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Miles And Memories: The Best Of John’s Journal From 2014-15
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/24/2015 1:59:28 PM

Eleven and a half thousand miles. When I look back on the past year of John’s Journal stories, all those miles (11,543 to be exact) I drove on Minnesota roads while traveling to and from schools, games and other events are a big blur. The best memories, however, flow from what happened when I wasn’t behind the wheel. I visited small-town gyms and mega-school fields. I spent time in towns where the skyline consists of grain elevators and church steeples; I attended events where the office towers of downtown Minneapolis provided a backdrop. And everywhere I went, there was a new story to tell.

In what has become an annual tradition, I have looked through the past 12 months of John’s Journal stories and settled on my personal 10 favorites. I posted more than a hundred stories during the year, and my initial screening whittled that list to 26 candidates for the top 10. In other words, coming up with 10 was extremely difficult. But here they are…

NUMBER 10/ Jarvis Johnson Died Four Years Ago; You Should See Him Now (Dec. 12)

Jarvis was a member of four Class 3A basketball state championship teams at DeLaSalle. He collapsed at basketball practice as an eighth-grader and was clinically dead for between seven and 12 minutes. The story of how he came back to life is amazing, and the fact that he is one of the top athletes in Minnesota – with a surgically inserted defibrillator keeping watch on his heart -- adds another incredible layer to the story of a young man who is a walking miracle.

NUMBER 9/ Cymbals Of Excellence, Energy And Fun (Feb.19)

This was a story from the girls state hockey tournament, but the subject was someone off the ice: Anna Albitz, who played the cymbals in the Edina band. I wrote: Anna is a senior and one of six cymbals players in the band. She loves the cymbals because clanging those two big discs against each other and twirling them around while boogying is just too much fun.

“Anna is an amazing kid,” said Edina band director Andy Richter. “She is full of energy and life and she just exudes the epitome of a band student.”

NUMBER 8/ Same Nickname, Same Colors And Teacher vs. Student (March 17)

There was an intriguing matchup of coaches in the Class 3A girls state basketball tournament. Third-year Princeton coach Andy Fenske, 27, is a 2006 graduate of Marshall, where girls basketball coach Dan Westby was his physical education and health teacher in seventh and eighth grade. One of the hurdles for Fenske was what to call Westby, 55.

“No way can I ever call him Dan,” Fenske said with a laugh. “Maybe Mr. Westby, out of sheer respect.”

NUMBER 7/ End Of An Era As Fairmont Speech Coaches Bow Out (April 17)

The 2015 state speech tournament was the final one for Fairmont husband-and-wife coaches Cliff and Roxy Janke. Cliff coached speech, taught vocal music and directed school musicals for 31 years before retiring from teaching in 2014, and for 15 years Roxy was a Fairmont English teacher and director of school plays as well as speech coach. She retired when the 2014-15 school year ended.

Roxy said, “Whether they’re at the state tournament or not, they have acquired some skills and they have acquired confidence and they have come into their own. And there’s not a better gift as a teacher than to see them blossom.”

NUMBER 6/ 40 Years Of Optimism And Baseball In Pine Island (April 24)

Pine Island baseball coach Craig Anderson has won more than 500 games during a 40-year coaching career. But wins and losses are secondary to Anderson’s main mission in coaching.

“We want to win but we have a bigger message,” he said. “And that’s, ‘Hey, come play hard, represent your community and your family with dignity.’ And if you do those things, then it’s a win no matter how the result comes out.”

NUMBER 5/ She Dances To The Music (Even Though She Can’t Hear It) (Dec. 18)

Erin Barrett, a junior at Roseville High School, is deaf and a member of the Raiders’ varsity high kick dance team. How does she do it? Through a combination of visual cues, practice, experience and the assistance of a sign-language interpreter. It is not easy, even if Erin makes it look easy.

“Sometimes I feel like she can hear because she always gets it,” said coach Brittany Rehling. “It’s super amazing.”

NUMBER 4/ Nicollet: Football, Food And A Room With A View (Oct. 22)

Schmidts and George’s City Meats & Sausage Shop are two of Nicollet’s best-known businesses, with jerky, beef sticks, sausage, bacon, bratwurst and other delicacies being sold to locals as well as customers far and wide. Some of the Raiders players are employed at the meat shops, which leads us to something else Nicollet is famous for: football.

NUMBER 3/ Seeing Is Believing: The Amazing Courtney Durant (Feb. 21)

Courtney Durant, a senior gymnast and team captain at Cambridge-Isanti, sees about 20 percent of what others see. She has ocular albinism, meaning her retinas are whiter than normal and cause white spots in her vision. She also has astigmatism and nystagmus. Just think about that: run at full speed, leap off a springboard, hit the vault mat with your hands, spin, twist, stick the landing … with 80 percent less vision than other gymnasts.

NUMBER 2/ On “Play For Nat” Night, Communities Come Together In Fun, Support (Sept. 15)

Natalie Hildebrandt, a sophomore volleyball player at Kenyon-Wanamingo, was given a clean bill of health after two years of a knock-down, drag-out fight with cancer. There was a celebration that will be remembered forever by those who packed the gym.

There were smiles. And a tailgate party. And a silent auction. And smiles. C-squad, JV and varsity volleyball between the Kenyon-Wanamingo Knights and the Cannon Falls Bombers. And smiles. Money was raised, including a “Dash for Cash” through the stands by head coaches Jen Nerision of K-W and Melissa Huseth of Cannon Falls, who are sisters. There was a tug-of-war between the football teams from the two schools. Oh, and did I mention the smiles?

“It’s overwhelming,” Natalie said.

NUMBER 1/ Victory Day In Grand Rapids: Football And Big Smiles (Oct. 16)

Eric Soderberg, starting senior quarterback for the Grand Rapids football team, was leading a group of QBs in drills at Noble Hall Field. The athletes each took a snap and navigated several cones while running with the ball. At the end of the drill, Soderberg and the other QBs gathered together in a tight huddle, each put one hand up in the middle of the pack and Soderberg said, “QBs on 3!” They all hollered, “One! Two! Three! QBs!!”

It was absolute magic. These weren’t the other high school quarterbacks; these were cognitively and physically impaired children from Itasca County who had been invited to the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks’ first Victory Day event.

Sixteen kids – some in wheelchairs or walkers -- joined the football team and one young lady spent her morning with the cheerleaders, who performed routines and kept the enthusiasm high. Members of the Thunderhawks marching band provided the school song and other tunes, and longtime Thunderhawks public-address announcer Roy Tovionen provided play-by-play from his perch in the press box.

Coach Greg Spahn said, “It’s just so much fun to have our players see the impact they have and give back to some of these kids who aren’t able to experience football.”

Here’s how senior Levi How described the day: “I love it. If there’s one kid smiling today, it makes the whole day worth it.”



Why We Play? Cathedral’s Bob Karn Knows The Answer
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/15/2015 8:32:50 PM

An initiative called Why We Play has become very popular, spreading from MSHSL headquarters to schools around Minnesota and on to other parts of the country. The premise is straightforward: Sports should be a fun experience that allows students to experience life lessons and growth.

Bob Karn could be a spokesman for Why We Play, and Bob has been around much, much longer. He is 73 years old and has been the baseball coach at St. Cloud Cathedral for 45 years. His Crusaders won their second consecutive Class 2A state championship Saturday at Target Field and extended their winning streak to 50 games.

Everything Karn (pictured) said after his team’s 10-1 victory over Minnehaha Academy could be pulled right out of the Why We Playbook. He talked about having fun, kids being with their friends, sharing positive experiences and making memories that will last a lifetime.

“You need a lot of really good people, great kids who love to play baseball and who really care about each other,” he said. “You’re not going to win unless people want to be together and want to play day after day. And it’s still a game where you play. It’s kids playing.

“I think when ballplayers can maintain a playground mentality, where it’s fun to show up and play ball, where it’s fun to practice, to practice in the gym when there’s snow outside. And we had that kind of personality.”

Karn said his players are such good friends that sometimes he had to remind them to stop chatting with each other and begin practice.

“They would sit and talk and have fun with each other,” he said. “That’s part of the nature of the group and I’m just glad to be a part of that.”

Indeed, Karn said coaching baseball keeps him young. He has more career victories (736) than any high school baseball coach in Minnesota history, but he thinks a lot more about making sure the game remains enjoyable than any numbers in any record books.

“I get to feel like I’m 17 when I’m out here,” he said. “What could be greater than going to the ballpark, practicing baseball, just having fun, sitting in the dugout? Especially with kids who love to play and care about each other. That part never gets old. That always refreshes me as I get older. I feel a lot younger.”

Cathedral had 11 hits in the title game, and the last two batters in the order (Jacob Gross and Bryant Bohlig) combined to go 5-for-7 with two runs scored and six driven in. Brindley Theisen threw a complete-game four-hitter.

CLASS 1A: NEW LIFE ACADEMY REPEATS

New Life Academy also won back-to-back championships, defeating Springfield 6-5 in eight innings. Brad Goulet singled to drive in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. Sam Horner went 3-for-4 and Thomas Becken drove in two runs for the Eagles.

Springfield’s only previous appearance in a baseball state championship game came in 1948 when the Tigers lost to Chisholm 13-8.

“As it would be for any small town, it was a tremendous experience,” Springfield coach Bob Fink said of the season. “The town gets behind you, and there’s nothing like living in a small town. I think they’re heartbroken right now, but everyone’s proud of these kids because they’re great kids on and off the field.”

CLASS 3A: CHANHASSEN IS CHAMP

Chanhassen won its first baseball state title with a 2-0 victory over Lakeville North. Winning pitcher Jack Schnettler gave up only four hits in a 90-pitch effort.

The Storm scored both runs in the third inning. Jared Davidson and Nick Smith singled and scored on a single by Ty Danzer.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 664
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,543
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Hurry Up And Wait, Then Go Out And Win A Ballgame
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/13/2015 9:38:51 PM

Rain delays are a part of baseball. But there are rain delays and then there are nutty, crazy oh-can-you-believe-this rain delays. For example, between the time the Lakeville North baseball players got out of bed Saturday and the time the first pitch was thrown against Northfield, a flight from Minneapolis could have been on final approach in Amsterdam.

That flight time is more than eight hours and the Panthers waited nearly that long for their Class 3A state semifinal game to start at CHS Field in St. Paul. Originally the game was scheduled for noon, but on Friday the start time was moved to 10 a.m. because forecasts called for rain arriving in the afternoon.

The rain just laughed at that idea and arrived early; CHS Field was soaked Saturday morning. The North-Northfield game finally began at 1:21 p.m. … three hours, 21 minutes late. It ended with the Panthers defeating Northfield 5-3. They will meet Chanhassen in the state championship game Monday at Target Field.

The North players had all arrived at school by 6:45 a.m. to get in some early batting practice. They were at CHS Field by 8:30 and then the serious waiting began.

“We went to the batting cage a couple times,” said junior center fielder Drew Stewart, who had two hits and drove in one run. “Me and a couple other buddies on the team walked around the whole stadium, took pictures and everything, cracked jokes.

“We were all kind of a little tired. We were like, ‘Should we take a nap?’ But where were we going to take a nap at? It was actually pretty laid-back.”

Northfield scored the game’s first run when Caleb Malek tripled into the right field corner in the bottom of the first inning. Lakeville North scored three in the third; Nick Juaire drove in the first run with a double and Angelo Altaville hit a sacrifice fly and another run scored on a wild pitch.

The Panthers went ahead 4-1 in the fourth when Stewart doubled. Northfield scored two in the bottom of the fourth on a double by Adam Rodgers to make it 4-3. North took the 5-3 lead in the seventh when Mitch Frederick singled in a run.

For a bunch of sleepy teenagers, North pounded 10 hits and did not commit an error. Northfield had five hits and no errors.

“I don’t know that it does anything except makes me a little nervous,” Lakeville North coach Tony Market said of the long delay. “When you’ve got young guys and they start to run out of things to do. You can only call each other so many times from the bullpen. And then you prank call the other team. and eventually it can lead to things that are less than favorable. I thought they did a pretty good job. I thought they battled through that.”

Yes, there were prank phone calls from the bullpen.

North senior right fielder Kyle Rhodus admitted that there was “a little goofing around. There were definitely a lot of phone calls from the bullpen, taking some swings, jokes being passed around, keeping everybody loose and focused.

“With the weather it’s always difficult to keep people focused. We kind of have that mentality, where we’re going to go out and get it. That’s what kept us focused the whole time, no matter how long we were going to wait.”

--In the other Class 3A semifinal, Chanhassen defeated Armstrong 7-2 behind a four-RBI performance by designated hitter Jack Mattson. He hit a two-out, two-run double in the first inning, an RBI double in the third and a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

MONDAY’S STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

AT TARGET FIELD

--Class 1A, Noon/ New Life Academy vs. Springfield

--Class 2A, 3 p.m./ St. Cloud Cathedral vs. Minnehaha Academy

--Class 3A, 6 p.m./ Lakeville North vs. Chanhassen

STATE LACROSSE CHAMPIONSHIPS

Girls: Eden Prairie 14, Lakeville South 13 (two overtimes)

The Eden Prairie Eagles, who earned runner-up honors in 2014, claimed their third title by defeating Lakeville South. Kelly Wolfe scored the game-winner for the Eagles; it was her second goal of the game. Sammie Morton and Jessica Lagerquist each scored three goals for Eden Prairie, and Angie Heppelmann and Sara Woodring added two apiece.

Boys: White Bear Lake 12, Bloomington Jefferson 8

The Bears led 6-2 after the opening quarter and remained in control in handing the Jaguars their first loss of the season. It is the first state boys lacrosse championship for the Bears.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 664
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,495
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



He’s A Coach, He’s An Official, He Knows What It’s Like
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/12/2015 8:12:36 PM

JORDAN -- New Life Academy baseball coach Dave Darr isn’t known as someone who berates umpires or second-guesses their calls. That’s because during the fall and winter seasons, Darr is an MSHSL official for football and basketball games.

“I know what it’s like,” he said Friday after his top-seeded Eagles defeated Red Lake County 4-3 in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state baseball tournament. “They’re trying to get all the calls right, they’re working their butt off and the guys who are here deserve to be here.”

Darr, 37, is an outstanding example of the people who work as officials in all sports and activities. He was an athlete at Redwood Valley High School in Redwood Falls and played baseball at Southwest Minnesota State University. He officiated intramural sports in college and now is involved in high school sports three seasons every year. He has worked football games for eight years and basketball for 15.

“It’s fun. I wanted to stay in it,” he said. “I never played football. I like basketball, played it in high school on some good teams and wanted to stay in it. I had some mentors who were teachers and coaches of mine who talked me into doing some football. I really liked it, and basketball was the same thing, It’s how I made money in college; I did intramurals and summer stuff and really enjoyed it.

“We started to get more games, better games and went deeper into the playoffs. I do it with really good guys who have the same interests and it’s fun.”

Darr, who has officiated state tournament games in football and basketball, works as an elementary special education teacher in Woodbury. He and his wife Shelly have two young children.

“She’s a saint,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, she does a lot of single parenting during the spring; actually pretty much all year round with my officiating.

“There’s not a lot of down time for me. It’s go, go, go. Football is a little easier because I’m only gone once a week. Once basketball gets going I’m gone three, four nights a week and I probably should cut back. And the spring is pretty busy. So we enjoy the summers off. We take full advantage of that.”

Summer won’t begin for the Darrs until after the state baseball tournament. New Life will meet Brandon-Evansville in Saturday’s semifinals, and the winner will play in the state championship game Monday at Target Field. New Life is the defending Class 1A champion, winning the tournament last year in the school’s first trip to state.

In Friday’s victory over Red Lake Falls, Simon Killeen drove in three runs for New Life and Thomas Gunderson hit an RBI double in the fifth to drive home the winning run. Red Lake County's Tristan Knott hit a two-run homer in the first inning, with the ball bouncing off a moving car beyond the left field wall.

Before and after the game, Darr congratulated umpires Mark Buerke, Tim Litfin and Marshall Behrens.

“The more I’ve worked both football and basketball, I know most all of these umpires,” he said. “I knew two of the three today from working with them. I tell them they’re doing a good job and congratulate them on being here. I like it when guys do that to me. No one’s trying to get any calls wrong. Let them do their job.”

STATE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT

CLASS 1A QUARTERFINALS
New Life Academy 4, Red Lake County 3
Brandon-Evansville 5, Lewiston-Altura 0
Springfield 7, Kimball 6 (12)
New Ulm Cathedral 6, Deer River 1

CLASS 2A SEMIFINALS
St. Cloud Cathedral 5, Marshall 2
Minnehaha Academy 6, Rochester Lourdes 2

CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS
Northfield 3, Mounds View 2
Lakeville North 3, Anoka 0
Chanhassen 1, St. Michael-Albertville 0 (9)
Armstrong 2, Mahtomedi 1

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 660
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,450
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Youth Will Be Served At Class 1A Boys State Golf
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/10/2015 7:46:03 PM

BECKER – Brock Bliese of Mounds Park Academy and Ryan Pederson of United South Central both wore blue ribbons and gold medals after the Class 1A boys state golf tournament ended Wednesday. And if all goes well, they will be similarly adorned in the future.

Bliese is a ninth-grader who owns back-to-back state titles. Pederson is a junior who finished seventh at state last year and fifth two years ago. If experience in the big show means anything, we might hear their names again 365 days from now. (Pictured are Bliese, left, and Pederson.)

“I felt pretty good this morning,” said Bliese, who shot a two-under-par 70 in Tuesday’s first round and closed with a 76 Wednesday for a 146 total. “I thought last year I did a pretty good job handling my emotions and I thought if I could stay focused and stay calm I could do it again, maybe.”

Bliese had some doubt about his finish after his only three-putt of the tournament on the final green Wednesday. He would have been the sole medalist without that double-bogey, but he was glad to be a co-champion.

“First place is first place and it’s a great feeling,” he said.

Pederson went 74-72-146 after surviving some jitters on the first tee. He said that was “always really nerve-wracking” in previous tournaments.

“That’s what got me started off really bad the first couple years. This year I still had the juices flowing on the first hole but it was good.”

Senior Luke Berger of New Life Academy was third at 148, followed by senior Jordan Henry of Madelia (149). Seniors Adam Christensen of Murray Central and Brady Madson of MACCRAY were next at 151.

GIRLS RESULTS

--Class 1A/ Legacy Christian Academy captured a 22-stroke victory with a team total of 679. Fillmore Central was second at 701 and Minneota third at 706. Heritage Christian sophomore Kiera Smith was the individual champion with a two-day score of 76-77-153. Second was Legacy’s Kayla Ruf at 79-79-158.

--Class 2A/ Red Wing edged Detroit Lakes by three strokes to win the team title at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan. The Wingers had a 634 total and the Lakers finished at 637, followed by Pequot Lakes at 645. Detroit Lakes junior Kate Smith won her fourth state title and remains on track to become the state’s first five-time golf champion. Smith shot 68-69-137, followed by Minnewaska’s Jenna Jenu (68-71-139) and St. Croix Lutheran’s Emma Groom (73-71-144).

--Class 3A/ Edina won the team title with a total of 630, followed by Buffalo (657), Wayzata (665) and Winona (675). New Prague’s Taylor Ledwein was the individual gold medalist with a 73-76-149. Tied for second were Winona’s Abbe Partington (76-77-153) and Edina’s Hannah Hankinson (72-81-153)

BOYS RESULTS

--Class 1A/ Bliese helped Mounds Park Academy win the team title with a total score of 622. Mahnomen/Waubon was second at 634 and Murray County Central third at 642.

--Class 2A/ Mankato East and Blake tied for the team championship with scores of 602, followed by Holy Family (617) and St. Cloud Cathedral (627). The individual champion was Blake sophomore Reece Sanders, who shot 67-71-138, followed by Providence Academy sophomore Paul Stankey (74-68-142).

--Class 3A/ Wayzata was the team champion with a score of 607, followed by Edina (610) and Lakeville South (612). Moorhead senior Dane Sethre-Hofstad was the individual champ with a 74-69-143, followed by Owatonna senior Peter Jones (71-73-144).

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 652
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,400
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



A Boiling Start On A Hot And Humid Golf Course
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/9/2015 8:02:14 PM

JORDAN – Kate Smith knows all about playing championship golf. The junior from Detroit Lakes already owns three state championships in Class 2A and she will try to collect title No. 4 Wednesday at Ridges at Sand Creek.

There was a buzz around the golf course Tuesday as word quickly spread that Smith was tearing up the par-72 layout. She shot a six-under-par 30 on the front nine and birded the 10th hole to go seven under with eight holes to play on day one of the two-day tournament.

The roof didn’t exactly cave in … but hot, humid conditions took a toll on Smith (pictured) and everybody else in the boys and girls fields. She finished the round with a four-under 68, which gave her a share of the lead with Minnewaska senior Jenna Janu.

Those two held a five-shot edge over the next golfers on the board, seniors Sydney Busker of Detroit Lakes and Emma Groom of St. Croix Lutheran at 73.

The lowest 18-hole score by a girls state championship golfer was 67 by New Prague’s Kenzie Neisen in the 2014 3A tournament. Two other state champs have shot 68.

“Being 7-under through 10, I thought, ‘That’s impressive,’ ” Smith said. “I don’t know if it was the heat or what, but I just kind of ran out of oil. We haven’t played in this kind of heat all year.

“The big thing was my putting. I had barely any putts on the front and I had a lot on the back. I just need to keep that confidence up with the putter. I just need to stay positive.”

Smith carries her clubs while some golfers pull them. She said she used a pull-cart for nine holes over the weekend, but she prefers to sling the bag over her shoulders.

“It’s easier (to pull) but there’s just a rhythm to carrying them for me,” she said with a smile. “And I’m stubborn, that’s pretty much the rest of it.”

Like all golfers in the 2A tournament, as well as the 3A championships at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids and 1A at Pebble Creek in Becker, Smith said her evening plans didn’t include much more than a shower and lots of rest.

“We’ll clean up, we’re a mess,” she said. “We’ll eat and sleep. I’m sure we’re all exhausted.”

--All three state golf tournaments will conclude Wednesday. Scores and tee times are posted near the top of mshsl.org

--State quarterfinal games in girls and boys lacrosse were played Tuesday, followed by semifinals Thursday and championship games Saturday. Brackets for those tournaments are also near the top of mshsl.org

--The three-class state baseball tournament will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with championship games at Target Field on Saturday. Baseball tournament brackets are also posted you know where.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 636
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,260
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Braham Basketball Coach Bob Vaughan Retires
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/8/2015 1:59:39 PM

Bob Vaughan, small-town coach of big-time boys basketball teams, has retired at Braham High School, where he built one of the top programs in Minnesota during a 30-year head coaching career.

Vaughan, 56, said he wants to watch his son Tyler play basketball during his senior year at Minnesota State Moorhead next season. He also said the grind of summer basketball, long winter bus rides and other coaching duties were part of his decision to retire. With the end of the school year, the Shakopee native also has retired from his position teaching history and social studies.

“To be fair to my wife (Carol), 34 years running and doing the program is a long time,” he said. “Basketball has become a year-round thing. Tyler will be a senior and I’ll get to see all his games. It’s not like I’ll get another chance at that.”

Vaughan coached the Bombers to a level that few teams achieve. They won Class 2A state titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and went to state four times after that, most recently in 2012. (photo: Isanti County News)

Between early 2004 and late 2005 the Bombers won 65 consecutive games, which is the second-longest winning streak in Minnesota boys basketball history. Edina (1965-68) and Hopkins (1951-54) share the top spot at 69. Braham owns the longest home winning streak in state history; it currently stands at 73 games, a record that could be extended next season.

Vaughan was inducted into the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2013. His 632 victories put him seventh on the career list for boys basketball coaches in Minnesota. He taught history and social studies for 34 years in Braham and was the boys basketball head coach for 30 years (after four years as an assistant). He also coached softball for 18 years and football for eight.

Among his most well-known players were Isaiah and Noah Dahlman, who were stars during the Bombers’ three-year championship run. Isaiah played college basketball at Michigan State and Noah at Wofford University. Also on those teams was Vaughan’s son Josh, who played at North Dakota State and is now an assistant coach at University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. Mary and Minnesota State Moorhead are in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, so Bob and Carol can watch their sons in the same gym at least twice next season.

The Vaughans also have a daughter, Kalli, who is a college counselor at Brophy College Preparatory School in Phoenix.

“I love the game, I love the coaches, I love everything about it,” Bob Vaughan said. “But the summer stuff was starting to get to me. I’m not complaining; it’s part of the game if you want to be successful. I was starting to think about it during the season, to be honest. When you get older, getting on a bus and going 50 or 60 miles in the snow, you start to think, what am I doing? I don’t have quite as much energy as I used to.

“The kids were great and the people of Braham have treated me very well.”

When Isaiah Dahlman was among the top recruits in the nation, Vaughan was on a first-name basis with some major figures in college coaching. After the first Associated Press college rankings were released in 2004, Vaughan looked at the top 20 teams and realized, “I know 16 of those coaches. I could call them up right now.”

Basketball fans will long remember the success Braham had on the court under Vaughan, but he is just as proud that four of his teams were state academic champions.

“Everybody talks about the three state titles and that we made it to state seven times,” he said. “I always think of the people, not just the ones who were big-time players. The people, the families, that’s what I will remember. I’ll miss the people the most.”

Vaughan didn’t rule out a return to coaching, as he put it, “Maybe on some level, someplace.”

He also said the Bombers have a bright future. “Braham will go on winning for a long, time because of the people and program and the town. It’s not about the results of the games, it’s about the people.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 620
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,212
*Follow John on Twitter. He’s @MSHSLjohn



Twenty-Eight Years Later: Champions Then And Now
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/6/2015 8:50:36 PM

The person wearing one of the biggest smiles, as well as shedding a few happy tears, at Saturday’s state track and field championships was not one of the athletes. She is a coach, but the happiness came on behalf of an athlete from another school who broke a record from another era.

The smile on the face of Liesa (Brateng) Hanson came after Thief River Falls junior Meleah Biermaier won the Class 2A 300-meter hurdles. Hanson was the previous holder of the record, which she set on a hot spring day in 1987 during the state meet at Osseo High School. And now, 28 years later, Hanson was one of the first people to hug Meleah after she exited the awards stand wearing a gold medal and a fresh state record.

Hanson, the girls track coach at East Grand Forks, went to high school in Roseau. She was a track athlete at the University of North Dakota along with Meleah’s dad, Mike (the athletic director at Thief River Falls).

Hanson’s record was 42.62 seconds; Meleah Biermaier’s brand-new mark is 42.13

“I’ve been watching her since she was little,” Hansen remarked, still smiling broadly. “I said if anybody was going to break it, she was the one I wanted to do it.”

Beirmaier was stunned when she saw her time. Her goal was simply to win – she won the same state title two years ago as a ninth-grader and was the runner-up last year – and that would have been good enough. But …

“Oh yeah, I had no idea,” she said. “I finished the race in first and I was so happy, I didn’t even care about the time. Then everyone was saying, ‘You got a 42.1’ and I didn’t believe it. I’m just so happy.

“I knew for sure that getting the record would probably get first place, but I didn’t know that I could beat it by that much. I didn’t know it would happen. Before the race my legs were tired and I didn’t know how it would go, but it turned out to be amazing.”

The best part of the whole amazing deal was seeing the two record-holders, from 1987 and 2015, pose together for photos after the race, wearing matching championship smiles.

FOUR OTHER ALL-TIME STATE records were broken during the two-day meet, all by Class 2A competitors…

--Eagan boys relay teams set new marks in the 4x100 (41.52) and 4x200 (1:26.91).

--Lakeville South set a record of 3:50.12 in the girls 4x400.

--Wayzata’s Ruby Stauber won the 800 meters in 2:06.50 and broke a record that had stood for 31 years. Blooming Prairie’s Jeanne Kruckenberg set the previous record of 2:08.24 in 1984, making it the oldest girls record in the books until Saturday. Ruby is the daughter of Robb Stauber, former hockey goaltender at the University of Minnesota and a former NHL player.

One of the most surprised state champions was Eagan senior Sam Zenner (pictured), who gave up playing baseball this spring and joined the track team for the first time. All he did was anchor the Wildcats’ two record-setting relays and win an individual gold medal in the 100. Zenner’s running mates in the 4x100 were Josh Brown, Dallas Krech and Troy Brown; in the 4x200 he was joined by the Browns and Joe Williams.

“It took him three years of playing baseball to finally realize it was boring,” said Joe Brown. “There was constant nagging.” Josh Brown added, “I don’t think he knew his full ability, how fast he was.”

Zenner said, “These guys have been out here for three years, and all I really wanted to do was just help them out, help them achieve success and be happy. Honestly I came in with an open mind and had no goals. I just came out and wanted to have fun.”

The Lakeville South girls had broken the 4x400 state record in Friday’s preliminaries, then they broke it once more on Saturday. The foursome of Jocie Johnson, Haley Lubow, Kaytlyn Larson and Caraline Slattery helped the Cougars capture the 2A girls team title.

TWO SENIOR BOYS WERE among the stars of the Class 1A championships, one a hurdler and one an endurance runner.

St. Croix Lutheran’s Jon Tollefson swept the 110 and 300 hurdles for the third year in a row. He had already set the all-time state record in the 110 hurdles, running a 13.82 in the Section 4A meet. That broke what had been the oldest record in boys track, 13.85 by Rick Schroeder of Owatonna in 1981.

Waseca’s Shane Streich won the 800 and 1,600 Saturday, giving him three career titles in the 1,600 and two in the 800. And for good measure, he anchored the Bluejays’ 4x400 relay team to a first-place finish, coming from back in the pack on the anchor leg. Waseca won the 1A boys team title.

On the girls side in 1A, Redwood Valley senior Kayla Huhnerkock won the 800 and 1,600 (she also won the 1,600 a year ago) and Jonathan Webb of Minnehaha Academy swept the boys titles in the 200 and 400.

ALEXANDRIA JUNIOR BETHANY HASZ (pictured) was a double winner in 2A, taking the 3,200 meters Friday and the 1,600 Saturday. She put on a strong kick to power past defending state champion Tess Misgen of Shakopee on the home stretch of the 1,600. Her twin sister Megan missed the state meet with an injury; Megan and Bethany have traded first- and second-place finishes in the last two state cross-country meets.

“I knew that some of the girls would go out too fast, so I just went out and took it at my own pace,” Bethany said after the 1,600. “I knew Tess had an awesome kick, that’s how she beat Megan and I last year (in the 1,600, when Megan was second and Bethany third). I pretty much emptied the tank on that one.”

Elsewhere in Class 2A, Hopkins’ Joe Klecker swept the boys 1,600 and 3,200, North St. Paul senior Akeem Sirleaf won the boys 100 for the third year in a row, Rochester Century junior Andrianna Jacobs won the girls pole vault for the third time, Chanhassen junior Jedah Caldwell swept the girls 100 and 200, and Minnetonka was a repeat winner in the girls 4x800 relay.

OTHER REPEAT WINNERS IN Class 1A were Jia Lewis of Minneapolis Edison in the girls 100, Osakis in the girls 4x200 relay, Jenna Gatz of Belle Plaine in the girls 400, Webb in the boys 400 and Jaustin Culbert of Chisholm in the boys high jump. The Pine Island boys won the 4x200 and 4x800 relays and Rushford-Peterson’s Noah Carlson won the long jump and triple jump.

--Class 2A girls team results: 1. Lakeville South 49.5, 2. St. Michael-Albertville 46, 3. Chanhassen 44, 4. Eden Prairie 43, 5. Mounds View 34.5.

--Class 2A boys team results: 1. Wayzata 71.5, 2. Eden Prairie 68, 3. Hopkins 44, 4. North St. Paul 44, 5. Stillwater 43.5.

--Class 2A girls team results: 1. Belle Plaine 56, 2. Mpls Edison 49, 3. Pequot Lakes 44, 4. Redwood Valley 28, 5. Plainview-Elgin-Millville 26.

--Class 2A boys team results: 1. Waseca 70, 2. Minnehaha Academy 63, 3. Pine Island 58, 4. St. Croix Lutheran 44, 5. Rushford-Peterson/Houston 39.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 620
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,212
*Follow John on Twitter. He’s @MSHSLjohn



An Unlikely Hero On The Biggest Stage
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/5/2015 8:34:56 PM

NORTH MANKATO – At state tournaments, where the pressure is often at a boiling point, it’s commonplace to see veteran athletes come through in the clutch. So when a little kid with braces suddenly became a hero Friday at the 39th annual state softball tournament, this was a big deal.

Elena Linster is an eighth-grader at New Life Academy, the Woodbury school that claimed its fifth Class 1A championship since 2008 with a 9-3 victory over Badger/Greenbush-Middle River.

New Life senior pitcher Valerie Hohol struck out 10 Friday and finished the three-game tournament with 23 strikeouts and only one walk. That was no surprise. But when Linster (pictured) – the seventh hitter in the batting order – knocked two home runs over the fence and drove in four runs – well, she was as shocked as anyone. They were the first homers of her young career.

“On the first one I thought I popped it up,” she said. “And as I was rounding two I saw everyone come out and I thought, ‘Did it go over?’ The second one was even a bigger surprise.”

Her two-run homers in the second and fourth innings provided all the scoring Hohol needed. Linster became the sixth person in state tourney history to hit two home runs in one game.

“The thing is, I’m always thinking that I have to play well,” she said. “It’s a part of being on a sports team, you have to always do your best. I’ve hit home runs over the fence in practice but I didn’t think anything of it.

“Whenever I go up to bat I think, ‘I’m going to get a base hit,’ I visualize where it’s going to go. I was thinking, ‘If it’s there, I’m going to hit it.’ And I did. I was very surprised. It was very surreal.”

CLASS 2A: KASSON-MANTORVILLE REPEATS

The KoMets of Kasson-Mantorville won their second 2A title in as many years, holding off a talented and determined team from Maple Lake 2-1 in 10 innings. Winning pitcher Maddie Damon struck out 16 Friday, giving her 43 in the tournament.

The KoMets took a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning when Laura Kosberg hit a solo home run. Maple Lake tied it in the sixth on a two-out double by Chloe Callahan. In the 10th, Kosberg drove in the game-winner with a bases-loaded single.

Maple Lake pitcher Kennedy Goelz-Haney gave up six hits in nine innings and gave up just four earned runs in 23 innings during the tournament.

CLASS 3A: EASTVIEW HOLDS OFF ANOKA

Eastview completed a late-inning comeback to defeat Anoka 2-1 and capture its first state title since 2003. Anoka went ahead 1-0 in the top of the fourth on a solo home run by Taylor Chell. In the sixth, Eastview scored the tying run on a single by Hailey Monroe. The winning run scored on a on a double by Julia Luciana in the bottom of the seventh.

Kerrigan Hoshaw got the win and finished the tournament with three wins, a 0.67 ERA and 24 strikeouts.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS

Class 1A/ Tianna Top, Edgerton/Southwest MN Christian; Kenna Salo, New York Mills; Megan Schroeder, Kayla Gross, Mankato Loyola; Aunica Novacek, Kellie Parnow, Emily Anderson, Badger/Greenbush-Middle River; Sydney Steel, Valerie Hohol, Elena Linster, New Life Academy.

Class 2A/ Carlie Brandt, LeSueur-Henderson; Brittany Denn, New Ulm; Kailey Mihalik, Jillayne Gilbert, Hermantown; Kennedy Goelz-Haley, Taylor Pilger, Linsey Rachel, Maple Lake; MiKayla Grant, McKenzie Hermann, Maddie Damon, Kasson-Mantorville.

Class 3A/ Ashley Mickschl, Woodbury; Hailey Fitzpatrick, Becker; Sydney Smith, Megan Mulchrone, Maple Grove; Kerrigan Hoshaw, Abby Lien, Sam Gall, Eastview, Apple Valley; Makayla Zimmer, Taylor Chell, Amber Elliott, Anoka.

THIRD-PLACE GAMES

Class 1A/ Mankato Loyola beat New York Mills 12-3
Class 2A/ Hermantown beat New Ulm 5-0
Class 3A/ Maple Grove beat Becker 13-1

FIFTH-PLACE GAMES

Class 1A/ Edgerton/SW MN Christian beat Cherry 7-3
Class 2A/ LeSueur-Henderson beat Milaca 4-0
Class 3A/ Woodbury beat Chanhassen 2-1

--Change is coming to postseason softball and baseball next year, when a fourth class will be added.

STATE TRACK RECORDS FALL

Friday’s events at the state track and field championships, at Hamline University in St. Paul, were dominated by preliminaries, and two all-time state records fell.

--The Eagan boys 4x200 relay team of Josh Brown, Dallas Krech, Troy Brown and Sam Zenner topped the Class 2A prelims with a time of 1:26.91. The previous record was 1:26.92 by Wayzata in 2013.

--The Lakeville South girls team of Jocie Johnson, Haley Lubow, Kaytlyn Larson and Caraline Slattery set a record of 3:51.24 in the 2A girls 4x400 prelims. The previous mark was 3:51.26 by Hopkins in 2011.

The state track championship will conclude Saturday.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 595
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,170
*Follow John on Twitter. He’s @MSHSLjohn



Maple Lake Ready To Make Run At State Title
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/4/2015 8:32:12 PM

NORTH MANKATO -- Life, as well as sports, can provide quite the interesting twists and turns. Look, for example, at the Maple Lake High School softball team.

The Irish are coached by a California native … they have lost in two previous state championship appearances and will try to change that outcome Friday … after moving up from Class 1A to 2A … which turned out to be a good thing.

Maple Lake defeated LeSueur-Henderson 4-2 and New Ulm 6-1 on Thursday in the state tournament. That moved the Irish into Friday’s 2 p.m. title game against Kasson-Mantorville.

They played in title games in 2008 and 2009, when they were in 1A. New Life Academy was – and is – a powerhouse in 1A softball. The Eagles won state titles in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and are at state for the 10th year in a row. Maple Lake was shutout by New Life in the 2008 and 2009 championship games, with Danielle Schmidt pitching for the Eagles. Schmidt -- named this year to the softball coaches association Hall of Fame – was a four-time all-tournament player at state and holds several state tournament records for shutouts and strikeouts.

But Schmidt is long gone, Maple Lake (pictured) is now in Class 1A and none of the current Irish players were on the team the last time it went to state.

“Now we’re in Class 2A, and that makes it that much more special,” said Irish coach Tim Knudsen. “This is brand new for them. This is really cool.”

Over spring break the Irish went to California and played some scrimmages against strong teams from the Bay Area. That’s where Knudsen grew up (and where he met his wife, a native of Royalton), and he knew the journey would help prepare the team for the season.

“We did that because we knew that if we got here we would see really good pitching, which we don’t see in our (Central Minnesota) conference,” he said. “Rockford has a great pitcher (Bria Majeski), but other than that we don’t see very good pitching.

“That trip started it and we did a pretty good job out there. We just escalated into the season and through the playoffs.”

The Irish have a record of 26-2, with losses to Rockford in the regular season and in Section 5 tournament play. They then beat Rockford twice to win the section title.

Senior Kennedy Goelz-Haney was the winning pitcher in both games Thursday and is 16-2 on the season. Sophomore pitcher Olivia Marquette has a 10-0 record, and Knudsen said she may pitch Friday. Maple Lake had a total of only eight hits in Thursday’s two games, with ninth-graders Amber Klug and Linsey Rachel combining for four of them.

“We knew with seven seniors we had good leadership, and we have two dynamite freshmen that play really well for us,” Knudsen said.

THE BUS BROKE DOWN … BIG DEAL

When the Cherry softball team’s bus died Thursday morning, no one panicked. The vehicle had already delivered the Tigers to Mankato on Wednesday … a 277-mile trip … so being in town was key.

The bus was loaded with softball gear at the Best Western hotel when the driver told coach Darrell Bjerklie that it wasn’t going anywhere.

“We came out to get ready to come here, we have a certain schedule. We don’t want to get here too early,” he said at Caswell Park. “And the bus driver tells us the bus is broke down. We could panic, but we teach the girls how to handle adversity.

“I calmly walked up to the front desk and asked if they had a shuttle van. They had one, it carried seven. And both of us coaches had a vehicle because our wives are here, and they each hold five. It’s enough for the team, so we unloaded the bus, loaded the vehicles and calmly came here. We were here on time.”

The Tigers lost to New York Mills 14-7 in the Class 1A quarterfinals and beat Rush City 2-0 in the consolation bracket later Friday.

LITTLE KIDS, BIG CROWD

Thursday was the last day of school at LeSueur-Henderson, and the fourth- and fifth-graders enjoyed a special field trip to the state softball tournament.

An enthusiastic crew of 170 students sat in the grass beyond the outfield fence to watch the Giants play Maple Lake in the 2A quarterfinals.

“This is a second-year tradition because we made it to the state playoffs last year,” said Hilltop Elementary principal Christine McDonald. “This was our plan; if we made it we were going to bring the kids again. And people in the community have asked us, ‘Are you guys coming?’ They’re excited that we’re here.”

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 595
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 11,014
*Follow John on Twitter. He’s @MSHSLjohn



Aney Isn’t Alone Among Females At Boys State Tennis
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/3/2015 5:45:42 PM

One of the stars of this week’s Class 2A boys state tennis tournament is Jessica Aney of Rochester Century. The senior was the second girl to play in the team portion of the competition, and she will become the first female to play in the singles division when singles and doubles play begins Thursday.

Aney, who will play college tennis at North Carolina, won all three of her matches at No. 1 singles – beating boys from Edina, Mounds View and Minnetonka -- in the team competition as Century placed third. She will take a record of 16-0 into the singles tournament, having lost just two sets all season.

But Aney isn’t the only female playing a vital role in the tournament. The East Ridge boys team is coached by Suzie Heideman (pictured), who is easily identifiable by the words stitched into her team jacket: “Coach Suzie.” Her unseeded Raptors finished third a year ago in their first trip to the state team tournament, and on Wednesday second-seeded East Ridge beat Edina 4-3 in the fifth-place match.

“This year it was a little different, with us being seeded second,” she said. “The guys felt a lot more pressure and the expectations were higher because we had been here and been successful.

“I told them last year, ‘Enjoy being the underdog because it’s not going to stay like that.’ You play a little more freely when you have nothing to lose. I told these guys that the only expectation I had for them was to play their best and never give up, and support each other with positive attitudes. The outcomes will happen. I’m super proud of the way they played today.”

Heideman is in her fourth year as the East Ridge boys coach; one of her assistants is Jon Rydberg, and they switch coaching roles with the girls tennis team in the fall.

Heideman came to East Ridge with a strong coaching pedigree. She spent six years coaching boys and girls tennis at Greendale High School near Milwaukee, Wis., and was named Wisconsin coach of the year after leading her boys team to a state championship in 2005.

She is very familiar with Minnesota tennis, having graduated in 1997 from Mounds View, where she was a captain of the tennis, basketball and softball teams and played in the girls state tennis tournament. She played collegiately at Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

One of the biggest victories of her coaching career came at state last year, when the Raptors defeated Mounds in the opening round. Heideman played for Mustangs coach Mike Cartwright in high school.

Cartwright said Heideman was “a very feisty baseliner” in high school, showing traits that fit her role as a coach.

“She just hated to lose,” he said. “And that’s something she has carried over into her coaching career. She showed a lot of qualities as a player that would make for a good coach. She was very analytical about the game, she analyzed her opponents well, she self-evaluated her own game and tried to continually improve.”

Mounds View and East Ridge are members of the Suburban East Conference, so Heideman and Cartwright coach against each other on a regular basis. The Mustangs haven’t lost in conference play since 2000. This spring, Mounds View beat the Raptors by scores of 6-1 and 4-3.

“One of our goals is to get them in conference,” Heideman said. “Obviously they’re a strong team. Mounds View has a strong history and I’m trying to create that at East Ridge. Everybody says, ‘Why is Edina always good? Why is Mounds View always good?’ It’s because of traditions, and when people know there’s a strong tradition of tennis excellence, they need to get there and work hard. That’s really my goal, to have a positive experience and create that atmosphere where our kids want to work hard to get there.”

Heideman was excited to see Aney play in the boys tournament, saying it was good for tennis.

“Obviously she’s an elite tennis player. She’s right up there with them and it’s exciting to see. I think it puts a lot more pressure on the boys who have to face her.

“She’s pushing those players and also creating excitement for the game. Maybe there are young girls who want to get to where she’s at. It’s exciting to see. She’s had a lot of people watching her matches and she’s impressed them.”

TEAM RESULTS

CLASS 1A
Championship/ Blake 7, Breck 0
Third place/ Rochester Lourdes 7, Crookston 0
Fifth place/ St. Peter 5, Foley 2

CLASS 2A
Championship/ Mounds View 4, Elk River 3
Third place/ Rochester Century 4, Minnetonka 3
Fifth place/ East Ridge 4, Edina 3

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 571
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 10,862
*Follow John on Twitter. He’s @MSHSLjohn



From Up North, Crookston and Hibbing Make It To State
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/2/2015 4:51:31 PM

The boys tennis teams from Hibbing and Crookston knew the odds were long when they walked into Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis on Tuesday to begin the Class 1A state tournament.

Blake is the two-time defending champion, and strong programs like Rochester Lourdes and Breck are regular entrants in the derby to decide team titles. And then there is this fact to consider: 97 team champions have been crowned since the first MSHSL tournament in 1950, and only six (or one, depending on how you view the state map) have come from northern Minnesota.

Greenway High in Coleraine took home the single-class title in 1961. That’s the one absolutely true blue northern team to capture gold. Figure in St. Cloud Tech (1976, 1983, 1985) and Staples-Motley (1990, 1991) and that is the extent of the non-metro and non-southern schools to win boys tennis team crowns.

Which, of course, doesn’t bother the boys from Crookston and Hibbing one little bit. That they met in Tuesday’s state quarterfinals was a fitting way to honor the legacy of teams from up north, where a dearth of indoor courts and a preponderance of cold, wet weather can put a headlock on springtime tennis.

“I think they’re really excited,” Crookston coach Mike Geffre said before the quarterfinals. “I don’t think nerves play into this too much because the pressure is really in getting here.”

That’s especially true when getting here isn’t a regular thing. The Pirates are at state for the first time in 12 years and Hibbing is back for the first time in 14 years. Both teams were battle-tested in section play; Crookston held off 10-time defending section champ Thief River Falls 4-3 in the Section 8 title match and Hibbing needed 4-3 wins over Duluth Marshall and Cloquet to qualify from Section 7.

Each team also will have a doubles team competing when singles and doubles competition begins Thursday: Bobby Tiedemann and Matt Garmen from Crookston and Jake Jolowsky and Scott Perunovich from Hibbing.

This business of getting to state may become a more regular thing in the future for one simple reason: Crookston has no seniors on the roster and Hibbing has only one.

“Not having a senior, they’re probably a little bit calmer because they know, win or lose, they still have another shot coming up,” Geffre said.

But still, any trip to state is a big one. There may have been a few doubts about such a proposition in Hibbing after the Bluejackets opened the season with eight losses in as many matches. There was, however, an asterisk attached to that fact: *Hibbing, which moved from Class 2A to 1A last season, is still playing a schedule loaded with 2A competition.

“I was pretty stubborn about the whole thing,” Hibbing coach Gary Conda said. “I felt 2A made us better, made us work harder. It finally got to the point where we didn’t have the depth, we didn’t have the numbers anymore. We said, ‘You know what? We can’t compete with Elk River and some of these teams (in 2A Section 7.’ ”

Hibbing’s regular-season schedule was still front-loaded with some strong 2A competition, thus the 0-8 start. But even though the Bluejackets took some lumps early, that helped steel them for the stretch run and postseason play.

“That was partly on purpose, but also because I hadn’t had enough time to change the schedule a lot,” Conda said. “In hindsight it helped us. Our competition was way more than some other teams had, and it paid off. That’s why we won all those 4-3 matches at the end.”

Tuesday’s state quarterfinal match came – no surprise here – right down to the wire. Crookston defeated Hibbing 4-3, with a large crowd watching and cheering as Garmen defeated Jack Kearney 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 at No. 3 singles to clinch the match.

Crookston’s other winners were Tiedemann at No. 1 singles, Andy Gregg at No. 2 singles and the No. 2 doubles team of Jacob Roesch and Jake Widseth. Hibbing got wins from Nate Stark at No. 4 singles, Jolowsky and Nate Bestul at No. 1 doubles and Carter Anderson and Michael Sullivan at No. 3 doubles.

Afterwards, Conda asked with a smile, “Is there a northern Minnesota trophy?”

There certainly should be.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 563
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 10,819
*Follow John on Twitter. He’s @MSHSLjohn



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