|District Football Plan Tops Agenda For MSHSL Board Of Directors
|Posted by John Millea (email@example.com) - Updated 5/30/2014 8:57:19 PM
|Some major decisions could be made Monday when the MSHSL board of directors meets at MSHSL headquarters in Brooklyn Center. The board will take on a busy agenda, with football probably drawing the most interest.
The board is expected to hear a proposal for the structure of district football, which will begin in the 2015 season. A committee from around the state has been holding meetings to put together district lineups, from which members of each district will create their own schedules.
District football, which has been adopted in order to help schools fill their eight-game regular-season schedules, will have no impact on the postseason. Teams will remain in designated sections for playoff games. The board may approve the plan or request that changes be made.
Elsewhere on the agenda, election of board officers for the 2014-15 school year will be held. The vice president/president-elect for 2014-15 is St. Charles activities director Scott McCready. Three board members are candidates to be the next vice president/president-elect: Montevideo activities director Bob Grey, Jackson County Central softball coach Shelly Hotzler, and Sauk Rapids-Rice principal Erich Martens. Public member Steve Eklund of Stanchfield is the current treasurer and will remain in that position in 2014-15, with no other board members running.
The board will also consider adding Academic Decathlon as an MSHSL activity, will consider adopting a transgender policy, consider approving speech material for 2014-15, consider a change in policy for home schools and consider a proposal to add to the MSHSL staff.
The board will hear several advisory recommendations regarding winter activities, which are …
--Dance Team: Coaches are looking to add an additional level of competition where sections cross over to advance the “best” teams to state, not necessarily by geography.
--Nordic Skiing: Asking that two teams per section advance to state instead of the current one team. The plan will reduce the number of competitors who qualify as individuals by two.
--Diving: In boys Class A, they would like to advance one more diver per section to state.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday. To follow the developments in real time, follow @MSHSLjohn on Twitter.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 527
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,110
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
|Another Girls Track Record Falls; Congrats to Minnetonka’s Mia Barron
|Posted by John Millea (firstname.lastname@example.org) - Updated 5/28/2014 1:35:10 PM
|For the second time this spring, a girls state track record has been set. This one took place Tuesday in the Class 2A Section 6 championships at Wayzata High School.
Minnetonka senior Mia Barron (pictured) set a state record in the long jump with a winning distance of 19 feet, 10 inches. The previous girls state long jump record was 19-5 1/4, set by Alexandria's Wensia Johnson last season.
Barron was the Class 2A state champion in the long jump last season, jumping 18-3 in the state meet at Hamline University. She also finished second in the triple jump at state a year ago.This season, Barron has the state’s top mark in the triple jump, going 39-8 in the Joe Lane Invitational at Minnetonka on April 22. The girls state record in the triple jump is 41-1 ¾ by Wayzata’s Jordan Helgren in 2008.
Earlier this spring, Kasson-Mantorville junior Taylor Wiebke broke the girls state record in the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 11 inches at the Class 2A Section 1 True Team meet in Winona. The previous state record was 5-10 3/4 by Waseca's Tressa Beckel in 2006.
|700 Club: Brainerd, St. Cloud Cathedral Coaches Reach Milestone
|Posted by John Millea (email@example.com) - Updated 5/21/2014 1:10:17 PM
|Lowell Scearcy and Bob Karn joined an elite club this week, becoming the second and third Minnesota high school baseball coaches to record 700 career victories. Brainerd’s Scearcy is in his 45th season and got No. 700 with a 10-3 victory over Rocori on Monday; St. Cloud Cathedral’s Karn is in season 44 and reached the milestone when the Crusaders defeated Mora 15-0 on Tuesday.
The all-time leader is New Ulm coach Jim Senske, who retired in 2005 with 707 victories during a 40-year career.
That’s a pretty exclusive club.
“They are great coaches, tremendous coaches, tremendous guys,” Karn said of Senske and Scearcy (pictured). “It’s a very special kind of thing. As long as we can put in the headline that I was the coach of the team that won; we don’t like headlines that say ‘The coach won 700 games.’ The coach didn’t win 700 games. It’s teams that win and it’s teams representing schools that allow players to have that kind of experience.”
Scearcy, 68, and Karn, 72, have a lot in common, most notably their careers as baseball coaches. Brainerd has gone to state 10 times since Scearcy became coach 42 years ago (after he taught and coached in Pillager and Verndale) and the Warriors won state championships in 1995 and 2000. Karn, who has spent his entire career at Cathedral, has taken 17 teams to state, winning seven titles.
But the two coaches also have differences. Scearcy like to ride his motorcycle; Karn is a daily practicioner of tai chi, a Chinese martial art that focuses on relaxation, emotional control and balance. Scearcy is an old-school coach and retired math teacher who can be equal parts gruff and giggles; Karn still teaches literature classes part-time and is more zen master than drill sergeant.
When asked about reaching 700 wins, the responses of the two shed light on their temperaments and coaching styles.
Scearcy: “Jim Senske told me that if you hang around long enough, pretty soon they start to give you stuff. It turned out to be true. I never thought I’d be around this long. It just kind of happens. We’ve got a good bunch of kids and it’s been fun.”
Karn (pictured): “It’s the families of the kids that have brought them up so that they respect the game, help each other to get better, and in our case, being a Catholic school, the religious part is important; the blessing of the Lord to allow us to be healthy enough to play the game. Those are the things that make it so valuable. Anything in isolation isn’t of any value. It’s only in the context of all those things.”
Neither coach is talking about retiring, saying that as long as they are healthy and feel good they will continue coming to the ballpark. And both of them have teams that could go deep into the postseason. Brainerd took a 15-2 record into a game Wednesday at Alexandria and Cathedral was 16-1 before playing Foley the same day. Cathedral is ranked No. 2 in Class 2A and Brainerd is No. 9 in Class 3A.
Scearcy, who graduated from high school in Pillager in 1963, has also coached football, basketball, track and cross-country, and he worked as a basketball and football official for many years. He was an assistant football coach at Central Lakes College in Brainerd for 35 years and has been the head football coach at Pillager since 2007.
Keith Peterson, who has been Scearcy’s assistant baseball coach for 26 years, said one of Scearcy’s strengths is that he’s very predicable.
“Over the years he’s stressed fundamental baseball and stayed with it. He’s very much a stickler for a high percentage of strikes from the pitchers, good defense, and we spend a lot of time in practice hitting. I think I’ve probably thrown more batting practice than anyone else over the last 25 years.
“There’s a well-organized practice behind every win. That’s the thing that I’ve noticed; you have to prepare to win.”
Karn graduated from Cathedral in 1959 and returned as a teacher and coach in 1969. At a recent reception for faculty and staff, he was honored as the longest-serving employee in Cathedral’s 129-year history.
Karn served two stints as the Crusaders’ head boys basketball coach, and one of his former assistants is current St. John’s University head football coach Gary Fasching. Fasching arrived at Cathedral in 1982 and was Karn’s assistant basketball coach for 10 years. Fasching’s son Jeff is a senior captain on the baseball team and will play collegiately at the University of Minnesota.
“There’s no one like him,” Gary Fasching said. “Our kids are so lucky and fortunate that they get to play for him. Number one, Bob has the right perspective on sports. He teaches more than the game. The advice he gives them, the books he has the kids read. My son has brought home a lot of books that he’s had to read for Bob, and they’re all geared toward making yourself better. It’s not just as a baseball player, but as a person.”
With Scearcy and Karn both in the 700 club, their players are thinking about getting them past Senske’s 707. That would be possible with a successful postseason run.
“It means a lot to us to play for a coach that good and that distinguished,” said Jeff Fasching. “But 700 wasn’t really on our radar; it’s the 707 number that we want.”
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 507
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 12,038
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
|At Cambridge-Isanti, A Thunderous State Tourney Sendoff
|Posted by John Millea (firstname.lastname@example.org) - Updated 5/15/2014 4:03:36 PM
|CAMBRIDGE – The crowd roared and the pep band played the school song as the athletes entered the crowded gymnasium at Cambridge-Isanti High School on Thursday morning. Classes had been put on hold so students and staff could honor their Bluejackets the day before they competed at state.
Principal Mitchell Clausen and athletic director Mark Solberg spoke to the crowd. So did the coach, the team managers and the team captains. It was a joy to behold.
Solberg said to the athletes, “You’re representing us with an awful lot of class, an awful lot of dignity. And you’re going to make us proud.”
This has become an annual event at Cambridge-Isanti, where the adapted bowling team receives as much attention and respect as any other squad in the school. The Bluejackets’ annual trip to state – this year’s tournament is being held Friday at Brunswick Zone in Brooklyn Park – has become as big a part of the school calendar as football Friday nights in the fall, basketball games in the winter and track meets in the spring.
Steve Tischer is in his first year coaching the bowling team after previous experiences coaching wrestling, football and softball.
“It’s been awesome,” he said after the festivities had ended. “The competitive spirit is there. The kids are really dedicated, they always try their best. The thing that’s different is they really, really, really have fun and enjoy each other’s company and encourage each other, even other teams. We’ll bowl with another team, side by side, and it’s not competitive like it is in other sports. It’s supporting and encouraging.”
In the 1990s, the MSHSL became the first statewide high school activities body in the country to create and govern adapted sports. Also part of the yearly MSHSL schedule are adapted softball, floor hockey and soccer.
“I think it’s a great way for everyone to get involved,” said Cambridge-Isanti junior Emma Schoenecker, who is active in soccer, track and mock trial. “They’re so excited, and it’s probably the most positive sport that we have in our school. I’m really thankful for them.”
Solberg encouraged the student body to attend the state bowling tournament, saying, “It’s going to flat-out make you feel good, because they’re doing things the right way. They’re doing things to support each other, but most importantly they’re having a good time. So I encourage you to go.”
There was a great deal of applause and cheering for the bowlers, assistant coaches and managers as Tischer introduced them. He also mentioned the number of strikes and spares each bowler had this spring, along with their season scoring average. A couple of the bowlers danced as they were introduced, with others giving the crowd two big thumbs up.
The top statistics belong to senior captain Victoria Koukol, who placed seventh at state last year and this season has 25 strikes, 29 spares and a 145 average. Vicki, who was born with spina bifida, bowls from her wheelchair. Bowling won’t be her only state tournament this spring; she also will compete at the state track meet in the shot put.
“I can say with great confidence that Vicki’s going to be the only Cambridge-Isanti student who’s going to be in a state tournament this spring, twice,” Solberg said to another big round of applause.
The other team members are freshmen Callie Cox, Kaitlyn Pankan and Katelyn Rumpel; sophomores Hailey Booher, Sabrina Burke and captain Megan Servaty; and juniors Brianna Hoover, Abby Keller and captain Cory Hoover. The assistant coaches are Deb Feero, Mary Eklund and April Dahlquist, and the managers are Kalli Shugren and Stephanie West.
“I would like to say that these people are wonderful and amazing people, and being a manager is really fun,” Stephanie told the crowd. “And since I am a senior I will truly, honestly miss these people. Whenever you see these people in the hall, I’m challenging you, don’t walk past them. Give them a high five or a hug and tell them how much you really appreciate them. Because these kids have to work 10 times harder than you guys. What I learned from the team is always show compassion.”
Vicki Koukol said, “I can’t believe this will be my last time to bowl with my teammates before graduation. It just seems like yesterday when I joined the adapted bowling team as a freshman. Now I look back and I remember the good times we had when we bowled together. No matter what happens, it’s always a great day to be a Bluejacket.”
Some of the other bowlers who spoke ended their short speeches with similar words: “Go Big Blue!”
School spirit, the best kind of spirit, was in the air.
--To see a photo gallery from Cambridge-Isanti, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 457
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 11,498
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
|Eight Bylaw Changes Approved By Representative Assembly
|Posted by John Millea (email@example.com) - Updated 5/12/2014 1:38:47 PM
|The MSHSL representative assembly met Monday morning at Edinburgh USA in Brooklyn Park to vote on 10 proposed changes to MSHSL bylaws. Eight of those changes were approved. The 48-member assembly consists of six people from each of the MSHSL’s eight regions; three from small schools and three from larger schools in each region.
The proposals ranged widely, from eligibility bylaws to transfer and residence and other areas. The only sport-specific proposals centered on football, with one pertaining to summer football workouts and the other focusing on practice parameters before the first game of the season. A change to the rules for summer football practice was approved, but a proposal to tighten restrictions on football practice hours and days in the fall was defeated.
All changes will take effect Aug. 1, 2014. A news release outlining details of the representative assembly actions was sent from MSHSL director of information Howard Voigt to the media following Monday’s meeting, and here is that information …
The eight approved changes were made to the following bylaws:
— Bylaw 111—Transfer and Residence: It will allow a student a 15-day “trial period” to return to the student’s original school after a transfer provided the student has not competed at the varsity level in any sport during that time period. Prior to approval, two amendments were made and approved: 1) an allowance for students/parents to waive the trial period; and 2) restricting the trial period opportunity to once per calendar year.
— Bylaw 201—Amateur Status: It will allow for actual and reasonable reimbursement for participation in a camp or clinic; it prohibits participation on professional teams or signing with a professional team; it will allow a tryout with a professional team if the student can document that (s)he paid all the fees and expenses.
— Bylaw 205—Chemical Eligibility: Expands the prohibited use, consumption, possession, purchase, sale or distribution of products containing or delivering nicotine, tobacco and other chemicals (e.g. e-cigarettes); expands the definition of substances or products that alter the central nervous system (e.g. synthetic drugs, glue, bath salts etc).
— Bylaw 208—Non-School Competition and Training: It more clearly defines for coaches what exactly is prohibited during the annual no-contact period incorporating the July Fourth holiday. No contact, no travel with athletes, no open gym/weight room/training supervision, and no team-building events will be allowed.
— Bylaw 208—Non-School Competition and Training: A second amendment to this bylaw provides specific definitions and policies pertaining to football contact and practice during the summer months. Added were acclimatization rules and limits on contact practices to six days during summer.
— Bylaw 304—Ineligible Student: It removes the team penalty exception for administrative errors in using an ineligible player serving a chemical or non-school competition penalty.
— Bylaw 411—Scheduling of Contests: It will allow scheduling contests with out-of-state schools only if the opponent’s state association actually sponsors that activity and that opponent abides by its state association’s eligibility rules.
— Bylaw 502—Daily/Season Player Participation Limits: It imposes a daily limit of not more than 6.5 quarters during any consecutive three-day period for football players.
The two amendments that failed were proposed to the following bylaws:
— Bylaw 403—Cooperative Sponsorship: It would have changed the co-op application deadline from the first day of practice for a sport to no later than 30 calendar days prior to the first day of practice for a sport.
— Bylaw 508—Football: It is a complete revision of what must be done before the first game is played, spelling out specific protocols for heat acclimatization and practices. It reduces the pre-season period from three weeks to 14 calendar days.
|Wheels Are Turning, Decisions Being Considered
|Posted by John Millea (firstname.lastname@example.org) - Updated 5/8/2014 1:16:29 PM
|Meetings are not nearly as thrilling as sporting events, but meetings are part of the business of the MSHSL as well as every school district in Minnesota. An important round of area meetings concluded Thursday At Edinburgh USA golf course in Brooklyn Park.
Thursday’s event was the final area meeting of the spring, following recent gatherings in Mankato, Marshall, Rochester, Fergus Falls, Thief River Falls, Chisholm and Brainerd. Area meetings are held in the spring and fall each year as a way to share information with administrators from every school in Minnesota and bring their input back to the MSHSL office. Approximately 150 metro-area athletic/activity administrators attended Thursday’s meeting.
A very important and different type of gathering will be held at the same site Monday when the MSHSL representative assembly meets. The assembly, a group of 48 delegates representing schools from all over the state, is the body that must approve any proposed changes to MSHSL bylaws. There are several proposed changes on Monday’s agenda, and we’ll get to those in a moment,
Two other topics of note from the area meetings are something called Success Factor and an update on district football.
Success Factor is a formula that some states are using as a way to try and level the playing field when specific teams in specific sports are dominant. Administrators at area meetings were shown an example from the Indiana High School Athletic Association, which uses a point system to decide if teams are dominant enough over a period of two years to be moved to a higher classification (no matter what the enrollment numbers are). If a dominant team is already in the largest class, the formula is not used.
“Some states say it’s not really about the enrollment you have, it’s about the success you achieve,” MSHSL executive director Dave Stead said at Thursday’s meeting. “It has nothing to do with the type of school you are, it has to do with the success you have over a period of time.”
Using a point system, teams in specific sports move up to the next enrollment class for the next reclassification period. In Minnesota, reclassification takes place every two years. Administrators at area meetings filled out a questionnaire about Success Factor and were invited to offer their input to the MSHSL staff members.
“It’s our job as a staff to bring issues to you, get input from you and take that input to our board, which is what we’re trying to do,” Stead said.
Associate director Kevin Merkle updated the meeting attendees on district football, a new format for regular-season football scheduling that will begin in 2015. Under the plan, schools will be placed into districts, and each district will put together football schedules for all teams in that district.
“In a large majority of cases, schools will be grouped with schools they’re already playing,” Merkle said. “A few districts are as small as 12 (schools), but some are as big as 20 and even 28 schools.”
A committee is working on placing schools into districts, holding several meetings with the goal of having district assignments finalized later this month. Members of the committee are Brad Johnson, Rochester; Todd Oye, Luverne; Chuck Evert, Battle Lake; Mike Biermaier, Thief River Falls; Brent Schimek, Deer River; Derek Parendo, Proctor; John Ross, Sartell; Brian Brown, Concordia Academy; Dan Roff, Fridley; and Rick Sutton, Eagan.
And finally, here are the proposed bylaw changes that will be considered by the representative assembly on Monday ...
o Bylaw 111—Transfer and Residence: It will allow a student a 15-day “trial period” to return to the student’s original school after a transfer provided the student has not competed at the varsity level in any sport during that time period.
o Bylaw 201—Amateur Status: It will allow for actual and reasonable reimbursement for participation in a camp or clinic; it prohibits participation on professional teams or signing with a professional team; it will allow a tryout with a professional team if the student can document that (s)he paid all the fees and expenses.
o Bylaw 205—Chemical Eligibility: Expands the prohibited use, consumption, possession, purchase, sale or distribution of products containing or delivering nicotine, tobacco and other chemicals (eg e-cigarettes); expands the definition of substances or products that alter the central nervous system (eg synthetic drugs, glue, bath salts etc).
o Bylaw 208—Non-School Competition and Training: It more clearly defines for coaches what exactly is prohibited during the annual no-contact period incorporating the July Fourth holiday. A second amendment provides specific definitions and policies pertaining to football contact and practice during the summer months.
o Bylaw 304—Ineligible Student: It removes the team penalty exception for administrative errors in using an ineligible player serving a chemical or non-school competition penalty.
o Bylaw 403—Cooperative Sponsorship: It changes the co-op application deadline from the first day of practice for a sport to no later than 30 calendar days prior to the first day of practice for a sport.
o Bylaw 411—Scheduling of Contests: It will allow scheduling contests with out-of-state schools only if the opponent’s state association actually sponsors that activity and that opponent abides by its state association’s eligibility rules.
o Bylaw 502—Daily/Season Player Participation Limits: It imposes a daily limit of not more than 6.5 quarters during any consecutive three-day period for football players.
o Bylaw 508—Football: It is a complete revision of what must be done before the first game is played, spelling out specific protocols for heat acclimitization and practices. It reduces the preseason period from three weeks to 14 calendar days.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 454
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,848
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
|Kasson-Mantorville’s Wiebke Sets State High Jump Record
|Posted by John Millea (email@example.com) - Updated 5/7/2014 2:05:12 PM
|Kasson-Mantorville junior Taylor Wiebke broke the girls state record in the high jump Tuesday, clearing 5 feet, 11 inches at the Class 2A Section 1 True Team meet in Winona.
The previous state record was 5-10 3/4 by Waseca's Tressa Beckel in 2006.
Wiebke was the Class 2A state runner-up last season with a height of 5-7 at the state track and field meet. The champion was Lakeville South’s Caraline Slattery at 5-8. Both are juniors this season. At the 2014 Hamline Elite Meet on April 25, Wiebke was the champion at 5-5 and Slattery was second at 5-4.
|NRHEG’s Carlie Wagner Keeps Soaring Higher and Higher
|Posted by John Millea (firstname.lastname@example.org) - Updated 5/7/2014 1:57:51 PM
|MAPLETON -- Carlie Wagner wasn’t feeling perfect Tuesday, but the spring of 2014 has been much better than 2013 for the senior from New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva. She’s healthy this season, and that makes all the difference.
Everyone in Minnesota knows Wagner as the superstar basketball player who led the Panthers to back-to-back Class 2A state championships, was named Miss Basketball 2014 and will play at the University of Minnesota. Fewer fans know that she is also a star of track and field and owns a state title in the high jump.
That championship came in 2012 when Wagner leaped 5 feet, 6 inches to win the Class 1A crown. As a freshman a year earlier, she placed fifth in the 1A high jump at 5-4. Which brings us back to one year ago, when tendinitis in her right knee – the knee that provides her lift for high jumping – gave her all kinds of trouble.
“It made me incapable of jumping, it hurt so much,” she said at Tuesday’s 1A Section 2 True Team meet, hosted by Maple River. “I dealt with it all season. At sections I just made 5-3 to qualify for state, and when I took my last attempt at 5-4 and I couldn’t even run. I sort of collapsed and cried; it hurt so bad and I sort of hit my breaking point with it.”
She didn’t compete at last year’s state meet, but Wagner is on track for a return this spring. She won the high jump Tuesday by clearing 5-6 before three misses at 5-8. She set a personal best of 5-9 last week; only seven Minnesota high school girls have ever gone higher. The next-best high jump among Class 1A girls this spring is 5-4, making Wagner the favorite at this point for another state championship.
“Absolutely, (winning state again) would be so much fun,” she said. “I got fifth place my freshman year and I was thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll come back next year and get second or third.’ I ended up winning it that year and it was a total shock. Maybe this year I can go up and do that again, but you never know. There’s always somebody popping up out of somewhere that can jump so well.”
Wagner is very busy at track meets. Tuesday, for example, she also ran the 100 meters, the 200 and teamed with her two ninth-grade twin sisters in the 4x200 relay. The foursome of Maddie Wagner, ninth-grader Gretchen Ramaker, Marnie Wagner and Carlie Wagner (pictured) finished second in the True Team meet.
All three Wagners were named to the all-tournament team at state. Track is a different type of sport than basketball, Carlie Wagner said.
“I feel like we’re more laid-back and can relax a little bit more,” she said. “In basketball I feel like I’m more on their case and pushing them more. But in track, it’s just running. What are you going to do to them?”
A big basketball blow for Wagner came in late March when Gophers coach Pam Borton was fired. Borton had recruited Wagner since Carlie was a freshman and they had developed a strong relationship.
On the day of the firing, Wagner received a text from classmate and basketball teammate Paige Overgaard that said, “Carlie, have you heard about Pam? She got fired.”
Wagner said, “I went on Google and the second I clicked on ‘Pam Borton’ all these articles popped up. I started crying. I’ve been so close to her and the rest of the staff, and all of a sudden they’re gone when I’m just about to get there.”
She thought about changing her college commitment “for about three seconds.” But the hiring of former Virginia Commonwealth coach Marlene Stollings by Minnesota, combined with Wagner’s home-state pride, made the decision to stick with the Gophers very easy.
“I really like coach Stollings,” she said. “I haven’t gotten to meet her yet but we’ve talked on the phone. And from everything I’ve read about her, she’s pretty awesome.
“And the thought of representing the home state and where I come from, putting on the Minnesota jersey. My family’s all here, I’ll have fan support, I know where I’m at, I’ll know everybody. I feel comfortable here.”
The state track meet will be held June 6-7 at Hamline University in St. Paul. Wagner will move to the Minnesota campus in mid-June to start summer school as well as her college basketball career.
“I have no idea what to expect. I know it will be way more intense,” she said. “I know that with everything in high school, you take that probably times 10. That’s the fun part, when you get pushed and you have to work hard. I’m really looking forward to the competition.”
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 454
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,838
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
|Indoor Options: Teams Scramble To Find Places To Play
|Posted by John Millea (email@example.com) - Updated 5/1/2014 6:44:03 PM
|For the second year in a row, uncooperative spring weather has saddled Minnesota high school sports schedules with rain, snow, soggy fields and growing frustrations. Teams that are fortunate to have indoor options are doing all they can to find dry places to play, which is why the softball teams from Apple Valley and Eastview played a doubleheader inside an inflatable dome at the Savage Sports Center on Thursday.
The arrangement comes at a price. The two schools rented the dome from 1 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. for a total cost of $1,200, which was shared by the schools, their school district (both are in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district) and booster clubs from both schools. When Eastview athletic director Matt Percival called the year-old Savage Sports Center on Monday and learned there was time available for a doubleheader on Thursday, he also was told that the slot would be held for only 45 minutes because other schools also were calling.
“We’re fortunate in the metro that facilities like this have popped up in the last few years,” Percival said. “It’s a huge advantage to have that available.”
Savage Sports Center facilities manager Jeff Freund said the number of inquiries about using the dome “has been crazy. I can’t even give you a number, it’s been so many.”
Teams from nearby Prior Lake and Burnsville high schools are the main occupants of the dome, but teams from Edina, Eden Prairie and Lakeville also have used the facility this spring.
“If it’s available we’ll book it,” Freund said “It’s kind of a first-come, first-serve basis.”
Rules are modified for indoor softball. Any ball that hits the ceiling is declared a dead ball, for instance. And since the entire field is artificial turf, the pitching rubber is taped to the turf and the plastic home plate often moves a few feet when runners slide in. Eastview swept Thursday's doubleheader 10-5 and 10-0.
Lacrosse games also have been played indoors this spring and tennis teams can find indoor courts, but baseball, golf and track teams are bound to outdoor competitions. The situation is similar to a year ago but the 2013 conditions included more snow, which made things simpler for administrators.
“I think the biggest difference is last year when it snowed, we just knew we couldn’t have games. It was just blocking out weeks at a time,” Percival said. “This year you’re living day to day; I think this is worse. Last year we just revamped schedules and started over. This spring you’re living day by day and trying to manage it all. It’s a puzzle. And this week’s really done a number because of field conditions.”
Outdoor artificial turf can pay off during these weather conditions, when natural-grass fields have been turned into wet slop. Eastview’s lacrosse field is grass, so two home lacrosse games have been moved to the original visiting schools’ turf fields; boys at Burnsville and girls at Bloomington Kennedy.
The forecast calls for improved conditions next week, but the high number of already-postponed events could mean games are played at a furious pace before postseason play begins.
“That’s the thing,” said Apple Valley athletic director Pete Buesgens. “Once it gets dry, what do you do? You want to keep the safety of kids in mind and not play nine games in five days or something like that.”
Administrators are doing all they can to find games for their varsity teams, but junior-varsity, sophomore and other lower-level teams are sometimes left without games or even practices.
“You really feel bad for lower levels,” Buesgens said. “You want to get varsity games in because you’ve got sections coming up, so you’ll drop a lower-level game because you have one field open. Today we have one field available at our place, so we cancelled our lower-level baseball because that was all we had.”
Geography can mean a lot in Minnesota, with conditions in the southern part of the state often better than in the north. The softball team from Hermantown, for example, will play in an eight-team tournament hosted by Eastview this weekend.
Hermantown coach Tom Bang called Percival this week and asked, “Is there any chance when we get to town (Friday) that’s there’s any dirt? Because we haven’t been on a dirt field yet.”
Percival said, “Everything will work as long as the weather cooperates the rest of the spring.”
Cross your fingers.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 431
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 10,578
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