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Montevideo: Where Homecoming Is King
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/26/2016 9:21:53 AM

MONTEVIDEO – Let’s start this essay with the final act of wonderfulness I witnessed during Homecoming Day in Montevideo, home of the Thunder Hawks and some of the nicest people you will ever come across. Friday was big, filled with special events. However, the final moment for me was not a big thing but a little thing, a little thing that exemplifies what makes high school activities so special.

The Thunder Hawks football team had just lost the Homecoming game to Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City. The visiting Falcons led 3-0 at halftime in a game dominated by defense, ACGC’s Jeremy Nelson ran for two short touchdowns in the second half and the Falcons won 24-0.

As the boys of Montevideo left the field to exit the stadium and make the short hike across 17th Street to their school, they walked through a tunnel of humanity. Parents, grandparents, family, friends, little kids and old timers, their fans slapped them on their big shoulder pads, patted the top of their helmets, said “Good game” and “Good job” and wished them luck next week.

I was standing with Montevideo activities director Bob Grey, watching this all take place. I said to Bob what came to mind after spending the day in town: “Bob, these kids are so lucky to grow up here.”

Montevideo is the county seat of Chippewa County, pretty much equidistant between the Twin Cities and Sioux Falls, S.D.; two and a half hours due west of the Twin Cities and two and a half hours northeast of Sioux Falls. It is home to 5,300-some proud souls and has a sister city in Montevideo, Uruguay; a statue of José Artigas, the father of Uruguayan independence, stands proudly in downtown Montevideo, Minnesota.

I see a lot of great things everywhere I go in Minnesota. This trip to Montevideo was a day-long affair, though, making it a very enjoyable deep dive. There was a pep rally featuring a live cow, a wonderful small-town Homecoming parade, free hot dogs before the football game, and a lovely autumn evening to cap it off.

The afternoon pep rally was for everybody, and I mean everybody. Every kid who attends public school in Montevideo crammed into the high school gym, a feat that involved bus rides and other high-wire logistics in herding tiny little tots, classroom by classroom, to their proper seating locations. When all were in place, 1,450 humans – plus teachers and staff – were soon on their feet screaming and clapping for the Thunder Hawk teams.

Football, volleyball, cross-country, girls swimming, girls tennis teams; all were highlighted under the direction of Kyle Goslee, who teaches physical education and coaches softball when he isn’t masterfully ceremony-ing pep rallies with all the screaming gusto of a combination drill sergeant and professional wrestler. (Here’s a brief excerpt from Kyle’s repertoire: “WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!”)

The cheerleaders scripted many of the activities, including a round-the-gym flurry of cheers from each class, all 13 of ‘em. The kindergarteners kicked it off, following the cheerleaders’ chants and finishing with a very high-pitched “We are the Class of 2029!” And so it went right up to the seniors in the Class of 2017. There were sleeping-bag races, blindfolds and other tomfoolery, and much anticipation for Sammy the cow.

Sammy is not much of a cow, really. She was small enough to be carried into the gym in the arms of a young man and little Sammy stood still while a selectee squatted down and gave her a smooch on the snout. Sammy was returned to her home on the range at that point, and the tarp that had been placed on the gym floor came away unscathed.

The parade. Oh my, the parade. Those little kids sat on the curbs along 17th Street – also known as Thunder Hawk Drive – and waited until it was time to spring into action and scramble for pieces of candy as if they were hundred-dollar bills. The parade was led by the Montevideo Volunteer Fire Department’s largest firetruck, a slow-rolling mastodon of a thing carrying several humans on top … although they were so high in the air it was hard to be specific about details.

There were pickup trucks carrying Homecoming royalty, flatbed trailers carrying teams and clubs, a cute contingent on foot representing Montevideo Elementary School, the great Thunder Hawk marching band, and a float featuring a giant inflatable Minnesota Viking and a large fake can of soup bearing the label “Cream of Falcon Soup” (the ACGC Falcons disrupted that prediction).

As the parade ended, folks lined up for freshly grilled, free hot dogs. Before long the Thunder Hawks and Falcons were on the football field, preparing for the ballgame. Montevideo head coach David Vik took a swig of Diet Squirt, placing the can on the track behind the bench as kickoff came.

For much of the evening, the punters – ACGC’s Adam Johnson and Montevideo’s Reece Kuhlmann – were the busiest guys in town. Another leg specialist, Frederick Hansen, kicked a 24-yard field goal for the Falcons late in the first quarter. The offensive dam didn’t exactly bust after that; the next scoring came midway through the third quarter.

The band members, still in uniform, sat in the stands and entertained everyone in grand style, just as they had done several hours earlier at the pep rally and again during the parade. High school students chatted and cheered, adults handed over cash to little kids bent on attacking the concession stand, the coaches coached and the players played.

The football uniforms displayed some mud by game’s end and the hometown Thunder Hawks came out on the short end of the scoreboard. But as the boys walked off the field, they were met by all those other people who live in their town.

All those lucky people.

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

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 64
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 2,417

Volleyball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/25/2016 11:04:30 PM

This week's volleyball rankings, provided by the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association...

1. Eagan (17) - 255
2. Champlin Park - 227
3. Lakeville South - 215
4. Prior Lake - 203
5. Hopkins - 189
6. Wayzata - 161
7. Shakopee - 128
8. Roseville - 124
9. North St. Paul - 119
10. Lakeville North - 113
Others Receiving Votes: Eden Prairie - 13, Bloomington Jefferson - 13, Blaine - 12, Cretin-Derham Hall - 7, Rochester Mayo - 6

1. Kenyon-Wanamingo (11) - 193
2. Maple Lake (2) - 183
3. Rocori - 157
4. Belle Plaine - 156
5. Kasson-Mantorville - 129
6. Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta - 127
7. Stewartville - 118
8. Hill-Murray - 78
9. Concordia Academy - 60
10. SW Christian - 58
Others Receiving Votes: Roseau - 53, Jackson County Central - 14, Perham - 13, Sauk Centre - 8, Glencoe-Silver Lake - 6, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton - 6, Holy Angels - 6

1. Bethlehem Academy (9) - 202
2. Mayer Lutheran (4) - 195
3. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (1) - 189
4. Heritage Christian - 156
5. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown - 125
6. Minneota - 119
7. Caledonia - 111
8. Kittson County - 96
9. Mabel-Canton - 89
10. Hayfield - 65
Others Receiving Votes: Underwood - 48, Stephen Argyle - 41, Verndale - 21, Wabasso - 13

Girls Tennis Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/25/2016 9:50:40 PM

This week's girls tennis rankings, provided by the Minnesota Tennis Coaches Association...

1 Blake
2 Breck
3 Rochester Lourdes
4 St. James
5 Foley
6 Holy Family Catholic
7 Minnewaska
8 Pine City
9 Litchfield
tie 10 Eveleth-Gilbert
tie 10 Roseau

1 Libby Rickeman, Blake
2 Izabella Edin, Staples-Motley
3 Arlina Shen, Blake
4 Katie Mulvey, Trinity at River Ridge
5 Clare Palen, Rochester Lourdes
6 Cindy Li, Winona Cotter
7 Natalie Cahill, Pine City
8 Lainey Axell, Blake
9 Cora Delich, Eveleth-Gilbert
tie 10 Ashley Frederickson, St. James
tie 10 Kayla McIver, Foley

1 St. Cloud Tech
2 Edina
3 Eagan
4 Prior Lake
5 Mahtomedi
6 Hopkins
7 Mounds View
8 Eastview
9 Minnetonka
tie 10 Delano
tie 10 Elk River

1 Sophie Reddy, Edina
2 Isabella Lambert, Minnetonka
3 Meagan Brown, Elk River
4 Natalie Lorentz, St. Louis Park
5 Maddie Suk, Hopkins
6 Samantha Nichols, Eagan
7 Alexandra Kopiecki, Mounds View
8 Karin Young, Eastview
9 Savanna Crowell, Prior Lake
tie 10 Taylor Tarrolly, St. Cloud Tech
tie 10 Zoe Klass Warch , St. Paul Central

Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/24/2016 3:51:57 PM

John’s Top Five Concession Items
1. Buffalo football/ bison burgers
2. Stillwater soccer/ hot dogs
3. Montevideo football/ ice cream
4. Lakeville North cross-country/ chicken soup
5. Bethlehem Academy volleyball/ hot dogs

Champlin Park Tennis: ‘We All Cheer For Each Other’
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 9/22/2016 11:16:09 AM

Tuesday was an important day for the Champlin Park High School girls tennis team. It was photo day, with a professional photographer set up on the courts to shoot individual and team photos. Practice was put on pause for the day and fun reigned.

As they waited their turn in front of the camera, the 65 athletes hung out with their teammates; laughing, chatting, playing with coach Luke Shaw’s dog Ollie. Sixty-one of the tennis players wore game uniforms: tank tops and shorts. Four of them were dressed a little differently: long sleeves, athletic pants and hijabs, which are head scarves worn by Muslim women.

They may not have all dressed the same, but the 65 Rebels tennis players had everything else imaginable in common, including their enjoyment of tennis. They talked, they sang, they danced.

“I like being with friends and hanging out. It’s a sport I enjoy,” said ninth-grader Alisha Remtulla. Junior Arshia Hussain added, “I like the sense of community it has. We all cheer for each other.”

Alisha and Arshia were wearing something new to this year’s uniforms for the Muslim players. Their hijabs included team logos: rackets and the words “Rebel Tennis.”

The team hijabs, created by the players with help from the coaches, are a source of pride for everyone.

“As a team, we’re trying to reflect the diversity of our school,” Shaw said. “We have a large team with 65 kids and each year it gets a little more diverse. By having these young Muslim women walking through the halls wearing their tennis gear, it’s showing other young Muslim women that there’s a place for them on our tennis team. We’re glad they’re willing to promote our team through team hijabs.”

Senior Fatema Nathu is the most experienced tennis player among the Muslim girls. She plays on the varsity squad while the others – Alisha, Arshia and sophomore Hanaan Yusuf (who wore a “Rebels Lacrosse Superfan” t-shirt -- play on lower-level teams. All four were born in the U.S.; their parents or grandparents came to this country from all over the world.

“I’ve played tennis on and off since I was 6,” Fatema said. “I love how it’s an individual sport and a team sport. You get to work with yourself but you’re also together as a team. You get the best of both worlds.”

Having Muslim athletes as teammates has been a positive for all the Champlin Park players.

“Throughout our school we’re very diverse,” said senior Stacy Smith. “Our team is kind of leading others.”

Adding team logos to the hijabs this year provided a boost to team pride.

Fatema said, “I feel like it’s a really big deal because as Muslim athletes no one really pays attention to us, you could say. We are recognized as other athletes but with the hijab you’re being included with the uniform and you feel welcome and a part of something.”

Arshia added, “I think it’s a big step up for our team as well as our school. We’re representing our school and our tennis team. It’s specific to us and I really like how it says ‘Rebel Tennis.’ ”

Arshia’s mother, Nausheena Hussain, said, “Last year she absolutely loved being on the tennis team. That team, it feels like family. In high school you want to fit in, you want to be accepted. And it’s hard when you don’t look like the dominant culture and you visibly stand out. The coaches have been really great.

“Can you just imagine the feeling of somebody caring about the way you incorporate your faith into your extracurricular activities? It gave them the feeling that they truly are family. The coaches are like second parents to these kids. I’m really thankful they were able to have these hijabs for the girls.”

The response to the logo hijabs from teammates, other teams and parents from other schools has been positive.

“When we got them, people were saying things like, ‘Oh, I love that and it’s so amazing that our team got those,’ ” Arshia said. “Playing at matches, your opponent will tell you that they really like your gear, too.”

Alishia said, “Even walking across to go somewhere, all the parents will be like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool.’ They have you turn you head and they’ll say, ‘Oh, this is so great that the school is doing this for you.’ ”

Shaw said the Muslim team members are all quiet, respectful kids and great teammates.

“It’s been very positive. The girls helped design (the logo hijabs) and get them done. We try to do our best to be inclusive and our hope is that the younger girls see it, come out and be a part of our team, too.”

The Rebels tennis players are happy to be examples for other Muslims who might be considering joining teams.

“It’s a great way to encourage other Muslim athletes, not just here but in other districts and hopefully soon around the world,” Fatema said. “So people aren’t afraid to come out of their bubble just because they’re thinking, ‘Oh, I wear hijab so I won’t be able to play.’ You can do whatever you want. The head scarf doesn’t restrict you from doing anything you want to do.”

--To see a photo gallery from the Champlin Park tennis team, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 62
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 2,117

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