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State: It Never Gets Old, And It’s Always Special
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/19/2016 8:55:29 PM

State tournaments are special. That’s no secret, certainly. They come along every year in every sport and it may be easy to take them for granted just a bit. I hope that never happens to me or you.

I was reminded again of how awesome our tournaments are while sitting courtside at Williams Arena on Saturday. It was Championship Saturday for girls basketball, with big crowds and talented teams giving it everything they had. In the midst of all this, I had an exchange of online messages with a young friend of mine.

His name is Colin Nelson. He’s a senior and an Honor Roll student at New Ulm Cathedral High School. Colin and I have known each for a while now; he keeps me updated on what’s happening in the New Ulm area and we check in with each other online on a regular basis.

Colin isn’t an athlete but he’s a team manager, a scorekeeper, loves sports and does a lot of things to stay involved. He’s always upbeat and he often sends positive messages to his friends on Twitter. I like that young man a lot.

That’s how Colin and I chatted Saturday, via Twitter. This was our exchange…

Colin: “You're doing an impressive job covering these games. You have a dream job!”

Me: “Thanks Colin. I'm having fun!”

Colin: “5 years as a student manager and didn't make it to the state tournament once... It must be an electric experience.”

Me: “It's pretty cool. Never gets old.”

I cannot be more honest in making that statement. It never gets old. To hear a band strike up the school song as the fans clap along (which is happening as I write this … the teams from Winona and Holy Angels have just taken the court for the Class 3A championship game), well, how can you beat that?

Which brings us to some postgame comments made after the championship games. It’s easy for winning players and coaches to talk after these affairs; when you come out on the short end of the stick, well, it’s not so simple to sit in front of reporters and talk about it.

However, some of the most memorable postgame words came from those on the losing end Saturday.

Maranatha Christian senior guard Alaina Jarnot has played in the last five Class 1A state tournaments; her sister Jaclyn is a sophomore on the team. Alaina will play Division I basketball at Monmouth University in New Jersey. The Mustangs lost in the state championship game last year and this year, which one might think would be a bitter pill for a graduating senior. Not Alaina.

”I’m so blessed to play here,” she said. “I’ve had an amazing coach. My sister, I’m going to miss playing with her so much and all my other teammates. I’ve been to the state tournament since eighth grade. I’m just so happy to be part of this program.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Winona senior Hallee Hoeppner, who led the Winhawks in scoring this season and had a team-high 15 points in the Winhawks’ 51-43 loss to Holy Angels in the 3A title game.

“I’m just really proud to be a part of this team,” Hallee said after fighting back tears (of gratitude, not sadness). “I just had such a fun time playing with these girls. I told them in the locker room not to be hard on themselves. I have so many memories on and off the court and they have become my best friends. Even if we didn’t get a state title, I’m so happy to have been a part of this team.”

And then there was Mike Dreier, coach at New London-Spicer. Mike is as legendary as they come; in 38 years with the Wildcats, he is Minnesota girls basketball’s all-time leader in victories (863) and trips to state (16). His teams have played in eight state championship games, winning titles in 1997 and 2002.

On Saturday, unseeded New London-Spicer lost to a powerful top-seeded team from Plainview-Elgin-Millville 72-42 in the Class 2A championship game. And coach Dreier couldn’t have been more positive afterwards.

“It wasn’t the way we’d like it to end, but what a dream to be where we are,” he said. “We finished third in our conference and it was really a treat to get here. It was a great tournament for us, a great year. I am totally upbeat about what we did.”

Dreier also spoke very highly of Plainview-Elgin-Millville.

“Teams like that usually win state tournaments,” he said. “They’re tough, a well-coached team, good athletes and good size. They were the real deal, the total package and I salute them.”

That is true sportsmanship and total class. Let’s never take those things for granted, either.

CLASS 1A: GOODHUE 89, MARANATHA CHRISTIAN 64

The top-seeded Wildcats won their first state championship in six trips to the tournament. They were the state runner-up in 2010. Maddy Miller led Goodhue with 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Sydney Lodermeier had 24 and 12. Third-seeded Maranatha was led by Alaina Jarnot and Elise Moore with 18 points each,

CLASS 2A: PLAINVIEW-ELGIN-MILLVILLE 72, NEW LONDON-SPICER 42

The top-seeded Bulldogs captured their first title since Plainview merged with Elgin-Millville in 2006. (Elgin-Millville won the 2005 championship). P-E-M was led by Emmaline Polsin with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Sarah Hart had 13 points. Megan Thorson scored 13 for New London-Spicer.

CLASS 3A/ HOLY ANGELS 51, WINONA 43

The fifth-seeded Stars overcame 30-percent shooting to defeat the second-seeded Winhawks. Holy Angels won the game at the free throw line, making 20 of 26 attempts to Winona’s 2 of 4. Laura Bagwell-Katalinich led the Stars with 25 points and 16 rebounds. Hallee Hoeppner scored 15 for the Winhawks.

CLASS 4A/ MINNETONKA 61, HOPKINS 52

The third-seeded Skippers won their first state championship, leading 34-26 at halftime and never trailing in the second half. Top-seeded Hopkins was aiming for its sixth title since 2006. Lizzie Odegard led Minnetonka with 17 points and 23 rebounds, followed by Courtney Fredrickson with 13 points and Chrissy Carr with 10. Ashley Bates led Hopkins with 28 points and Nia Hollie had 18.

TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

--A total of 49 fouls were called in the Goodhue-Maranatha Christian game, 28 on Maranatha. Asked about the officiating, Mustangs coach Chris Buerman said, “I don’t ever believe an official is going to determine the game. At your best you’re going to be 50 percent right. I know if I did the job I would be probably 25 percent right. I complain to officials and then I go back and watch the tape and see that they were usually right.”

--After Sauk Centre lost to New London-Spicer 49-46 in Friday night’s semifinals, two sisters embraced in an emotional hug in a hallway at Williams Arena. Sauk Centre sophomore Kelsey Peschel was wrapped up in the arms of big sister Kali, a senior captain at the University of Iowa who helped the Mainstreeters reach three state tournaments.

--As noted previously in John’s Journal, the Goodhue band and many other students missed Friday’s and Saturday’s games at state because they were in Florida on a school trip. The band from Plainview-Elgin-Millville filled in admirably, playing the Goodhue school song as the Wildcats won the 1A title. That's what you call teamwork.

THIRD-PLACE GAMES

1A/ Mountain Iron-Buhl 65, Wheaton/Herman-Norcross 37
2A/ Roseau 94, Sauk Centre 82
3A/ Thief River Falls 56, Becker 42
4A/ Eagan 53, White Bear Lake 48

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 596
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 9,020




What A Crazy Game: Maranatha Christian Wins In The End
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/18/2016 8:57:44 PM

“It was like the most crazy.”

That statement right there, out of the mouth of Maranatha Christian Academy senior guard Alaina Jarnot, is a very apt description of what transpired at Williams Arena on Friday afternoon.

The third-seeded Mustangs defied the odds and somehow, some way, came out on the top end of a 75-74 overtime decision against Mountain-Iron-Buhl. With three seconds to play in overtime, it looked for all the world like second-seeded Mountain Iron-Buhl would win the game and advance to Saturday’s Class 1A state championship game against top-seeded Goodhue.

But … stuff happens.

Four starters fouled out, two from each team. The score was tied 10 times. The Mountain Iron-Buhl Rangers held a nine-point lead with 6:29 to play in the second half, but after that everything got tossed in a dryer and tumbled around until the outcome was decided.

“It was crazy but I’m so happy we won this game,” said Jarnot, who made eight field goals (half of them from three-point range) in scoring a game-high 21 points.

The crazy train really slipped off the tracks at the end of overtime. The Rangers, trailing by two, were working the ball around the perimeter, looking to make something happen as the clock ticked under 10 seconds. Ninth-grader Allie Negen put up a three-point attempt and was fouled by Maranatha sophomore Jayzryn Thompson. Uh oh.

That foul gave Negen three free throws and she hit them all, putting Mountain Iron-Buhl ahead 74-73. Game over, right?

Wrong. The crazy continued on the other end of the court. After a Ranger foul, Maranatha’s Kylie Post stood at the line with three seconds left in overtime. And she missed ‘em both. And then came the Crazy with a Capital C. Thompson, fresh off the foul that gave the Rangers three free throws and the lead, stood tall.

Jayzryn, who is all of 5 feet, 8 inches and was the third and last player off the bench for the Mustangs, wiggled between the Rangers, grabbed the rebound and returned it skyward.

Basket. Horn. Game over. Pandemonium.

“Incredibly, this is the type of emotion we’ve been playing with for about a month now,” said Maranatha coach Chris Buerman, whose team will take a 26-6 record into the title game with Goodhue (29-4).

Chelsea Mason led Mountain Iron-Buhl with 17 points before fouling out with 35 seconds left in overtime. She wears No. 14 and the Mustangs – especially Jarnot -- will not soon forget her.

“It was really tiring,” Jarnot said. “Fourteen is an amazing player. She can knock down any shots. She’s so phenomenal, she made me really tired.”

Mountain Iron-Buhl had won at Maranatha Christian (in Brooklyn Park) 69-53 in mid-December. Facts like that, of course, go out the window in the state tournament.

“These girls gave it their all,” Rangers coach Jeff Buffetta said. “It was an emotional game with a lot of energy. They did everything we could ask of them. The game came down to somebody making the last play, and they had the last play and we didn’t.”

One year ago, Maranatha Christian lost to Ada-Borup 82-65 in the Class 1A state championship game. The Mustangs have not forgotten about that result, especially the way Ada-Borup piled on the points.

“To reverse last year we’ve got to play some defense,” Buerman said. “We packed it. We’re going to play some defense.”

GOODHUE 74, WHEATON/HERMAN-NORCROSS 35

The Wildcats took the game to running time for the second time in as many games in the tournament. In the quarterfinals, Goodhue beat East Grand Forks Sacred Heart 77-46. Against Wheaton/Herman-Norcross, Maddy Miller scored 24 points for Goodhue and Sydney Lodermeier had 18. Jordan Stafford led the Warriors with 12 points.

CLASS 2A STATE SEMIFINALS

PLAINVIEW-ELGIN-MILLVILLE 87, ROSEAU 78

The top-seeded Bulldogs advanced to Saturday’s title game by holding off the fourth-seeded Rams. Chloe Holtz led P-E-M with 20 points, Sarah Hart had 14 and Emmaline Polson 12. Roseau was led by the Borowicz sisters, who combined for 62 points: junior Kiley had 35, ninth-grader Kacie had 23 and seventh-grader Katie had four.

NEW LONDON-SPICER 49, SAUK CENTRE 46

The unseeded Wildcats (25-6) overcame a three-point halftime deficit and will play in their first state championship game since 2002. Shea Oman scored the winning points with 4.5 seconds to play when she drove the lane, hit the layup, was fouled and made the free throw to make it 49-46. She finished with 10 points and teammates Megan Thorson and Kabrie Weber each had 12. Maesyn Thiesen scored 20 for second-seeded Sauk Centre (30-2).

SATURDAY’S STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

1A/ Goodhue vs. Maranatha Christian, noon
2A/ Plainview-Elgin-Millville vs. New London-Spicer, 2 p.m.
3A/ Holy Angels vs. Winona, 6 p.m.
4A/ Hopkins vs. Minnetonka, 8 p.m.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 596
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,968



Cheering For Goodhue … From Far, Far Away
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/17/2016 6:39:30 PM

When top-seeded Goodhue rolled to a girls basketball state quarterfinal victory on Thursday at Mariucci Arena, everybody was there. The band sounded fantastic and the student section was filled with kids wearing the school colors, with faces painted, homemade signs displayed and enjoyment all around.

The top-seeded Wildcats’ 77-46 victory over East Grand Forks Sacred Heart moved them into Friday’s Class 1A semifinals against Wheaton/Herman-Norcross. That game will be played at noon at Williams Arena.

The contingent of Goodhue supporters, however, will be much smaller. That’s because the tournament conflicts with a school trip to Florida involving students from grades nine through 12 involved in band and choir. Those kids will board buses at 5 a.m. Friday and head to Florida.

That means the Wildcats will have no band at Williams Arena and the student fans will be much smaller in number, if not enthusiasm.

Goodhue music and band students take such a trip every four years. Fourteen of the 15 girls on the basketball roster are also involved in band and/or music, so they will fly to Florida on Sunday morning.

“It’s going to be a little weird tomorrow,” Goodhue coach Josh Wieme said. “Our whole high school’s going to be gone. It’s too bad but it’s another great thing that’s happening in our school. They just happen to overlap. There are only so many days in the year.”

The girls basketball tournament caps a wild winter season for the Wildcats. Three wrestlers qualified for state and Bailee O’Reilly won a state championship in Class 1A at 152 pounds, Goodhue’s first title in wrestling since 1998. Last week the Goodhue boys basketball team placed second in the state in Class 1A; their semifinal victory at Target Center was played the same day the girls team won the Section 1 championship in Rochester.

All in all, Goodhue has been a very busy place in recent weeks.

“It seems like we don’t have school anymore,” joked senior Taylor Larson, who scored 11 points for the Wildcats on Thursday. “We’re to the point that we don’t learn anymore (she was smiling and kidding). The boys went to state, we had a state champion wrestler, football went to state. It’s crazy, we’ve got a good group here.”

Wieme, who also is Goodhue’s athletic director, said the environment at school and around the community is special.

“It’s such a buzz. It’s really neat,” he said. “What’s special is that no one’s overlooked and one (team) is not more important or more valued than another. The fans come out for everything. It’s really, really neat. There’s just a buzz and an energy around the whole community.”

GETTING OVER THE MOUNTAIN AT STATE

The Mountain Iron-Buhl girls basketball team is no stranger to the state tournament, qualifying for the big show six consecutive years. The second-seeded Rangers defeated Sleepy Eye 70-37 on Thursday to advance to Friday’s Class 1A semifinals against Maranatha Christian.

Mountain Iron-Buhl finished third at state in 2011, lost to Maranatha Christian in the 2012 championship game and bowed out in the quarterfinals the last three years.

Thursday’s starting lineup included only one senior (Tatum Primeau) alongside juniors Mya Buffetta, Patty Overbye and Chelsea Mason, and sophomore Mary Burke. So the prospects for the future are bright, although the Rangers are not looking past the next game.

“We needed to act like the veteran team and I think we did that today,” coach Jeff Buffetta said.

“I’d like to think (experience at state) helps but we lost here the last three times. We just needed to play like we’ve been playing in the section tournament. Everybody thinks it’s different when you get down here. It’s not different; we have five, they have five. We’ve just got to play the same way we play at home. And I think we did that today.”

Mountain Iron-Buhl had defeated Sleepy Eye 92-70 in a holiday tournament, and that may have been a factor in Thursday’s rematch.

“I think our girls have more confidence when they play people they’ve already seen,” Buffetta said. “But you’ve got to be ready for anybody.”

THURSDAY’S GAMES AT WILLIAMS ARENA

CLASS 3A SEMIFINALS
Holy Angels 55, Thief River Falls 42
Winona 37, Becker 33

CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS
Hopkins 85, Eastview 67
Minnetonka 70, White Bear Lake 55

THURSDAY'S GAMES AT MARIUCCI ARENA

CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS
Goodhue 77, East Grand Forks Sacred Heart 46
Wheaton/Herman-Norcross 70, Cromwell-Wright 55
Mountain Iron-Buhl 70, Sleepy Eye 37
Maranatha Christian 91, Southwest Minnesota Christian 79

FRIDAY’S GAMES AT WILLIAMS ARENA

CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
Noon/ Goodhue vs. Wheaton/Herman-Norcross
2 p.m./ Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Maranatha Christian

CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS
6 p.m./ Plainview-Elgin-Millville vs. Roseau
8 p.m./ Sauk Centre vs. New London-Spicer

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 596
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,924



Marshall Basketball: Winning Off The Court, Too
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/16/2016 6:03:08 PM

Every member of the Marshall High School girls basketball team will tell you the same thing: Tuesday night’s opening-round loss in the Class 3A state tournament was a real bummer. The fourth-seeded Tigers lost to fifth-seeded Holy Angels 69-47 at Target Center, shooting only 33 percent from the field and committing 17 turnovers as their season came to an end.

Marshall is accustomed to deep tournament runs; the Tigers were 3A state runners-up the last two years. But the team members also know that there is much more to life than basketball.

Which takes us to the morning after … Wednesday morning at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. The entire Marshall team spent a couple of hours with young patients, delivering smiles and love.

“We went there to give back and it was really fun,” said senior Lexi Saugstad.

There are personal connections at work, as well. Saugstad’s sister Morgan, who was a senior on last year’s Marshall team, was treated at Children’s Hospital and has been cancer-free for six years.

The Tigers brought autographed basketballs to the hospital, which will be used for prizes. They hung out with “The Dude” … he hosts an in-house television program, geared for patients and their families, who can win prizes. Two dozen Marshall Tigers basketballs will be used as prizes.

“When we were sitting in the studio room, there was a little girl who was really shy,” senior Emily Buysse said. “She didn’t want to take (a basketball), but she said she would give it to a friend, for later.”

No one will mind at all if that little girl keeps it for herself.

UPSETS ABOUND IN CLASS 3A

Before the state tournament begins, coaches of the participating teams use an electronic process to seed five teams, with the remaining three teams drawn at random to determine the pairings. In Class 3A this year, the seedings were basically thrown out in the first round.

On Tuesday evening at Target Center, unseeded Thief River Falls beat top-seeded Hutchinson 61-59 and fifth-seeded Holy Angels defeated fourth-seeded Marshall 69-47. On Wednesday at Mariucci Arena, second-seeded Winona held firm with a 76-56 win over unseeded Grand Rapids, and unseeded Becker beat third-seeded St. Paul Como Park 62-57.

Thursday’s semifinals pairings at Williams Arena will be interesting: unseeded Thief River Falls vs. fifth-seeded Holy Angels, followed by second-seeded Winona vs. unseeded Becker.

COMING IN AS CLEAR NUMBER ONE

Plainview-Elgin-Millville is the top seed in the Class 2A tournament, and the Bulldogs rolled past Holy Family 59-38 in Wednesday’s first round at Mariucci Arena.

Other than the first poll of the season, P-E-M has been ranked No. 1 in Class 2A. Defending 2A state champion Dover-Eyota, which was top-ranked at the start of the season, lost to P-E-M in the Section 1 championship game.

“Well, there is (pressure),” Bulldogs coach Jason Melbostad said. “We’ve been ranked No. 1 the whole season, so they kind of know the feeling. But up here, I think there’s less pressure.
Everyone’s good.”

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES AT MARIUCCI ARENA

CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS
Winona 76, Grand Rapids 56
Becker 62, St. Paul Como Park 57

CLASS 2A QUARTERFINALS
Plainview-Elgin-Millville 59, Holy Family 38S
Roseau 78, Pequot Lakes 65
Sauk Centre 70, Norwood-Young America 51
New London-Spicer 58, Minnehaha Academy 44

THURSDAY’S GAMES AT WILLIAMS ARENA

CLASS 3A SEMIFINALS
Noon/ Thief River Falls vs. Holy Angels
2 p.m./ Winona vs. Becker

CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS
6 p.m./ Hopkins vs. Eastview
8 p.m./ White Bear Lake vs. Minnetonka

THURSDAY GAMES AT MARIUCCI ARENA

CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS
11 a.m./ East Grand Forks Sacred Heart vs. Goodhue
1 p.m./ Wheaton/Herman-Norcross vs. Cromwell-Wright
3 p.m./ Sleepy Eye vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl
5 p.m./ Southwest Minnesota Christian vs. Maranatha Christian

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 588
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,880



Experience At State Can Be A Great Teacher
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/15/2016 6:37:07 PM

In the biggest surprise of Tuesday’s first-day Class 4A action at the girls state basketball tournament, unseeded White Bear Lake upset second-seeded St. Michael-Albertville 72-69 in overtime. The Bears came to state with a record of 22-7, compared to the Knights’ 27-2.

White Bear Lake’s seven losses included defeats to the teams seeded second, third, fourth and fifth in the 4A state tournament. So the fact that the Bears were unseeded was probably no shock. But they did come to state with some important experience gained a year ago.

In the 2015 state tourney, a young White Bear Lake team lost to Shakopee 62-56 in the quarterfinals. With six seniors among 10 players who saw action Tuesday at Target Center, the Bears were not going to be surprised.

“It’s huge,” Bears coach Jeremy Post said of having experience under the bright lights of state. “The first time it’s like an event. It becomes a game the second time. And the second time, you understand the event and you play the game. So it’s huge.”

Last year the Bears were seeded fourth and lost to fifth-seeded Shakopee. They shot only 38 percent from the field last year at Target Center; they shot 51 percent against St. Michael-Albertville on Tuesday.

Five players scored in double figures for the Bears on Tuesday, including senior Kate Brabenec with 13.

“Last year we were kind of just happy to get here, because none of us had ever done it before,” Brabenec said. “I feel like we got a little satisfied. This year we definitely really didn’t want to be done any time soon, so that helped calm the nerves a little bit for most of us, because most of us were on the team last year. Already knowing what to expect is helpful.”

Post said, “We talked about today just being a second chance. We got a second chance to show what we think we are. We think we’re pretty good. They’re great, and we think we’re pretty good. They were just determined today.

“These kids just didn’t get rattled. They’ve been here before, and they’ve been through a lot of adversity this year.”

--Unseeded Thief River Falls pulled off the first day’s biggest shocker in Class 3A, defeating top-seeded Hutchinson 61-59. The Prowlers came to state with a 25-3 record, with fewer losses than any of the five seeded teams. Hutchinson ended its season with a 23-6 record.

LUCK IS WHERE YOU FIND IT

After conducting several rounds of one-on-one interviews following his team’s quarterfinal victory Tuesday, Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff (pictured) noticed something on the floor. It was a penny.

“I’m going to take this,” he said, looking at the coin. Noticing that it was a Canadian penny, he wondered what the quotient of good or bad luck may be with such an object. He pondered that for a second and then stuck the penny in his pocket. The message from the coach? Better safe than sorry.

Cosgriff is admittedly superstitious. (Which brings to mind a quote from Michael Scott -- played by Steve Carell -- on The Office: “I'm not superstitious, but I'm a little stitious.”

Cosgriff is more than a little stitious. He never wears the same shirt twice while coaching. He always hands out Life Savers mints to his assistants, stat crew and athletic trainer before games. He has done so for a long time and he really has no definitive explanation for it.

“I don’t know what it is, but here’s the thing,” he said, smiling. “We’ve done it, we’ve done it, we’ve done it.”

Cosgriff works as the announcer at Hopkins baseball games, and the mints have become a staple there, too. Although the timing of the mint distribution is crucial

“They were down 5-3 to Edina,” Cosgriff said, “and you don’t want to give them out too early. I gave them to the coach and the kid who was about to bat. He cranked out a home run, they won 6-5. It’s the power of the mint, I’m telling you.”

With Tuesday’s 81-69 victory over Park Center, top-seeded Hopkins advanced to Thursday’s Class 4A semifinals at Williams Arena against White Bear Lake. This is not new ground for the Royals, who have played in seven state championship games since 2004 and own six state titles (including last year’s).

Cosgriff's career record is 447-61 (25-3 at state) in 17 years at Hopkins and this is his 10th state tournament appearance as a head coach.

GROWTH SPURT

St. Michael-Albertville was attempting to become the first school to win state titles in three different classes. The Knights won the Class 2A crown in 2001, Class 3A in 2009 and are now in 4A. In 2006 the graduating class consisted of approximately 240 students; the class of 2016 has 427.

THURSDAY’S CLASS 4A QUARTERFINALS
--Hopkins 81, Park Center 69
--Eastview 52, Lakeville North 35
--White Bear Lake 72, St. Michael-Albertville 69 (overtime)
--Minnetonka 71, Anoka 40

THURSDAY’S CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS
--Thief River Falls 61, Hutchinson 59
--Holy Angels 69, Marshall 47

WEDNESDAY’S GAMES AT MARIUCCI ARENA

CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS
10 a.m./ Grand Rapids vs. Winona
Noon/ Becker vs. St. Paul Como Park

CLASS 2A QUARTERFINALS
2 p.m./ Holy Family vs. Plainview-Elgin-Millville
4 p.m/ Pequot Lakes vs. Roseau
6 p.m./ Norwood-Young America vs. Sauk Centre
8 p.m./ New London-Spicer vs. Minnehaha Academy

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 578
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,838



The Bombers Are Back: Braham Celebrates A State Title
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/12/2016 8:48:41 PM

It doesn’t seem like 10 years, but when the Braham boys basketball team won the Class 2A state championship Saturday, it ended a 10-year period between titles for the Bombers.

This year’s team finished 31-2, defeating Jackson County Central 96-90 in the gold-medal game at Target Center. If you were following the sport a decade ago, you remember Braham’s dominance.

The Bombers won state titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006, stringing together a three-year record of 95-4 that included 65 consecutive wins. That’s the second-longest winning streak in Minnesota boys basketball history; Edina (1965-68) and Hopkins (1951-54) share the top spot at 69.

The coach of those teams was Bob Vaughan, who retired after the 2014-15 season. He was the coach for 30 years. Among the stars of that 2004-2006 championship run were Vaughan’s son Josh and the Dahlman brothers, Isaiah and Noah.

Josh Vaughan played basketball at North Dakota State and is now an assistant coach at the University of Mary in North Dakota. Isaiah Dahlman was the state’s career scoring leader when he graduated. He played at Michigan State and now lives in Michigan. Noah Dahlman played collegiately at Wofford and currently plays professional basketball in Romania.

Current Bombers coach Jeff Eklund, a 1995 Braham grad who played under Bob Vaughan and was an assistant before being hired as the head coach, said he heard from some of those former players during the state tournament, including an email from a world away.

“Noah sent me an email this morning from Romania, saying how proud he was of the team and wishing them luck,” Eklund said. “He said, ‘Bring one back to Braham. The tradition’s alive.’ ”

Indeed it is. Four Bombers scored in double figures Saturday, led by Chris Olson with 33 and Ryan Larson with 28. Fourth-seeded Braham led 50-29 at halftime and held off a frantic finish by unseeded Jackson County Central (25-6) as the Huskies scored 61 second-half points.

The Braham players don’t need to be reminded of their school’s basketball tradition, Eklund said.

“We walk in the gym every day and we see those three banners hanging up there on the wall,” he said. “And this group, they’ve been playing together for a long time. Some of them are four-year starters.

“They’ve been building for this. They’ve put an incredible amount of time into the game, in the gym in the summer. They work so hard.

“I’m a first-year coach, but I’ve known them for a long time because I’ve been in the program,” said Eklund, the Braham elementary principal. “From seventh grade up, practice ends with one word: ‘Family.’ ”

CLASS 2A: MINNEAPOLIS NORTH 68, GOODHUE 45

The top-seeded Polars (29-5) broke open a close, low-scoring game in the second half to defeat third-seeded Goodhue. The Wildcats (24-10) led 26-25 at halftime before North outscored them 43-19 in the second half. Isaac Johnson had 15 points for North and Ben Opsahl led Goodhue with 12.

CLASS 3A: DeLaSALLE 79, FERGUS FALLS 65

Top-seeded DeLaSalle became the first boys basketball team to win five consecutive state championships, ending their season with a 24-4 record. Minneapolis Henry (2000-03) and Southwest Minnesota Christian (1999-2002) each won four titles in a row. Gabe Kalscheur led the Islanders with 27 points. Harrison Christensen scored 22 for the third-seeded Otters (28-4).

CLASS 4A: HOPKINS 64, LAKEVILLE NORTH 55

The second-seeded Royals completed a 31-1 season by holding off the fifth-seeded Panthers (26-6). Amir Coffey led Hopkins with 19 points. Nathan Reuvers had 16 for Lakeville North.

BEST “TEAM” MOMENT OF THE TOURNAMENT

As the Jackson County Central Huskies were posing for a team photo after their loss to Braham, junior Jacob Christopher held up the proceedings for just a moment. He stepped out of the picture, placed his All-Tournament team trophy out of range and returned to his spot. The lesson: The team is more important than individual accomplishments.

BEST QUOTE OF THE TOURNAMENT

Goodhue coach Matt Halverson on his undersized team facing Minneapolis North: “I think we should have dunked it more on them.”

THIRD-PLACE GAMES

CLASS 1A/ Central Minnesota Christian 79, Red Lake 45
CLASS 2A/ St. Croix Lutheran 81, Annandale 45
CLASS 3A/ Red Wing 75, Monticello 59
CLASS 4A/ Apple Valley 93, Osseo 82

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

CLASS 1A/ Will Morrison, Rob McClain, Red Lake; Ethan Brouwer, Taylor Slagter, Central Minnesota Christian; Ben Opsahl, Jacob McNamara, Jacob Pasch, Goodhue; Tyler Johnson, Jamil Jackson Jr., ODell Wilson IV, Minneapolis North.

CLASS 2A/ Jarod Wilken, Annandale; Trenton Krueger, Aage Rovney, Ade Murkey, St. Croix Lutheran; Matt Ringkob, Bodey Behrends, Jacob Christopher, Jackson County Central; John Larson, Chris Olson, Ryan Larson, Braham.

CLASS 3A/ Matt Todd, Monticello; Travis Toivonen, Joe Sevlie, Ben Munson, Red Wing; Nathan Rund, Matthew Monke, Harrison Christensen, Fergus Falls; Gabe Kalscheur, Goanar Mar, Samm Jones, DeLaSalle.

CLASS 4A/ Allan Anderson, Osseo; Tre Jones, Gary Trent Jr., Cameron Kirksey, Apple Valley; Carter Brooks, Nathan Reuvers, Nick Fossey, Lakeville North; Xavier Johnson, Amir Coffey, Vinnie Shahid, Hopkins.

ADAPTED FLOOR HOCKEY STATE TOURNAMENT

North Suburban captured the CI division state title with a 6-5 victory over Anoka-Hennepin in the championship game at Bloomington Jefferson. Josh Hamann had a hat trick for North Suburban and Anthony Bengtson had two goals. Cole Denny scored all five goals for the Mustangs.

In the PI division, Dakota United won the state championship with a 3-2 win over Anoka-Hennepin. Grayson Nicolay led the way for the winners with two goals (including the game-winner) and goaltender Johnathan Lyons made 26 stops. Scoring for Anoka-Hennepin were Joey Manion and Tyler Ezell.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 566
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,838



Red Lake: A Team With Heart, Having Fun At State
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/11/2016 3:20:12 PM

The journey from Red Lake to Target Center is a lengthy one, 249 miles of southbound Minnesota highway. Despite the distance, however, the Red Lake boys basketball team is the toast of downtown Minneapolis.

They brought a massive throng of fans with them to this week’s state tournament. Williams Arena was awash in Ogichidaag (“Warriors”) red and white on Thursday when Red Lake defeated Browerville/Eagle Valley 66-52 in the quarterfinals. The fans were at Target Center for Friday’s semifinals, where Red Lake lost to top-seeded Minneapolis North 82-61.

The game was not exactly a thing of beauty (the teams combined for 49 turnovers), but the Red Lake players, coaches and fans were more than a thing of beauty. The kids never stopped hustling, the fans never stopped cheering, the fun never stopped.

The finest moments came after the outcome was decided but before the clock ran out. Reserves were on the court for both teams, and the Red Lake starters cheered and smiled and yelled encouragement to their backups. Baskets on the court were followed by fist pumps on the bench.

And after the teams shook hands, the love shown between players and fans was as sweet a thing as you’ll ever see in our world of high school sports. I feel fortunate to have witnessed it.

“I want to win. I don’t like to lose. But at the same time this is special for these boys,” Red Lake coach Roger White said in a postgame media session that will long be remembered for its honesty and grace.

“You can’t take the fun out of it. That’s what it’s about, having fun. There’s more to life than basketball. Sometimes basketball brings us together, it brings our community together.”

White and his players have been playing for reasons that go beyond basketball. The coach’s son Aaron was 15 when he died on November 1, eight days before the first basketball practice. Aaron had cancer, and dealing with something like that can add perspective to what’s truly important.

“Being through what I’ve been through as a coach, losing my son, things that really, really are important sometimes don’t seem as important,” Roger White said. “When we got here it’s all about these boys and what they do, using basketball as an instrument for life.

“It’s special for me, it’s special for our boys. It’s more than basketball. We’re just having a great time. These boys deserve it. They’ve worked hard and it’s fun.”

Jamil Jackson scored 21 points for Minneapolis North. Will Morrison led Red Lake with 19 points and junior Rob McClain scored 14. McClain’s total pushed him past the 1,000-career-point mark.

“I liked that I got my 1,000th point at Target Center,” Rob said. “But I would rather have a win than 1,000 points any day.”

Aaron White was Rob’s cousin and Rob called him “the heart of the team.” Most of the Red Lake players were in a fall league tournament – three hours away from home – the day Aaron died. They forfeited their final game and raced back to Red Lake when they heard the news.

“It was heartbreaking,” Rob said. “When he passed I think that pushed us harder. He would be the one trying to outwork everyone. That’s what I go in the gym knowing. He was smaller than me but he had the biggest heart. He was just a terrific kid and an amazing cousin.”

The Ogichidaag will face Central Minnesota Christian in the third-place game on Saturday morning at Concordia University in St. Paul. The team will then return to Target Center for the 11 a.m. championship game. There surely will be more cheers of appreciation for a job well done and a community well represented.

1A/ GOODHUE 41, CENTRAL MINNESOTA CHRISTIAN 38

The Wildcats advanced to their first state championship game appearance with a grinding victory over the Bluejays. Goodhue shot only 38.7 percent to Central Minnesota Christian’s 39 percent; the winners made 12 field goals to the Bluejays’ 16 but Goodhue made 11 free throws and CMC made just three. Jacob McNamara led Goodhue with 14 points and nine rebounds. Taylor Slagter scored 11 for the Bluejays.

2A STATE SEMIFINALS

BRAHAM 86, ST. CROIX LUTHERAN 77

The fourth-seeded Bombers made 21 free throws in beating the top-seeded Crusaders. Braham went 21 of 24 at the line; St. Croix Lutheran made 34 field goals to Braham’s 30, but the Crusaders made only five of 11 free throws. Chris Olson led Braham with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Ade Murkey had 26 and 12 for the Crusaders.

JACKSON COUNTY CENTRAL 63, ANNANDALE 46

Jackson County Central became the only unseeded team to advance to the championship round, protecting the ball and outscoring a poor shooting Annandale team. The Huskies, who will meet Braham in Saturday’s title game, had only six turnovers while shooting 46 percent. Annandale shot just 30 percent, making 16 of 53 field-goal attempts. Bodey Behrends led Jackson County Central with 20 points and eight rebounds. Alex Hohenstein had 12 points for the Cardinals.

FRIDAY’S STATE SEMIFINALS

CLASS 1A
Minneapolis North 82, Red Lake 61
Goodhue 41, Central Minnesota Christian 38

CLASS 2A
Braham 86, St. Croix Lutheran 77
Jackson County Central vs. Annandale

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 566
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,796



A ‘Statement Game’ At State By Minneapolis North
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/10/2016 7:13:03 PM

This is what you call a concise, accurate scouting report: “They’re a big, good defensive team and they move the ball really well, attack the basket, good rebounders and they get out in transition. They’re a really good team.”

Those are the words of Red Lake boys basketball coach Roger White talking about Minneapolis North. Those two teams won quarterfinal Class 1A state tournament games Thursday at Williams Arena, albeit in varying manners, and will meet in Friday’s semifinals at Target Center.

North, which is the top seed, cruised past St. Clair 80-27, with running time used for the final nine minutes (by rule when the margin is 35 points or more). The Polars are everything White described, too.

They had 16 offensive rebounds (and 23 on the defensive end), and North’s belly button-to-belly button defense helped them pile up 21 steals (and contributed to St. Clair’s 32 turnovers). Five Polars scored in double figures, led by future University of Minnesota football player Tyler Johnson and Jamil Jackson with 18 each.

“I think this is kind of a statement game, to make teams a little bit worried,” Johnson said. “Whether they’re worried or not, we’re just going to come out day by day and just come out pretty strong.”

St. Clair coach Charlie Freitag said his team practiced against eight defensive players in preparing for the Polars. The Cyclones shot only 24 percent in the loss.

“It’s hard to replicate,” he said. “Even if you have speed, you’ll never duplicate their length and athleticism. Preparation only goes so far. You still have to knock down shots.”

Part of North’s preparation included a strong schedule. Yes, their enrollment puts them in Class 1A, but their regular-season schedule was loaded with larger schools.

North is 27-5 with losses to 4A state tournament contender Hopkins, 4A Champlin Park, 4A Wayzata, 4A Minneapolis Washburn and a team from Georgia. Teams the Polars have defeated include St. Croix Lutheran (the top-seeded team in 2A at state), Fridley (a 3A state tourney team) and Central Minnesota Christian (the No. 2 seed in 1A).

North nearly defeated Hopkins on Jan. 19, losing 98-96 in the Polars’ gym.

“Hopkins, that was a pretty good team,” Johnson said. “We played a pretty good game that day. Even though the outcome was a loss, I feel like that was one of our best games of the season. We learned a lot from that game. We learned how to play with a big crowd on a big stage. That pushed us for the rest of the season.”

Red Lake advanced with a 66-52 victory over Browerville/Eagle Valley. Four players scored in double figures for the Warriors, led by Kendall Whitefeather’s 18.

There surely will be a big crowd at Target Center for the semifinals. Red Lake fans nearly filled half the lower bowl at Williams Arena on Thursday to watch the Warriors (27-4), while North brought an equally enthusiastic contingent.

“It should be an up-and-down game,” Red Lake’s White said. “I don’t think our guys know how to slow down. It’s going to be a good game and hopefully we can play defense and get some rebounds and hit some shots.”

--One of the great scenes Thursday at Williams Arena came after St. Clair’s loss to Red Lake. The Cyclones were playing at state for the first time in school history and they finished with a record of 22-8.

After the teams shook hands, Freitag and his players gathered for a quick huddle. As they broke formation, the players and coaches all turned to face their fans and began applauding. The crowd returned the applause and cheered loudly for their boys.

“Our fans, they were amazing,” Freitag said. “They almost filled the whole side of Williams Arena. It was great to see and we had to show appreciation back. Hopefully they know our community knows how much we value them and their support throughout this. I hope they enjoyed what we’ve done throughout the year and even enjoyed the experience here today.

“This (loss) doesn’t define our team or our season at all,” he said. “Our season’s already been defined. We wanted to go out and enjoy this experience. I hope they did. We told them to keep their heads up and understand what they’ve accomplished. In no way does this define what our seniors have done. Basically it’s just a bad draw. I can’t be more proud of them.”

THURSDAY’S STATE QUARTERFINALS

CLASS 1A
--Minneapolis North 80, St. Clair 27
--Red Lake 66, Browerville/Eagle Valley 52
--Central Minnesota Christian 50, Mountain Iron-Buhl 32
--Goodhue 54, Lake Park-Audubon 29

THURSDAY’S STATE SEMIFINALS

CLASS 4A
--Lakeville North 60, Osseo 56
--Hopkins 84, Apple Valley 59

CLASS 3A
--DeLaSalle 59, Monticello 45
--Fergus Falls 58, Red Wing 55

FRIDAY’S STATE SEMIFINALS

CLASS 1A
Noon/ Minneapolis North vs. Red Lake
2 p.m./ Central Minnesota Christian vs. Goodhue

CLASS 2A
6 p.m./ St. Croix Lutheran vs. Braham
8 p.m./ Jackson County Central vs. Annandale

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 566
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,796



Coach Is Stepping Down, But Not Quite Yet
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/9/2016 6:46:32 PM

Everyone in Red Wing knew how big Wednesday’s game at Williams Arena was. The Wingers boys basketball team has made it to the state tournament for the first time since 2004 and the first time under head coach Doug Toivonen.

Toivonen will step down from that position when this season ends. The journey will live on for two more games, thanks to Red Wing’s 73-51 victory over Simley on Wednesday. The Wingers will meet Fergus Falls in Thursday’s Class 3A semifinals at Target Center, and then will play in the state championship game or the third-place game.

Doug’s youngest child, Travis, is a senior on the team. Travis was one of four Wingers who scored in double figures Wednesday and he also had a game-high 13 rebounds.

I attended a game in Red Wing in early February and was not aware then that Toivonen (pictured) was resigning. After Wednesday’s game I asked him when he had made that announcement. Turns out he never really made an official announcement. The news just sort of came out.

“I really didn’t tell any of our guys,” he said. “I told my juniors probably about three or four weeks ago. Basically what I said was, ‘You guys all know I’m stepping down, right?’ They knew. It wasn’t a secret. I had talked to other coaches and they said, ‘Hey, is this your last year?’ I said yes. I don’t need to make a big announcement. I’m a high school basketball coach.”

He also said he won’t allow his impending resignation to get in the way of what has become a season to remember.

“This is about them,” he said, looking towards his players. “This is their senior year. I’m going to live in Red Wing for many, many years to come. This is their senior year and this is about them getting to enjoy the state tournament experience.

“One thing we talked about is if we come up here and lose the first game, we’re done. Let’s win that first game. And we did. Now you never know what’s going to happen. We’re just excited to move on and that was the biggest thing. We’ve guaranteed ourselves two more games.”

--In a surprise announcement after Fergus Falls defeated Waseca 70-63, Waseca coach Todd Dufault told his players that he was stepping down. Dufault, a Waseca graduate, brought the Bluejays to state for the first time since 2002. In five years he had a record of 91-47.

THE DYNASTY VS. THE NEWCOMER

One of Thursday’s Class 3A semifinal games will be an interesting matchup between what some might call David and Goliath. David is the team from Monticello, which came to state – for the first time in 10 years -- with a 19-10 record and No. 5 seed. Their opponent is top-seeded DeLaSalle (22-4), which is trying to become the first boys team in state history to win five consecutive championships.

DeLaSalle beat Fridley 65-52 Wednesday and Monticello defeated Chisago Lakes 60-55.

“Both teams are showing up tomorrow at the Target Center at noon for a showdown,” Monticello coach Jason Schmidt said. “Both teams want to win. I’ve said it a few times, we only have to beat them once. That’s the deal. Why not us? We’re excited for the opportunity. That’s why you’re here, the chance to have that storybook season.”

Islanders coach Dave Thorson, who needs to win two more games to reach the 500-victory mark, said his team is not under any pressure to extend their streak.

“There’s no question that this time we’ve talked about it more than we have in the past,” Thorson said. “It’s something that has never been done before in the state. There’s no way you can say we’re not thinking about it. We are. I wouldn’t call it pressure, I’d call it opportunity.

“We love the legacy and tradition of DeLaSalle. And for this team, and these seniors in particular, to write their own chapter in what we think is one of the best programs in state history would be really special.”

--Schmidt was a player on the first Monticello team to play in the state tournament in 1995. That gives him two perspectives on playing at state.

“The biggest difference is I’m actually on the court now,” he said with a laugh. “I was on the bench before. We had some pretty good players back then

“From a similarity standpoint, we’ve seen the community get behind us. It’s huge for the school. These kinds of things do so much for a community. They do things for other athletic programs, it’s a ripple effect. That’s what’s so cool for me, being a kid who grew up in Monticello, now getting to coach. Man, it’s really special. I didn’t realize how special it would be, but it’s really special.”

--Cooperation At State: While Hopkins was defeating North St. Paul 74-42 in the Class 4A tournament at Target Center, the Class 1A team from St. Clair was practicing in the Hopkins gym. The Cyclones will meet Minneapolis North in the quarterfinals Thursday at Williams Arena.

--History at State: For the first time, a female official was assigned to work a game in the boys state basketball tournament. M.J. Wagenson, a veteran official from Pine Island, was one of the three officials for the Fergus Falls-Waseca game.

WEDNESDAY’S STATE QUARTERFINALS

CLASS 4A
--Osseo 85, Eden Prairie 73
--Lakeville North 60, Maple Grove 49
--Hopkins 74, North St. Paul 42
--Apple Valley 77, Blaine 57

CLASS 3A
--DeLaSalle 65, Fridley 52
--Monticello 60, Chisago Lakes 55
--Red Wing 73, Simley 51
--Fergus Falls 70, Waseca 63

CLASS 2A
--St. Croix Lutheran 86, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 51
--Jackson County Central 79, Caledonia 74
--Annandale 52, Esko 40
--Braham 67, Maple River 58

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 556
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,752
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Counting Down To The End Of A Long Streak
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/5/2016 7:55:59 PM

The gold medals, the championship trophy, the triumphant team photo with index fingers raised? They were all yet to come for the Hermantown Hawks on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.

The opening phase of the Hawks’ long-awaited championship celebration took place directly behind the Hermantown bench. The Hawks held a 5-0 lead over Breck and a small band of elementary-age boys swung into concerted action as the final 30 seconds counted down.

“30! 29! 28!” The kids, dressed in Hermantown blue and gold, waving signs, kept counting. “27! 26! 25!”

There was a stoppage at 13 seconds, giving the countdown team time to catch their breath. During those final 13 ticks, everyone on the Hermantown bench did what you would expect. They went nuts. After losing in six consecutive state championship games, they had every right to.

The horn blew, the players on the bench flew over the boards and everyone piled on goaltender Luke Olson, who pitched a shutout against a talented Breck team that won its two previous state tournament games by a combined score of 12-0.

And then there was Bruce Plante. He’s the face of Hermantown hockey, and for six years running his face had been a little droopy when the tournament ended.

His assistant coaches surrounded him on the bench in a long embrace that said everything.

Finally. We won it.

Plante walked onto the ice and his players hugged him. During the awards ceremony, a gold medal was hung around his neck and he stuck out his tongue and grinned as the Hawks fan cheered for him. As the team gathered for a photo, Bruce used a cell phone to snap a few shots before joining the group.

“It’s wonderful,” he said afterwards. “Probably one of the greatest moments of my hockey life, to tell you the truth.”

People sometimes forget that Plante led Hermantown to the 1A state title in 2007. But everybody seems to remember that the Hawks lost championship games in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Yes, the Hawks had five goals against the brick Breck wall (three in the first period). But not allowing the Mustangs to score was maybe the biggest surprise of the day.

Olson seemed almost as surprised as anybody else.

“Our guys were blocking every shot possible,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Defenseman Wyatt Aamodt, who assisted on goals by Cole Koepke and James Lindberg, said of Olson, “It was huge for us knowing we could count on him back there.”

Plante said he sensed something was different this time, well before game time. He knew the losing streak motivated them.

“They weren’t even nervous. They were going to get it. They were so determined. I could see it in their faces, I could see it in their eyes, I could see it in the locker room. … There was no fear at all. I just love how they presented themselves in this game.”

The Hawks went right to work, with goals by Koepke, Jesse Jacques and Lindberg making it a 3-0 game after one period. During Hermantown's six-year title-game streak, they had led 3-0 in the first period only once; they led St. Thomas Academy 3-0 at that point in 2011 and lost 5-4 in overtime.

History went out the window when Logan Judnick scored for a 4-0 lead at 7:03 of the third period. That was the first time in seven straight state title games that Hermantown held a 4-0 lead. The rewriting of the history book was complete when Ryan Sandelin scored at 14:50.

Breck had 23 shots on goal to 18 for the Hawks. The Mustangs went zero-for-three on the power play while Hermantown only had one power play.

“We thought there would be some chinks in the (Hermantown) armor. And I think every team has that,” said Breck coach Les Larson. “We just couldn’t capitalize. That doesn’t happen to us very often. … They were just the better team today.”

Plante said he had been receiving texts and emails from lots of former players, and not just those who were part of the last six teams.

“Guys who played 20, 25 years ago have been texting me,” he said. “They’re still Hermantown at heart.

“It’s nice to get it behind us.”

CLASS 2A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Wayzata 5, Eden Prairie 3/ The third-seeded Trojans scored four unanswered goals, including the clincher by Logan Lindstrand with 11:25 remaining. After top-seeded Eden Prairie built a 3-1 lead in the second period on goals by Michael Graham and Jarod Blackowiak, the Trojans rallied. Billy Duma scored a short-handed goal late in the period and Matt Nelson added another with 1:10 left in the second. Wayzata opened the scoring on a goal by Jackson Carlson early in the first period. Five minutes later, the Eagles answered on a goal by Casey Mittelstadt.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

Class 1A/ Brendan Bushy, Ethan Johnson, Thief River Falls; Chase Ellingson, Justin Paulson, Linden Olness, William Blake, Breck; Cole Koepke, Eric Gotz, Jesse Jacques, Luke Olson, Ryan Sandelin, Wyatt Aamodt, Hermantown.

Class 2A/ Class 2A/ Matt Fitzgerald, Nick Leitner, Alex Pollock, Bemidji; Alex Adams, Micah Miller, Grand Rapids; Jackson Cates, Stillwater; Casey Mittelstadt, Michael Graham, Nicky Leivermann, Eden Prairie; Alex Schilling, Grant Anderson, Hank Sorensen, Wayzata.

THIRD-PLACE GAMES

Class 1A/ Thief River Falls 4, St. Paul Academy 1
Class 2A/ Grand Rapids 3, Stillwater 2

FIFTH-PLACE GAMES

Class 1A/ St. Cloud Cathedral 4, Mankato West 2
Class 2A/ Bemidji 4, Farmington 1

CONGRATS TO BOYS STATE SWIM/DIVE CHAMPS

Class 1A/ St. Thomas Academy won the state title, followed by Breck/Blake and Simley in the top three. St. Thomas Academy's Warren Sexson set meet records in the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle and was a member of the Cadets' record-setting 400 freestyle relay team. Red Wing's Hunter Connelly set a meet record in the 100 backstroke.

2A/ Eden Prairie won the team title, followed by Minnetonka, Eagan and Prior Lake. Eden Prairie set a record in the 200 medley relay, as did the Eagles’ Joshua Withers (100 butterfly) and Griffin Back (100 freestyle). Minnetonka’s Corey Lau set a record in the 100 breaststroke.

BOYS STATE BASKETBALL IS NEXT

The boys state basketball tournament will be held Wednesday through Saturday at Target Center and Williams Arena. The seeds and pairings in three classes were set Saturday; Class 1A seeds and pairings will be finalized Sunday (because one Class 1A section title game was played Saturday).
Here’s what we know…

CLASS 4A
#1 seed Osseo vs. Eden Prairie
#4 seed Maple Grove vs. #5 seed Lakeville North
#2 seed Hopkins vs. North St. Paul
#3 seed Apple Valley vs. Blaine

CLASS 3A
#1 seed DeLaSalle vs. Fridley
#4 seed Chisago Lakes vs. #5 seed Monticello
#2 seed Red Wing vs. Simley
#3 seed Fergus Falls vs. Waseca

CLASS 2A
#1 seed St. Croix Lutheran vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
#4 seed Braham vs. #5 seed Maple River
#2 seed Caledonia vs. Jackson County Central
#3 seed Esko vs. Annandale

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 546
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,700
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Will The Seventh Time Be The Charm For Hermantown?
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/4/2016 10:39:13 PM

Say the words “Hermantown” and “hockey” and you’re likely to get a passionate response that could go one of two ways. The first is definitive: “Boy, they sure play some good hockey up there.” The second is definitively sillier: “Boy, they need to be forced to move up to Class 2A.”

That second theme is being heard once more as we await Saturday’s Class 1A boys hockey state championship game. Hermantown, which has lost that game for the last six years in a row, will meet Breck at noon at Xcel Energy Center. The Hawks (26-2-1) are seeded No. 1 and Breck (26-3-1) is No. 2.

So here we are, all eyes again on Hermantown and coach Bruce Plante (pictured). He joined the 500-victory club this season and is one of the seasoned greats of his profession. In 27 years he has a record of 513-196-22. He has seen a lot, and he sure would like to see his boys win their school’s first state hockey title since 2007.

One year ago, after Hermantown lost to East Grand Forks 5-4 in overtime in the title game, Plante said, “It’s not fun. I just don’t get it. It’s weird to me. The hockey gods didn’t work in our favor again. We had all kinds of chances to win this game.”

There were no surprises when Plante met with the media after Friday’s 7-1 semifinal victory over St. Paul Academy. It took about three preliminary questions before the Big One was broached: “How do you feel about this streak?”

“It’s pretty hard to block that out,” Plante said. “It’s on our resume, our legacy at Hermantown.”

Last year, Plante talked about “guys in the locker room bawling their eyes out.” He adjusted his strategy this time and has openly talked with the players about ending the streak.

“We’re trying something different and we hope we get some luck,” he said. “The message is, ‘We’ve got to get this thing off our back. We’ve got to get rid of it, it’s getting heavy.”

Plante said he hears about the championship-game streak everywhere he goes, all year round.

“I’ll go to Walmart and some guy 80 years old says, ‘When are you gonna win that thing?’ I go fishing or go to my duck blind and get away from it.”

The Hermantown players certainly know the story. And their goal is to rewrite the ending this time.

“We’re all excited to play tomorrow and hopefully get that off our backs,” said Cole Koepke. Ryan Sandelin added, “We wanted to get back to that game and break our streak. Now we’re here. We’ve just got to go out and play hard.”

Plante addressed the plea by some – especially hockey experts on Twitter, judging by what I see – that the Hawks have dominated 1A and should opt up to 2A. He turned that equation upside down, saying that some teams that have made the decision to opt up to 2A would be better served in 1A.

“I’ve been saying that for years,” Plante said. “Some of the teams that are in Double A and are A size, they’re just average. Maybe some of them should come down. It would be good for us.

“We get a lot of pressure to move up. It’s the same old thing.”

He didn’t rule it out, either, on the condition that his program someday has the kind of depth that teams from much larger schools often have.

“That could happen. I guess we’ve gotta win one of these to maybe take a look at it. Are we ready? Should we go? I guess we’ll just see.”

Yes, let’s see what happens.

ATTENDANCE RECORD

A total of 22, 244 tickets were sold for Friday evening’s Class 2A state semifinal doubleheader. That set a new record for any session of the state hockey tournament. The previous record was 19,547 for the Friday night session in 2008.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Thief River Falls coach Tim Bergland after the Prowlers’ 4-0 loss to Breck: “We needed that first goal and we never did get it.”

MY FAVORITE NICKNAMES OF THE HOCKEY TOURNAMENT
1. Thief River Falls Prowlers
2. Bemidji Lumberjacks
3. Stillwater Ponies
4. Litchfield Dragons
5. Burnsville Blaze

CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS

BRECK 4, THIEF RIVER FALLS 0

Tyler Scott’s two goals helped propel the second-seeded Mustangs (26-3-1) into the championship game for the first time since they won back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. Breck held a 43-18 advantage in shots on goal over the Prowlers (23-7)

HERMANTOWN 7, ST. PAUL ACADEMY 1

The top-seeded Hawks (26-2-1) advanced to the title game for the sixth year in a row. They will meet Breck on Saturday; Hermantown’s title-game streak began with a 2-1 loss to the Mustangs in 2010. Ryan Sandelin scored two goals as the Hawks held a shots-on-goal edge of 35-20 over the Spartans (24-6).

CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS

WAYZATA 2, STILLWATER 1

In one of the most evenly matched games of the tournament, the third-seeded Trojans held off the second-seeded Ponies to advance to the title game. Wayzata (21-8-1) scored first on a goal by Logan Lindstrand in the first period and the score remained 1-0 until Griffin Ness scored in the final minutes of the second period for a 2-0 lead. Jackson Cates got Stillwater (27-2-1) on the board with one minute left in regulation and the game ended with Wayzata goaltender Alex Schilling covering the puck in the crease.

EDEN PRAIRIE 6, GRAND RAPIDS 2

Casey Mittelstadt had a hat trick and Cole Lawrence scored twice as the Eagles moved into the title game..

CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY SCHEDULE
Class 1A: Breck vs. Hermantown, noon
Class 2A: Wayzata vs. Eden Prairie, 7 p.m.

BOYS BASKETBALL UPDATE

All but one of the section tournaments wrapped up Friday and the teams have been nearly finalized for next week’s boys state basketball action. Here are the teams…

CLASS 1A: Goodhue, Central Minnesota Christian, St. Clair, Red Lake, Lake Park-Audubon, Browerville/Eagle Valley, Minneapolis North, Mountain Iron-Buhl or North Woods (they play Saturday),

CLASS 2A: Caledonia, Braham, Esko, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Jackson County Central, Annandale, St. Croix Lutheran, Maple River.

CLASS 3A: Waseca, Simley, Fridley, Monticello, DeLaSalle, Chisago Lakes, Fergus Falls, Red Wing.

CLASS 4A: Apple Valley, North St. Paul, Hopkins, Blaine, Maple Grove, Lakeville North, Osseo, Eden Prairie.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 546
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,658
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



It’s A Game, And Having Fun Is Always Important
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/3/2016 8:40:14 PM

Sometimes, in the midst of competition, it can be easy to lose our way. We all want our favorite teams to win, of course, but there is much more to this world of high school sports than wins and losses.

I witnessed a shining example of this principle behind the scenes Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. The Stillwater Ponies held a 2-0 lead over the Farmington Tigers after two periods in the Class 2A boys state hockey tournament. As the Ponies left the locker room, the coaching staff stood in a line, offering high fives and words of encouragement to each one.

After the players had passed by and stepped on the ice, something cool happened. Head coach Matt Doman (pictured at the postgame press conference) and his assistants looked at each other, smiled, laughed and performed what can best be described as a four-man leaping chest bump.

It was glorious.

“It’s a game,” Doman said after the Ponies defeated Farmington 4-1. “And I think it’s easy sometimes to forget that, especially when you’re on a big stage and there are things that are important to everybody.”

Great point. Winning at the state tournament is an important matter, especially to the Stillwater fans who were among the crowd of 18,165 that was in the building for Thursday’s first session.

The Stillwater coaches have been performing their private off-ice ritual all season and they sure weren’t going to stop doing so in the midst of a game at state. That sense of “let’s have fun” flows from the coaches to the players, too.

“I’m passionate about the game, I’m passionate about these kids,” said Doman, 36, who is in his third year as the Stillwater head coach. “I hope that comes through to them.”

As Matt and I stood in a corridor, he began talking about one of his players who suffered an injury in the game. After junior T.J. Sagissor was hurt, he spent the rest of the game sitting on the bench with ice on an ankle. Between periods, he was the last one out of the locker room, hobbling back to the bench.

“We had a kid get hurt today and I’m broken up because I know how hard he’s worked,” Doman said, becoming emotional. “This might be his only opportunity to play in this tournament. So it’s a little disappointing and it’s emotional for all of us right now.

“But we’ve got such good kids and it’s a real pleasure to be a part of this.”

Postscript: T.J. had X-rays after the game and was deemed good to go for Friday’s semifinals against Wayzata.

SENDING HOCKEY LOVE FROM GERMANY

The state hockey tournament is certainly a huge deal in Minnesota, but sometimes we forget that the appeal of the event can be worldwide.

Twitter lights up during the tournament (examples came from viewers in places like Maine and Washington state), but the Tweet that stood out from the rest on Thursday was a photo of several smiling fans and this message: “Up late streaming high school hockey in Grafing, Germany.”

Amazing.

AND THE HAIR, OH MY THE HAIR

One of the post-tournament traditions that has taken off in recent years is the online release of the All Hockey Hair Team. The anonymous creator of the videos records the pregame introductions of each team, picks out the greatest examples of hairstyle wizardry, adds hilarious commentary and puts them online. They are a hoot.

Hockey fans at Xcel Energy Center, knowing all about the All Hockey Hair Teams, pay close attention to the giant scoreboard above the ice when the players are introduced. There is cheering and applause for deserving players, and outright laughter at some of the tonsorial splendors. (Pictured here are several examples from the Hermantown players.)

HOCKEY QUOTE OF THE YEAR

I was in Grand Rapids in January when the Thunderhawks played host to Duluth East in a regular-season game. The grand old IRA Civic Center was filled to the rafters as the hometown team defeated East 4-3 in overtime. The result was similar in the Section 7 championship game last week in Duluth, with Grand Rapids winning 6-5.

Trent Klatt is in his first year coaching the Thunderhawks, but he is well-versed in the game. He was named Mr. Hockey in 1989 after a spectacular high school career at Osseo, he played three years for the University of Minnesota and spent 13 years in the NHL.

As Klatt and I chatted before that game in Grand Rapids, he said, “I’m smart enough to know I’m stupid; I’m not stupid enough to think I’m smart.”

STILLWATER 4, FARMINGTON 1

The Cates brothers – senior Jackson and junior Noah – combined for five points as the second-seeded Ponies (27-1-1) moved to the semifinals. Jackson scored two goals and Noah had one goal and two assists. Erik Holmstrom scored for the Tigers (18-9-1) late in the third period.

WAYZATA 3, BURNSVILLE 1

Mark Senden, Luke Patterson and Dillion Ryan scored for the third-seeded Trojans (20-8-1), who will face Stillwater in Friday’s semifinals. Cade Borchardt scored for Burnsville (16-11-2).

EDEN PRAIRIE 7, ANOKA 3

Nicky Leivermann scored two goals for the Eagles (20-7-2), who outshot the Tornadoes 39-15. Michael Talbot had a hat trick for Anoka (18-10).

GRAND RAPIDS 3, BEMIDJI 2 (OT)

With two minutes, six seconds gone in overtime, Alex Adams scored as the Thunderhawks (22-6-1) held off the Lumberjacks in one of the best games in recent tournament memory.

FRIDAY SCHEDULE

CLASS 1A SEMIFINALS
--Breck vs. Thief River Falls, 11 a.m.
--Hermantown vs. St. Paul Academy, 30 minutes after end of first game

CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS
--Stillwater vs. Wayzata, 6 p.m.
--Eden Prairie vs. Grand Rapids, 30 minutes after end of first game

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 546
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,616
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



18 Years Later, A Family’s Hockey Dream Comes True
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/2/2016 5:06:52 PM

Cole Heinemann has no memory of the day his father boldly predicted that Cole would play in the state hockey tournament. But then again, Cole was only about 45 minutes old at the time.

Wednesday – 18 years later almost to the day -- Cole and his Princeton teammates were on the ice at Xcel Energy Center, playing in the Class 1A state tourney.

As his father Doug said, “It is a cool story. It’s a funny story, but it’s true.”

It was 1998, and like every other year Doug was at the St. Paul Civic Center with some buddies, watching the state hockey tournament. His wife Jill was nine months pregnant, but she wasn’t rattled. Their son Cody had been born four years earlier and Jill was fine with Doug leaving home to watch hockey.

“I could tell I was going into labor but it was my second child and there wasn’t any panic,” Jill said.

But the panic arrived. After she went into labor, her sister drove her to Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids. Cell phones were relatively new at the time and Doug had a big bag phone that he kept in his car.

Between periods of a quarterfinal game between Roseau and Edina, Doug thought he better check in with Jill. Easier said than done.

“I got in line for the pay phones and the line was about 10 deep,” he said. “Finally I checked my voicemail and there were four messages. The first one said, ‘I’m having contractions.’ The second one said, ‘I’m going to the hospital.’ The third one was from Jill’s sister and she said, ‘We’re going.’ The fourth one said, ‘You better get here quick!’ ”

After he got off the phone, Doug was told by his friends that he was being paged in the arena; nurses at the hospital were also trying to track him down. He jumped in his car and raced to Coon Rapids. When he arrived, little Cole was wrapped in a blanket, waiting to meet his dad.

Jill remembers the scene.

“Doug grabbed him, the TV was on (showing the state tournament), he held him up to the TV and said, ‘You’re going to be there in about 16 years.’ ”

The Roseau-Edina game was still being played; Doug still remembers the score (“Roseau won 4-3 in overtime”).

In a family tradition, Doug took Cody and Cole to the state tournament every year when they were growing up. He has had season tickets to the Class 2A tournament since he was in middle school in the late 1970s. Cody is now a student at Bemidji State and joined the family Wednesday at Xcel Energy Center.

Cole, a senior forward, had three of the unseeded Tigers’ 23 shots on goal in a 6-1 loss to third-seeded Thief River Falls. Like his teammates, he was disappointed with the outcome but thrilled at the opportunity to finally play in the state tournament; Princeton had not done so since 2003.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “Even though we lost I love every guy in the locker room who I connect with and I’m great friends with. I’ve been playing for 14 years, and this group of guys all stayed together in Princeton. I can’t ask for better teammates.”

Here’s another twist: Cole was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was eight years old. The tumor was removed and he returned to the ice in just a few weeks. He’ll take medication for the rest of his life, but that’s a small matter.

“He’s doing great, obviously,” Jill said. “We’re so lucky to have him and have him playing.”

Cole’s dad said, “He’s really a tough kid, very mentally tough. At one point we were thinking, ‘Geez, we might lose him.’ ” (Pictured are Doug with Cody and Cole.)

Doug’s prediction for Cole’s trip to state was off by a couple of years. The Tigers lost the section championship game two years ago, when he was 16.

“That was the moment we thought, ‘This was what you predicted,’ ” Jill said. “Two years later here we are, with his 18th birthday on Saturday. It’s so exciting.”

As Cole put it, “We knew my dad’s dream was going to come true.”

THIEF RIVER FALLS 6, PRINCETON 1

Ethan Johnson had a hat trick as the Prowlers (23-6) advanced to the semifinals by defeating the Tigers (21-8). Thief River Falls will meet Breck on Friday at 11 a.m.

BRECK 8, MANKATO WEST 0

William Blake and Chase Ellingson had hat tricks as the second-seeded Mustangs defeated the Scarlets. Blake’s three goals all came in the second period, and Breck held a 5-0 lead when that period ended. The Mustangs (25-3-1) had 35 shots on goal to 17 for the Scarlets (15-12-2).

HERMANTOWN 11, LITCHFIELD/DASSEL-COKATO 3

Cole Koepke scored four goals as the top-seeded Hawks (25-2-1) advanced to the semifinals. David Raisanen had two goals for the Dragons (20-9).

ST. PAUL ACADEMY 4, ST. CLOUD CATHEDRAL 2

Devlin McCabe scored two goals, including the game-winner with 5:05 remaining in the third period, as the Spartans (24-5) defeated the Crusaders (20-8-1) to advance to Friday’s semifinals vs. Hermantown. Logan Neu scored both goals for Cathedral.

CLASS 2A TOURNAMENT

Class 2A quarterfinals will be played Thursday. Here’s the schedule

--Farmington (18-8-1) vs. #2 seed Stillwater (26-1-1), 11 a.m.

--Burnsville (16-10-2) vs. #3 seed Wayzata (19-8-1), 30 minutes after conclusion of 11 a.m. game

--Anoka (18-9) vs. #1 seed Eden Prairie (19-7-2), 6 p.m.

--#5 seed Bemidji (23-2-2) vs. #4 seed Grand Rapids (21-6-1), 30 minutes after conclusion of 6 p.m. game

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 538
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,574
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Eugene “Lefty” Wright Named To National High School Hall of Fame
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/1/2016 11:07:49 AM

Twelve individuals have been named to the 2016 class of the National High School Hall of Fame, and a Minnesotan is among them. Eugene “Lefty” Wright had a profound impact on track and field and cross-country – as a coach and official at the state and national levels – for more than 50 years before his death last year at the age of 79.

Wright was meet director of the MSHSL state cross-country championship for 46 years and was the lead official at the MSHSL state track and field meet for 22 years. He was the MSHSL rules clinician for both sports for 46 years and developed a procedure to minimize disqualifications by creating a form that was adopted in national rules. Wright coached track and field and cross-country at St. Louis Park High School from 1958 to 1969, winning four state track titles and one state cross-country championship.

Other National High School Hall of Fame inductees include Steve Spurrier, a three-sport standout at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tennessee, before a highly successful collegiate career as a player and coach, and Marlin Briscoe, an outstanding football and basketball player at Omaha (Nebraska) South High School who became the first African-American starting quarterback in the National Football League.

The National High School Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held July 2 at the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada, as the closing event of the 97th annual Summer Meeting of the National Federation of State High School Assocations.

Lefty was inducted into the MSHSL Hall of Fame in 2011. I wrote about him after his death in October, and here is that story…

The track and cross-country community lost a very special friend when MSHSL Hall of Fame member Eugene “Lefty” Wright died at 11:55 p.m. Monday. He was 79 years old and had been dealing with cancer for a lengthy period of time.

Lefty was a bridge from the 1950s to current times in athletics. As a young coach at St. Louis Park High School, he took his cross-country teams to Duluth for competitions via train from the Twin Cities and then a Duluth city bus to the golf course where racing was held. He later became Minnesota’s leading meet official for track and cross-country, creating innovative new methods to plan and hold competitions.

“He was a genius. He was an innovator,” said Scott Stallman, who was coached by Wright at St. Louis Park in the 1960s, became a teacher and coach and now works as a race official.

Wright graduated from St. Louis Park in 1953. He competed in track and hockey for the Orioles, playing in the 1953 state hockey tournament. After graduating from Macalester College in 1957 he returned to St. Louis Park as a teacher and assistant track and cross-country coach under Roy Griak. He worked at St. Louis Park as a teacher, coach and administrator until 1993.

He was an assistant under Griak for five years, becoming head coach in 1963 when Griak was hired at the University of Minnesota. Griak died earlier this year at 91 and a few weeks ago Lefty was named a charter member of the Roy Griak Invitational Hall of Fame.

“He was a second father figure for me,” Wright said of Griak. “He taught me a lot about organization and about handling young athletes.”

Wright, who was inducted into the MSHSL Hall of Fame in 2011, worked as a meet official at 47 MSHSL cross-country state championships and 46 MSHSL state track meets, including 23 as a starter. He also worked as an official at numerous Big Ten and NCAA events.

Lefty and his wife Nancy, parents of two children, celebrated 57 years of marriage in August.

Dan Dornfeld, who was coached by Wright in high school and also became a teacher, coach and official, remembers a turning point in Lefty’s early career.

“There was an incident during his coaching time when one of his athletes was shorted in a race. He was one of the top runners in the state at that point but was put in lane one, which was a terrible lane on a sand track. It was really a disadvantage, and that became Lefty’s charge. He took on the mantra that we have to do things that are right for athletes. That’s when he really got involved in officiating.

“Anything he’s done for the sport has always been to make the event better for the athlete. He said, ‘Let’s make sure that the student-athlete has the advantage here.’ ”
Stallman said, “He was meticulous about every detail. In his coaching days there was never anything ruled out or taken as chance. Everything was coached to the finest detail, in terms of everything from how to run a cross-country or track meet to bookkeeping to all those kinds of things.”

In the days before electronic timing, cross-country runners were herded into a single chute after finishing to maintain their order of finish. Wright invented the “swing rope,” using a movable rope to create a second chute when the first one was filled with runners.

“Nobody had heard of that until Lefty came up with the idea,” Stallman said. “It’s little things like that that make the quality of a meet better.”

In cross-country, Wright invented a three-meter stick, which was simply three one-meter lengths of boards hinged together. It was used to measure the exact width of starting boxes as well as the distance between the starting line back to the second line; runners move up to the starting line when instructed by the starter.

He also improved the use of lane dividers at cross-country starting lines, color-coding them to specify whether they were for teams or individuals.

“That was part of his attention to detail,” Dornfeld said. “As a result, you saw that better things just happened. He managed things so well that it looks like there’s never any effort given. It’s smooth, effortless. That’s Lefty.

“The other part was that the man was always the calm one. I don’t think I ever saw him in a group meeting get frustrated at all. He would always maintain that calm, that coolness that you need. He was not a guy who gets rattled.

“What a legacy,” Dornfeld said. “He really has trained many, many people for how that works and what needs to happen.

“Everybody’s been trained the Wright way.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 530
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 8,532
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



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