Graham hoping to land 5K triple crown

Competitive cycling grows in popularity

Second annual Open Streets Buffalo a hit

Dogs defeat Mound; swept at Loretto

Team Haiti tuned in for mission trip

Journal-Press Internet Sports & School - July 17, 2014
Rob LaPlante

Journal-Press Sports Editor Rob LaPlante may be reached
by phone at 763-682-1221 or click here to email him

Graham hoping to land 5K triple crown

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

Buffalo High School senior runner Frank Graham is looking to claim this summer’s version of the racing triple crown.

After winning both the Buffalo Run 5K and Delano Fourth of July 5K Run, Graham can complete the Wright County trifeca if he finishes with the top time at this year’s Hanover Harvest Festival 5K Run on Saturday, August 2 in Hanover.

“I’d like to be able to win all three,” Graham said. “The Hanover race will be the toughest of the three. There are some good kids running in that.”

Graham, a two-time state qualifier in cross country, finished 35th overall in 16:19.2 at last year’s boys’ Class AA cross-country state tournament in St. Olaf. He just missed the cut to qualify for state this past spring in both the 1600 and 3200-meter runs for boys’ track and field. He finished the Section 2AA Meet fifth in the 1600 in 4:37.50 and fourth in the 3200 in 9:46.62. Only the top two finishers in each event advanced to state.           

Unlike some runners who compete in 5K races, Graham pushes himself to finish as high as he can in the standings.

“For the most part, I run the races to win,” he said. “I didn’t win a lot of races in high school. Last year, I only won two. The high school season means a lot more to me than winning the Buffalo Days and Fourth of July races.”

After finishing as runner-up the past couple years, Graham finally topped the Buffalo Days 5K Run on a rainy Sunday morning with a time of 15:36 on June 15 at Sturges Park. His first-place time in more ideal running conditions at the Delano Fourth of July 5K Run was 16:10.

Graham said the differences in times were not a result of the weather.

“At the Buffalo course, the clock started about 15 seconds late,” he said.

Graham’s off-season training consists of a lot of running besides the 5K races. A year ago, he and former cross country and track and field teammate Michael Wegter each put in over 400 miles of summer running. Graham put in about 60 miles a week last year, and this year he said he’s going to surpass that total.

“I’ll pass last year’s miles,” Graham said. “My goal is to win a few bigger races in high school this year.”

But first, there is a big first he must complete in Hanover to complete his short-term goal.


Competitive cycling grows in popularity

BCMS teacher hopes to spark area interest

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

Buffalo Community Middle School English teacher Jason Tornell is hoping to follow the same path the 2014 Minnesota High School Clay Target League state champions at Buffalo High School took - only he would follow using bicycles instead of guns.

            With the traditional sports of football, baseball, basketball, volleyball and hockey taking up most of high schools budgets, other non-traditional sports are becoming more popular by the moment. In the past few seasons, BHS has officially recognized boys and girls lacrosse and trapshooting, but both are self funded.

            With numbers nearly doubling as far as teams and individual shooters in Clay Target, Tornell is hoping to see the same growth in the Minnesota High School Cycling League (MHSCL). The MSHCL recognized mountain biking as an official sport in 2012. There currently are 33 sanctioned schools in the state with 21 of them offering programs in their middle schools.

            Tornell’s goal is to someday in the future be the first school in Wright County to have a sanctioned team.

“What I would really like to see are students from Buffalo competing as a team within the next few years,” said Tornell, who first started racing on a club team while attending college at South Dakota State University. “If schools like Elk River, Wayzata and Hutchinson can do it, so can we. We just need to get the word out.”

            Both Tornell and BHS Activities Director Tom Bauman feel the sport may increase in popularity, and the realistic goal of landing a team within three years could be within reach.

“I think if the numbers continue to grow, I think they may be on their way,” Bauman said. “It’s not sanctioned by the MSHSL, so there would be no funding. It would likely start as a club team.”

 “I’m aware of how difficult it is to get a new sport started at the high school level,” Tornell said. “I see this starting as a club sport, much like the lacrosse programs started. If interest grows, who knows where it would lead. Honestly, I haven’t thought that far out. I’m still trying to get this thing off the ground.”

Without much publicity, Tornell said numbers have been down. But through word of mouth, he’s hoping to create a spark.

Tornell is currently in the process of setting up a Facebook page for the club where people can find information and sign up for rides. Students interested in summer riding can call Todd Lunning at Community Ed.

“I was hoping to get the kids out on some trails this summer,” Tornell said.

This past spring, Tornell led a group of 6-10 cycling club members that met Friday afternoons. They would leave the middle school and hit the streets and trails in the area for an 8-10 mile adventure.

The sport itself has grown each year. Seven teams were added for this fall, up from last year’s total of 26 teams and 250 racers. The inaugural year of 2012 had 16 teams and 140 racers. Roseville Area scored the most points to capture the 2013 MHSCL state title. Burnsville-Lakeville co-op won the 2012 title.

The season is scored with each team participating in a series of races. This fall there are five races, each taking place on Sunday. Races this year will be held at Salem Hills in Inver Grove Heights, Jail Trail in St. Cloud, Game Haven in Rochester, Duluth Area (trail TBA) and Mt. Whitetail Ridge in Wisconsin.

For those interested in signing up for summer club rides, recreation coordinator Todd Lunning can be reached at 763-682-8176.


Second annual Open Streets Buffalo a hit

By Doug Voerding

Staff Reporter

On Saturday, July 12 the streets of downtown Buffalo were open, and Buffalo residents joined their neighbors for a variety of activities at the second annual Open Streets.

            In spite of the grey, cloudy skies and a little drizzle, hundreds of people, young and old, came to downtown Buffalo to participate in the fun.

From playing street tennis to riding bike, from hitting a homerun to scoring a lacrosse goal, from bike riding to exercising, the expanded Open Streets event highlighted living well. New this year was more live music and more youth wellness activities.

“One goal,” said organizer Mark Preisser of Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose Community Education, “is to get people of all ages out and moving.”

To make room for all of the action, 1st Avenue NE was closed from Wide Street down to the corner of 1st Ave. NE and Highway 25 (in front of Lillian’s) for Commons Commotion, Eat Street, and Info Central. Division Street was closed for Bazaar Boulevard and Fit Frenzy. 1st Street S. near Coborn’s was closed for Active Alley.

Each of the closed streets opened the space up for those who aren’t regularly physically active. There was time to socialize with neighbors, have fun, and shop in a safe, car-free environment. The events also were designed to show how important it is to make active modes of transportation easy to choose and readily accessible to all.

One event, sponsored and conducted by the Buffalo Police Department, was bike safety. Bike riders of all ages could register their bikes with the police department and have their bikes inspected. Then riders followed an obstacle course that emphasized safety and methods of avoiding problems with street debris and parked cars.

After riding through a cones course, riders faced each other in a race. The winner of the race was the rider who was not the fastest, but the slowest. The race demanded good balance with riders eliminated if one of their feet touched the ground.

In addition to Preissing, the organizing team included Joel Torkelson of Wright County Public Health and Live Wright;  Lee Ryan, City of Buffalo Parks and Recreation Director; Mona Volden of Allina Health and Buffalo Hospital, and Courtney Lotzer, communications. More than 75 volunteers helped to make the event possible.

Financial and technical support came from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota through an initiative to support “open streets” events across the state. The mission of Open Streets Buffalo is to foster individual and community health through creative use of public space.  “Our goal is to promote active and sustainable lifestyles,” said Mark Preissing, from BHM Community Education. “We’re providing community members a fun opportunity to recreate actively on the streets of Buffalo in a way that’s normally off-limits to them.”



Dogs defeat Mound; swept at Loretto

By Rob LaPlante

Sports Editor

With only three games left in the regular season, the Buffalo Bulldogs sit in 10th place in the North Star League standings, but more importantly, stand two games behind Cokato for the final home playoff spot.

            Buffalo started last week on the right foot with a 5-3 road victory over Mound, in a game played at Maple Plain. Staff ace Jon Euerle pitched 7-hit ball over nine innings to earn the win. He struck out a season-high 12 batters. Buffalo took a 2-1 lead on a fourth-inning single by player/manager Joe Pokorney that scored two runs. Corey Braun led the Bulldogs with three hits.

            Buffalo had a golden opportunity to move up in the standings with a doubleheader last Sunday, July 13 at Loretto. The Larks (12-6) came in as one of six teams with at least 10 league wins in the standings.

            Loretto jumped on Buffalo starting pitcher Andy Ross early and often. The Larks took a 4-0 first-inning lead and cruised to a 19-4 victory. Already missing several key pitchers due to injury, Ross  took one for the team pitching 5.2 innings while allowing a season high 17 runs (15 earned) over 5.2 innings of work.

            “Loretto jumped out to a 4-0 lead and just kept hitting the ball all day,” Pokorney said.

            The lone highlight came when Ramon Vega Sr. hit his second home run in the past three games for the Bulldogs. His 2-run shot in the fifth inning cut the Larks lead to 8-4, but Loretto blew it open in the final inning scoring 10 times in the bottom half of the sixth inning.

            John Eckstein got the call for the second game of the doubleheader. Due to an earlier rainout, the Bulldogs were the home team, despite playing at Loretto’s field.

            Buffalo’s Corey Braun scored on a Vega sacrifice fly to tie the game 1-1 in the first inning. Vega would later leave the game with a pulled leg muscle that will likely keep him out until the start of the playoffs.

            Eckstein pitched five solid innings on a limited pitch count. Loretto took a 5-1 advantage in the fifth inning behind some shaky defense that led to three unearned runs.

            “Once again, we made some costly errors and they took advantage,” Pokorney said. “Our bats were pretty cold the rest of the game.”

            The Bulldogs (5-14) close the regular season with three league games,  starting with a 7:30 p.m. road game Wednesday, July 16 at Rockford. Friday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. they are at Howard Lake and close with a 6 p.m. home game Sunday, July 20 against Cokato.

            “Our goal is to win two of our final three games and build momentum for the playoffs.” Pokorney said.



Team Haiti tuned in for mission trip

By Doug Voerding

Staff Reporter

For the last 10 years, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hanover has supported Pastor Widelson Marcellus, helping to sustain his orphanage and church in Haiti.

            Over those years, the congregation has worked to meet the requests of Pastor Widelson, providing mattresses, food, medical supplies, building supplies, and educational support.

            Last year, Pastor Widelson said he would love more musical instruments. Music is a major part of the Haitian worship service and finding good instruments is difficult.

            When one Hanover man, Rob Irwin, who has formed a friendship with Pastor Widelson, brought the request to the congregation, the call was answered.

            Sarah Kolling, who will be a Buffalo High School senior this fall, was inspired to lead an instrument collection project. Sarah has a passion for music, a passion she shares with the Haitians. She plays flute in the concert band and saxophone in the jazz band. Earlier this summer, she was a drum major for the Buffalo High School Herd Marching Band.

             The instrument project was a major undertaking because sending instruments to Haiti is not easy. The Irwin family shipped two trombones, thinking that the shipping would be $150. After shipment, though, they found out that the customs charges were more than $500.

            Sarah worked for a year to collect donations of band instruments, recorders, other musical supplies, and luggage. She also did some fundraising to purchase more of the same items. A pancake breakfast at the River Inn in Hanover provided Sarah with the money to buy more used instruments.

            At last count, Sarah collected 43 band instruments, 50 recorders, 40 music stands, 100 drum sticks, 150 lesson books, and numerous instrument needs like reeds, mouthpieces, valve oil, and tuners.

            A Team Haiti 2014 was formed, and 10 people will be traveling to Haiti, each carrying two 50-pound checked bags filled with the musical instruments and supplies, as well as filled with art materials, clothing, and toys.

            All of the extra items including the suitcases were donated to the group by many people and organizations.

            Last Sunday, July 13, Team Haiti met at the church to pack the bags. Each suitcase was carefully packed with the instruments which were then surrounded by quilts, beanie babies, clothes, crayons, and even candy.

            Then the bags were weighed and judged complete if the weight was between 49 and 49 fi pounds. If the bags were over 50 pounds, the group removed a few items until the weight was below 49 fi pounds. No one wanted their bags to have to be opened at the airport if the bag was over 50 pounds.

            Team Haiti 2014 left on Tuesday morning at 5:00 a.m. After a stop in Atlanta, they arrived in the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, at 5:00 p.m. The orphanage is in the suburb of Carrefour. The group will return on July 22.

            Joining Sarah Kolling are her brother Adam Kolling, a 2013 Buffalo High School graduate; her mother Darlene Kolling; Rob Irwin, organizer of the trip; Heather Irwin, Rob’s wife who was in Haiti last year; Lacy Schramm, a teacher at Buffalo High School; Tracie Crowser; Tracie’s daughter Sydney Crowser, who will be a sophomore at Buffalo High School this fall; Sharon Griffin; and Lori Evans.

            While the main purpose of the trip is to deliver the musical instruments, the volunteers will teach some classes and collaborate on music and art projects with the kids of the orphanage during their week’s stay.

            For the latest updates on Team Haiti’s road trip, follow along at their blog at