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Tollefson To Be Inducted Into National High School Hall of Fame
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/29/2018 12:05:26 PM

CHICAGO – Carrie Tollefson, one of the top cross-country and track athletes in Minnesota history, will be among 12 people inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame on Monday during ceremonies at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile. The event will cap the 99th annual summer meeting of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Other inductees include former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne and Dick Fosbury, who revolutionized the high jump as a high school athlete in Oregon.

Tollefson won five Minnesota State High School League state cross-country championships at Dawson-Boyd High School from 1990 to 1994, including the first as an eighth-grader. She also won eight individual track and field titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, and she set a state record in the 3,200 in 1994 with a time of 10:30.28. Tollefson’s 13 individual titles in cross-country and track are the most ever in Minnesota.

Tollefson’s dominance continued at Villanova University, where she won five individual NCAA titles – the indoor and outdoor 3K, the outdoor 5K and two cross-country titles – and helped her team to the 1999 NCAA team championship. She was a 10-time All-American and the 1998 NCAA Indoor Track Athlete of the Year. Tollefson made the 2004 U.S. Olympic team and participated in the 1,500 meters in Athens, Greece.

Since her competitive days concluded, Tollefson has conducted distance running camps and served as a motivational speaker and clinic presenter, and she hosts a weekly online show on running and fitness entitled “C Tolle Run.”

Tollefson will become the 14th Minnesotan inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame. The others are:

John Mayasich (1986)
Janet Karvonen (1987)
Bronko Nagurski (1989)
Willard Ikola (1992)
Jerry Seeman (1992)
Paul Giel (1998)
Kevin McHale (2000)
Dorothy McIntyre (2003)
Terry Steinbach (2007)
Barbara Seng (2008)
Billy Bye (2009)
Bob McDonald (2014)
Lefty Wright (2016)

Osborne was a three-sport standout (football, basketball, track and field) at Hastings (Nebraska) High School in the early 1950s before becoming one of the most successful coaches in college football history. Fosbury developed the upside-down, back-layout leap known as the Fosbury Flop at Medford (Oregon) High School and later perfected it by winning the gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Another former high school athlete chosen for the 2018 class is Nicole Powell, one of Arizona’s top all-time girls basketball players during her days at Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix who later excelled at Stanford University and in the WNBA.

Five outstanding coaches were selected for the 2018 class, including Miller Bugliari, the all-time leader nationally in boys soccer coaching victories with a 850-116-75 record in 58 years at The Pingry School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and Dorothy Gaters, the Illinois state leader with 1,106 career victories in 42 years as girls basketball coach at John Marshall High School in Chicago who won her ninth Illinois High School Association state title last season.

Other coaches who will be honored this year are Buddy Anderson, the winningest football coach in Alabama history with 329 victories in 40 years at Vestavia Hills High School; Jeff Meister, girls and boys swimming coach at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii, who has led his teams to a combined 34 Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championships; and Bill O’Neil, who retired last year after winning almost 1,300 games as the boys ice hockey, girls soccer and girls softball coach at Essex High School in Essex Junction, Vermont.

The other three members of the 2018 class are Roger Barr, who retired in 2015 after a 43-year career in high school officiating in Iowa, including the final 13 years as director of officials for the Iowa High School Athletic Association; Dick Neal, who retired in 2013 after a 34-year career as executive director of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association; and Bill Zurkey, who retired in 2012 after an outstanding 35-year career as a choral director in three Ohio schools, including the final 25 years at Avon Lake High School.

The National High School Hall of Fame was started in 1982 by the NFHS to honor high school athletes, coaches, contest officials, administrators, performing arts coaches/directors and others for their extraordinary achievements and accomplishments in high school sports and performing arts programs. This year’s class increases the number of individuals in the Hall of Fame to 470.

The 12 individuals were chosen after a two-level selection process involving a screening committee composed of active high school state association administrators, coaches and officials, and a final selection committee composed of coaches, former athletes, state association officials, media representatives and educational leaders.

Nominations were made through NFHS member associations.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Maggie Ewen: From Minnesota To A National Championship
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/25/2018 2:19:55 PM

On a spring day in 2013, I sat down in a classroom to interview an athlete who was nearing the end of an illustrious high school career. Maggie Ewen was a senior at St. Francis who a few weeks later would capture her fourth big-school state championship in the shot put and her third title in the discus.

The resulting story began with these words …

At least one more inch. That’s all Maggie Ewen thinks about when she steps into the discus or shot put circle. The St. Francis High School senior is not focused on state records or national records or her college career or the Olympics. Just one more inch. That’s it.

“For me, throwing is not about winning the meet, it’s about doing better than I’ve ever done,” she said. “I just want to do better than I did before, even if it’s an inch.”


On Sunday afternoon at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, Maggie and I held another interview session. A lot has changed since that day five years ago, but a lot hasn’t. After making her debut as a professional athlete by winning the shot put at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships, she echoed the words she spoke as a high school senior.

“The goal always is to just throw farther,” she said. “If that gets me a title, if that gets me a record, that’s just kind of bonus on top of everything. I’m really just here to try and throw farther.”

From St. Francis, Ewen went to Arizona State University. Adding the hammer throw to her discus and shot put repertoire, she won seven Pac-12 Conference titles and four NCAA championships while setting two NCAA records. She turned pro after this spring’s NCAA championships (and graduating with a degree in exercise and wellness) and signed a sponsorship deal with Nike. She opened the USATF meet by finishing second in the women’s discus on Thursday. Then came two days of waiting and preparing for Sunday’s
competition.

Her pro shot put debut was quite a scene. Her cheering section included parents Bruce and Kristi Ewen, aunts and uncles, high school throwing coach Mark Hanson, and even one of her elementary teachers. Kristi yelled, “Go Maggie!” as her daughter stepped into the circle.

There was plenty of drama involved. Maggie’s opening throw of 58 feet, 10 1/4 inches put her in fourth place after the first of six rounds. She threw 62-7 ¾ in the second round and fouled in the third. At that point the leading throw was 63-1 ¼ by Jessica Ramsey and Ewen’s 62-7 ¾ put her in second place.

Her fourth throw was 60-11 and then came the big one. Maggie’s penultimate attempt flew 63 feet, 3 ½ inches, the best throw of the day at that point. Her celebration was muted, little more than a couple of clenched fists at waist level.

“It was far but I didn’t know how far,” she said later. “I was happy but I still needed to wait and see what it would do for me.”

Ewen threw 61-5 ¾ on her last attempt, and then came the waiting game as the other throwers took their final shots. Ramsey had the last throw of the competition and one more chance to overtake Ewen. Ramsey whirled in the circle, the ball sailed high out of her hand … and she stepped over the toe board for a foul.

The St. Francis contingent exploded in cheers and hugs as Maggie’s national championship was clinched.

This was quite an accomplishment for a young woman who has always been known for her work ethic and calm demeanor. She comes from an athletic family. Bruce was a thrower at Illinois State who participated at the 1988 Olympic trials in the hammer. Kristi played volleyball at Columbia Heights and Ohio State. Maggie’s older sister Alicia played volleyball at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. Alicia also was a track and field athlete and Maggie played volleyball in high school.

“When Maggie was a sixth-grader she watched her sister throw and she was writing down all the distances,” Hanson told me for that 2013 story.

“One of the fondest memories I have is when she was an eighth-grader at state; she was practicing and she went through at least 40 dry runs without a discus in her hand all by herself. To see that drive in her, that young, was amazing.”

That drive to succeed has taken Maggie to great heights. Her Minnesota state records in the shot put (54-8 ½) and discus (175-9) still stand, and her next competition will be the Athletics World Cup in London in mid-July.

As a professional athlete who for the first time in her life isn’t competing as a member of a team, Maggie said she felt very few nerves at the USATF championships.

“Honestly, I felt super relaxed,” she said. “Just being able to represent myself pretty much, not have to worry about a whole team that I need to represent and support, just to go out there and have fun. It was really low stress, a lot of good energy, and that’s how I like to compete.”

Maggie’s Twitter profile page includes these three notations…

“Arizona State … Track and field … Minnesota Pride”

Well done.

Other Minnesotans At USATF Championships

Three Minnesotans competed in the men’s 10,000 meters, with Hopkins grad Reed Fischer finishing fourth on the same track where he competed as an athlete at Drake. Winona alum Garrett Heath was fifth and White Bear Lake grad Joel Reichow placed 12th in the field of 23.

Fridley High School and Gophers graduate Harun Abda advanced through the first round in the men’s 800 meters but did not finish high enough in the semifinal round to qualify for the finals.

In the men’s 1,500 meters, Minneapolis South and University of Minnesota alum Hassan Mead did not advance past the prelims. Another former Gopher, Stillwater graduate Ben Blankenship, was entered in the 1,500 but withdrew before the prelims. Both Mead and Blankenship ran the 1,500 at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Mead also ran the 5,000 meters at the USTFA meet, as did Hopkins and University of Colorado runner Joe Klecker. Mead finished third and Klecker was ninth in a field of 21 runners.

In the men’s steeplechase, Mounds Park Academy and University of Michigan graduate Mason Ferlic ran in the prelims but did not advance to the finals.

Molli Detloff, an Elk River High School alum who this spring finished her career at the University of North Dakota, finished 10th in the hammer. Rosemount High School grad and current North Dakota State athlete Payton Otterdahl placed 15th in the shot put.

Two Minnesota natives competed in the heptathlon. Willmar and University of North Dakota alum Rose Jackson placed 13th and Shaina Burns of Lakeville South and Texas A&M finished 14th.

In the men’s long jump, Staples-Motley alum Brian Huber, the NCAA Division III national champion for Minnesota State Moorhead this spring, placed 15th.

Several University of Minnesota track athletes who did not attend high school in Minnesota also competed in Des Moines. Among them was Emma Spagnola, who did not advance past the semifinals in the women’s 400-meter hurdles. Another Gopher, Madeline Strandemo, a Fargo, N.D, native, competed in the women’s steeplechase but did not advance to the final round. Former Gopher Sean Donnelly, a native of Ohio, finished third in the men’s hammer.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Vaulting From Mounds View To Finland
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/20/2018 1:05:31 PM

One of the most dominant high school athletes in Minnesota, who has been previously profiled on John’s Journal, made a splash on the national scene over the weekend and is now headed to an international competition.

Julia Fixsen, who will be a senior at Mounds View High School in the fall, has had quite a spring in the pole vault. She broke the girls state record in an early-season indoor meet with a distance of 13 feet, 9 inches and then topped that mark with a height of 13-9 ¼ earlier this month in winning the Class 2A state title for the second year in a row.

Julia competed Sunday at the USA Track & Field Junior Outdoor Championships in Bloomington, Indiana, and she once again extended her state record by clearing 13-11 1/4 while placing second. The athletes who finished first and third were collegians from Virginia Tech and Michigan State who are two years older than Julia.

Her high finish earned her a spot on the U.S. team that will compete at the world junior championships July 10-15 in Tampere, Finland (the event is officially known as the International Association of Athletics Federation World U20 Championships).

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Great Teams (With A Turf Assist) Get The Job Done
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/18/2018 7:47:07 PM

Championship games in the state baseball tournament were whipsawed by the weather, turning what was scheduled to be a one-day festival at Target Field into a double-rain-delayed slate of four games held in separate sessions two days apart. Such is life with spring sports in Minnesota, as least this year.

The baseball teams that met Monday afternoon in the final game of the season -- from Minnetonka and Stillwater in Class 4A – were like every other spring sports team in 2018 … snowed out and frozen out early in the season. But the Skippers and Ponies were able to take advantage of something that many schools don’t have: artificial turf.

Stillwater capped the season with a 4-0 victory Monday in a game that was rescheduled after rain on Saturday pushed back the start of play for nearly four and a half hours. The Class 1A, 2A and 3A games were completed Saturday.

The weather wasn’t perfect Monday, either, with rain delaying the start of the game for 22 minutes. At the end of it all, however, both teams could look back to the very early days of the season and the advantage of turf on their campuses.

Minnetonka has one of the busiest baseball diamonds in the state. Their 12-year-old facility, which has turf covering every inch, was used for three dozen high school games this spring that did not involve the Skippers. Minnetonka’s first three scheduled games of the season were wiped out by weather and they played their first home game on April 11, followed by two more postponed home games.

Stillwater’s first game, scheduled for April 5, was postponed as were the next seven dates. The Ponies finally played their opener on April 25.

Once snow was cleared from the Minnetonka field, the Skippers were able to be outside to work out. And while Stillwater doesn’t have a turf baseball field, the school has four turf football/soccer/lacrosse fields, and the baseball team took advantage of it.

Bottom line: while most teams were hitting, throwing and catching in gymnasiums and other indoor spaces, the teams that finished the season playing for the state championship were outdoors.

“We did have two scrimmages on the turf,” said Stillwater coach Mike Parker. “I think having a turf field to practice on is great. We couldn’t play games early but we were able to use it for practice, everybody was able to go outside and relieve some of that cabin fever.”

And for both teams, there was a flurry of games with little time to practice once the weather (and all the fields) cleared.

March 19 was the first day baseball teams could practice this season (following a week of conditioning that began on March 12). Minnetonka coach Paul Twenge said his team’s first outdoor practice was held on March 26 or 27.

“Then we got the snow in April, so you just push the snow off to the side,” he said. “Once it’s exposed (the turf) dries out. We had 18-20 inches of snow sitting on that thing and we were able to move it along. The field’s been great.”

There was another key component of Stillwater’s successful season.

“We were able to have a week in Florida, which was nice,” Parker said after the championship game. “If we hadn’t gotten down there, I think it would have been real tough for us.”

Gilbert Goes Distance, Strikes Out 15

Stillwater junior lefthander Drew Gilbert was the star on the mound in the championship game, giving up just three hits while striking out 15 and walking two. He fanned the first six Minnetonka hitters and 10 of the first 12 Skippers outs came on strikeouts as Stillwater won its first state baseball title since 1991.

Jack Hanson had a single and double for Minnetonka and Mason Nadolny singled. Stillwater had only four hits: two by by Mason Schwerzer and one each by Gilbert and Luke Simcik. The game was scoreless until the fourth inning when singles by Gilbert and Schwerzer, coupled with a fielder’s choice and Minnetonka error, saw two runs cross. In the sixth, a hit batter and single by Schwerzer was followed by two errors to make it 4-0.

Stillwater, which finished the season with 20 straight wins, had opened the season with two losses.

“You start 0-2 and it exposes you,” Parker said. “If you don’t play well, if you don’t get better each day you’re going to be in trouble. And playing game after game and not having practices was a good thing. It was easy to just kind of rally each day, and the guys love playing baseball.

“We were able to kind of learn from our mistakes as we went. I think our kids were really receptive to the coaching. It’s been quite the ride.”

--The baseball championship was Stillwater’s fifth state title of 2017-18, with all coming during the winter and spring season. The Ponies were state champs in gymnastics, girls Nordic skiing, girls Alpine skiing, softball and baseball.

Class 4A All-Tournament team: Charles Engdahl, Wayzata; Collin Denk, Lakeville North; Connor Melton, Seth Miller, Blaine; Alex Wilde, Paxton Thompson, St. Michael-Albertville; Mason Nadolney, Nick Thimsen, Andy Andresen, Minnetonka; Andrew Gilbert, Cody Venske, Will Frisch, Stillwater.

State Baseball Tournament

Championship Games

Class 1A

Heritage Christian 8, Sleepy Eye 0

Class 2A
Maple Lake 8, Duluth Marshall 4

Class 3A
Mahtomedi 5, Rocori 1

Class 4A
Stillwater 4, Minnetonka 0

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Halvorsen’s Heroics Help Heritage Christian Win State Title
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/16/2018 11:23:22 PM

Earlier this month, Seth Halvorsen was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 30th round of the major league baseball draft. The just-graduated senior from Heritage Christian Academy in Maple Grove has signed a letter of intent with the University of Missouri, however, and is expected to play college baseball.

After the show he put on Saturday in the Class 1A state championship game at Target Field, the Twins may wish they had taken Halvorsen in an earlier round.

All Halvorsen accomplished with a bat in his hand was this: Two home runs, four runs scored, four runs-batted-in and three hits. On the mound he pitched a complete-game five-hitter, walking two and striking out 16.

He is the fifth player in the 72-year history of the state baseball tournament to homer twice in one game, and the first to do so at Target Field. (The others were Scott Kunz, Pine Island, 1992; Josiah Hagermann, Howard Lake-Waverly, 2003; John Kalmi, Nashwauk-Keewatin, 2004; and Hunter Dunbar, Glencoe-Silver Lake, 2007.)

His first home run, which sailed into the seats in left field, came on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning. He homered again in the fifth, a three-run shot over the 377 sign in left-center. He finished the year with an 8-1 pitching record and 117 strikeouts in 52 innings.

Halvorsen’s heroics led the Eagles to an 8-0 victory over Sleepy Eye in a game that was delayed for 4 hours, 20 minutes by rain. The Class 2A and Class 3A games were completed later Saturday, with the Class 4A game moved to Monday at 1 p.m. at Target Field.

“Seth takes a lot of big boy hacks on first strikes, and I’ve been getting after him all year about seeing the ball travel and hitting to right-center,” Heritage Christian coach Jon Ledeboer said. “And to be honest, I’ve been waiting for a first pitch to go out.”

Seth said, “It’s a hard feeling to top, for sure, just being here at Target Field.”

Taylor Broderson, Steph Sawtelle, T.J. Guggenberger and Sam Frederickson each had two hits for Heritage Christian. For Sleepy Eye, Carter Brinkman had two hits.

Maple Lake Wins 2A Title

The baseball team from Maple Lake followed in the footsteps of the Irish softball team by winning a state championship with an 8-4 victory over Duluth Marshall. The Maple Lake softball team won the 2A crown a week earlier in North Mankato. And in the fall Maple Lake won a state volleyball championship.

After giving up three runs to the Hilltoppers in the first two innings, Maple Lake pitcher Grant Mergen held them to one more run while the Irish scored four in the third and three in the fourth. Ben Goelz had three hits for the Irish and Cole Trager and Mergen each had two as the Irish overcame three errors.

Maddux Baggs, Peter Hansen and Tyler Johnson had two hits apiece for Duluth Marshall. Mergen gave up eights hits, walked two and struck out five, throwing 105 pitches.

Mahtomedi Wins Class 3A Championship

Winning its first baseball state title, the Mahtomedi Zephyrs finished the season with 10 consecutive wins by defeating Rocori 5-1 in Saturday night’s championship game.

Mahtomedi pitcher Austin Jerylo went the distance, giving up six hits and striking out four with no walks. After giving up a double to Brady Kiehr in the first inning, Jerylo retired the next 13 hitters in a row. Both teams played errorless baseball. Jerlyo also had two hits, as did Kiehr.

Wells Fargo All-Tournament Teams

Class 1A: Jacob Plaetz, Nick Altermatt, Wabasso; Mason Lane, Joey Janke, South Ridge; Travis Yohnke, Hunter Haggenmiller, Parkers Prairie; Avery Stevens, Jacob Berg, Carter Brinkman, Sleepy Eye; Jonny Flynn, Seth Halvorsen, Taylor Brodersen, Heritage Christian.

Class 2A: Casey Storlie, Andrew Goergen, Caledonia; Nathan Leitner, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton; Joseph Linton, Minnehaha Academy; Ryan Friedges, Michael Lambrecht, Jordan; Peter Hansen, Carter Sullivan, Ben Pedersen, Duluth Marshall; Grant Mergen, Cole Trager, Ben Goelz, Maple Lake.

Class 3A: Seth Yeatman, Teddy Lillico, Red Wing; Brock Anderson, Alexandria; Tyler Roufs, Hunter Ranweiler, Andrew Peters, New Ulm; Mason Primus, Brandon Gill, Jack Steil, Rocori; Leo Bustos, Austin Jerylo, Jamie Berg, Mahtomedi.

State Baseball Tournament

Championship Games
Saturday at Target Field

Class 1A

Heritage Christian 8, Sleepy Eye 0

Class 2A
Maple Lake 8, Duluth Marshall 4

Class 3A
Mahtomedi 5, Rocori 1

Monday’s Game

Class 4A

Minnetonka vs. Stillwater, 1 p.m.

State Lacrosse Tournament

Saturday’s Championship Games
At Chanhassen High School

Girls

Apple Valley 11, Eden Prairie 10

Boys
Prior Lake 10, Benilde-St. Margaret’s 8

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



History Has Been Made At Norman County West
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/16/2018 10:34:24 AM

Verdis Barber has a unique distinction, one that he really doesn’t care to have and that no one from his school or community wants to see. But the truth is that Verdis made history this spring as the last athlete to ever compete for the Panthers of Norman County West High School.

The high school, located in Halstad in northwest Minnesota, closed its doors for good when the school year ended. A kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school will remain in Halstad, with most of the students in grades six through 12 attending Ada-Borup in the fall.

Norman County West had a high school enrollment of 67 students in 2017-18. There has been a high school in Halstad for generations, and it has been called Norman County West since 1982.

“It’s been an amazing, weird, kind of head-scratcher of a year,” said athletic director McKeag Borne.

With one exception, all the Panthers athletes competed on cooperative teams with Ada-Borup during 2017-18. The exception was boys basketball, where the Panthers finished 6-18.
Barber (pictured) was a member of the cooperative football team, the NCW basketball team and this spring he was part of the cooperative track and field team.

His historic designation came in the preliminaries of the Class 1A state track meet, where he ran a leg on the 4x100-meter relay team. He and Ada-Borup students Brady Borgen, Vitor Vac Bitu Alves and Zach Pelzman did not advance to the finals.

“We’re pretty happy,” said Verdis, a sophomore. “One of our handoffs wasn’t the greatest.”

No decision to close a school is taken lightly. The NCW school board made that decision in January and not everyone was happy.

“I think they saw the writing on the wall for quite some time,” Borne said. “It was still pretty difficult and there were still people trying to find some way to fight it.”

One of the highlights of the school year was the performance of the Ada-Borup/Norman County West football team. The first-year cooperative squad finished with a record of 12-1, losing to Wabasso 21-13 in the Class 1A semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Soon after that game, the football players who played basketball put on different uniforms, depending on where they went to school. In early December, Ada-Borup defeated Norman County West 55-40 in Halstad.

“It was kind of weird,” Verdis said. “It was like, ‘Wow, we just played football with these guys.’ I guess it made it more of a competitive game, knowing the other team so well.”

The last home sporting event for an NCW-only team was a boys basketball game against Rothsay in February. The Panthers lost 64-62 on an emotion-filled day. The final game of the final season ended with a loss to Badger/Greenbush-Middle River in the Class 1A Section 8
tournament.

“That was a fun game and an important game,” Barber said of the Rothsay game. “But I’d say it wasn’t as emotional as our last home game.”

Injuries limited the available players on the boys basketball team and led to the cancellation of some junior-varsity games.

“The parents and kids really wanted to have that last season and do their best,” Borne said. “They fought really hard and they kind of defined their own success. At the basketball banquet, it was pretty special hearing the kids talk about how proud they were of being part of the last season.”

With two years of high school remaining, Verdis expressed feelings that a lot of people at Norman County West have shared.

“How I felt about it was disappointing, but we’ve been trying to make the most of the last year,” he said.

When football practice, and then school, starts in the fall, Verdis will be an Ada-Borup Cougar.

“It’s an 11-mile drive from my house to Ada,” he said. “It’s not like a total haul.”

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



South Ridge’s Nick Carlson: Two Sports, Two State Tournaments
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/15/2018 7:04:06 PM

With graduation in the rear-view mirror, college ahead in the fall and now, as of Friday, his high school athletic career at an end, let’s hope South Ridge’s Nick Carlson takes some time off. Because he has surely earned it.

He is not only a four-sport athlete but a two-sport athlete in the spring. All he accomplished this spring was qualify for last weekend’s Class 1A state track meet in the long jump and triple jump (he placed fifth in the triple jump) while also being the only senior on the Panthers baseball team.

They advanced to the Class 1A state semifinals before losing to Sleepy Eye 4-1 Friday at Chaska Athletic Park. They finished the baseball season with a 13-4 loss to Parkers Prairie in Friday’s third-place game.

South Ridge, which has a high school enrollment of 137 students, is 22 miles north of Cloquet. The baseball team had never gone to state before this season, and Carlson (pictured) – who also played football and basketball -- was a key component of its success. As a pitcher he brought a record of 5-1 to state, with an 0.85 earned-run average and 47 strikeouts in 41 innings. His batting average was .314.

“He’s great,” said baseball coach Tyler Olin. “He’s such a great leader, not only on the field but in the classroom, off the field. He’s a better person than he is a player for us, and he’s a pretty darn good athlete.”

One of Nick’s most memorable days this spring was a double outing on May 31. In the morning he competed in the Section 7 track meet in Duluth, where he set a section record of 44 feet, 11 ½ inches in the triple jump. In the afternoon he pitched a one-hitter as the Panthers defeated Deer River 13-2 in the section tournament.

“I almost hit a home run, too,” Nick said Friday. “I hit a triple, so it was a good day.”

Being a member of two teams at the same time required some flexibility for practices, meets and games.

“It was just communication, I guess, with our track and field coach,” said Olin. “He’s just a great kid who’s able to manage all those different things, plus academics. It’s really him being such a great guy that makes it work.”

South Ridge athletic director Tony DeLeon said there have been a handful of other kids who were on two teams at the same time, “but maybe not at the same high level as Nick. Some of the credit needs to go to the coaches for allowing him to coordinate those practices. It takes a whole program to make that happen.

“Nick is a perfect role model, not only for the young men but for adults, too. He works hard in the classroom, he’s always respectful, appreciates everything, never complains, never brags, just goes about his business. All he does is set records and compete in state tournaments and does a great job.”

Carlson was the winning pitcher Thursday when the Panthers defeated Rushford-Peterson 5-1 in the state quarterfinals; he gave up four hits, one run, walked two and struck out six in seven innings. In Friday’s semifinals he played second base and center field.

“I’ve been playing with these guys ever since Little League,” he said. “Everybody knows each other really well. It’s a tight-knit group.”

Carlson will attend the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth and be a member of the basketball team.

“It’s nice and close and basketball is my favorite sport,” he said. “I think I’m probably going to do track, too.”

Of course he is.

State Baseball Tournament

Friday’s semifinals

Class 1A

Heritage Christian 7, Parkers Prairie 4
Sleepy Eye 4, South Ridge 1

Class 2A
Duluth Marshall 6, Caledonia 3
Maple Lake 4, Jordan 3

Class 3A
Mahtomedi 3, Alexandria 0
Rocori 5, New Ulm 0

Class 4A
Minnetonka 7, St. Michael-Albertville 6
Stillwater 4, Blaine 3

State Championship Games
Saturday at Target Field

Class 1A

Heritage Christian vs. Sleepy Eye, 10 a.m.

Class 2A
Duluth Marshall vs. Maple Lake, 1 p.m.

Class 3A
Mahtomedi vs. Rocori, 4 p.m.

Class 4A
Minnetonka vs. Stillwater, 7 p.m.

State Lacrosse Tournament
Saturday’s Championship Games
At Chanhassen High School

Girls
Apple Valley vs. Eden Prairie, 3:30 p.m.

Boys
Prior Lake vs. Benilde-St. Margaret’s, 6 p.m.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Duluth Marshall’s Big Ben Rings Up Another Big Win
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/14/2018 4:59:48 PM

ST. CLOUD – Duluth Marshall 11th-grader Ben Pedersen, who might be the most dominant high school baseball player in Minnesota, had this pitching line Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state tournament: seven innings, three hits allowed, two runs allowed, three walks and nine strikeouts in a 6-2 victory over St. Cloud Cathedral.

And he didn’t have his best stuff.

“That was definitely not his sharpest performance but the bar for Ben and the expectations for Ben are so far out of whack now; ‘Wow, a three-hitter with a walk and how many strikeouts? Yeah, that’s disappointing,’ ” said Hilltoppers coach Joe Wicklund. “You kind of get to a spot where he’s played so well all year you expect the absolute best. For him, he was still awesome today and gave us a chance to run downhill with the pitching staff.”

Here are some amazing numbers: Pedersen (pictured) gave up two earned runs Thursday, equaling the number of earned runs he gave up during the entire regular season and Section 7 tournament.

Pedersen is as impressive physically as he is statistically. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 230 pounds. He has already made a verbal commitment to play college baseball at the University of Missouri in the Southeastern Conference.

He came into the state tournament with a 2018 pitching record of 6-1, an earned-run average of 0.26 and 91 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings. He’s also the Hilltoppers’ cleanup hitter with a .304 batting average. Duluth Marshall is the top-seeded team in the Class 2A field, taking a record of 22-4 into Friday’s semifinals here against Caledonia. They made their state tourney debut last year, finishing fourth.

Pedersen also played hockey until a few years ago, and now he is the fresh face of baseball in northeast Minnesota.

“I think we’re hoping people up north believe we can play baseball, too, a little bit more,” he said. “We’re just having fun with it.”

Ben’s fastball can reach into the low 90s, and he also throws a curveball, slider and changeup. He didn’t go all-out with his fastball against Cathedral, and that was part of the plan.

“Today I bet he was in the high 80s,” Wicklund said. “We talked about that before the game, the importance of having his best stuff in the seventh and the first, so kind of pacing yourself and being smart about it. The part that people sometimes miss about Ben is that I’ve never encountered a high school pitcher with his savvy. He calls his own games, he works on the mound, he makes adjustments, he talks it out with us between innings. So I would imagine if you asked him right now he’s got a little left in the tank because we asked him to hold on to it.”

The Hilltoppers are confident in their pitching staff within a back-to-back-to-back state tournament format. Friday’s semifinal winners will play for state championships Saturday at Target Field, while semifinals losers will play in third-place games later Friday at each site.

Marshall’s Derrick Winn has a 5-1 pitching record and 0.61 ERA, Brett Benson is 4-1, 1.23, and Carter Sullivan is 4-1, 1.38.

“We have a pretty good stable of pitchers we can count on,” said Wicklund. “But not having to use anybody besides the big horse is a huge, huge advantage heading into Friday and Saturday.”

--This is the biggest weekend of the year in Duluth, with Grandma’s Marathon festivities capped by the running of the race Saturday. Wicklund is the marathon’s board chairman, so he can be excused if his thoughts extend beyond baseball.

“It’s a perfect weekend to be down in St. Cloud,” he said, laughing. “There are three people who vote if you ever have to cancel the marathon, knock on wood. One of those people is hoping to not be anywhere near Duluth on Saturday.

“This is our best weekend of the year. The whole state, if not a huge part of the country, pays attention to us. And if we can pull a tiny bit of that attention down here, that would be pretty special.”

--The second game of the Class 2A quarterfinals featured two dominant pitching performances and a near no-hitter by Caledonia’s Casey Storlie in a 1-0 victory by the Warriors over two-time defending state champion Minnehaha Academy. Dylan Kiratli ended Storlie’s no-hit attempt on a single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Storlie strick out seven and walked four, while Minnehaha's Brock Brumley allowed only three hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. Caledonia's run came when Storlie singled in the fourth, moved to second on an infield out and scored on a single by Andrew Goergen.

--Maple Lake moved into the 2A semifinals with a 9-0 victory over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. Ben Clapp drove in four runs for the Irish and pitchers Grant Mergen, Mitch Holstad and Cole Trager combined on a four-hitter.

--Jordan won the final 2A quarterfinal, defeating Paynesville 6-2. Eighteen of the 20 players on the Paynesville roster were members of the Bulldogs football team that reached the Class 2A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium last fall.

State Baseball Tournament Quarterfinals

Class 1A
Heritage Christian 4, Sacred Heart 3
Parkers Prairie 8, Wabasso 6
Sleppy Eye 6, Hinckley-Finlayson 0
South Ridge 5, Rushford-Peterson 1

Class 2A
Duluth Marshall 6, St. Cloud Cathedral 2
Caledonia 1, Minnehaha Academy 0
Maple Lake 9, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 0
Jordan 6, Paynesville 2

Class 3A
Mahtomedi 3, Grand Rapids 2
Alexandria 2, Willmar 1
Rocori 3, Red Wing 2 (8)
New Ulm 5, South St. Paul 4 (9)

Class 4A
Minnetonka 3, Eastview 2
St. Michael-Albertville 3, Lakeville North 2
Stillwater 3, Mounds View 2
Blaine 6, Wayzata 1

State Lacrosse Tournament

State semifinals were played Thursday at Chanhassen High School and Minnetonka High School, with championship games scheduled for Saturday at Chanhassen.

Girls semifinals
Apple Valley 11, Blake 6
Eden Prairie 18, Lakeville North 3
The girls championship game will be played at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Boys semifinals
Prior Lake 13, Minnetonka 11
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 9, Mahtomedi 6
The boys championship game will be played at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



The Gray Sisters, A Class 1A Golf Legacy
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/13/2018 7:53:11 PM

In 2008 an eighth-grader from Legacy Christian Academy named Rachel Gray made her debut in the Class 1A girls state golf tournament at Pebble Creek in Becker. On Wednesday, a senior named Sophie Gray ended her high school golf career with a second-place finish in the Class 1A girls state tourney.

Those were the bookends on a remarkable run of Gray sisters at state. Rachel qualified for state as an eighth-grader, sophomore, junior and senior, and Sophie went to state six years in a row. That’s 10 appearances at state with no overlap; Rachel graduated in 2012 and a year later Sophie competed for the first time as a seventh-grader. (Pictured are Rachel, left, and Sophie.)

Rachel was the 2012 state champion and she finished third in 2011. Sophie came in 23rd, 13th, fourth and now has been the state runner-up for three years in a row. She shot 79-77 for a 139 total Tuesday and Wednesday, one stroke behind champion Rachel Halvorson of Lac qui Parle Valley, who went 76-79-138.

“There’s definitely a lot of pride,” said Sophie, 17. “A lot of people here know our family and know us. I’ve heard a lot of people say they’re sad to see our family go. I come back and see the same people each year and we all really enjoy that.”

Rachel, 24, played collegiate golf at Concordia University in St. Paul, twice competing in the NCAA Division II championships. She now coaches women’s golf at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, another NCAA Division II school. One of her prize recruits this year is her kid sister.

“I definitely wanted it to be her decision,” said Rachel, who has been in Becker to watch all six of Sophie’s state tournaments. “She came for a visit, she did everything on her own. She loves our facilities. I’m biased but we have some state-of-the-art facilities. She loved the school, she loved the players on the team and it’s a great fit for her.”

The girls’ parents, Jack and Kitty, have been watching their daughters play high school golf for more than a decade. Jack is an assistant girls golf coach at Legacy Christian, while Kitty is not a golfer.

“It’s been a huge part of our life,” Kitty said. “It’s been fun to be a super fan and watch these girls golf.”

During a late-season competition, a younger team member was expressing sadness that Sophie was graduating and was unsure if Jack would be back next season.

“Jack is so passionate,” Kitty said. “One of the young ladies was in tears, saying, ‘I don’t want Sophie to leave, I don’t want you to leave.’ He said, ‘I’m going to be back.’ He’s got some time and effort invested into these ladies and he really wants to see them succeed. He’s so passionate about teaching young girls how to golf.”

Two years ago Sophie finished one shot behind the winner, last year she was five shots back and Wednesday’s result was another one-shot margin between second place and a gold medal. Had she finished first Wednesday, it would have come six years to the day since Rachel won her state championship.

“If you would have asked me last year, I would have said winning would be the ultimate thing for me,” Sophie said. “But I think this year has really changed my perspective on a lot of things, especially after making the decision to play in college and signing my letter of intent and everything.

“I realized the bigger perspective of it. I started to realize people are about more than just who won the Minnesota high school tournament for Class A. While it would be great to win, I don’t want that to be my end-all, be-all because I want to accomplish more.”

After the tournament ended, the Gray family began quietly celebrating, reflecting and looking toward the future. At Lincoln Memorial, Rachel has her players compete on the course to decide who who will play in the next competition.

Kitty said, “Sophie told me, ‘The work begins tomorrow. Because I want to play for Rach.’

“And it’s only a thirteen-and-a-half-hour drive.”

Team, Individual Champions

Class 1A girls/
Lac qui Parle Valley; Rachel Halvorson, Lac qui Parle Valley.

Class 1A boys/ Sleepy Eye United and Mounds Park Academy; Ben Laffen, Sleepy Eye United.

Class 2A girls/ Detroit Lakes; Sophie Yoemans, Red Wing.

Class 2A boys/ Holy Family Catholic; Nate Deziel, East Grand Forks.

Class 3A girls/ Edina; Kathryn Van Arragon, Blaine.

Class 3A boys/ Maple Grove; Tristan Nelko, Wayzata.

Aces Abound At State

There were three holes-in-one during the girls and boys state golf tournaments.

--In 3A boys, Eastview’s Will Frazier scored an ace at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids.

--In 3A girls at Bunker Hills, Madi Hicks of Chanhassen got an ace.

--In 2A boys, Mitch Krebsbach of Mound Westonka got a hole-in-one at Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan.

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Three Sports, Three State Tournaments Is Common In Jordan
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/12/2018 1:12:53 PM

Tuesday was a busy day for Thomas Gutzmer. But then again, every day is pretty busy for the junior from Jordan High School who this week is playing in his third state tournament of the 2017-18 school year.

Thomas was a lineman on the Jordan football team that reached the Class 3A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium and a guard-forward on the Hubmen basketball team that played in the Class 2A state tournament. He completed the trifecta by qualifying for this week’s Class 2A state golf tournament at Ridges at Sand Creek, his home course in Jordan.

He is not alone among Jordan athletes participating in three state tournaments this school year. Six other boys have done the same, with all of them being members of the football team: Gutzmer (pictured), Jonathan Huss, Jonathan Draheim, Ryan Friedges, Noah Schmitt, Bryce Sievers and Mason Vogel. Draheim, Friedges and Schmitt are playing in this week’s Class 2A state baseball tournament, Huss went to state in 2A wrestling, and Sievers and Vogel went to state in 1A track and field, where they were part of the second-place 4x800 relay team in helping the Hubmen finish fourth in the team standings.

All told, seven teams from Jordan – plus three cooperative teams involving athletes from Jordan and neighboring schools – have reached state tournaments during 2017-18.

Gutzmer began the day Tuesday by joining with fellow athletes for a 6:30 a.m. weightlifting session. He was on the Ridges putting green several hours ahead of his 1:30 p.m. tee time, then made the short drive home for a little rest before returning. He was in the final foursome in the first round of the two-day, 36-hole golf tournament.

“We lift Monday through Thursday in the mornings, and in the summer it’s the same thing,” he said. “It stays pretty busy.”

Thomas also qualified for the state golf tournament last year, finishing in a tie for 32nd place among 88 finishers. He is the only male from Jordan to play at state golf this year, but the girls team qualified as the champion of Section 2. Kevin Gutzmer (Thomas’ father) coaches both Jordan teams. Girls team members at state are Autumn Sivilay, Rachel Henderson, Aysia Kim, Emily Henderson, Molly Kelvington and Abby Oehlerking.

Thomas has spent time on golf courses for as long as he can remember. He also works at Ridges, cleaning and washing carts.

“I’m out here a lot,” he said.

He is a lefthanded golfer but uses his right hand to shoot baskets and snap footballs. His favorite sport? “It’s pretty tough for me to decide, playing all three sports,” he said. “But golf is right up there.”

Jordan’s trip to the state football playoffs was the first since 2012 and the basketball team had not been to state since 2010.

“For football, our program doesn’t have the best history but we have a new coach and we’re coming around,” Thomas said. “The section championship is probably one of the best memories. We played in a snow-bowl-type game in overtime (defeating Glencoe-Silver Lake 42-41). That was probably the most fun I’ve had in a sporting event.

“Basketball was really fun. We got kind of a cruddy draw and played Minnehaha (Academy, losing 65-45 in the state quarterfinals). They’re good players. It was really fun.”

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Heather Van Norman, Meet Pequot Lakes’ Reid Pierzinski
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/9/2018 10:19:43 PM

Odell Beckham Jr., superstar wide receiver for the New York Giants, was surely unaware that something important concerning his family's athletic history took place Saturday at Hamline University’s Klas Field. When word reaches his mother, it might sink in.

The name of Beckham’s mom, Heather Van Norman, has been in the MSHSL state track meet record book since 1987. That was the year Van Norman, representing Windom High School, won the Class 1A team championship in scoring 30 points all by herself. One of those events was the 200-meter dash, which Heather won with a time of 24.58 seconds.

That Class 1A meet record stood for 31 years until it finally fell on Saturday when Minneapolis North senior T’Nia Riley won the 200 in 24.44 seconds.

And there was an important update to the “one-person team wins a state title” storyline. This time the one person was Pequot Lakes’ Reid Pierzinski (pictured). All the senior did this weekend was win the 110 hurdles, the 300 hurdles and the 200-meter dash while also finishing seventh in the triple jump.

Reid’s first-place finishes were worth 12 points apiece and he gleaned three points in the triple jump. That’s a total of 39 points, which gave Pequot Lakes – in the guise of one superstar – the Class 1A boys track and field state title. Mora and Southwest Christian tied for second place with 32 points.

It was that kind of day Saturday. Three all-time state records fell, there were repeat state champs galore, and the big crowd roared over and over as athletes battled and scrapped and gutted their way to the finish. Despite a weather-induced delay in Saturday’s Class 2A competition (which was followed by the 1A meet), it will stand as one of the most memorable track and field championships in recent years.

While Pierzinski was the top individual athlete, Minnetonka was the star of the girls relay events, sweeping the Class 2A 4x200, 4x400 and 4x800 en route to winning the team championship. North St. Paul won the 2A girls 4x100 for the second year in a row.

--Mounds View junior pole vaulter Julia Fixsen won her second consecutive Class 2A state title with a winning height of 13 feet, 9 1/4 inches. That broke her own previous state record of 13-9. Last year she won the event at 11-6. Her goal all season has been to clear 14 feet, and she nearly made it. She made two unsuccessful attempts at 14-1 1/4 before the weather delay ended her meet.

“I would say in all honesty I’m a little disappointed because I wanted that 14-one and a quarter within this season,” she said. “I’ve been trying and I’ve been wanting it for so long. But I know that I have next year, which is kind of encouraging. I’m excited because next year I could jump even higher than 14-1 because I have the whole offseason. Disappointed? Yes, but also really excited about the future.”

--Eagan senior Natalie Windels was a double hurdles champion, sweeping the 2A girls 100- and 300-meter events. The 300 is her specialty; she won that race at state last season. The 100 field included defending champion Shae Buchman of Rosemount, who finished third behind Windels and White Bear Lake’s Erika Townley.

“I didn’t think I’d win it,” Windels said of the 100 hurdles. “I thought Shae for sure would have like a great start and then I did. I was already smiling at the end.”

--Another double winner was Edina senior Emily Kompelien in the 2A girls 800 and 1,600. The original schedule had little more than an hour between the 1,600 and 800, but the weather delay gave the 800 runners more time to prepare.

“The rain delay really played into my favor. I was pretty tired after the mile,” Emily said. “I knew coming into it that it would be a challenge but I’ve done that in a couple other meets this year. The mile was a super-tactical race. And for the 800 I knew it would just be a whole clump of us, which it totally was. But I always know that I can count on my kick to get me out of an iffy situation.”

New all-time state records

Girls pole vault: Julia Fixsen, Mounds View (2A), 13-9 ¼

Girls 3,200: Emily Covert, Minneapolis Washburn (2A), 10:06.19

Boys 4x200: Hopkins (2A), 1:26.37

Repeat state champions

1A boys 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 200: Reid Pierzinski, Pequot Lakes

1A boys 100: Marlon Wiley, Jordan

1A girls high jump: Nyalaam Jok, Annandale (2A Osseo in 2017)

1A girls 100, 200: T’Nia Riley, Minneapolis North

1A girls 400: Kya Phillips, Cristo Rey Jesuit

1A girls 800: Ava Hill, Mesabi East

2A boys 300 hurdles: Joel Smith, Mounds View

2A girls pole vault: Julia Fixsen, Mounds View

2A girls 300 hurdles: Natalie Windels, Eagan

2A girls triple jump: Allyson Weiss, East Ridge

2A girls 4x100 relay North St. Paul

Triple champion

1A boys 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 200: Reid Pierzinski, Pequot Lakes

Double champions

1A girls 100, 200: T’Nia Riley, Minneapolis North

1A boys 1,600 and 3,200: Matt Steiger, La Crescent

2A boys 1,600, 3,200: Khalid Hussein, Wayzata

2A girls 800, 1,600: Emily Kompelien, Edina

2A girls 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles: Natalie Windels, Eagan

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



Softball, Track And Field, Tennis On A Wild Friday
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/8/2018 9:03:19 PM

NORTH MANKATO – On one of the busiest days of the high school sports year, Friday provided some great lessons in dedication, thoroughness, hard work and commitment. There was an all-time state record set on the first day of the state track and field championships, there was a miracle finish in the Class 4A state softball tournament, and there were retirements by several long-serving coaches in baseball, track and basketball. But let’s start this report with an athlete who finished her high school career with the rare distinction of playing in the same state tournament six years in a row.

Her name is Rhiana Roberts and she is a senior at New York Mills. The Eagles recorded their second consecutive Class 1A softball championship Friday with a 9-6 victory over Edgerton/Southwest Minnesota Christian, the same team they defeated in last year’s title game. Rhiana had three hits and scored three runs in Friday’s game. As the Eagles pitcher, she struck out six and walked one.

She not only saw her high school career end, it also ended a lengthy chapter for the Roberts family and the Eagles softball team. Her older sisters, Emily and Autumn, also played on the team, so the 2019 season will be the first in 11 years without a Roberts on the roster.

“It started with Emily in seventh grade, rolled over to Autumn in eighth grade and then Rhiana ever since seventh grade,” said New York Mills coach Bryan Dunrud. “The parents have instilled great values in them and they’re just great kids, great young adults now.

“As they came into the program you could tell they play a lot of ball at the house. The knowledge, the teaching of the game, they’re very skilled. But even beyond that, they’re just good people with good morals who you’re proud to have as part of your team.”

New York Mills nearly saw its quest for a repeat title end in Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Eagles trailed Hayfield before scoring four runs in the seventh inning for a 6-5, walk-off win. They defeated Randolph 5-3 later Thursday in the semifinals.

“We’ve come back before,” Rhiana said. “There’s no giving up on us. We’re really family, we play together, we keep going no matter what. In the seventh inning I was standing on second base and I knew we could do it and we did it.”

Rhiana was named to the Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team for the third year in a row. After the postgame awards ceremony, there were lots of photos and hugs.

“This was the last game I’ll ever get to play with my team,” she said, “so I really had to try my best and just play for all the fans and my teammates.”

Dream Ending For Stillwater

The Stillwater Ponies softball team provided an example of what is possible when you don’t quit and keep working hard. Their record during the regular season was 7-13, losing 11 of their last 13 regular-season games. They came to the state tournament with a 13-13 mark and defeated the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds en route to the state championship. They defeated Park 5-1 in Friday’s title game.

--In the Class 3A championship game, Faribault defeated North Branch 2-0. Falcons pitcher McKayla Armbruster, who tossed a no-hitter in the quarterfinals, gave up only five hits while striking out 37 and walking one in three games.

--Maple Lake captured the Class 2A softball crown with an 11-1, five inning win over St. Peter.

--Annandale’s Skip Dolan, who has coached softball for 31 years, had some news for the Cardinals after their fourth-place finish in Class 2A: He told the girls that he was retiring as their coach. Dolan will continue to coach the Annandale boys basketball team.

Track And Field News

--Emily Covert of Minneapolis Washburn won the opening event at the state track and field championships Friday, the Class 2A girls 3,200-meter run. She set an all-time state record with a time of 10:06.19. The previous state record was 10:06.98, set by Chaska's Bria Wetsch in 2006.

The state track and field championships will continue Saturday at Hamline University in St. Paul.

--This weekend's state track and field meet marks the end of a 51-year coaching career for Hutchinson head boys coach Leonard Lasley.

--St. Francis High School graduate Maggie Ewen, now a senior at Arizona State, won the NCAA Division I national championship in the women’s shot put for the third time Thursday in Eugene, Oregon. She also will be competing in the discus on Saturday. Maggie was is a four-time MSHSL state champion in the discus, won three state titles in the shot put and holds all-time state records in both events.

--Richfield High School graduate Obsa Ali, who won MSHSL state championships in cross-country and the 3,200 meters, won the men’s steeplechase at the NCAA championships Friday.

Boys State Tennis Champions

The tennis season ended with champions being crowned in single and doubles …

Class 2A singles: Rochester Mayo's Sebastian Vile won the title with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Eagan's Maxim Zagrebelny.

Class 2A doubles: Nisal Liyanage and Sourabh Terakanambi of Eastview defeated Frank Stich and Benjamin Wheaton of Minnetonka 6-3, 7-5 to win the championship.

Class 1A singles: David D. Bush of Duluth Denfeld defeated Parker Law of Mounds Park Academy 6-4, 6-1 in the championship match.

Class 1A doubles: Pavao Veldic and Kevin Turlington of Rochester Lourdes are champs with 6-4, 6-1 win over Jake Seitz and Ethan Youso of Virginia.

More Coaching News

--Brainerd’s Lowell Scearcy is retiring after 49 years as a baseball coach. His teams won state titles in 1995 and 2000 and went to state 11 times between 1981 and 2014. His career record of 763-323 ranks second all-time behind St. Cloud Cathedral’s Bob Karn (782-305, 48 years).

Scearcy's resignation "letter" was written on a baseball. He wrote, “I feel it’s the right time to call it a career” and “Go Brainerd” ... then added his signature to the horsehide.

-- Hall of Fame Rochester Mayo girls basketball coach Rich Decker and his assistants have resigned. He told Pat Ruff of the Rochester Post Bulletin: “No question the involvement of some parents is a factor ... once it’s miserable, it’s not worth doing it anymore.”

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



No Home-Field Advantage, No Problem For North Branch Softball
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/7/2018 5:51:57 PM

NORTH MANKATO – The softball team from North Branch really didn’t have any home-field advantage this season. In fact, the Vikings really didn’t have a home field. Which makes their first-ever trip to the state tournament even sweeter.

The Vikings played two early-season games on their home field before a construction project blocked access to it for the rest of the spring. They used a field at Sunrise River Elementary School for the rest of the season.

“We played probably like five home games,” said first-year head coach Kathy Crudo said after the Vikings defeated Holy Angels 12-0 in Thursday’s Class 3A quarterfinals in front of a big crowd of North Branch supporters. “Our athletic staff and entire community, as you can see today, definitely is behind us and is willing to do whatever it takes to help us.”

A temporary fence was installed at the elementary field and a generator was used to provide power to a temporary scoreboard and public-address system. And no matter where the Vikings played, they performed at a high level. They lost only once during the regular season (to Rogers 4-3 in early May), then fought through the loser’s bracket to win the Section 7 championship and take a 23-2 record to state.

North Branch defeated Hill-Murray 3-1 later Thursday in the semifinals and will meet Faribault in the state championship game Friday afternoon.

North Branch had a combined record of 29-21 in the last two seasons, when Crudo was an assistant coach. She is a Forest Lake High School graduate (the Rangers made it to state in Class 4A this year) who played softball at Winona State and was an assistant at Minnesota Duluth before going to North Branch.

“They came in with a goal this season and they haven’t stopped,” she said of her players. “If it’s there, they’re going to keep going. Obviously the first couple years were just building years when I got here. But they bought into the culture and into working hard and they all have their own personal goals, but the team goal definitely is what has driven them this far.”

Asked to describe the season, North Branch senior Heather Kost said, “Unreal, first of all, obviously. It’s kind of crazy. We went from nothing to something. We got a new head coach, she’s the bomb and she’s the reason we’re here. And we’ve got six strong senior leaders, and that really helps us. Everyone is super close and that’s what’s making this season so awesome.”

Senior Shelby Robinson said the lack of a true home field was “not much of a challenge. We got used to it right away.”

Crudo said, “I don’t feel like it’s my first year head coaching here. It’s awesome. When you know that the girls are totally on the same page with things, and things are clicking, it’s rewarding for them and I think they definitely deserve anything and everything that has come to them. They would trade any single accolade they’ve had for these moments. It’s awesome.”

Minnesota’s First Family of Softball

Members of the Wagner family from Hayfield are quite busy these days…

--Jana Wagner is coaching Hayfield in the Class 1A state tournament.

--Her husband Corey is umpiring in the state tournament.

--Their daughter Dani just completed her college career with the University of Minnesota softball team.

No-Hitters Highlight Day One

There were two no-hitters in the Class 3A softball quarterfinals: Faribault's McKayla Armbruster struck out 17 and no-hit Bemidji in an 8-0 win, and Winona's Annika Anderson struck out 13, got the game-winning hit in the bottom of the seventh inning and no-hit Rocori in a 2-1 win. In the Class 1A quarterfinals, Edgerton/Southwest Minnesota Christian’s Sierra Van Dyke threw a no-hitter in a 14-0 win over Sebeka.


State Softball Tournament

CLASS 1A

Quarterfinals

New York Mills 6, Hayfield 5
Randolph 4, Carlton 3
Edgerton/SW MN Christian 14, Sebeka 0 (5 innings)
New Ulm Cathedral 10, Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 2

Semifinals
New York Mills 5, Randolph 3
Edgerton/SW MN Christian 5, New Ulm Cathedral 1

CLASS 2A

Quarterfinals

Maple Lake 3, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 2 (9 innings)
Pipestone 4, Esko 1
Annandale 2, St. Agnes 1
St. Peter 10, Cotter/Hope Lutheran 0 (5 innings)

Semifinals
Maple Lake 12, Pipestone 3
St. Peter 5, Annandale 2 (10 innings)

CLASS 3A

Quarterfinals

Faribault 8, Bemidji 0
Winona 2, Rocori 1
North Branch 12, Holy Angels 0 (5 innings)
Hill-Murray 10, Benilde-St. Margaret’s 3

Semifinals
Faribault 7, Winona 1
North Branch 3, Hill-Murray 1

CLASS 4A

Quarterfinals

Park 9, Lakeville North 0
Centennial 4, Shakopee 2
Stillwater 8, Forest Lake 4
Buffalo 10, Edina 4

Semifinals
Park 10, Centennial 0 (6 innings)
Stillwater 14, Buffalo 4 (5 innings

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



After 43 Years, Brainerd Tennis Team Returns To State
Posted by John Millea (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 6/5/2018 6:27:23 PM

The Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota must have seemed like the Taj Mahal of tennis to the Brainerd boys team as the Class 2A state tournament began Tuesday. The facility is world-class, with 10 indoor courts, 12 outdoor courts, 30-foot ceilings, ample seating for spectators and other amenities. That’s a far cry from what the Warriors experienced in getting there.

With the worst spring weather that longtime Brainerd coach Bruce Thompson (pictured) could remember, coupled with no indoor courts for the team to use, it seemed only fair that the Warriors earned the right to play in the team state tournament for the first time in 43 years. Thompson was a first-year teacher in Brainerd and an assistant coach on that team in 1975, and now he’s a retiree who spends winters in Arizona.

Thompson’s memory from that 1975 state tourney is sketchy. He remembers it was held on outdoor courts at a Twin Cities high school, but he doesn’t recall the name of that school.

Playing at state is a grand payoff for the Warriors. The cold and snowy spring weather forced them to compress nearly their entire regular-season schedule into three and a half weeks.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tougher spring,” Thompson said.

The closest thing to indoor courts available to the team was banquet rooms – yes, banquet rooms – at Cragun’s Resort outside of Brainerd.

“It’s a convention center but it’s carpeted so it’s not the same thing,” Thompson said. “And the walls are a pale yellow and the lights are dim. Try and see the ball with those conditions. But we spent a lot of time out there.”

The unseeded Warriors lost to third-seeded Rochester Century 6-1 in Tuesday’s quarterfinals. It was Brainerd’s first loss after 24 victories this season. The Warriors’ victory came at No. 3 doubles, where Matt Hintz and Camden Cooper defeated Century’s Sanjiv Ramana and Arhan Mehta, 6-7(4), 6-4, 10-7. Brainerd fell to Eastview 6-1 later Tuesday in the consolation bracket, ending the Warriors' season with a record of 24-2.

Tanner Lundberg is Brainerd’s only representative in the state singles and doubles tournament, which will be held Thursday and Friday. He will meet Elk River sophomore Stewart Morrell in the first round of singles play.

Brainerd’s path to the team state tournament wound through the highly competitive Section 8 playoffs. The Warriors defeated Bemidji 5-2 and Willmar 5-2 before holding off St. Cloud Tech 4-3 in the section finals.

“We really felt all along, looking at our rivals in our section, that if we played well and we improved and we did some things we had to do, we could be in it,” Thompson said. “It was so tight with Tech and Willmar both, maybe we were fortunate but we earned it. We earned our trip back.”

Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn



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