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The Best of John’s Journal 2018-19: Honorable Mention Stories
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/26/2019

This is a fun time for me. Another school year has ended and I'm going back through all the memories from 2018-19 via the postings here on John's Journal. From the first day of practice for fall sports in August though the end of spring state tournaments in June, I'm reliving lots of wonderful experiences as I traveled around the state, meeting people, watching events and sharing their stories.

The annual goal at this point is to select a Top 10 list of my favorite John's Journal stories. This is always a difficult task; I've been with the MSHSL for a decade now and this yearly summer project, while not easy, is always fun.

Looking back at 2018-19 has been a delightful mission. I went through 386 total entries that were posted between August and June, winnowing stories down to a manageable list; and by "manageable" I mean I managed to whittle it down to 31 stories. From there I'm selecting my personal favorite Top 10 (those 10 have been chosen and I'm in the process of ranking them). I also came up with five Honorable Mention stories. This was tough.

The Honorable Mention stories are summarized here. You can find each of these stories by going to the bottom of this post and clicking "More of John’s Journal" … then you’ll find a month-by-month list of stories on the right side of the page.

In the days ahead I will re-post each of the Top 10 stories individually, counting down from No. 10 to No. 1.

Thanks to everyone for reading these posts throughout the year(s).

Honorable Mention Stories (in calendar order)

Sept. 2/ Like Father, Like Son: The Multisport Boumans Of Buffalo

It’s not surprising, genetically speaking, that Aidan Bouman is a talented football player. His father, after all, is Todd Bouman, who had a lengthy career as an NFL quarterback. Todd is now the head football coach at Buffalo High School, where Aidan is the starting quarterback.

Football, however, isn’t the only family tradition. Aidan also is following in his dad’s footsteps as a multisport athlete. Todd was on the football, basketball and track teams in high school at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in southwest Minnesota, then played football and basketball at St. Cloud State. Aidan also plays basketball for the Bison, and that won’t change despite his announcement in June of a verbal commitment to play college football at Iowa State. He was the Cyclones’ first commitment from the Class of 2020, making the decision months before his first day of school as an 11th-grader.

Aidan is already taller this his father. Todd, 46, is 6-foot-2 and his son stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 225 pounds. Another difference is that Aidan is lefthanded. If you look at photos of both of them throwing the football, it is almost a mirror image because their motions are so similar.

Sept. 30/ Blue Ox, White Jerseys: Making Memories in Bemidji And Grand Rapids

Oh Hail Bemidji High School! For we’re a hundred million strong! Our hearts are always with you; our eyes upon you every Bemidji man! Rah! Rah! Rah! Oh yes, we’re here to cheer you, to put the old pep in each play! So fight Bemidji, fight Bemidji, fight to win your way to victory!

Imagine the scene in Bemidji on Friday night. The famous statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox standing there, minding their own business, on the shore of Lake Bemidji at 9:35 p.m. Paul, the top of his flat-top cap 18 feet in the air, probably saw the two school buses rolling down Paul Bunyan Drive. They made the left turn at the light, pulled up to the curb and football players began piling out, hootin’ and hollerin’.

Imagine the scene in Grand Rapids on Saturday morning. Varsity football players are diving to make tackles, somehow missing every time, then cheering and celebrating in the end zone as students with special needs spike the football, some showing off celebratory dance moves. This was the fifth annual Itasca County Victory Day, a time when boys and girls who cannot play football become football stars, putting on jerseys, running drills with the varsity boys, hitting tackling dummies, kicking field goals, catching and throwing passes, hearing their name over the public-address system as part of the "Thunderhawks starting lineup" and again when they outrun the flailing varsity players into the end zone.

Dec. 3/ Brainerd’s Mike Bialka: 40 Years Of Positive Impacts

In 1978 Les Sellnow, editor of the newspaper in Brainerd, called a recent college graduate who was in his first year as the sports editor (and one-person sports department) for the Crookston Times. Les had an opening for a sports writer and invited Mike Bialka to return to his hometown for an interview.

The young scribe had a conflict. He would be playing in the state amateur baseball tournament and couldn’t make the interview. A couple of phone conversations later, Sellnow said simply, "If you want the job, it’s yours.” No interview, no hoops to jump through. So the young man’s first day on the job was the first day he walked into the newsroom of his hometown newspaper.

That young man’s last day on the job will be the first day of 2019, ending a 40-year career at the Brainerd Dispatch, the last 33 as sports editor. Mike Bialka is a real rarity: he devoted nearly his entire career to his hometown community newspaper and made a million friends along the way.

March 2/ Park Rapids’ Ashton Clark: Perseverance, Dedication, Commitment

Saturday night was special at Xcel Energy Center. The final matches of the high school wrestling season, in which individual state champions are crowned, are always held in a joyous, raucous setting, with gold medals being awarded in front of cheering crowds. High school wrestling careers sometimes end quietly, too.

Ashton Clark, a senior from Park Rapids, was hoping to go out on top. He placed second in Class 2A as a sophomore and junior and came to the 2019 state tournament in the 120-pound class with dreams of a first-place finish. That dream was dashed when he lost an opening-round match on Friday morning in the most dramatic way possible.

But the story, the story that really matters, the story that says so much about the young man, is how he made it back to state when it seemed impossible. Ashton suffered a broken leg on Jan. 5 while wrestling in the championship match at a tournament in Ogilvie. He won that match, despite a broken bone just above the ankle. Doctors told him his wrestling season was over.

He wasn’t hearing it.

June 5/ Future Teacher Signing Ceremonies Continue To Grow

During a special ceremony last month, held for the first time at Delano High School, several soon-to-be-graduating seniors sat before their families and teachers and signed the same statement. They intend to become educators as they head off to college, and the statement read, "I dedicate myself to the life of an educator and providing the foundation upon which future generations will build their lives. I commit to the cultivation of character, for I know that humanity cannot flourish without courage, compassion, honesty, and trust. Further, I commit myself to the advancement of my own learning and to the cultivation of my own character, in order to promote the love of learning in my future students."

Similar signing ceremonies were held this spring at nearly 20 other Minnesota high schools. A year ago I was made aware of three such signings, so clearly the idea of holding Future Teacher Signing Ceremonies has taken off in our state.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Hopkins' Fahnbulleh Named National Track Athlete Of The Year
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/24/2019

Congratulations to Hopkins High School sprinter Joe Fahnbulleh, who has been named the National Senior Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association. He is the first Minnesota athlete to win the award.

Here is the announcement from the NHSCA...

The National High School Coaches Association ("NHSCA”) is pleased to announce Joe Fahnbulleh of Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minnesota as its National Senior Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Fahnbulleh closed-out his scholastic career by defending his 200 meter dash Class 2A state title, plus he anchored the school's 4x200-meter relay team that won its second straight state gold medal. The relay team broke its own state record with a winning time of 1 minute, 25.66 seconds. Fahnbulleh, who will attend the University of Florida on a scholarship, was named Mr. Track and Field in Minnesota by the sport’s coaches association.

“The (Florida) coaches didn’t just only care about my athletic ability, they cared about me as a human. I see coaches at UF as the father figures I never had in my life. That’s why I chose Florida,” Fahnbulleh said.

Fahnbulleh, who fled Liberia (Africa) with his family during a coup, said education is very important, “My mom says nobody can take away your education. Opportunities are there. Most people see them but don’t take them; I act on my opportunities.”

“Joe is an excellent example what this award stands for,” said Eric Hess, Executive Director of the NHSCA. “He has excelled as much in the classroom as he has on the track. We congratulate him on an outstanding high school career and wish him success at the University of Florida.”

Fahnbulleh is the first Minnesota athlete to win the NHSCA Senior Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year Award.

Throughout the 2018-19 sports season, the NHSCA has been announcing the Athlete of the Year honorees in 20 boys and girls sports. This marks the 20th consecutive year the NHSCA has honored achievers within the high school athletic community nationwide.

Each of the honorees will receive a beautiful plaque. In addition, the Athlete of the Year honoree will be displayed in the National High School Digital Sports Hall of Fame that is currently under development.

Here are the NHSCA’s past selections for the Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year:
2018 – Kieran McDermott, Bel Air HS, Maryland
2017 - Damion Thomas, Northeast HS, Florida
2016 – Norman Grimes, Canyon HS, Texas
2015 – Chad Zallow, John F. Kennedy HS, Warren, Ohio
2014 – Trentavis Friday – Cherryville HS, North Carolina
2013 – Grant Hill – Huntsville HS, Alabama
2012 – Jarrion Lawson – Liberty-Eylau HS, Texas
2011 – Gunnar Nixon – Santa Fe HS, Oklahoma
2010 – Sam Crouser – Gresham HS, Oregon
2009 – Mason Finley – Buena Vista HS, Colorado
2008 – Christian Taylor – Sandy Creek HS, Georgia
2007 – Craig Forys – Colts Neck HS, New Jersey
2006 – David Klech – California HS, California
2005 – Kevin Craddock – James Logan HS, California
2004 – Xavier Carter – Palm Bay HS, Florida
2003 – Earvin Parker – Lewisville HS, Texas
2002 – Ryan Shields – Leo HS, Illinois
2001 – Alan Webb – South Lakes HS, Virginia
2000 – David Fraser – Westfield HS, Texas

From Germany To Target Field, A Ballplayer On The Move
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/20/2019

For nearly a year, New Prague junior baseball player Joe Becker had been planning for a class trip to Germany. After finishing a third year of studying German in school, Joe was among 40 students and several chaperones who headed for Germany earlier this month.

Thirty-nine of those students are still there. Becker is back home, making a quick return after the Trojans advanced to the Class 4A state championship game at Target Field against East Ridge. It was quite the whirlwind.

"I thought, 'There's no way I can get back for that,' " Joe said. "Ten hours later I had a plane ticket."

He was with the team through the Section 1 playoffs; he was the winning pitcher when the Trojans clinched a trip to the state tournament with a 10-3 win over Lakeville North on June 5. The German class had departed on June 3 and Becker joined them in Germany after the section playoffs. As the Trojans – one of three unseeded teams in the eight-team bracket -- defeated Blaine in the state quarterfinals and Rogers in the state semifinals, Joe followed the games online late at night since Germany is seven hours ahead of Minnesota time.

"I was up until about two in the morning both those nights," he said.

After New Prague's state semifinal win on Saturday, German teacher Brittany Elsen – "She's an awesome teacher, easily my favorite,” he said -- asked Joe if he was thinking about returning home early. Then his dad, Kevin Becker, sent a text asking the same question. Joe texted first-year coach Tanner Oakes, wondering if he was still on the roster and would be eligible for the state championship game. He was.

“I had mixed feelings,” Joe said. “I was really happy and excited for the team but at the same time I was sad I couldn't be there.”

The Trojans finished 15-7 last season and a prediction of getting to Target Field this spring would have been met with some skepticism.

“It was a tough situation to put a kid in but they had to make the commitment a long time ago” said Oakes. “He did it the right way, he talked to me about it and I wasn’t going to tell him he couldn’t go. Both are kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. There was no guarantee we would be playing in the state tournament.”

Becker is a talented ballplayer. As a pitcher his record is 5-0 with a 0.84 earned-run average. At the plate his batting average is .383.

“He’s a big part of our team,” Oakes said. “He’s been phenomenal. He’s our No. 5 hitter, plays third base, second base, some first base, he’s very versatile and fills lot of needs on our team.”

The rest of the students will remain in Germany for another few days, but Joe is happy to be back home with his teammates for the biggest game of their lives.

“It feels awesome,” he said. “I’m really glad I could come home early and be with the guys. It gives me a sense of pride after all the years of work we put in to build up to this moment.”

Rain impacts the state tournament

After the first two games of Thursday’s four-game schedule were completed, rain moved into downtown Minneapolis and the Target Field grounds crew covered the infield with the tarp. The Class 3A game between St. Thomas Academy and Benilde-St. Margaret’s, scheduled for a 4 p.m. first pitch, began at 6:46 p.m. The 4A game between New Prague and East Ridge began at 9:28; the scheduled time was 7 p.m. The Class 4A game ended at 11:25 p.m.

Class 1A: BOLD 8, New York Mills 0

The Warriors received a championship performance from junior pitcher Jordan Sagedahl, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before surrendering a leadoff single to end the no-hit bid. Sagedahl struck out nine and walked three. He also went 3-for-4 at the plate, including a fifth-inning inside-the-park home run to give BOLD a 2-0 lead.

Class 2A: Duluth Marshall 4, Minnehaha Academy 2

Marshall scored a run in the sixth and three more in the seventh for a come-from-behind win over Minnehaha Academy. Cole Maccoux led off the seventh with a double, Alex Busick hit an RBI single, Carter Sullivan laced an RBI triple and Peter Hansen followed with an RBI single. Marshall pitcher Ben Pedersen retired the last seven batters he faced, finishing with nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings before reaching the pitch limit of 115.

Class 3A: St. Thomas Academy 1, Benilde-St. Margaret’s 0

St. Thomas Academy pitcher Duke Coborn went the distance, securing the shutout with nine strikeouts, six hits and a walk. Coborn outdueled Red Knights starter Blake Mahmood, who also went the distance in a two-hit losing effort, allowing just one run while striking out nine. The Cadets scored in the fourth inning on a two-out single to left field by Michael Goblisch.

Class 4A: East Ridge 7, New Prague 2

East Ridge exploded for a five-run fifth inning and a two-run sixth in a 7-2 come-from-behind win over the Trojans. New Prague pitcher Luke Tupy struck out six of the first seven and 10 of the first 12 batters he faced.

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A: Brady Nelson, Mason Tapp, Hayfield; Alex Call, Weston Gjerde, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg; Evan Sczepanski, Oscar Ortiz, Sacred Heart; Caden Roberts, Derin Gaudette, Dylan Fischer, New York Mills; Jordan Sagedahl, Luke Ryan, Hayden Tersteeg, BOLD.

Class 2A: Carter Mulcahy, Perham; Drew Beier, Foley; Andy Regner, Tyson Sowder, St. Peter; Grady Fuchs, Luke Johnson, Paynesville; Dylan Kiratli, Noah Dehne, Bennett Theisen, Minnehaha Academy; Ben Pedersen, Charlie Kleinschmidt, Carter Sullivan, Duluth Marshall.

Class 3A: Nicholas Macchio, Marshall; Jack Schwartz, Hill-Murray; Teyghan Hovland, Nathan Murphy, Austin; Jason Axelberg, Ethan Bosacker, Monticello; Blake Mahmood, Jonny Woodford, Dylan Drees, Benilde-St. Margaret’s; Duke Coborn, Carter Henry, Joseph Goulet, St. Thomas Academy.

Class 4A: Wyatt Nelson, Hopkins; Robert Hogan, Mounds View; Garrett McLaughlin, Carter VanEngen, Rogers; Drew Gilbert, Ben Borrman, Stillwater; Collin Dorzinski, Joe Weiers, Cade Pavek, New Prague; Ben North, Roman Newinski, Ryan Thelen, East Ridge.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

It's A Wrap For Lacrosse, Baseball Moves To Target Field
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/16/2019

The spring sports seasons are winding down, with girls and boys lacrosse finishing their seasons Saturday and eight baseball teams remaining as championship games are at hand on Thursday at Target Field.

Prior Lake swept both lacrosse state titles in the championship games at Chanhassen High School. The Lakers girls defeated Eden Prairie 17-12 and the boys beat Benilde-St. Margaret's 5-3.

Thursday's baseball state championship games at Target Field will begin at 10 a.m. with the Class 1A game between BOLD and New York Mills and conclude with a scheduled 7 p.m. start in the Class 4A contest between East Ridge and New Prague.

Tickets for baseball's Championship Saturday are $12 for adults and $8 for students, and each ticket is good for all four games.

Boys State Lacrosse Tournament

Thursday's semifinals
Prior Lake 4, Eden Prairie 3
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 10, St. Thomas Academy 3

Saturday’s championship game at Chanhassen
Prior Lake 5, Benilde-St. Margaret’s 3

Girls State Lacrosse Tournament

Thursday’s semifinals
Prior Lake 21, Breck 3
Eden Prairie 13, Lakeville North 8

Saturday’s championship game
Prior Lake 17, Eden Prairie 12

State Baseball Tournament

Class 1A
Friday’s semifinals at Mini-Met, Jordan
BOLD 7, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 6 (8 innings)
New York Mills 5, Sacred Heart 1
Championship Thursday at Target Field
10 a.m.: BOLD vs. New York Mills

Class 2A
Friday’s semifinals at Dick Putz Field, St. Cloud
Duluth Marshall 3, Paynesville 2 (8 innings)
Minnehaha Academy 9, St. Peter 1
Championship Thursday at Target Field
1 p.m.: Duluth Marshall vs. Minnehaha Academy

Class 3A
Friday’s semifinals at Siebert Field, Minneapolis
Benilde-St. Margaret's 2, Monticello 1
St. Thomas Academy 9, Austin 5
Championship Thursday at Target Field
4 p.m.: Benilde-St. Margaret's vs. St. Thomas Academy

Class 4A
Saturday’s semifinals at CHS Field, St. Paul
East Ridge 6, Stillwater 5 (8 innings)
New Prague 12, Rogers 7
Championship Thursday at Target Field
7 p.m.: Stillwater or East Ridge vs. New Prague

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

No Sprinting Needed For Big BOLD Slugger
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/13/2019

In the final game of his high school football career, Riley Weis walked off the field in the first half with an injury and didn't return. The 6-foot-1, 300-pound senior from BOLD suffered a torn AC joint in his right shoulder and four partially torn ligaments during the Warriors' 22-21 loss to Mahnomen/Wauben in the Class 1A Prep Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium last November.

No surgery was required but Riley wore a sling for several weeks and his pitching career was over.

But the kid can still send a baseball flying. He put the single biggest swing on the horsehide during Thursday's Class 1A state quarterfinals at the Mini-Met in Jordan, belting a three-run homer in the sixth inning that lifted BOLD past Sebeka 4-2.

"All year we've been saying, 'If he gets hold of it, it’s going a mile,’ " said BOLD coach Brian Kingery. "And he didn’t hit that one 10, 15 feet in the air and it was gone, no problem."

When the ball left Riley’s lumber, everyone in the park – including Riley – thought it would bang off the wall in right field. But it seemed to find another gear as it hit the top of the wall and bounded into a parking lot.

"I knew it was going to be over his head and I was thinking double, maybe a triple because I’m fast,” said a smiling Weis. “I just put my head down and started running. I was rounding first, hard, and I heard a bunch of cheering. I didn’t see the ball.”

The blast, his third home run of the season, capped a rally after Sebeka pitcher Kolby Kiser had handcuffed the Warriors for much of the game. He finished with 10 strikeouts and one walk, giving up just four hits. Winning pitcher Jordan Sagedahl struck out 11, walked five and also gave up four hits.

Sebeka took a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning when Mason Dailey and Spencer Lake hit run-scoring singles. In BOLD’s half of the sixth, an unearned run scored before Weis stepped to the plate with two outs and two runners on base.

“I knew I had to step up, try and make something happen,” he said.

Kingery said, “When he hit it, I didn’t care if it was out or not because I knew we’d score two runs and have the lead. And for 300 pounds he actually does move really well.”

As the ball exited the ballpark and the cheering began, there was no need for the biggest speedster on the team to try to stretch a double into a triple.

Tournament Tidbits

--When Caden and Drey Roberts took the field for the New York Mills baseball team Thursday in Jordan, they completed some pretty neat family history. Caden (junior) and Drey (sophomore) are the youngest of Chris and Beth Roberts six kids; three daughters and three sons. All six kids have played in the state softball or baseball tournaments. New York Mills defeated South Ridge 10-1 Thursday.

--Kerkohoven-Murdock-Sunburg had one of the youngest pitcher-catcher combinations in tournament history when the Fighting Saints met Randolph in Jordan. Starting pitcher Alex Call and catcher Wylee Lottman are both ninth-graders. Call was the winning pitcher and had three hits as the Fighting Saints won 10-0 in five innings.


Class 1A
Thursday’s quarterfinals at Mini-Met, Jordan
BOLD 4, Sebeka 2
Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 10, Randolph 0
New York Mills 10, South Ridge 1
Sacred Heart 10, Hayfield 6

Class 2A
Thursday’s quarterfinals at Dick Putz Field, St. Cloud
Duluth Marshall 4, Glencoe-Silver Lake 3
Paynesville 3, Perham 2
Minnehaha Academy 12, LaCrescent-Hokah 5
St. Peter 11, Foley 3

Class 3A
Thursday’s quarterfinals at Siebert Field, Minneapolis
Monticello 5, Duluth Denfeld 4
Benilde-St. Margaret's 3, Marshall 1
Austin 3, Hill-Murray 1
St. Thomas Academy 3, Little Falls 1

Class 4A
Friday’s quarterfinals at CHS Field, St. Paul
Eden Prairie vs. Stillwater
Mounds View vs. East Ridge
New Prague vs. Blaine
Rogers vs. Hopkins


Thursday’s semifinals

Prior Lake 21, Breck 3
Eden Prairie 13, Lakeville North 8

Prior Lake 4, Eden Prairie 3
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 10, St. Thomas Academy 3

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

A Grand End To A Grand Season Of Track And Field
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/9/2019

The final event of the 2019 Minnesota high school track season was completed at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, with a quartet of boys from Fairmont winning the Class 1A 4x400-meter relay at Hamline University's Klas Field.

However, what I deem the official end of the track season didn't come until 10:21 p.m. Saturday, arriving via Tweet. Rafe York coaches cross-country and track at Jackson County Central and is well-known for his post-meet Twitter barrages, which always include details on how the JCC athletes fared mixed with great humor and fun (the Twitter account is @JCCTandF).

Every time Rafe Tweets about a track meet, it's tradition that the final message says this: "I love Track season." That was the dispatch that went out at 10:21 Saturday night.

The end of the season was grand, too. Championship Saturday at state track is like a family reunion and the state fair all swirled together. There were the usual great performances, including …

--The Jordan boys and Blake girls winning Class 1A team titles, and the Rosemount girls and Hopkins boys taking 2A crowns.

--Shaliciah Jones of North St. Paul winning the Class 2A girls 100 and 200 as well as running a leg of the Polars’ championship 4x100 team.

--Rosemount’s Lauren Peterson winning the 1,600 and the 3,200 and being part of the Irish’s winning 4x400 relay.

--Geno Uhrbom of Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin completing the Triple Crown of distance running, winning 1A state titles in cross-country last fall and 1,600 and 3,200 meters on Friday and Saturday.

--Winona Cotter’s Ping sisters sweeping the 1A distance races. Grace and Lauren Ping finished 1-2 in the 1,600 meters, a day after Lauren was first and Grace second in the 3,200.

Also Saturday, the Minnesota Track & Field Coaches Association named seniors Julia Fixsen of Mounds View and Joe Fahnbulleh of Hopkins as their athletes of the year. Julia holds the state record in the pole vault (13 feet, 11 ¼ inches) and won 2A state titles in 2017 and 2018. She did not advance to state this year, failing to clear a height in the Section 6 meet.

Joe ended his high school career Saturday with a state championship in the 200 meters as well as anchoring the Royals’ state-record-setting 4x200 relay team. They broke their own record in Friday’s prelims and broke it again Saturday with a time of 1:25.58. Joe holds state records in the 100 and 200 and is part of the Hopkins team that holds the state record in the 4x100.

Fixsen will continue her track career at Georgia and Fahnbulleh will run at Florida. Their final day representing their high schools provided contrasts – Joe competed while Julia did not – but how they handled things was both gracious and spectacular.

After Joe’s final race, I asked him about Saturday being the last time he will wear the Hopkins "H” on his uniform. He reply wasn’t about him, it was about those who helped him on his path.

“The H on my chest? It means a lot,” he said. “It will be forever ingrained in me. Because this is where I made my mark, this is where my journey began as an athlete. Hopkins gave me the most opportunities ever. Hopkins has been behind me 100 percent.

“You take away me being a good athlete, as a person Hopkins has always been there. Coach (Nick) Lovas, (principal) Doug Bullinger, it means a lot. And it means a lot because I came here with my boys. My boys were the ones that pushed me here. Without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today. That means a lot.”

Fixsen didn’t make it to state in the pole vault, but she did advance in the high jump, long jump and 100-meter hurdles, earning a third-place medal in the high jump. The winner of the 2A girls pole vault was Cambridge-Isanti senior Char Morke with a height of 12 feet, 4 inches.

Char is headed to the Naval Academy, where she will major in aeronautical engineering in the hopes of becoming a pilot. She also will compete in the pole vault there.

The day after Fixsen was unable to make a height at the section meet (her three attempts were all at 12-6), Morke thought her coach was joking when he told her Julia wouldn’t compete at state.

“Honestly, I thought he was kidding with me,” Char said, wearing the gold medal. “I didn’t believe it. Julia is such an amazing vaulter and I wish her the best. She’s such an amazing person and vaulter, but she’s way beyond this.”

Julia was at the pole vault as a spectator, cheering for and congratulating all the athletes. Char, who had finished third and fourth at state the last two years, was rightfully proud of her championship.

“Oh, I can’t believe how it feels, it feels really good,” she said with a big smile. “It’s nice to win it but I know that there’s someone who’s better than me who should have won it. But that’s OK.”

I chatted with Julia for a bit after the pole vault ended, and she was all smiles, wearing a Georgia cap. She talked about how grateful she is for her high school experiences, what she learned, and how excited she is for the future.

Later, I was standing in the tent where volunteer meet workers check in, and Julia walked up to ask the MSHSL staff if she could volunteer to help out with the afternoon’s Class 1A girls pole vault. And that’s exactly what she did, updating the sign every time the bar was raised and adjusting the stanchion on one side of the bar to each vaulter’s preference.

So on the same day that the most accomplished pole vaulter in Minnesota history was named female track and field athlete of the year, she asked to be a volunteer for vaulters competing in the small-school class.

I love Track season.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

2019 State Track And Field Champions
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/8/2019

Class 1A boys
100/ Max Peckenschneider, Providence Academy
100 wheelchair/ Peyton Gunnarson, Lewiston-Altura
200/ Carter Nesvold, Pipestone Area
200 wheelchair/ James Hagen, River Valley
400/ Kyler Bade, Plainview-Elgin Millville
800/ Avery Pater, SW MN Christian-Edgerton
800 wheelchair/ Tyler Shepersky, United North Central
1600/ Geno Urbohm, Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin
1600 wheelchair/ Aidan Gravelle, LCWM-Nicollet
3200/ Geno Urbohm, Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin
3200 wheelchair/ Tyler Shepersky, United North Central
110 hurdles/ Jayson Ekiyor, Providence Academy
300 hurdles/ Jade Reicks, St. Peter
4x100/ Jordan
4x200/ Jordan
4x400/ Fairmont
4x800/ Nova Classical Academy
High jump/ Yahya Madar, Mounds Park Academy
Long jump/ Christian Davis, Providence Academy
Triple jump/ Matthias Algarin Pierz
Pole vault/ Jacob Munsch, Plainview-Elgin Millville
Shot put/ Shane Byrne, Stewartville
Shot put wheelchair/ Luke Johnston, Medford and Danny Lilya, Moose Lake/Willow River
Discus/ David Roddy, Breck
Discus wheelchair/ Luke Johnston, Medford and Danny Lilya, Moose Lake/Willow River

Class 1A girls
100/ MaeLea Harmon, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
100 wheelchair/ Lilly Stiernagle, Maple River
200/ Emily Kaiser, Minnewaska Area
200 wheelchair/ Lilly Stiernagle, Maple River
400/ Robbie Grace, Blake
800/ Ava Hill, Mesabi East
1600/ Grace Ping, Winona Cotter
3200/ Lauren Ping, Winona Cotter
100 hurdles/ Ailsa Gilbert, Watertown-Mayer
300 hurdles/ Jaylen Struck-Schmitz, Belle Plaine
4x100/ Rochester Lourdes
4x200/ Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland
4x400/ Pelican Rapids
4x800/ Luverne
High jump/ Madi Schirmer, Maple River
Long jump/ Robbie Grace, Blake
Triple jump/ Maggie Larson, Maple Lake
Pole vault/ Ashley Hokanson, Perham
Shot put/ Desera Engholm, Pequot Lakes
Shot put wheelchair/ Lilly Stiernagle, Maple River
Discus/ Desera Engholm, Pequot Lakes
Discus wheelchair/ Lilly Stiernagle, Maple River

Class 2A boys
100/ Drew Olson, Alexandria
100 wheelchair/ Blake Eaton, Duluth Denfeld
200/ Joe Fahnbulleh, Hopkins
200 wheelchair/ Blake Eaton, Duluth Denfeld
400/ Julian Wright, DeLaSalle
800/ A.J. Green, Eastview
800 wheelchair/ Macario Palomares, Buffalo
1600/ Eli Hoeft, Hopkins
3200/ Isaac Basten, Buffalo
110 hurdles/ Josh Sampson, Mounds View
300 hurdles/ Josh Sampson, Mounds View
4x100/ Alexandria
4x200/ Hopkins
4x400/ Hopkins
4x800/ Wayzata
High jump/ Noah Cvetnic, Chaska
Long jump/ Dante White, Wayzata
Triple jump/ Ian Fosdick, Mahtomedi
Pole vault/ Alec Wittman East Ridge
Shot put/ Maxwell Otterdahl, Rosemount
Shot put wheelchair/ Ben Mathiowetz, New Ulm
Discus/ Maxwell Otterdahl, Rosemount
Discus wheelchair/ Ben Mathiowetz, New Ulm

Class 2A girls
100/ Shalicia Jones, North St. Paul
200/ Shalicia Jones, North St. Paul
400/ Claire Howell, Moorhead
800/ Elizabeth Acheson, Northfield
800 wheelchair/
1600/ Lauren Peterson, Rosemount
3200/ Lauren Peterson, Rosemount
100 hurdles/ Evelyn Adams, Edina
300 hurdles/ Erica Townley, White Bear Lake
4x100/ North St. Paul
4x200/ Minnetonka
4x400/ Rosemount
4x800/ Minnetonka
High jump/ Madison Schmidt, Blaine
Long jump/ Annie Wendt, Rochester Mayo
Triple jump/ Samantha Barrett, Prior Lake
Pole vault/ Char Morke, Cambridge-Isanti
Shot put/ Mya Lesnar, Alexandria
Discus/ Michaela Hawkins, Roseville Area

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea" wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Why My Friday Was Better Than Your Friday
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/7/2019

Friday was one of those memorable days. You may have been out on a boat or a golf course or riding your bike under the warm sun, but my Friday was better than your Friday. That's because I was able to spend time at two state tournaments, which always means something special.

I began the day at Hamline University's Klas Field on Day One of the state track and field championships. The first events began at 9 a.m. I closed the day at the state softball tournament at Caswell Park in North Mankato, where the last of four championship games ended at 4:30 p.m. The two events were 94 miles apart and offered drastically different forms of competition, but some themes remain the same despite the location or the sport.

In the final softball game of the two-day tournament, the final pitch from Edgerton/Southwest Minnesota Christian senior pitcher Sierra Van Dyke darted past the final hitter for Badger/Greenbush-Middle River and into the mitt of catcher Maddie Nelson, sealing a 4-1 win for the Dutchmen.

At both sites, as well as two locations in Minneapolis that hosted the final day of the boys state tennis tournaments, there were big, loud crowds. There also were quieter moments, and I would like to focus on three such moments here.

--The first moment is very simple, embroidered on the back of a man’s cap. I don’t know where the man is from, which softball team he was cheering for or, honestly, what he looks like from the front. All I saw was the back of his cap, which carried this simple statement: "Memories Last Forever." That’s a great summary of these events. I’m glad I happened to see his cap.

--The very first race of the state track meet was the Class 2A girls 3,200 meters. When the starter’s pistol was fired at 9 a.m., senior Lauren Peterson of Rosemount – a high-achieving track and cross-country runner for Farmington until transferring to Rosemount this year – took off with the lead. And Lauren held that lead through all eight laps in capturing the state title.

Finishing second was Stillwater sophomore Analee Weaver and third was Minneapolis Washburn senior Emily Covert. Covert won this race a year ago and also has won at the state cross-country championships, but this warm June day was different because she had been on the shelf for most of the track season.

As I wrote last week, Emily didn’t run in a competition until the Section 6AA meet, where she qualified for state. Yes, she wanted to win Friday’s race. But she didn’t, which was something she accepted.

“I was kind of surprised at how fast it went out, but I just kind of tried to stay relaxed,” she said, coated in perspiration after the race. “It was very hot. That kind of affected me a little but but I feel like what affected me the most was the mindset of being back.”

Covert finished 14 seconds behind Peterson. The realization that she wouldn’t win was clear with a couple laps to go, after a spring with very little training.

“It’s definitely very different,” she said. “It used to come very easy to me in terms of being fit, and now it’s kind of hard. I have to start out at that base level and work my way up again. It might take a little bit but I’ll get there.”

She will run at the University of Colorado in the fall, and she is excited about that. Asked how she would sum up her high school career, the pride of Minneapolis said this: “My first state race was when I was in seventh grade. I dreamt about winning this race when I was in seventh grade, and I got it last year. I fell short this year but there are reasons for that. You have to deal with bumps in the road if you want to stay brave.”

--After a wonderful day of competition, I was in my car heading home from North Mankato. A long line of vehicles was waiting to get on Highway 14 and head for home, wherever that may be. One of those vehicles was the team bus from Badger/Greenbush-Middle River. The Gators got to state in the hardest way possible; coming out of the loser’s bracket in the Section 8 playoffs to notch two victories over Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal.

Friday was also the day a funeral was held in the gymnasium at Ulen-Hitterdal. Alivia Mortenson, a three-sport athlete who completed her junior year with the dual losses to the Gators, died last week in a single-car accident.

Tributes to Alivia have poured in, especially from teams, schools and communities nearby in northwestern Minnesota. At the funeral, athletes from other schools were encouraged to wear their uniform tops; Alivia was a talented volleyball, basketball and softball player.

A social media hashtag, as well as a simple declarative statement, has made the rounds: Livin’ 4 Liv. As I sat in the line of cars late Friday afternoon, there was one car ahead of me, and a bus pulling an equipment trailer in front of that car.

Messages had been hand-written on the back of the trailer: “State bound!” was the first one I noticed. Then, as I peered through the windows of the car between me and the trailer, I saw this message: “Livin’ 4 Liv.” On the day the Gators of Badger/Greenbush-Middle River had finished second at state and were hitting the highway for the 400-mile drive home, they carried Alivia with them.

As I was writing this essay, a Tweet was issued from the Twitter account of the NCE-UH softball team. It said: “We’d like to say thank you to all the area schools who sent flowers or attended the funeral today it meant a lot to see how close the sports community is in this area #livin4liv #softballfamily #titanpride”

Memories Last Forever. No offense, but that’s why I had the best Friday.

State softball results

Class 1A
Championship game: Edgerton/SW MN Christian 4, Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 1
Third-place game: Randolph 16, New York Mills 3
Fifth-place game: New Ulm Cathedral 8, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 2

Class 2A
Championship game: Rochester Lourdes 10, Norwood-Young America 1
Third-place game: Pipestone 4, Thief River Falls 3
Fifth-place game: Annandale 1, LeSuer-Henderson 0

Class 3A
Championship game: Northfield 8, Mankato West 3
Third-place game: Cloquet 11, Becker 1
Fifth-place game: Benilde-St. Margaret’s 9, Mahtomedi 8

Class 4A
Championship game: Maple Grove 3, Stillwater 2
Third-place game: Forest Lake 7, East Ridge 0
Fifth-place game: St. Michael-Albertville 4, Eden Prairie 2

Boys state tennis championship matches

Class 1A
Jeffrey Huang/Brennan Keogh, St. Paul Academy, defeats Jonathan Onigkeit/Thomas Eckel, Rochester Lourdes, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

Parker Law, Mounds View, defeats Rikard Wilkens, Redwood Valley, 6-2, 6-1.

Class 2A
Sourabh Terakanambi/Nisal Liyanage, Eastview, defeat Luke Fridinger/Caleb Fridinger, East Ridge, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Bjorn Swenson, Mounds View, defeats Varun Iyer , Rochester Century, 6-2, 6-4.

State lacrosse pairings

The state lacrosse tournaments will be held next with games at Chanhassen and Minnetonka. Here are the quarterfinal pairings…

Forest Lake vs. Breck
Maple Grove vs. Prior Lake
Stillwater vs. Lakeville North
Cretin-Derham Hall vs. Eden Prairie

Lakeville North vs. Eden Prairie
Wayzata vs. Prior Lake
St. Thomas Academy vs. Mahtomedi
Centennial vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Future Teacher Signing Ceremonies Continue To Grow
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/5/2019

During a special ceremony last month, held for the first time at Delano High School, several soon-to-be-graduating seniors sat before their families and teachers and signed the same statement. They intend to become educators as they head off to college, and the statement read, "I dedicate myself to the life of an educator and providing the foundation upon which future generations will build their lives. I commit to the cultivation of character, for I know that humanity cannot flourish without courage, compassion, honesty, and trust. Further, I commit myself to the advancement of my own learning and to the cultivation of my own character, in order to promote the love of learning in my future students."

The students from Delano were Aili Barta, Joseph Colanino, Chloe Holman, Blake Koehler, Ellie Norling and Reier Sjomeling.

Similar signing ceremonies were held this spring at nearly 20 other Minnesota high schools. A year ago I was made aware of three such signings, so clearly the idea of holding Future Teacher Signing Ceremonies has taken off in our state.

Here's my list of schools that did so this spring…

Albert Lea
Blue Earth
Henry Sibley
Maple Lake
Prior Lake
Red Wing
St. Cloud Apollo
St. Paul

There may be more schools that held Future Teacher Signing Ceremonies this spring, and I'm pretty sure that even more will do the same in the spring of 2020. I have attended several of these events, and they are always inspiring.

At Burnsville High School, Hayley Ohama is an advisor to the school’s Future Teachers of America club. During the signing ceremony, she told the future teachers, “To all of you amazing students here today, congratulations on making such a powerful decision. You are committing to a brighter future for everyone. You are dedicated to improving lives.

“Your future holds empowerment. As a teacher, you have the power to provide students with the tools they need to succeed in life. You will provide them with the critical thinking minds they need to challenge the future and make our world a better place. Your future holds the most rewarding job in the world.”

The Burnsville future teachers who signed documents that day were Hannah Appold, Simon Ault, Thomas Faba, Taylor Harris, John Hummel, Alec Johnson, Rachel Kelly, Jennifer Le Vvintre, Bryana Maddox-Sanders, Tyana Maddox-Sanders, Andrew Moe, Taylor Robinson, Sam Scheuneman, Kara Schwenn, Angie Paz and Crystal Yiu.

I first wrote about the concept of Future Teacher Signing Ceremonies two years ago after learning of such an event at Norwalk High School in Iowa. They held their first signing event in 2017 and have continued the tradition. Norwalk superintendent D.T. Magee came up with the idea, telling me in 2017, “When I became a superintendent, I said to our staff on the first day, ‘We have to do a better job of promoting and honoring our profession.’ This ceremony dovetails off of that. We’re going to put some things in front of students who want to go into education: It’s a good career choice, a noble career choice, and we as educators support you.”

The idea has not only spread to Minnesota but around the nation. This spring, signing ceremonies were held in South Dakota, Florida, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Georgia and Arkansas.

In some of places, state departments of education, local teachers groups, civic organizations and colleges and universities have helped spread the word about signing ceremonies. In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson held a press conference to tout these events.

“Our students are our future, and our educators are a critical part of shaping that future,” he said. “I am proud to celebrate a new generation that is committed to a career in the education profession.”

The first Future Teacher Signing Ceremony in Minnesota that I am aware of took place last spring in Maple Lake. I was honored to be there to witness seven seniors sitting side by side at a table and signing letters of intent to become educators.

That day in Maple Lake, math teacher Casey Pack talked to the future teachers.

“The education field is a rewarding profession,” he said. “Choosing a future as a teacher means you choose to impact students every day. Deciding to major in the education field requires being a special individual; like surgeons who are skilled with their hands, teachers have the skills to mold students and inspire them. These future educators have all the skills to become the next generation of great teachers.

“Most adults can name a teacher, from their own time as a student, who influenced them. It is rewarding as a teacher and as a staff to think we might have been an influence on these students choosing to become education majors. Congratulations to these individuals on deciding to impact students for years to come.”

Indeed. Congratulations to everyone.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

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