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The Great Soft Drink Debate …And Some Tournament Notes
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/28/2011 11:54:44 AM

In the midst of section tournaments and state tournaments and hockey and wrestling and gymnastics and swimming and basketball, an old debate has returned to the scene of the action.

Question: Should a guy like me be drinking Diet Coke? After the completion of last week’s girls state hockey tournament, I received an email warning me about the stuff. As noted in the daily dispatches, I sucked down four cans of Diet Coke during each of the four days of the hockey tournament.

I was inside the Xcel Energy Center for 12 hours or more each day, so is one Diet Coke every three hours too much? Here are excerpts from the email …

“John, Thanks for the great reporting on the Girls State Hockey tourney. Now, to lecture you: Diet Coke, no, no, no. John, John, John. No. No Nutrasweet. No Aspartame.

“Find something else delicious. Green tea with honey, anyone? Personally, I love the impact of green tea, a couple cups of hot, and I somehow feel better.

“Do well.”

So, I am open to further advice. I’m not saying I can, should or will give up on the Diet Cokes at tourney time. I rarely have soft drinks at home, and I generally have diet green tea in the fridge. But I don’t know if I want to haul a supply of diet green tea to all the tournaments, since the Diet Cokes are already there. And chilled.

If you have thoughts on this or any of the other Great Questions of Our Time, fire an email my way. No guarantees, but I will gladly listen to the opinions of one and all.

TOURNAMENT TIME

This is a big week, with lots of things happening on the section and state levels. I may drop in at Mariucci Arena on Wednesday for a doubleheader of boys hockey section finals. The state wrestling tournament will begin Thursday with the team competition in all three classes, and the individuals will take over Friday and Saturday.

One of the big stories at the wrestling tournament will be Elissa Reinsma, a senior at Fulda/Murray County Central. Two years ago she made history by becoming the first female to qualify for state. Now a senior with a season record of 32-5, she has qualified for a second time. Wrestling at 103 pounds, she will meet Foley sophomore Tristan Manderfeld in the first round at 11 a.m. Thursday. Reinsma is unranked and Manderfeld is ranked No. 2 in Class AA at 103.

The boys swimming and diving meet will take place at the University of Minnesota on Thursday and Friday. One of the many interesting stories there is Farmington’s Tyler Magalis. He is a top-notch diver and swims in relays, too, but there’s more to his story.

The Farmington diving coach is Gregg Rappe, whose son RJ was a state diving champion in 2004 and went on to compete at the University of Massachusetts. Magalis has already broken RJ Rappe’s school record for diving, and his coach is, yes, RJ’s father. That’s a neat story.

When the boys state hockey tournament kicks off on March 9, there is an interesting twist with the officials.Three brothers have been assigned to work the state tournament; two of them are referees and one is a linesman, so they could end up working together.

Feel free to pass along any tournament notes from your school, and we’ll spread the news far and wide. Have a great week, everybody!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 479
*Miles John has driven: 8,215

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Girls State Hockey Tournament: Fathers and Daughters, Smiles and Tears
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/26/2011 4:58:52 PM

After Warroad had won its second consecutive Class 1A girls state hockey championship Saturday afternoon, coach David Marvin sat at a table taking questions from the media. On his right were forward Karley Sylvester and goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie (pictured below). On his left were forwards Lisa and Layla Marvin.

Lisa and Layla are also David’s daughters. This question was raised to the Marvin girls: What does it mean to win back-to-back championships with your dad?

Layla, a senior who is two years older than Lisa, pulled the microphone they were sharing towards her seat and said with a smile, “I’d like to say it’s more with our team, but I’m glad our dad’s here, too.”

Layla had two goals and one assist in Warroad’s 5-1 victory over South St. Paul and Lisa had a goal and an assist. South St. Paul’s goal was scored by freshman Abby Palmquist, the daughter of coach Dave Palmquist.

Dave Palmquist and senior defender Sam LaShomb represented the Packers during the postgame media sessions. Sam was a little emotional, as you would expect. Sitting in front of reporters and TV cameras and answering questions after losing the biggest game of your life … that might be a tougher assignment than actually playing the game.

As the coach answered a question, Sam (pictured) looked to her left and saw a TV monitor on which Warroad’s postgame celebration was being replayed. That had to be tough to watch.

As the Warroad contingent walked to the media session, they were one very happy group of teenagers. Amsley-Benzie had a New Year’s Eve-style party favor in her mouth. It didn’t make any noise, but as she blew into it, it would unroll and then roll back up. As the Warriors walked past the door to South St. Paul’s locker room, the door opened and the Packers began trickling out, carrying equipment bags and sad eyes. It was proof again of the narrow line between winning and losing, between unforgettable elation and heart-wrenching sadness.

David Marvin talked about the Warriors season, about the seniors on this year’s team and what they will take from the experience. “We’ll have great memories for the rest of our lives,” he said.

Indeed they will. Things will look brighter for the Packers, too. South St. Paul loses only three seniors from the state runner-up team. Don’t be surprised, a year from now, to see the Packers doing the celebrating.

MINNETONKA WINS 2A TITLE

Saturday night’s contest was as close as they come, with Amy Petersen scoring at the 16:20 mark of the third period to carry Minnetonka past Edina 3-2. While there were no father-daughter combinations this time, the emotions were just as varied as after the 1A title game.

The Minnetonka Skippers were skating on air. Down the hall, sobs were heard coming from the Edina locker room. But, as is often the case, the tears were replaced by trickles of laughter not too much later. All the teams have much to be proud of, and even those that didn’t take home a state championship will understand that more and more as time goes on.

GREAT DAY FOR FEMALE ATHLETES

--Saturday was championship day at girls state hockey as well as individual championship day of the state gymnastics meet at the U of M. For the first time, all four officials for a girls hockey title game were women: Kelli Rolusta, Kristina Langley, Ashley Alm and Kristin Moran. And there was big news in the wrestling world, too. Fulda/Murray County Central senior Elissa Reinsma, who in 2009 became the first female to qualify for the Minnesota state wrestling tourney, qualified again Saturday at the Class 2A, Section 3 tournament. The state wrestling tournament will be held Thursday through Saturday here at the X.

TIDBITS

2A Herb Brooks Award winner: Carolyn Draayer, Minnetonka.

2A All-Tournament Team: Rachael Bona, Coon Rapids; Hannah Brandt, Hill-Murray; Sarah Neilsen, Sami Reber, Ali Austin, Megan Armstrong, Maddie Dahl, Edina; Julie Friend, Carolyn Draayer, Sidney Morin, Amy Petersen, Rachel Ramsey, Minnetonka.

2A third-place game: Coon Rapids 5, Hill-Murray 4 (3 OT). Chelsea Cyert scored in the second overtime to lift the Cardinals past the Pioneers.

2A fifth-place game: Elk River/Zimmerman 2, Lakeville South 1. Josie Broan had a goal and an assist for Elk River/Zimmerman.

--1A Herb Brooks Award winner: Amanda Arbogast, Eveleth-Gilbert.

--1A All-Tournament Team: Katie Felton, Sam LaShomb, Abbie Wisneskie, South St. Paul; Milica McMillen, Prentice Basten, Breck; Paige Hailey, Red Wing; Amanda Arbogast, Eveleth-Gilbert; Sara Carlson, Hutchinson; Shelby Amsley-Benzie, Layla Marvin, Karley Sylvester, Kayla Gardner, Warroad.

--1A third-place game: Breck 6, Eveleth-Gilbert 4. Milica McMillen scored two goals for Breck. Eveleth-Gilbert’s Kayla Moe had a goal and three assists.

--1A fifth-place game: Red Wing 5, Hutchinson 4. Paige Hailey had two goals for the Wingers and Claire Cripps had two for Hutchinson.

--Pep Band Song of the Day: With drums beating, the Warroad band members stood and used their arms to form the letters and spell “W-A-R-R-I-O-R-S.”

--Diet Coke Count: Four for the day, 16 for the tournament.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 479
*Miles John has driven: 8,215

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Girls State Hockey Tournament: A Stroke Of Wild Inspiration
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/25/2011 6:24:57 PM

As Edina junior goaltender Maddie Dahl walked into the media room after the Hornets had earned a spot in the Class 2A state championship game Friday night, I said to her quietly, “That stick really IS magic.”

She whispered, “It is!”

Dahl had just finished her second shutout of the tournament as Edina beat Hill-Murray 2-0 to move into Saturday’s state championship game against Minnetonka. The stick we spoke of is a very special goalie stick, a gift that Maddie isn’t afraid to credit for her sterling performance at Xcel Energy Center.

In Thursday’s semifinals Dahl shut out Rosemount 6-0. There was undoubtedly a little magic at work, magic that began a couple hours before game time thanks to the generosity of injured Wild goaltender Josh Harding.

Harding is sidelined with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee, suffered during the preseason. So while the Wild are in California, he’s back here in Minnesota going through the rehab process. He was on the ice at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday morning when the Edina Hornets arrived at the arena for their opening game.

Some of the Hornets saw Harding from the concourse level, but Dahl was the only one to run down the stairs to reach ice level. “He’s my idol,” she told me Friday before Edina met Hill- Murray in the semifinals.

She isn’t afraid to admit that she had her face pressed up to the glass to watch Harding. As his workout ended, he began picking up pucks and gathering his equipment. Then he did something that Dahl certainly did not expect. He picked up one of his sticks and tossed it over the glass to her.

Did somebody say “stunned”?

“I was like, ‘Wow!’ I thought he was going to take it back,” Maddie said. “I got kind of nervous and I ran really fast up the stairs.”

Her teammates, having witnessed the tossing of the stick, met Maddie at the concourse level and gathered around the stick; an honest-to-goodness NHL goalie’s stick. Harding is lefthanded and Maddie is righthanded, but what the heck does that matter? It just means she is less likely to use it on the ice and break it or see some similar catastrophe take place.

The story, however, doesn’t end there. Maddie and her teammates went down to the locker room level, where Harding was standing outside the Wild locker room holding a bottle of water. He saw Maddie carrying the stick, gave her a fist bump and said to her, “Good luck.”

But, again there’s more. Maddie doesn’t know who did what, but somehow, someway, somebody had Harding autograph the stick when she was otherwise occupied before the game. All she knows is that before the game, Harding had autographed it. Plus, he came into the locker room and again told Maddie, “Good luck.”

He had written on the stick, “To Maddie. Good Luck!” He signed his name and his number, 37.

But wait. The story isn’t over. You know that Maddie shut out Rosemount, making 24 saves. When I asked her what she did with the stick after the game, she smiled. Then she told me this: she slept with it.

And it’s a pretty safe bet that she slept with it again Friday night.

Josh Harding, you are my idol, too.

MINNETONKA vs. COON RAPIDS --Paige Baldwin and Carolyn Draayer each scored two goals to lead the Skippers into the state title game. Coon Rapids will meet Hill-Murray in Saturday's third-place game.

CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS --Saturday's 1A state championship game will be a matchup between two traditional powers South St. Paul and Warroad. The Packers edged Breck 1-0 on a third-period goal by Ali Chulla. Warroad defeated Eveleth-Gilbert 9-0. South St. Paul won state titles in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. Warroad is the defending state champion and finished second in 2006 and 2009.

TIDBITS

--Quote of the Day: South St. Paul's Chulla was asked how she felt when the final second ticked off the clock in the Packers’ win over Breck. Her answer was in the form of two questions: “I don’t know? OMG?”

--Quote of the Day Part II: Warroad coach David Marvin to the media contingent, which apparently didn’t have enough questions: “You guys are dull this year.”

--Nice backstage scene: As Hill-Murray’s Hannah Brandt and Marissa Brandt left the postgame media session they crossed paths with Edina’s Dahl and Sami Reber, who were headed to meet the press. The players hugged each other.

--Breck goaltender Taylor Neisen accompanied Mustangs coach Lenny Vannelli to the interview room. Taylor was a little teary-eyed as she entered the room, but was soon smiling as she talked about the experience. Good for you, Taylor. (That's her in the photo.)

--Pep Band Song of the Day: South St. Paul’s version of “Hey Jude.”

--Mascot Update: The Eveleth-Gilbert Bears not only have cheerleaders, but they also brought a bear to the semifinals. Not a ferocious grizzly, but a friendly Teddy bear. And Sir Loin, the skating steer who leads the parade for South St. Paul, was on the ice firing up the Packers fans before the first game of the day.

--The large South St. Paul student contingest was dressed in “black out” mode, as opposed to all-white attire during Wednesday’s quarterfinals. Very nice planning and execution, young Packers.

--Update on Celebrity Sighting from earlier in the week: Attorney/baseball expert Clark Griffith is the father of Breck senior Caroline Griffith.

--Milestone Moment: Shortly after 3 p.m. Friday, the MSHSL Facebook page reached a very nice plateau of 2,000 friends. If you want to see photo galleries -- including behind-the-scenes photos -- from the tournament, head on over to Facebook and join us.

--Diet Coke Count: Four for the day, 12 for the tournament.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 479
*Miles John has driven: 8,174

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Girls State Hockey Tournament: Toughness Is In Her Blood
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/24/2011 3:42:10 PM

Rachael Kelly pointed to her chin, then above her left eye, then to her right ear and then back to her chin. She counted as she pointed, and the final number was 37. As in 37 stitches, all coming via hockey during her high school career.

We know this much: The senior hockey player from Rosemount can take a pounding. During Rosemount’s 6-0 loss to Edina in Thursday’s Class 2A state quarterfinals at Xcel Energy Center, Kelly played with 18 fresh stitches abover her eye. That gash came in the Section 3 championship game against Eastview, when either a stick or a helmet-to-helmet collision split skin. It was her second time needing stitches this season.

“I felt the blood dripping down all over my face,” she said Thursday. “The trainer cleaned it off quick and said, “You’re gonna need like 15 stitches.” I didn’t want to go to the hospital again so she butterflied it up, put a bandaid on it and I went back out.”

That’s another theme for the Irish forward. Stitch her up and she goes back on the ice. She went down hard in a December game against Eagan – as she put it, “I got rocked” – resulting in six stitches under her chin.

“I didn’t even know it,” she said. “I kept playing and it was bleeding. I thought it was just sweat and I wiped it with my hand and I was like, “Ah, blood!” The trainer said, 'You’re gonna need stitches,' so we went to the hospital.”

The trip to the hospital came after the game, in which Kelly did not miss a single shift.

Kelly (pictured) is Rosemount’s leading scorer, coming into the tournament with 30 goals and 41 assists and an astounding plus/minus of plus 54. Kelly and fellow senior Allison Micheletti led the Irish with seven shots on goal each Thursday.

“It was really cool to play here,” Kelly said. “It was awesome to see so many people come out and support us. The score definitely did not reflect on how we played. But we made a couple mistakes and that’s what caused them to get points on the board.”

Rosemount will meet South Suburban Conference rival Lakeville South in the consolation bracket Friday morning at Ridder Arena. The loser will be done for the season and the winner will play in Saturday’s fifth-place game.

“We’re not going to be done after (Friday’s game),” Kelly said. “We’re going to play three games.”

One last thing about Kelly and her 38 stitches: She plans to go into nursing.

OTHER GAMES

--Hill Murray defeated Lakeville South 4-3. It was the Pioneers’ third consecutive one-goal victory, after beating White Bear Lake and Roseville by 4-3 scores in the Section 4 playoffs. “The last two games we’ve been through heck and back,” said Hill-Murray coach Bill Schafhauser.

--Minnetonka defeated Elk River/Zimmerman 3-0 with senior defender Rachel Ramsey scoring two goals. Ramsey is the daughter of former Wild assistant coach Mike Ramsey.

--Rachael Bona's four goals lifted Coon Rapids past North Wright County 6-1 in the day’s final game.

TIDBITS

--Thursday’s first game pitted coaches who were hockey teammates at the University of Mnnesota: Edina’s Laura Slominski and Rosemount’s Tracy (Engstrom) Cassano.They were roommates for four years, team captains and won a national championship together in 2000.

--A backup player from one team forgot to bring her helmet and gloves to the arena. A helmet was found somewhere in the building (no gloves could be located) so the player could be in uniform and sit on the bench for her team’s game.

--Best Band Performance (Culinary Division): After the Edina-Rosemount game, the Rosemount pep band, which is not small in numbers, walked down West 7th Street to have lunch at Cossetta Italian Market.

--Pep Band Song of the Day: “Live and Let Die” by the Hill-Murray band.

--Pep Band Battle of the Day: Between the second and third periods, the band from Elk River/Zimmerman performed “Smoke on the Water,” the Minnetonka band answered with “Smoke on the Water,” Elk River/Zimmerman came right back with “Smoke on the Water,” and Minnetonka ended the duel by playing an abridged version of “Smoke on the Water” and following up quickly with “Rockin’ in the USA.” Greatest musical exchange in state tournament history.

--Pep Band is a Dangerous Business: Coon Rapids band director Brian Duffy was struck in the head by a puck before the Cardinals played North Wright County. A bandage and some ice took care of things.

--Quote of the Day: From a visitor to the press box as he looked waaaaay down at the ice: “Holy cow! I’m gonna need my binoculars!”

--Celebrity Sighting: Former Wild player Wes Walz, now an assistant boys hockey coach at East Ridge High School, was in the stands.

--Mascot sightings: In a follow-up to this category from Wednesday’s tournament report, I have been notified that the name of the South St. Paul Packers’ marvelous steer on skates is Sir Loin. Best mascot. Best name. No contest.

-- Diet Coke Count: Four for the day, eight for the tournament.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 479
*Miles John has driven: 8,132

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Girls State Hockey Tournament: Day One News And Notes
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/23/2011 6:37:02 PM

My favorite memory from Wednesday’s Class 1A quarterfinals in the girls state hockey tournament is a goal scored by the New Ulm Eagles. Let me be more specific: It was the only goal scored by the Eagles in a 12-1 loss to Breck at Xcel Energy Center.

Breck led 12-0 and there were only a few seconds to play in the game when the teams lined up for a faceoff in the Breck defensive zone. The puck was dropped and in an instant it was in the goal. Alexa Weiss was credited with the goal, which came with five seconds to play and set off the best celebration of the day.

The on-ice Eagles raised their sticks in the air and then embraced Weiss; it looked like they had just won the Stanley Cup. It was a sweet thing to see.

New Ulm was playing in its third straight state tournament, but had yet to score a goal in the Xcel Center. They lost to Blake 9-0 in the 2009 quarterfinals and to Breck 10-0 last year.

“We had a couple of little victories in there today,” Eagles coach Angela Zeig said after the game. Victory No. 1 was putting the biscuit in the basket.

Prentice Basten had a hat trick for Breck and Carly Schaeder had two goals for the Mustangs. Several state tournament records were set or tied in the game: Goals by one team, goals by two teams, goals in a period by one team (7) and shots on goal by one team (56).

New Ulm will play Hutchinson in Thursday’s consolation bracket at the University of Minnesota’s Ridder Arena, and it’s a pretty safe bet that Wednesday’s one little goal will put a little spring in the Eagles’ step.

OTHER GAMES
--South St. Paul scored five goals in the first period and defeated Hutchinson 5-2. The Packers will meet Breck in Thursday’s first semifinal at 11 a.m.

--Warroad defeated Alexandria 7-0, getting four goals in the first period.

--Eveleth-Gilbert beat Red Wing 5-2. The Bears will face Warroad on Friday at 1 p.m.

TIDBITS
--Does experience make a difference? It did for Breck on Wednesday. The Mustangs were 1A state runners-up last season, and as junior Milica McMillen said, “We were pretty comfortable, especially the older girls who were here last year.”

--Celebrity sighting: Attorney/baseball expert Clark Griffith was shooting photographs from the first row of the Breck game. Makes me think he might be related to Breck senior Caroline Griffith.

--Celebrity sighting II: Gigi Marvin, Warroad grad, former Gophers hockey player and currently star of an Old Dutch potato chip commercial.

--Mascot sightings: The Breck Mustang is very cool. The South St. Paul Packers’ Skating Steer is the coolest.

--Pep Band Song of the Day: “Zoot Suit Riot” by the Red Wing symphony orchestra.

--Diet Coke Count: 4

--Number of times I was asked, “Hey John, how many Diet Cokes today?” 3

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 479
*Miles John has driven: 8,091

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Girls Hockey: Two Former Stars Look Back
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/22/2011 9:53:27 PM

More than a decade has passed since what might have been the greatest single night in Minnesota girls’ high school hockey history. The 1999-2000 season opened in mid-November with a showcase game at Eagan Civic Arena. The two stars from that game – and that era – look back now and remember it as if it had happened yesterday.

Scenes like that one, with an overflow crowd, tons of pregame talk and an historical sense of anticipation, don’t come around often.

The singular sensations, the players everybody came to see, were Eagan sophomore Natalie Darwitz and Park Center senior Krissy Wendell. Darwitz had been named the Metro Player of the Year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune two years earlier as an eighth-grader and Wendell had won the honor as a junior. At the end of the 1999-2000 season Wendell would be named Minnesota’s Ms. Hockey, and the duo would soon become teammates on U.S. national and Olympic teams as well as at the University of Minnesota. On this November night, however, they were opponents.

“I remember the hype leading up to that game,” Darwitz said. “We had good visibility in the media, and it was the north suburban phenom vs. the south suburban phenom. The stands were jammed and there was a lot of buzz, a lot of good energy for that game. The fun part of it was it wasn’t for a girls’ game, it was for a hockey game.”

The game lived up to expectations. Wendell scored seven goals as Park Center recorded a 10-4 victory and Darwitz, playing with an injured hip, scored twice for Eagan. The pair raced up and down the ice all evening, played physically against each other and put on a show that people still talk about today.

Darwitz is now 27 years old and Wendell is 29. Their hockey careers include national championships at the University of Minnesota – where they hold or share most of the scoring records -- and Olympic medals. Some of their favorite hockey memories, however, go all the way back to their high school days.

“Oh, that was a lot of fun,” said Wendell, who is married to former University of Minnesota men’s hockey star Johnny Pohl and is the mother of two young daughters. “Obviously when you’re on a winning team everything seems to be more fun. There were a lot of good friendships, and I still keep in touch with some of the girls on our team. High school goes by so fast.”

Darwitz said, “There’s nothing like playing for your community, playing with your friends and growing up together. When I look back, I have a smile on my face. At times I wish I could snap my fingers and be back in high school and to have that opportunity again.”

Darwitz played in state tournaments as a seventh-grader, eighth-grader and sophomore, with Eagan’s best finish coming in 1997 when the Wildcats were runners-up to Hibbing/Chisholm. After her sophomore year, Darwitz skipped high school hockey while training with the U.S. national team and completing her high school education via distance learning.

Wendell (pictured at left) was a member of the Park Center girls’ hockey team as a junior and senior and played in the state tournament both years. The Pirates were one-class state champs in 2000, defeating Anoka 6-0 in the title game.

Their names are peppered throughout the state tournament record book, with scoring marks that may never be eclipsed. Wendell, for example, scored six goals in one game during the 1999 tournament and Darwitz recorded seven points in a single period during the 2000 tourney.

The girls’ state hockey tournament was only in its sixth year when the high school careers of Darwitz and Wendell ended in 2000. The early tournaments were held at the State Fair Coliseum, and both players remember the energy inside the small arena.

“There were great crowds, lots of high-caliber girls and a great atmosphere,” Wendell said.
“Playing at the Fairgrounds was fun,” Darwirz said. “It was such a great atmosphere, with the bands and the student sections and kids painting their faces.”

Both Wendell and Darwitz grew up playing hockey with boys; Wendell also played in the 1994 Little League World Series as the only female on the Brooklyn Center team and the first female starting catcher in Little League World Series history. Wendell played with the Park Center boys’ hockey team through her sophomore year.

“Honestly, I think it was such a great advantage because boys are naturally more intense and that elevated my game,” Wendell said. “There weren’t any other options at the time. I played with good guys, too, and the same group all the way up. I was really lucky in that aspect. And when you start so young, they don’t even think of you as the girl on the team. It was normal for them.”

Both players have travelled the world as hockey players, and Wendell has done the same as a hockey spouse. Pohl spent several years in the NHL before playing in Switzerland and Sweden. Wendell ended her playing career at the world championships in April 2007, she and Pohl were married later that year and their first child, Emily, was born in June 2008. The family expanded when Anna was born in 2010. They live in Woodbury and Pohl is a teacher and coach at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul.

Wendell does some teaching at clinics and camps, and Darwitz (above) remains heavily involved in hockey, as well. They know that in addition to being historical figures in the hockey world, they also are seen as role models. And that’s a role they are happy to accept.

“I would hope that Krissy and I have some responsibility,” Darwitz said. “We like to be in the community and be good role models and to show kids how we got to where we are, and to teach them and guide them along. And also to show them that we’re stand-up people and have our morals and passions in life that are good ones. You don’t ask for that, but I think with talent comes responsibility and you’re held to a higher standard.”

Wendell said. “I think Natalie and I are probably names that people remember because we played beyond high school and college. And obviously with the Olympics, that’s kind of a big deal. Before us there were Amber Fryklund, the Curtins, Winny Brodt, lots of pioneers. John (Pohl) has said how it’s kind of cool now, ‘You paved the way and it’s come full circle,’ with two daughters and one of them is starting to skate.

“To see how far the game has come is pretty cool.”

John Millea is the media specialist for the Minnesota State High School League.



Recapping The State Dance Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/22/2011 9:53:36 AM

The 2011 state dance tournament is in the books. Our special guest correspondent, Cannon Falls High School assistant dance coach Erin Hawkinson, recaps the state tournament...

By Erin Hawkinson, Special Correspondent

JAZZ

CLASS A: The excitement of the state tournament kicked off with the Class A jazz division at noon on Friday, with a very tight race between the teams. There were again some major ties this year, with Yellow Medicine East and Aitkin tying in prelims and finals for the 2/3 spots. In the end, YME slid to third with Aitkin taking home second place. Duluth Marshall had another repeat as champs – making it five in a row. The big surprise in this division was BOLD not qualifying for finals after being perennial runners-up in years past and St. Charles sliding into the sixth-place spot for the first time instead. BOLD ended up in seventh. Final results: 1st Duluth Marshall 2nd Aitkin 3rd YME 4th Cannon Falls 5th Frazee 6th St. Charles

CLASS AA: The AA jazz division saw Benilde-St. Margaret’s adding the title to its previous victories in 2008 and 2009 with a beautiful dance to “The Heart of the Matter.” The Knightettes were second going into the final round and stepped up to take the victory in the finals. Totino Grace took second, with last year’s champions St. Cloud Cathedral sliding to third. Newcomer Holy Family grabbed a spot in the finals for the first time in Class AA, after a tradition of Class A top finishes in the early 2000s. Final Results: 1st Benilde-St. Margarets 2nd Totino Grace 3rd St. Cloud Cathedral 4th Holy Family Catholic 5th Sartell 6th Academy of Holy Angels

CLASS AAA: Maple Grove succeeded in taking the top spot from defending champion Wayzata with both teams turning in impressive dances yet again. Michael Jackson was a common theme in the finals, with three teams using something from him. Eastview pulled out the third spot again, with Chaska taking the fourth-place spot. Chaska was a crowd pleaser with its emotional and unique dance to “Jar of Hearts,” which really helped highlight the depth and ability of Class AAA along with the other finalists. AAA can sure be proud of its strong jazz division that is unparalleled outside of national competitions. Final Results: 1st Maple Grove 2nd Wayzata 3rd Eastview 4th Chaska 5th Blaine 6th Spring Lake Park

KICK

CLASS A: Huge teams dominated class A, with all three top placers dancing 30 or more girls. Again this year, visuals and transitions dominated this division with Aitkin and Cannon Falls taking the top spots. For the third year in a row, those two teams were neck and neck, with Cannon Falls taking the win this time around. Finals were actually a tie for first place, with CF winning the triple tie-breaker with 12 more total points. Last year Cannon Falls lost by one point (and one rank), and in 2009 Aitkin lost by 15 points (and one rank) to Cannon. Lac Qui Parle Valley-Dawson Boyd rounded out the top three for the second year in a row, and there was a new face in the finals with Duluth Marshall taking the fifth-place spot this year after only making finals in jazz in previous years.

CLASS AA: There was a brand new champion in AA, with Sartell-St. Stephens claiming its first title. Their reaction will go down as a state classic, with a total meltdown of crying for joy. The ultra-competitive division did not disappoint as all three top placers brought their very best. Totino Grace took second with its Prince-themed dance, and Academy of Holy Angels came in third. Three-time champion St. Cloud Cathedral settled for fourth place with a young team for them, and Sauk Rapids-Rice qualified for finals for the first time in many years with its Pirates dance. Final Results: 1st Sartell 2nd Totino Grace 3rd Academy of Holy Angels 4th St. Cloud Cathedral 5th Austin 6th Sauk Rapids-Rice

CLASS AAA: Eastview rolled to a definitive win with a cute and cool Vegas-themed dance, utilizing three-colored costumes to the maximum. They also thought outside the box with the music choices, using not just the obvious Elvis tunes, but more subtle picks as well to complete the theme. Eden Prairie brought their strong kicks into second place this year after not making the finals last year. Apple Valley took third this year, bringing home a medal for the first time since 2004. Faribault looked solid as usual at state and claimed the fourth-place spot. Chaska rounded out the number-five spot while Brainerd took home the sixth-place spot, improving on its section placements, with black and white costumes creating visuals designed for the state floor. Final Results: 1st Eastview 2nd Eden Prairie 3rd Apple Valley 4th Faribault 5th Chaska 6th Brainerd

Overall, state 2011 was a high-emotion, high-intensity weekend full of all the joy and triumphs of high school sports at their finest. Some teams were overjoyed to achieve, others found disappointment, but all shared in a strong tradition and history of our sport, something that will not soon be forgotten. Teams are already looking forward to next season, some with new coaches, new rosters and new challenges. No matter where you’re from or what team you support, dance team participants all share a common thread of passion for our sport that will see its continued success and growth for years to come. It has been a pleasure to share this with you in my postseason coverage of dance team for John’s Journal. See you next year!

Erin’s State Stats:
Miles Driven: 9 (finally, a short trip!)
Diet Mountain Dew Count: 4



State Wrestling Team Quarterfinal Matchups
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/21/2011 10:01:42 AM

Coaches in all three classes completed the seeding process this morning and the brackets are set for the team portion of the state tournament. Team titles will be decided on Thursday, March 3 at Xcel Energy Center and individual competition will be held the following two days.

Here are the team brackets…

CLASS 1A
Kimball (2) vs. Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial
Frazee (3) vs. Border West
Jackson County Central (1) vs. Pierz
Minneota (4) vs. Zumbrota-Mazeppa

CLASS 2A
Kasson-Mantorville (2) vs. Wabasso-Red Rock Central
Scott West (3) vs. Monticello
Simley (1) vs. Grand Rapids
Foley (4) vs. Thief River Falls/Goodridge

CLASS 3A
St. Michael-Albertville (2) vs. Centennial
Albert Lea (3) vs. Hopkins
Apple Valley (1) vs. White Bear Lake
Prior Lake (4) vs. Bemidji



Teams Are Set For State Wrestling
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/20/2011 3:04:17 PM

The teams are set for the state wrestling tournament, March 3-5 at Xcel Energy Center. Teams will be seeded by the coaches Monday morning. Individual section tournaments will be completed next Saturday, Feb. 26. Here are the teams that will wrestle at state:

Class A: Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Jackson County Central, Minneota, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial, Kimball, Border West, Pierz, Frazee.

Class AA: Kasson-Mantorville, Scott West, Wabasso/Red Rock Central, Simley, Monticello, Foley, Grand Rapids, Thief River Falls/Goodridge.

Class AAA: Albert Lea, Prior Lake, Apple Valley, White Bear Lake, Centennial, Hopkins, St. Michael-Albertville, Bemidji.



2011 State Girls' Hockey Tournament
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/19/2011 12:18:20 PM

Coaches have completed the seeding process for the top four seeds of the 2011 State Girls’ Hockey Tournament and the pairings have been drawn for their opponents.

Class A: Feb. 23, 2011
#2 Breck vs. New Ulm
#3 South St. Paul vs Hutchinson
#1 Warroad vs Alexandria
#4 Eveleth-Gilbert vs Red Wing

Class AA: Feb 24, 2011
#2 Edina vs Rosemount
#3 Lakeville South vs. Hill-Murray
#1 Minnetonka vs Elk River/Zimmerman
#4 Coon Rapids vs North Wright County

For the full schedule and brackets Click Here



Dancing Their Way To Target Center
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/17/2011 9:50:55 PM

It’s time for the state dance tournament, which will be held Friday and Saturday at Target Center. Our special guest dance correspondent, Cannon Falls High School assistant dance coach Erin Hawkinson, recaps last weekend’s section meets and takes us into state.

By Erin Hawkinson, Special Correspondent

Section Recaps

SECTION 1A: Cannon Falls repeats as double section champions, extending its streak of kick victories to eight years in a row. Lake City, which took the second-place spot, has been competing close to home this year so they should be something new to see at state for many of their competitors. St. Charles again repeats the third-place position in both divisions. The jazz division took a huge step up this year with strong performances from all three qualifiers, but Cannon Falls rose to the top with their remix of the band “The Ting Tings.” Final Results: Kick - 1st Cannon Falls 2nd Lake City 3rd St. Charles. Jazz – 1st Cannon Falls 2nd Zumbrota Mazeppa 3rd St. Charles.

SECTION 2A: Aitkin comes out strong with a first-place finish in kick after winning the kick division at state last year. Their dance this year is a mix of Prince songs, complete with Purple Rain- style costumes. They will have to compete for attention with Totino-Grace in kick that has also chosen this theme – fortunately they are in Class AA. Section 2 also hosts last year’s jazz state champions, Duluth Marshall, who won the jazz division again and now looks for an impressive five state championships in a row in jazz. Aitkin also qualified in jazz, with Concordia Academy rounding out the field. Final Results: Kick – 1st Aitkin 2nd Duluth Marshall. Jazz – 1st Duluth Marshall 2nd Aitkin 3rd Concordia Academy.

SECTION 3A: Ties were the story of the day in this section as Yellow Medicine East and BOLD tied for first in jazz, requiring three tiebreakers to end up with YME in first and BOLD in second. BOLD has been generally topping YME during the year, so this result was a big challenge to them. BOLD had something to smile about in the kick division though, sneaking into the new four-place spot in kick, making it their first ever kick appearance at state. Lac Qui Parle Valley-Dawson Boyd took top honors in kick, edging close contenders Montevideo and YME, who took second and third respectively. Final Results: Kick – 1st LqPV 2nd Montevideo 3rd Yellow Medicine East 4th BOLD. Jazz – 1st YME 2nd BOLD 3rd Tracy Milroy Balaton.

SECTION 1AA: The competition in AA is fierce and the Section 1 meet was no exception in Albert Lea on Saturday. Academy of Holy Angels won the kick division over strong teams from Austin and Benilde-St. Margaret’s. In jazz, perennial top contender Benilde repeated as section champs with Simley making a return trip to state for the first time since 2008. Final Results: Kick – 1st Academy of Holy Angels 2nd Austin 3rd Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Jazz – 1st Benilde 2nd Simley 3rd Academy of Holy Angels.

SECTION 2AA: Totino-Grace grabbed the double blue in North Branch, carrying their strong tradition back to the state floor. Both of their dances have been well received this year, sections being no different. Rogers was also strong, taking second place in both divisions. Fridley was very excited to round out the kick field, making their first ever state appearance, and Hill Murray will only be going in jazz this year after taking third in both styles last year. Final Results: Kick – 1st Totino Grace 2nd Rogers 3rd Fridley. Jazz – 1st Totino Grace 2nd Rogers 3rd Hill Murray.

SECTION 4AA: Bemidji was a site for huge shakeups as last year’s state champions in AA kick settled for third in their section, with Sartell claiming the top spot and Sauk Rapids-Rice taking second. Sauk Rapids hasn’t been to state in kick since 2007 so they’ll be excited to qualify in both divisions. St. Cloud Cathedral did take home first in jazz again, after winning state jazz last year as well. Sartell also qualified again in jazz this year. Final Results: Kick- 1st Sartell 2nd Sauk Rapids-Rice 3rd St. Cloud Cathedral. Jazz – 1st St. Cloud Cathedral 2nd Sartell 3rd Sauk Rapids-Rice.

SECTION 1AAA: There were four amazing kick performances at this marquee sectional matchup in Bloomington. But with only three spots going to state, Burnsville will be missing the kick tournament for the first time in the 35-year history of the program. Eastview took top honors with Apple Valley bringing in a season-best performance and taking second in kick. Faribault took third after a nervous performance left their fan section wondering if they would pull it off. The gym at Bloomington Kennedy was probably the loudest I’ve personally ever seen. With many of the top teams going back to back, it caused the fan sections to try to outdo each other in cheering on their favorite, and resulting in the most adrenaline-packed performances of the season so far. In jazz, Eastview took home the blue with Lakeville North and Burnsville grabbing the other qualifying spots. Final Results: Kick – 1st Eastview 2nd Apple Valley 3rd Faribault. Jazz – 1st Eastview 2nd Lakeville North 3rd Burnsville.

SECTION 3AAA: Spring Lake Park took firstt in both kick and jazz in the morning division at Bloomington, with Mounds View and Henry Sibley rounding out the jazz qualifiers. In kick, Centennial and Eagan return to the state field after a few years’ break. Spring Lake Park’s innovative take on zombies really spiced things up and was good enough for a repeat section championship in kick. Final Results: Kick – 1st Spring Lake Park 2nd Centennial 3rd Eagan. Jazz – 1st Spring Lake Park 2nd Mounds View 3rd Henry Sibley.

STATE PREVIEW: State should not disappoint again this year as many top contenders from around the state gather at Target Center to battle it out for the championship. All of the champions from last year’s field have qualified, as well as many perennial finalists. The Jazz division will kick things off on Friday, with Kick following it up on Saturday. With the tournament finally moving off the Valentine’s Day holiday, we should see a packed house on Saturday, with dance team usually bringing in the best of the best in crowds and supporters. But if you’re smart, you’ll also be catching the awe-inspiring jazz dancing in Friday’s tournament – something not to be missed.

The Friday state day was originally scheduled to be kick, but in our “new” home at Target Center, a busy workday is more conducive to the jazz division so it looks like it will be Friday jazz for the foreseeable future. Also new this year is the national anthem procedure, which has coaches and captains out on the floor for the first time. This should be a great chance for athletes to display sportsmanship and pride in their teams and captainship. Performance times and orders are up on the dance team page of MSHSL.org as well as information on tickets, parking and directions to Target Center.

Erin’s State Week Stats:
Diet Dew Count: 5 this week so far (including one right now of course).
Miles to and from section meets: 145
Hours until state marking times begin: 46



The Ski Season Has Ended With A Wonderful Finish
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/17/2011 4:56:01 PM

The weather Thursday up here at Giants Ridge in Biwabik didn’t have quite as much of a Beach Boys feel as on Wednesday, but the conditions were quite nice for the state Nordic ski meet.

We hit 57 degrees under bright sunshine Wednesday during the state Alpine meet, and the temp Thursday danced around the 40 mark with overcast skies. But by all accounts the snow was fine for the racers and smiles were the order of the day.

Duluth East swept the boys and girls team titles, and the individual championships were won by Burnsville’s Sharmila Ahmed (pictured) on the girls side and Lakeville North’s Ben Saxton on the boys side.

Thus end the reports from two days at Giants Ridge. I’ll scoot back to the Twin Cities this evening, get some rest and head to the Target Center on Friday for the state dance tournament.

--Diet Coke Count: 2

For a photo gallery from the Nordic ski meet, check out the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 471
*Miles John has driven: 8,049

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



It’s 57 Degrees? Hey, Let’s Go Skiing!
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/16/2011 4:30:43 PM

Yes, the high temperature in Biwabik on Wednesday was 57 degrees … above zero. Wednesday was also the day that the state Alpine ski meet was held at Giants Ridge, and things turned out just fine.

All skiers take two runs, and the conditions were superb for the morning run. Things got a little squishy for the afternoon run, but everyone agreed that a touch of warmth was much better than frigid cold.

“I thought the first run was pretty perfect,” said girls champion Brenna Murray, a senior from Bloomington Jefferson. “The snow was a little firm and it wasn’t too cold, wasn’t too warm. The second run, it really warmed up and it was a lot softer and slushier, so I think it was a lot tougher for everyone.”

The boys champ was senior Dylan Thomas of St. Thomas Academy, who captured the gold medal for the second year in a row. St. Thomas Academy also won the boys team title, with the girls crown going to Minnetonka.

It was amazing how the day changed as the temperature soared. In the morning I was wearing two pairs of socks and four layers of upper-body clothing. By the afternoon I had removed one pair of socks and was draped in a t-shirt and jacket. Kids were seen in shorts and t-shirts, and I saw a couple of boys who will compete in Thursday’s Nordic state meet skiing without shirts. Kids had snowball fights while wearing tank tops. Some kids wore t-shirts as they received their medals.

I overheard one man ask another man, who had … shall we say? … a lack of hair on top of his head, this question: “Are you wearing sunscreen?” I think he was serious.

People who are up here in Biwabik may come home looking as if we spent two days at a tanning salon. This is my first trip to the state ski meets, and here are some other things I jotted down in my notebook today…

--There were lots of firepits blazing in the morning as skiers stayed warm. I did not see or smell a fire in the afternoon

--Dogs come to this event. I didn’t see any Scottish deerhounds Wednesday … that’s the breed that won Best in Show in Tuesday evening’s Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York.

--Skiers here have first names like Lars and Bjorn and Steig and Thor. Nordic indeed.

--I heard a few cowbells in the crowd Wednesday. I bet there will be more on Thursday.

--“That’s OK, you’re a junior. You have another year.” Those were the words of a coach talking to a skier who wasn’t perfectly thrilled with his performance.

--A guy slammed the door as he exited the timer’s shack, and his reward was being dumped on by a load of snow falling from the roof.

--Veterans of this meet have been telling me horror stories of past meets cursed by bitter cold. Thus, I am taking all the credit for this weather. You are very welcome.

--*Diet Coke Count: This gets an asterisk today. Bag lunches were provided for MSHSL employees and meet workers, and they came with Pepsi or Diet Pepsi. Warm Pepsi or Diet Pepsi. I drank parts of one of those, then found a machine and happily paid two bucks for a nice cold Diet Coke. So, the day’s count is… 2.

For photo galleries from Wednesday's action, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 455
*Miles John has driven: 8,049

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Gearing Up For State Dance
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/14/2011 3:09:36 PM

Target Center will be transformed into "Dance Center" on Friday and Saturday for the MSHSL state dance tournament.

Section competitions wrapped up last weekend and the three-class state tourney is set. Here are the section results with the teams advancing to state...

SECTION 1A
Jazz
1. Cannon Falls, 2. Zumbrota-Mazeppa, 3. St. Charles
Kick
1. Cannon Falls, 2. Lake City, 3. St. Charles


SECTION 2A
Jazz
1. Duluth Marshall, 2. Aitkin, 3. Concordia Academy
Kick
1. Aitkin, 2. Duluth Marshall


SECTION 3A
Jazz
1. Yellow Medicine East, 2. BOLD, 3. Tracy-Milroy-Balatan

Kick
1. Lac qui Parle Valley-Dawson-Boyd, 2. Montevideo, 3. Yellow Medicine East, 4. BOLD

SECTION 4A
Jazz
1. Frazee, 2. Pelican Rapids, 3. Crosby-Ironton
Kick
1. Albany, 2. Pelican Rapids, 3. Bagley

SECTION 1AA
Jazz
1. Benilde-St. Margaret's, 2. Simley, 3. Academy of Holy Angels
Kick
1. Academy of Holy Angels, 2. Austin, 3. Benilde-St. Margaret's

SECTION 2AA
Jazz
1. Totino-Grace, 2. Rogers, 3. Hill-Murray
Kick
1. Totino-Grace, 2. Rogers, 3. Fridley

SECTION 3AA
Jazz
1. Mound Westonka, 2. Holy Family Catholic, 3. Marshall
Kick
1. Marshall, 2. Waconia, 3. Mound Westonka

SECTION 4AA
Jazz
1. St. Cloud Cathedral, 2. Sartell-St. Stephen, 3. Sauk Rapids-Rice
Kick
1. Sartell-St. Stephen, 2. Sauk Rapids-Rice, 3. St. Cloud Cathedral

SECTION 1AAA
Jazz
1. Eastview, 2. Lakeville North, 3. Burnsville
Kick
1. Eastview, 2. Apple Valley, 3. Faribault

SECTION 2AAA
Jazz
1. Maple Grove, 2. Wayzata, 3. Chaska
Kick
1. Eden Prairie, 2. Chaska, 3. Maple Grove

SECTION 3AAA
Jazz
1. Spring Lake Park,2. Mounds View, 3. Henry Sibley
Kick
1. Spring Lake Park, 2. Centennial, 3. Eagan

SECTION 4AAA
Jazz
1. Blaine, 2. Anoka, 3. Duluth East
Kick
1. Blaine, 2. Brainerd, 3. St. Cloud Tech





The Play’s The Thing … And It’s Really Really Cool
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/10/2011 5:49:56 PM

I entered O’Shaughnessy Auditorium on the campus of St. Catherine University in St. Paul through a back door Thursday. In fact, it was the backstage door. I walked inside and immediately knew I was in uncharted territory.

The first issue was that I was still wearing my sunglasses, and going from bright sunshine to dim backstage light simply did not work. And once I dropped my bag and took off the shades I was in the midst of several strange creatures, creatures that seemed a little on the non-human side of things.

The creatures were young actors from Mountain Lake High School. They were in costume for their presentation of a play titled “Wiley and the Hairy Man.” Their performance was sensational, as were all eight of the performances by Class A schools at the one-act play state festival.

The event was the latest stop in my tour of new things. Coming from a newspaper background as a sports reporter, my job with the MSHSL has definitely expanded my boundaries. Debate, speech, one-act play; they are among the non-sporting high school activities that I had little or no knowledge of when I joined the MSHSL staff almost a year ago.

One-act play continues Friday with eight performances by Class AA schools. It is all kind of fun, too. There are four plays in the morning and four more in the afternoon.

On Thursday I saw an elderly lady in a wheelbarrow … a cellist … several spooky characters … teens dealing with loneliness, stress, fear … and even the angel of death. I heard the sounds of ocean waves … the chirping of crickets … the bell sounding the start of a workshift in an 1800s factory. I saw kids putting on makeup in a backstage dressing room and students cheering like mad when their classmates finished a performance.

Some schools brought fan buses, just like they do for state tournaments in athletics. As well they should, because students involved in fine arts work just as hard and are just as committed as their athletic counterparts. And many of the actors on stage Thursday and Friday are involved in other school activities, as well.

My major contribution Thursday was coming to the rescue of some of the judges. They use small flashlights to write notes in the darkened theater during performances, and some of the flashlight batteries were losing their mojo. I always carry some spare AAs in my bag, and I was glad to help out.

And one final note from a very enjoyable day …

--Diet Coke count: 2

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 339
*Miles John has driven: 7,641

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Detroit Lakes Comes Through For Zach
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/10/2011 11:37:44 AM

The Perham boys’ basketball team played at Detroit Lakes onSaturday, and the folks in Detroit Lakes went all out in gathering donations and raising funds to help Zach Gabbard and his family. Zach, a junior basketball player at Perham, collapsed during a game on Jan. 20 and is hospitalized at the University of Minnesota.

The players and coaches from Perham and Detroit Lakes posed for this photo. Notice the coaches are wearing "One Clap For Zach" t-shirts.

A total of $4,425 in donations was raised in Detroit Lakes. Here’s the breakdown …

TWO MINUTES FOR ZACH - Students go through crowd at boys basketball game on 2/25 vs Pequot gathering donations - $900

THRIVENT LUTHERAN - matching grant for Two Minutes for Zach - $1,000

LAKER SWIM MEET - Free will donation. - $175

LAKER BOOSTER TURKEY SANDWICH FEED before Perham/Laker doubleheader on 2/5- $1,500

PAPER AIRPLANE contest at halftime of Laker/Perham boys game - $200

SIGNED BASKETBALL RAFFLE - sold chances for two basketballs signed by Perham and Laker boys team. - $200

RUBBER WRISTBANDS - Laker varsity basketball players went through crowd selling rubber ZG3 wristbands at Laker/Perham doubleheader. - $450

Estimated total of donations for Zach Gabbard family raised during Detroit Lakes school activities. = $4,425

And here’s the latest update, courtesy of Zach’s family, from his CaringBridge website:

“I can’t believe it's time for another update! Zach’s dialysis has been changed to conventional which means he will be able to get up and move around more. Not that he is able to jump out of bed yet, but occupational therapy will be able to do more with him! :) Therapists worked a little today on strengthening his muscles. Zach did very well when he was able to focus on what he was supposed to do. After the therapist left I asked Zach if he wanted to move some more and he nodded YES! So he started moving on his own. :) :) We look forward to each new day and more baby steps for Zach.”



Support For Zach Gabbard Continues, And Other Notes
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/8/2011 4:44:44 PM

As I travel around the state this winter, it’s amazing to see how many people are pulling for Zach Gabbard. Zach is a 17-year-old Perham junior who collapsed during a game at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Jan. 20. After receiving emergency medical treatment in the gymnasium, he was taken to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, where open-heart surgery was performed. Once he was stable, Zach was moved to the University of Minnesota, where he remains.

Everyone wants to do something to assist Zach (pictured at right), his family and the folks in Perham. If you see a team wearing yellow shoelaces or yellow wristbands, it’s probably because the Perham colors are yellow and black.

A major event has been scheduled in Perham, called One Clap For Zach. The benefit will be held Sunday, Feb. 27 at Mulligan’s Pub & Eatery in Perham from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. A spaghetti feed, gun raffle and silent auction will be held. One of the raffle prizes is a youth elk hunt in Colorado valued at $4,500.

More information on the auction can be found at www.oneclapforzach.com. In fact, the website is a great place to make a donation and order a One Clap For Zach t-shirt; on the back they say “GABBARD” and Jake’s Number 3. I ordered my t-shirt today.

In addition, Schwan’s is holding a truckload sale in support of Zach. The details…
Pre-order at www.schwansfundraiser.com
Click tab for Place an Order Online
Enter campaign ID: 32955
Complete your name and contact info and place your order.
Item product numbers can be found at www.schwans.com.
Or call 1-888-SCHWANS to order gift cards that you can use anytime. Inform the representative that you would like to purchase a gift card for campaign 32955

The game in which Zach collapsed was not completed, but it has been rescheduled.
Thanks to Concordia College in Moorhead, the make-up game will be held Friday, February 25 at 7 p.m. at Concordia Field House. Concordia will waive its rental fee, with admission consisting of a free-will donation and all proceeds going to the Zach Gabbard Fund.

Here's the latest news from Zach's CaringBridge site: "Zach had another great day (Monday)!He was awake most of the day and continues to show signs of response to simple yes and no questions. He really hates the breathing tube that is in his throat. We can't wait for it to be removed so he can talk to us. He continues to be on dialysis for his kidneys." The site can be found at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/zachgabbard

IN OTHER NEWS, I spent Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center, where the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota High School Press Association held their annual student media day. Student journalists from Lakeville South, Champlin Park, Eastview, St. Francis, St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy, Robbinsdale Cooper and St. Louis Park took part. (In this photo, students view the ice from the press box.)

They toured the arena, watched the Wild practice and listened to several speakers, including Wild coach Darby Hendrickson, sports reporter Dawn Mitchell of Fox 9, Star Tribune Wild reporter Michael Russo, Wild TV play-by-play man Dan Terhaar and analyst Mike Greenlay, Wild vice president Bill Robertson, Wild radio pregame and postgame host Kevin Falness, Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press, Paul Rovnak from the University of Minnesota athletic communications staff, Xcel Energy Center director of public & media relations Kathy O'Connor and yours truly.

As part of the MSHSL Student Sports Information Directors program, I am in the process of setting up a similar student media day with the Timberwolves, and the Twins, Vikings and Gophers also will see me knocking on their doors.

THIS IS A BIG week as we start cranking it up for winter tournaments. We've got section competition in girls' hockey, Nordic and Alpine skiing and dance team, and the one-act play state tourney will be Thursday-Friday at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.

Stay warm out there. Spring is on the way … I think.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 335
*Miles John has driven: 7,609

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Hats Off To The Braham Bombers
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/4/2011 12:23:49 PM

Here's a wonderful email that was sent to the MSHSL this morning. In case you have any doubts about sportsmanship in our schools, here is proof of the great things that take place on a regular basis. On with the email ...

Last night, Thursday February 5, 2011, Aitkin hosted the Braham Bombers in girls basketball competition. Over the years this has become a good rival between the teams. Braham is a very good and athletic basketball team; everyone who watches them play can see that, what you may not see is the character of the program.

Our girls basketball program has faced some adversity this year. In the past four weeks our three seniors have had season-ending knee injuries. Our girls and coaching staffs continue to battle and work very hard to improve. Last night we hosted the Braham Bombers, the number one ranked team in class AA.

Things did not look good for the Gobblers. The night started with a competitive C-Squad game, the JV game went to double overtime, so we were competing well with a good program. Two great games! Everyone in the stands knew what to expect when the varsity teams took the court.

What we did not expect is what happened at the introductions. As the Braham team was introduced, each of the Braham starters picked up a balloon, card or flower that they had brought with them, ran over to where our three injured seniors were sitting on the bench, gave them their gift, a hug and wished them the best. By the time the fifth starter was introduced, most of the gym was standing, giving the students an ovation.

Twenty years from now I won’t remember the score of the game (Braham did win!). I will remember the actions of the Braham Bombers girls basketball team. In a time when wins and losses are too often emphasized by what shows up on the scoreboard, we need to see the whole picture of how our kids treat each other and the respect they have for each other.

Nice job Braham Bombers girls basketball team and coaching staff!


Sincerely,
Daniel J. Stifter
Dean of Students/Director of Activities
Aitkin Public Schools



Great Competition, Hard-Working Athletes And Smiles Everywhere
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/3/2011 9:27:53 PM

A few weeks ago I received an email from Dan Slinden, inviting me to attend an adapted floor hockey game. The game was played Thursday, I was there and it was one of the great sporting experiences of my life. In chronological form, here’s how it went …

Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” played over the P.A. system in the Eden Prairie High School gym as the South Suburban Flyers and Rochester Raiders warmed up. The Flyers come from Edina, Bloomington, Richfield and Eden Prairie, and the Raiders attend Rochester Mayo, John Marshall and Century as well as Kasson-Mantorville.

Slinden, the Flyers coach, pointed out to me that No. 4 on his team, senior Roberty Doyle, has just signed a letter of intent to play wheelchair basketball at the University of Missouri.

Floor hockey is played on a basketball court, with short padded “walls” around the edges. Hockey sticks, hockey goals, helmets and facemasks, kids in tennis shoes, felt pucks that slide like crazy ... it’s a lot like ice hockey.

The P.A. announcer welcomes the fans to the game. The coaches, captains and officials meet at center court. The national anthem is played and the starting lineups are introduced.

The game starts, and it’s quickly noticeable how this game does resemble ice hockey. Players angle the puck off the wall and battle for control of it in the corners. Three 15-minute periods are played, icing is a common call and players are sent off for penalties, resulting in power plays. The game’s first goal is scored by Rochester’s Conor Jones. Some of the players use wheelchairs. The Flyers' Rachel Rosenthal runs all over the court in pink tennis shoes.

Between periods and during timeouts, the percussion section from the Eden Prairie pep band entertains everyone with rhythm and volume. It is grand entertainment.

The Raiders take a 2-0 lead on a shorthanded goal by Nicole Mock, who knocks the puck into the net off a faceoff in the Flyers zone. It is a very pretty goal. Rochester takes a 4-0 lead early in the second period on goals by Ben Jordan and Todd Claeys.

One of the two officials leaps over the boards to avoid being struck by the puck and/or sticks. Doyle flips the puck into the air, sailing it almost the length of the court, and it is caught by Rochester goaltender Wade Kuiper in the baseball glove he wears on his left hand.

The Flyers get on the board when Karen Kriedler gets a goal midway through the second period. Rochester gets goals late in the period by Jones and Jordan, and takes a 7-1 lead when Jones scores again early in the third period. But here comes Kriedler, a scoring machine, with three goals – Bang! Bang! Bang! – and suddenly it’s a 7-4 game with 10 minutes to play.

During a timeout, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” keeps things hopping. The Raiders are clamping down on defense and there is no more scoring. The game is over with Rochester on top 7-4.

As the game ends, the gym floor is suddenly filled with family members and friends. Hugs, handshakes, smiles, packing up, even some dancing as “YMCA” is played. Pizza awaits everyone in the lobby.

There was no booing during the game. No one questioned an official’s call or a coach’s strategy. This was a combination of athletics and pure positive vibes.

Someone congratulates a player by saying, “Great game, Jake!” Jake’s answer comes in two parts … A great big smile and these words: “Now it’s time for some pizza!”

--To see a photo gallery and video from the game, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 333
*Miles John has driven: 7,439

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



Some Short Items On A Wintry Wednesday
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 2/2/2011 11:26:16 AM

Is it cold enough for you? There’s a digital billboard on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis that shows a rotating series of ads. One of them is a tourism spot for Scottsdale, Arizona. The ad, which shows a couple relaxing poolside with sunshine and mountains in the background, also displays each day’s forecast high temperature in Scottsdale. This morning it informed Minnesotans that it would be 49 degrees today in Scottsdale. Uh, that isn’t very tantalizing for a winter getaway.

TUESDAY NIGHT was a good one for fans of Eden Prairie basketball. The Eagles boys and girls teams both defeated the state’s top-ranked Class 4A teams from Hopkins. I was inside the Eden Prairie gym, where the second-ranked EP girls beat Hopkins 71-65. A few miles away, the No. 3 EP boys beat Hopkins 75-71.

I was exchanging text updates with a friend at the other game, and several people from Eden Prairie were checking with me throughout the girls game for scores from the boys game. University of Minnesota women’s basketball coach Pam Borton was also at EP, watching some talented players.

When I covered professional sports, not once did a coach see me and say, “Hi John. Thanks for coming.” That’s what exactly what Hopkins girls coach Brian Cosgriff said to me Tuesday night. And he said the same thing after the game. That’s one of the 100 million reasons why high school sports are so great.

TODAY IS SIGNING DAY, about which I have always had mixed feelings. Some high schools had signing celebrations today, when all their scholarship athletes sit at a table and sign their letters of intent. That is wonderful, because those students have worked hard at their sports and deserve to be recognized. But here are two points to remember about signing day: 1. Very few “scholarship” athletes receive full rides. Division I football, volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball are the only sports that award full scholarships, and some athletes in those sports receive partial scholarships or walk on with no athletic aid. 2. It would be grand if students who receive academic-based scholarships were honored in the same way and received a similar amount of attention.

THINGS ARE BEGINNING to heat up as we move closer to the postseason for winter activities. Dance team section tournaments will begin Saturday and continue the following Saturday, the one-act play state tournament will be held Feb. 10-11, the state ski meet Feb. 16-17, wrestling team and individual sections Feb. 19 and 26, state dance Feb. 18-19, girls’ state hockey Feb. 23-26 and on and on through March.

That’s it for now. Keep warm, drive carefully and think about our friends in Scottsdale.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 331
*Miles John has driven: 7,391

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn



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