Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nick's Notes: An Early Christmas Gift

Nick’s Notes: Absence makes the Hart grow fonder

December 24, 2014
Marshall Independent
Christmas came early for Marie Hanson.
The Tracy-Milroy-Balaton cross-country coach got a letter on the final day of October from the Reed Hart Trust notifying her of a donation to the cross country program.
Hart was an avid runner from Pipestone who was active in the southwest Minnesota and southeastern South Dakota running community.
Hart died in July at the age of 87 and Hanson knew that he had left some money to the program in September.
"I remember thinking, 'What a great guy, such a nice thing to do for us. We aren't even his hometown.' I assumed it would be a couple hundred bucks, which would have been great," said Hanson via email.
However, when Hanson opened up the letter in her classroom while her eighth period students took a quiz, she was shocked.
"I opened the letter and it took the wind out of me. I felt paralyzed because I couldn't tell the students and I couldn't leave my room! I probably had the strangest facial expression for the remainder of the hour," she said.
Hart had left $20,000 to the program.
"Right after class I ran (yes, ran) to my assistant coach's classroom and let her read the letter, then to my Activities Director, and then to the Superintendent. Everyone's eyes widened and mouth dropped as they read the amount," she said.
Hart had also left the same amount to other local programs including Fulda, Worthington, Okabena, the Prairie Striders Running Club, as well as few others.
This was an emphatic finish for a man who enjoyed running and everything that came along with it.
"He was the only hero I've ever had in my life," said his cousin Doug Hart, who now lives in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The two grew up together in Pipestone.
After serving in World War II and in Korea, Hart decided that he didn't want a conventional career.
He worked as a craftsman on government contracts all over the globe.
That's where he honed his love of running.
"He really started jogging when he went to Kwajalein. He was so isolated out there he didn't know what to do," said Doug. Reed went on to form running clubs there and in Riyad, Saudi Arabia.
When he retired to Pipestone in 1985, he continued jogging.
He helped form running groups in the area. He also made race trophies by hand out of wood. He ran two 10K races at age 85.
"It became a passion of his. It wasn't that he was out to win any races. He never won a race when he competed. He did it because of good health. That's what he tried to foster for everyone," said Doug.
Hanson said that the she is planning on using the funds to help improve the Tracy Box Car Days road race, which supports the TMB cross country team.
"Area runners are in for a treat this summer," she said.
Hanson said the team plans to honor Hart and his generosity as well.
Doug said that a quote that describes Reed is, "The sign of a truly contented person who enjoys the scenery while being forced to take a detour."
Even though Hart has crossed his last finish line, his spirit and generosity will continue on for many more races.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nick's Notes: Asking for Help

Nick’s Notes: Asking for Help

December 11, 2014
By Nick Hansen (nhansen@marshallindependent.comMarshall Independent
I first heard about it on Facebook.
On December 7th, 2009, a friend of my former high school teacher and cross country ski coach Patti Soderberg posted that she had passed away the previous evening.
Patti died accidentally in her hot tub. The pain and grief from her loss quickly rippled through my small community of boarding school alumni and teachers.
I called my former roommate, my ex-girlfriend, and got checked on by some former teachers
Her death hit us all in the collective gut. Patti was a bright, bubbly person who always liked to have fun. One time she brought double-stuff Oreos into my dorm wing at 10 p.m.
She quickly regretted that decision when she tried to get eight high school boys into their rooms thirty minutes later.
She wasn't the most technical of ski coaches, but she enthusiastically cheered us on while we raced, even if we were the slowest skiers on the course, which we often were.
Our high school team was a quirky bunch. We weren't great skiers, but we found joy in being out on the trails together. A lot of that joy came from Patti.
If she couldn't make you smile, her two slobbery St. Bernards, Skada and Freya would. That's why we were all shocked when we learned of her struggle.
Patti was an alcoholic. I don't think anyone in our tight-knit boarding school community knew about her illness. I didn't find out about it until after I graduated.
I stayed in touch with her and her husband after leaving high school, but I never broached the subject. It was hard for us to understand her burden because she made every effort to lighten ours.
Through Patti, I learned that cross country skiing is the ultimate team sport. Even though you are on the course by yourself, you don't do it alone. You have people help you wax your skis.
Your coaches go over the race course with you. You draft with your teammates and they encourage you. And sometimes, you have someone waiting for you with a hug and a warm meal after the race. That person was always Patti.
I don't believe in the archetype of the self-made person, especially in the sports world.
Individual effort and self-motivation go a long way, but there is always someone there who offers a helping hand when you need it.
So if you need help, please let others know. Whether it is with an inner struggle or a small problem, don't be afraid to reach out. The world can't afford to have any more bright lights like Patti snuffed out too early.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Geist gets start in DII title game

This was my favorite story from the weekend. Greta has been battling another round of Hodgkin's lymphoma. Coach Terry Culhane gave her the start and there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

 By Nick Hansen ( , Marshall Independent
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -Even though Greta Geist hadn't played volleyball in nearly a month, it was an easy decision for Southwest Minnesota State coach Terry Culhane to start her in the national championship match against the University of Tampa.
Geist is battling a reappearance of Hodgkins Lymphoma and will be starting another round of treatment after the season.
Even though Geist was subbed out right away, she got a standing ovation from both SMSU and Tampa fans.

Article Photos

Photo by Anna Haecherl-Smith
SMSU’s Greta Geist waits to be introduced for the Division II National Championship match on Saturday.
"It was an out of body experience," said Geist after the match.
Geist has been on her teammates mind ever since she had to take a break from playing in early November.
She noticed that her neck started hurting again and the pain became out of the ordinary after a Thursday practice.
The mother of a teammate took her urgent care on a Saturday morning and Geist went back to her house near the Twin Cities later that day. She had an appointment with her doctor on Monday.
"Right when my oncologist felt my neck she knew my cancer was back right away. That was really hard to hear," said Geist. After more tests at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital, they found out that the cancer was 2 centimeters bigger than it was the pervious time.
"My treatment is going to be way harsher. It's going to be like the springtime, times 1,000," said Geist. The cancer is still stage two and Geist said it hasn't spread anywhere else.
Even though the Mustangs' season ended on the court, they're committed to being good teammates in the offseason.
"We are a close-knit group. We're good teammates during the season. We need to continue to be better teammates while Greta battles through this," said Culhane after the match.
"We'll rally for her. We'll be together through this battle for her," said teammate Whitney Burmeister.
The Mustangs warmed up in their violet t-shirts that were emblazoned with the words "Team Greta."
Geist was happy she was able to make the trip to Louisville, even though her doctors were initially hesitant.
She sat on the bench with clipboard in hand and was fully invested during the match. She got out of her chair and cheered when teammate Kenzie Beekman made a particularly powerful kill.
Geist has appreciated the support of her teammates and coaches, even though she couldn't be with them all the time.
"My teammates are amazing. It helped me a lot and will help me through the experience of my treatment, too," she said.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Simple approach key to success

Canby’s Sig Armitage excels in horseshoe pitching arena

August 2, 2014
By Nick Hansen (nhansen@marshallindependent.comMarshall Independent
By Nick Hansen

Article Photos

Photo by Nick Hansen
Sig Armitage of Canby practices his craft in his backyard. Armitage gets a ringer on 71 percent of his throws in tournaments. He is in elite company. Only two dozen have a ringer average above 50.
CANBY - There is a picture on Sig Armitage's kitchen wall that reads, "Keep it simple." That's the way the 75-year old state champion horseshoe thrower has remained at the top of his game after 60-plus years of throwing.
If Armitage played any other sport, he'd either have a lot more money or a cult following. He sticks to a rigorous practice schedule. He competes in more tournaments than almost any thrower in Minnesota. And, to put it bluntly, he's better than most of them.
The Canby native has a 71.81 ringer percentage this year, which means that over 71 percent of his throws in tournaments are ringers - the best throw a pitcher can have. Of the few hundred other registered throwers with the Minnesota Gopher State Horseshoe Pitchers Association (MGSHPA), only about two dozen have a ringer percentage above 50. Last year Armitage threw 1,102 ringers in 35 games in his home league. Last month, he finished 13th in the elders division at the National Horseshoes Pitching Association (NHPA) World Championships.
"Sig is the best I know at his age and where he pitches from," said Jason Buchert, the local league organizer.
"I think if I had the time to practice and commit to the sport I could be as good as him and hope to be one day," Buchert added.
Armitage learned the game on his farm in Canby when he was a kid.
"I started pitching when I was 14 or 15. My two brothers and I out at the farm and my dad. After we ate dinner we'd go out and throw. The stakes are still there under the two big cottonwood trees," he says while sitting in the shade of his garden shed after a recent early afternoon pitching session.
Armitage has throwing down to an art: Grip with four of your fingers at the bottom of the horseshoe with the thumb on the caulk. Step forward with your left foot, bring your hand back, and pitch the shoe so it flips at least once. If all goes right he'll hear the clank of the shoe hitting the stake.
It usually goes right.
He is serious when plays, but not unfriendly. He follows the etiquette of the game, shaking hands before the match and standing two feet behind the thrower when they are pitching. However, he doesn't talk. He knows why he is out there.
"We're not out there for exercise," he says while picking up a horseshoe with a golf club-hook contraption, so he doesn't have to bend down to pick up the shoes.
He's wearing denim shorts, glasses with self-tinting lenses, a brown hat with three horses on it and a dark blue T-shirt with the NHPA World Championships logo above the left breast pocket. He smiles a lot, is sociable, and will offer you a pop, but it "has to be diet."
Armitage has a simple routine to get better at pitching. He practices every day at 3:30 p.m. because that is when the shade is optimal on his backyard court. He throws 150 to 200 shoes when he practices; sometimes he won't stop until he gets 150 ringers. He plays in about 30 tournaments because he believes playing a lot of games will help him improve. He also gets straight to the point when you ask him about horseshoes.
What makes a good horseshoe player? "Concentration."
What tournament do you look forward to every year? "State."
What has kept you going? "Success."
Even though he loves to compete, he's not driven by the hardware, at least not most of it.
"I threw away maybe a hundred trophies," he says as he points at a shelf of awards in his basement court. There are still enough accolades to more than adequately fill two rooms.
He's hung photos of friends he has met pitching horseshoes and patches from the NHPA and the Minnesota Gopher State Pitching Association. One NHPA patch denotes that he got 90 percent ringers in one game. He keeps the scoresheet from his 2012 state championship in a frame. He went 5-0. However, it still doesn't matter a whole lot to him. "It's just stuff," he said.
Armitage couldn't survive on his winnings from horseshoe throwing. He won just $250 from his world championship trip. He retired from farming 25 years ago and now drives a school bus. However, it seems too regimented to be a hobby.
"It's like me asking him to go shopping," says his wife Joan at her kitchen table.
Like any athlete at the top of their game, Armitage has his worries.
"I can throw 16 ringers in a row, not too much a problem. It's that 17th and 18th ringer that you want to keep them going," he says at his kitchen table in between sips from a glass of Diet Orange Sunkist. That phenomenon goes by different names: the yips, choking, having a meltdown.
"I typed up choking in sports," he says. He came across the work of Dr. Patrick Cohn, a sports psychologist who works with professional athletes. He subscribed to Cohn's emails, but hasn't gone for paid treatment yet.
Armitage has never had a complete meltdown, but he's come close.
"I went to went to Beloit, Wisconsin, for the team world. I went to a quarter turn and a flip. I was shooting 60 percent. There I shot 44 percent for the whole tournament," he says. "I don't know what possessed me to try something different, but I did," he adds. He quickly went back to the straight flip.
It is a mental game for Armitage. "You gotta think about every little thing you do. You don't just get out and throw. I know all the things I have to do," he says.
"He has a whole list!" adds Joan.
The organized horseshoe throwing community is small, but active. According to the NHPA website, membership totals around 15,000 with about 6,200 members in the league program. There were 1,269 entrants in the World Championships this year. Minnesota boasts one of the largest horseshoe throwing communities in the United States with over 30 sanctioned clubs and more than 1,000 members, according to the MGSHPA website.
Even though Armitage has two courts to practice on, many tournament victories and an "understanding wife," he still doesn't have everything he wants.
"I would like to have people come and play," he says while looking wistfully at his court.
It's that simple.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nick's Notes: Veterans Day

Nick’s Notes: Veterans Day

November 11, 2014
By Nick Hansen (nhansen@marshallindependent.comMarshall Independent
A few weeks ago Duke University men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski used a series of basketball metaphors to criticize the President's strategy to combat ISIS at the Association of the U.S. Army Conference.
Coach K, a West Point Graduate, said the "no boots on the ground" strategy was like playing a game without his best players. He named off a few of his star players that he had coached over the years, Grant Hill, J.J. Redick, and Christian Laettner.
I don't question Krzyzewski's commitment to causeses related to our armed forces, however I worry about the flippant attitude that war and sports metaphors are used interchangeably.
Days like this remind me of my cousin Phillip Johnson Jr., who was killed in Afghanistan in January of 2004. His helicopter was shot down over Fallujah. He's now buried in Arlington National Cemetary.
I wonder about what Phillip was doing that morning before heading out on his mission. I doubt making a flight plan for his UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was anything like preparing a game plan for North Carolina.
I think about the battles that were fought in Fallujah and Kandhar. I bet they were nothing like the "battles" fought at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
I think about Phillip's last thoughts and the last thoughts of the nine other men who were also killed in the crash. I doubt they were anything like when you know might lose a game in the NCAA tournament.
I think about the void that was cast upon our family after Phillip was killed. I doubt it was anything like the void you have after you've coached your last game for a season.
I think about the tears we shed for Phillip and the tears that have been shed for the thousands of lost fathers and mothers killed overseas. They are not the same tears that are shed after sports events.
I think about the psychological toll that war has taken on the thousands of men and women in our country's conflicts over the years. I think about how they can't leave it all on the court because of the PTSD that haunts them every day of their lives.
On this Veterans Day, remember the real battles. Remember that they are significantly more complex and dangerous than the games we play and watch.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Marshall Elinated by Waseca

MARSHALL-It all ended with a hug.
Coach Terry Bahlmann embraced his quarterback and his son, Brad Bahlmann after the Marshall Tigers lost to Waseca Blue Jays 28-14 in the semifinals of the Section Class 4A Section 2 playoffs on Saturday afternoon.
Some hoped that hug would come the following weekend, possibly after a game against Hutchinson, or at the end of a state tournament run.

Article Photos

Photo by David Merrill
Marshall quarterback Brad Bahlmann shares a moment with his dad and coach Terry Bahlmann after the Tigers’ 28-14 loss to Waseca on Saturday, which ended their season.
Instead, it came on the five-yard line on the north end of Mattke Field on Saturday at 4:03 p.m. as members of the Bahlmann family looked on from the stands. It came after the coach addressed his senior players. He spoke to them as a group first and then talked to each one of them individually. There were the lineman, Brent Andries, Kyle Wischer, Reagan Wartner, Spencer Aufenthie, and Brandon Deutz that Coach Bahlmann often said they were most pivotal players on the field.
There was wide receiver Adam Schultz and tight end Aaron Polejewski. Both of them were asked to step up that afternoon in the absence of their injured leading receiver, Drew Hmielewski. They helped get the Tigers have their best receiving game of the year.
There were the guys who gave opposing QB's nightmares, John Lothert and Tom Roelfsema. The two combined for over ten sacks this season.
There were the stalwarts, Jack Bock, Colin VanKeulen, and Collin Reilly, who could be counted on to make the plays on the field and provide the leadership off of it.
There was running back Sam Marshall, who had one of the best seasons for a Tiger running back, ever.
And then there was Brad Bahlmann, who dominated on both sides of the ball all season. He had over fifty tackles and 17 touchdown passes this season. He threw for 210 yards and made four solo tackles that afternoon.
"I'm very proud of this group of young men. They were a great group to coach and made a truly great team. We're going to miss the seniors," said Terry Bahlmann.
After the seniors boarded the bus, Terry made the long walk across the field, through the bleachers and up the stairs to the press box. It was a walk he had made four times already this season, but it seemed extra long and extra lonely on Saturday afternoon.
As members of the Southwest Minnesota State football team warmed up for their game and Waseca fans reveled in their win, Terry was alone with his thoughts.
Maybe he was thinking about how his team let a 7-6 halftime lead slip away after the Blue Jays piled on 22 points in the third quarter.
Maybe he was thinking why this game turned out differently than their Oct. 3rd 35-6 victory against Waseca.
Maybe he was thinking about the Tigers last chance when they blocked a punt with a few minutes to go, but were unable to convert it into a score.
Maybe he was thinking about the crazy start to the game which featured a fumble by the Tigers on the opening kickoff, but an interception on the very next play.
Or maybe, just maybe, he was thinking about his son and his team and what a great season it was.

Nick's Notes: October Nights

Nick’s Notes: October Nights

November 4, 2014
By Nick Hansen (nhansen@marshallindependent.comMarshall Independent
Under most other circumstances, I probably would have forgotten about Oct. 16.
However, with both the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers and the Marshall Tigers volleyball teams making the trip to St. Paul for the state volleyball tournament, that night continues to stick out in my mind. That was the night the Panthers defeated the Tigers in five sets in Tracy.
On paper, Marshall should have won. The Tigers had beaten the Panthers three years in a row without dropping a set.
Class AA teams like Marshall usually beat smaller-school Class A teams like TMB. A friend of mine gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look when I asked about TMB's chances in the match.
However, that week was different.
Marshall defeated St. Peter for the Big South championship on that Tuesday.
Even though they won, it wasn't an inspired performance. The Saints went on more runs than they should have. Also, it seemed at times that the St.Peter B and C teams were cheering louder than the rest of the crowd.
TMB was coming off of two emotional wins.
They got revenge over Minneota in a game that featured a raucous home crowd. They also won their first Camden Conference Championship in a long time by defeating Central Minnesota Christian on the road. Coach Katie Gervais told me that both of those victories were confidence builders.
I thought that if both teams had played like they did earlier in the week, TMB would win in five sets. That's exactly what happened.
You may disagree, but it was the best thing to happen to both teams.
TMB solidified its identity as a scrappy underdog. Those girls didn't have to prove anything. They'd already played some impressive volleyball to finish out the season.
However, they had nothing to lose and that's when you find out the most about a team.
The Panthers played their game. They battled back in sets. They weren't intimidated. They let their emotion fly.
Those are the qualities fuel long postseason runs. I'd fear any team that knows its identity. So, just keep scrapping, Panthers.
Marshall had a rallying event. Rallying events remind you of your mission and clarify what you need to do to accomplish it. Yes, they did have the three straight state championships to rally around, but those were won by other teams. They weren't won by this squad
Dan Westby said that this team has been under more pressure than any team he had seen in a while. Understandably so. I tip my hat to Westby for getting his team to keep the focus on the court.
To their credit, the Tigers have responded well. They have played some of the best volleyball I've seen them play all season. Their win against Jackson County Central was an emotional one. The girls shut out the crowd noise, the pep band, and they just focused on playing.
Mallory Griffin told me after the match that she just focused on getting the ball in the court as she served. She did that and more, helping lead the Tigers back from 8-5 deficit to help win the game.
The Tigers shouldn't worry about a legacy or a streak, just focus on getting the ball in the court. That's what they're good at. Be ruthless and go all in.
Good luck to both the Tigers and Panthers. It's going to be fun.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A New Perspective

All Jessica Nelson wants to do is brighten your day.
That may seem like a tall order for the 16-year old Tracy area resident due to recent events, but a radiating smile and bubbly laughter make it hard not to feel positive in her presence.

Jessie Nelson’s Panther volleyball teammates have kept her part of the team since a July car craOne might think Nelson - Jessie - would have a different attitude on life since July 8, 2014. That night, Nelson, a two-sport athlete at Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, was driving home from her grandparents' house when she lost control of her vehicle. It flipped into a cornfield; a neighbor found her a few minutes after.Jessie's mom, Sue, rushed to the accident scene. Heart-stopping fear overtook her. "All of it came over me like one big wave. I was in a panic," she said, sitting at her kitchen table earlier this week. "She started screaming. I walked over to near where she was. She was screaming about her right leg. I had a sigh of relief when I knew she was al
One might think Nelson - Jessie - would have a different attitude on life since July 8, 2014. That night, Nelson, a two-sport athlete at Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, was driving home from her grandparents' house when she lost control of her vehicle. It flipped into a cornfield; a neighbor found her a few minutes after.
Jessie's mom, Sue, rushed to the accident scene. Heart-stopping fear overtook her. "All of it came over me like one big wave. I was in a panic," she said, sitting at her kitchen table earlier this week. "She started screaming. I walked over to near where she was. She was screaming about her right leg. I had a sigh of relief when I knew she was alive."
Jessie suffered numerous injuries. She had a compound fracture on her right tibia and fibia, a chip in her iliac crest, severed tendons in her hands, contusions to her lungs, a broken bone in her face, and numerous scratches and bumps.
Initially, it looked like the ebullient teen would recover in time for the 2015 volleyball season, but there was a setback on Labor Day. Doctors found that an infection had eaten away part of her right leg bone and they needed to take measures to save it. "Limb salvaging, that's what they called it," says Sue.
That's when it looked like her competitive volleyball career was over. "They said to her, 'Jessie if your goal is to play sports for fun someday, then I think you won't be disappointed,'" said Sue Nelson.
After a seven-hour surgery at the Mayo Clinic on Oct. 14, Jessica got her "bionic leg." The technical term is a Ilizarov Apparatus - a device with three metal rings and 12 pins that are inserted into a leg. It's designed, in part, to help lengthen bones that have been fractured, and it has to be adjusted multiple times a day.
"If you stop or if you go too far, it can greatly affect it," Sue Nelson said, while adjusting one of the pins and holding a white sheet of paper with rows of three digit numbers that show where each pin needs to be adjusted and when. "You have to be vigilant with this whole thing," she adds.
Jessie has become used to the tinkering with leg. She sits in her wheelchair smiling while her mom adjusts one of the pins. Nearly four months after the crash, she treats it as if it was just another high school event. She scrolls through her Instagram feed on her phone which has numerous pictures of her time at the hospital. She explains the complex healing process of her leg like it was a physics equation. However, unlike most other high schoolers, she's not self conscious about her new device.
"Should my leg be in it?" she asks when setting up for a photo.
Before the crash, volleyball took up most of Jessie's life. She played year-round and would save her money to take part in summer camps. This summer she wanted to go to the Intermediate Camp at Southwest Minnesota State so badly that she told SMSU coach Terry Culhane that she'd switch from her normal position as a hitter and go as a libero, not an easy switch for someone who is six-feet tall.
"She had such a passion for volleyball. She played exhibiting that passion and energy," said TMB assistant volleyball coach Rick Haberman. "She played displaying that love of volleyball." Haberman gave her the nickname "Big Ol' Jessie" in ninth grade.
Even though Nelson hasn't been on the court, she's still very much on the minds of the TMB volleyball community. Her teammates put a poster on her locker before every home game. The school's public address announcer, Jim Miller, announces Nelson's name before every game. Volleyball players from other teams have shown their support as well, and numerous Panther fans have worn "Big Ol' Jessie" T-shirts at matches throughout the season.
The shirts were part of a fundraising effort. They are purple, Jessie's favorite color, and have her favorite Bible verse on them. It's from 2nd Chronicles: "But as for you be strong and do not give up for your hard work will be rewarded."
Her team visited her in the hospital a few days after the crash. They had just returned from a camp at the University of Wisconsin. They wore homemade shirts that said "We love you BOJ" and presented her with an autographed volleyball that they got members of the Wisconsin volleyball team to sign for her.
"It was very emotional. I was very happy to see her," said teammate Sara Stoneberg. "I cried a little bit. The second I saw her in the room I hugged her. I wasn't thinking volleyball at that moment. I was thinking about how she was still alive."
Jessie said it was one of her favorite days of the last few months.
She still follows her team closely.
She furiously tried to get updates during the Panthers' recent game against the Marshall Tigers. "I was texting three different people. I couldn't get the online stream to work," she said. The Panthers ended up winning, beating the Tigers for the first time in over a decade.
Jessie's time is now mostly spent going to doctor appointments, being involved with her church youth group and catching up with homework.
Sue Nelson said it's been an adjustment for both of them. Jessie said her biggest challenge has been answering the same questions over and over about her leg.
However, she says she has gained perspective from the crash.
"You've got to know if something did happen, you have to know what to do. Say you're an athlete, and you got that taken away from you. How are you going to look at it? I can look at it that it's so horrible that I can't play anymore. Or I can look at it, now that I can't play volleyball, 'I can do this. A door has been opened,'" she says while fiddling with an Evian water bottle.
One door that has been opened for Jessie is her career path. She now wants to become a registered nurse.
"My life would have been completely different if this hadn't happened. It would have been sports, volleyball especially. I hopefully would have gone to a decent school on a volleyball scholarship. I would have gone for culinary or design school," she says.
She's relieved to have found some clarity through all that has happened to her.
"I'm glad I now have more of a plan of what I am going to do," she said.
The medical professionals who assisted her encouraged Jessie to consider nursing in her future.
However, she made it clear she wants to work with children, because nurses in that field "don't just do what they have to do and go home. They want to brighten your day," she said, with a smile, of course.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Nick's Notes: Practicing Patience

Saturdays are different for Alex Fenske these days. He doesn't put on his football pads.
He doesn't warm up with the University of St.Thomas football team. He doesn't play in the games. He waits on the sidelines.
The 2012 Marshall High school graduate was slated to start for the Tommies at quarterback this season, but that all changed after a preseason injury.
Fenske's upper body went the opposite way of his foot after a tackle during a scrimmage against a junior college team. He didn't know what to think after he went down on the turf.
"A million things went through my head. It was a sensation that I've never felt before. I felt something pop. I didn't know if it was an ACL or a tear. It happened so quick," he said.
That injury forced Fenske to have a different perspective, literally.
"I never thought it would be so hard to have to just watch a practice. I understand that it is a privilege. It's hard to watch them on game day with all the fans screaming," he said.
However, an injury doesn't necessarily mean free time for the quarterback. He puts in about ten hours of rehab per week. He goes to practices, watches film, and helps the new quarterbacks. "We all help each other out. I help them out with little things like how to read the safeties," he said.
Fenske has learned to be patient, not something many athletes are accustomed to doing. That may ultimately be his best weapon.
The fifth century poem 'Psychomachia' or 'Battle for the Soul' by the Latin poet Prudentius is an allegorical work that describes virtues fighting for control of man's soul.
In the poem, patience comes off like a quality offensive lineman. "No virtue leaps into the hazards of battle save that virtue be with her, for she is ineffectual whom patience does not strengthen," goes section 170 of the poem.
Patience faces off against anger, and anger ends up shooting himself in the foot while patience remains steadfast.
Fenske didn't seem to have any hint of anger in voice when I spoke with him. He seemed driven. "I'm looking at everything from a different point of view. I'm focusing on getting healthy. It's almost like starting back at point A," he said.
Coming back stronger next year for his senior season is the main goal for Fenske. His coaches told him that many players have returned from similar injuries and have gone on to have stellar comeback seasons.
"Madness dies of self enmity. In her fury she slays herself."
Fifth century wisdom for Fenske's 2015 comeback.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Feature: Point, Greta

I'm happy with how this turned out. I heard about Greta's story a few weeks ago and I'm glad she was willing to share it with me. She's extremely mature and well-spoken. (Much more than I was at 18.)
MARSHALL- It started with a cough. That's what sent Southwest Minnesota State volleyball player Greta Geist to the hospital. That's how doctors found the tumor pressed against her upper right lung. That's how she found out she had cancer. And that's how she rallied her future team.

Article Photos

Photo by David Merrill
Greta Geist, a freshman on the Southwest Minnesota State University volleyball t
Geist was diagnosed with Nodular Sclorosis Hodgkins Lymphoma (NSHL) last February while a senior at Burnsville High School.
"The scariest day was the very first day in the ER," she said while sitting on a couch in the coffee shop at SMSU recently.

A doctor told her she might have cancer but was sparse on the details initially.
She didn't know what to do but go play volleyball.
"After she got her diagnosis, she raced home and changed into her volleyball clothes," said her father, Harry Geist.
About 150 miles away in the RA building on the SMSU campus, her future team was finishing a spring workout. Coach Terry Culhane received a text from Geist about her diagnosis. The whole team was shocked.
"I've never had a player diagnosed with cancer. You don't expect young kids to have cancer," said Culhane.
She was placed in the hospital for 10 days and had to go through three exhausting cycles of chemotherapy. Even though NSHL has an almost universal cure rate, it didn't make the fight any easier. She cut her long blonde hair and donated it to Locks of Love.
Geist remained steadfast during her treatment. She did her homework while receiving chemotherapy. She attended volleyball practice, even though she fell asleep on the sidelines at times. Her favorite part was when she was able to get back out on the court during the last week of her treatment.
"Volleyball was a really important part of her focus," her father said.
In Marshall, Geist's future teammates made her a focus of their spring play. During a tournament at South Dakota State, they wore violet T-shirts, the color of Hodgkins Lymphoma awareness, emblazoned with the words "Team Greta."
The team gave Geist a tie blanket and a homemade poster that had the Mustangs logo on it. They stayed in touch with her via text messages and social media.
They hadn't even played with her yet. But that didn't matter to the team.
"It's a future teammate," said SMSU volleyball player Emilee Gutzmer.
Gutzmer and Geist met up for dinner over spring break near the Twin Cities. The meeting came in the middle of Geist's chemo treatment, but Gutzmer said Geist was extremely positive.
"It looked like nothing had fazed her," said Gutzmer. "She said that she'd be at practice next fall."
The support from SMSU, Geist's club team, and the greater volleyball community was overwhelming for the Geist family. Geist's CaringBridge blog received dozens of notes of support from all over the country.
Harry Geist was especially humbled by the support from Marshall.
"They basically told us that once you're committed to us, we're committed to you," he said.
Soon after that, she got back on the court for a tournament with her Northern Lights club volleyball team. Even though her team lost two of their strongest players to injury, they still placed third.
"It took a lot out of me," she said with a smile.
Geist's bout with cancer was unexpected, but she's come away with a better appreciation for the expected, like school and volleyball.
"If I think I'm tired and I don't want to go to practice, I realize that that's stupid," she said with tears starting to form in her eyes. "If you didn't get to go somewhere, you wouldn't realize you'd miss it."
A long way from a cough.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Last Ride of Mustang Sally

This one was fun to write. It was also the most fun I've had reporting. I kept telling people that, "A good reporter uses all five senses."