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Jan. 27: Here's What's Happening

Posted: Wednesday, January 27, 2021 - 7:40 PM

A major award

I’ve written previously about Brody Larson, the senior at LeRoy-Ostrander who was able to put on a football uniform for the first time last fall and scored a touchdown. He was named Minnesota’s Spirit of Sport award winner, which is one of two prestigious awards sponsored by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The other award is centered on the arts and it’s called the Heart of the Arts award. As posted on John’s Journal, that Kylen Running Hawk, a senior at Morris Area High School, is the 2021 recipient of this award.

The full story is below. Some key excerpts…

Kylen’s story is pretty amazing. He found his passion in the performing arts despite a language barrier – his first language is Lakota Sioux -- hearing loss in one ear and other obstacles. Kylen plans to study education in college, with an emphasis on choir and theater, with hopes of teaching those art forms to Native American students.

Kylen’s family is Hunkpapa Lakota from the Standing Rock Nation in North and South Dakota and the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska. His Lakota name is Wica Kawitaya, which translates to He Gathers the People/Nation. Kylen’s early years were spent on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and he moved to Morris when he was 13.

Kylen is very proud of his heritage. He performs in traditional Lakota costume at powwows, parades and other events. Sometimes he walks to and from school in the winter as a way to remember and honor his ancestors, including those who were at the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Wounded Knee Massacre.

I enjoyed chatting with Kylen on Zoom and am grateful to Morris teacher Seth Kelly for letting me know about Kylen. Congrats to Kylen Running Hawk, an inspirational young man.

Approaching a coaching milestone

Hopkins boys basketball coach Ken Novak Jr. has 898 career wins, so he needs two more to reach 900.

He is the active leader in career wins among boys basketball coaches and ranks third all-time:

1,012 Bob McDonald, Chisholm (retired 2014)

936    Bob Brink, Rocori (retired 2012

898   Novak

746   Dave Galovich, Crosby-Ironton

Novak by the numbers…

--State-record 28 consecutive seasons with 20-plus wins, 1993-2020

(Next is 22 winnings seasons in a row by Tartan coach Mark Klingsporn from 1999-2020).

--Novak ranks second in state championships with eight. The leader is DeLaSalle’s Dave Thorson with nine; Thorson is now an assistant coach at Colorado State.

--Novak is No. 1 in state tournament appearances with 18, followed by former Rushford-Peterson coach Tom Vix with 16 and Thorson with 15.

I watched Hopkins play at Minnetonka on Tuesday night, with Minnetonka winning 63-61 in a very entertaining game. A ninth-grader named Andy Stefonowicz scored 26 points for the Skippers, bombing three-point shots. It was an impressive win for Minnetonka, and we know Hopkins will be OK as the season continues.

There was a strong Bob McDonald influence at the game. His grandson Bryce Tesdahl is the Minnetonka head coach; another grandson (and Bryce's kid brother) Brock Tesdahl is a Hopkins assistant coach.

--Speaking of Hopkins basketball and milestones…The state record for girls basketball consecutive wins is 78 by Fosston in 2002. The Hopkins girls have won 66 in a row.

Thank A Young Ref

The Hayley Dessner story from John’s Journal, about a young official’s first game, has been picked up nationally. The National Federation retweeted one of my posts, spreading it to every high school governing body in the country. I’ve been contacted by folks in other states with questions about how we try to recruit and retain officials in Minnesota. I tell them about the #ThankARef campaign, the recruiting forums that have been held, and generally how we respect officials around here.

Thank A Team

After the Winona girls basketball team played at Faribault recently, the Winhawks went the extra mile by picking up trash from the bleachers. That was a big help to an understaffed custodial crew, and the Winhawks even shared a whole pizza – part of their postgame meal – with the Faribault custodians. Faribault activitie dierctor Keith Badger sent a Thank You note to the Winona folks, which was shared on Twitter. Well done.

Thank A Teammate

Congratulations to this week's Most Valuable Teammate, Jack Wilmes of the New Prague High School hockey team. One student is selected for this award each week, and we’re always accepting nominations.

A Strong Pack of Coaches

It was a big Tuesday night for the boys-basketball-coaching Pack brothers: Casey got his first win at Maple Lake, Colby's team at Heron Lake-Okabena-Fulda won and Chris did the same at Hayfield. I'm used to seeing the Packs, led by their dad Bryce – former administrator and longtime MSHSL official -- sitting in the first row at the boys state basketball tournament. They are great people.

Big Timers From Brainerd

As Tweeted by retired Brainerd Dispatch sports editor Mike Bialka (who’s a heck of a nice guy): Quite a 3-month stretch for Brainerd HS grads. Nick Anderson pitches in the World Series for the Devils Rays, Cole Smith makes his NHL debut with the Predators and Joe Haeg will play in the Super Bowl with the Buccaneers. And of course, Minneapolis North’s Tyler Johnson is also with the Buccaneers, catching passes from some guy named Brady.

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at

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John’s Journal: Small Gesture Is Big For Officials