports so I would just go to school and then go home after that. Without robotics I never would be speaking in front of you right now. For sponsorships, we go out and talk in front of 10, 20 people. I never would have had the opportunity to do that, or to go to Iowa or St. Louis or anything like that, and meet people from China and Brazil and Australia. It’s basically awesome to get out of the house, meet new people and go new place and try new things.”

Jerome, a former high school hockey coach and longtime hockey official, said he was mesmerized the first time he saw a FIRST Robotics competition, at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.

“This might sound corny, but I walked down, I went on the floor and I kind of teared up,” he said. “I thought, ‘We have to replicate what’s going on in FIRST Robotics in every classroom we have.’ I saw kids brainstorming with other kids, kids from Greenbush-Middle River to Edina and Warroad and Roseau. They work together on problem-solving: ‘You and I are on different teams, but hey how can I help you?’

“When kids come together in this program, they’re handed a problem to solve with not enough money, not enough facilities and not enough time. And that’s kind of real life. They’re asked to solve it, and the only way they can do that is by communicating, brainstorming, sharing ideas and growing. It’s pure, it’s simple, it’s demanding, it’s tough, it’s planning, it’s brainstorming.

“When you see kids scratching their heads, and they’re huddled up together, kids from different communities, and they’re trying to fix that person’s problem, you just go, ‘Wow.’ It really is amazing.”

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 644
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 10,214

More of John's Journal

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April Ex Committee Agenda 
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Swanville duo wins NFHS Arts Award 
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John Millea
28m ago
That guy would stand no chance in robotics. twitter.com/DanBrookens/st

John Millea
32m ago

Amy Doherty
32m ago
Great first day! fans, Warroad FRED's next match is #73 at 10:12 a.m. Go MN robots! twitter.com/teamfred2883/s

John Millea
54m ago
Carson Wentz is the biggest thing from Fargo since Fargo.

John Millea
58m ago
Carson Wentz's mom is Kristen Wiig! twitter.com/SeeMurphsTweet

John Millea
3h ago
Warroad robotics team wins Nickname Award: Fighting Rednecks.

Amy Doherty
4h ago
Could have goofed, but I think these are the remaining qualification matches that feature multiple MN teams. Go MN!

Tim Leighton
4h ago
Husband-wife duo spend couple time officiating track and field meets. See Officials' Spotlight at mshsl.org @MSHSL_Officials

Amy Doherty
5h ago
Just watched Farmington's @rogue_robotics win their 4th match. They are currently ranked #1 on Galileo (the division w/the most MN teams).

Amy Doherty
5h ago
It's fun to visit and watch @GMRRobotics in St. Louis! twitter.com/MSHSLjohn/stat

MSHSL 5h ago
Robotics: From Greenbush-Middle River To The World.Check out John's Journal. John's Journal

John Millea
5h ago
Robotics: From Greenbush-Middle River To The World. Go to John's Journal. @GMRRobotics mshsl.org/mshsl/johnsjou

John Millea
7h ago
10th annual Hamline Elite Meet boys field includes eight state champions. Meet begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Hamline's Klas Stadium.

John Millea
7h ago
Hamline Elite Meet: Defending state champs in every girls ind. running event, 4 field events; 3 state record-holders

John Millea
8h ago
Great Weather GIFs... twitter.com/WasecaBluejays

John Millea
8h ago
Great Weather GIFs... twitter.com/WasecaBluejays

John Millea
10h ago
Ongoing theme... twitter.com/WasecaBluejays

John Millea
10h ago
Looks like another Bottom 10 weather day...


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