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Hope Lutheran: Tiny Numbers, Huge Heart
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/28/2010 11:49:30 AM

WINONA, Minn. -- I was standing in one of the five classrooms at Hope Lutheran High School on Thursday, chatting with Tammy O’Laughlin and Angie Meyer, two of the five full-time teachers at the school with an enrollment of 37.

Question: How big is the senior class?

Answer: There are eight seniors.

Question: How many of those eight are going on to college?

Tammy and Angie started naming names. “Jamie, Felicia, Christine …” They quickly went down the list, naming all eight kids, all of whom are going to college.

Yes, Hope Lutheran is a tiny school that’s housed in the basement of a Lutheran elementary school and has no athletic facilities of its own and lacks lots of other things that people in most schools take for granted. But Hope Lutheran, which opened six years ago, has something that goes beyond brick and mortar and enrollment and numbers.

Hope Lutheran -- where everybody knows everybody by their first name – has family.

“Our school began as a dream for a few families who wanted their children to continue their Christian education in a high school setting,” said Meyer. “Their dream has become a reality but not without countless hours of work, as most of our school is run through volunteers.”

Meyer is typical of the staff at Hope Lutheran. Her duties include teaching physical education and health classes, working as an athletic administrator, head volleyball coach and assistant softball coach. Her husband, Kevin, is the head softball and boys’ basketball coach and their daughter, Felicia, is a senior pitcher who is 31 strikeouts away from the career state record.

Softball has become one of the hallmarks of Hope Lutheran. The Patriots are 17-2, ranked sixth in Class A and hoping to make the school’s first appearance in a state tournament. I watched Hope Lutheran squeak out a 2-0 victory over Lewiston-Altura on Thursday in a Section 1 East subsection game. The Patriots will meet Rushford-Peterson on Saturday at Todd Park in Austin as the tournament moves into double-elimination.

(For photos and video from Hope Lutheran, see MSHSL on Facebook.)

The eight seniors graduated on Friday, with the ceremony held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Right next door is St. Mark’s elementary school, with Hope Lutheran tucked in the basement. There are no plans for a larger space at this point.

“However long God wants us here, that’s how long we’ll be here,” said O’Laughlin, who teaches math and physics.

The school opened in 2003 with only a freshman class and added grades every year. This year’s seniors are the third graduating class. Sports offered are softball, volleyball, baseball and boys’ and girls’ basketball. All coaches are volunteers. Four Hope girls play hockey at Winona High School and the Patriots have a cooperative agreement for football with St. Charles High School, although the only football player from Hope is ninth-grader Brady Meyer … yes, he’s the son of Angie and Kevin (who is a volunteer assistant coach at St. Charles.)

Home games can be an issue, since Hope has no gym or athletic fields. Volleyball games are played at St. Mary’s University and the softball team’s home field is in the small town of Rollingstone (insert your own Mick Jagger reference here), 11 miles north of Winona. The Rollingstone field is postcard-worthy, set in a shady city park with a huge bluff serving as a backdrop behind center field.

But the field was built for youth baseball, meaning there is a pitcher’s mound. Softball pitchers throw from flat ground, which is not an issue this season. But next season the pitching rubber will move from 40 feet away from home plate to 43 feet. That means the mound will either have to be removed for the softball season or the Patriots will have to search for another home field.

During Thursday’s game, Kevin and Angie Meyer coached, Felicia pitched and Brady watched. Angie’s mother, Marcia Youngs, and her husband Jim worked in the concession stand, where their dog Gypsy lounged.

Cell phone signals are weak or nonexistent in Rollingstone. A local fan, watching someone staring into his phone, offered this advice: “The only place to get a signal is downtown, by the stop sign.”

After the Patriots defeated Lewiston-Altura, I asked Hope Lutheran senior first baseman Christine Klug about the softball team’s role in publicizing the school.

“It’s kind of too bad,” she said. “We’re so blessed to have such good coaches and such a good softball program, but it’s too bad people don’t know more about our school.”

Earlier Thursday, Christine and her fellow seniors, whose school year had already ended, played a prank on the underclassmen and teachers. The staff and 29 students walked to Godfather’s Pizza for a buffet lunch – yes, the entire school went out for lunch together. While the school was empty, the seniors removed all the desks and chairs from the classrooms and stacked them in the narrow hallway. They also wound giant rolls of shrink-wrap plastic around several vehicles.

It was all in fun and everybody got a big laugh out of it. And later in the day, virtually every student and parent was in Rollingstone, cheering for their team.

“A lot of people in Winona don’t even know what Hope Lutheran is,” Angie Meyer said. “But when you have a vision, it’s amazing what you can do.”

--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 Cool School, A Softball Game and Lots of Dead Bugs
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/27/2010 11:16:20 PM

I spent Thursday on the road, which is one of the best parts of my job. I visited a high school that most people in Minnesota – including some in the school’s hometown -- know nothing about.

I’m not going to give too much away (because there’s a story in the works), but the school is tiny enough to fit into a basement. This school also has a crackerjack softball team, and I watched the team play on Thursday in one of the nicest ballpark settings in the state.

On the way home I stopped for gas and cleaned off the windshield, but after about 10 minutes of driving -- as the sun was setting – another couple hundred insects had sacrificed themselves on my windshield.

All in all, it was a great day for being on the highways of Minnesota. Keep an eye on this space … the result of Thursday’s travels will be posted at some point Friday.

--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

Track Stars Give Something Back
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/26/2010 10:05:58 PM

During a track meet that was packed with stellar athletes who have some of the best times and distances in the state this spring, two former high school stars were the real celebrities at Wednesday’s Lake Conference finals at Rosemount.

One of the assistant coaches for the team from Apple Valley is Shani Marks, who graduated from Apple Valley in 1998. She was a state high school long jump champion as a senior, then became a world-class triple and long jumper at the University of Minnesota and competed in the 2008 Olympics. Shani is a two-time USA indoor champion, a three-time USA outdoor champion and was an NCAA outdoor runner-up. She coaches Apple Valley’s long and triple jumpers.

The meet’s hometown celebrity was Heather Dorniden, a 2005 Rosemount graduate who was a state high school champion at 400 and 800 meters. Heather went on to an outstanding career at the University of Minnesota, where she was a nine-time All-American and the only Gopher who competed in every NCAA championship in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track during the time she was at the university. In 2006, she was the NCAA indoor champion in the 800 meters. Heather holds school records in nine events.

Heather’s duties Wednesday included watching handoff zones during relay events and generally helping out wherever she could. I spotted her walking in the infield carrying a trash bag, picking up whatever needed to be disposed of.

Shani and Heather are outstanding examples of former high school athletes who went on to do great things in the athletic arena and earn college degrees. To see them giving back to current students-athletes is a wonderful sight and a lesson in selflessness.

(To see photos -- including a gallery of T-shirt slogans -- and video from Wednesday's track meet, go to the MSHSL's Facebook page.)

--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

Inside the MSHSL: AD’s Advisory Committee
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/25/2010 1:34:25 PM

This is a busy Tuesday here at MSHSL World Headquarters in Brooklyn Center. Two advisory committees met today – one meeting is still going on as I write this – and there is a new addition to the crew. (More on the addition later.)

The gathering that’s still in progress is a meeting of the Speech Advisory Committee. Since I can’t be in two places at once – and believe me, I have tried – I attended a meeting of the Athletic/Activity Directors Advisory Committee, which ended a few minutes ago.

The agenda varied from wrestling to dance to football to seeding to forfeits to state tournaments and beyond. This group doesn’t make policy for the MSHSL, but like all of the advisory committees, the AD’s offer valuable input from the front lines of high school activities. The committee is composed of 18 AD’s from schools large and small, representing all areas of the state.

One agenda item was especially intriguing. It was, “Discussion of positives and negatives of high school activities.”

Some of the positives mentioned by the group were…

--A mentorship program in which high school athletes spend time with middle school students.

--Health classes in which students are certified in CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators.

--Leadership opportunities in which sixth-graders get together with high school students.

Among the negatives were…

--Specialization in which student-athletes stick to a single sport instead of experiencing several sports.

--School funding issues, and an uncertain future for schools and activities.

--Time demands on administrators, coaches and kids.

--Finding a healthy balance between activities and academics for students.

One of the activity directors made the comment that ADs are often the public face of schools. If that’s the case, there is no better public face.

And now for the new addition to the crew …

Nora Ruth Rajkowski was born at 12:04 a.m. today in St. Cloud. Nora’s proud parents are Ellen Giloy-Rajkowski of the MSHSL staff and St. Cloud Times sports reporter Frank Rajkowski.

Congratulations to Nora and her mom and dad!

--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

National Honor for Apple Valley Assistant Coach
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/25/2010 8:48:31 AM

Congratulations to Apple Valley High School math teacher and wrestling coach Dalen Wasmund, who has been named the 2010 National Assistant Wrestling Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association Scholastic Board of Directors. Here is an excerpt from the press release:

Wasmund has been coaching for 28 years at Apple Valley High School in Minnesota. He briefly left the school, but returned when his sons began wrestling, coming back aboard to also serve as their coach. Wasmund stated, “I am honored and fortunate to be in this position. Receiving an award like this is a result of having a great program, great coaches, great families, a supportive administration and a great support system. We bear the fruits of having things go well.”

The 2010 Apple Valley wrestling team completed the season with seven champions, two runners-up, a third-place finisher and a fifth-place finisher at the AAA state tournament. Since Coach Wasmund has been coaching at Apple Valley, they have won the state championship 18 times. He joins head coach Jim Jackson as an NWCA Award Winner. Jackson was the 2008 NWCA National Head Coach of the Year. “Both of these coaches had given a large amount of their time to the success of their high school programs, both on and off the mat. They are examples of strong leaders who are committed to educational principles,” said NWCA President Jim Beichner.

--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

Frazee's Brady Breitenfeldt: A "Walking Miracle"
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/24/2010 11:17:20 AM

Brady Breitenfeldt is a soft-spoken young man who doesn’t say much about the day he died for 17 minutes. People in the community of Frazee, however, know Brady is special.

“Every time I see him, I view him as a walking miracle,” said Frazee High School activities director Dave Trautman, one of several people who pitched in to save Brady’s life after the 11th grader collapsed during school on Jan. 14.

To see Brady not only back in school, but also chasing down fly balls in the outfield for the Hornets baseball team, is a testament to readiness and quick action by school personnel, Frazee first responders and medical professionals.

“I swear he was gone,” Trautman said. “They said he wasn’t receiving air on his own for 17 minutes.”

Brady was in teacher Tavia Schumacher’s chemistry class early that January afternoon. Students were sitting on the floor, completing worksheets when Brady began gasping and appeared to be having a seizure.

Schumacher sent a student to teacher Chuck Wake’s nearby science classroom, and Wake and Schumacher quickly assessed the situation.

“He was turning blue and purple,” said Schumacher, a second-year teacher. “It was very scary for everyone in the whole situation.”

Brady had experienced previous fainting episodes, attributed to low electrolytes. But this was much more serious than a simple fainting spell.

Trautman and principal Brian Koslofsky were called to the room and the other students were ushered out. Brady didn’t have a pulse and Wake began administering CPR with an automated external defibrillator that was on hand at the school in case of such an emergency. Frazee Police Chief Mike Lorsung and Frazee Rescue EMT Brian Bigger quickly arrived on the scene. After a second and third round of defibrillation, Brady’s pulse returned.

Brady was taken to the closest hospital, St. Mary’s Innovis Health in Detroit Lakes, and then to MeritCare Children’s Hospital in Fargo. He was unconscious for several days and there were fears that he had suffered brain damage, but miraculously he did not.

After undergoing tests at the University of Minnesota, Brady was diagnosed with a heart rhythm disorder called Long QT Syndrome. An internal defibrillator was surgically implanted near his heart and he was cleared to not only play baseball, but to return to wrestling, which is his favorite sport.

Brady said he remembers nothing from the day he collapsed.

“I just woke up and they told me what happened,” he said. “I had no idea what happened. I’m pretty lucky (school staff and rescue personnel) were all there. They knew what they were doing.”

A couple weeks later, Brady was back in school.

“It was just kind of a relief to have him walk in the room,” Schumacher said. “He’s outgoing when he knows people but he’s kind of a shy kid. It was like, ‘Hey Brady.’ It was good to have him back, and it was awesome to have him back with his friends, joking around. There are quite a few wrestlers in that class. Once they knew he was coming back and there was no brain damage, it was like a weight was lifted off their shoulders.”

Trautman summed up the entire experience in simple terms.

“It’s unbelievable.”

--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

Short Notes on a Hot, Humid Monday
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/24/2010 8:36:33 AM

I flipped around to several radio stations on my drive to MSHSL World Headquarters this morning, and the various weather forecasts on the various stations predicted high temperatures in Minnesota today of anywhere from 90 to 95 degrees.

The average high for May 24 in the Twin Cities is 73 degrees, so we are getting up there today. It’s going to be a warm week, so if you’re involved in spring sports as an athlete, coach or fan, try to find some shade, keep those fluids flowing and have fun!

Now, here are a couple short notes to kick off the week…

--FAMILY AFFAIR: Darby Carlson is the head baseball coach at Maple Grove Senior High. Today the Crimson are playing at St. Michael-Albertville in a game that could impact section seeding. Darby’s youngest son, Bryton, is a senior third baseman for St. Michael.

--SPORTSMANSHIP: Here’s an email that was sent from a softball official to MSHSL Associate Director Kevin Merkle…

Hello Kevin,

On Wednesday, May 19, I was the plate umpire for the varsity softball game at Osseo, vs. Elk River. During the course of the game, the Osseo pitcher, Becca Girvan, recorded her 1,000th strikeout. My partner and I were advised prior to the game that this milestone may have been reached. When it was, we stopped the game briefly so all her teammates and coaches could properly congratulate her. That was expected. What followed was not at all expected.

As the Osseo players were returning to their respective positions, the Elk River players and coaches proceeded single file to the mound and each offered their congratulations to Ms. Girvan. Near the front of that line was the young lady who had become the 1,000th strikeout victim. All in all, a very refreshing display of class and sportsmanship. Such events should not go unnoticed or unreported.

I don't know if the MSHSL distributes any sportsmanship awards during any regular season. If it does, Elk River High School would be a most worthy recipient. And if no such awards are not presented, Elk River is an ideal candidate to be the initial recipient of such an award.

Umpiring this game was my most rewarding experience as an official in years. I am most grateful to both schools.

Most sincerely,

Roy Kline
MSHSL Official #61351

Adapted Bowling: 'The Highlight of the the Year'
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/22/2010 12:43:42 AM

I have attended and written about all manner of sporting events over the years, but nothing compares to Friday’s MSHSL state adapted bowling tournament. The event was held at Brunswick Lanes in Eden Prairie.

One of the first people I saw upon arriving was Alexandria athletic director David Hartmann. He said, “This is the highlight of the year.” Truer words were never spoken.

I can’t imagine a more rollicking, fun-filled event than what I witnessed Friday. All 40 lanes were used from early in the morning until late in the afternoon, with cheers erupting everywhere. Parents and grandparents, friends and neighbors packed the place as everyone watched with pride and cheered their hearts out.

The competition is split into two divisions: CI (cognitively impaired) and PI (physically impaired). Singles, doubles and team events are held. This was more than a full day of bowling, with warm-ups beginning at 8:45 a.m. and the action going nearly non-stop until the final awards ceremony at 4:30 p.m.

Adapted bowling tournaments have been sponsored by the MSHSL since 2000. Other adapted sports include soccer, floor hockey and softball. There are no better examples of sportsmanship and celebration anywhere in the sports universe than at these wonderful events.

This is one of those activities to which words do not do justice. So along those lines, we have posted some photos from adapted bowling on the MSHSL Facebook page. They provide a glimpse into the atmosphere, spirit and sportsmanship of “the highlight of the year.”

--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

Henry Sibley’s Dasovich Named Boys’ Basketball Coach at Minnetonka
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/21/2010 8:43:33 AM

Tom Dasovich, who shaped the Henry Sibley boys’ basketball program into one of the most successful in Minnesota, is leaving the Mendota Heights school to become head coach at Minnetonka.

Dasovich is a former teacher and assistant coach at Minnetonka, and his home is very close to the high school. His wife, Leah, who teaches English at Minnetonka, is a former Skippers junior varsity girls’ basketball coach. Tom Dasovich will teach ninth- and 10th-grade social studies

He replaces former coach John Hedstrom, for whom he once worked as an assistant. Hedstrom resigned earlier this year as coach and athletic director. Dasovich met with his Henry Sibley players after school Thursday to inform them that he was leaving, and held his first meeting with the Minnetonka players before school Friday.

He said telling the Henry Sibley team that he was exiting “was the worst part of the whole deal.”

Dasovich brings a strong track record to the job. Taking over a Henry Sibley program that had never won more than 16 games in a season, Dasovich led the Warriors to the Class 4A state tournament in each of the past three years.

“Everybody at Henry Sibley was wonderful to me,” Dasovich said in a telephone interview Thursday night. “I can’t imagine having a better six years. The fact that we got to go to three state tournaments was great. It would have been nice to win a state title, but we did our best. From where the program was when I took over to where I’m leaving it now, I’m proud of the work we did at Henry Sibley.”

Dasovich, a graduate of Hopkins High School and St. Cloud State University, spent two years at the head coach at Columbia Heights before moving to Henry Sibley for the 2004-05 season.

In Dasovich’s first season, the Warriors tied a school record with 16 victories. A year later they won 17 games, followed by 21 in his third season. In 2007-08 the Warriors finished with a 26-6 record, their first conference championship in 35 years, a first-ever section championship and a state runner-up finish in Class 4A. In 2008-09 the Warriors once again broke a school record for wins (27-3) and captured conference and section titles before losing in the first round of the state tournament. Last season, Henry Sibley was 25-7 and finished third in the state tournament.

“It was an easy decision, but then again it wasn’t because of how good the people at Henry Sibley have been to me,” he said. “I like to say that I’m treated like a small-town coach in the metro area. I sometimes don’t pay for meals in Mendota Heights. I don’t think they keep track of these things, but I guarantee you at Henry Sibley we had the biggest crowds at our home games and at the state tournaments, and it wasn’t that way six years ago. That’s the tough part of leaving. Even if I’m very, very successful at Minnetonka, I don’t know if I’ll have that again. It was a special six years, a special time for me.”

Dasovich’s home is a short drive from Minnetonka High School, and he and his wife have a 4-year-old daughter who will attend Minnetonka schools.

Minnetonka won the 4A state title in 2007-08, including a 68-59 victory over Henry Sibley at Target Center in the championship game. The Skippers were 12-14 a year later and finished 14-14 last season, with Hedstrom stepping aside for undisclosed reasons in January.

Dasovich’s new job will bring him back to the Classic Lake Conference, where he played at Hopkins High School for coach Ken Novak Jr., whose team has won the past two 4A state titles. He and Novak are good friends, and now conference coaching rivals.

“In terms of my family decision, and from a basketball standpoint, it wasn’t a hard decision,” Dasovich he said. “The biggest thing is that I feel Minnetonka really has a chance to be the best program in the state of Minnesota, with the facilities and resources and just a district-wide commitment to excellence. I’m going from a school that was 55th (in size) out of 64 teams in 4A and Minnetonka is fifth or sixth. At this point it’s the type of job I’m ready for. Minnetonka has a great basketball tradition and I really want to turn it into the best program in the state.”

--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

Q & A: Bloomington Jefferson Senior Jacob Sandry (Part I)
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/20/2010 2:00:39 PM

Jacob Sandry is a very successful three-sport athlete, serving as team captain advancing to multiple state meets in cross-country, Nordic skiing and track and field. He placed fourth in the Class AA 1,600 meters last year and has the fastest 1,600 time in Minnesota this spring. But his high school experience isn’t limited to sports. He’s involved in Policy Debate on a high level and helped start a club at Jefferson called Global Unity Project, which raises funds for such causes as the genocide in Darfur and providing solar cookers in Malawi. He also is a peer tutor at his school. He was Jefferson’s male nominee for the MSHSL Triple A (Academic, Arts and Athletics) Award.

Jacob was diagnosed at a young age with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as well as Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Being involved in school activities has helped him focus his energy and concentrate on what he calls “the goal of my life, helping make the world a better place.” After graduation he plans to take a year off to travel, learn and volunteer before beginning college.

I interviewed Jacob before track practice...

Q: Why three sports?

A: It’s logical; cross-country running, Nordic skiing and distance running, that makes sense. I joined Nordic just to stay in shape for track when I was in eighth grade. I used to play basketball. At first it was really hard and I kind of hated it, but eventually, once I kind of figured out the technique, I basically fell in love with it.
A lot of guys from warmer states run all year, and then in college they’ll start to burn out because they’ve been pounding themselves when they’re young.

Q: What are your goals for this track season?

A: I would love to win a state championship, but I realize that the end of the season is just like the icing on the cake. Every day when we come out to practice, running every day with all these guys who have basically become family for me, putting in the hard work even though it seems at times I’d like to be at home on the couch; having these goals and being determined, making up my mind that I’m going to get there, really the end result is like icing on the cake and everything else is really what it’s about. I think that’s kind of how I’ve matured as a runner. I realize it’s not just about the end.

Q: What do you like about Policy Debate?

A: Policy debate is a very intense activity. This year our topic is social services, people and poverty. We spend a lot of time doing research; it’s another thing where you put a lot of work into it. Me and my partner Tom Zimmer were actually second alternates for nationals, then people dropped out so we’re going to go to nationals in June (the National Forensics League nationals in Kansas City). It challenges me intellectually a lot more than school does. To me, school is either boring or easy a lot of times. Policy debate allows you so much room to do whatever you want with it. Between keeping up on current events and reading Marx and Nietzsche and all these philosophers, this is really interesting to me. It’s like a really intellectually charged game. It’s a fun way to learn.

Q: Tell me about the Global Unity Project.

A: That started with me and a couple friends when we were freshmen and sophomores. We’re interested in global issues and we were like, ‘We can do something about this.’ I guess a lot of it goes back to my synagogue. It’s a ‘change the world’ type place and that’s kind of how I was brought up and that’s how I first heard about the genocide in Darfur. Somebody said, ‘How about you do a fundraiser at school.’ And I was like, OK, cool. So I started the club. Eventually we developed into, ‘Well, maybe we don’t just want to focus on Darfur because there are plenty off issues going on in the world that we’d like to learn about.’ So we changed our name from Africa Project to Global Unity Project so we would focus on global issues. Right now we’re working with an organization called New Global Citizens and they help out clubs like ours at high schools. They give us resources, but the coolest thing they do is they hook you up with a grassroots organization somewhere in the world. This year 100 percent of our money is going to a solar cooker project in Malawi. Solar cookers are awesome for a bunch of different reasons: environmental sustainability, killing food-borne illnesses, not using any electricity, preventing deforestation, all these great things and they each cost like five dollars. So far this year we’ve raised around $2,000, which is 400 solar cookers. Which is incredible. Mostly what we do is run organized fundraisers. We had a teacher dance battle, we just had a big battle of bands, with high school bands coming from all over. The people who get interested in this kind of stuff are people who are already driven, so it’s like we kind of fit that in. I think it’s been a super meaningful experience for a lot of us, and hopefully for the people who receive the money, too.

Q: What drives you to do these things?

A: I think that is supposed to be the goal of my life, helping make the world a better place. That might not seem to connect to running at all, but I want my life to be a good experience, too, and if I’m not happy how will I be able to do something for anyone else? The basis of my religion isn’t really as much the God aspect as it is to make the world a better place. The number one thing you can do is help other people. Sometimes when I’m sitting around thinking about what I’m spending my time doing, I think ‘should I be spending my time playing Call of Duty or organizing a fundraiser?’ It’s kind of a moral issue. That’s nothing against people who make their own decisions with their own lives, but that’s just kind of my own moral calculus.

(Click below for Part II.)

Q & A: Bloomington Jefferson Senior Jacob Sandry (Part II)
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/20/2010 2:00:00 PM

Q: What do you do as a peer tutor?

A: I try to help out students who have trouble in school, like ADHD, which is something I had pretty bad, especially in elementary school, so I know what it is. I basically tutor them fourth hour, it’s kind of like a learning lab thing. It’s really cool because it’s kids I never really would have interacted with before, but now I’ve built a lot of relationships with them.

Q: How has Oppositional Defiance Disorder affected you?

A: Basically I just like to argue with people, so that feeds into the debate aspect. In elementary school I had a lot of energy all the time, and I didn’t really want to pay attention in school, I just wanted to yell at the teacher. I was definitely like the kid who was going to end up in jail every day. I think the fact that I’ve been involved in so many things – running, debate, Global Unity Project, rigorous classes – has put that balance so I can spread out my energy to each one. That’s why running is such a great thing; I can dissipate my energy so I can really focus.

Q: What will you do in your year off from school?

A: My year off will start when I graduate, in Kansas City (at the national debate tournament). That will be really fun. Then I’ll be in the Twin Cities. I work at TC Running Company, which is cool. I’m also going to be volunteering in some political campaigns; the governor’s race and my local state house seat. That’ll be until about January, and hopefully I’ll have enough money to go to South America on a program where you travel, learn Spanish and volunteer. I really want to learn Spanish, I want to see things and do things like climb Machu Picchu, sail across Lake Titicaca, all this cool stuff. But the real meaningful part is the volunteer work that they do. That would be for three or four months, and after that I’m going to go to Ethiopia for two or three months, doing a program called Running Across Borders. It’s an organization that takes Ethiopians and trains them to be either elite distance runners or other jobs in the running community; sell shoes, be a personal trainer, be an agent, be in advertising, all these economic opportunities for these people who make $300 a year. It’s a cultural exchange where I pay my money to stay there, and it’s less than $1,000 a month for food, board, training with the fastest runners in the world and the best coaches in the world, and getting to experience this great culture.

Q: After the year off, where will you go to college?

A: Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. It’s a small liberal arts school with a really big focus on activism, and that’s really the number one thing that drew me to it. Activism is really the main thing, and I love running and I love the coach at Swarthmore. The coach, Pete Carroll, is a really cool guy.

Q: After college, do you have a career goal?

A: It’s going to be something along the lines of helping other people. I’m really interested in political science and politics, that’s why I’m volunteering on some campaigns. Swarthmore has a lot of stuff that’s about activism, getting involved in politics, that kind of thing. I think that I’m really going to thrive there.

--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

Having Fun at a “Quiet” Track Meet
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/19/2010 12:29:38 PM

I have attended hundreds of track meets over the years, going all the way back to the dark ages when I was a track athlete myself. I have never had more fun than I did Tuesday during the third annual Leo Bond Invitational, hosted by the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault.

Actually, only the shot put and discus were held on the MSAD campus; everything else was contested on the track at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, which is next door to MSAD. The sun was bright, the smiles were wide and the competition was strong. (To see more photos -- and video from the start of the 1,600 -- from the event, go to the MSHSL page on Facebook.)

Teams competing were MSAD, The International School of Minnesota (Eden Prairie), Liberty Classical Academy (Maplewood), Minnesota North Star Academy (St. Paul) and Calvin Christian (Fridley). MSAD finished first in the boys’ competition and The International School won the girls’ team title.

This was easily the quietest track meet I have experienced. There were deaf athletes from schools other than MSAD, and sign language was used everywhere from the starting line to the finish line and the scorer’s tent.

The meet is named for Leo Bond, one of the greatest athletes in MSAD (and Minnesota) history. Leo was the state champion in the 440-yard dash in 1971, 1972 and 1973. He won four events at the World Games of the Deaf (now known as the Deaflympics) in Sweden in 1973 and won three gold medals at the same event in Romania four years later. He still holds the Deaflympics world record in the 800 and was chosen as the deaf athlete of the decade (1970s) by Deaf American magazine.

Leo, who lives in Bloomington, said he visits MSAD as often as he can. “Davey (MSAD athletic director David Olson) says, ‘Come and share your stories.’ I’m proud to be here,” Bond told me with the assistance of interpreter Nettie Peters. “It’s so tempting to get back out on the track. I would love to do it again. There are so many good memories.”

Leo spent a lot of time during the meet talking with athletes from MSAD and the other schools, which is a testament to his strong ties with his school and its current students.

Communicating during the meet was very straightforward. As starter Bradley Cohen gave instructions at the starting line, Peters or other interpreters were there to aid the deaf athletes. With no P.A. system in use, Cohen kept everyone up to date on upcoming events. Shortly after the start of the 4x200 relay, for example, he yelled, “First call, 1,600!”

Kids sat on the infield and visited, some tossed a football around, parents and other family members sat on lawn chairs or on the grass. It was a grand day for a wonderful event.

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A Visit to Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/19/2010 10:28:53 AM

One of my favorite places to visit is the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault. In the past I attended football and basketball games there, and on Tuesday I saw my first track meet at MSAD.

A report from the track meet is forthcoming. While at MSAD, I shot some photos of one of the most beautiful campuses in Minnesota. MSAD’s historic buildings and grounds rival anything found on any college campus in our state.

I have posted several photographs on our MSHSL Facebook page (hint, hint … go there and become part of our Facebook club).

--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; click on the Twitter button on www.mshsl.org

MACCRAY Golfer Trisha Kienitz: A Smile, An Inspiration
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/17/2010 11:08:03 AM

Trisha Kienitz has heard the question several times during her golf career. She doesn’t know when it will be asked -- maybe at the first tee, maybe a few holes into a round -- but eventually a competitor’s curiosity at seeing Kienitz use a golf cart to get around the course will lead to the inevitable question.

It happened a couple weeks ago as Kienitz, a senior at MACCRAY High School, hit another tee shot straight down the heart of the fairway. A girl in her foursome asked, “Why do you have a cart?”

Trisha’s answer was short and sweet: “Artificial leg.” The reply was even shorter: “Oh.”

Oh. Right. Artificial Leg. Sweet.

Trisha, 18, tells the story – as she does just about everything else -- with a smile. She walks the school hallways in Clara City with a smile. She smiles as she pulls up the fabric of her jeans to reveal the flesh-toned prosthetic right leg that begins at her hip and is strapped around her waist.

She smiles as she recounts qualifying for the Class A state tournament the past two years, and continues to smile as she talks about her goal of returning this year.

Artificial leg? No big deal.

She played in several Junior PGA events last summer, wearing shorts on occasion. The prosthetic skin on her knee was stretched and torn, and contrasting-colored tape had been used to repair the damage. Her playing partners didn’t realize that Trisha had a fake limb; they saw the tape and thought she just had a knee injury.

“I said, ‘No, I have an artificial leg.’ And they said, ‘We can’t even tell.’ Most people can’t.”

She walks with a slight limp. Because carrying her clubs for 18 holes would be difficult, Trisha has a special exemption from the Minnesota State High School League to use a cart during competitive rounds. And that’s the only difference between her and every other high school golfer in the world … except for the fact that she is gunning for her third trip to state.

“She’s got a great swing,” said MACCRAY girls’ golf coach Terri Zondervan. “And a lot of it is mental, and she’s pretty steady and very focused. She practices a lot, she has great dedication to the game.”

Balance is crucial when hitting a golf ball, and the simple fact that Trisha basically does so while standing on one leg is remarkable. She was born without a right leg and spent much of her early years hopping on her left leg. She smiles (of course) as she talks about it.

“When I was little I just hopped around the house,” she said. “So I have good balance. Mainly all my weight’s on my left foot all the time (while swinging a golf club). That’s why it doesn’t go very far.”

No, her length off the tee doesn’t draw oohs and aahs. But her accuracy is another matter. Trisha rarely sees anything but the middle of the fairway. MACCRAY boys’ coach Gary Nelson recalls watching Trisha hit a shot out of bounds during the state tournament two years ago; she had to stop and think about the proper procedure when that happens.

“She said, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ She just hasn’t hit one off to the side too many times,” Nelson said.

“I hit it straight,” Trisha said. “They don’t go very far but they go straight. Some of those girls can hit it so far, but then they go right or left.”

She tied for 39th at state as a sophomore and tied for 17th last year. This year’s Class A state tournament will be held June 16-17 at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker.

“I just want to make it,” she said. “I’ve seen kids go to state before and then they don’t make it back their senior year. I’m just working on getting there and hopefully finishing in the top eight.”

Trisha finished second in last Friday’s Camden Conference tournament at Marshall Golf Club. Minneota’s Taya Kockelman was the medalist with an 86 and Trisha was three shots back. The Wolverinesof MACCRAY (which is shorthand for the communities of MAynard, Clara City and RAYmond) will compete at a subsection tournament in Benson on May 28 and the Section 5A tourney in Marshall June 4.

Between those tournaments, graduation at MACCRAY will take place May 30. Trisha is the oldest child of Wendell and Kelli Kienitz. Her sister Katie is 16 and brother Brady is 6. Trisha plans to attend Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, study agribusiness and try out for the golf team.

Trisha began playing golf with her grandfather when she was 7 years old. Then came summer leagues and a growing love for the game.

Asked what she likes about golf, Trisha lit the fuse on another big smile.

“Oh, everything,” she said. “You learn more than golf. You learn the rules and you learn how to be more responsible.”

And you learn how to answer a few questions along the way, too ... with a smile.

--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; click on the Twitter button on www.mshsl.org

A Celebration of Hennepin County’s Youth Sports Program Capital Grant
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/16/2010 1:19:33 PM

St. Anthony-New Brighton School District invites community members to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Central Park on Monday, May 17, at 6 p.m. Food and refreshments will be provided.

This event celebrates the completion of field improvements at Central Park, which resulted from a $345,000 Hennepin County youth sports program capital grant. St. Anthony’s capital project included the installation of lighting on fields three and four and improved spectator seating on the varsity baseball and softball fields.

Central Park is a recreational area shared jointly by the City of St. Anthony and St. Anthony-New Brighton School District. Funding for the grants comes from the Twins ballpark sales tax. This revenue provides capital grants for youth and amateur sports facilities and expands library hours in Hennepin County.

Interesting Topics: Baseball Pitch Counts and Girls' Flag Football
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/15/2010 1:54:59 PM

The New York Times published two interesting stories this week about high school sports. One deals with the number of pitches being thrown by high school baseball pitchers and how to determine what is best for the athletes. Here’s an excerpt …

“Whether the number of pitches that a teenage boy is allowed to throw should be left to trust or should be a matter of rule has become the subject of intense debate in New York City’s Public Schools Athletic League. Two city councilmen have pressured P.S.A.L. officials into monitoring pitchers this season with the expectation that more defined policies will be established next year.

“Under legislative threat, the P.S.A.L. agreed to have coaches keep track of pitch counts, submit them with game results and post them on the league’s Web site.”

The other story deals with girls’ flag football, which is a varsity sport in Florida and Alaska. The Times reports that some women’s sports advocates call it a dead-end activity since flag football is played only at the club and intramural level in colleges.

“No one is saying flag football isn’t a great sport to play,” said Neena Chaudhry, the senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, which has brought several cases against high schools alleging violations of Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equity in education. “But I do think it’s relevant to ask questions about whether girls are getting the same kind of educational opportunities as boys.”

We’ve started discussion sections about both of these stories on the MSHSL Facebook page. Take a look and add your own thoughts.

--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; click on the Twitter button on www.mshsl.org

Channel 45 to Televise Baseball Title Games
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/13/2010 3:13:34 PM

Here’s a quick, exciting note about the state baseball tournament: Channel 45, the official home of televised MSHSL championship events, will televise all three state championship baseball games, live from Target Field on Saturday, June 19. The telecast will be produced by students and broadcast on the internet at 45.GrandStadium.TV, as well. In fact, the feed that Channel 45 will be airing will be the 45.GrandStadium.TV feed.

The Class 1A, 2A and 3A title games are scheduled to begin at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. State quarterfinal and semifinal games will be played in Jordan and Chaska for 1A, St. Cloud for 2A and Midway Stadium in St. Paul and Siebert Field in Minneapolis for 3A. Those games are scheduled for June 17.

Championship Saturday will be an excellent opportunity for baseball fans to watch three title games at brand-new Target Field.

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A Photo Tour of MACCRAY High School
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/12/2010 7:51:17 PM

A few photos from MACCRAY High School have been posted on the MSHSL Facebook page. If you haven’t joined us on Facebook, click on the Facebook tab on this very page.

I ventured to MACCRAY this week for a special story about an extraordinary athlete. The final result may be a few days away, but it will be worth the wait.

--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; click on the Twitter button on www.mshsl.org

Johnson Named Region 1A Executive Secretary
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/12/2010 7:17:19 PM

The Region 1A Committee has announced the appointment of Brad Johnson as the Region 1A executive secretary, beginning Aug. 1. Johnson is succeeding Chuck Skarie, who is be retiring from the position. He served Region 1A as the executive secretary for 18 years.

Johnson is a Rushford resident who has a long history in Region 1 and is currently serving as the Sub-Section 1 Coordinator. He is a past member of the Region Committee, where he served two years as chairman. He also spent four years on the Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors. Johnson worked in the Spring Valley School District as a teacher, coach and activities director, and most recently for the Rushford-Peterson School District as a principal, and activities director.

Rushford-Peterson is now in the process of replacing Johnson. He will resign from his duties at R-P effective July 1 after 20 years with the district.

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Windom Names New Football Coach
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/11/2010 6:57:24 PM

Windom High School has announced the hiring of a new head football coach, and sports editor Joel Alvstad of the Cottonwood County Citizen in Windom files this report …

The Windom school board has approved hiring Travis Bretzman as the new head
football coach. Bretzman replaces Erin Elder, who served 10 seasons as the Eagles' head coach, leading the Eagles to a state Class AA runner-up finish in 2001 and a
state semifinal appearance in 2002. Elder resigned his coaching position to
become an assistant track and field coach at the University of Sioux Falls
next fall, specializing in throws.

Bretzman serves as a personal trainer for Prairie Rehabilitative Services in
Worthington. He also owns and operates a hog farm south of Okabena. He has
been an assistant football coach at Jackson County Central, coaching B-squad and coordinating the strength and conditioning program.

Bretzman is a Windom native who was a standout defensive player on the last
Eagle team to finish the regular season undefeated in 1989. That team was
also the last Windom team to win an outright Southwest Conference football
championship -- Windom shared the conference title in 1999.

Farewell to the Familiar, Friendly Voice of Art Tysk
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/11/2010 10:44:41 AM

The MSHSL, as well as almost anyone who ever attended a state tournament, lost a friend when Art Tysk passed away this week at the age of 94. Art’s familiar voice was heard shouting “Programs! Programs!” at state tournaments for many years.

Art and members of his family sold souvenir merchandise at MSHSL events for more than 30 years.

Here is his obituary, published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press …

Arthur L. Tysk
“Programs" 1915 - 2010 Age 94, of St. Paul, passed away May 7, 2010. Preceded in death by wife, Mathilda; and infant son, Arthur L. Jr. Survived by children, Mary (Robert) Sanford, Elizabeth "Betty" Onsted, Arthur H. "Butch", Vivian (Douglas) Frid; grandchildren, James, Krystin, Kevin, Amanda, Daniel, Nicholas, Laura; nieces, nephews, and many friends. Funeral service 11 AM Thursday, May 13 at MUELLER-BIES FUNERAL HOME - ROSEVILLE, 2130 N. Dale St. at County Rd B. Interment Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Visitation from 4 - 8 PM Wednesday, and 10 - 11 AM Thursday. Lifetime member of Midwest Showman's Association, and long-time vendor for the MSHSL. Memorials preferred to the Union Gospel Mission. MUELLER-BIES 651-487-2550

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Stan Nelson: Football Coach and American Hero
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/10/2010 1:34:19 PM

High school football fans know Stan Nelson as the longtime former coach at Anoka High School. Stan coached high school football for 33 years, including a reign at Anoka that lasted from 1953 to 1978.

Among his players were his sons Steve, who played 13 years with the New England Patriots, and Dave, who won a state title as the coach at Blaine in 1988 and did the same at Minnetonka in 2004, where he continues to coach.

In addition to being a football coach and raising a family, Stan Nelson is also part of the Greatest Generation. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and was part of the Allied D-Day forces that went ashore on Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Later this month, Nelson’s service in the armed forces will be recognized when he and other World War II veterans are flown free of charge to the nation’s capital to view the World War II memorial on the National Mall.

Dave Nelson and his brother-in-law Richard Ward worked behind the scenes on filling out an application for Stan Nelson to go on the trip. Once the application was processed, a letter was sent to Nelson’s Andover home, informing him of the May 22 flight to Washington. The trip, like many others, is being arranged by the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit group that honors veterans by transporting them to view memorials that are dedicated to their service.

Stan Nelson was a communications officers on a LCI 492 landing craft, which transported more than 200 soldiers at a time.

“He doesn’t talk a lot about it, although more recently he has opened up a little about it,” Dave Nelson said of his father.” He was on one of the first ships to hit Normandy.”

Dave will accompany Stan to Washington. A group of about 100 veterans will fly from Minneapolis early on the morning of May 22 and spend the day in D.C. They will tour many of the monuments and be served lunch and dinner before returning to Minnesota in the evening.

Like all those who serve our country, Stan Nelson is a hero. We wish him well on his trip to Washington.

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

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Gratitude From The Family of Mike Gregory
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/10/2010 12:04:58 PM

We were all saddened when St. Cloud Apollo baseball coach Mike Gregory passed away last month after being severely injured in a fall.

Mike's family has sent an email to express their gratitude for the outpouring of support they have experienced. I received the email, and am happy to share it:

Thank You From the Family of Mike Gregory

Thank you to everyone for their prayers and support following Mike’s injury and death. The genuine expressions of caring were deeply moving. The sheer volume of cards, emails, flowers, food, gifts, and memorials overwhelmed our hearts. We came to clearly understand that Mike touched the lives of many and know that he gained as much from these experiences as he gave.

The support of the area’s high school baseball teams -- those within St. Cloud’s borders and beyond – as they expressed their grief was truly heartening. While we are pained to be without Mike, it is quite humbling to see the impact he made on the local baseball community. These young men demonstrated great poise and maturity. We are grateful that Mike made sportsmanship such a priority during his life.

Our gratitude also goes out to Dr. Scott Davis and the Intensive Care Unit nursing staff at St. Cloud Hospital. Their efforts made an extraordinarily difficult situation slightly more tolerable, and their honest yet gracious approach to the situation was helpful beyond words.

Although we wish Mike were still with us, we know that he lived a full and meaningful life, and that is the most anyone can hope for in the end.

With our deepest gratitude –
The Gregorys

Ted Schultz Named AD at Minnetonka
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/7/2010 1:43:37 PM

Ted Schultz, current activities director at Bloomington Jefferson High School, has been named to the same position at Minnetonka High School. He will assume his new duties on July 1.

“I’m honored and humbled to be the named the activities director for Minnetonka,” Schultz said. “Minnetonka High School offers the four A’s: Academics, Athletics, Arts and Activities; I think that combination in the high school allows any student to be successful... To be a part of that and help shape student success has always been a goal of mine. When students are involved, they are more tuned into school and the educational experience is much better," he said.

“We are quite impressed with his focus on student development and the importance he places on all activities, not just athletics, for helping students succeed with their goals,” said Tim Alexander, executive director for human resources in the Minnetonka school district. “He has also proven himself to be a leader within his conference and among AD’s throughout the Minnesota State High School League. Schultz was instrumental in negotiating the new three-conference scheduling agreement between the South Suburban, Northwest Suburban and Lake Conferences.”

Schultz said, “It is a unique partnership. We were able to put all the politics aside and say, ‘Hey, What’s best for kids?’ The spirit of cooperation is really what made that work.” The agreement puts to rest the difficult question of conference alignment for the next five years.

Schultz holds a Minnesota principal license, has a Masters in Educational Leadership from Minnesota State University-Mankato and is a certified athletic administrator. He was recently selected to serve as the Region 3AA Representative on the Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors, a position he will need to abdicate with his move out of the region.

In Bloomington, Schultz administered all aspects of the Jefferson High School student activities program, served as chair for the Lake Conference Athletic and Activities Directors and served on the Bloomington Theatre Board. He is an adjunct faculty member for the University of St. Mary’s Educational Leadership Program. Earlier in his tenure with Bloomington, he served as athletic director for the district, coordinating 132 high school teams and 24 middle school teams, as well as developing the Bloomington Safe House, a chemical use prevention program. He also served in various management roles for state tournaments for boys and girls hockey, lacrosse and adapted athletics.

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

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Nothing Stops Lourdes' Tennis Champion Ben Kopecky
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/6/2010 11:17:15 AM

Try doing what Ben Kopecky does. I dare you. Try playing tennis on a state championship level with a backbone that’s twisted and splintered; a spine that’s shaped like a question mark with notches of bone breaking off.

The Rochester Lourdes senior knows he may face spinal fusion surgery someday, as a way to deal with the dueling maladies of scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and spondylosis (a spinal defect in Kopecky’s lower back). The most amazing aspect of his story, however, is not his physical condition but his collection of tennis hardware.

Kopecky, already the owner of two Class A individual state titles, will attempt to win a third championship at the 2010 state tourney, June 8-10 at the Reed-Sweatt Tennis Center in Minneapolis. He is one of only 16 players in the 81-year history of the MSHSL boys’ tennis tournament to capture two championships.

Two previous individuals have won three boys’ crowns, and that feat hasn’t been accomplished in nearly 50 years. If Kopecky gets title No. 3 in a few weeks, not only will he become the third three-time champ in Minnesota history, he will become the third three-time champ from Rochester.

Dave Healey won titles in1953, 1954 and 1955 for Rochester High School, and Chuck Darley did the same in 1962, 1963 and 1964, also for Rochester High School (Rochester John Marshall opened in 1958 and Mayo opened in 1966.)

“It’s a privilege just to have the chance, to be in the position to be going for a third one,” Kopecky said during practice on a windy Wednesday in Rochester.

Kopecky is the second boys’ player from Lourdes to win a state championship; Jarret Cascino was the Class A winner in 2001. But his No. 1 goal for his senior season is being part of the first Lourdes boys’ squad to win a state team championship. That says a lot about a team captain who puts team before self.

“The kids kind of gravitate to him; he’s a good leader and he’s a fun guy,” Lourdes coach Kevin Rust said. “At the same time, he’s where he’s at because he’s worked at it.”

Kopecky is an experienced hand when it comes to playing at state. He made his tournament debut as an eighth-grade doubles player and advanced in singles for the first time as a freshman, finishing as the state runner-up despite playing with a sprained ankle – further evidence of his ability to play through physical problems.

Then came state championships as a sophomore and junior, putting him on the verge of title No. 3 this season. But ask Kopecky about the 2010 state tournament, and he’ll talk about the team first.

“The thing I’m most happy about this season is that the guys on the team worked so hard in the offseason and we’re way more motivated this year,” he said. “The guys have made it a better season. I come out every day and not only am I trying to make them better, they’re helping me.

“We know how good we can be, and we know right now we’re not there. But come state tournament time, we have to bear down and everybody has to have their game face on. We’re almost there. I’m trying to lead by example in that aspect. The entire team has that potential, to show their best.”

Rust points to Kopecky and fellow senior captains Connor Rust and Javon Bea as the Eagles’ experienced leaders. “We’ve got three seniors who have been on the team since seventh grade, and I’m sure they all have that same goal in mind,” he said of the championship aspirations.

Kopecky will play collegiate tennis at DePauw University, a Divison III school in Greencastle, Ind. When his college career is over, he knows spinal surgery may be in the cards. For now, he is vigilant about taking care of his body. He works on core strength and stretching. He has an inversion table at home, which flips him upside down and takes the tension off his back, and he also uses a Tens (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit.

The scoliosis – in Ben’s case a 49-degree spinal curvature – was discovered when he was in sixth grade. The spondylosis is a different matter; the bony notches attached to a lower vertebra are separated. “I think my right one is severed and all the pressure on my lower back is on the left one,” he said.

That condition was discovered after the state tournament when he was a sophomore.
“I felt something in my back,” he said. “It got worse and worse, and the only way I made it through finals of individuals was off of adrenaline. Because I was out for the next week.”

And then he adds, almost matter-of-factly, “It’s nothing that can really go away. But everybody’s got injuries.”

The thoughts of injuries and all other distractions evaporate when Ben is on the court. For a senior religion class, he wrote a paper about where tennis takes him.

“I wrote that tennis was my refuge,” he said. “When I’m in that state, nothing else can bother me. I just have one thing to focus on, and that’s when I feel the best. I can just put everything aside and focus on one goal.”

--For more photos of Ben, go to the MSHSL page on Facebook.

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook; simply search for “MSHSL” and become a fan

A Sunny, Breezy Kickoff for Turf in Minneapolis
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/4/2010 8:44:18 PM

There was a pep band. There were balloons. I ate a cheeseburger and drank a Diet Coke. All in all, it was a very neat afternoon at Don Swanson Stadium, home of the Minneapolis Patrick Henry High School football, soccer and track teams.

The event, held by Minneapolis Public Schools, was the kickoff for efforts to raise funds in order to install turf fields at Henry as well as Washburn High School. The program is called “Team Up For Turf: Funding Fields For The Future.”

As Steve Liss, the district’s Chief of Policy and Operations, told the crowd assembled for the event, “We believe the donors are out there and we have the support in the community to make this vision a reality.”

The district has committed to raising $1.25 million to convert the football fields at Washburn and Henry to state-of-the-art synthetic turf fields to suit football, soccer and lacrosse games. By 2013, MPS hopes to raise enough additional funds to cover the cost of at least one more synthetic turf project. All fields would be available for the use of schools, parks and Minneapolis youth. Henry and Washburn were chosen first because their stadiums are fully equipped with lights and press box facilities.

John Washington, director of athletics for the district, said, “This isn’t a Henry and Washburn project. This is a Minneapolis district project.”

On the football field, balloons were tied to football helmets from each of the district’s seven high schools. After a drum roll, those balloons were released into the breeze-filled air. Four members of the Minnesota Stars professional soccer team also helped, kicking four soccer balls while Henry football coach (and former Viking) John Swain threw a football downfield.

After the formal events were completed, students and adults were invited to kick or throw footballs or boot soccer balls. All who participated were allowed to select an item from a large gathering of goodies, ranging from iPods to Twins tickets to footballs, soccer balls and assorted apparel (including apparel donated by the MSHSL).

I shot some photos during the event, and you can find several of them on our Facebook page (and one on Twitter). If you haven’t joined our growing Facebook and Twitter groups, now’s the time!

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook; simply search for “MSHSL” and become a fan

Time For Turf in Minneapolis
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/4/2010 10:52:17 AM

I’m planning to get some fresh air this afternoon and help support a good cause at the same time.

Minneapolis Public Schools will hold a kickoff event today for their effort to raise funds in order to install turf fields at two high school football fields. The program is called “Team Up For Turf: Funding Fields For The Future.”

The Minneapolis Public Schools have committed to raising $1.25 million to convert the football fields at Washburn High School and Patrick Henry High School to state-of-the-art synthetic turf fields to suit football, soccer and lacrosse games. By 2013, MPS hopes to raise enough additional funds to cover the cost of at least one more synthetic turf project. All fields would be available for the use of schools, parks and Minneapolis youth.

Today’s event will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Patrick Henry football field, 4320 Newton Avenue North.

I’ll take some photos at the event, post them on Facebook and Twitter, and write about the festivities here on John’s Journal.

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook; simply search for “MSHSL” and become a fan

If It's Monday, This Must Be Brainerd
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 5/3/2010 9:38:17 AM

Yes, this dispatch is being filed from Brainerd, site of another in a series of MSHSL area meetings. After an early-morning departure from the Twin Cities, the MSHSL crew has arrived at The Lodge at Brainerd Lakes.

Administrators, along with several students here to learn about the Student Sports Information Directors program, are arriving and the meeting will begin at 10 a.m. After Howard Voigt and I speak to the entire group during the meeting, we will break off with the students and chat in another room.

Lunch will end the festivities, after which we will return back to headquarters. Be sure to look atTwitter and Facebook for photos from today.

Have a great Monday!

--John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook; simply search for “MSHSL” and become a fan

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