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Ellsworth: A Small Town That Accomplishes Big Things
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/31/2011 2:00:22 PM

I witnessed two major accomplishments on Saturday … well, truthfully one of them was much more important than the other.

The first – and least important -- accomplishment was reaching the 7,000-mile mark. Since the 2010-11 school year began, I have driven 7,343 miles in writing about, talking about and learning about high school activities in Minnesota. Lately it seems like most of the miles have been driven through snow, and that was the case Saturday when I traveled to Ellsworth, the site of the day’s truly astounding accomplishment

Ellsworth is in southwestern Minnesota, and the school is exactly one mile from the Iowa border. Snow rolled through that part of the world Saturday afternoon, making it a less-than-delighful drive. But once I walked into the school, everything was beyond delightful.

Ellsworth is in my personal wheelhouse: a town of about 500 citizens, a high school with an enrollment of 61 students ... very similar to my own upbringing. Small towns are places where everybody knows everybody and they know how to get things done. And they did some very special things in Ellsworth on Saturday.

The Panthers boys’ basketball teams played Westbrook-Walnut Grove in a C-B-varsity tripleheader, and it was Ellsworth’s second annual Coaches vs. Cancer day. Last year the event raised more than $1,500, and Saturday’s tally was more than $2,200. That’s an amazing amount of money for such a small town and school. But it’s no surprise in Ellsworth, where more than $27,000 was raised last summer to replace the basketball court in the gym.The old court was there since the 1950s and the new court is as first-rate as they come.

“It speaks for all the people willing to help and chip in,” said Ellsworth boys’ basketball coach Tyler Morris, who is the driving force behind the Coaches vs. Center efforts in Ellsworth. He takes no credit, but he works year-round to plan the event and gather donations for raffles, a silent auction and basketball bingo.

The hallway outside the gym was filled with tables that carried all kinds of prizes: t-shirts, banners, backpacks, fruit, candy, CDs, hats, power tools, Timberwolves and Twins tickets and autographed items from the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, the Wild’s Niklas Backstrom, the Twins’ Tony Oliva, the 1954 Milan, Indiana, basketball team (which inspired the movie “Hoosiers”) and former University of Minnesota football coach Tim Brewstar (donated while Brewster was still with the Gophers). There also were coupons for free subs, free golf, beef jerky from Ellsworth Locker and a one-year family membership at the nearby Luverne pool and fitness center (a $499 value).

People bought tickets for the raffle items, they filled out silent auction forms and everybody played basketball bingo. That entailed buying a bingo card that instead of numbers contained events that happen during basketball games. It was interesting to see something happen on the court – a traveling call, an over-and-back, a ball bouncing off the rim and behind the glass, etc. – and then seeing a couple people scurry out of the gym with their now-filled card to select a prize.

“We’re trying to raise awareness and have fun,” Morris said. “It’s easy to pass a bucket in the stands and get donations, but it’s a lot more fun to get people involved.”

The Westbrook-Walnut Grove players wore pink Coaches vs. Cancer t-shirts during warm-ups, coaches from both teams dressed in pink shirts and/or ties, the Ellsworth players wore pink socks, the Ellsworth cheerleaders wore pink sashes around their waists and a majority of the fans wore pink shirts, hats, headbands, socks, etc.

Ellsworth won Class 1A boys’ basketball titles in 2007 and 2008 and finished second at state in 2003, 2006 and 2009. The current Panthers, ranked ninth in 1A, beat Westbrook-Walnut Grove 73-27 Saturday to improve to 13-2.

The Ellsworth gym is one of those places that is brimming with history and character. Most of the fans sit on one side of the court, with a few more on metal bleachers on the stage across the floor. The teams sit on chairs in front of the stage, and the scorers table is up on the stage. A small stepladder is placed right in front of the scorers table, allowing the officials to climb up and sign the official scorebook.

My first trip to Ellsworth came a few years ago, when an assignment for the Minneapolis Star Tribune took me and photographer David Joles to town for a couple days. At the time, the Panthers’ Cody Schilling was closing in on the state’s all-time career scoring record. David and I saw two games in Ellsworth, Cody drove us around on a tour of the town (which didn’t take long) and we visited the Schilling family farm.

I was able to reunite with Cody’s parents, Clayton and Carla, on my latest trip. Their youngest son, Casey, is a 6-foot-5 junior for the Panthers, Cody is a junior on the basketball team at Augustana College in Sioux Falls and oldest son Curt is the athletic director, a teacher and coach at George-Little Rock, Iowa, a few miles south of Ellsworth.

Clayton had a great trivia question for me: Who holds their school’s career scoring record, which will never be broken, but ranks fourth in scoring in their own family? The answer is Carla Schilling. She is the all-time girls’ basketball scoring leader at George High School, and her mark will never fall because George is now consolidated with Little Rock. And her three sons all have passed her career points mark.

Old friends, a small town and a tremendous amount of money raised for a terrific cause. Could anything be better than that?

How about this: Saturday was Tyler Morris’ 31st birthday.

Like I said, it was a very special day.

--For photo galleries and a video clip from Ellsworth, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 329
*Miles John has driven: 7,343

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

No. 1 Meets No. 1, And The Game Lives Up To Expectations
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/27/2011 11:45:10 PM

When the latest boys’ hockey rankings were released by Let’s Play Hockey on Wednesday, all eyes turned to Thursday night’s game at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood.

That’s because it suddenly became a match between two top-ranked teams. St. Thomas Academy already held the top spot in the Class 1A rankings, and Hill-Murray moved from No. 4 to No. 1 this week in Class 2A.

The game was worthy of the hype, too. Hill-Murray led 3-1 after two periods (with Bob Bruski scoring twice), the Cadet tied it 3-3 with two-third period goals by A.J. Reid, and Hill-Murray finally sealed the victory when sophomore Jake Guentzel scored with 1 minute, 13 seconds left in regulation.

Hill-Murray improved to 11-4 overall and 7-0 in the Classic Suburban Conference. St. Thomas Academy is 10-5 overall and 5-1 in the Classic Suburban.

The decision certainly secured the Pioneers’ position atop the 2A rankings and the loss probably won’t knock St. Thomas Academy off the No. 1 spot in 1A. The Cadets appear to have the more challenging remaining schedule, with four of 10 games against ranked opponents.

Hill-Murray has upcoming games against two ranked foes: #6-1A South St. Paul on Feb. 10 and a rematch with St. Thomas Academy on Feb. 19.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 327
*Miles John has driven: 6,893

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

Remembering Moorhead’s Phil Seljevold
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/27/2011 11:09:53 AM

Phil Seljevold, a 1945 Moorhead High graduate, passed away on Janury 8. In 1958, Seljevold began working as the elementary physical education supervisor for Moorhead Area Public Schools. In 1968, he began a 21-year career as the athletic director for the school district. Seljevold was inducted into the Moorhead High School Hall of Honor in 2008. Here is his Hall of Fame biography …

Phil Seljevold graduated from Moorhead High School in 1945. While at Moorhead High, Seljevold participated in band, orchestra, choir, basketball, football and track and was a class officer one year. He was co-captain of the basketball team in 1945.

Seljevold graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, in 1950 with a double major in physics and health and physical education. He earned a master’s degree in education from Minnesota State University Moorhead.

His employment history includes working at Industrial Loan, Sears, Bob Fritz Sporting Goods and Borders Insurance. Seljevold also taught for part of a year in Dilworth, Minn. In 1958, Seljevold began working as the elementary physical education supervisor for the Moorhead Area Public Schools. He served in that position for 10 years. In 1968, he began a 21-year career as the athletic director for the school district.

As athletic director, Seljevold was a part of the 1970s move to include girls in athletic programs. He was named Region 8AA Athletic Director of the Year four times. During his years as athletic director, Seljevold served as president of the Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, was chair of the Region 8AA Committee, and chair of the District 23 Committee. In 1996, Seljevold was inducted into the Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Hall of Fame for his contributions to Minnesota high school athletics.

Seljevold has served as a chairman of the Moorhead Athletic Association, was president of the Vikingland Kiwanis Club of Moorhead in 1992, and was council chair of Good Shepherd Church in 1992. In 1995 Seljevold was chairman of the all-school reunion. He was chairman of the Moorhead High School Stadium Committee, which raised funds to build Jim Gotta Stadium in 2000. Seljevold also was active in the creation of the Moorhead High School Hall of Honor. As a member of the Hall of Honor committee, Seljevold served as chair of the selection committee for several years.

Phil and Adeline Seljevold are the parents of four children and eleven grandchildren.

The Return of Tyus Jones ... And The Turnaround
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/25/2011 10:42:43 PM

Tyus Jones was a little down after Tuesday night’s basketball game, but the Apple Valley freshman was also happy to be playing again. He suffered a lacerated kidney in the Eagles’ first game of the season and missed the next 13 games.

But Jones – the highest-profile young basketball player in Minnesota -- received medical clearance on Monday and played a team-high 32 minutes, 2 seconds in Apple Valley’s 83-70 loss to Lakeville North on Tuesday. The 6-foot-1 point guard scored 10 points, all in the first half.

There was a certain amount of anticipation in Jones’ return. Gophers coach Tubby Smith was in the crowd, for example. Before tipoff someone said to me, “So you came for The Return, huh?” And that indeed was the theme in the first half, with Apple Valley leading 42-32 at intermission. (In the photo, Jones is defending against North's Al Erickson.)

But the theme changed to “The Turnaround” in the second half, with Lakeville North opening the half with a 17-0 run and taking a 10-point lead seven minutes into the half. Lakeville North was led by Adam Petterson with 24 points and Tyler Flack with 21. It’s no coincidence that both of them stand 6-foot-6; they were big in the comeback, with Flack getting 15 points in the second half and Petterson 14.

Flack led the highlight reel with two alley-oop dunks, one on a pass from Al Erickson and the other with an assist by Devin Shockley. While North’s big guys were attacking, Apple Valley was dealing with foul trouble. Tom Schalk (25 points), the Eagles’ 6-7 center who has signed with William & Mary, fouled out with 4:24 to play, and that put Apple Valley in a big hole. It didn’t help that guard Dustin Fronk also fouled out.

North shot 42 percent in the first half and 60 percent in the second, outscoring Apple Valley 51-28 in the final 18 minutes.

--See a postgame video interview with Tyus Jones, plus a photo gallery, on the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 325
*Miles John has driven: 6,835

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

Fund Set Up For Perham's Zach Gabbard
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/24/2011 8:16:35 PM

A fund has been set up at United Community Bank in honor of Perham High School basketball player Zach Gabbard.

Zach is a 17-year-old junior on the Yellowjacket boys' basketball team who collapsed during a varsity game on Jan. 20. After receiving emergency medical procedures, he was taken to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, where open heart surgery was performed. Once stable, Zach was moved to the University of Minnesota on Sunday for more specialized care.

A fund has been set up at United Community Bank in Perham to help his family defray medical costs. Friends can also visit his CaringBridge site to offer thoughts and prayers for his family. Donations can be made at any UCB location (Perham, Frazee, Dean’s Country Foods in Perham) in the name of the Zach Gabbard Fund. They can also be sent to United Community Bank at 155 Second Street SW, Perham MN 56573.

For more information, call United Community Bank at 218-346-5700, or go to their website, www.ucbankmn.com.

Live Updates from Board of Directors Meeting ...
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/23/2011 9:26:45 PM

The meeting has come to an end. There's been some good discussion about today's board meeting on the MSHSL Facebook page. Take a look.

12:20 update ...

Here’s the headline from today’s meeting: No changes in football.

The board had a lengthy discussion about the possibilities of going to section football scheduling and changing the structure of football classes, including a Class 6A for the biggest 5A teams.

But in the end, board members wanted to have more information before making any decisions. There was a feeling that adjusting classes and section scheduling are two distinct issues.

Board member Mike Rusinko said, “In consideration of section football, what would be the recommended model from the football coaches and the staff? You’ve got kind of a chicken-or-egg thing here.”

Board secretary John Schumacher said one question he has been asked makes sense: “How can we mandate section scheduling when we don’t even know which format (number of classes, number of schools in each class) will be used?”

Board member Ray Kirch said, “I would be uncomfortable voting for section football today. We don’t know what it would look like. There’s no skin on it. … Bring back to our April meeting something we could vote on.”

The board approved a motion to gather more information, as well as more specifics, and return to the issue at its April meeting.

11:35 update ...

The board has ...

--Approved a new format for the state wrestling tournament, effective with this year’s tournament in March. The tournament was changed from four days to three days, with team competition on the first day and individual competition on the second and third days. This year’s tourney will be held March 3-5 at Xcel EnergyCenter. Changes such as these are being done with two objectives in mind: a reduction in missed class time and lower expenses for schools.

--The board heard a presentation about the FIRST Robotics program. The MSHSL is considering adding robotics to its programs.

--The board approved the use of pull carts by golfers.

--The board approved the use of electronic play clocks in football facilities that are equipped with them. Otherwise, officials will continue keeping the play clock.

Today's meeting is underway. I'll post updates as the meeting progresses.

Eden Prairie junior swimmer Rachel Bootsma, who set a national high school record in the 100-yard backstroke at the state meet in November, was recognized at today's board meeting (see photo). Carol Bomben, a member of the Eden Prairie school board as well as the MSHSL board, presented Rachel with a commemorative copy of the MSHSL Bulletin, with Rachel on the cover.

The MSHSL Board of Directors will meet Monday morning, with the gavel falling at 9:30 a.m.

The agenda includes several items of interest, including possible changes to the format for football and the format for the upcoming state wrestling tournament. The board also will hear recommendations from several activity advisory committees, in addition to other agenda items.

Discussion items include adding an extra week for football practice, and the board will hear a presentation about robotics.

I'll post immediate short updates on Twitter (@MSHSLJohn), with further postings on the MSHSL Facebook page and of course right here on John's Journal.

A Splendid Night For School Activities
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/21/2011 10:55:58 PM

The good news: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Crystal Lake Elementary School in Lakeville on Friday. The bad news: He didn’t bring a truckful of money with him.

The Lakeville school district is having severe budget problems. The district is facing a two-year deficit of $15.8 million, and lots of things are on the chopping block after voters rejected three levy questions in November. Teachers and other staff could be cut to the tune of 100 jobs, as could several activity programs, including gymnastics, golf and lacrosse on the high school level.

Knowing all this, I drove to Lakeville North High School on Friday evening for a girls’ basketball game between North and Bloomington Jefferson. The game itself was reason enough to be there, with the defending Class 4A state champs from North ranked No. 3 and Jefferson No. 10. North came away with a 59-30 victory, and there were lots of other reasons why people in Lakeville should be proud of their schools and their activities.

They know how to put on a show at North. The pep band is one of the biggest, loudest bands you will find anywhere (I counted 21 drums and seven tubas). Before the game began, members of Lakeville’s 2001 state championship girls’ basketball team were honored (they're pictured here) and a Lakeville sixth-grade girls’ basketball team was introduced; all the players, young and slightly older, threw t-shirts into the crowd.

People did the chicken dance during timeouts … the gym horn sounds like the horn on my dad’s Mercury … at halftime North senior Kellie McNeil received a trophy for being named the Gatorade volleyball player of the year in Minnesota (North won the state championship last fall). Also at halftime, the dance team performed to loud cheers and a frisbee toss was held, with the tossers landing their frisbees closest to center court winning a prize.

After the game, everybody in attendance, including the officials, was invited to a free pizza party in the school cafeteria.

It was loud, it was fun and it was festive.

And it was all the proof you need to realize the value of school activites.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 323
*Miles John has driven: 6,823

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

Football Needs To Be Fixed, And Here’s Why
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/19/2011 11:42:08 AM

When the MSHSL board of directors meets on Monday here at MSHSL World Headquarters, the routine will be the same as for all board meetings. The Pledge of Allegiance will be recited … the minutes of the previous meeting will be approved … reports will be made by board members and committees, etc. It will be business as usual.

The agenda includes several categories and encompasses 15 separate items; some for discussion, some for information purposes and some for action by the board. Among the agenda listings is “Action Item D: Concept for Football Tournament Format.”

For real-world purposes, however, it could be called “It’s Time To Fix Football.”

I’ve been writing about high school activities in Minnesota for a long time. I joined the MSHSL staff 10 months ago after spending nearly 20 years working in the sports department at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Over the years, I have been asked the same question many times: “What’s your favorite high school sport?”

The first answer is always the same: “I love ‘em all, because they all offer something different and they all are fun.” Sometimes I will spin the original question a tick or two and respond with something like this: “For pure theater, for enjoying a total, wonderful scene that goes beyond the playing field, Friday night football games are my favorite event.”

For those of you who follow football closely, you have noticed some changes in recent years. It began with a high-profile Twin Cities story as the Classic Lake Conference fell apart. Then the dominos began to fall. The Lake Conference disbanded. There was shuffling in the Missota Conference and the Wright County Conference. The dominos continue to fall in the metro area as well as all around Minnesota.

Schools from Duluth have been placed in the Mississippi 8 Conference. The new Granite Ridge Conference will begin play next fall … and those schools all came from other conferences. Almost everywhere you look in our state, conferences are in jeopardy. If it hasn’t happened in your conference, just wait because it probably will.

As I travel around Minnesota, I often ask football coaches and athletic directors about their football issues. More and more, they are having trouble filling their schedules. This isn’t just happening with giant metro schools, but with midsized and small schools, too.

That’s why football needs to be fixed. It’s the elephant in the room, sitting on your coffee table and crushing it. It can’t be ignored any longer. If football didn’t exist, conferences wouldn’t be crumbling. But football is the problem and it’s hurting every other sport and activity as it sinks conferences.

The MSHSL does not have the power to create, shape or form conferences. It can place schools into conferences when they have run out of options, but that’s all it can do. So, where do we go from here?

Two words: Section football.

It makes too much sense to pretend that it’s not the answer. Yes, it will change some traditions, because longtime rivalries might fade. It might not be the best answer for your individual school or even your conference, but try to think about Minnesota high school football from a broader perspective. Right now, the sport is being chewed away at the corners. Section football will end those problems before more damage can be done. And remember, just because your school doesn’t have problems right now doesn’t mean those problems aren’t turning the corner and coming your way.

This issue has been discussed at length. Football coaches have met to come up with solutions; athletic directors have done the same. The MSHSL board has been listening to football concerns for years.

Many states have section football with great success. It could work like this: Each school would be assigned to a football section with approximately seven other teams. Playing each section opponent would mean seven games, leaving one non-section game to be scheduled. Again, some conference traditions would be disrupted. Some teams may have to travel farther under section football, but the longest trips would only be made every other year.

In addition to being a scheduling solution, section football also could lead to a new playoff structure. One of the biggest concerns with the football playoffs are section quarterfinal games between teams seeded No.1 and No. 8. The No. 8 seeds have virtually no chance of winning those games (there were two forfeits last season), and many question if they should be played at all. Sections standings could determine playoff seedings, and maybe only the top four or six teams in each section would advance to the postseason. Teams that do not qualify for the playoffs could schedule an additional game against a team in the same boat.

The MSHSL board members will once again discuss the football situation on Monday. They may take no action, they may approve subtle adjustments, they may approve wholesale changes in the football format.

This much is clear: something has to be done. Because as football continues to flounder, it will take other sports and activities – not to mention conferences -- down with it.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 320
*Miles John has driven: 6,811

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

Talk Fast, State The Facts And Make Your Argument
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/14/2011 9:06:56 PM


The previous sentence was written in the format used by students who compete in the state debate tournament. I visited this competition for the first time on Friday, and I was amazed at how quickly the competitors speak. That’s because they want to provide as much information for the judges in the time allowed, and talking slowly would simply be a waste of time.

Here’s that opening sentence again, presented at normal speed: The state debate tournament is a very unique event but describing it can be difficult.

The debate tournament was held in classrooms at Blegen Hall on the University of Minnesota campus. And I’ll be honest: I had a very hard time understanding what was being said in both divisions of the state tournament. The Policy Debate division consists of two-person teams, while Lincoln-Douglas is a one vs. one format. I don’t know if one in 10 words was understandable to me, so I would make a very bad judge. I was amazed at the judges’ ability to understand what was being said. But the judges and competitors work so hard at this activity that I’m sure they become accustomed to the rapid-fire pace.

This year’s Lincoln-Douglas debate topic is “Resolved: In the United States, juveniles charged with violent felonies ought to be treated as adults in the criminal justice system.”

The topic for Policy Debate is “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its military and/or police presence in one or more of the following: South Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey.”

I sat in on several sessions Friday. There were four rounds of debates Friday, with two more rounds on Saturday before the quarterfinalists are determined. Then come semifinals and finals.

Here are few observations, jotted down in my notebook …

--I heard references to “The Colbert Report” and “Star Wars.”

--Some students were dressed to the nines. I saw males in black suits and red ties (perfect for a courtroom) and females in very nice dresses. I also saw competitors wearing jeans, hoodies and tennis shoes. My impression? The arguments you make are far more important than how you look.

--Timing is everything. Every competitor and judge carries a small timer or uses a stopwatch application on their cell phone. Each segment of each debate is under a time frame. It was interesting to hear five timers/stopwatches beep at once when a time limit was reached.

--Everybody also had a laptop computer. I was told that not long ago the students hauled around large boxes of files, with all the necessary information available at their fingertips. It’s still at their fingertips, but it’s now stored inside computers and flash drives. But some students still had plastic containers that carried information on paper.

--There isn’t much of a spectator aspect to debate, at least in the preliminary rounds. At the state speech tournament, many classrooms are overloaded with spectators. That was not the case Friday. Other than the debaters and judges, there were one or two other people in the room. During one debate, a sleepy spectator sprawled out on the floor and took a nap.

--There is a lot of gasping for air. The students speak so rapidly that taking in oxygen seems like a waste of time. So they talk as quickly as possible, pause just long enough to gulp in some air and continue with the machine-gun style of speaking.

--Between rounds, students and their coaches met in the hallways, talking strategy and how to handle upcoming rounds. Pizza was available for sale. A lounge for the judges offered snacks, box lunches and soft drinks (including my favorite beverage).

--A question I jotted down: “How much time is spent on researching the facts of the topic and how much time is spent on perfecting the rapid style of speaking?”

--I was never involved in debate when I was in high school. One of our teachers was interested in starting a debate team, and on a Saturday he convinced me and three other students to travel with him to a debate tournament about 30 miles away. We watched, we observed, we took everything in. As soon as we walked out of the school where the tournament was held, my buddies agreed with what I was saying in my head: “I’m not nearly smart enough to do that.”


Diet Coke Count: 2

(To see more photos, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

*Schools/teams John has visited: 320
*Miles John has driven: 6,811

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

An Entertaining Day With School Board Members
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/13/2011 8:52:57 PM

The MSHSL staff spent Thursday away from World Headquarters and gathered at the Minneapolis Convention Center for the Minnesota School Boards Association’s 90th annual Leadership Conference. Part of our mission was having fun with school board members from around the state, as well as informing the members about current MSHSL topics.

The morning was spent in a roomy corner of the convention center, where MSHSL staffers set up several athletic activities in which school board members could test their skills. There was a softball throw, basketball field-goal shooting, hockey puck shooting and golf putting. Lots of school board reps tried their hand at the games, and those with the best scores returned to the area for a championship round in the early afternoon.

After the finals, trophies were awarded to the top three finishers (with men’s and women’s divisions) in each game. It was a lot of fun for all of us.

Later in the afternoon two sessions were held in a meeting room, with MSHSL staff informing the school board members on what’s currently taking place with the League. Executive director Dave Stead, associate directors Kevin Merkle, Jody Redman, Lisa Lissimore and Craig Perry, as well as myself, talked about things like eligibility, coaching certification, Anyone Can Save A Life, the Excel, Triple A and other awards and possible changes to the football playoff structure. I spoke about my duties, including the Student Sports Information Directors program.

Board member asked lots of good questions and hopefully the answers were valuable. This is an annual event for the MSHSL, and everyone looks forward to it.

--Looking ahead, the state debate tournament will be held Friday and Saturday at the University of Minnesota. I am excited about attending this important event for the first time, and I’ll post a report on the event Friday evening.

Television History … Was Not Made At Roseville
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/12/2011 12:50:26 PM

I knew Tuesday was going to be an entertaining evening as soon as I reached the broadcast location at Roseville High School and saw a Diet Coke, sitting in ice and just waiting for me to crack it open.

Setting the scene: professional broadcaster Jerry Otto Jr. and the professional crew from CTV Channel 15, hampered throughout a boys’ basketball game by a rookie analyst who offered insightful analysis along the lines of “Gee, that was a nice play” and “He went up strong on that shot” and “This one is for all the Tostitos.”

OK, I didn’t use the Tostitos line (Brent Musberger wishes he could say the same thing) during the cablecast of the game between Park and Roseville. I had a great time; that much is for certain. Whether I offered much in the way of expert commentary … that answer is pretty certain, too. I had a great time, though.

The game was not close, with Roseville winning 74-34. The Raiders are a very good team, worthy of a top 10 ranking in Class 4A (which I did mention during the broadcast). They have good size, they hustle and they have a strong array of outside shooters.

One of their bench players is a 5-foot-8 eighth-grade guard who is the son of coach Ted Critchley and the grandson of assistant coach Tom Critchley Sr. This is, of course, a basketball family, so it should probably be no surprise that the eighth-grader’s name is Kobe Critchley. I made an on-air crack wondering if he had a brother named Shaq, and that was about the extent of my humorous remarks.

Jerry and I sat above the bleachers in a balcony. This offered a much better view of the game than had we been seated at courtside. We sat on folding chairs at a card table … no, this isn’t exactly ESPN. CTV 15 broadcasts a lot of high school sports, and the schedule right now is filled with basketball, hockey and gymnastics.

The halftime score was 40-13 and the second half was little more than running time and a “name the final score” type of proposition. So the conversation between Jerry and I (Jerry's the good-looking guy in the hat) veered away from basketball at times. He asked me about my job duties here at MSHSL World Headquarters, how many Diet Cokes I threw down during the Prep Bowl, etc. The game was officiated by the veteran two-man crew of Brad Panning and Scott Hill, so we talked about two-man vs. three-man crews.

I took my last sip of the Diet Coke (it was a big one, too, a 24-ouncer) as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Jerry thanked me for joining him, and then he signed off.

It was a great night for television. My face never appeared on camera once. Smart decision.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 316
*Miles John has driven: 6,769

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

A Rookie Hoops Analyst Prepares For His Debut
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/10/2011 6:09:35 PM

I have been on television several times, but always in short bursts. The usual stint for me is something along the lines of a halftime interview during the Prep Bowl (which happened in November) or a few seconds of me chattering on camera about some high school activities issue.

Well, a dumb fox is about to wander into a henhouse filled with smart chickens. I have been invited to work as a guest television analyst during play-by-play coverage of a boys’ basketball game Tuesday night, and I’m smart enough to know that I’m not nearly smart enough to be good at this gig. But I’m also smart enough to know that trying new things can be exciting … if not pretty.

This isn’t a national telecast (how frightening would that be … I mean, for the viewers?) This telecast of a game between Park and Roseville will be shown on CTV Channel 15, which is part of a non-profit community access organization operated by the North Suburban Access Corporation and representing the cities of Arden Hills, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Little Canada, Mounds View, New Brighton, North Oaks, Roseville, St. Anthony and Shoreview.

The guy leading the on-air rodeo will be Jerry Otto Jr. I have known Jerry for a long time and he is a first-rate broadcaster. He will handle the play-by-play duties and I will do my impersonation of the lead character in “The King’s Speech” (if you don’t know what that movie is about, go to the Google).

A couple weeks ago, Jerry had asked if I would be interested in doing some color commentary during a game. Thinking he was clearly desperate, I said “Sure!” Jerry phoned me Sunday afternoon with the invitation to work during Tuesday night’s game at Roseville. I’m happy to do it, because Jerry is as good as they come and I’m sure he will carry me on his back.

In the meantime, I’m doing some prep work; looking at rosters, statistics, etc. In a nice stroke of luck, I saw Roseville play Saturday in the Timberwolves Shootout at Target Center. So I’ve got that going for me.

In order to gauge the fan base for this epic television experiment, here is what I will do: Once the game starts (meaning after the opening tipoff), the first person to bring a Diet Coke (preferably cold and unopened) to me at my broadcast location will receive a nice gift.

And I’ll see if I can find a volunteer to shoot some photos of Jerry and John during the broadcast. This moment needs to be recorded for posterity ... or something like that.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 314
*Miles John has driven: 6,745

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

A Day For Preps In A Pro Setting
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/8/2011 10:22:20 PM

I was sitting courtside at Target Center on Saturday, watching the 2011 Timberwolves Shootout. Now in its 15th year, the Shootout is one of the highlights of the boys’ basketball season.

Watching Minnesota teams play teams from South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa, I thought back to the 2007 Shootout, when a high school senior named Kevin Love played here with his Lake Oswego, Oregon, teammates. Love, of course, spent one year at UCLA and now is a fixture with the Timberwolves.

Lake Oswego defeated Osseo 74-58 in the Shootout that year, with Love getting 41 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. I enjoyed talking with him after that game, even though no one knew at the time that he would be playing for the Timberwolves only two years later. He talked about the thrill of playing in an NBA arena, and it was clear that the thrill was real for him.

During Saturday’s Shootout, the Timberwolves worked out on their Target Center practice court. As they left the building, some of them chatted with the high school players who were there for the Shootout. My favorite memory from Saturday: a young man from Onalaska High School in Wisconsin proudly showing teammates a cell-phone photo of himself with the Wolves’ Michael Beasley.

The biggest news Saturday came off the court when Linn-Mar, Iowa, junior point guard Marcus Paige announced that he plans to play collegiately at North Carolina. This came just moments before Linn-Mar met Apple Valley.

Minnesota teams love playing in the Shootout because of the possible postseason payoff. Should they advance to the state tournament, the semifinals and championship games are also played at Target Center. (In Class 4A and 2A, the 2011 state quarterfinals also will be held at Target Center; the other tourney site is Williams Arena.)

Back when the economy was strong, the Timberwolves were able to bring in some of the top high school teams from across the country; Love’s appearance fit that mold. When LeBron James was in high school in Ohio, the Timberwolves made an attempt to have his team play here … the rumor was that the price was quite high. In recent years the Shootout has become more of a regional draw, with the Minnesota teams’ opponents coming from surrounding states.

That was the format Saturday, when the lineup went like this:
--Roseville vs. Viborg/Hurley, South Dakota
--Benilde-St. Margaret’s vs. Onalaska, Wisconsin
--Chaska vs. Cedar Rapids Washington, Iowa
--Apple Valley vs. Linn-Mar, Iowa

The Minnesota teams went 1-3 at the Shootout. Here’s a recap …

--Roseville trailed undefeated Viborg-Hurley by 16 points with 10 minutes to play in the first game. But the Raiders whittled down the margin and an offensive rebound basket by Sam Peterson at the buzzer game them a 68-66 victory. Sophomore Mackenzie Johnson led Roseville (7-2) with 16 points and 6-9 junior Zach Kraning had 15 for the Cougars (5-1).

--Benilde-St. Margaret led by two at halftime but Onalaska outscored the Red Knights 40-33 in the second half of a 62-57 victory. Onalaska (8-0) shot 56.5 percent in the second half and led by 10 with 6:16 to play. Benilde took a 56-55 lead with 1:56 left before two layups and two free throws by Tony Thomas put Onalaska over the top. Isaiah Zierden has 19 points for BSM (5-3) and Clint Rihn had 16 for Onalaska.

--The Cedar Rapids Washington Warriors lost at home to Minnetonka on Friday night and were in downtown Minneapolis to meet Chaska in a 5 p.m. game Saturday. And they got themselves a dose of Minnesota revenge with a 59-55 win over the Hawks. Wesley Washpun led Washington with 23 points and Iowa Hawkeyes recruit Josh Oglesby had 20. For Chaska, Wichita State recruit Jake White had 26 (four below his state-best average) and Penn State signee Ross Travis had 13. Each team made 21 field goals, but Washington had one more three-point basket than Chaska (6 to 5) and made three more free throws (11 to 8).

--Apple Valley, playing without its two top players, lost to Linn-Mar 81-35. Freshman Tyus Jones, one of the top young recruits in the nation, has missed much of the season with a kidney injury. And Eagles senior Tom Schalk, who has signed with William & Mary, sat out with an ankle injury.

--Diet Coke Count: 3

*Schools/teams John has visited: 314
*Miles John has driven: 6,745

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

Remembering Martin Carter
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/6/2011 8:24:51 PM

(The following was originally published in the Park Rapids Enterprise. It was written by Anna Erickson of the Enterprise.)

Martin Carter, well-loved instructor and drama coach in Park Rapids, will be remembered for his selfless commitment to others.

He passed away Wednesday, Dec. 22, at age 76.

Students were a priority for Carter. Each one was important and there was no such thing as a small part, in his opinion.

“Martin was magic,” said Joey Collins, who taught with Carter for five years in Park Rapids. “It was never about Martin. It was always about the other person.”

Carter was a mentor for Collins, who began student teaching in Park Rapids in 1975. Although she only taught with Carter for five years, she said their lives were intertwined over the years and they stayed in touch. (In this photo, Martin sat on stage in 1993.)

He started teaching in Park Rapids in 1958. Although he initially thought he would stay in Park Rapids for just a few years, he made a career here, retiring 35 years later, in 1993.
The drama program rose to fame under his dedicated leadership.

During his career, Carter brought 19 one-act plays to state competition, with star performances at eight. He also led speech students to a high level, placing Park Rapids fourth overall in the state, including 10 years in competition with AA schools. He was also a coach for National Forensic League champions.

In March 1993 he was inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame with 10 other individuals from various disciplines. His photo is on the Hall of Fame wall in Brooklyn Center depicting all of Minnesota’s great achievers.

He racked up a collection of trophies unprecedented by any other Park Rapids organization. His classroom had two walls worth of shelves filled with trophies and additional trophy cases in the hall.

He formally retired in 1993 but continued to be involved in theater and speech at Park Rapids Area High School.

Juliann Kjenaas, current drama director in Park Rapids, has fond memories of working with Carter.

“He was quite the fixture at the school here,” she said. “He continued to come in and help critique students and make them better.”
He also helped judge one-act competitions after he retired. Kjenaas said Carter lived for bringing out the best in kids.

“The thing about Martin was that he was always there for the kids,” she said. “He was just a bigger than life character."

“He has sacrificed himself entirely. There is not anyone more dedicated to the kids in getting their full potential,” according to retired teacher Bruce Burkman for a previous story for the Enterprise. He worked with Carter as an English teacher and drama director.

Carter was also involved in community theater productions, including “The Music Man,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “The King and I,” and the “Wizard of Oz.”

He received the honor of Coach of the Year in 1988 for helping his own students as well as students from other schools. He also received the Outstanding Individual in Communication and Theatre Award by the Communication and Theater Association of Minnesota.

Carter worked with many students over the years and had a lasting impact on them. His legacy will remain at Park Rapids Area High School.

A New Arena, Great Hockey And Oh, The Food
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/3/2011 11:13:07 PM

Duluth is a special place. I’ve been visiting the North Shore for a long time now, with summer visits during vacations and winter trips centering around hockey. Hockey was again the theme Monday when I rolled north up Interstate 35, but this time there was much more than sticks and pucks.

As I wrote a couple days ago, my journey involved a high school hockey doubleheader, an MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors workshop and a visit to the new Amsoil Arena, which opened its doors just last week. The 6,764-seat arena is part of an $80 million expansion project at the DECC (Duluth Entertainment Convention Center), and it is a showplace.

I covered many hockey games at the DECC arena, which was one of the great old places to watch hockey. Amsoil retains some of that charm, but it is much roomier and brighter than the DECC arena. The two dozen high school students who gathered for Monday’s workshop were treated to a private tour of the arena, and they all loved it. As one of them told our tour guide from the DECC staff, “This place is awesome.”

The arena made its debut last week when a full house watched a men’s college hockey game pitting Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota. Monday’s event – a girls’ game between the Duluth Northern Stars and Proctor/Hermantown/Duluth Marshall and a boys’ game between Duluth East and Duluth Central – was very festive, with intermission fun that included pie-eating contests, mini-mite games, prizes and raffles. (Question of the night, posed during one of the pie-eating contests: “How much pie can a high school administrator eat?”)

And then there was, ah yes, the food at the concession stands. I kicked off the gastronomical festivities with a Polish sausage. What really caught my eye was seeing “Smoked wild rice brat” on the menu, but they weren’t quiet grilled to perfection during my first foray to the concession stand nearest the press box. I had one a little later, however, and that experience alone is enough to keep me coming back to town.

The day’s Diet Coke Count (the total is below) began at lunch with an actual Diet Coke, consumed as I drove north. Amsoil Arena, however, is a Pepsi joint, so the Diet Cokes the rest of the day were disguised as Diet Pepsi or Diet Mountain Dew. One was even a freebie; during the Student SID workshop I talked briefly about the monster that is the Diet Coke Count and how I sometimes drink Diet Mountain Dew. One of the students had come equipped with a Diet Mountain Dew in his backpack, and he presented it to me after the workshop. What a nice young man.

The hockey was outstanding. In the first game, the Duluth Northern Stars (6-8-1) came away with a 2-1 victory over Proctor/Hermantown/Marshall (8-6-1). The deciding goal was scored by ninth-grader Alexia Klaas for the Stars.

In the boys’ game, East led 2-0 after one period and went on to a 7-1 victory over Central, with seven different players getting the goals. Monday’s game marked the last time Central and East will play each other; Central will close in the spring and Denfeld will re-open next fall after being closed for a year during renovations. Central students will then attend Denfeld.

Duluth East (9-3), ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, has lost only to No. 1 Wayzata and No. 5 Edina, both by one-goal margins. Central (6-7) is ranked No. 15 in Class 1A

--One of the great mascots in Minnesota is the Duluth East Greyhound (pictured with the East cheerleaders). Whomever is inside that suit somehow manages to skate while wearing a giant dog head. Very, very impressive.

(To see more photos and a video from Amsoil Arena, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

--Diet Coke Count: 4

*Schools/teams John has visited: 306
*Miles John has driven: 6,559

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

We’ll Kick Off 2011 With A Full Day In Duluth
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 1/1/2011 9:31:00 PM

Hello and welcome back to the show. The holiday break is about at its end and the John’s Journal staff is gearing up for a blockbuster beginning to 2011. The new year will open in Duluth, and I’ll get to those details after this brief Hollywood interlude ...

Mr. and Mrs. John’s Journal have been spending time at the local cinemas over the holidays. In a one-week span, we saw “The King’s Speech”, “True Grit”, “The Fighter” and “Black Swan.” According to the Twitter messages dispatched to the universe by Mrs. Journal, “Black Swan” topped her list. My order of preference: “The King’s Speech”, “The Fighter”, “True Grit” and “Black Swan”. I loved ‘em all, and I put those four and “The Social Network” in my Top 5 for 2010.

OK, back to reality. By which I mean Duluth. We’ll be in the Air-Conditioned City on Monday for a day filled with good stuff. Our headquarters will be the brand new Amsoil Arena, hockey home of the UMD Bulldogs. The arena has been open for just a few days.

Monday’s big athletic draw will be a high school hockey doubleheader. The Duluth Northern Stars will meet Proctor/Hermantown/Duluth Marshall in a girls’ game at 5:30 p.m., followed by a boys’ game at 7:30 between Duluth East and Duluth Marshall. The evening has been dubbed “High School Hockey Frenzy.”

Our day will also include a gathering of high school students who are interested in the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program. Duluth East activities director Shawn Roed has been instrumental in setting up a workshop in which I will meet with students from several area schools. The students will learn about the Student SID program and maybe get a journalism tip or two along the way.

The students will be given a tour of the arena before the workshop, and they will be encouraged to stick around for the evening’s hockey doubleheader. It has the makings of a very special day.

I’ll be shooting photographs throughout the day in Duluth, with Twitter and Facebook activities highly likely.

--On another note, I’m looking for an event to attend on Tuesday evening. Basketball, hockey, dance team; you name it and I might be there. I have posed this question on the MSHSL Facebook page, so feel free to post suggestions there or send me an old-fashioned email. I’ll be back in the Twin Cities on Tuesday, so anything too far outside the metro might be a stretch that evening. But I’m open to any and all possibilities.

See you soon.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 302
*Miles John has driven: 6,249

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

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