This is a fun time for me. Another school year has ended and I'm going back through all the memories from 2018-19 via the postings here on John's Journal. From the first day of practice for fall sports in August though the end of spring state tournaments in June, I'm reliving lots of wonderful experiences as I traveled around the state, meeting people, watching events and sharing their stories.
The annual goal at this point is to select a Top 10 list of my favorite John's Journal stories. This is always a difficult task; I've been with the MSHSL for a decade now and this yearly summer project, while not easy, is always fun.
Looking back at 2018-19 has been a delightful mission. I went through 386 total entries that were posted between August and June, winnowing stories down to a manageable list; and by "manageable" I mean I managed to whittle it down to 31 stories. From there I'm selecting my personal favorite Top 10 (those 10 have been chosen and I'm in the process of ranking them). I also came up with five Honorable Mention stories. This was tough.
The Honorable Mention stories are summarized here. You can find each of these stories by going to the bottom of this post and clicking "More of John’s Journal" … then you’ll find a month-by-month list of stories on the right side of the page.
In the days ahead I will re-post each of the Top 10 stories individually, counting down from No. 10 to No. 1.
Thanks to everyone for reading these posts throughout the year(s).
Honorable Mention Stories (in calendar order)
Sept. 2/ Like Father, Like Son: The Multisport Boumans Of Buffalo
It’s not surprising, genetically speaking, that Aidan Bouman is a talented football player. His father, after all, is Todd Bouman, who had a lengthy career as an NFL quarterback. Todd is now the head football coach at Buffalo High School, where Aidan is the starting quarterback.
Football, however, isn’t the only family tradition. Aidan also is following in his dad’s footsteps as a multisport athlete. Todd was on the football, basketball and track teams in high school at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in southwest Minnesota, then played football and basketball at St. Cloud State. Aidan also plays basketball for the Bison, and that won’t change despite his announcement in June of a verbal commitment to play college football at Iowa State. He was the Cyclones’ first commitment from the Class of 2020, making the decision months before his first day of school as an 11th-grader.
Aidan is already taller this his father. Todd, 46, is 6-foot-2 and his son stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 225 pounds. Another difference is that Aidan is lefthanded. If you look at photos of both of them throwing the football, it is almost a mirror image because their motions are so similar.
Sept. 30/ Blue Ox, White Jerseys: Making Memories in Bemidji And Grand Rapids
Oh Hail Bemidji High School! For we’re a hundred million strong! Our hearts are always with you; our eyes upon you every Bemidji man! Rah! Rah! Rah! Oh yes, we’re here to cheer you, to put the old pep in each play! So fight Bemidji, fight Bemidji, fight to win your way to victory!
Imagine the scene in Bemidji on Friday night. The famous statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox standing there, minding their own business, on the shore of Lake Bemidji at 9:35 p.m. Paul, the top of his flat-top cap 18 feet in the air, probably saw the two school buses rolling down Paul Bunyan Drive. They made the left turn at the light, pulled up to the curb and football players began piling out, hootin’ and hollerin’.
Imagine the scene in Grand Rapids on Saturday morning. Varsity football players are diving to make tackles, somehow missing every time, then cheering and celebrating in the end zone as students with special needs spike the football, some showing off celebratory dance moves. This was the fifth annual Itasca County Victory Day, a time when boys and girls who cannot play football become football stars, putting on jerseys, running drills with the varsity boys, hitting tackling dummies, kicking field goals, catching and throwing passes, hearing their name over the public-address system as part of the "Thunderhawks starting lineup" and again when they outrun the flailing varsity players into the end zone.
Dec. 3/ Brainerd’s Mike Bialka: 40 Years Of Positive Impacts
In 1978 Les Sellnow, editor of the newspaper in Brainerd, called a recent college graduate who was in his first year as the sports editor (and one-person sports department) for the Crookston Times. Les had an opening for a sports writer and invited Mike Bialka to return to his hometown for an interview.
The young scribe had a conflict. He would be playing in the state amateur baseball tournament and couldn’t make the interview. A couple of phone conversations later, Sellnow said simply, "If you want the job, it’s yours.” No interview, no hoops to jump through. So the young man’s first day on the job was the first day he walked into the newsroom of his hometown newspaper.
That young man’s last day on the job will be the first day of 2019, ending a 40-year career at the Brainerd Dispatch, the last 33 as sports editor. Mike Bialka is a real rarity: he devoted nearly his entire career to his hometown community newspaper and made a million friends along the way.
March 2/ Park Rapids’ Ashton Clark: Perseverance, Dedication, Commitment
Saturday night was special at Xcel Energy Center. The final matches of the high school wrestling season, in which individual state champions are crowned, are always held in a joyous, raucous setting, with gold medals being awarded in front of cheering crowds. High school wrestling careers sometimes end quietly, too.
Ashton Clark, a senior from Park Rapids, was hoping to go out on top. He placed second in Class 2A as a sophomore and junior and came to the 2019 state tournament in the 120-pound class with dreams of a first-place finish. That dream was dashed when he lost an opening-round match on Friday morning in the most dramatic way possible.
But the story, the story that really matters, the story that says so much about the young man, is how he made it back to state when it seemed impossible. Ashton suffered a broken leg on Jan. 5 while wrestling in the championship match at a tournament in Ogilvie. He won that match, despite a broken bone just above the ankle. Doctors told him his wrestling season was over.
He wasn’t hearing it.
June 5/ Future Teacher Signing Ceremonies Continue To Grow
During a special ceremony last month, held for the first time at Delano High School, several soon-to-be-graduating seniors sat before their families and teachers and signed the same statement. They intend to become educators as they head off to college, and the statement read, "I dedicate myself to the life of an educator and providing the foundation upon which future generations will build their lives. I commit to the cultivation of character, for I know that humanity cannot flourish without courage, compassion, honesty, and trust. Further, I commit myself to the advancement of my own learning and to the cultivation of my own character, in order to promote the love of learning in my future students."
Similar signing ceremonies were held this spring at nearly 20 other Minnesota high schools. A year ago I was made aware of three such signings, so clearly the idea of holding Future Teacher Signing Ceremonies has taken off in our state.
--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to “Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.