John's Journal
Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day 2015 2/4/2015
Myron Glass was telling a story from the old days Wednesday afternoon in St. Paul, and the tale provided a perfect summary of why celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day is important.

Glass (pictured), who retired last year as girls basketball coach at Rochester Lourdes, is well-known in Minnesota high school sports circles. His basketball teams won eight state titles, and his track and cross-country teams also were highly successful.

Right out of college, Glass was hired as a teacher at Lourdes. This was in 1968, when there were no sports for girls. One day, a group of female students came to him with a question: “Why do we only have intramurals? Why don’t we have sports? Why can’t we have a team?”

Glass’ answer was simple: “Why not?”

He formed a girls track team and 70 girls showed up for the first practice. Glass had them run around the track one time, and only one person made it without stopping.

“She became our 400 runner,” he said, laughing.

He began contacting other private schools, and his efforts led to Minnesota’s first track meet for girls. There were six teams and the longest race was 800 meters. In 1971 he started basketball and tennis teams, all the while writing to other schools to urge them to start teams for girls.

“It was a great time period,” Glass said. “I’m so proud to have been that little pebble in the sand, to help with the growth of women’s sports.”

Glass was one of 19 honorees during Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day event at the Minnesota History Center. They ranged from pioneers like Glass to current coaches and athletes. The Milestone Award was given to the Edina High School girls tennis program, which has won 18 consecutive state titles.

Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day also onors a member of the media each year, and from this day forward that award will be known as the Kwame McDonald Media Award.

Kwame, who died in 2011, was a fixture in Minneapolis and St. Paul sports coverage. He loved to highlight inner-city athletes and female athletes and teams.

Accepting the award was Kwame’s son, Mitch. He said, “I’m amazed at the impact my dad had on everyone else’s life, because he had a major impact on mine. I don’t know how many people he helped. They come up to me every day, saying thanks to my dad.”

I am one of those people. Kwame always had a smile and a friendly word for everyone he met. I’ll always remember something he said as we sat side by side at a state basketball tournament.

Kwame looked at me, smiled and said, “These kids, they keep you young.”

They sure do.

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

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 298
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 6,745
MSHSL Board of Directors Meeting2/4/2015
Tennis, lacrosse and athletic safety are among the topics that members of the MSHSL board of directors will discuss Thursday morning when they meet at MSHSL headquarters in Brooklyn Center. The 20-person board meets six times each year.

A change to postseason certified tennis lineups will be considered. The proposal would simplify the lineup rule, making the process easier for coaches. In lacrosse, game-ending procedures for state quarterfinals, semifinals and finals may be amended to allow for games suspended due to weather to be completed. The board also will hear a proposal to adjust safety guidelines for some sports and will hear about a proposal to increase girls cross-country races from 4,000 to 5,000 meters.

The board meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. I will provide instant updates on Twitter. You can stay in the loop by following @MSHSLjohn
The Girls Basketball Hotbed Of Southeast Minnesota 2/2/2015
ST. CHARLES – As the girls basketball team from Dover-Eyota made the 10-mile journey east on Highway 14 to meet the St. Charles Saints on Friday night, it was an occasion to think about all the good girls hoops teams in southeastern Minnesota.

--The Eagles of Dover-Eyota are No. 1 in the Class 2A rankings; they will play No. 2 Chatfield on Friday in the biggest game of the season in the Three Rivers Conference and beyond. Plainview-Elgin-Millville, another Three Rivers team, is ranked eighth in 2A.

--The Class 1A rankings include No. 5 Goodhue from the Hiawatha Valley League, No. 6 Blooming Prairie from the Gopher Conference and No. 10 Lyle/Austin Pacelli from the Southeast Conference.

Let’s zero in on Class 2A Section 1. This much we know: A very solid team will emerge from this section and play at the state tournament. After Dover-Eyota defeated St. Charles 66-44, I asked Eagles coach Brian Harris about surviving that section tournament.

“We have some of the top teams in the state,” he said, quickly mentioning the upcoming game at Chatfield. “Plainview’s tough, Kenyon-Wanamingo finished second in the state last year and they’re still tough, Hayfield, Lourdes, Caledonia. Very tough. We’re hoping to get out of the section, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Nothing worthwhile is easy, of course. Dover-Eyota is talented and tall, with a front line of 5-foot-11 Brandi Blattner, 6-1 Madison Nelson and 6-1 Megan Hintz. Nelson and Hintz each scored 17 points against St. Charles, Blattner had 11 and 5-9 Danielle Higgins scored 10. The other starter was 5-7 Emily Roseboom. All are seniors or juniors

The Eagles like to run up and down the court, and they scored lots of points via layups and rebounds against the smaller Saints. St. Charles coach Dan Sternberg put together a smart strategy of slowing the game and grinding down the clock, hoping to keep Dover-Eyota from running, gunning and scoring at will. (Pictured is Harris during a timeout.)

Several of the Saints’ possessions lasted a minute or longer and the tactic worked very well for most of the first half. The Eagles led 30-21 at halftime before locking up the win in the second half.

“They have incredible athletes,” Sternberg said. “To our mind, really the only way we could stay in the game was to shorten the game, to have long possessions and make them work defensively. They like to get up and go, so part of our plan was to make them play defense, maybe we get some shots knocked down early and stick in the game, and see where it goes from there. I thought our kids did exactly what I asked them to do.”

Those St. Charles kids are actually kids, too. There are no seniors on the roster, and the young Saints had put together an eight-game winning streak before Friday. Carolyn Shanahan matched her team-leading season average with 18 points Friday; the other starters were Ty Thoreson, Anna Hershey, Haley Ludens and Katelyn Ihrke.

“We have a nice group of kids,” Sternberg said. “Our future is bright and we look forward to the rest of the season and what happens next year.”

In other words, southeastern Minnesota will continue to produce great basketball.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 296
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 6,693
A Standing Ovation For All The Super Kids In New Prague1/29/2015
I received an email from New Prague superintendent Tim Dittberner earlier this week, alerting me to a very special event. The email included this statement: “The kids at New Prague are very inclusive to all kids within the student body -- no matter what their differences or abilities are.”

I’m certain that statement holds true every day in the halls and classrooms at school, at sporting events and everywhere students gather. It’s clear that they care about each other, based on what I witnessed Wednesday evening in the school auditorium.

This is Snoball Week at New Prague, which includes dress-up days (Safari Day, Camouflage/Flannel Day, etc.), a pepfest and a dance. Wednesday’s big event was the coronation of Snoball royalty, and it was something special.

Five senior boys, five senior girls and an equal number of juniors had been chosen as candidates. Two seniors would be named king and queen, with two juniors being named prince and princess.

The ceremony began with a slideshow featuring baby/toddler photos of each candidate and their answer to a question. This was great fun. Some examples…

--Q: What’s your favorite pickup line? A: “You must be Google because you have everything I’m looking for.”

--Q: Who is your favorite teacher? A: “Our school is filled with too many good ones.”

The candidates were introduced, talented juniors Alexis Solheid and Jacob Hurt did a wonderful job of singing “I'll Be (The Greatest Fan Of Your Life)” and the coronation followed.

The queen was Kristy Bendzick and the king was Kevin Bastyr (pictured here). The princess was Sarah Oxborough and the prince was Goy Kang. Kevin has cerebral palsy and Sarah is cognitively impaired; there was thunderous cheers and a standing ovation as they were crowned.

The other candidates were seniors Owen Guthridge, Lauren Bixby, Aric Becker, Sarah Goblirsch, Drew Schoenbauer, Hanna Maddaus, Ryan O'Rourke and Madison Frerk, and juniors Ebenezer Chinedu-Enh, Leah Bissell, Michael Knoer, Julia Bartusek, Matt Ademmer, Madison Schmitz, Frank Bartyzal and Brianna Ellanson,

Kevin Bastyr is well-known as the No. 1 fan of New Prague sports. When the Trojans boys hockey team went to state last year, they gave Kevin a jersey with his name on the back. When the hockey team holds Senior Night at its home game against Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato on Friday, Kevin will be recognized.

“He never misses a football or hockey game, no matter the weather -- home or away,” Dittberner said.

Tony Buthe, a former New Prague football coach and the district’s director of educational services, said “Kevin’s relationship with all the student-athletes is great. They just love him. And he loves to talk sports with any peer, but also any coach or teacher. He is the epitome of what New Prague schools is about. He’s just a super, super kid.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 293
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 6,503
The Magic Of Monticello And All High School Activities1/26/2015
Twenty years ago, nobody associated with the Monticello boys basketball team could have envisioned what took place Friday night. The 1994-95 Magic was a special group that went to the state tournament for the first time in school history and began a five-year run of consecutive trips to state.

Most of the players and coaches from that team were reunited Friday at Monticello High School. The teenagers from the mid-1990s are now thirty-somethings who were honored before the current Magic boys basketball team met Buffalo in a Mississippi 8 Conference game in the splendid Monticello gym.

The star of the evening was Nate Holmstadt. His number 54 jersey was retired, with a framed jersey being presented to Nate and a twin tribute to his career unveiled on the gym wall.

At 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, Holmstadt averaged 25 points, 15 rebounds and 7.5 blocked shots per game as a senior in 1994-95. He was named the player of the year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and shared Associated Press player of the year honors with Robert Mestas of Minneapolis Roosevelt.

Nate went on to play basketball at Montana State and now works for the California Highway Patrol.

“It’s really surreal,” Nate said after the pregame ceremony. “I haven’t seen a lot of these guys in a long time. I haven’t been back in a while, and a lot of the people in the stands, I haven’t seen them for a long time, either. It’s an unbelievable moment for me.”

The ceremony and that evening’s game was a celebration of everything that’s good about high school sports. We cheer for today’s teams and athletes, we remember those who came before and we revel in the atmosphere and the togetherness.

The entire 1994-95 team was honored, with all but four of the 15 players present. Each was introduced to the crowd by athletic director Gary Revenig, who talked about what each of them are doing now. One of the absent players was Brad Ibs, who is doing missionary work in Kenya. Another was Joel Przybilla, who was a freshman in 1994-95 and recently retired from basketball after 13 seasons in the NBA.

The other players are involved in careers ranging from sales to insurance to construction to architecture to health care to coaching. The coaching connection is Jason Schmidt, a senior in 1994-95 who now is the Magic head coach. Jason kicked off the plans to honor his old teammates, including their coach, Max LaVelle.

Retired and still living in Monticello, LaVelle talked about the team and thanked all involved in making high school activities happen.

“I’d like to thank, on behalf of these guys, their families,” the coach said. “They sacrificed a lot, with the time put in, transportation, money, meals, everything. I’d like to thank the managers, the cheerleaders, the coaches, the Monticello Times for the great coverage in the past and the present. And our fans. This is unbelievable, to have the support tonight. We really appreciate that.

“The pep band, the administration, the community, the staff, the youth coaches who worked with these guys as they were beginning to become basketball players.”

That’s a heck of a summary of what goes into these endeavors. In a lot of sports, athletes can play on offseason teams, travel the nation to tournaments and hope to catch the eye of college coaches. But how often do those teams gather again 20 years later to celebrate with their community?

The teams, the families, the cheerleaders, the band. The Magic and the magic.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 292
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 6,447