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John’s Journal: Remembering A Teammate Taken Too Soon

Macy Holtan’s Classmates Honor Her In Warmups At State

Posted: Friday, March 18, 2022 - 8:30 PM


The students from Hancock put on a great show Friday. They showed tremendous spirit, everything was positive and they had so much fun. They picked up their band instruments to play at halftime, sang ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ acapella. They were outstanding.


Macy Holtan was 16 years old and a sophomore at Hayfield when she was killed in a traffic accident in early 2021.

The pink t-shirts were a bit striking when the girls basketball team from Hayfield High School took the court to warm up at Williams Arena on Friday. The Vikings’ school colors are blue and gold, and those tints did peek out from the players’ shorts.

The words on the front of the shirts read, “In memory of Macy,” with wings attached to the M and Y. On the back was one word in all caps: HOLTAN.

Macy Holtan was 16 years old and a sophomore at Hayfield when she was killed in a traffic accident in early 2021. Her obituary read in part, “She was an excellent student and participated in golf, FFA and performing arts. … She enjoyed reading, Corvettes and watching professional golf tournaments.”

The Vikings wore the shirts before every game last season, brought them out when they played a home game on the anniversary of Macy’s passing this season, and again on Friday.

Macy’s parents, Justin and Nichole, and other relatives have remained close with the team, said Hayfield senior Aine Stasko.

“She was a really nice girl. And she was always so happy and positive and her parents and family do a lot for our team. We thought this would be a great way to give back.”

--The team from Providence Academy, which defeated Albany 55-48 in Friday night’s Class 2A semifinals, wore warmup shirts that had “RAM III” printed on the back. It’s a tribute to Robert Miller III, who passed away on Feb. 4. His daughter Kyra is a junior for the Lions.

Past Is Present For Hancock

The Hancock Owls have come oh so close to reaching the state tournament in recent years, with losses deep in section play closing the last two seasons. They broke through to win the Section 6A title this year and have defeated Nevis and Mayer Lutheran to reach Saturday’s Class 1A championship game against Minneota.

Hancock has a record of 29-1, with the loss coming against Class 2A West Central Area in January.

Fifth-year Owls coach Tony Thielke said players from those recent teams share in the credit for what’s happening now.

“This team is here and they get the benefits of it, but the past helped lay the foundation, some girls that graduated last year,” he said. “And the work ethic in the summer and constant time in the gym, the girls that bonded, young girls, ninth-graders, 10th-graders stepping in and filling some roles and kind of gelling together has been fun to watch this year.”

Ninth-grader Kaitlyn Rohloff, who matched sophomore teammate Kaitlyn Staples with 17 points Friday, said, “The last couple years we've been so close to state and this year we’ve just kept pushing each other in practice and it's paid off.”

If there were any jitters for Hancock against Mayer Lutheran, they didn’t show.

“We just kind of told them that they’ve played a lot of basketball,” Thielke said. “It's just another game, another venue, a different venue. Just to step back and enjoy the ride because it goes so quickly. Take it all in. These girls play a lot of basketball so it's just one more game and it's fun to see them rewarded for their efforts.”

The Streak Ends, The Mission Continues

When Minneota defeated Hayfield 53-45 in the Class 1A semifinals Friday, it marked the end of two impressive winning streaks. For one, it was Hayfield’s first girls basketball loss after 32 wins this season.

Coach Kasey Krekling also coaches the Hayfield baseball team (as noted in the previous John’s Journal post). The Vikings lost to Sacred Heart in the 2019 state baseball quarterfinals, there were no spring sports in 2020, and in 2021 they were undefeated en route to the 1A state title.

Hayfield will meet Mayer Lutheran in Saturday’s 11 a.m. third-place game at Concordia University in St. Paul.

With a young roster -- only two seniors were among eight players who saw action Friday – the future is bright for the Vikings, and that includes after their high school careers come to a close.

“The dream is not over and it doesn't end even when the game is over tomorrow,” Krekling said. “I want to be part of their life from here on out. I'm going to help them in all their life. Coaching doesn't end when the season's over.”

Experience Pays Off

Minneota has reached the state semifinals in five consecutive years, and Saturday’s championship game will be their third title game in those five years. In 2020, they had reached the semifinals before the tournament was halted because of Covid-19. They won state titles in 2019 and 2021 and finished third at state in 2018.

That kind of big-game, big-stage experience is important.

“I think that's just it,” said Minneota coach Chad Johnston. “And that's one of the things that I told the girls in a timeout. We made a run and got back in there and I said there was going to be a butt-chewing at halftime about the difference between seniors being on the floor and sophomores (or Hayfield). And nothing against Hayfield, they're obviously a great team because they got here, but what I was talking about is, ‘You’ve got the experience, you've been on this floor, you've been in this scenario, we should be the ones looking like we're in control instead of looking like we're taken out of our element.’

“Again, Hayfield did a great job of doing that. And that's what they do. It's a good pressure defense, they're quick. So we talked about utilizing our experience, ‘You've been here before, this is something that you have experienced, something that you want, we’ve just got to play with composure.’ ”

Getting Back To Normal

Two years have passed since the onset of Covid-19 caused the sudden cancellation of the 2020 girls state basketball tournament at the midway point, a shutdown of the boys basketball postseason and a spring with no high school sports.

A year ago, the winter state tournaments were held with limited crowds, but now everything feels normal again.

“It’s been special to be down here at a traditional state tournament, so to speak,” said Albany coach Aaron Boyum. “For us as coaches, we have the whole hotel experience, and you get to talk with other coaches and then they get the camaraderie amongst themselves, too. So it's been a lot of fun to have that. The excitement in the crowd has been fun to have, as well.”

Great Example Set By The Hancock Students, Band

Repeating an important message I posted Friday on Twitter: I’ve heard a lot of great student sections and bands over the years, and the kids from Hancock are as great as they come. Tremendous spirit, everything positive, so much fun, picked up their instruments to play at halftime, sang ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ acapella. Outstanding. Great behavior by fans needs to be appreciated and applauded. Well done Owls!

--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 [email protected]  

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Class AA Girls Basketball State Semifinal Providence Academy 55, Albany 48