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Shakopee Sends a Message: Rankings Mean Very Little
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/31/2010 11:08:10 PM

Shakopee and Eastview are in different conferences, but the two schools have developed an outstanding volleyball rivalry. And in Tuesday night’s season opener for both teams, a definite tone was set.

Shakopee capped a three-year string of Class 3A state championships with an undefeated season in 2009, but the graduation losses were substantial. The Sabers had several seniors a year ago who now play Division I volleyball, including 2009 Gatorade national player of the year Ashley Wittman, a three-year ball-pounding force for Shakopee and now a star for the University of Minnesota.

So it was probably no great surprise when the Sabers were not among the top 10 teams in the preseason Class 3A poll conducted by the volleyball coaches association. Eastview was No. 3; Shakopee received enough votes to place the Sabers 12th in the rankings.

Going into Tuesday night’s opener, the conventional thinking was that No. 3 should be able to beat a non-top 10 team. Not so fast, conventional thinkers…

Shakopee defeated the Lightning 25-18, 25-17, 14-25, 25-19 and made a strong statement that the Sabers are not going away.

“They’re not going to be a gimme, especially with their tradition,” said Eastview coach Becky Egan. “You can’t fight tradition; it doesn’t matter how many girls you lose. It’s disappointing I’m sure for them (to not be in the top 10) and at the same time I don’t like being No. 3 at the beginning of the season.”

(To see a photo gallery of the match, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.).

The biggest celebrity in the crowd was Wittman, who wore a Gophers shirt as she watched her former team. Early in the match, Shakopee athletic director John Janke had the quote of the night when he said to me, “This is a top 10 team against a team that’s looking for its identity, and that identity is standing over there in a Gophers shirt.”

Indeed, it was an interesting scene: Ashley Wittman was watching, like everyone else, to see what it’s like for Shakopee to play volleyball without Ashley Wittman.

If there were any doubts about the Sabers’ ability to come through with a victory, they peaked when Eastview won the third game.

“One of our goals is if we play a five-game match, we win it,” Sabers coach Matt Busch said. “I didn’t want to do that tonight. So I’m very proud of them for picking it up.

“(Eastview is) a really good team and they have a great program. This is a really big one for us. The girls knew they could compete, it was just getting through that mental hurdle. And with all these people wanting to see that continue, that was probably a big confidence builder for them.”

Even though the school year has not yet begun, the atmosphere Tuesday night had a postseason feel. The Shakopee student section was large and boisterous, with some of the boys decked out in bathrobes and slippers (I didn't ask for an explanation, but you can see a video of the crowd on Facebook). The music was cranked up during timeouts, with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” laying the groundwork for the fourth game.

This was the third year that Eastview and Shakopee have opened the season against each other. They also ended the 2008 season in the same fashion, with Shakopee defeating the Lightning.

“This was very telling,” Egan said. “You see glimpses of the athletic ability that we have and then you see glimpses of immaturity. You see glimpses of the competitiveness and the lack of competitiveness. You could tell what’s going to bite you in the butt and what’s going to help you win. So it was telling.”


--I tried to send a Twitter message (yes, technically a Tweet) containing a photo from the match and the news that Shakopee had won the first two games. The technology didn’t want to work from inside the gym, so I walked out to the school doors, stuck my smart phone outside and hit the “send” button again. Success!

--I ran into an old friend after the match when Don Murtha walked up and shook my hand. Don’s grandson Lydon Murtha was a football lineman at Hutchinson who went on to an outstanding college career at Nebraska, was drafted by the Detroit Lions and is now with the Miami Dolphins. Don has another talented grandchild, Ashley Murtha, playing volleyball at Eastview.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 29
*Miles John has driven: 1,140

--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

It’s Volleyball Night in Minnesota
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/31/2010 2:12:30 PM

Fall sports mania is about to hit full stride, with the volleyball, soccer, cross-country, girls’ tennis and girls’ swimming and diving seasons already underway. Football will join the fun Thursday and Friday and we won’t take a breath until after Thanksgiving.

I’ll be taking in my first volleyball competition of the season this evening, traveling to Shakopee to watch the three-time defending champion Sabers take on Eastview. Eastview is ranked third in the Class 3A coaches poll; Shakopee received some votes but not enough to crack the top 10.

Shakopee defeated Eastview in the 2008 state championship match and did the same in last year’s season opener. Eastview’s 2009 season ended with a loss to Burnsville in the Section 3 finals.

I’ll post a report from the match here later tonight, and throw a bunch of photos (and maybe video) on the MSHSL Facebook page.

I'll venture into the football universe in a big way later this week. On Thursday I'll be in southwest Minnesota for a game between Minneota and Adrian in Adrian. That's a rematch of last year's Class 1A Prep Bowl, won by Minneota.

Friday night will take me to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, where defending 5A champion Cretin-Derham Hall will open the season against Forest Lake.

It's sure to be a fun-filled week!

Some Thoughts On A New Season, A New School Year
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/29/2010 10:41:22 PM

With the first games of the high school football season upon us this week, I have some thoughts rolling around in my head. They have to do with competition and memories and right and wrong and hazing and setting an example and keeping school sports in the proper perspective.

This past weekend was interesting if you watched ESPN. The network broadcast high school football games involving teams from Florida and Texas and California and Georgia and South Carolina and Maryland and Ohio. Several times, the people in the booth spoke of the purity of high school football. But in the next breath they talked about all the big-time college football programs that are recruiting the big-time talent on the field.

That makes me nervous in a big-time way. Like it or not, money is a major factor in college football, and the ugliness and silliness which accompanies that fact trickles down to the high school level. I have seen it first-hand in the recruiting world, and it can be slimy. There is a time for college sports, but it can wait until the athletes are in college.

Also shown on ESPN this weekend was an hour-long program called “Boys of Fall.” It is the brainchild of country singer Kenny Chesney, who played high school football in Tennessee. “Boys of Fall” is a documentary-style look at high school football, focusing on several teams and including interviews with the likes of Joe Namath, John Madden, Brett Favre, Sean Payton, Nick Saban and many other big names from college and pro football.

Chesney has a new song called “Boys of Fall.” As he began putting together a video for the song, it developed into a deeper journey into the importance of high school football, how it ties communities together, what the traditions mean, how it molds young men. The documentary is well worth seeing, and I hope ESPN shows it repeatedly.

Madden, talking about coaching, says, “Coaching is giving a player a chance to succeed. If you just had to take what a person was and play with that, you wouldn’t need coaches.”

You can see the frustration in Tony Dungy’s eyes as he talks about the loss that hurts the most … it came when he was a sophomore in high school.

Bill Parcells talks about football and team-building: “It’s like a blood kinship. You never forget.” And Namath says, “We talk about football being a team game. Well, life is that way.”

This all comes as we learn that four players have been permanently removed from the football team at Elk River High School and five have been suspended after a hazing incident. Clearly, something went off the tracks at Elk River. Football players did things they shouldn’t have done and there are consequences to that. I don’t know what took place and it’s not my business or your business. All we can do is trust the people in charge, hope the teenagers learn something, and be encouraged that others take a lesson from it.

The theme here is football, but the same rings true for all school sports and other activities. These opportunities are presented to our young people for all the right reasons. If done right, the students learn about hard work and determination, about team and pride, about success and defeat. Joe Namath is right … sports are just like life. You try. You may fail, but you never stop trying.

Madden talks about making memories, about the importance of young people enjoying this time. As old guys in a small-town barbershop discuss the local team, one of them says, “They’ll be talking about playing ball 50 years from now.”

A new football season begins in a few days. A new school year has already begun in some Minnesota districts, and the rest will open their doors shortly.

Let’s work hard, let’s take care of each other and always do what’s right. Let’s make some memories.

Have a great 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

A Morning Filled With Football Scrimmages
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/28/2010 1:45:24 PM

The young football player from Blaine High School trotted onto the field with the rest of the Bengals offense and said, “Finally! We get to hit somebody else!”

That was the Saturday theme as football teams around Minnesota gathered for morning scrimmages. In most cases, four teams came together at a host school, pairing off for scrimmages on either end of the varsity field. Competing against other teams is one of the major steps in preparing for the regular season, which will begin on Thursday and Friday.

I visited three scrimmages this morning, seeing 13 teams. My first stop was the magnificent Farmington stadium, where the Tigers hosted Richfield, Park Center and Minneapolis Southwest. Then I ventured to Lakeville South, where the Cougars hosted Owatonna, White Bear Lake and Armstrong. And my final stop of the morning was Burnsville, where five teams came together: the Blaze, Apple Valley, Blaine, Shakopee and St. Thomas Academy.

Referees were on hand at all three locations, lending an air of reality to the scrimmages. Farmington had its full contingent of cheerleaders in action on the sideline. Fans sat in the bleachers and walked the sidelines at all three stops.

I chatted with coaches from many of the teams, and there was a recurring theme. Most of them said they had holes to fill and questions that had to be answered, but they also had enough returning veterans to offer reason for optimism.

And if you can’t be optimistic at this point, you’re probably in the wrong business.

For a wide range of photos from all three scrimmages, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.


Here are a couple more additions to the question of the week…

“As far as I'm aware, Crosby-Ironton has to be the original hyphenated school They played in the boys state basketball tournament as early as 1932 as Crosby-Ironton.”

“According to the Minnesota State High School League website, Eden Valley-Watkins was founded in 1921.”

The debate rages…

*Schools/teams John has visited: 27
*Miles John has driven: 1,097

--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

The History of Hyphenated Schools (continued)
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/27/2010 12:32:15 PM

I have just heard from one of the great historians of such topics, and he sheds some great light on hyphenated schools in Minnesota.

This information comes from Dave Giles, whose public-address voice you have heard at countless state tournaments (he was the "voice" of 146 regular-season and postseason games and events in 2009-10). Dave also is the game historian for the Minnesota High School All-Star Football Game. Here is his email:

Hi John,

This is a great theme you have going. Here is what I have:

An early one is Crosby-Ironton. My All-Star football history database shows a player from Crosby-Ironton in the 1946 All-Star Football Game.

Kasson-Mantorville became a merged district in 1954. They became the Kasson-Mantorville KoMets. Previously, they were separate schools as the Kasson Raiders and the Mantorville Indians.

Norwood-Young America was definitely hyphened in the 1950’s – I show two all-star football players from N-YA (1956 and 1958).

In the 1950’s, there was a high school called Lindstrom-Center City, which later came together with Chisago City to form Chisago Lakes (now Chisago Lakes Area.

Wells and Easton became Wells-Easton around 1956. They are now part of United South Central.

Edina High School was known as Edina-Morningside from 1951 to the mid-1960’s.

There were many school district mergers in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Here are three examples:

Dover-Eyota 1961
Lewiston-Altura 1965
Chokio-Alberta 1967

The Great Hyphen Question
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/27/2010 9:45:49 AM

I have received some feedback on this trivia question, posed here earlier:

The word at New London-Spicer is that they may have been the first “hyphenated” school district in the state. Spicer joined New London in 1963. Does anybody know of any earlier hyphenated school districts? Send me an email at the above address and I’ll spread the word.

Here are some of the responses that have rolled in from the vast corps of John’s Journal correspondents…

“I confirmed it last night that Bertha and Hewitt consolidated in 1953 to form Bertha-Hewitt High School. My dad was a 2nd grader when they did this.”

“You may have to look in the archives for this, but I'd be willing to bet Elbow Lake-Wendell came before 1963. Of course, they're no longer on their own like New London-Spicer is -- EL-W paired with Barrett in 1986-87 to form West Central. West Central then merged with Hoffman-Kensington in 1994-95 to make West Central Area. I know that Storden-Jeffers came later than 1963 (around 1970 or so). I'm also thinking that Hills-Beaver Creek came later than that, but again, not really sure.”

“Montgomery-Lonsdale and Norwood-Young America may have both been before 1963.”

"I think that Nashwauk-Keewatin was in the late fifties or early sixties."

"I believe that Kasson Mantorville merged together in 1957 (or so)..."

Keep 'em coming.

Visiting New London-Spicer on a Beautiful Day
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/25/2010 4:49:56 PM

Today’s weather was easily the finest we have experienced since fall sports practices began last week. It was a wonderful day to get in the car, drive a hundred miles or so and hang out with the New London-Spicer football team. The Wildcats were the latest stop on my Champions Tour, and as you can see by these photos (as well as the photo gallery posted on the MSHSL Facebook page), the conditions were perfect for working out the kinks on the practice field.

The Wildcats were one of the surprises of the 2009 season, rolling to a 14-0 record and winning the Class 3A state title with a 28-21 victory over Glencoe-Silver Lake in the Prep Bowl. Glencoe-Silver Lake, which had won the previous three 3A crowns, was the team to beat and New London-Spicer got the job done.

One of my favorite memories from last season came after the Wildcats’ Prep Bowl victory at the Metrodome. Coach Dan Essler, completing a lengthy series of postgame sideline interviews with the media, looked at me as he finally ran off the field to join his team in the victorious locker room. He grinned and said, “Hey John, this is kinda fun!”

Essler, now in his 11th season as the New London-Spicer head coach, knows that getting back to the Metrodome will be a challenge in 2010. The Wildcats have a grand total of five returning starters.

“We’ve got a lot of new faces,” he said. “So the first couple games we’ll be a little green but I expect us to be really good by the end of the season.”

Of course, nothing breeds success like success. And an awful lot of young players experienced the long playoff run of 2009.

“A lot of these guys saw what it’s like to be on the Dome turf and the excitement that surrounds the state semifinals and the state finals,” Essler said. “It really made them work harder so they could try to be varsity players. We have quite a few juniors out here playing this year, based on how hard they worked in the offseason.”

Among the returning starters is wide receiver Brandon Zylstra, who caught five passes for 56 yards in the Prep Bowl; he will also play linebacker in 2010. Shawn Hatlestad returns at strong safety and he’ll also play some at wing back. And quick-footed quarterback Jayme Moten, who completed 14 of 17 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns in the Prep Bowl, returns.

“It’s a team that is starting to jell a little bit,” Essler said. “Our offensive line has a little bit of work to do, but they could be very good as a group. It depends on how hard they want to work.”

The Wildcats will open the season against the three M’s: Morris, Mora and Melrose. Then comes an always-big game against Albany.

“I think our big rival right now is Albany,” Essler said. “We were like 0-15 against them when we started playing them and now we’ve beat them three out of the last four times. I’m sure they’re looking forward to getting back at us a little bit, and their coaching staff is very fun to play against.”

The word at New London-Spicer is that they may have been the first “hyphenated” school district in the state. Spicer joined New London in 1963. Does anybody know of any earlier hyphenated school districts? Send me an email at the above address and I’ll spread the word.

Thursday will be a doubleheader day, with two soccer games on my agenda for the first day of competition for soccer, volleyball, cross-country and girls’ swimming and diving. I’m planning to watch a 4 p.m. boys’ soccer game between St. Paul Harding and defending Class 1A champion Mahtomedi at Mahtomedi, followed by a 7 p.m. girls’ soccer game with Minneapolis South at defending Class 2A Wayzata.

*Schools/teams John has visited: 11
*Miles John has driven: 993

--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

Lakeville North, Marshall, Minneota Top Preseason Volleyball Polls
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/24/2010 5:02:20 PM

Here are the first polls of the volleyball season. The rankings are conducted by the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

1. Lakeville North (4) 74
2. Wayzata (4) 67
3. Eastview 61
4. Eden Prairie 52
5. Stillwater 42
6. Apple Valley 35
7. Bloomington Jefferson 30
8. Hopkins 26
9. Lakeville South 17
10. Chaska 12
Others receiving votes: Blaine (8), Shakopee (6), Centennial (4), Waconia (3), Farmington (2), Alexandria (1)

1. Marshall (2) 32
2. Hutchinson (1) 24
3. Jackson County Central (1) 23
4. Wadena-Deer Creek 17
5. Stewartville 16
6. Jordan 14
Hibbing 14
8 Belle Plaine 11
Delano 11
10 Byron 10

Others receiving votes: Sauk Center (9), Lesuer-Henderson (9), Concordia Academy (8), Kasson-Mantorville (7), Pierz (6), Visitation (4), Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (2), Watertown-Mayer (1)


1. Minneota (4) 49
2. Bethlehem Academy (1) 43
3. Canby 41
4. Mayer Lutheran 32
5. Wabasha-Kellogg 25
6. Windom 23
7. Martin County West 16
8. Mabel-Canton 12
9. Northern Freeze 9
Win-E-Mac 9

Others receiving votes: Nevis (8), BBE (4), Heritage Christian (10, MACCRAY (1)

Former Twin Al Newman Named Apple Valley Baseball Coach
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/24/2010 2:20:08 PM

Apple Valley High School is pleased to announce that Al Newman has been hired as the head baseball coach. He replaces Al Iversen, who resigned in June to become the head baseball coach at Lakeville South High School.

Newman has a long and distinguished career in baseball. After attending San Diego State University, he was drafted by the Montreal Expos. He broke into the big leagues with the Expos in 1985. In 1987, Newman joined the Minnesota Twins and was a key member of the World Series championship team, playing in 110 games. He continued with the Twins for the next four seasons and again played a key role in the 1991 championship run. Newman finished his playing career in 1992 with the Texas Rangers.

Newman then moved into coaching, beginning in the Arizona Fall League and then moving into the Minnesota Twins system. After working his way through the minor league coaching ranks, Newman was the third base coach for the Minnesota Twins from 2002-2005. During this time, the Twins won three division titles. He also worked as a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks. For the past two summers, Newman has been a coach for the Apple Valley American Legion baseball team. He also hosts a sports-themed radio show and does baseball commentary for WFTC 29 broadcasts of the Minnesota Twins games.

Old Friends, New Friends And A Little Surprise
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/23/2010 11:31:38 PM

The Champions Tour continued Monday as I visited the ninth and 10th schools on my quest to see as many defending state champions as possible. This was a southwestern Minnesota leg, taking the John’s Journal staff to Marshall and Minneota for 10 hours of road time.

I have known Marshall volleyball coach Dan Westby for a long time, and I met Minneota football coach Chad Johnston for the first time. I made another new acquaintance on the drive home … a very cordial officer from the Renville Police Department. He even gave me a souvenir to take home: a speeding ticket.

I was driving through Renville when I was distracted by the sight of the Renville County West football team practicing. I almost pulled over to check out the Jaguars, but decided to keep going. I was on the western edge of town when I saw the police cruiser parked at the side of the highway. I saw the car, I saw the “Speed Limit 30” sign and then saw that my speed was around 40. Oh heck, or words to that effect.

The officer said his radar had me going 49. He knocked it down to 45 on the ticket, which carries a price tag of $150. I’m glad to make a contribution to the wonderful and lovely community of Renville, which I look forward to visiting again while driving within the speed limit.

And now, we turn the channel away from “Law & Order: Renville” and return to our regularly scheduled programming…

MARSHALL HAS BEEN a frequent visitor to the state volleyball tournament, going to the big show 21 times since 1977. The Tigers won Class 3A state titles in 2004 and 2007 before moving to Class 2A, where they won the championship last season. That team was loaded with seniors, meaning 2010 is a rebuilding year for the Tigers.

“The players we’ve had the last few years, a number of them had started for three and four years. And those kids are gone,” Westby said. “What we lost with those kids was not only good leadership but we lost a lot of ball-handling. That’s going to have to be replaced. We’ve always felt that we would ball-handle with anybody in the state, and we lost a lot of that. We’ve got an interesting mix of kids. We’ll probably start a couple of freshmen. And we’re going to play some juniors and some seniors.”

Senior middle hitter Amy Full and senior libero Alyssa Netzke return from the starting lineup, and there is ongoing competition for the test of the spots. Practice began last week with some questions, but things changed for the better in a hurry.

“One of the things we felt good about last week was how fast our kids came together, which was a concern,” Westby said. “We thought we looked a little shaky on Monday and Tuesday, but Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we looked pretty crisp, which was maybe even better than we expected at that point.”

The Tigers will be tested early with road trips to Alexandria on Aug. 31 and defending 1A champion Bethlehem Academy on Sept. 2. They will play in tournaments at Apple Valley and Lakeville North, adding more mileage. But taking those long trips can pay off, said Full.

“It’s fun because you get to bond with your teammates, and we all have fun bonding on the bus rides and in the hotels,” she said.

The Tigers know their school’s volleyball tradition is strong, and that’s all the more reason to work hard.

“We’ve just kind of talked about what we need to do as a team,” Netzke said. “We don’t have those players anymore and we can’t do anything about that. We need to work with what we’ve got and work hard as a team.”

MINNEOTA IS HOME to Boxelder Bug Days, which is coming up in September. I didn’t know about the local civic celebration, but I knew all about the town’s football tradition.

Minneota’s Class A state football title last season, capping a 14-0 campaign, was a return to glory for the Vikings. Minneota won Class C crowns in 1986, 1987 and 1988 and was the Class C runner-up in 1993.

As the Vikings practiced Monday afternoon, I chatted with Johnston about the new season. Minneota lost a dozen seniors, most of whom played large roles. But there is plenty of experience returning (although not as much depth as last year), including running back Brandon Anderson (who had 17 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s 42-21 Prep Bowl victory over Adrian) and wing back Jacob Cheadle.

“Our expectations are pretty high, after our successful season last year,” Johnston said. “We definitely want to build on that. We have a large senior class again this year with a good junior class to go with it, so we’re feeling pretty good. We don’t have the depth we had last year, but we’re back to typical small-town football, and the kids are motivated.”

Johnston, a native of Flandreau, S.D., is in his ninth season as head coach. His coaching staff includes several assistants who are Minneota natives.

“Football goes back a long ways in Minneota,” Johnston said. “We still run the same offense that they ran years ago, and some of my assistants are Minneota graduates. They put a lot of pressure on themselves to keep that tradition and our kids know what it means to have ‘Minneota’ on their chest. The community loves it and stands behind us.”

The Vikings will open the season against a familiar foe, because they go to Adrian on Thursday, Sept. 2, for a Prep Bowl rematch. John’s Journal will be there to kick off the season in style.

Other notes from Monday’s jaunt…

--The visit to Marshall completes the volleyball portion of the Champions Tour, since I previously had been to Shakopee (the defending 3A champ) and Bethlehem Academy (1A).

--It was a media circus every time I turned around. Joining me in the Marshall gym was sports writer Joe Brown from the Marshall Independent, and on the Minneota practice field I met Byron Higgin, publisher of the wonderfully named Minneota Mascot.

--Whenever I’m in Marshall I try to spend time with a guy named Jon Millea. He’s my nephew (my brother didn’t bestow an ‘H’ on him) and a graduate assistant coach with the Southwest Minnesota State men’s basketball team. We didn’t get together this time … turns out Jon Millea had a class to attend. Commitment like that might ruin the family name.

--That’s enough journalism for one day; 12 hours is about my limit. The Champions Tour will resume on Wednesday with a trip to football practice at New London-Spicer. I will follow all the rules of the road. I promise.

*Schools John has visited: 10
*Miles John has driven: 793

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

Football Season is Underway … South of the Border
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/22/2010 3:29:17 PM

I hadn’t intended to be sitting here on Sunday afternoon writing about my weekend. After all, the weekend was family time as my wife and I moved our daughter into the dorm for her sophomore year at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Don’t get me wrong; Drake is an outstanding school (it even bestowed a journalism degree on me many years ago). The move-in was smooth as silk, so what’s to write about?

The answer: football. After arriving in Des Moines I learned that the prep football season was beginning Friday night. The big game in town was between West Des Moines Valley (the largest school in Iowa with slightly more than 2,000 students) and Dowling Catholic, also in West Des Moines. Dowling has an enrollment about half that of Valley, but their football rivalry might be the best in Iowa.

Putting the rivalry in Minnesota terms, imagine if Cretin-Derham Hall were located in Eden Prairie, a couple miles from Eden Prairie High School. When Valley and Dowling meet, it’s very much like a Cretin-Eden Prairie game.

Friday’s contest was a “zero week” game. Because of scheduling difficulties, some Iowa teams are allowed to begin practicing a week early and play their season opener a week earlier than normal (a similar proposal is being discussed on very preliminary terms in Minnesota) . They play nine regular-season games in Iowa and not all teams reach the postseason.

The setting was spectacular. Valley Stadium, owned by the West Des Moines school district, was built in 2002 and has 8,500 seats, with 6,000 on the home side of the field. The Des Moines Register estimated Friday’s crowd at 10,000. How big is the stadium? There is an elevator to the press box, that’s how big. If Valley Stadium were in Minnesota, it would probably rank as the second-finest outdoor stadium in the state behind TCF Bank Stadium at the U of M.

Dowling, which is ranked No. 1 in Iowa’s largest class, rolled to a 34-7 victory. Behind one end zone, three flags flapped in the breeze: the U.S. flag, the Iowa flag and a flag carrying the logo of the Iowa High School Athletic Association (nice touch).

Game time was 7:30 instead of the Minnesota standard time of 7 p.m. That’s tough on reporters facing deadlines but nice for families who don’t need to rush quite as much.

Another interesting twist: the P.A. announcer informed the crowd of “tonight’s game sponsors.” A car dealer, a doctor, other businesses and several individuals had apparently made donations in order to be labeled as sponsors for the night.

I sat with my brother-in-law Phil; he’s a Dowling grad whose kids attended both Dowling and Valley (he cheered for Dowling). The weather was ideal, the place was packed and football was back.

In two weeks, Minnesota will join the fun.

--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

Experience Counts (Or Does It?); Dreams Matter (Or Do They?)
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/19/2010 3:46:42 PM

The continuing saga of the Champions Tour had a metro-centric bent on Thursday, even though the two stops on the itinerary were separated by miles and miles of highway – and one extremely bothersome freeway detour (thanks for nothing, 94/694) -- as well as two distinctly different athletic endeavors.

One visit was with an individual athlete who competes in a sport that is as simple as they come: running harder and faster than the competition over a long distance. The second stop involved the ultimate team sport: 11 people on each side of the ball and committee meetings before each play.

Although the time and the miles didn’t stack up to Tuesday’s three-stop outstate mega-journey, the latest jaunt was another pleasant day spent chatting with kids and coaches and realizing once again how important school activities are to the people and communities involved.

Now, on to the day’s highlights …

SHAKOPEE’S MARIA HAUGER is only a sophomore, but she carries a title that thousands of others would love to bear: defending state champion. After finishing ninth at the Class 2A state cross-country meet as an eighth-grader, Hauger ran to gold last year. She was challenged down the stretch by Elk River senior Emma Bates, who finished less than a second behind Hauger.

That’s kind of the theme this season: Hauger is the runner to beat and lots of other girls will try to challenge her.

I learned something fairly amazing as I chatted with the 5-foot-4, 105-pound Maria this morning: She won the state title in only her second year of cross-country. She played fall soccer in seventh grade, but her running talents were evident when she tried track the following spring.

“I saw her running track and she set the school mile record in her first race,” said Shakopee girls’ cross-country coach Mark Neu. As any smart coach might do, Neu began inquiring as to whether the young athlete may want to consider joining the cross-country squad.

“I talked to her parents and they said it was up to her. She has great parents, they didn’t push her either way. She plays hockey, she does track. Luckily, she decided to come out.

“Her parents keep everything low-key, they’re super people,” Neu added. “She’s a humble kid and that helps a lot. If I need somebody to clean the bus, she asks. ‘Should I clean the bus, coach?’ She wins a meet and she cleans the bus. She’s an amazing kid.”

The Sabers finished eighth in the 2A team competition at state last year, and the only runner on that squad who graduated was Kate Bendel. The other six returnees are Hauger, sophomores Winona Rachel and Alli Lynch, junior Anna Neu and seniors Catherine Whitcomb and Ashley Walker.

When I asked Maria what she enjoys about cross-country, she smiled as she talked about her teammates.

“The team is so awesome and everyone’s always pushing each other,” she said. “You can always push yourself to the hardest.”

Cross-country has its special moments away from competition, and the Sabers will end this week in just such a fashion. On Thursday night’s schedule was a picnic for the runners and their families at a local park, followed by Freaky Friday (in which the kids dress as oddly as possible for practice) and Saturday’s Garage Sale Run (groups of athletes are assigned different parts of town in which to do their training run, and they must bring back the most interesting garage sale item they can find for three dollars or less).

What’s more fun than that?

TOTINO-GRACE WON back-to-back Class A state football championships in 1977 and 1978, and the Eagles’ biggest run to glory came after the new century began, with 4A titles in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009.

Last season was one to remember, with the Eagles running roughshod over nearly every opponent. Their closest postseason win was a 42-28 decision over Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the Section 6 championship game, followed by state tournament wins over Rogers (56-14), Mankato West (35-0) and Sartell-St. Stephen (45-7).

Last year’s team was led by some talented seniors, including Mr. Football finalist John Crockett, who rushed 17 times for 145 yards and four touchdowns against Sartell-St. Stephen in the Prep Bowl. His four scores tied a Prep Bowl record for most rushing touchdowns by an individual. Also gone is 1,000-yard passer J.D. Pride.

Coach Jeff Ferguson said the 2009 team might have been as good a team as he’s had, especially when you consider the stretch run.

“The way we finished it, if you look at the scores in the playoffs,” he said. “It requires luck, you know that. We were fortunate in that when the playoffs started, we were healthy. We were healthy all the way through the state playoffs, and those were the only games all year we were healthy.

“Last year we had more ‘name’ guys, I guess. Football’s a cool sport because you can not have any ‘name’ guys and be a better team than some.”

There are some holes to fill in 2010, with five returning starters on offense and the same number on defense. But the Eagles have plenty of experience in one important area: the coaching staff. Ten members of the staff are former Totino-Grace football players, including the father/son duo of Bernie and Brian Litecky.

Totino-Grace should be tested right off the bat, going to Class 5A Minnetonka for the season opener. One special angle to that matchup is the friendship between Ferguson and Minnetonka coach Dave Nelson. They coached together for 16 years at Blaine, and their relationship extends far beyond the football field. The Sept. 2 game will be the first time the two coaches have squared off with each other.

“I talked to Nellie last night,” Ferguson said. “It’s really surreal. We’re very close friends and our families have grown up together, we’ve gone on family vacations together, he’s my daughter Jenna’s godfather.

“I told him about a dream I had. It’s before the game and Nellie’s coming across the field with his dad, Stan. Nellie has a traffic cone on his head and as he got close I saw he was crying. I said, ‘Nellie, what’s wrong?’ And he couldn’t talk for a while. Finally he said, ‘We’ll still be friends, right?’

“And then my wife, who reads dream books, says, ‘Well, you know what that means? Whenever you dream, the person in your dream is actually you. So you’re the clown with the cone on your head and you’re the guy who’s crying.’ Well, thanks for that interpretation. I feel a heck of a lot better about it now."

PROGRAMMING NOTE: John’s Journal will be taking Friday off to so Mr. and Mrs. John’s Journal can return one of their offspring to her university. Safe travels to all.

*Schools John has visited: 8
*Miles John has driven: 435

--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 Quick Wednesday Update From World Headquarters
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/18/2010 12:24:59 PM

The road is safe from John’s Journal today. The JJ staff is spending the day at MSHSL World Headquarters, employing compasses, sextants, wet fingers to the wind and a laminated Minnesota highway map; it’s all part of the pinpoint execution that goes into the continuing saga of the world-famous Champions Tour.

The staff will be back behind the wheel on Thursday with a couple of visits to schools in the Twin Cities. Rumors are swirling about a John’s Journal road trip to Marshall and Minneota early next week, but we can neither confirm nor deny that rumor, nor another rumor that the JJ staff may visit as many as five defending state championship teams next week.

In the meantime, check out the MSHSL Facebook page for photo galleries from half a dozen already-completed stops on the Champions Tour, plus other good stuff.

Now, the planning and plotting continues …

--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 Big Dummy, a Smart Phone and a Sweet (Corn) Day
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/17/2010 8:45:39 PM

While Brett Favre finally descended on Minnesota and Rod Blagojevich finally heard from a jury, I spent Tuesday roaming southern Minnesota in journalistic pursuit of what has now been officially dubbed the Champions Tour. While I was on the road, a coach who is a reader of John’s Journal called to chat; during our conversation he asked, “How’s the Champions Tour going?”

So just like that we have an official title for my visits with as many defending state champions as I can get to. Now, if we could only come up with a logo, licensed merchandise and a steady revenue stream, I might be touring in a fancier vehicle than my little car and its 188,000 miles. But that little car takes me where I want to go, and that’s all you can ask.

(To see photo galleries from each stop on the Champions Tour, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.)

The miles I covered today were nothing but pleasant. As mentioned in my mid-day post from Rochester, the highways were busy with trucks hauling sweet corn. From football practice at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown to volleyball practice at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault to a cross-country pseudo-workout at Plainville-Elgin-Millville, the day was filled with highlights …

W-E-M FOOTBALL COACH Jon Bakken has a voice that can best be described as booming. Shortly after I arrived on the practice field in Waterville, Bakken hollered, “Somebody bring me a big dummy!” I walked up to the coach, stuck out my hand and declared, “Hi coach, I’m a big dummy.” No, he wanted a tackling dummy … and I was not volunteering for that duty.

The football pedigree runs deep at W-E-M. Morristown High won state championships in 1987 and 1988, Waterville-Elysian did so in 1989 and the W-E-M Bucs brought home gold in 1999 and 2009. Only seven starters are gone from last year’s team, so hopes are high again.

“We didn’t lose much at all,” Bakken said. “We’ve got a lot of guys back and a lot of talented kids. I think the biggest thing is we don’t have a lot of depth, so with injuries we’d drop off far. We wouldn’t just drop off, we’d drop off far.”

The practice field is well-worn grass with some black earth peeking out; it is wedged between the school, a playground, tennis courts and a softball infield. Some little kids rode their bikes to watch practice. A young boy named Bubba helped the long-snappers work on their craft, setting balls in position and receiving the snaps.

The Bucs offense ran plays against four turned-over trash cans and two human linebackers. Quarterback Conrad Masberg threw several times to wide receiver Jordan Gregor, reminiscent of the duo’s 68- and 42-yard touchdown connections in last year’s Prep Bowl victory over Moose Lake/Willow River.

“The kids are working hard and believing that it’s not going to be given to them just because they won it last year,” Bakken said. “The kids are really working hard, which I’m happy with.”

THERE’S SOMETHING ODD when it comes to volleyball at Bethlehem Academy. The Cardinals won small-school state titles in the last four odd-numbered years: 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009. What’s more, they were state runners-up in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. Go figure.

“We never talk about that,” said coach Franz Boelter. “But we get asked about it a lot. I’ve said it before, but if it’s our fate to finish first or second in alternate years, that’s a pretty nice fate to have.”

Bethlehem Academy – which like W-E-M is a member of the Gopher Conference -- didn’t become a dynasty by chance. The Cardinals work hard, have fun and play what might be the toughest schedule in the state regardless of class. They will open the season at Class 3A power Lakeville North, followed by a meeting with defending 2A state champ Marshall. That’s all part of the plan.

“We understand that we’re going to take some losses, but with the schedule that we play it has the inherent ability to make you more competitive as the year goes on,” said Boelter. “Hopefully by the time you get to tournament time, you don’t have to see anything that you haven’t already experienced during the season.”

The Cardinals’ home court, Van Orsow Auditorium, is a throwback to the great gyms of yesteryear. Tuesday’s scene almost screamed, “Get ready for what’s to come.” As the volleyball team practiced, school staffers vacuumed the black curtains that surround the stage on one side of the court. It was a familiar scene as the best little volleyball program in Minnesota geared up for a new season.

“The tradition includes a lot of fun,” the coach said. “Our kids have fun and they have fun in and out of the season. I think they’ve understood that the time they spend together and the time they commit to each other has been extremely valuable in terms of what happens on the court.”

PLAINVIEW IS A LOVELY community, and I saw most of it as I searched for the cross-country team. Coach Mike Andring and I had communicated via email, but I neglected to get a handle on where the Bulldogs would be positioned for their afternoon workout.

Mike had mentioned Wedgewood Park; I found the park and it was empty. I found the football team practicing, I found the swimming pool, I found the school, I even took a peaceful drive through Greenwood Cemetery. As I slowly drove through a neighborhood, I allowed a meandering cat to cross the street in front of me.

Then I thought, “Hey dummy … isn’t Mike’s cell phone number on one of his emails?” So I parked in a shady spot downtown, grabbed my Droid, got online and found an email that indeed included Mike’s number. Just as he answered, I saw a stream of runners cross the main drag a few blocks away. Got ‘em!

The kids were running a loop through town before beginning a workout that consisted of some bare feet, a Frisbee and plenty of fun. The drill was Ultimate Frisbee, or as Andring said, “They’re getting a workout here without really knowing they’re getting a workout.”

The full team, consisting of 33 boys and 18 girls, had completed an official workout in the morning. The afternoon drills are optional, but who would want miss out on this kind of fun?

The Bulldogs boys won last year’s Class 1A state championship with a two-point margin over Perham. Four of the top five runners from the state meet (Aaron Haley, Grant Timm, Pat Reinschmidt and Andrew LeBeau) are back, so P-E-M has a chance to win its second state cross-country title.

“We had a great year and there were some very good teams,” Andring said. “We went into the state meet knowing we had a chance to win if everything went well. We snuck it out by a couple points.”

AS I LEFT PLAINVIEW late in the day, the radio chatter was all Brett Favre all the time. But I hit the scan button on the FM dial, found “No Sugar Tonight” by The Guess Who (circa 1970), had the sun on my left shoulder and whistled a happy tune all the way home.

It was another great day on The Champions Tour .

*Schools John has visited: 6
*Miles John has driven: 347

--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 Short Lunch Break in Rochester
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/17/2010 2:46:03 PM

Good afternoon from MSHSL World Headquarters’ Southeastern Command Post, aka Panera Bread in Rochester. Thanks to Panera’s wi-fi access and fine fare, this is my usual lunch/writing spot when I’m in Rochester or passing through.

Today I’m passing through. I spent the morning at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault, home of the defending champions of 1A volleyball. That was followed by a stop at football practice in Waterville, home of the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown Bucs, who won last year’s Class 2A state title. My third stop today will be Plainview-Elgin-Millville for cross country practice; the P-E-M boys are the reigning 1A champs.

It’s a fine day for a Minnesota drive. The sun is shining, the humidity is down and the corn and soybeans are in fine fettle. I lost count of the number of trucks I saw that were loaded to the gills with sweet corn. That’s good eatin’ headed for someone’s dinner table.

I’ll be writing about what I encountered once I get home tonight. In the meantime, photo galleries from Bethlehem Academy and W-E-M have been posted on the MSHSL Facebook page. In addition, the Facebook page includes links to several interesting stories from around the state.

That’s it from the Southeastern Command Post. Time to get back behind the wheel…

--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

Day One: New Faces, New Challenges
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/16/2010 5:30:26 PM

As I walked into the gymnasium at Shakopee High School on Monday -- the first day of practice for fall sports -- I saw a sign that was taped to the gym door. It was titled “Shakopee Volleyball Essentials.”

Several rules were listed, including: “Be on time and in uniform. Give 100% effort. Respect yourself, teammates and coaches.”

By golly, if everyone in the world lived by those rules, wouldn’t this be one heck of a planet? Thankfully, those of us who live in the world of school activities are not surprised when we encounter traits like timeliness, effort and respect. How fortunate we are.

My trip to Shakopee helped kick off a tour of defending state championship teams and individuals. One of my goals during the opening two weeks of practice is to visit as many defending champs as possible, writing about what I encounter and posting photo galleries on the MSHSL Facebook page. If you go there now, you will see photos from the following:

*Volleyball practice at Shakopee, home of the three-time defending Class 3A champions.

*Boys’ cross-country practice at Eden Prairie, home of last year’s 2A team champs as well as individual medalist Aaron Bartnik.

*Football practice at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul; the Raiders are the defending champions of 5A football.

It was a lively, entertaining little road trip around the metro. I drove 111 miles in getting to the three schools, and it was worth every chunk of concrete and asphalt.

The storylines vary with each team. Shakopee lost the nation’s top volleyball player to graduation, Eden Prairie has some veteran runners back but has holes to fill, and Cretin-Derham Hall is coming off a year in which the recruiting saga of one of the top players in the nation grabbed more headlines than the Raiders’ state title.

Here’s what I found…

SHAKOPEE/ Ashley Wittman, now a freshman volleyball player at the University of Minnesota, led the Sabers to three state titles and last season was named the Gatorade national player of the year. Three other 2010 graduates are now playing at Wisconsin-River Falls, Ohio University and North Dakota, so the general consensus outside Shakopee is that the Sabers’ cupboard is bare.

The feeling is a bit different on the inside. After all, there’s something to be said for tradition and hunger.

“There’s a tradition that’s been set,” said coach Matt Busch. “And even though we had a large turnover, these girls feel that. It’s just as much a positive, excitable thing as it is pressure. The pressure itself is going to be different because (Ashley) is gone and people assume that’s the only reason why we won.

“What we are expecting is just sheer excitement. With this group, they have nothing but motivation to prove anybody wrong who thinks that it’s over, it’s done. This group of seniors is loving the opportunity to step forward and lead.”

Among the returning players are setter Megan Westlund, defensive specialist Emily Schroers (both are seniors) and junior outside hitter Kari Monnens

“It just makes us work that much harder to prove that we’re still here, even though Ashley’s gone,” said Schroers. Added senior Mackensie Menke, “We like being the underdogs.”

EDEN PRAIRIE/ More than 120 runners registered for cross-country at Eden Prairie, but an even more impressive number is the Eagles’ offseason mileage. Fifty individuals ran 400 miles this summer, and that’s a nice way to prepare for the season.

“That’s kind of a big thing, having kids dedicated to running over the summer,” said coach Jeff Lindlief.

Leading the way are defending state champ Aaron Bartnik, Kyle Bratrud and Mohamed Mohamed. The three seniors are the holdovers from the seven-man squad that won state in 2009.

“Obviously with Aaron, Kyle and Mohamed coming back, I think most teams in the state would take our position,” Lindlief said. “But we certainly have some work to do to fill the rest of those spots.”

The obvious question has to do with the pressure of defending a state title.

“There’s definitely a little more pressure on the team, just seeing your name as No. 1 in the rankings,” Bartnik said. “It kind of affects your training and gets in your mind. We have expectations. Sometimes it can be a little easier to be No. 2 and people maybe aren’t expecting so much out of you.”

CRETIN-DERHAM HALL/ Gone are two key members of the 2009 Raiders: offensive lineman and No. 1 national recruit Seantrel Henderson, now at Miami (Florida), and quarterback Mark Alt, now playing hockey at the University of Minnesota.

So, other than losing the top lineman in the nation and a quarterback who was key to a Prep Bowl victory over Eden Prairie, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

The Raiders are looking at last season as a springboard to 2010, according to coach Mike Scanlan, who looked out over the practice field Monday and said, “It’s kind of like, ‘That was last year. Where do you guys want to be?’

“The kids started making a statement back in January, with lifting and running,” he said. “On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in June and July, we had 60 kids out here.”

The recruiting spotlight is elsewhere this fall; Scanlan said there are probably no Division I players among the seniors. Junior Kevin Miley is seen as the probable starting quarterback, but like many of the Raiders he is untested on the big stage.

But that’s what preseason practice, no matter the sport, is all about. Fill the holes, improve as a team and find out what you can do.

*Schools John has visited: 3
*Miles John has driven: 111

--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

Photos From Day One … Now on Facebook
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/16/2010 1:26:21 PM

I’m taking a lunch break during the opening day of practices for fall sports, and I just finished posting two photo galleries on the MSHSL Facebook page.

This morning I visited the boys’ cross-country team at Eden Prairie, which is the defending Class 2A champ; Eagles senior Aaron Bartnik is the defending individual champ. Then I zipped over to Shakopee to spend some time with the three-time Class 3A volleyball champion Sabers.

This afternoon I will attend football practice at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul; the Raiders won last year’s Class 5A state title. (Tomorrow I’ll hit the road to visit the volleyball team at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault as well as the boys’ cross-country team at Plainville-Elgin-Millville... and another team just added to Tuesday's itinerary: the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown football team, defending 2A champs.)

Later today I’ll write a report from my Day One travels. Every team has a story, and today’s three teams all have distinct storylines for the 2010 season.

--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

Fall Sports Participants, Start Your Engines!
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/14/2010 2:57:58 PM

The dawn of a new year of high school sports and activities is upon us, and the full, complete, entire John’s Journal staff is gearing up to get things rolling.

Beginning bright and early Monday morning, I’ll be starting a quest to visit as many defending state championship teams and athletes as I can. The results will be stories and photos here on John’s Journal, with lots more photos (and videos) posted on the MSHSL Facebook page.

My Monday schedule has me visiting volleyball, cross-country and football teams in the metro area, and Tuesday will be an outstate trip to spend time with other defending state title squads. That will be the theme much of the next two weeks, as we follow teams and individuals while they gear up for the first competitions of the 2010 fall sports season. I won’t be able to visit every single defending state champion, but I’m going to spend time with as many as I can.

As always, the John’s Journal newsroom is looking for stories. If there is something happening at your school that you think might be of interest to people around the state (as well as the rest of the country and beyond), send an email to me at the address listed above.

And spread the word about the MSHSL Facebook and Twitter pages to your teammates, friends and relatives. They are the most immediate methods of sharing information between everyone who appreciates high school activities.

Let’s get started!

--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

New London-Spicer Boys’ Basketball Coach Steps Down
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/12/2010 11:27:12 AM

As reported earlier today on the MSHSL Facebook page…

New London-Spicer boys' basketball coach Matt Cordes, who led the Wildcats to Class 2A state titles in 2008 and 2010, has resigned to take a position at Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo, where he will be the director of campus ministries.

At Oak Grove, Cordes will teach Christian studies classes for grades six through 12, coordinate chapel services, plan and lead mission trips and develop and coordinate opportunities for Christian service at Oak Grove. Cordes received a bachelor’s degree in theology from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. He has been the youth minister at Peace Lutheran Church in New London, Minn. for the last 12 years. Prior to his time at Peace Lutheran, he was a youth minister at Fron Lutheran Church in Starbuck, Minn, as well as Minnewaska Assembly of God in Glenwood, Minn. He has worked in a school system as a paraprofessional and was the head boys’ basketball coach at New London-Spicer for the last seven years.

--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

Maxson Named Eastview Gymnastics Coach
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/11/2010 3:55:57 PM

Eastview High School has named Ashley Maxson head gymnastics coach. Maxson will replace longtime head coach Jodi Ramboldt, who has resigned after a very successful tenure as the leader of the Eastview program.

Maxson, a 2003 Eastview graduate, has coached youth and high school gymnastics for seven years. She has worked as an assistant coach at Eastview for the past five seasons.

Maxson competed as a varsity gymnast at Eastview for five years from 1998-2003 and ended her career as one of the most highly decorated gymnasts in school history. She was a five-year varsity letter winner, five-time all-conference selection, five-time state tournament entrant (placing as high as third in All Around), four-time team MVP and two-time All-State “Elite” gymnast. She also accomplished the extremely rare feat of being a four-time section champion in the All-Around competition.

“I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to lead a program I have been a part of as both an athlete and assistant coach,” Maxson said. “I am looking forward to continuing to build upon a successful program both in and out of the gym. This is a proud moment for me, as being named the head gymnastics coach at Eastview is a dream come true.”

A New Look for Ellsworth High School
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/11/2010 2:17:23 PM

We all know Ellsworth as a powerhouse boys’ basketball program. The Panthers won Class A state titles in 2007 and 2008 and have been state runners-up three times since 2003.

I have been to the Ellsworth gymnasium, and it is a very special place. It has a distinct “Hoosiers” feel, with a stage on one side of the court (that’s where the scorer’s table is located) and the teams sitting on folding chairs in front of the stage. But the gym will have an updated look when the 2010-11 season begins, thanks to a new floor.

It’s a wonderful story, typical of people in our communities. The project was approved, money was raised and volunteer manpower did much of the work.

Steve Kellen, a longtime assistant boys’ basketball coach in Ellsworth and an all-around great guy, filled me in on the project this week via an email conversation. Here’s the short version of the story, thanks to Steve…

“About two months ago we got the OK to go ahead and replace our gym floor!!! The total bill for the gym project is $54,000. And that didn't include removal of the old floor. So on a Thursday evening we removed the old floor....took about three hours or so. The bad news was they put the old floor down with tar!!! So on that Friday we had to remove the tar to within 1/8 of an inch....we got it done but it took all of a day to do so.

“The new floor is down and sanded. We had to raise $27,000 for the project and the school would kick in the rest. We have exceeded our half. (Ellsworth alum) Curt Schilling was the main person behind the push for the new floor. He was our junior high boys coach two years ago and last year was the head girls coach in Ellsworth. After he started the push for it he accepted the A.D. job and head boys basketball coaching position in George-Little Rock, Iowa. But he was committed to getting the floor...even if he wasn't coaching in Ellsworth. The idea was to find 27 $1,000 contributors and put their names on a banner in the gym. We got the OK to go forward with the project on a Monday night and by that Friday of graduation we had raised $16,000. We have taken contributions from as small as a few bucks to a $5,000 donation from a soft drink distributor.

“The townfolk/players/coaches are really excited about this improvement. Without all the manpower since the second week of July (removing of the old floor) none of this could be possible. I'd like to know what they would have charged to remove the old floor for us...I bet big bucks!!!! But between players, coaches, parents of both boys and girls programs we got it done and saved a buck besides. I hope you can make it done this winter to see it ... you saw the old floor and won't believe the new floor!!”

Well done, Ellsworth. Congratulations!

--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

Apple Valley Names Girls' Cross-Country Coach
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/11/2010 10:47:36 AM

This press release has arrived from Apple Valley:

Apple Valley High School is pleased to announce that Raedi Zimmer has been hired as the head girls' cross country coach. She replaces Andrea Gelle, who was recently hired as the head women’s track and field coach at St. Olaf in Northfield.

Zimmer has been an assistant coach with the cross-country program at Apple Valley High School for the past eight years. Additionally, she has been the sprint coach with the track and field team for 25 years. She is employed by District 196 as an occupational therapist working with special needs students.

MSHSL Board Supports Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/10/2010 3:46:28 PM

Good afternoon from Deerwood, where the MSHSL board of directors has just concluded its first meeting of the 2010-11 school year.

A federal court has upheld the WIAA’s right to sign exclusive contracts for internet coverage of state tournaments, and Gannett Co. Inc. and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association have appealed that decision. The WIAA sued Gannett and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association in 2008 after the Appleton Post-Crescent produced online streaming coverage of four football playoff games without the WIAA's permission.

Also at today’s meeting, held at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Conference Center…

*Due to increasing fees for the use of Xcel Energy Center (hockey) and Target Center (basketball) during state tournaments, the board voted to increase ticket prices by $2 for adults and $1 for students at those arenas.

*Board president Les Zellmann discussed an initiative to make the League web site, www.mshsl.org, the central clearinghouse for all sports statistics and related information for all high schools in the state. That process is ongoing.

*Associate director Kevin Merkle made a presentation on football game scheduling, which is an issue for many schools. The use of “zero week” games – played one week earlier than the traditional start of the season – was discussed. If implemented, teams that play zero week games would have to take a week off from normal practice and games later in the season. Merkle also discussed the format for postseason football and several possible future scenarios.

*The board approved the use of a puck-like product called Felt Sliders in adapted floor hockey.

The next board meeting will be Oct. 7 at MSHSL headquarters in Broklyn Center.

--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

MSHSL Board of Directors to Meet Tuesday
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/9/2010 1:50:11 PM

The MSHSL board of directors will hold its first meeting of the 2010-11 school year on Tuesday. The meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Ruttger’s Conference Center in Deerwood.

Board officers for 2010-11 are president Les Zellmann, athletic/activities director at St. James; vice president Mindy Sparby, athletic/activities director at Belle Plaine; and treasurer John Schumacher, athletic/activities director at Park Rapids Area.

New board members are Ada-Borup superintendent/principal Mike Kolness, representing Regions 7-8A; Underwood principal John Hamann, representing the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals; Gilbert school board member Walt Hautala, representing the Minnesota School Boards Association; Rosemount athletic/activities director Mike Manning, representing Regions 3-4AA; Chisago Lakes athletic/activities director Perry Aadland, representing Regions 7-8AA; and Laurie Esau, a governor’s appointee from Orono.

The board of directors meets six times each 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

A Sure Sign of Fall: Preseason Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/4/2010 2:08:40 PM

As we continue the countdown to the 2010-11 year in activities, the first preseason ranking has been released: Class 2A boys’ cross-country. We’ll follow up with rankings in other sports as they arrive.

Class 2A Boys’ Cross-Country Preseason Rankings
1 Eden Prairie
2 Wayzata
3 Burnsville
4 Edina
5 Moorhead
6 White Bear Lake
7 Totino-Grace
8 Stillwater
9 Owatonna
10 Lakeville North
11 Alexandria
12 St. Thomas Academy

Also received votes: Rosemount, Hopkins, Bloomington Jefferson, Forest Lake, Andover, Cambridge-Isanti, Roseville, Red Wing, Willmar

1 Aaron Bartnik 12 Eden Prairie
2 Cole O'Brien 11 Burnsville
3 Josh Thorson 11 Wayzata
4 Adam Zutz 12 St. Francis
5 Mohamed Mohamed 12 Eden Prairie
6 Aldis Inde 12 Edina
7 Christian Skaret 12 Minnetonka
8 Bryant Blahnik 12 Red Wing
9 Trent Lusignan 12 Shakopee
10 Steven Dado 12 Totino-Grace
11 Ben Saxton 11 Lakeville North
12 Lukas Gemar 12 Moorhead

Also received votes: Elliot Fenske 12 Farmington; Adam Braun 12 Totino-Grace; Tyler Olson 12 Maple Grove; Adam Moline 12 Wayzata; Kyle Bratrud 12 Eden Prairie; Wayde Hall 10 Stillwater; Shane McCallum 12 Rosemount; Glen Ellingson 11 Moorhead; Tom Linner 11 Stillwater

--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

The Countdown Has Begun
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/2/2010 3:21:14 PM

It’s time to start the countdown to the 2010-11 school year. August 16 is the first day of practice for fall sports, so the sands of summer are running out.

This question has been posted on the MSHSL Facebook page: “What will you be doing two weeks from today?” Folks have begun responding with their own comments, so feel free to add to the discussion.

Enjoy these last two weeks of summer!

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

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