Thursday, November 6, 2014

That Wayzata Girls Movie......

Disney has released the first trailer for McFarland, USA. The film follows coach Jim Lee (Kevin Costner), who transformed a team of unlikely cross-country runners into state champions back in 1987, and this initial footage indicates that the movie aims to strike the delicate balance between heartwarming melodrama and a lighthearted fish-out-of-water story.

I'm a bit astonished that a feature film about cross country is finding its way to the silver screen. And it gave me pause as a little less than a year ago, a local parent had touted the idea of doing a feature film on the 2013 Wayzata girls cross country team that stunned the high school cross country pundits by winning a national championship in Portland, OR.

Wayzata High School - Girls 2013 Nike National Champions - Photo Montage from Brian Maas on Vimeo.

I shot it down. "Who would watch a movie about cross country?", I had asked. Well, Disney for one. Of course, that begs the question, which actor would play each pivotal role in a movie on the Wayzata Seven? Let's take a look.

The Coaches

Dave Emmans, head coach (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Addy Hallen, assistant coach (Emily Blunt)

The Runners

McKenna Evans (Scarlett Johanssen)

Mary Franke (Emma Watson)

Anna French (Natalie Portman)

Annika Halverson (Reese Witherspoon)

Michaela Keller-Miller (Jennifer Lawrence)

Annika Lerdall (Anne Hathaway)

Alayna Sonnesyn (Keira Knightly)

So, there you have it. The movie won't be cheap to make because of the actor salaries, but it is bound to make somewhere in the range of $160-$170 million in US domestic sales in the first weekend alone. I think it worth the risk. Of course, it will need a producer/director. And who else to bring this film to the silver screen but the film writer himself, Thomas Franke. Afterall, it Franke who first had the idea. And since he is a parent, and obviously would have a minor role in the film, we need to cast his part also.

Tom Franke (Chris Hemsworth)

And there you have it, the first production meeting for the Wayzata Girls Cross Country feature length movie. Funding is being worked on by selling commemorative shoe laces. 

Have your own suggestion for the lead roles? Leave a comment. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Minnesota State Cross Country 2014 Predictions - Class AA

Everyone will have their predictions and virtual meets this coming week in anticipation of the 2014 Minnesota State Cross Country Championships at St. Olaf College in Northfield on November 1. The AA boys, with defending champion Wayzata, kick things off at 1 PM. Followed by the AA Girls, with Wayzata going for a three-peat, at 2 PM.

My issue with these prognosticators, is they will base their predictions on everyone's season best times. I just don't think that is valid for many reasons including, and not limited to: course distances, course surfaces, course topography.

I conducted a virtual meet using ONLY the results from the eight sections. I then compiled all the team qualifiers (two teams per section) plus the individual qualifiers. I then crunched the numbers, scoring teams based on just the team qualifiers, as individual runners do not figure into team scoring. Of course, the same argument (varying courses) can be used with this method as well, but at least we are using data from each runners last race prior to the State Meet. So, going with the hot hand, and rewarding those teams/individuals riding upward momentum.

Keep in mind, this is just for fun, and just creates additional topic for any debate:

Boys AA

Rochester Century195
Prior Lake202
Red Wing262
Elk River304

Girls AA

Wayzata 89
Willmar 112
Edina 121
Marshall 177
Lakeville South 183
STMA 189
Bemidji 191
Chaska 202
East Ridge 207
Forest Lake 207
Austin 224
Eagan 269
Centennial 299
Duluth East 301
East View 316
White Bear 383

Boys AA Top 20 Individuals

Klecker, Joe
Hopkins High School
Olson, Connor
Wayzata High School
Cayo, Chase
Saint Michael-Albertville High School
Hesse-withbroe, Bailey
Stillwater High School
Carpenter, Jaret
Wayzata High School
Mahmoud, Faysao
Burnsville High School
Kurak, Reed
Centennial High School
Duerr, Joey
Chaska High School
Eklin, Ian
Wayzata High School
Ramlet, Logan
Edina High School
Hoeft, Owen
Hopkins High School
Hyytinen, Justin
Farmington High School
Ali, Hamza
Minneapolis Washburn High School
Lawson, Nick
Saint Anthony Village High School
Sell, Andrew
Minneapolis Washburn High School
Goodell, Jackson
Albert Lea High School
Quirk, Andrew
Wayzata High School
Massot, Seth
Rochester Century High School
Rachel, Kyle
Shakopee High School
Shaleen, Nicholas
Wayzata High School

Girls AA Top 20 Individuals

Hasz, Megan
Alexandria Jefferson High School
Hasz, Bethany
Alexandria Jefferson High School
Misgen, Tess
Shakopee High School
French, Anna
Wayzata High School
Armstrong, Jasmyn
Red Wing High School
King, Rachel
Saint Michael-Albertville High School
Christensen, Emma
Rochester John Marshall
Covert, Emily
Minneapolis Washburn High School
Korzenowski, Anastasia
Chanhassen High School
Benner, Emma Forest Lake
Lerdall, Annika
Wayzata High School
Boersma, Claire
Marshall High School
Keller-miller, Michaela
Wayzata High School
Mosborg, Amanda
Edina High School
Hanson, Samantha
Willmar High School
Betz, Emily
East Ridge HS
Hamrin, Sadie
Bemidji High School
Peterson, Lauren
Farmington High School
Heil, Lizzy
Saint Michael-Albertville High School
Berg, Maria
New Prague High School

It will be interesting to see if this methodology is any more, or less, accurate than that of using season-best times.

Top MN Freshmen XC 2014

Top 10 Minnesota Freshmen (as of 10/26/2014) by various classes and MN State Sections (AA Only) as ranked by MileSplit database.

Note: Click on each image for larger viewing of screenshot.

Overall (AA & A)

AA Only

A Only









Monday, September 22, 2014

Maas Honor Roll - Wayzata Boys & Girls National/State/Sections Rankings

My good friend, Steve Aesoph, went out for a trail run this past Sunday. Steve lives in my hometown of Jamestown, ND. He must be getting old, or something. As his run time seemed pretty slow.

If you were to just look at his time on the surface, you'd not even bat an eye. However, if you also knew that A) Steve's course is rated as the #1 toughest XTERRA tri and run course in the NATION, B) If you saw the elevation map of this run you'd probably wet your pants, and C) His run time bettered my BIKE time the lone time I biked this course....then what would you say?

The challenging Pipestem Creek Single track

In 2010, I was on my way to the Bismarck Triathlon and stopped off to visit with Steve on his XTERRA Pipestsem Creek course. We hopped on our mountain bikes and rode the short loop course. I must have fell off six or seven times. I should have known the course would be brutal, since my old high school cross country coach, Russ Schmeichel, helped design the thing. The next day, Steve and I raced the Bismarck triathlon. I got third overall, Steve fourth. And we were both bored to tears with the flat bike and flat run courses. Steve's like me. We'd rather watch paint dry than go out and race an unchallenging course.

And that's the point of this blog entry. When I review top high school cross country times from around the nation, I see lots and lots of incredibly fast times. Because none of the times talk about the topography of the course, or the actual distance verification....."Yeah, I think it's about a 5K, give or take 600 yards"'s all subjective. And often means diddly-squat. And Steve knows this. And I know it. And each of us doesn't care about doing time comparisons as we're in it for different reasons.

It's the way I'm been raising the Boy. Flat course? Who cares. Hills. Mud. Water. Now you are talking turkey.

Myself & the very young Boy riding the trails
Mud. Guts. Glory. Only, here in The Tundra, none of us care about the glory either. We'd rather keep that to ourselves. Which is how you'll find the Wayzata cross country team. Accolades are nice, but these kids would rather just find a tough-as-nails course and run it until their feet bleed. Which is why I'm stepping in to give them some love. We'll let the California kids run their flat-as-pancake courses with hard surfaces and even (GASP!) blacktop. Heck, that's just road racing. The Wayzata kids will take the mud.....

.....and the guts....

...and leave the glory to the California kids.

Drumroll, please. I now give you the first Maas Honor Roll for the boys & girls of the Wayzata cross country team to give some love to the kids who are ranked tops in the nation, state, and section. All information derived from Mile Split results, week ending 9/21.

In the Top 200 in the Nation (Overall): Girls 4K

  • 24 - Annika Lerdall (National Elite Gold Level)
  • 36 - Anna French (National Elite Gold Level)
  • 102 - Jaycie Thomsen (National Elite Silver Level)
  • 163 - Samantha Lettenberger (National Elite Silver Level)

In the Top 200 in the Nation (Senior Class Only): Girls 4K

  • 15 - Anna French

In the Top 200 in the Nation (Juniors Class Only): Girls 4K

  • 123 - Michaela Keller-Miller
  • 128 - Melissa Drenkhahn
In the Top 200 in the Nation (Sophomores Class Only): Girls 4K

  • 7 - Annika Lerdall
  • 29 - Jaycie Thomsen
  • 44 - Samantha Lettenberger
  • 181 - Libby Johnson
In the Top 200 in the Nation (Freshmen Class Only): Girls 4K

  • 64 - Ellie Emerick
  • 80 - Brooke Young
  • 127 - Gina Kalker
In the Top 100 in the State, MN AA (Overall): Girls 4K

  • 9 - Annika Lerdall
  • 14 - Anna French
  • 36 - Jaycie Thomsen
  • 53 - Samantha Lettenberger
In the Top 100 in the State, MN AA (Senior Class Only): Girls 4K

  • 5 - Anna French
  • 58 - Maeve Andrews
  • 75 - Claudia Schmitt
In the Top 100 in the State, MN AA (Junior Class Only): Girls 4K

  • 31 - Michaela Keller-Miller
  • 34 - Melissa Drenkhahn
  • 96 - Mandy Behling
  • 97 - Ava Jean Gondack
In the Top 100 in the State, MN AA (Sophomore Class Only): Girls 4K

  • 2 - Annika Lerdall
  • 11- Jaycie Thomsen
  • 15 - Samantha Lettenberger
  • 51 - Libby Johnson
  • 100 - Anna Bumgardner
In the Top 100 in the State, MN AA (Freshmen Class Only): Girls 4K

  • 22 - Ellie Emerick
  • 27 - Brooke Young
  • 40 - Gina Kalker
  • 78- Courtney Kern
  • 82 - Naomi Long
In the Top 50 in the Section, MN 6AA (Overall): Girls 4K

  • 1 - Annika Lerdall
  • 3- Anna French
  • 8 - Jaycie Thomsen
  • 14 - Samantha Lettenberg
  • 29 - Ellie Emerick
  • 35 - Brooke Young
  • 36 - Michaela Keller-Miller
  • 40 - Melissa Drenkhahn
  • 45- Gina Kalker
  • 47 - Libby Johnson
In the Top 50 in the Section, MN 6AA (Senior Class Only): Girls 4K
  • 1- Anna French
  • 11 - Maeve Andrews
  • 16 - Claudia Schmitt
  • 19 - Meghan Jette
  • 22 - Thalia Alarcon
  • 30 - Katie Farquhar
  • 46 - Abby Silbaugh
In the Top 50 in the Section, MN 6AA (Junior Class Only): Girls 4K
  • 4 - Michaela Keller-Miller
  • 7 - Melissa Drenkhahn
  • 17 - Mandy Behling
  • 18 - Ava Jean Gondack
  • 21 - Evelyn Frenz
  • 22 - Kristine Keller-Miller
  • 23 - Emily Short
  • 36 - Izzy Lockheimer-Toso
  • 43 - Kaitlin Schwarz
  • 45 - Kaylin Bach
  • 48 - Lauren Dahl
  • 50 - Lizzy Berg
In the Top 50 in the Section, MN 6AA (Sophmore Class Only): Girls 4K
  • 1 - Annika Lerdall
  • 3- Jaycie Thomsen
  • 6 - Samantha Lettenberger
  • 18 - Libby Johnson
  • 26 - Anna Bumgardner
  • 42- Laura Allen
  • 47 - Grace Albright
  • 48 - Emma Bernard
In the Top 50 in the Section, MN 6AA (Freshmen Class Only): Girls 4K
  • 7 - Ellie Emerick
  • 8 - Brooke Young
  • 9 - Gina Kalker
  • 17- Courtney Kern
  • 18 - Naomi Long
  • 27 - Chloe Wagener
  • 31 - Ellen King
  • 32 - Anna Healy
  • 34 - Taylore Henkel
  • 35 - Miranda Mead
  • 38 - Carmen Rottinghaus
  • 46 - Kayla Dohm
  • 50 - Carisa Chen
In the Top 200 in the Nation (Overall): Boys 5K

  • 33 - Connor Olson (National Elite Gold Level)

In the Top 200 in the Nation (Senior Class Only): Boys 5K

  • 22 - Connor Olson

In the Top 200 in the Nation (Juniors Class Only): Boys 5K

  • 76 - Jaret Carpenter (National Elite Silver Level)
In the Top 100 in the State, MN AA (Overall): Boys 5K

  • 1- Connor Olson
  • 7 - Jaret Carpenter
  • 10 - Ian Eklin (National Elite Silver Level)
  • 38 - Nick Shaleen (National Elite Silver Level)
  • 74 - Jack Prazich
  • 83 - Andrew Millan
  • 84 - Andrew Quirk
  • 90 - Paul Epland
In the Top 100 in the State, MN AA (Senior Class Only): Boys 5K

  • 1 - Connor Olson
  • 8 - Ian Eklin
  • 34 - Jack Prazich
  • 38 - Andrew Quirk
  • 42 - Paul Epland
In the Top 100 in the State, MN AA (Junior Class Only): Boys 5K

  • 2 - Jaret Carpenter
  • 12 - Nick Shaleen
  • 36 - Andrew Millan
  • 42 - Kyle Brandt
  • 50 - Wes Heal
  • 99 - Jacob Smith
In the Top 100 in the State, MN AA (Sophomore Class Only): Boys 5K

  • 15 - Paul Weiler
  • 17 - Josh Halverson
  • 28 - Nick Kerbeshian
  • 42 - Gemechu Meskele
  • 46 - Jeremy Gilbertson
  • 79 - Tyler Carlstrom
  • 86 - Daniel Urke
  • 100 - Jack Olson
In the Top 100 in the State, MN AA (Freshmen Class Only): Boys 5K

  • 31 - Anders Sonnesyn
  • 41 - Graham Maas
  • 47 - Khalid Hussein
  • 59 - Blake Buysse
In the Top 50 in the Section, MN 6AA (Overall): Boys 5K

  • 1 - Connor Olson
  • 3 - Jaret Carpenter
  • 4 - Ian Eklin
  • 14 - Nick Shaleen
  • 21 - Jack Prazich
  • 22 - Andrew Millan
  • 23 - Andrew Quirk
  • 24 - Paul Epland
  • 29 - Kyle Brandt
  • 33 - Wes Heal
  • 34 - Paul Weiler
  • 37 - Josh Halverson
  • 47 - Nick Kerbeshian
In the Top 50 in the Section, MN 6AA (Senior Class Only): Boys 5K
  • 1- Connor Olson
  • 3 - Ian Eklin
  • 5 - Jack Prazich
  • 6 - Andrew Quirk
  • 7 - Paul Epland
  • 26 - Martin Johnson
  • 27 - Thomas Lerdall
  • 32 - Carter Blankenship
  • 45 - Andrew Carter
  • 46 - Bobby Anderson
In the Top 50 in the Section, MN 6AA (Junior Class Only): Boys 5K
  • 1 - Jaret Carpenter
  • 8 - Nick Shaleen
  • 14 - Andrew Millan
  • 18 - Kyle Brandt
  • 19 - Wes Heal
  • 24 - Jacob Smith
  • 35 - Calvin Cahill
  • 48 - Zachary Garvis
In the Top 50 in the Section, MN 6AA (Sophmore Class Only): Boys 5K
  • 5 - Paul Weiler
  • 6 - Josh Halverson
  • 9 - Nick Kerbeshian
  • 12 - Gemechu Meskele
  • 13 - Jeremy Gilbertson
  • 20 - Tyler Carlstrom
  • 22 - Daniel Urke
  • 24 - Jack Olson
  • 26 - Jesse Kulberg
  • 33 - Andrew Stanek
  • 34 - Liban Jama
  • 46 - Alexander White
  • 49 - Gunner O'Reilly
In the Top 50 in the Section, MN 6AA (Freshmen Class Only): Boys 5K
  • 3 - Anders Sonnesyn
  • 4 - Graham Maas
  • 6 - Khalid Hussein
  • 9 - Blake Buysse
  • 19 - Jacob Rohrer
  • 20 - Grant Matthews
  • 25 - Ben Bastin
  • 27 - Frank Fetrow
  • 28 - Luc Golin
  • 31 - Andy McKenzie
  • 36 - Sam Smith
  • 37 - Markus Braun
  • 48 - Alex Pierce
Next Maas Honor Roll, sometime late October. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

It Takes a Community to Train a Modern Pentathlete

After taking the silver medal at the 2013 US ModernPentathlon National championships, Graham Maas returned home and immediately made a vow to return in 2014 and bring back gold. In this age of limited attention spans, one year is a long time for a boy of fourteen to stick to a plan. 

For those unfamiliar with Modern Pentathlon, the sport includes fencing, swimming, running and shooting. Athletes younger than nineteen do not compete in equestrian events, the fifth pentathlon element, for liability reasons. If you think getting your child to soccer practice each week is tough, try scheduling practice for four events on a daily basis.

The first step in Graham’s plan was to become an even faster runner. Fortunately, he runs for the Wayzata cross country team. In his final middle school season, Graham went from being a middle of the pack runner to one of the top five runners on the team. Graham singled out the coaching of Chad Bartels and Kraig Lungstrom who worked with him to become better at pacing and using proper form. All of which paid off in spades.

Graham finishing up a cross country race for Wayzata in 2013
Graham swims year-round with the Life Time Bears swim team. It’s not every swimmer that gets to swim with the US Paralympic national coach, but again fortune shined on Graham when the swim team named Tom Franke as its head coach. Franke, was recently  tabbed the Paralympic National Coach of theYear. Franke helped Team USA to an astonishing 41 medals at the 2012 London Paralympics as co-head coach of the U.S. squad. 

Graham & swim coach, Tom Franke

 Franke also individually coached Team USA's three captains: Anna Eames (silver), Cortney Jordan (three silvers, one bronze) and Justin Zook (gold and a world record). Zook has been a key motivator for Graham, providing all the depth and knowledge required to become an Olympian. 

Before swimming at the Olympic Training Center Aquatic Center, Graham always pays a visit to the photo of Justin Zook, one of his swim coaches back in Minnesota

In the three months following cross country season, Franke had lowered Graham’s 200 freestyle time by twelve seconds. Graham also credits Franke with something else: firing the inner Olympic spirit in him and more importantly, being a gracious and humble competitor.

In late winter, Graham was struggling with his fencing. He was losing more than ever before. He was having performance meltdowns on the fencing strip. It simply was not working for him. The stars aligned again when Minnesota Sword Club director Rich Jacobson introduced Graham to Jim Johnson, the competitive instructor at the club. Johnson and Graham immediately clicked. As Graham stated, “Prior to Coach Johnson, I was just told to ‘do this’ or ‘do that’ but no one ever connected the dots for me so I never knew why I was doing something with my footwork or with the blade. Coach Johnson explained to me the why, and it all became so clear. I guess I’m sort of cerebral and I just needed to see the end game.” Graham became a much more confident fencer and it started to show in tournaments. Progress was being made.

Graham & Minnesota Sword Club competitive epee instructor, Jim Johnson
It was also time for Graham to start training for track. The weather outside was cold, but Graham was invited to train inside the dome at Central Middle School each Friday afternoon where 400 interval training was going on. Graham would finish up his running session and head straight over to the pool to get in a two hour workout. The days were getting long for him now, and would not ease up until late June. He stayed dedicated.

On March 29 at the start of spring break, Graham traveled to San Antonio, Texas, to compete in the Paul Pesthy Memorial Pentathlon, which served as the Texas Regional Championships. Maas fenced at the newly built and fully dedicated fencing building on the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word. 

2014 Paul Pesthy Memorial Pentathlon from Brian Maas on Vimeo.

The day before, Graham received a private fencing lesson from John Moreau who was a member of 1984 and 1988 US Olympic Fencing Team. During competition Graham fenced well enough to take him to the title of overall male winner for the regional event, his first overall pentathlon win.

Graham and John Moreau fence together in San Antonio

The very next week Graham was competing in a much colder spot, Mendota Heights. Snow was still on the ground as Graham competed in the Great Prairie Pentathlon, the regional event for the Midwest. Instead of aging up and competing with the older boys, he stayed within his natural age group to compete and start to get ready for Nationals. His combined run-shoot time had the timers simply shaking their heads. How could someone run that fast and yet shoot so accurately? Confidence was growing.

Graham completes the Minnesota regional Pentathlon

2014 Great Prairie Pentathlon from Brian Maas on Vimeo.

Track season arrived and again Graham found himself working with Kraig Lungstrom. There was a barrier to breakthrough and Graham was hell-bent on achieving it: A sub-five minute 1600. Lungstrom again coached Graham to proper pacing and calculated workouts. Graham finished the season with that sub-five minute 1600. On three separate occasions. But even more impressive was running the 3200 in 10:40, the second fastest by an 8th grader in Wayzata high school history. That was important because in the run-shoot combined of pentathlon, Graham would be called upon to run 4x800 meter circuits with precision shooting in between each 800. Graham now had the confidence to run faster and shoot well.

Graham has always been a strong shooter and many consider that aspect to be his best pentathlon element. But that doesn’t mean advice is not needed. On April 26, Graham competed in the New Mexico Modern Pentathlon regional held in Roswell, New Mexico. The day before the competition, he worked on shooting with New Mexico Military Institute head coach Jan Olesiński. Olesiński’s credentials include competing in the 1980 Olympic Games.

Graham and Jan Olesiński
The next day at the competition Graham, the youngest competitor by far, finished second in the field. He simply blew everyone away during the shooting phase. 

2014 New Mexico Modern Pentathlon from Brian Maas on Vimeo.

It was now time for final tune-up stages for Nationals. School was finally out. Graham was working out three, sometimes four, times per day. He refused all sweets. He only drank milk. He didn’t even want soda in the house. His personal pentathlon coach, Todd McIntyre, started to prepare Graham mentally for Nationals. Now that Graham had participated in three regionals in 2014, he knew nearly all his competitors. McIntyre would play the part of one of the competitors at fencing practice and Graham would have to quickly adjust his focus and movements for that person. It was a crucial last step. Fencing is the first event up during a day-long pentathlon event. And Graham would need a fast start.

On July 5th at 8 AM at the fencing building on the campus of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, the boy’s National event began. Each competitor faced 42 grueling one touch fencing bouts. Graham immediately started off with a win. After ten bouts he was 8-2. After twenty bouts he was 14-6. He finished with five straight victories for total of 27 wins and just 15 defeats for a win percentage of 64%, a personal record. And he not only led the Youth C (13-14 year old) category, he was tied for fourth overall out of twenty-two athletes. 

At 11 AM, Graham swam a personal best in the swim which was all the more impressive because it was at altitude as Colorado Springs sits at 6500 feet elevation. He still led Youth C and was still sitting in fourth place, this time all by himself. 

At 1 PM, the combined event started. Graham ran and shot a personal best yet again and earned his first national championship. Graham performed so well that he was the top scorer from all groups and winner of Youth C with 1,091 points. Reigning National Youth A and Junior champion Brendan Anderson won Youth A with 1,068 points, Seamus Millett won Youth B with 1,068 points and Alexander Yue won Youth E with 897 points. The full results of the Youth Boys US National Championship can be viewed by clicking here.

2014 US Modern Pentathlon Nationals - Graham Highlights from Brian Maas on Vimeo.

While Graham said his coaches were the key to the victory, his friends and fellow competitors also had a key role. Floridian Michael Hoffmann, arguably the best youth male pentathlete fencer in the country, did not hesitate to provide Graham with advice. Neither did Hoffmann’s coach, Egyptian pentathlete Omar El Geziry, one the top male pentathletes in the world. Up-and-coming pentathletes such as Colorado’s Seamus Millett and California’s Noah Rescate provided not only fantastic and stressful competition, but valued and long-lasting friendship. The USA Modern Pentathlon youth team will be a force to be reckoned on the international stage with in the coming years. I'm not sure the youth deep has ever been so deep in talent.

Graham’s next goals? Another successful cross country season, this time under the tutelage of Bill Miles, the long-tenured coach of the 2013 Minnesota State champion Wayzata harriers. Then try out for, and make, the 2013 Minnesota State champion Wayzata swim team. 

Longer term, Graham has his eye on Buenos Aires in 2015 and Dublin in 2016 where the Youth World Modern Pentathlon championships will be held. It will take a lot of work to get there. All of which Graham has shown he is willing to do.