Notebook: Trinity runner stymied by transfer rule

Theresa Mueller has been a welcome addition to the Trinity at River Ridge girls cross country team. The program would welcome it even more if she could run for the varsity, but Minnesota State High School League transfer rules are blocking that path.

Several years ago, the MSHSL tightened its transfer rules to curb what was being viewed as free agency in high school athletics. Now, if a student changes schools after enrolling in ninth grade, he or she is ineligible to compete in varsity sports at the new school for one year. The rule was designed to prevent top athletes from congregating at one school through open enrollment and creating, essentially, an all-star team.

The rule does not apply to students who establish a residence in the new district. That’s how, for example, Taylr McNeil was able to play volleyball at Eagan in 2011 after helping Lakeville North win the 2010 state Class 3A title. Her family moved to Eagan.

Trinity cross country coach Jesse Schoen said Mueller’s case is not an example of an athlete trying to manipulate the system. This year Mueller enrolled at Trinity, a private school that opened its new campus in Eagan in January 2008, after previously attending St. Agnes in St. Paul.

Mueller decided to try out for cross country and soon developed a knack for it. “She would be in the varsity lineup … and there’s a chance she would be our top runner,” Schoen wrote in an email. “She runs with our best two runners, Lucy Leighton and Lotus Schifsky, every day in practices and workouts.”

Last week Mueller ran the fastest time of any varsity or junior varsity runner at the Jaguar All-Terrain Challenge in Bloomington. “Granted, some teams run their (junior varsity) lineups only at that meet, but there were some capable runners in the race,” Schoen wrote.

Trinity officials thought they could convince the MSHSL there were extenuating circumstances in Mueller’s case. For one, she had never competed on a high school team before this year. The school she transferred from, St. Agnes, does not have a girls cross country program. Officials at both schools wrote letters confirming her transfer was for academic reasons. Her family did not move, meaning that unless the MSHSL granted her a waiver she could not run for any varsity team in Minnesota.

Mueller has siblings who attend or have attended Trinity and St. Agnes, and her mother works at St. Agnes.

Schoen, Trinity athletic director Aaron Bonnema and Mueller’s parents gathered that information and made their appeal to the high school league.

The response, Schoen said, came back within 24 hours: No.

Schoen said it’s been suggested that the Mueller family threaten to sue the high school league in hopes it would relent and allow Theresa to be eligible for varsity competition. “No one involved feels that is an appropriate action to pursue,” he wrote via email.

For now, Mueller keeps training, but she has to fall back on a traditional athlete’s battle cry: Wait ’til next year.

More information about Mueller’s situation is available at the Trinity cross country website, tri-hawkscrosscountry.blogspot.com.

Section soccer sleeper?

Eagan residents Zach Haas and Eric Fast play for the Henry Sibley boys soccer team, which could make some noise in the Section 3AA playoffs starting next week.

Haas, a defender, is one of the Warriors’ co-captains. Fast, who plays midfield, is one of the team’s leading scorers.

Sibley was 8-1-3 overall entering this week’s play and is 10th in the state Class AA rankings. The loss was 3-2 in overtime against Apple Valley on Aug. 28. Sibley led that game 2-1 late in the second half before Apple Valley scored to send it to overtime. The Eagles scored the game-winner in the final minute of the second overtime.

Sibley also played a 1-1 tie with Eagan on Sept. 22. Sibley, Apple Valley, Eagan, Eastview, Burnsville and Rosemount will be among the teams seeking the Section 3AA championship.

STA hall inductees

Joseph Jensen of Burnsville and Julian Bilski of Apple Valley were among eight people inducted into the Saint Thomas Academy Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 28.

Jensen, a 1947 STA graduate, played football, hockey and baseball and was named the school’s “Best All-Around Athlete.” He played hockey and baseball for what is now known as the University of St. Thomas and signed a professional baseball contract before being drafted into military service.

Bilski, who graduated in 1949, earned nine letters in football, basketball, baseball and golf. He was an All-State player in basketball and went on to play that sport at the University of Minnesota.

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