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Place Of Pride: Sibley East’s New Facilities
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/30/2017 3:13:06 PM

ARLINGTON – Chip Wolverton used to have it so easy during volleyball season. The coach at Sibley East High School lives in Gaylord – which joins the communities of Arlington and Green Isle in the school district – and that’s where matches were played until this year.

Wolverton’s home is a block from the school in Gaylord, which was home to a small, old gym. A multi-million-dollar facility renovation included the construction of a new, spacious gym in Arlington, which means the coach now has to drive eight miles instead of walk one block.

He’ll take the tradeoff.

“It’s big. The gym is big,” he said before the Wolverines hosted Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop in the first event inside the new space Tuesday evening. “It’s been amazing these first couple weeks for practice. We have space.”

Space indeed. The Wolverines’ new home is bright and spacious, even though the walls are a bit spartan in these early days. There is no clock in the gym (other than the scoreboard) and when the teams and fans stood for the national anthem Tuesday, there was no flag on the wall. No problem: members of the Sibley East football team carried in a large flag, which they spread out and held in front of them; it covered much of the volleyball court.

Getting the gym ready for competition was important. A nearby commons area, office space and other sections of the new construction are works in progress, and school will start one week later than normal so finishing touches can be applied. It will be a showplace and point of pride.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said senior volleyball player Taylor Brinkman, who was talking about the gym but could have been speaking of the entire building.

The Wolverines opened the gym in high style, defeating G-F-W in a drama-filled five-set match. Sibley East won the first set 25-18 before the Thunderbirds took the second and third games, 25-15 and 25-22. After Sibley East won game four 25-22, the Wolverines ended the festivities with a 15-12 decision in the deciding set.

Afterwards, the Wolverines and their fellow students gathered together on the court for a photo, with index fingers held aloft.

“We were literally just hyped for like three weeks straight, getting ready to play,” said senior Morgan Stearns.

Wolverton, a sixth-grade teacher who also is an assistant girls basketball coach, joked that since he now has to drive rather than walk, “I have to be a little more organized. I can’t just run home to get something I forgot.”

--To see a photo gallery, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Class 1A Girls Tennis Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/28/2017 12:26:25 PM

1 Blake
2 Rochester Lourdes
3 Litchfield
4 Holy Family Catholic
5 Virginia
6 Breck
7 St. James
8 Mounds Park Academy
9 Roseau
10 Osakis

1 Lainey Axell (12) Blake
2 Arlina Shen (10) Blake
3 Katie Mulvey (11) Trinity at River Ridge
4 Clare Palen (10) Rochester Lourdes
5 Cindy Li (12) Winona Cotter
6 Sophie Lynch (12) Holy Catholic Family
7 Shanna Kinny (11) Litchfield
8 Natalie Allison (11) Rochester Lourdes
9 Sophia Martin (11) Breck
10 Emma Barnd (12) United South Central

Class 2A Girls Tennis Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/28/2017 12:25:47 PM

1 Edina
2 Mahtomedi
3 Eagan
4 Hopkins
5 Wayzata
6 Rochester Mayo
7 Prior Lake
8 Minnetonka
9 St. Cloud Tech
10 Princeton & Duluth East

1 Sophie Reddy (12) Edina
2 Nicole Copeland (10) Edina
3 Meagan Brown (12) Elk River
4 Samantha Nichols (12) Eagan
5 Maddie Suk (11) Hopkins
6 Aili Hietala (9) Duluth East
7 Lauren Ferg (11) Eagan
8 Abbie Kelm (12) Bemidji
9 Ellen Puzak (11) Minneapolis Southwest
10 Grace Riermann (12) Mahtomedi

Opening The Season With Two Games, Lots Of Memories
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/26/2017 4:55:15 PM

On Thursday night in International Falls, a grandfather who played in the NFL long ago watched his grandson catch a touchdown pass while another old-time footballer returned to the field where he had coached for four decades. The next night in Ada, young boys from schools that have been longtime rivals took the field together for the first time as teammates.

Such is football, and all high school activities. They are family, ritual, old soldiers and young pups, forming and renewing the fabric of community, spirit and pride.

I hit the road as the fall season began, driving to the Canadian border to see the International Falls Broncos host the Virginia Blue Devils on Thursday in the very first football game of the year, and then angling southwest to Ada where the Polk County West Thunder met the Ada-Borup/Norman County West Cougars on Friday.

It was glorious, to say the least. I drove 902 miles, listened to fans laugh and cheer, and walked the sidelines during two splendid evenings of season-opening football. Here’s what I saw…

Telltale Signs

Sometimes before a game begins you see omens of what may happen. When the team captains from Virginia and International Falls met at midfield for the coin flip, there was a difference. The Virginia captains were Riley Dishneau (6-foot-3, 190 pounds), Beau Foix (6-6, 225), Bryce Kennedy (6-7, 300) and Ethan Youso (6-6, 210). Two of those big Blue Devils had beards.

Representing the Broncos were Taylor Wilson (6-2, 228), Gust Lorenson (5-8, 165) and Gage Wherley (5-11, 185). Gust wore cargo shorts and had his left arm in a sling; Gage was also in street clothes.

The game followed the script. The undersized Broncos lost two fumbles in the first half but hung tough, trailing 8-0 at halftime. Virginia broke it open in the second half and rolled to a 29-0 victory as a line of Broncos went to the sideline with injuries.

“We got a little banged up tonight,” said first-year Broncos head coach Jon Froemke, who is the Koochiching County Chief Deputy. “We’re going to regroup and come back next week.”

Making Grandpa Proud

Frank Youso, 81, watched his grandson Ethan from the stands, which he reached with the aid of a walker. Frank is a 1954 International Falls graduate who played football at the University of Minnesota and then with the New York Giants, Vikings and Oakland Raiders from 1958 to 1965. He was the very first player signed by the Vikings.

“It’s definitely special,” Ethan said of playing with his grandpa in the crowd. “I want to do him justice in the sport that he played. It’s definitely big.”

Ethan’s mom, Jody, had the team at her house for a spaghetti dinner on Wednesday night. “They ate a lot of spaghetti,” she said with a smile.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Ethan caught a 14-yard scoring pass from Jack Zupatz to put Virginia ahead 22-0.

Old-Timers Day (And Place)

Sports Stadium in International Falls was a Works Progress Administration project, built in 1942. Stuart Nordquist coached the Broncos from 1967 until retiring in 2008. He returned as an assistant coach this season, bringing 410 games of experience as a head coach.

Stuart’s record of 275-133-2 puts him 11th in state history for football coaching victories. He brought back with him the double wing offense that he used in his time as head coach.

“It’s back to kind of smash-mouth football,” Froemke said. “It’s something the program’s been away from for about eight years. I wanted to bring Stuart back because he’s obviously so knowledgeable. He played a little hard to get but I didn’t have to twist his arm too far.”

History In The Making

“Ladies and gentlemen, for the very first time ever, the Ada-Borup/Norman County West Cougars!”

That was the P.A. announcement as the Cougars were introduced before Friday’s game at Ada’s Johnson Sports Complex. This was new ground, with the teams from Ada-Borup and Norman County West in Halstad forming a cooperative football squad for the first time. (The schools also share a superintendent in Shawn Yates.)

The schools already had joined together in other sports, but not all. Once football season ends, the boys will retreat to their respective schools and face off in basketball.

“Football is every town’s pride and joy,” said Ada-Borup activities director Kelly Anderson. “The kids and the coaching staff are on board, and that’s the most important cog.”

The Cougars came out on top with a 43-0 victory that went into running time in the fourth quarter.

Special Treatment For Visitors

I was standing near an end zone during the second quarter when someone tapped me on the shoulder. That someone was the Ada-Borup/Norman County West volleyball team, with a question: “When would you like your pretzel and cheese?”

If you don’t follow me on Twitter this is a total mystery to you … which I won’t explain here. My answer was: “Whenever you guys want to bring it to me.” And before long I was munching on a big, warm pretzel and dipping it in cheesy goodness. (Don’t even get me started on the gallon can of nacho cheese they sent home with me … but there are photos on Twitter.)

Officially Speaking

One of the officials at the game in Ada was Phil Hansen, who lives in Detroit Lakes and is well-known in the area. Phil played college football at North Dakota State and was a defensive end for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills from 1991-2001, including three Super Bowl appearances. He also is an MSHSL basketball official.

Tough, Tough, Tough

Both games were filled with hard knocks and big plays. The toughest player I saw was International Falls junior Armando Barrios. He took handoffs in the Broncos’ old-school offense and slammed into the defense time after time, and never stopped making tackles on defense.

Armando left the game briefly in the third quarter with a painful cramp in his right leg. A few plays after returning, he made a tackle on the Virginia sideline and was suddenly in pain again; this time it was a cramp in his left leg.

One of the Virginia coaches leaned over Armando, grabbed his left foot and began raising it in order to lessen the cramp. Armando smiled through the pain as everyone joked around a little. Teammate Taylor Wilson gave him a verbal, joking jab by saying, “You’re drinking too much soda.” To which Armando replied, “I don’t even drink soda!”

Then he got up and went back to work. Tough as nails.

Happy Coaches

Ed Cremer is in his 11th season as the head coach at Virginia. This could be a nice year for the Blue Devils, who are big, experienced and skilled.

“We have eight starters back on defense and nine on offense,” he said. “Four have started since ninth grade.”

Paul Tinjum, who was the head coach at Ada-Borup, is now the head coach of the merged team. Norman County West head coach Nate McCraven is an assistant.

“It’s gone pretty smoothly,” Tinjum said of the situation. “Spring sports have been together for a while so they know each other from baseball, softball, track, golf. But at the same time we were rivals in football and basketball.

“The kids have pretty much bought in. We’ve had a couple to-the-point, to-the-heart talks about believing in the guy next to you, and we’re one team now. We played pretty well. We knew we were going to be pretty good. It’s one win, we’re happy.”

And a new season marches on.

--See photo galleries from both games on the MSHSL Facebook page.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Class 1A Girls State Swimming and Diving Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/26/2017 2:24:45 PM

1. Visitation
2. Hutchinson
3. Breck
4. Blake
5. Sartell
6. Hill-Murray
7. Faribault
8. Delano
9. Monticello
10. Orono

Class 2A Girls State Swimming and Diving Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/26/2017 2:24:21 PM

1. Edina
2. Minnetonka
3. Wayzata
4. Eden Prairie
5. Rosemount
6. Stillwater
7. Minneapolis Southwest
8. St. Michael-Albertville
9. Prior Lake
10. Eagan

A Great Day At Female Athlete Empowerment Symposium
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/23/2017 8:06:42 PM

WATERVILLE – More than 200 girls in grades seven through 12 from five high schools gathered Wednesday at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown for an important day of learning. All were athletes, but the event – the second annual Female Athlete Empowerment Symposium – did not center on X’s and O’s. This was about knowledge, awareness and related lessons for life during and beyond an athletic career.

In large-group gatherings inside the school auditorium, the girls (who attend W-E-M, Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton, New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, Tri-City United and LeSueur-Henderson) heard from female speakers offering important lessons for life. Several small-group sessions were held in classrooms, on topics as wide-ranging as social media awareness; self-compassion, confidence and positive body image; self-defense; how to help a friend who is the victim of dating or sexual violence; lessons from the military; and tips on finding a great college experience.

Some examples of what the girls heard …

--Show up. Work hard. Come with a great attitude.

--Trail blazers are people who are very persistent.

--The people in this room will be stronger leaders than people who aren’t in sports.

--Be kind. Give more. Stay humble.

I have attended many workshops and seminars (sometimes as a spectator, sometimes as a presenter), and Wednesday’s event was the best thing I have seen in this arena. All young girls, including athletes, can face obstacles as they grow. I know the symposium had an impact on every attendee.

Assistant Waseca County attorney Rachel Cornelius and Waseca County deputy Serena Frazier directed a session about social media awareness. The lessons were strong, direct and important.

The girls heard – and discussed – things like body image, safety, online bullying and sexting. They were warned against posting photos of themselves on their social media accounts, and also not posting personal details like their address or the fact that they are posting while home alone.

They learned that the internet is forever so they must be careful in what they post. One example noted was a softball team from Virginia that earlier this month was disqualified from the nationally televised championship game at the Junior League World Series in Kirkland, Wash., after one team member posted an inappropriate photo on her Snapchat account.

Three athletes from the area who went on to college athletic careers held a panel to talk and answer questions about their experiences. Carlie Wagner (NRHEG grad who is going into her senior season with the University of Minnesota basketball team) was joined by Heather (Johnson) Anderson, a J-W-P grad who played basketball at Minnesota State Mankato and Kalley Kendall, a W-E-M grad who played volleyball at Rochester Community and Technical College.

The event was organized by Crystal Lamont, who coaches volleyball and softball at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, and Kelsey Bauer, W-E-M assistant softball coach. They elicited sponsors to help pay for dinner and t-shirts for all the attendees.

The organizers did a great job.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Class 1A Girls Cross-Country Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/21/2017 8:52:00 PM

Class 1A Girls

1. Annandale
2. Perham
3. Fairmont
4. Stewartville
5. Howard Lake/Waverly/W
6. Minnehaha Academy
7. Luverne
8. Lanesboro/Fillmore Central
9. Pelican Rapids
10 Lake City
11. Eden Valley-Watkins/K
12. Belle Plaine

1. Grace Ping Winona Cotter
2. Tierney Wolfgram Math&Science Acad.
3. Madeline Kelly Providence Acad
4. Marissa Whitehead Martin County West
5. Kira Sweeney Staples-Motley
6. Kayla Christopherson Austin Pacelli
7. Morgan Gehl Murray County Cent.
8. Makenna Thurston Lake Cyrstral WM/N
9. Annika Aho United North Cent.
10 Kailee Malone Stewartville
11.Katherine Geist Crookston
12.Kristine Kalthoff Albany

Class 1A Boys Cross-Country Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/21/2017 8:50:52 PM

Class 1A Boys

1. Perham
2. Mankato Loyola/Cleveland
3. Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop
4. Jordan
5. Minnehaha Academy
6. LaCrescent
7 Greenway/NK
8. Lac Qui Parle Valley/DB
9. Annandale
10. Mora
11. St. Cloud Cathedral
12. Plainview-Elgin-Millville

1. Declan Dahlberg Mound Park Acad.
2. Matt Steiger LaCrescent
3. Ethan Olson Moose Lake/WR
4. Owen Keiser Jordan
5. Keiser Freetley Lac Qui Parle Valley
6. Jebadiah Merkle SW Christian
7 Geno Uhrbom Greenway/NK
8. Nick Meyer Wabasha-Kellogg
9. Jacob Bright West Central Area
10. Reid Pierzinski Pequot Lakes
11. Jake Paron North Shore
12. Christian Sterton Ada-Borup/NCW

Class 2A Boys Cross-Country Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/21/2017 8:48:21 PM

Class 2A Boys

1 Wayzata
2 Stillwater
3 Mounds View
4 Edina
5 Sartell
6 Minneapolis Washburn
7 Minnetonka
8 Chanhassen
9 Rosemount
10 Red Wing
11 White Bear Lake
12 Bemidji
Also receiving votes: Alexandria, Forest Lake, Hopkins, Willmar

1 Khalid Hussein, Wayzata
2 Joseph Minor, Washburn
3 Acer Iverson, Roseville
4 Grant Price, Wayzata
5 Max Manley, Edina
6 Benjamin Olson, Blaine
7 Luke Labatte, Rosemount
8 Isaac Basten, Buffalo
9 Trenton Allen, Eagan
10 Blake Buysse, Wayzata
11 Myles Fleming, Henry Sibley
12 Andrew Brandt, Wayzata
Also receiving votes: Ryan Fernholz, Sartell; Owen Gage, Edina; Grant Matthews, Wayzata; Addison Stansbury, Stillwater; Austin Streit, Mounds View

Class 2A Girls Cross-Country Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/21/2017 8:46:54 PM

Class 2A Girls

1 Edina
2 Minnetonka
3 Willmar
4 Wayzata
5 Shakopee
6 Lakeville South
7 Marshall
8 Monticello
9 Forest Lake
10 Mpls Washburn
11 Farmington
12 Eden Prairie
Honorable Mention: White Bear Lake, St Michael Albertville, Becker, Lakeville North

1 Anna Fenske, 9, Farmington
2 Lauren Peterson, 11, Farmington
3 Sophie Whicher, 12, Minnetonka
4 Emily Covert, 11, Mpls Washburn
5 Emily Kompelien, 12, Edina;
6 Regan Duffy, 11, Forest Lake
7 Annalise Davis, 11, St Michael Albertville
8 Maria Rickman, 12, Edina
9 Leah Hansen, 12, Willmar
10 Allison Welch, 12, Rochester Century
11 Elizabeth Halbmaier, 12, Minnetonka
12 Morgan Richter, 10, Edina
Honorable Mention: Ingrid Bulceag-Ara, 10, Sartell; Malakai Holloway, 12, Eden Prairie; Brianne Brewster, 11, Lakeville South; Natalee Sample, 11, Marshall

Class 1A Volleyball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/18/2017 8:16:36 PM

By the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

Class 1A Rankings
1. Mayer Lutheran (8)
2. Hayfield
3. Caledonia
4. Bethlehem Academy
5. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
​6. Rush City
7. Mabel-Canton
8. Wadena-Deer Creek
9. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
10. Underwood

Class 2A Volleyball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/18/2017 8:16:03 PM

By the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

Class 2A Rankings
1. Maple Lake (8)
2. Stewartville
3. Kasson-Mantorville
4. Southwest Christian
5. Marshall
6. North Branch
7. Sauk Centre
8. Roseau
9. Totino-Grace
​10. Concordia

Class 3A Volleyball Rankings
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/18/2017 8:15:25 PM

By the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.

Class 3A Rankings
1. Eagan (8)
2. Prior Lake
3. Lakeville North
4. Stillwater
5. Champlin Park
6. Hopkins
7. East Ridge
8. Shakopee
9. Moorhead
​10. Blaine

Running And Coaching: Apple Valley’s Heather Kampf
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/16/2017 1:35:43 PM

After her first practice as the new girls cross-country coach at Apple Valley High School on Monday, Heather Kampf issued this message on Twitter: “Today was my first day as HEAD COACH for @AVCCGirls! So excited to empower them to confidently chase down big dreams, on and off the grass.”

I don’t know if there are any other professional runners who also serve as high school head coaches in Minnesota. And I don’t know how much the cross-country athletes at Apple Valley know about their coach’s running pedigree, which is quite impressive.

Kampf (who was Heather Dorniden before getting married) won Class 2A state track championships at 400 and 800 meters for Rosemount High School, where she graduated in 2005. She finished as high as 15th in three appearances at the Class 2A state cross-country championships.

She was a nine-time all-American runner at the University of Minnesota, winning an NCAA indoor title in the 800 in 2006. In her time with the Gophers, she was the only team member who competed at every NCAA championship in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. She set school records in nine individual and relay events.

As a professional runner Kampf, 30, has become one of the nation’s top milers, winning four U.S. championships in one-mile road racing. She finished seventh in the 800 at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials and was third in the 1,500 at the 2014 USA Indoor Championships.

She worked as an assistant coach at Apple Valley for the last seven years, taking over when head coach Raedi Zimmer retired over the summer.

“Raedi had been grooming me for a couple years, I think,” Kampf said Wednesday morning between high school practice and a chiropractic appointment. “She had retired from her job in the building and I think she was ready to be completely done. We talked a little this summer and decided it was time.”

Before Kampf signed on as an assistant in 2010, she was in Belgium for a race when she received an email from Zimmer. “A year turned into another and turned into going on eight years now,” she said. “You fall in love with the kids.”

Kampf was a three-sport athlete at Rosemount, which is in the same district as Apple Valley. Her first sports love was gymnastics and she set a school record in the pole vault at Rosemount.

Asked about her high school memories, she said, “I was a pretty busy kid. Most of my memories involve the coaches and the things they taught us about character building and lessons for life.”

“I’ve never heard anybody say a bad word about her,” said Chris Harder, boys and girls head cross-country coach and assistant track coach at Rosemount. “She knows her stuff and she’s been through a lot of experiences. She’s just a great person with great character.”

Harder recalled a memorable moment from Kampf’s sophomore track season, when she false-started and was disqualified from the 400 meters at the section championships. She had not run many 800s that season, but it was her next event that day.

“The silver lining was she was fresh for the 800 in a very good field, qualified for state and ended up placing fifth at state,” Harder said. “She kind of showed herself that she could run the 800, that she could overcome adversity. She’s really positive, she has a can-do attitude. She saw that not as a setback but as opportunity.”

As a professional runner, Kampf occasionally must travel for races. This weekend she will be running the Falmouth Elite Mile on Cape Cod.

“This is the one odd time when I have to go for a couple days during the season,” she said.

Having a professional runner as a coach leads to scenes such as what took place after Apple Valley’s workout Wednesday morning. The coach was preparing for a professional race and the high school runners were preparing for an intrasquad race.

“I think they really appreciate having that connection with someone who’s still competing,” Kampf said. “After practice we were all saying ‘Good luck!’ to each other.”

Harder said Kampf has the perfect coaching combination of knowledge, work ethic, compassion and attitude.

“She always had time for people and she never acted like she was better than anybody else,” he said. “She always encouraged everyone to do their best. After races she always shook hands with everyone, no matter where they finished.

“It doesn’t surprise me that she’s a coach. I think she could coach a lot of things because of the type of person she is.”

Kampf studied kinesiology and psychology in college. She isn’t sure what life will hold when her professional running career comes to an end, but it’s a safe bet that coaching will remain part of it.

“I definitely want to stay connected with youth running,” she said, “and somehow give back and hope kids in this area have a role model to look up to and see what they can do if they work at it.”

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

A New Season, A New Team For Elk River Football
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/14/2017 5:24:59 PM

On Day One of practice for the 2017 high school football season, I chatted with four seniors from Elk River, the team that came out of nowhere last year, went unbeaten and claimed the Class 5A state championship, the first in the team’s 125-year history.

The first question I posed to Ronnie Audette, Mitch Stroh, Sherrod Kpahn and Reese Norby was very straightforward: Describe last season in one word.

Their answers: Incredible. Amazing. Surreal. Fantastic.

After finishing with a 5-5 record in 2015, last year’s Elks went 13-0, held seven opponents to seven points or less, won by an average score of 45-12 and defeated Spring Lake Park 42-14 in the Prep Bowl. Nine of their 13 games used running time.

“It was lightning in a bottle, it was nuts,” said Elks activities director Mike Cunningham, whose school’s girls basketball team won the Class 4A state title a few months later.

Nobody predicted the Elks’ 2016 football dominance, but the players knew they had a chance to be successful. Elk River sophomore teams were unbeaten in 2014 and 2015 (and did the same last year), so there was reason for optimism.

“We knew we had a lot of talent,” said Kpahn, a running back who carried the ball three times for 56 yards in the Prep Bowl, including a 50-yard touchdown. “We knew we had to stay disciplined and determined if we wanted to achieve the goal that we had.”

The eye-opener last season came in Week 4. Their opponent was St. Michael-Albertville, the 2015 5A state champ. Both teams came in with 3-0 records and the Elks came away with a resounding 43-6 victory. Elk River beat the Knights again in the Section 6 championship game, this time by a 56-0 score.

“The expectations were somewhat muted until we played them in Week 4,” said Elks coach Steve Hamilton. “After that, the coaches and players kept believing.

“It was the least stressful year I’ve ever had coaching. We were behind one time last year. We scored on our first drive, then Alexandria scored and went for two, so we were behind 8-7 (in the state quarterfinals). To be behind once in an entire year is pretty unheard of.”

This is a new year, of course, and the Elks have the proverbial target on their backs. They fully embrace that role.

“It makes you play harder,” said Kpahn. “Knowing that everyone is the state is gunning for you and wants to be in your position makes you practice harder. We play like No. 1 but we pratice like No. 2 at all times.”

Hamilton, a Michigan native who coached there and in Georgia, was hired as Elk River’s coach in 2011. With family ties in Minnesota, the job was easy to accept. And he steadily built the program with the help of his coaching staff and talented, committed athletes.

“Last year we had the best leadership I’ve ever been around, with a couple back-to-back classes that were really talented,” he said. “And the best thing about that group was 15 or 16 of those seniors had a 3.5 or above GPA. They were all great students.”

“The seniors really stepped up and led the team last year,” said Audette, a lineman.

Those are big shoes to fill, and the returning Elks are ready for that challenge.

“I think the biggest thing to replace is the relationships we had, the blend we had,” said quarterback/safety Mitch Stroh. “You couldn’t tell a junior from a senior last year. The relationship we need to create with the juniors this year is something we need to mirror.”

Guard/linebacker Reese Norby added, “Last year our team chemistry was really good. That’s something we need to repeat here if we want to do what we did last year.”

Chemistry and teamwork, of course, can be major factors in athletic success on any level. And that’s part of the formula for all sports at Elk River.

Cunningham said, “The biggest thing always is, ‘Are we doing the right thing for kids?’ In a coaches meeting I said, ‘What we expect out of all our coaches is our kids are going to leave our program better than when they came in.’ Sometimes you get championships and sometimes you don’t. But as long as they’re doing that, you’re doing the right thing.”

The Elks will open the season at home vs. Moorhead on Aug. 31. The expectations will be on a much different level than in past years.

“I think people are going to think because we had nine seniors on offense last year that maybe we won’t be real good,” Hamilton said. “Everybody got to play a lot last year. We have some youngsters, with 40 juniors this year and close to 70 players. Last year I think we had 72.

“I really like our group this year. In some ways we might be more talented than last year.”

--To see a photo gallery from Elk River, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

Bob McDonald Court: Honoring The Chisholm Legend
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 8/12/2017 3:08:43 PM

CHISHOLM – Bob McDonald was standing in the locker room that his Chisholm Bluestreaks boys basketball teams called home for 53 seasons. On this Friday afternoon, it was the waiting room where McDonald and family members gathered before a ceremony to name the basketball court inside Roels Gymnasium after the coach.

Now 84 years old and three years past retirement, McDonald is as witty as ever. He said to me, “I hope they’ve done renovations in the gym after all the paint I peeled off the walls with my shouting.”

Then he smiled the wonderful Bob McDonald smile that is known to basketball coaches, players, officials, fans and others who came to know, love and respect him during a coaching career that lasted from the 1960s well into a new century.

“I’m happy to see all my friends and players,” he said before walking through a short hallway, shaking hands with a receiving line of current Bluestreaks players, and onto the court that would soon bear his name. “Without basketball, you don’t see them anymore.”

He misses the game and the game misses him. But he knows that time marches on, and Friday’s ceremony included steps back in time as players from five decades spoke to the large crowd. The gym has long been named for Harvey Roels, who coached the Bluestreaks from 1922 to 1954; McDonald (a 1951 Chisholm graduate) took over in 1961.

Bob’s career, as has been well-documented, lasted for 59 total seasons (he coached at McGregor and Barnum before returning to his hometown) and ended with a record of 1,1012-428, 11 trips to state and state titles in 1973, 1975 and 1991. He taught history, social education and physical education, and coached track for 47 years.

The impact and influence that McDonald had on his players was clear from those who spoke Friday.

“We were an ordinary bunch of athletes, and Bob turned us into an extraordinary team,” said Mike Koshmrl, Class of 1974.

Ted Krize, Class of 1991, said “Coach McDonald is a man of integrity, a man of principle, and a man with great values and faith,” later adding, “He’s a legendary coach, an outstanding teacher and an even better man.”

Jon Maturi (Class of 1965 and brother of former University of Minnesota athletics director Joel Maturi) talked about how he still plays basketball at age 70. He recalled working on his shot at a YMCA 10 years ago and thinking about his coach.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m 60 years old. Who cares about my shot?’ Well, I care and Coach McDonald cares.”

Paul Sentiere (Class of 1982) mentioned the countless hours of practices, workouts and drills McDonald oversaw for Chisholm children of all ages, including his famous Saturday morning clinics. “He’s been here for all those kids all these years.”

A video presentation began with a black and white photo of 4-year-old Bob McDonald. There were photos of his Bluestreaks playing days, team photos from his coaching career and TV interviews when his teams played at state. (Pictured are Bob with his six children.)

Before Bob spoke to the crowd, a large sign on the gym wall was unveiled. It carried these simple words: BOB McDONALD COURT.

The old coach talked about the old days. About spending time with Chisholm doctor Archibald (Moonlight) Graham, who became a character in the movie “Field of Dreams.” About the men who spent years driving the team bus, about players, about friendships, about the joys of coaching in his hometown.

He ended his remarks by saying, “It’s wonderful to see my old friends and my old players.”

He didn’t mention this fact: When Bob was a senior at Chisholm in 1951, the following statement appeared in the school yearbook: “Bob McDonald plans to go to college to become a dentist.”

--To see a photo gallery from Chisholm, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn

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