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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Professional Development

Minnesota State offensive coordinator
Jason Eck is serving a guest coach at the
Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp.
In Minnesota, when we speak of going camping up north, typically we're talking about going somewhere along near Lake Superior.  Along the lines of the Gunflint Trail.  Maybe Lutsen, Grand Marais or Grand Portage.

In the case of Minnesota State offensive coordinator Jason Eck, however, we're going in a different direction.

Think of a little further west and much further north.  Think Saskatchewan.  And in terms of camping, forget the canoe, tent, trail mix and freeze-dried chicken. But be sure to bring along your whistle.

Eck, who joined the Mavericks prior to the start of the 2013 season and helped lead MSU to a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship and an 11-1 record, is serving as a guest coach at the Canadian Football League's Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp in Saskatoon.

One of five guest coaches assisting the Roughriders, Eck is making his first trip to Saskatchewan.

"I had helped out at the Montreal Alouettes' camp in 2011 when Marc Trestman (current head coach of the Chicago Bears) was there. But this is my first time in working with the Roughriders," said Eck.

The camp, which is taking place at the University of Saskatchewan, runs from June 1 to June 13th. Saskatchewan is coming off a season in which it went 11-7 and claimed the Grey Cup as the CFL champions.

"The campus is really nice," said Eck. "It's a great set-up for camp with dormitories, dining hall, turf field, etc. It's a pretty city with a a river that runs through it," said Eck. "The people are great, the team has a tremendous following and there's alot of fans attending practice."

Working with the offensive linemen at the camp, Eck sees working with the Roughriders as not only a circumstance in which he can learn new techniques and hone his coaching skill set, but also one in which provides valuable networking opportunities.

"I received an invitation from head coach Cory Chamblin to come up here and hopefully this will allow me to be a better coach for the Mavericks. You hope to immerse yourself while you're here and I'm learning a lot from Doug Malone (Saskatchewan's offensive line coach)," said the University of Wisconsin grad. "There's ten coaches and around 90 players in camp and while some of the rules are different (with the CFL), working with offensive linemen with base fundamentals is the same where ever you go. And you never know. You're hoping to develop connections that will eventually, maybe, help us place our guys. There's lots of good Division II players in the CFL and we're always looking to help our guys however we can."

Eck expects to return to Mankato this weekend where he and the rest of the Minnesota State staff will get to work preparing for the 2014 campaign.  Training camp for the Mavericks begins August 14th with the first game of the year scheduled for Sept. 4 vs. St. Cloud State in Mankato.

It's great to be a Maverick.


Thursday, June 5, 2014


Paul Mills was the 1998 North Central
Conference Pitcher of the Year
The mind does wander occasionally and it's crazy how one gets from one place to another.  Something will trigger a thought and things come racing back.

That happens this time of year, every year for me.

As we were discussing the possibility of California Chrome winning horse racing's Triple Crown with the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes taking place Saturday, I thought back to 1988.

The Maverick Baseball team that year featured a lanky blonde-headed righthanded pitcher from Coon Rapids, Minn., named Paul Mills.

Millsie, a senior who threw from the side, was in his second year with the program after transferring from Anoka-Ramsey where he was was a dominant player for the Rams, earning all-state, all-region and All-America honors as a JUCO performer.  After his first year with us in 1987, he proved to be dominant at the NCAA DII level as well. He was named the 1988 North Central Conference Pitcher of the Year, All-NCC First Team and All-Region after going 6-1 with a 1.71 earned average while fanning 44 batters in 42 innings his last season with the Mavericks.

I can remember having a conversation with Paul in the dugout at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud prior to a MSU game vs. St. Cloud State that spring. The Kentucky Derby was taking place that day (May 7) and he asked me who I thought would win the race. Now I'm no horse racing afficianado, but have on occasion been called a dilettante. While the exact details of our conversation remain foggy, I do recall him initiating things by saying something like "Hey, PA, who do have in the Derby today?" and us discussing each other's picks.

A quick check on Google (like I said, I'm a dilettante) shows that Winning Colors with Gary Stevens aboard, won that day in Lexington.

In any event, our office conversation made me think of Paul Mills. The types of memories, like the one I had with him in the dugout that day in St. Cloud, are the little things that in a lot of ways makes this profession special. We're so fortunate to interact with young people on a daily basis.

A year after his senior season, I learned Paul had been in a tragic accident and lost his life, along with two other young adults, when an Amtrak passenger train rammed a van carrying five male adults late at night at a railroad crossing in Coon Rapids. The date was Nov. 12, 1989.

Paul was an engaging, personable and funny type of person. One who made a lasting and memorable impression. He would be 48 years old when this year's Triple Crown races would be taking place.

Thanks to the Kentucky Derby, I think of Paul Mills this time of year. Every year.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Eric Peterson's family - here with Will (brother), Molly (mom)
and dad (Tom) - are in Cary, N.C., for the NCAA DII
Baseball national championship tournament
  Cary, N.C. --- Back in May of 2012 we documented nearly 50 instances in which multiple members of families had played a sport for Minnesota State.

Brothers and sisters, brothers with brothers, sisters and sisters, sons and daughters, etc. Shoot, the Swanson family started with Ken playing football, basketball and baseball at Mankato State Teachers College in the late 1940's and early 1950's before his granddaughters Amy and Angie played basketball for the Mavericks in the 1990's.

The Peterson family is currently continuing on with this Maverick Legacy tradition with a father/son combo of their own.

Dad, Tom, played hockey for the Mavericks from 1982-85 where he totaled six goals and 39 assists for 45 points in 83 games played under Minnesota State puck coaching legend Don Brose

Son, Eric, is a freshman second baseman with the Maverick baseball team currently vying for a national title in Cary, N.C.  The Eagan (Minn.) High School product has enjoyed a tremendous maiden season for Minnesota State having started 52 of 55 games while hitting .315 and picking up 2014 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Freshman of the Year honors.

The Peterson family also includes mom Molly (also a MSU grad), along with a couple of additional baseball/hockey playing sons in Gavin and Will. We ran into Tom today at the ballpark and he was nice enough to spend a few moments to ponder a few questions.

MavBlog:  How did you end up coming to Mankato to play hockey for the Mavericks?
TP: I had played high school hockey at Bloomington Kennedy and played two years of junior hockey before being recruited to go to Mankato.

MavBlog: What was it like playing for Brosie and tell us a little about your time with the program.
TP: It was a great experience. Don was a terrific coach and we had good teams while I was there.  Met lots of good players and friends to this day.

MavBlog:  Do you still follow Maverick Hockey?
TP: I do. It's fun to watch.  We were Division II-III when I played and it's fun to watch a program that's Division I.

MavBlog:  When did you graduate? What is your degree in?
TP: I graduated in1985 and have a degree in marketing and management.

MavBlog: How special is it that Eric is not only playing college baseball, but playing right down the road at your alma mater?
TP: It's a lot of fun - having had the opportunity for me to have played a college sport then to have my son play a college sport at the same school. We're fortunate. It was the coaching staff here and tradition of the program that led him here. They win and it's a great program.

MavBlog:  And how about the year Eric has had and that you are here in Cary watching him play in the NCAA DII national championship tournament?
TP: It's been unbelievable, tough to beat and can't really ask for anything more than this.  We're proud of him.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Add it to the Resume: College Graduate

David Backes played for Minnesota State from 2003-06 where
he totaled 46 goals and 73 assists for 119 points in 115 games

Before he became captain of the St. Louis Blues and before he became a two-time Olympian, David Backes was a college student.

No ordinary college student, mind you, because Backes was a electrical engineering student with a 4.00 grade point average who also happened to play NCAA Division I hockey.

A forward for Minnesota State, Backes played for the Mavericks for three seasons (2003-06) where he scored 46 goals and had 73 assists for 119 points in 115 games.

Selected by St. Louis in the second round of the 2003 National Hockey League draft, the two-time Western Collegiate Hockey Association All-Academic pick was named a Third Team All-American his last year with the program in 2005-06.

After a short apprenticeship in the American Hockey League, Backes has gone on to rack up 357 points on 159 goals and 198 assists in seven and half seasons with the Blues. He has appeared in the last two Olympics with the United States men's hockey team. An accomplished pilot, Backes and his wife Kelly, are the founders of Athletes for Animals - a foundation that includes professional athletes from various sports with a "shared passion for rescuing an protecting the welfare of homeless pets nationwide."

He's accomplished a lot for such a young person, but one of the things left undone was getting his degree.

"I set out going to school to get a degree and I expected to finish.  I didn't necessarily expect pro hockey to happen and certainly not the the way it's happened"  said the Blaine, Minn., native.

And so this past Saturday, he ticked another item off the list. College graduate.

"My degree is in applied organizational studies with a non profit leadership certificate. It's pertinent to what Kelly and I are up to now."

With the sheepskin in hand, one wonders what's next for the former Maverick captain.

"Getting the degree was something that was high on the list.  Now it's sort of let's go find something else we can move forward with."

Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/2014/02/25/3078397/backes-olympic-mission-to-russia.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Travis Checks Out

Graduate assistant Travis Langer traveled the country with
Minnesota State's volleyball, women's basketball and softball
teams the last two years.
When I came to Minnesota State 20 months ago, one of the first things I heard within the athletic department was the term "MavFam" and as an outsider looking in I was kind of skeptical about this term. I quickly learned what it meant. It's a group of people working together, to achieve greatness.

In my time as a graduate assistant in Athletic Communications I have worked directly with the women's basketball, softball and volleyball programs. These three teams in the last two seasons have been great, to say the least. The trio has combined for a record of 163-61, someone in my line of work's dream, covering nationally-ranked teams.

I have had the privilege to travel with each of the squads and the opportunity to really get to know the players and coaches. Some of the trips include a trek with the softball team to Arizona, driving a minivan full of five softball girls from Phoenix to Tuscan and back, trips to Kansas and Colorado with the women's basketball team in addition to a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference volleyball tournament trip to the Twin Cities, which was hosted by the seven-time NCAA national champion, Concordia-St. Paul (a team, by the way, which we beat in a five-set thriller earlier in that season in Mankato).

These aren't just athletes though. These ladies are the definition of student-athletes with all three teams boast well over 3.0 grade point averages and are extremely involved in not only our community, but the global community with a plethora of mission trips in their offseasons as well.

The MavFam extends far beyond these three teams, however. It's a department-wide family. It's a group of student-athletes, coaches and administrators working together toward being the best institution possible. The friendships I was able to build proved invaluable, me being a small-town, South Dakota kid, 550 miles from home.

I have also had the opportunity to enjoy a number of other great sporting memories, including a historic run by our football team with back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, the men's hockey team winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Association postseason tournament and bringing the Broadmoor Trophy to Mankato for the first time ever, the men's basketball team hosting back-to-back regional tournaments, something the women's soccer team, softball team and baseball team (hopefully) will also do.

This is not something many schools have the opportunity to do, and it takes a lot of work from a great group of people working behind the scenes. This is the group I have had been a part of for the last two years, and a group that the coaches and athletes also consider part of the MavFam, a group of people working together toward greatness.

From the bus trips with 25 women singing Pitch Perfect at the top of their lungs (my Beats headphones turned out to be a great investment, no offense), to the multiple regionals I have attended and worked, there is no doubt that the relationships, memories and lessons I will take from Minnesota State are things that will not only help me, but everyone else that dons the Purple and Gold achieve greatness.

Thank you!​

A native of Spearfish, S.D., and the owner of an undergraduate degree in public relations from Black Hills State (S.D.), Travis Langer worked as a graduate assistant in the Minnesota State Athletic Communications office the last two years.  He graduates Saturday with a master's degree in sport managament.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kalthoff Leads Mavericks into Postseason

Alyssa Kalthoff has led Minnesota State to a trio of
NCAA DII women's golf tournament appearances

A four-year letterwinner, senior Alyssa Kaltoff is a veteran member of the Minnesota State women’s golf team.

A native of Albany, Minn., Kalthoff came to the Mavericks as a two-time West Central North Conference champion, a four-time high school Most Valuable Player and a participant in the 2010 Minnesota/Wisconsin Cup for the Huskies.

Not wasting any time establishing herself as one of Minnesota State’s top individuals when she averaged 85.2 strokes per round as a freshman in 2010-11, she’s consistently ranked as one of the top small college golfers in the upper midwest during the past four seasons. Kalthoff, who has continued to better her performance as she’s gained more experience, averaged 82.5 as a sophomore and 81.8 as a junior and after placing 26th at the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship in her first year with the Mavericks, was tenth as a sophomore and eighth in the league as a junior in 2012-13.

A member of MSU teams that have participated in three consecutive NCAA regionals, Kalthoff said her favorite part of being a Maverick is competing with her team.

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during her junior season, the 2013-14 captain has encountered her share of adversity, but points to the support of her teammates as one of the reasons she’s been able to maintain success in the classroom and on the course, while dealing with the condition.

“I have to check my blood sugar four times a day, and I’ve had to eat a lot differently. It’s not just an adjustment as an athlete, but it’s just a huge adjustment in general,” said Kalthoff.  Citing a healthier diet and a more robust work-out regime as a couple of keys in making things work, she also talked about the strong support she received from her teammate, junior Tabitha Kunst

“Tabitha was with me when I was diagnosed and stayed in the emergency room with me. She became very knowledgeable about diabetes and has been like my little doctor,” said Kaltoff. 

Long-time Minnesota State women’s golf coach, Nick Campa, said that whenever he brings recruits in, he highlights the team unity at MSU.

“I’ve had kids from other teams who tell me they wish they had the unity we do. Alyssa and Tabitha go out of their way to make sure people feel welcome and it’s really great to see,” said Campa.

The senior golfer said through this hardship and her time at MSU, she has developed long-lasting friendships. Kaltoff hopes to go to graduate school at MSU for exercise physiology and continue to support the golf team as a graduate assistant.

The close-knit team will compete in the final two rounds of the 2013-14 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Championship this Saturday and Sunday in Morton, Minn.

                                                           Contributed by Brenda Martinson, Minnesota State Athletic Communications intern

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Who is Nathan Hancock?

Nathan Hancock is a two-sport athlete at Minnesota State.

Nathan Hancock is one of those rare athletes that most schools would love to have. The junior from Independence, Mo., is a two-sport athlete at Minnesota State, playing safety for the football team as well as competing in the multi-events for the Maverick track and field team.

Not only does he participate in both sports, he excels in both.

As his high school career came to an end, he wanted to find a school where he could compete in both sports. Most schools he was considering would not allow him to play both and since football was his first love, he chose to attend the University of Nebraska-Omaha to play football. After redshirting his first year at UNO, the football program was cut.

That is when Hancock looked to Minnesota State and what it had to offer. After coming to Mankato for a visit, he loved the school and got the offer he was looking for. The Mavericks would allow him to play both sports. Allowing athletes to compete in two sports is nothing new for MSU. Three of Hancock’s teammates, Keyvan Rudd, Bryan Caffin, and Chris Reed are part of the track and field and football teams as well.

It seems to have worked out pretty well for both parties involved. Hancock just finished up one of his best seasons for the MSU track and field team. At the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Multi Championship, he was crowned champion for the second straight year in the heptathlon compiling 5,030 points after battling through a hamstring injury throughout the two-day meet. Going into the NCAA Division II Indoor National Championships his goal was to finish within the top three in the heptathlon. He met this goal as he finished second totaling a school record 5,449 points, surpassing his own school record and earning his third All-American honor in the event. He was also part of the All-American 4x400-meter relay team that finished in eighth place at the championships. As a team, the Purple and Gold had its best finish in 22 years claiming fourth place with 38 points.

Looking ahead to the outdoor season Hancock is planning to compete in the decathlon at 100 percent for the first time. The past two seasons he has had to battle through injury and hasn’t been able to compete to the best of his abilities.

After asking him what the biggest difference between is between the decathlon and heptathlon Hancock stated, “You have to have the endurance to get through 10 events in the decathlon compared to the heptathlon which is only seven events. The decathlon is a little more taxing on the body and you have to be able to recover quickly.”

Hancock is no slouch on the gridiron. In 2013 he started in 11 games for a football team that finished the regular season undefeated and made its second straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. He was named NSIC South Division First Team All-Conference finishing with 46 tackles and five interceptions.

Throughout his career at MSU, Hancock has had a lot of great accomplishments. I asked him what his favorite moment as a Maverick has been so far and he stated, “It has to be the last national meet. My goal was to finish in the top three and to come in second was a great accomplishment. Also to be part of the 4x400-meter relay team to give us that one point in the last race of the meet to help us finish fourth and get that trophy was a great

Hancock still has two more seasons of eligibility for outdoor track and field and one season for indoor track and field. He also has one year of eligibility left for football. Hopefully the best is yet to come in what has already been a pretty great career.

It’s great to be a Maverick!

By: Paul Stenzel, Athletic Communications Graduate Intern