John's Journal
Attention Athletes, Coaches, ADs, Officials, Fans …5/3/2013
As another stretch of bad weather rolls across much of our state -- resulting in more postponed and cancelled spring athletic events and contributing to what has become the worst spring in memory – I’m inviting everyone who is dealing with the conditions to pitch in and share your thoughts about the spring that never wanted to be sprung.

I invite you to send me emails (jmillea@mshsl.org) with your thoughts and I’ll compile your emails in a John’s Journal story …

--Athletes: How frustrating has this spring been as you work out indoors and wait for the weather to improve? Seniors, what has this spring done to your final season of high school athletics? And on the flip side for all athletes, have you had more time for things other than sports, such as studying?

--Coaches: What have you learned this spring? What kind of creative methods have you found to keep your athletes engaged? How frustrated are you? How will the lessons learned this spring pay off in the future?

--Athletic Directors: Does any previous spring compare to this one, in regards to trying to re-schedule events and find ways for your athletes to compete? How much time have you spent on this challenge, compared to other years? Is it a struggle to remain optimistic and encouraging for your coaches and athletes?

--Officials: You are sometimes the forgotten group in situations like this, but your lives and officiating schedules have been equally distrupted. What are the challenges you have been facing in trying to keep up with postponements and cancellations and the re-scheduling of events? Are you doing anything to keep your skills sharp?

--Fans: How have your lives been disrupted, especially if you are parents of athletes? How have you been encouraging your athletes to remain positive? And finally, what are your keys to staying warm and dry when watching outdoor events in, uh, less-than-ideal conditions?

Please send your emails to jmillea@mshsl.org … and keep your fingers crossed for better weather!

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 614
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,510
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Snow, Rain, Mud, Slipping, Sliding: Perfect Lacrosse Conditions 5/2/2013
On a daily basis, I scan a whole bunch of high school athletic schedules and calendars in an attempt to make plans. Some plans are down the road a week or two or three and some are immediate. The latter was the case Wednesday, with predictions of snow on May Day.

I assumed that baseball and softball games would be wiped out by the rain that fell most of the day, and this assumption turned out to be accurate. My thoughts turned to lacrosse, with the realization that lacrosse players are rough and ready when the conditions are far from perfect. The Suburban East Conference had a full slate of boys lacrosse games on Wednesday’s docket, but one stood out: Forest Lake at Hastings.

That game stood out because it was going to be played on natural grass. The Hastings lacrosse field, on the grounds of the high school, is bare bones (no bleachers, no scoreboard) and I guessed it would be a perfect setting for what I envisioned: Lacrosse in the snow and the mud and the muck.

And boy oh boy did I get what I wanted. The teams from Forest Lake and Hastings played Wednesday evening under conditions that could be called “tolerable” by some and “brutal” by others. Heavy, wet snow mixed with raindrops covered everything – and everyone – in wet soup.

“It was pretty bad,” said Hastings coach Brian Jenson. “We had to deal with it.”

The MVPs (Most Valuable Plowers) were a couple of fathers who used snow shovels to repeatedly clear the sidelines and center line so the players and officials could see where the ball was. It wasn’t easy.

Sam McGree, Andrew Cordell and Colin Shoen each scored twice to lead Hastings to a 9-8 victory. But for both teams, the outcome won’t be as memorable as the conditions.

“We weren’t sure how the weather was really going to affect the game,” said Jenson. “We knew it was probably going to be a little sloppy, it would be wet, we would be slipping around. We made sure to just say, ‘Be careful on defense, be ready to step in if a guy falls, and we can move the ball a lot easier than moving our feet in these conditions.’ ”

As the game wore on, the moisture kept falling and everyone – including spectators – got wetter and wetter and colder colder. The scorers table was protected somewhat by a portable roof tent, and a small heater was placed on the table under the tent. At halftime, players held their hands and the inside of their gloves over the heater.

“The biggest affect it had on the guys was when their gloves got wet,” Jenson said. “Holding those metal sticks, their hands got really cold, really fast. After halftime we had the guys on the sideline keep moving, we rotated them in, we had a lot of rotations to try to keep the blood flowing. The big thing, too, was everyone was having a lot of issues but the other team was going through the same thing.”

Jenson is a 2003 Hastings graduate who played lacrosse at St. John’s University and also is the head coach of the men’s club lacrosse team at St. Olaf College. He said he has played and coached college games in similar conditions, but those were on artificial turf.

“That’s a little easier. It’s not muddy, especially right in front of the goal. Some of our kids haven’t had much experience with weather like that.”

After seeing three home games wiped out by previous bad weather, Wednesday’s game was the first at home for Hastings. And the Raiders looked sharp, wearing new white uniform tops ... even if the coach second-guessed that decision.

“I really wanted to wear our away uniforms so we didn’t get the white ones dirty,” Jenson said. “After the game, I told everyone to bring their uniforms home and ask their mom how to properly wash them.”

--See a photo gallery from the snow-swept lacrosse game on the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 614
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,510
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
For High-Profile Spring Athletes, Key Is Waiting And Being Ready5/1/2013
Red Wing baseball player Ryan Boldt and softball players Dana Morgan of Forest Lake and Anne Debertin of Visitation all have made college commitments, but this spring's poor weather has resulted in a slow start to their senior seasons. Brian Jerzak writes about how the trio is dealing with the situation. Read his story by clicking here.
Hats Off To Cromwell For Competing With The Big Schools4/30/2013
The lineup of teams at Monday’s Joe Lane Invitational was pretty typical of track and field meets at giant suburban high schools. You had the host school, Minnetonka, which has an enrollment of 2,750 students. Also at the meet were Burnsville (2,530), Rochester Century (1,275), Minneapolis Patrick Henry (747) and one other school.

That one other school has more of its students on the track teams – per capita – than any of those larger schools. That one other school was Cromwell, enrollment 74. Yes, you read that correctly: The Cromwell Cardinals, with seventy-four students in grades nine through 12, were on the track with the big schools.

How the Cardinals came to be at Minnetonka is a story that involves the weather. With spring schedules blown up by the disastrous spring conditions, administrators and coaches are scrambling to find places to compete. The original field of teams for the Joe Lane Invitational included Burnsville, Chanhassen, Chaska, Maple Grove, Mounds View, Prior Lake and Cooper.

But when most of those teams couldn’t make it to Monday’s meet because of scheduling issues, Minnetonka boys track coach Chris Cohen sent an email to all track coaches in the state, issuing an open invitation.

Dave Foster, who coaches the girls and boys teams at Cromwell and also is the school’s athletic director, saw the email and wondered, “I don’t know if he means us. So I sent him an email saying we were a small school up in northern Minnesota, would you take us? He said absolutely, come on down.”

So the Cardinals coaches and 31 athletes jumped in a bus for the 300-mile round trip. Cromwell is 40 miles west of Duluth, and Monday’s 2-hour, 30-minute drive to Minnetonka wasn’t the track team’s longest of the season. They earlier competed at an indoor meet at Bemidji State, which is a two and a half hour drive from Cromwell. The Joe Lane Invitational was Cromwell’s first outdoor meet of the season after five events were cancelled.

Minnetonka has some of the finest facilities in Minnesota, including artificial turf football, baseball and softball fields. Cromwell has a dirt track around its football field –the Cardinals were nine-man football state champions in 1995, 1996, 1998 and 2010 with four runner-up finishes in that span -- and the track teams have spent most of the spring running on streets and highways when not working out indoors.

“When we first showed up we made a joke: ‘What college is this?,’ ” said Cromwell junior Hunter Rauvola. “This is nice.”

Foster, a Duluth native, had never been to Minnetonka High School until Monday. He took a sneak peak via the internet, or as he phrased it, “I flew in this morning on Google to take a look at it. And the weather’s nice, we were going to be outside. I was just excited about coming.”

Both Cromwell squads finished fourth in Monday’s team scoring. The highest-finishing Cardinals placed third in their events: Andrea Hakamaki in the girls 1,600 and the 4x200, 4x400 and 4x800 girls relay teams, plus Josh Oliver in the shot put and the 4x800 team on the boys side.

“I knew we’d see some good competition,” Foster said.

The conditions were flawless, with a high temperature of 74 degrees under a strong, summer-like sun.

“It’s hot,” said Rauvola. “But you don’t want to complain about it being hot.”

You sure don’t. Especially knowing that Cromwell’s next meet is scheduled for Friday at Crosby-Ironton’s Ranger Invitational.

“It’s supposed to be 39 degrees,” Foster said. “I told the kids, ‘Enjoy this today.’ ”

--See a photo gallery from the Joe Lane Invitational on the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS

*Schools/teams John has visited: 612
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 8,472
(*During the 2012-13 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn
Another Milestone For World-Famous MSHSL Facebook Page4/28/2013
Since kicking off our MSHSL Facebook page three years ago, it has become more popular all the time. The page surpassed another milestone in recent days, reaching (and quickly surpassing) 11,000 "Likes" by followers from all areas of Minnesota and well beyond. Here are some details...

--We have Facebook friends in Canada, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Australia, Norway, Spain, Mexico and many other spots around the world.

--When looking at Minnesota cities and towns, the top 10 for number of MSHSL Facebook friends is Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Rochester, Mankato, St. Cloud, Lakeville, Burnsville, Fairmont and Apple Valley.

--Our Facebook page is being read by people who speak 19 languages, including Arabic, Thai, Turkish and English/Pirate.

--There are a few more females than males (50.5% female) among the ranks of our Facebook followers.

--The largest group age-wise is 18 to 24 years old, followed by 35-44 and then 25-34.

Thanks to all our followers, and please invite your own Facebook friends to Like us on Facebook!