John's Journal
Waseca’s Finest, Striving For A State Track Championship 4/11/2015
BLUE EARTH – On a sunny, cool spring afternoon and early evening Friday, the Waseca High School boys track and field team put on a splendid performance at the Buc Invitational. The Bluejays rolled to the team title behind the strength of one tried-and-true senior superstar, another senior with state championship potential and team depth that may be deep enough to win a state team title at season’s end.

Waseca swept the 4x100, 4x200, 4x400 and 4x800 relays in the six-team invitational, Brady Bomsta won the 100, Cole Streich won the 3,200 and Ryley Raub was the pole vault champion.

Bluejays senior Tyler Kolander – he of state championship potential -- was a double winner in the discus and shot put. Kolander was the Class 1A state runner-up in the discus last year, finishing a mere four inches behind then-senior Jayme LaPlante of Chatfield. On paper that makes Kolander, who will continue his throwing career at the University of North Dakota, the favorite to come home with a state title in June.

Kolander threw the discus so far Friday – his winning distance was 154 feet, 5 inches -- that his final attempt, although wide of the landing area and thus ruled a foul, clipped one of several pine trees that stand sentry beyond the range of most mortals. He owns the school record of 177-3 and hopes to hit 190 feet before season’s end.

The big name on the Waseca roster is senior Shane Streich (pictured). Few athletes in Minnesota history can match his achievements, and he’s hoping to end his high school career in grand fashion.

He’s a two-time state champion in the 1,600 meters and owns one state title in the 800 as well as two second-place finishes in the 800 and one in the 1,600. If he competes at this spring’s state championships, it will be his fifth time at state. Last fall he won the 1A cross-country state championship; he finished second as a junior, third as a sophomore, fifth as a freshman and 14th as an eighth-grader.

Encapsulating: Streich has competed in nine state competitions and owns four state titles, four second-place medals and as much big-time experience as any runner in state history. He will run collegiately at the University of Minnesota.

“I just go out in every race and think of it as another chance to drop my times and improve,” said Streich (whose brother Cole is a sophomore). “I’d like to end my senior year on a great note, but it takes effort at each and every meet and that’s what I look forward to at each meet.”

Last year at state, Waseca finished second in the Class 1A boys team standings, five points behind Minnehaha Academy. Along with Streich’s titles in the 800 and 1,600 and Kolander’s runner-up finish in the discus, the Bluejays finished third in the 4x400 and seventh in the 4x200.

Returning runners from last year’s 4x400 team are Shane Streich, Isaac Highum and J.P. Eykyn; Thomas O’Neil graduated. In the 4x200, O’Neil and Tristan Hoy have graduated, with Nick Buchele and Dylan Romain returning.

“Our boys are strong and we have a good group of seniors,” said head coach Dave Abel. “It does start with Shane and Tyler. Shane has so much history at the state meet, it’s just fantastic. And Tyler has some unfinished business. He’d like to qualify in both (discus and shot put), that’s really his goal this year.

“We have four other boys who have been to the state meet for a few years in a row. We have some guys who went there as freshmen. I think we’ve got a shot, if we bring the right crew there and everybody stays healthy.”

Streich and Kolander are three-sport athletes; both are members of the Bluejays basketball team and Kolander also plays football.

“In Tyler and Shane, you’ve got kids with high-end talent and high-end gifts, and their desire to improve is unparalleled,” said Brad Wendland, who coaches the throwers and also is Waseca’s head football coach. “Tyler (pictured) really wants it. His desire level is incredibly high and he wants to be great. He’s year-round. I’ll open up the weight room at six in the morning and he’s waiting for me, all summer. He’s the rare combination of a lot of talent and very high-end skill in terms of his work ethic. He’s a 3.999 student, he’s the entire package.”

Streich has been setting an example for other athletes for years. Gary Meurer, who coaches the Waseca cross-country teams in the fall and the track team’s distance runners in the spring, said, “He’s so driven, it’s amazing.”

“He’s been an incredible kid for us. He understood splits in sixth grade already; what he had to run to produce a six-minute whatever. He’s just been an incredible kid and a really, really good student. What he’s done for our program is immeasurable. He’s brought a lot of kids with him and a lot of our younger kids see Shane doing something, and they think, ‘I can do this. If I work hard I can achieve greatness.’

“When he was a sophomore I had him write goals. His goal as a sophomore was every day to push through the pain. So when our younger kids hear that Shane has pain and he pushes through it, they know what it takes to be good.”

Streich said it can sometimes be difficult to remain focused on this spring and not think ahead to his college career.

“You can’t really overlook the future goals and future plans, but every day I come to practice and I just work on pushing through the pain and improving each and every day,” he said. “Because in the long run that’s what’s going to help me achieve those goals that I have for the future.

“Once it gets to the end of the season, I can turn the switch and I’m looking forward to the U of M. Right now I’m just hoping to stay in the moment and help my team accomplish the goals that we have for the year.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 466
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,557
Apple Valley Coach Calls Tyus Jones “A Legend Forever” 4/7/2015
Zach Goring was at home with his family Monday night, watching his prize pupil on television. Goring, the boys basketball coach at Apple Valley High School, counted Tyus Jones among his varsity starters for five years, but what he witnessed in the NCAA national championship game amazed him.

Jones scored 23 points for Duke in the Blue Devils’ 68-63 victory over Wisconsin in Indianapolis. The 18-year-old freshman was his team’s catalyst, especially in the second half when he scored 10 points in the final seven minutes. Jones was named the Most Outstanding Player in Monday’s game.

“I’ve seen that scenario play out many, many times, just not on a stage like that,” Goring said. “He has that closer mentality. (Jahlil) Okafur didn’t play well, (Justise) Winslow was in foul trouble, and Tyus was the one who came through. They were running things through him and for him.

“He’s going be a legend forever. Whatever legend he was before last night, it will be elevated even more.”

Goring saw Duke twice in person this season, once at Wisconsin and once in a home game against Clemson. The Apple Valley coaching staff also traveled to Duke (in Durham, N.C.) on a football weekend last fall.

“Here’s the type of kid Tyus is,” Goring said. “He had practice in the morning, then he showered and sat with us at the football game. He wasn’t off with other people. That’s the type of kid he is.”

Jones was one of the top recruits in the nation, and he and Okafor made a joint decision to play at Duke. Okafor is expected to declare for the NBA draft, while Jones has made no indication whether he will stay at Duke for another year or begin a professional career.

“I don’t know. It’s a tough one to figure out,” Goring said. “I think Coach Krzyzewski and Tyus will sit down. Coach K is really plugged into the NBA and he will have a good idea where he’s at. You don’t want him to declare and then be taken in the second round, where the money isn’t as good. But either way, he’s going to be fine.”

People at Apple Valley High School were ecstatic about Jones’ performance in Indianapolis.

“I haven’t gotten anything done,” activities director Pete Buesgens said Tuesday afternoon. “People are coming in and wanting to talk; “Wow! Did you see that!”

This has been a sensational winter for the Eagles. They won the Class 3A state wrestling championship and the 4A boys basketball state title. Apple Valley also won the basketball championship two years ago, when Jones was a junior. His younger brother Tre, a freshman, is on the varsity and his older brother Jadee is an assistant coach.

Banners honoring the wrestling and basketball titles arrived at school Tuesday, adding to the excitement.

“You can’t buy the publicity we got last night,” Buesgens said. “To hear Jim Nance saying, ‘Apple Valley. Minnesota.’

“I’ve got a 7-year-old. She was sitting on my lap while we watched the game. We’d see Tyus and she’d say, 'Daddy, we know him!' ”

Jones is on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, to which Goring said, “I will certainly buy that and frame that.”

The coach said he and Jones exchanged text messages on Tuesday.

“He said it’s like he just woke up from a dream.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 460
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,321
*@MSHSLjohn on Twitter
MSHSL Book Club: “One Shot At Forever”4/4/2015
In the 1970s, a young coach took over a small-town team. The coach was a few years out of college and was energetic about his first head coaching assignment, despite barely having enough athletes to even field a team. He worked quickly and well, and in only his second season the team played for a state championship.

I was a member of that squad, which was a football team from a small town in the middle of nowhere. My memories remain strong all these years later.

I recently picked up a paperback book about a similar, much more newsworthy team. The book is titled “One Shot At Forever/ A small town, an unlikely coach, and a magical baseball season” by Chris Ballard. It came out in hardcover in 2012. Ballard, a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, wrote a short version of the story in the magazine before turning it into a book. It details the high school baseball team from Macon, Illinois, and how a new coach, using a very different coaching style than anyone had seen before, led the team to great heights in the early 1970s.

After purchasing the book, I Tweeted a photo of the cover and these words: “Picked up this book, ready to take it for a spin. If you’ve read it, I’d love to know what you thought of it.”

There were many responses, all glowing reviews of “One Shot At Forever.” One of the responses included this hashtag: #mshslbookclub (thanks, New Life Academy baseball, also known as @NLABaseball).

With that spark from Twitter, it’s time to start an MSHSL Book Club. I do a lot of reading, and whenever I read something that pertains to high school activities past or present, I’ll post a review right here on John’s Journal.

“One Shot At Forever” is a fairly quick read of 230 pages. I finished it one sitting for one simple reason: I could not put it down.

Macon is in central Illinois, a small town surrounded by farm fields and back roads. The tallest structure in town? A grain elevator. A few of the Twitter replies to my query about the book said it was similar to the movie “Hoosiers.” That is very true, but this is also a very true story, one that will find a soft spot in the heart of anyone who was an athlete or a fan in a small town.

The main character is Lynn Sweet, who was 24 years old when he was hired to teach English in Macon in 1965. He had lived in many places around the country as the son of an Army sergeant, and by this time in his life he was what many people considered to be a hippie. He was as unconventional classroom teacher, allowing his students to enjoy class while they learned.

The Macon Ironmen baseball team had very little history of success, and expectations were low when Sweet was convinced to take over as coach for the 1970 season. He had played a lot of baseball but had never coached. Eyebrows were raised when he told the team that practice was optional. He also told the boys to decide among themselves what positions they would play.

This was during a time in America – and especially in small-town America – when coaching was very nearly a military exercise; the coach gave orders and the athletes carried them out. The boys of Macon were used to coaches in other sports quoting General George Patton and the football coach grabbing their facemasks and giving them a good rattle.

Sweet told the baseball players, as well as his English students, to call him “Sweet.” Not Coach or Mr. Sweet, but Sweet.

The Ironmen uniforms were old, didn’t match and some of the players had peace signs on their caps. Sweet had long hair and a beard, and an eight-track player provided music for bus rides and pregame warm-ups.

The book goes into wonderful detail about the members of the baseball team; some had no siblings and some came from huge families. Some had parents who were not very interested in watching their sons play, some never missed a game. As I read, I was transported back to the 1970s. Macon reminded me very much of my own hometown, where the high school sports teams were the main source of local entertainment.

Ballard is masterful at weaving the story together: how some people in town wanted him fired for being a hippie/communist/weirdo; how his students loved him and his teaching methods; and how his baseball players came to respect him and his unconventional methods.

In those days, high school baseball in Illinois (and Minnesota) was a one-class proposition. After an unsettling end to Sweet’s first season as coach, the Ironmen advanced all the way to the state championship game in 1971, beating some of the top teams in the state.

The book’s final two chapters are an unexpected surprise. Ballard goes back to see the Ironmen in 2010, nearly 40 years after their magical season. They look back to their glory days with pride, knowing that they had shared something very special, something that few people get to experience.

It’s a great read.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 458
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,309
The Memories, The Photos, The Greatness Of State 3/21/2015
It’s pretty amazing what happens away from the action at a state tournament. Once the games are played and the reaction begins, some pretty neat things develop.

Case in point was a tremendous photographed issued via Twitter on Saturday afternoon by Reid Olson, the athletic director at Lyle High School. Lyle and Austin Pacelli have a cooperative girls basketball team, and the Athletics made history by getting to state for the very first time. They played three games in three days, finished fourth in Class 1A and were a worn-out bunch by the time it was all over.

The photo Tweeted by Olson showed the interior of a school bus with very few heads visible. You see one girl holding the fourth-place trophy on her lap and most everybody else is down for the count, sleeping on the ride home where the team would be welcomed by both school communities.

Another photo was issued from the Twitter account of the Norman County Fair. Ada-Borup is in Norman County, and those who have been there (as I have) know that the county fairgrounds are right across the road from the school.

Ada-Borup won the Class 1A state title with an 82-65 win over Maranatha Christian at Williams Arena, giving the Cougars a 32-0 record and the honor of being the only undefeated girls or boys basketball team in Minnesota this season.

The photo was of the sign outside the fairgrounds, reading “Congratulations Lady Cougars/ State Champs 32-0/The Fun Never Ends.”

A welcome home celebration was also held in Ada on Saturday night, and you can be sure there will be some basketball players having their picture taken with that sign.

And the cutest photo in the Twitter/state tournament category was of a one-day-old little girl. I wrote yesterday about Ada-Borup coach David Smart becoming a grandfather a few hours before the state semifinals, and how he had jokingly wanted the baby to be named “Swish.”

I don’t know who took the photo, but it was Tweeted by Ada-Borup athletic director Kelly Anderson, showing the baby wearing a knit cap that looked like a basketball and this caption: “Baby Swish is peacefully sleeping after Grandpa Smart's Cougars captured the trophy!”

CLASS 1A: ADA-BORUP 82, MARANATHA CHRISTIAN 65

The Cougars won their third girls basketball championship behind a balanced offensive attack and a strong defense. Miki Lee scored 22 points, Elizabeth Birkemeyer had 20, Lexi Merkens 17 and Haley Poehler 10. Maranatha’s Lexi Lee scored 32 points, the highest total in the tournament.

CLASS 2A: DOVER-EYOTA 71, SAUK CENTRE 58

The Eagles won their first state title in their first trip to state and broke two tournament rebounding records. They set a new single-game record with 71 rebounds Saturday, breaking the mark of 67 set by Archbishop Brady in a 1979 game against Redwood Falls. Dover-Eyota also set a three-game tournament record with 171 rebounds, breaking the mark of 156 set by St. Paul Central in 2007.

Trailing 55-51 with 5:44 left, the Eagles outscored the Mainstreeters 20-3 down the stretch. Brandi Blattner led Dover-Eyota with 25 points, Megan Hintz had 24 and Madison Nelson 15. Sauk Centre’s Maesyn Thiesen scored 23 and Mauren Thiesen had 14.

CLASS 3A: PARK CENTER 52, MARSHALL 45

The Pirated defeated the Tigers in the championship game for the second year in a row, not needing three overtimes as in last year’s contest.

Mikayla Hayes led the Pirates with 13 points while Hannah Schaub and Feyisayo Ayobamidele each scored 11. Marshall’s Marah Mulso scored 15 points, and Sarah Buysse and Morgan Saugstad scored 10 points each.

CLASS 4A: HOPKINS 68, EASTVIEW 60

The Royals closed a 30-1 season by beating the defending state champion Lightning. Nia Hollie led the way with 26 points for Hopkins, TT Starks had 16 and Ashley Bates 15. Eastview was led by Madison Guebert with 19 points, Samantha Trammel with 12 and Erika Schlosser with 11.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

Class 1A/ Brooke Walter, Sarah Holtz, Lyle/Austin Pacelli; Emily Stienessen, Taylor Reiss, Minneota; Alaina Jarnot, Lexi Lee, Jaclyn Jarnot, Maranatha Christian; Haley Poehler, Miki Lee, Lexi Merkens, Ada-Borup.

Class 2A/ Kiley Borowicz, Kacie Borowicz, Roseau; Sarah Kaminski, Gracia Gilreath, Minnehaha Academy; Madison Nelson, Brandi Blattner, Megan Hintz, Dover-Eyota; Madison Moritz, Mauren Thiesen, Maesyn Thiesen, Sauk Centre.

Class 3A/ Kristin Scott, Kasson-Mantorville; Rachel Heussner, Meghan Mandel, Orono; Sarah Buysse, Morgan Saugstad, Marah Mulso, Marshall; Mikayla Hayes, Hannah Schaub, Ann Simonet, Feyisayo Ayobamidele, Park Center.

Class 4A/ Taylor Koenen, Shakopee; Bobbi Brendefur, St. Michael-Albertville; TT Starks, Nia Hollie, Ashley Bates, Viria Livingston, Hopkins; Madison Guebert, Samantha Trammel, Rachel Ranke, Hana Metoxen, Eastview.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 458
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,309
What A Day: A Last-Second Victory And A New Grandchild 3/20/2015
The biggest moment of the day Friday for Ada-Borup girls basketball coach David Smart didn’t come when senior Miki Lee scored the go-ahead basket in the lane with seven seconds to play. The biggest moment didn’t come when Austin/Lyle Pacelli junior Courtney Walter narrowly missed a three-point shot with one second to play. It didn’t come when the horn sounded on Ada-Borup’s 54-52 fingernail-grinding victory over the Athletics in the Class 1A state semifinals at Williams Arena.

As exciting as all that was, the big moment for Smart came early Friday morning, when his daughter Kelli and her husband, Steve Trudeau, became parents of a little girl. Alexis Nicole Trudeau, who was born in Fargo, N.D., is David and Becky Smart’s first grandchild.

“We’ve been up since about 4 this morning,” the coach (pictured) said after Friday’s game. “It was well worth it.”

The plan was a normal delivery but the Smarts received an early-morning text from their son-in-law that a caesarean section was in the works.

“Once they decided that, we knew it was just going to be a matter of time,” David said.

The team learned the news during breakfast at their hotel when Becky showed everyone a photo of the baby on her phone.

“Becky showed us her screensaver,” Lee said, “and we were all like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ ”

Kelli played basketball for her dad, as did the Smart’s other child, Nicole. Kelli is a teacher and coach at Northern Cass High School in Hunter, N.D.

A Facebook page about the impending birth gave family and friends the opportunity to predict when the baby would be born along with guessing the height, weight and name. Grandpa Smart predicted that the baby would be named “Swish.”

“I was a pound off, I got the inches right but I got the name wrong,” said the very happy coach/father/grandfather.

MAKING AN EMERGENCY UNIFORM SWITCH

It’s a good thing teams are told to bring both sets of uniforms to every game at the state tournament. Maranatha Christian came out for warm-ups in the Class 1A semifinals wearing their black home uniforms while Minneota was wearing its blue home uniforms.

Maranatha was the visiting team, however, and should have been wearing white. So the Mustangs interrupted their warm-ups, returned to the locker room for a quick change, came out in their white uniforms and resumed warming up. Crisis averted.

“I don’t think we’ve ever done that,” said senior Lexi Lee, who scored a game-high 28 points in the Mustangs’ 76-69 victory. “We kind of just put them on because we didn’t know. We felt like if we put on the wrong ones our coaches would say something, but I don’t even think they realized it. I didn’t even notice until one of the coaches came out on the court and told us.”

Maranatha coach Chris Buerman said nothing rattles his team.

“We’ve worn those so many times, they put them on and away we went,” he said.

“I joke all the time that this is the only team I’ve ever had where we have absolutely no routine. We can get here two minutes before game time or three hours before game time, it’s going to be exactly the same either way. They just kind of roll through whatever is in front of them.”

A GREAT TOURNAMENT STORY

Lyle/Austin Pacelli, a cooperative team with students from both schools, made history by advancing to the Class 1A state tournament for the first time since the coop was formed in 2000.

The Athletics came into the tournament unseeded, defeated third-seeded Mountain Iron-Buhl 66-47 in Thursday’s quarterfinals and gave Ada-Borup (at 31-0 the only undefeated girls or boys team in the state) all it could handle Friday.

Lyle/Pacelli’s record over the last three seasons is 73-9 (23-4, 24-1, 26-4).

Friday’s Games
Class 1A semifinals
Maranatha Christian 76, Minneota 69
Ada-Borup 54, Lyle/Austin Pacelli 52

Class 2A semifinals
Sauk Centre 54, Minnehaha Academy 49
Dover-Eyota 94, Roseau 61

Saturday’s Championship Games
Noon/ 1A championship game: Maranatha Christian vs. Ada-Borup
2 p.m./ 2A championship game: Sauk Centre vs. Dover-Eyota
6 p.m./ 3A championship game: Marshall vs. Park Center
8 p.m./ 4A championship game: Hopkins vs. Eastview

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 458
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 8,269