Larson column – Longtime track coach takes a look back

Last week the Times featured a story about sophomore Allie Terpstra breaking a 34-year-old Milaca girls long jump record this season. The record had been set in 1979 by Jody (Judd) Meyer.

The story allowed me to touch base with longtime Milaca track and field coach/cross country coach/science teacher Randy Furman, who’s now residing in Southern California.

Furman was excited about the Milaca girls winning the Class A state title this season and shared some memories of the early days of the girls track and field program in the late 1970s.

“The girls were enthusiastic and enjoyed competing,” said Furman. “Records were not celebrated too much back then because girls track and field was just beginning and we assumed records wouldn’t last long. It was quite a feat for Jody’s record to last that long.”

Furman helped coach Judd. What was he looking for over the years when developing long-jumpers?

“I looked for speed and a good vertical jump,” he said. “Most of our early practices were held indoors in the gym or in the hallways. So, we would do some basic physical testing to see where to place athletes early in the season.”

Have athletes changed much over the years?

“The athletes are basically the same,” said Furman. “Track and field requires a lot of dedication and hard work and Milaca has never had a shortage of kids willing to put in the time and effort to become better at what they do.

“The facilities, training and information available has changed. We went from animated card board flip cards when I started to freeze frame digital cameras when I retired. Training methods now incorporate specific weight training as well as running.

“The turning point for Milaca was when we finally passed a bond issue and built our own track. This allowed our athletes to have the same training opportunities as athletes at other schools have. And, it allowed us to have home meets.

“Before we had the track we would find less-traveled streets to do workouts. I’m sure the street department is happy not seeing relay zones spray painted onto the blacktop anymore.

“Also, Milaca has a great group of coaches who really work hard with the kids. You can see the continued improvement each year.”

Furman hasn’t left the track and field scene.

“I’ve joined the Southern California officials organization and officiate track meets at some of the large local universities,” he said. “My most recent meet was the PAC 12 championships at the University of Southern Cal.

“I’ve also become nationally certified so I can travel to national championships and the Olympic trials when that opportunity arises.”

Furman’s interest in science hasn’t waned, either.

“I found out I didn’t like retirement,” he said. “I’m working as a ‘science guy’ for an air quality company and do most of the chemistry that comes in from their projects.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to Milaca again in September and assisting Dave Dillan with the Milaca Mega Cross Country Meet.”


Who takes over for Kaija?

Kaija Crowe, who will now be competing for the Minnesota State University, Mankato track and field program, has teamed with Sarah Forker, Allie Terpstra and Irina Danilyuk to tally a ton of points for Milaca’s 100-meter and 200-meter relay teams the past two seasons. Forker will be a senior this fall while Terpstra and Danilyuk will be juniors.

Milaca went unbeaten in the 4×200 for most of the season, until placing fourth at the state meet. The Wolves won the 4×200 at the Granite Ridge, sub-section and section meets.

So, who will take Crowe’s place on those sterling relays next spring?

“Kaija will be a difficult runner to replace,” said Milaca Co-Head Coach Gwen Garber, 2013 Section 5A Girls Coach of the Year. “She is one of those special athletes.

“However, we are very excited at our future prospects. The other three girls in that relay are all terrific athletes as well. We look forward to working with them and finding their strengths not only for the team relays but also for their individual events. They will all be a year stronger and faster and those three will be a great combination.

“To help them out, we saw some very good promise at the end of the season by ninth-grader Nicole Johnson to possibly help out our relays. We also saw some great potential by several junior high athletes who may compete for those positions as well. And we are always excited to welcome other athletes who are older and weren’t out for track this season. We never know who is going to show up in March for the start of a new season.”


Playoff switch for Legion team

The postseason playoffs will be a lot different for the Milaca American Legion baseball team this season.

Milaca has moved from Division I to Division II, and won’t be facing its usual North End District 10 opponents.

Division II is for towns whose schools have much smaller enrollments than  the large, mostly metro, schools many Legion programs are able to draw players from. Division II has been around for a few years.

“Basically, we were asked to move to Division II because of the number of students at Milaca,” said Milaca Legion Team Manager Bart Naumann. “I think it will be nice competing against teams similar to us.

“We’ve had some success playing teams from North End District 10. The overall competition in District 10 has been pretty awesome over the years – District 10 included many of the top Legion programs in the state.”

Among the programs in Division II are Rockford, Mora, Howard Lake, Maple Lake and Providence Academy. Mora advanced to the Division II state meet, called the Sub-State Tournament, last year.

This year Milaca and Mora will meet in a one-game playoff to determine which team moves on to the state meet. That game will be later in July  at Milaca but a date has not been set.

The Division I Legion programs have been realigned this year and one of the results has been the breaking up of District 10. Teams have been moved into what are being called sub-state groupings.

Former North End District 10 teams Princeton, Cambridge, North Branch and St. Francis are now in Sub-State 13, along with Buffalo, Becker, Big Lake, Zimmerman and Hamel (Wayzata School District).

“We’re having a good season with a young team that has some experience,” said Naumann. “The playoff game with Mora should be a good one.”

Mora edged Milaca 1-0 Monday night at Mora, dropping Milaca to a 4-4 record.