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Monday, February 8, 2016

Mr. Apple.....Meet Mr. Tree

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The son of former major league hurler Todd Frohwirth (right),
Tyler Frohwirth is a junior relief pitcher for Minnesota State
Some say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and in Tyler Frohwirth’s case, that has proven to be true.

A  business management major, Frohwirth is a junior righthanded pitcher with the Minnesota State baseball team.

Tyler’s father, Todd, was also a pitcher. His collegiate career at Northwest Missouri State University turned into one of professional stature when he was 24-years-old.

The elder Frohwirth was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1984 and began a nine-year professional career that spanned from 1987 until he retired in 1996.

Throughout that time, the elder Frohwirth played for four different major league teams, including the Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and California Angels. He spent the majority of his time – four years – with the Phillies.

Frohwirth, who appeared in 284 MLB games in his role as a reliever, accumulated a record of 20-19, 11 saves with a 3.60 earned run average and 259 strikeouts in 417.2 innings pitched.

His son, Tyler, emphasized that when he was growing up, his dad was just that – his dad.

“For me, honestly, that was just who he was – he’s just my dad. He happened to just be a guy who did pitch at that level. I didn’t think anything else of it,” Frohwirth said. “At the same time it was pretty cool that that’s what he did and it pushed me to want to try and reach that level.”

Even though his dad made a living out of baseball, he “let me decide what I want to do,” and never “pushed me into anything,” Frohwirth said.

“His favorite sport was actually basketball, so he probably wanted me to play basketball more than anything, which I loved,” Frohwirth said. “But baseball was really in the beginning what I wanted to do. It’s what I like the best.”

Frohwirth played basketball along with baseball at Brookfield Academy High School in Brookfield, Wis. Even though he also loved basketball, Frohwirth “liked baseball a little more,” and eventually decided to got that route.

Throughout his baseball career, Frohwirth’s father was there to teach him and give him advice. Aside from inheriting a similar submarine-style of pitching, some wise words have also stuck with Frohwirth and helped him enhance his own pitching.

“Even if you’re not better than the guy you’re facing, you just got to be better than him for those 30 seconds, is a big thing that he kind of pushed,” Frohwirth said. “He was a guy at that level that felt like he was lucky to be there, and he had to face some guys that were maybe a lot more talented. He just decided to be better than them for that short amount of time.”

Tyler’s father is a professional scout for the Baltimore Orioles organization, and is still involved in baseball full-time.

Tyler has had a rather impressive baseball career himself. He graduated from Brookfield Academy in 2013, and went 9-2 with a 1.57 ERA and 74 strikeouts in his high school baseball career.  An all-conference performer as a senior and a two-time team captain, he was named team MVP and selected to the Wisconsin High School All-Star game in 2012.

Frohwirth describes his experience with the Minnesota State baseball program extremely positively.

“We are very fortunate – we win a lot,” Frohwirth said. “We have a good group of guys who are passionate about baseball and what it means to be a Maverick playing for coach Magers. I’ve really liked it.”

Following a redshirt year, Frohwirth joined the Minnesota State staff in a relief role in 2014. In his two years of action he has crafted a 3-0 record with a 3.61 ERA, one save and 20 strike outs in 27.2 innings of work.

As for the upcoming baseball season, Frohwirth hopes the Mavericks will be able to return to the World Series, which they missed out on last season for the first time in three years. Frohwirth believes they “have the right group to actually achieve that.”

“I think this is going to be a great year. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The Mavericks start their 2016 season Feb. 12 at Arkansas-Monticello.

- contributed by Courtney Johnson, Athletic Communications intern

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Harrington Intent on Building Program with Minnesota State Women's Hockey




John Harrington is in his first season as head coach of the
Minnesota State women's hockey program
They say, “Those who can’t do, teach.” But that is not exactly the case for John Harrington, who is in his first season as head coach of the Minnesota State women’s hockey program.

Harrington, a native of the Iron Range in northern Minnesota, was a standout prep forward at Virginia (Minn.) High School before he landed a spot with Gus Hendrickson’s program at Minnesota-Duluth. He lettered for four seasons from 1975 to 1979 with the Bulldogs and upon graduation, was invited to try out for the U.S. men’s hockey Olympic Team. History tells us that the American squad, comprised of young college hockey players, miraculously earned the gold medal at 1980 in Lake Placid, N.Y. Including an assist on Mike Eruzione’s memorable game-winning goal vs. Russia, Harrington finished with five points on five assists in seven games at the Olympics.

Harrington went on to play for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, and later for Lugano in the Swiss league before returning to the U.S. National Team from 1981 to 1983. He then rejoined the national team for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo before retiring and starting his coaching career at the University of Denver. After much success with the Pioneers, Harrington returned to Minnesota in 1990 as an assistant coach for St. Cloud State University. A few years later, he accepted the head coach position at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., where he led the Johnnies to a 241-142-31 record with four Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play-off and five regular-season titles, along with five NCAA tournament appearances from 1993 to 2008.

Today, Harrington has taken on the position of the Minnesota State women’s hockey program and is in the process of building a program, much like what he went through at St. John’s. “I think the wide range of experience that I’ve had as a coach has helped me a lot,” said Harrington. “Developing relationships with the players is most important; communicating is huge.” Harrington is in his first year of coaching women and is learning to coach a bit differently. “Women want explanations,” said Harrington. “I have to spend a proper amount of time with them and doing repetition is crucial because they ask more questions than men.”

Minnesota State men’s hockey head coach, Mike Hastings, who was a defenseman at St. Cloud State University when Harrington was an assistant coach with the Huskies men’s hockey program in the early 1990’s and he echoes Harrington’s sentiments regarding experience being a key to success moving forward. But feels that there’s much more to it than that.

“I think the with a guy like John Harrington you have someone who can make an immediate impact based on a couple of things. One, his playing experience at all levels is something that he can use to relate to with his student-athletes,” said Hastings. “And his coaching experience at all levels provides him with a foundation of experience and perspective that is hard to duplicate. He’s focused, driven, and a caring guy in which family comes first. That’s his #1 passion. But a close second is his pursuit of trying to improve every day with that program.”

Those that have watched this year’s Minnesota State team can see that there appears to be a bright future for Harrington and the Mavericks in the years to come. The program has made a move to Verizon Wireless Center in downtown Mankato where the facility has gone under an $8-million dollar upgrade to locker rooms, equipment, athletic training and work-out areas.  And a new coaching staff under Harrington’s veteran watch will also play a role in the transition.

 “We are going to have to have some patience to build the team back up,” said Harrington. “We need to make these steps where we want to be. Minnesota State can certainly get in the middle of the pack and play with the teams that are ranked nationally. Anyone can advance through the tournaments, we just need to build up our confidence first.”

Working with a young team this year (the 2015-16 team has 19 freshman and sophomores on its 25-player roster) and developing the relationships needed to build the team back up is the program and staff’s priority.  “Ultimately, though, It comes down to coaching on the ice,” said Harrington.

             Contributed by Amber Dahl, Athletic Communications intern


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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Coaching With Purpose

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Lori Meyer (2nd from left) was a 2013 NFCA Hall of Fame Inductee
Holding the same job for three decades is impressive, especially in the world of intercollegiate athletics. And especially so at one institution.
        
Lori Meyer has been coaching the Minnesota State University, Mankato softball team for 31 years. As the head coach for the team, Meyer has seen the players take the field for 1,677 games and with 1,049 wins to her name, ranks amongst the all-time winningest coaches in NCAA Division II.
        
While she has had an abundance of success with the Mavericks, Meyer’s career in the sports world started long before her arrival at MSU.
        
“I grew up on a dairy farm with four brothers,” Meyer said. “ Really the neighborhood I grew up in was all boys around me. I had no choice but to figure out how to run with the boys and get that tough mentality.”

Growing up Meyer started playing YMCA softball and entering junior high she expanded her sports experiences by participating in basketball and track. While in college at Upper Iowa University, Meyer was on a basketball scholarship but also played softball and joined the track and volleyball teams for one year each.

Next on the sports train, Meyer found herself in a graduate position at MSU. While earning her master’s degree, Meyer was hired as a grad assistant for the softball and volleyball teams, which led to the head coaching with the Maverick softball program beginning in 1985.

Meyer has seen her fair share of success since her start as softball head coach in 1985. She led the Purple and Gold to two North Central Conference titles in 1987 and 1989 and then another one almost twenty years later in 2007. Recently the team won Northern Sun Intercollegiate titles in 2012,2013 and 2014.  Those are just to name a few.

MSU wrestling coach Jim Makovsky has worked along side Meyer for over 20 years and appreciates how the Albert City-Truesdale High School (Iowa) graduate goes about her business.

“I love her intensity, passion and how much she genuinely cares about her student-athletes,” said Makovsky. “ I believe she uses the sport of softball as a tool to help her players grow.”

With 30-plus years of accomplishments in one place some people might take their talents elsewhere for new adventures. However, Meyer enjoys the atmosphere of Mankato and has no plans of leaving.

“ I love the size,” Meyer said about living and working in the Key City.” I love how the greater Mankato community has grown and keeps developing and all the changes that have been made. It’s just a great place to grow and everything I need is right here.”

Besides the team awards and conference championships, Meyer has also assisted hundreds of student-athletes to succeed in their academic lives. During the course of her tenure Meyer has produced 122 academic all-conference student-athletes and six teams finish with a grade point average in the top-five of Division II, including her 1996 squad, which had the best GPA in Division II with a 3.31. 

“I think she has a purpose in the coaching profession,” Makovsky said. “And that is leading student-athletes toward getting a high quality education. She is a true educator and one of the best I have worked with.”

For Meyer, her choice to stay at MSU for so long is attributed to not only her love for sports, but also her love for helping the student athletes grow and mature.

“When you coach, every day that you go to work there is something different,” Meyer said. “I love the flexibility of coaching and I love the relationships that I have built with the players and other coaching staff. Watching the players find their place and have future goals is really what it’s all about.”

Meyer has already achieved so much as the head coach of a successful softball program and entering her fourth decade she isn’t so much focused on her own goals. It’s the students she wants to see succeed.

“The philosophy of our program, is for our young ladies to leave as strong, independent women,” Meyer said. “And we just want to continue that goal that our student-athletes leave with their degree and independence to do what they want.”

The softball team will look to create more memories with Meyer as the season gears up February 12 with several tournaments and NSIC play beginning March 22.

- contributed by Kelcie Richmond, Athletic Communications intern
        
        
                   
           

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holiday Tournaments

Let's see.  There's shopping.  At some point, the decorations have to come down and the lights have to be put away. There's college football bowl games on TV. And fans looking for basketball and hockey tournaments will be happy this week with several events dotting the landscape this time of year.

Men's basketball teams in the North Central Conference used to participate in the popular NCC Holiday Tournament held annually in Sioux Falls, S.D. 

The event was a three-day, eight-team post-Christmas affair that drew good crowds at the Civic Center. The tournament enjoyed a successful 24-year run from 1965-89 before eventually coming to a halt after the NCC created a postseason tournament.

The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference began its iteration of the Holiday Tournament in Sioux Falls in 2008, which ran around Thanksgiving for a couple of years, and not unlike the NCC vehicle, was discontinued due to league teams also faced with scheduling complications due to league postseason competition.

Since joining the NCAA Division I men's hockey ranks, the Minnesota State men's hockey program has played in Holiday tournaments hosted by Vermont (2000-01 and 2003-04), Ohio State (2004-05), Notre Dame (2010-11) and the University of Connecticut (2012-13).

Years before, as a member of Division II, the Mavericks hosted a holiday event of their own during the 1982-83 season when then-head coach Don Brose convinced teams from St. Olaf, Hamline and Alaska-Anchorage to venture to All Seasons Arena for the Mankato Schriners Christmas Tournament. Not unlike other college Holiday tournaments, this was a post-Christmas affair played on a Wednesday (Dec. 29) and Thursday (Dec. 30).

Alaska Anchorage, which joined the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in 1993-94, downed St. Olaf by a 6-0 margin to open the tournament and the host Mavericks followed by galloping to a 9-4 triumph over Hamline.  St. Olaf bounced back in the third-place game by beating Hamline 11-7 and the Seawolves emerged with the first-place hardware in claiming a 5-4 victory over MSU in the championship finale.

"It's one of those things where we were still trying to generate some notoriety for  the program here in Southern Minnesota back in the early 1980s," said Brose. who served as MSU's bench boss from 1969-2000. "Unfortunately it was only a one year deal when we tried it. But I thought it was a good idea at the time as people are always looking for things to do during the holidays."


It's great to be a Maverick!




Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Internationals

Once their collegiate careers were complete, many former Minnesota State student-athletes have had the opportunity to play professionally in Europe and other countries outside of the United States.

Lisa Walters, the Maverick All-America center from nearby Henderson, Minn., played women's basketball in Sweden following the conclusion of her four seasons (1984-88) in Mankato. 

Quarterback Jamie Pass and defensive lineman Steve Connelly also both played football in Sweden in the early 1990's. Outside hitter Tiffany Graham (2002-06) played professional volleyball in Spain. Women's basketball forwards Ali Wilkinson (2009-14) and Jamie Bresnahan (2011-15) are playing in Portugal and Spain, respectively.  

We've written about the litany of men's basketball players who have continued to play across the globe: Tony Thomasson (2003-07, Germany), Paris Kyles (2005-07, Poland), Jamel Staten (2003-05, China and Bahrain), Corey Easley (2005-06, Australia), Atila Santos (2006-08, Brazil), Harry Boyce (2008-09, Dominican Republic), Travis Nelson (2008-10, Slovenia, Czech Republic), Cameron Hodges (2009-11, Luxembourg, Slovenia), Jefferson Mason (2009-11, Luxembourg) and Jarvis Williams (2012-13, Luxembourg).  Currently, Connor Miller is toiling in Sweden and Egytian-national Assem Marei is in Lithuania. Travis Nelson and Zach Monaghan have played against each other this year when their teams clashed in league action in Spain.

Several former Maverick men's hockey players have extended their careers by playing with teams in Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and England. (A list of current former Mavericks playing pro hockey is available HERE). After retiring from a lengthy playing career across the Atlantic, former Minnesota State forward Aaron Fox (1996-2000) serves as the general manager of Medvescak Zagreb, an organization that competes in the Kontinental Hockey League, which boasts 28 teams stretching across Belarus, Croatia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Lativa, Russia and Slovakia. 

Former Minnesota State women's hockey forward Nina Tikkinen (2007-11) is playing in Finland for Kärpät and defenseman Emilia Andersson (2008-13) vies for Linköpings HC in Sweden.  Defenseman Lauren Barnes (2011-14) played a year in Germany with Ingolstadt where Tracy McCann (2010-14) now competes.

It's at this time of year that the hockey folks turn their attention to the World Junior Championship.  This year's tournament, featuring the top U20 men's players from around the globe, is taking place in Finland from Dec. 26-Jan. 6.

Junior forward Zach Stepan was a member of the U.S. national team that played in the 2014 WJC that took place in Sweden. And Teddy Blueger played for Latvia at two WJCs (2012 and 2013).

It's always a big deal when you get to represent your country in international competition (just ask Jim Dilling, who claimed the U.S. high jump championship 2007 and represented the Red, White & Blue at the World Championships Track & Field Championship in Japan) and in addition to Stepan, several other Mavericks have had the opportunity to don their hockey national team colors.  

Including two Olympic Games (Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014), the aforementioned Nina Tikkinen has played for Finland in several international competitions. As has Emilia Andersson for Sweden. David Backes (2003-06) suited up for the U.S. in the last two Olympics and Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Carter (2004-06) was a member of the U.S. national team that played in the 2013 IIHF Men's World Championship tournament in 2013 in Sweden and Finland. Goaltender Shari (Vogt) Dickerman (2000-04) was a member of the U.S. women's national team that played in the 2006 Four Nations Cup in Kitchener, Ont.

It's great to be a Maverick!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Century Club

A.B. Morris
A.B. Morris, who had been a coach back in Kansas before coming to Mankato State Teachers College as a history instructor in 1919, convinced University president Charles H. Cooper that starting varsity sports at the school would be a great way to drive enrollment of male students.

Estblished 1868 with 27 students, Mankato Normal School's original mission was to train and educate teachers for rural schools in southern Minnesota. During this early period, MNS provided educational certificates and a majority of students were women. In 1920-21 there was only one male student enrolled in the college.

It was under this premise in 1921 that C.P. Blakeslee was hired and so began the men's basketball program at MSTC. And with it, the embryonic stages of varsity athletics at Minnesota State.

It should be noted that Morris, who served many roles during his nearly four decades at the school, helped Blakeslee coach several teams while being promoted to Director of Personnel and then assuming Registrar's responsibilities. He became the Dean of Instruction in 1947 and served as the school's athletics faculty representative from 1952-56 and was inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame in 1964. Morris Hall, which houses Minnesota State's College of Business and other departments, bears his name.

Blakeslee went on to enjoy a 44-year career in which he coached men's basketball, men's golf, men's gymnastics, baseball, men's track and field, men's cross country and served as the director of athletics. The football stadium bears his name and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963.

A lot has happened since Morris had his conversations with President Cooper and Blakeslee was hired in the early part of the last century.

The football, basketball, golf and baseball teams were all mothballed for a period of time during World War II, but brought back following the end of the conflict. Iconic Rummy Macias, who was hired as the school's first wrestling coach when the program began in 1950, led his grapplers to a trio of national championships in his 38-year career. Later on, men's swimming and tennis programs started and by the time Blakeslee retired following the 1964-65 school year, the MSTC athletics department was ten teams deep. 

As the school's enrollment increased post-war, the University began to outgrow its location in lower Mankato. Including a football stadium, swimming pool and an indoor track, construction began on a new location for the school atop the river valley bluff in the late 1950's.

In 1965-66 the first women's programs came online with women's gymnastics, women's swimming and women's track and field forming. Mary Willerscheidt was the school's first women's basketball coach when that program was launched in 1966-67 and women's volleyball started under the guidance of women's athletic director Georgene Brock in 1967-68.  A 16th program was added in 1969-70 when men's hockey was granted varsity status.  The department continued to expand with women's programs commencing with the addition of women's golf, women's tennis and women's gymnastics (1970-71), women's cross country (1972-73) and softball (1975-76). Later, women's soccer (1995-96) and women's hockey (1998-99) programs were created.

Change has been constant over the course of the last 95 years.

From Mankato Normal School, to Mankato State Teachers College, Mankato State College, Mankato State University and, in 1998, Minnesota State University, Mankato.  The Peds, the Purples, the Indians and, beginning in 1977, the Mavericks.

In addition, to location, facilities, name of the school, team names, the school's national and conference affiliations have not gone unaffected.

In 1923 MSTC teams were members of the Little 10, a league which also included Winona, St. Cloud, Bemidji and five junior colleges. In 1932 the Minnesota Northern Teachers College Conference was formed and this lasted until the mid-1950's when MSTC joined Winona, St. Cloud, Bemidji and Moorhead to form the Minnesota State College Conference. Michigan Tech was added to the mix in 1957 as the Northern State Conference came together. Thus begat the Northern Intercollegiate Conference in the 1960's. Mankato State left for the North Central Conference following the 1968-69 season, but was readmitted into the NIC for three more years before rejoining the NCC in 1981-82. Following the demise of the NCC as North Dakota, North Dakota State and Northern Colorado departed for NCAA Division I, MSU became a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference beginning in 2008-09. The school's men's and women's hockey teams are members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

In 1952 MSTC held membership in the NAIA and was an associate member in the NCAA. It wasn't until the 1960's that the programs began competing solely in NCAA team championship events on a national level. Presently, with the exception of men's and women's hockey, which compete as members of NCAA Division I, Minnesota State's teams are affiliated with NCAA Division II.

Besides Blakeslee (and Morris), Macias, Willerscheidt and Brock, the names of Jim Witham, Bob Otto, Bud Myers, Chuck Peterson, Paul Waldorf, Don Robinson, Don Brose, Jack Amann, Jean McCarthy, Mark Schuck, Dean Bowyer, Gordy Graham, Butch Raymond, Dan McCarrell, Dan Runkle, Marge Burkett, Donna Tiegs Ricks, Bob Westphal, Gary Rushing, Don Amiot, Chris Miskec, Jim Schaffer and Phil Rhoade and others elicit strong memories.

The student-athletes, too many to mention by name, have helped build the school's reputation and rise to regional and national prominence with 52 national individual titles and the aforementioned wrestling team championships in 1957-58 (NAIA), 1958-59 (NAIA) 1964-65 (NCAA) joined by national titles from men's hockey in 1980, men's cross country in 1988 and a women's basketball championship in 2009.  Academic All-Americans and conference championships in every sport. We could go on.

The 2020-21 school year will mark the 100th year of athletics at Minnesota State.  It would be interesting if A.B. Morris was around to have a looksee at what his idea put forth nearly a century ago had wrought.  It's likely he would not only be surprised, but also pretty proud.











Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Burnsie, Millard & Red

Jerry Burns on the Blakeslee Stadium practice fields
Syndicated writer Dave Barry penned a column entitled "16 Things It Took Me Over 50 Years to Learn." It's a funny read with some level of truthiness.

Obviously, a lot can happen in 50 years.

And not to sound like Billy Joel singing "We Didn't Start the Fire," much has taken place in the last five decades.  Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. There was Woodstock and the tragic shootings at Kent State. There was Vietnam and the Berlin Wall. Star Wars premiered and the Watergate break-in occurred. Sid Vicious ring a bell? A bunch of college guys beat the vaunted Soviets in Lake Placid. The Hubble Telescope went into orbit. Princess Di passed away in a car crash. Johnny Carson retired. Twins won the World Series. 9/11. Saddam. bin Laden. Bush. Clinton. Bush. Obama.

On a local level, the Minnesota Vikings first came to Mankato for their summer training camp in 1966, making this year the 50th consecutive season the Purple & Gold have made the Key City their preseason preparation destination.

While it's tough to boil things down to a few thoughts about the Vikings during this period in our little berg, let's take a look at the last 30 seasons.

1986 marked Jerry Burns’ first year. Les Steckel was named head coach in 1984 and the former Marine led the Vikings through one disastrous season in which his squad posted a 3-13 mark. Iconic Bud Grant returned in 1985, leading up to Burnsie being named head coach the following year.

Coach Burns, who guided the team for six years, could come off as curmudgeonly, but had a great sense of humor. There's a story about one camp where the weather was hot and muggy (like most years) and the players and coaches were struggling. To change things up, Burns, along with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, defensive lineman Keith Millard and equipment manager Dennis Ryan conspired to prank the team. Following a staged argument between Millard and Kiffin, Ryan later threw a dummy dressed like Kiffin off the roof of Gage Hall, giving the players on the practice field a scare.

The summer of 1991 was an interesting one. Especially the night Millard, after leaving the Albatross in a hurried attempt to get back to Gage prior to curfew, crashed his corvette into a planter at Hardee’s.

In 1998, bombastic Red McCombs bought the team and came to town bellowing “Purple Pride.”  This was also the year Randy Moss was drafted and made his inaugural training camp appearance.  The crowds got bigger as in addition to Moss, Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter, Randall McDaniel, John Randle and Robert Smith were also on the roster.  Loaded with that talent, the Vikings went 15-1 in the regular season and advanced to the NFC championship game before losing to Atlanta in overtime.

In 1999 first round draft pick Dimitrius Underwood came to camp wearing camo. He left camp after one day and  never played for the Vikings. Later diagnosed as bipolar, eventually he played a bit in the league with Dallas and Miami.

In 2001 Korey Stringer passed away. I wrote about it HERE.

Leading up to the summer of 2004, there was talk that the team was strongly considering having training camp at a different location. A re-commitment from the town and University, in which promotions and marketing of the team's stay in town would be ramped up, ensured the continued trip down 169. Vikings Village became a reality as camp operations became a joint effort in an attempt to become more organized and to heighten the fan experience.

In the spring of 2013, campus landmark Gage Towers, the venerable dormitory complex which housed the Vikings during their stay, was imploded (the Vikings are now housed in Julia Sears Residence Community on the west side of campus).

Along the way, a few Minnesota State players received invitations to try-out with the local NFL squad, and in 2013 wide receiver Adam Thielen broke camp as a practice squad player. In 2014, the Detroit Lakes, Minn., native made team's 53-man roster and appeared in all 16 regular-season games.

Here's to another 50 years!!!!  Skol Vikings.

It's great to be a Maverick.



Monday, April 6, 2015

Leadership and Courage

 
MSC's Henry Hill (left) was named Most Outstanding Athlete
at the 1966 Northern Intercollegiate Conference Outdoor
Track & Field Championship

It’s been nearly five decades since he laid foot in Mankato, but Henry Hill, Jr. is still remembered not only for his athletic prowess, but also for his ability to lead his teammates and peers alike.   

Born in Anoka, Minn., on July 23rd, 1944, to Henry Sr. and Albertha Hill, Henry attended Anoka High School where he served as the school’s first black President of the Senior Class.  Following graduation in 1962, he headed south of the Twin Cities where he joined his fellow student-athletes at Mankato State. 

Participating in multiple events, the three-time letter winner with the school's track teams, Hill led MSC (the school was known as Mankato State College when he attended) in individual points scored over the three seasons of his career from 1964-66.   He helped the Purple and Gold to an 8-1 dual record and a North Central Conference indoor team title in 1964, winning the league 60-yard high hurdles championship and finishing second in the 60-yard low hurdles in the process.  In establishing a meet record, he won the outdoor conference triple jump crown that year, as well.  As team captain as a senior, he led the Mavericks to another team title the following year by scoring an astounding 204 points all by himself in being named the NIC’s Most Outstanding Outdoor Track & Field Athlete. He was also named Mankato State’s Most Outstanding Athlete in 1966.  

Undoubtedly a tremendous athlete, it was Hill’s leadership, demeanor and his presence that made an impression on people.

Legendary Bud Myers, Hill’s track and field coach, was a man not usually prone to hyperbole, but in describing how he felt that his student-athlete said “Henry Hill was a credit to the human race. Not only his race, but the human race.

Former Minnesota State track and field athlete and men's cross country/track & field coach Mark Schuck said that Hill was the most outstanding athlete MSC had during that time.  “He was the captain on the team my freshman and sophomore years. I can’t say enough about his athletic ability."  Schuck, who was inducted into the Minnesota State Hall of Fame in 2014 following his retirement, felt Hill’s role with the team was one of the keys to its success. “Henry got along with everybody and he was just a great gentleman and loved competition. And he was a guy that commanded respect. We didn’t have the decathlon at the time, but there is no doubt that if we had, he would have been one of the all-time best in that event.”   

In a time where America’s culture and society were in a transitional state, Hill also made an impression on the people of Mankato.  “Like most of America in the 1960’s, Mankato was in a transition period and wasn’t really receptive to the transition it was going through with African-Americans during that time,” said Obie Kipper, another Minnesota State Hall of Fame inductee (1990) from the school’s track and field program. “Henry was a man of integrity who stood up for what he believed in.” 

Kipper, a 1970 MSC graduate, described Hill as “the perfect gentleman” and “a man who any parent could be proud of.”  Kipper was being recruited to Mankato State for track and field as a sprinter as a high school senior when Hill was a senior for the Indians.  “Henry was a stupendous athlete, as well as a student.  He understood what it meant to be a student-athlete.  He set examples for those who knew him and was a very personal guy.”  Hill’s personality and leadership definitely made an impression on Kipper during his recruitment trip as he says that was one of the main reasons why he decided to attend Mankato State College. 

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Hill was drafted into the United States Army.  He enrolled to become a candidate in officer school and was later named a second lieutenant.  Two years after he graduated from Mankato State College, Henry married his wife, Rita, in 1968, six days before starting his United States military tour overseas in Vietnam with the first infantry division.  Henry’s leadership qualities stood out as he was awarded the title of Infantry Unit Commander.  On August 23rd, 1968, almost exactly two months after shipping out for his tour, Henry was killed by a grenade in Quan Ngai, South Vietnam. He was 24 years old. 

Schuck said “Henry Hill will always be remembered as just a good athlete, a good gentleman, with good character and strong convictions. We wanted him as our captain. He was a great leader on the track and off the track”.  

After Hill’s death his body was sent to Franklin, La., to be buried next to his father’s. He is honored on Panel 47W, Row 45 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 

      Contributed by Seth C. Allan, Athletic Communications Student Intern 




Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A World Away


Bankok native Kanyapak Sethasompobe was the 2013-14
NSIC Women's Golfer of the Year
The flight from Bankok to Minneapolis is 8,298 miles.  Drive another another hour and half south from the airport to Mankato and you’re a world away from home.

A member of the Minnesota State women’s golf team, junior Kanyapak Sethasompobe, who hails from the most populous city in Thailand, seems to be doing just fine in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, thank you. Given the success she’s had in her first three years in the Key City, the long commute from her hometown has not stopped her from having an extremely successful career with the Mavericks. 

Named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Women’s Golfer of the Year following her sophomore year in 2013-14, Sethasompobe has been one of Minnesota State’s top individuals since making her way to Mankato prior to the start of the 2012-13 campaign.  After averaging 82.3 as a freshman, she lowered that to 78.3 as a sophomore while recording four first-place tournament finishes and earning NSIC Women’s Golfer of the Week honors three times during the course of the season. She’s averaging 79.3 for her junior season.

In terms of international recruiting, every story has its own unique facet.  For Sethasompobe, rather than letting the recruiters come to her, she thought she would take the initiative and send out an email with her profile attached for recruiters to see. 

One of the email recipients was Minnesota State women’s golf coach Nick Campa. “When looking at the information we were seeing, we thought we didn’t have a chance to land her because she was so highly rated,” said Campa, who is in his 25th year leading the Mavericks.  “But the email she sent to us gave us positive thoughts on possibly getting her to come to Minnesota State.” 

While Sethasompobe occasionally traveled to the United States for tournaments before coming to Minnesota State, moving to Mankato was still a tough transition.  “It’s very cold here in Minnesota.  Before I had come to Mankato, I had never seen snow before.”  While the cold weather and becoming more fluent in English were two of the most difficult things to adjust to, Sethasompobe has really enjoyed her time with the Mavericks.  “We have a lot of fun as a team.  My teammates have been so supportive of me and have always been there when I’ve needed help with school or just someone to talk to.”

Campa was convinced Sethasompobe would be able to have an impact right away and has been impressed as his international player has grown as a person.  “She’s meant a lot to the program.  Right off the bat she was one of the top players on the team as a freshman.  She is a great teammate and a great leader. She is one of the girls who you like to point out to kids to show them how to be a great example.” 

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Sethasompobe and Campa have similar goals in mind.  “We’re off to a great start to the spring and hopefully we can keep that momentum going into nationals this year,” Sethasompobe said. 

“These last few tournaments have been great confidence boosters for our team,” said Campa.  “We’re looking to keep our confidence up going into the end of the year and into the postseason.”

The Mavericks have made seven straight NCAA tournament appearances and in addition to hoping to make it eight straight, will be looking to improve on last year’s eighth-place finish at the regional championship.

A communications major, Sethasompobe is hoping to make a possible run at joining the LPGA following her collegiate career.  

    Contributed by Cameron Klade, Minnesota State Athletic Communications intern

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Right Back Where He Started From

Stephon Williams
Hockey culture is interesting, isn’t it.

For example, many of those involved in the game can recall that the sound track of the 1970’s movie Slap Shot included a Maxine Nightingale song entitled “Right Back Where We Started From.”

And for Minnesota State junior goaltender Stephon Williams that song takes on added meaning given the year he’s having.  For not unlike his freshman year in 2012-13, he appears to right back where he started from.

Fresh out of a stellar junior hockey career that saw him help lead Waterloo to an appearance in the United States Hockey League Clark Cup finals, the Fairbanks, Alaska native didn’t skip a beat in earning Western Collegiate Hockey Association Rookie of the Year and All-WCHA First Team honors, while racking up a 21-12-2 record and a .924 save percentage while helping lead Minnesota State to a second-place league finish en route to a NCAA postseason appearance in 2012-13.

Drafted in the fourth round (106th overall) by the New York Islanders in the 2013 National Hockey League Draft, Williams suffered a “bump in the road” season as a sophomore that saw his numbers and confidence dip.

But, now well into  the stretch drive of his junior campaign, he’s back to where he started from with even better numbers than his freshman year.  He’s back over the 20-win mark, his goals against average is well below 2.00 and the save percentage is in the .925 range. Williams attributes several factors as to the reasons why he’s rebounded.

“I think one of the biggest things has been maturation to a certain extent,” said Williams, who ranks amongst the nation’s leaders in wins, goals against average and save percentage. “It’s how you handle success and how you handle failure.  I learned a lot last year on how to take the best out of each situation and to learn.  How to block out things that don’t matter and to keep doing what makes me me.”

He also said that the culture of the program has played an important role. “The biggest thing about our culture is that we control what we control and strive to do that every day.  In practice and in games.  We can control our effort, our attitude and that’s something you have to bring every day.  Not every shift is going to go your way....how you approach things. And it all adds up.” 

Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings echoes his netminder. “Stephon has continued to mature and grow as a young man in situations that call for handling success along with the different things that life can throw at you.  But there’s no doubt that his consistency has been the backbone for where we are as a team right now.”

And where the Mavericks are as a team right now is a place where the program has never been before.  Ranked #1 in the nation four times in a five-week span in January and February, Minnesota State has maintained a position amongst the country’s elite. 

Minnesota State has never been rated #1 before.  The Mavericks won the WCHA postseason tournament last year, something new for the program. And a league regular-season title has now been checked off the check list.  A a couple of other unaccomplished tasks, like advancing past the first round of the NCAA tournament and an appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four, still loom

Williams says it’s taken a concerted team effort in order to get where the program is now, but the expectations are set even higher.

“It’s really been everyone involved. The freshmen come in and have contributed right away. Everyone else is working hard to improve every day and we’ve had certain guys step up every game.  There’s been a positive effect with all of us on the same page to make the team better.  It’s been cool seeing it happen in front of your eyes and we’ve continued to get better on a weekly basis. The season has been an awesome experience, but we still have work to do. It’s been guys pushing each other. Coaches pushing us.  It’s great to be honored with the rankings, but ultimately we have goals and we have keep working hard every day.  We play in a tough conference and we play a tough schedule, but obviously we wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”