Elena Potek, news editor of The Echo at St. Louis Park High School in St. Louis Park, has been named the 2011 Minnesota Journalist of the Year. Potek and other State Journalists of the Year were recognized at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Anaheim in April. All state winners competed for the National Journalist of the Year award. A listing of all state award recipients can be found here.

Potek has been involved with student journalism since her sophomore year and said that journalism granted her some of the most challenging and rewarding intellectual experiences of her high school career. Potek said, “Journalism taught me how to be responsible in meeting deadlines and working with others to create a publication that gave the high school student body a strong voice.”

During her junior year, Poetek covered the reconfiguration of the St. Louis Park School District. Potek didn’t just cover the issue in one story, she covered it extensively, using five stories to present the process and follow-up information. She attended community and school board meetings to learn all she could in order to complete fair and balanced coverage.

Potek’s big story during her senior year was equally challenging and controversial. In November, a student allegedly stole his mother’s car, held up two separate convenience stores in Iowa and fatally shot two clerks. Potek obtained police reports from both jurisdictions, and interviewed people from the communities impacted by the shootings. Adviser Lori Keekley said, “While doing her work on the story, she was called to the office and questioned as to what she knew. Although she felt bullied by this incident, she held her ground and published only the facts she knew to be correct.”

With administration withholding comments, and staff disallowed to comment, Potek still persevered. By working quickly, Potek gathered information about teachers who formerly worked with the student. However, she was told by administration that she would not be allowed to interview them. Potek said, “I was called to the office of the vice-principal and was asked to divulge my sources and information I had gained. Using my rights as a student writer who was not under the legal jurisdiction of the school district, I chose not to reveal this information.”

Potek worked with the offices of two county attorneys where the murders occurred and obtained court documents and affidavits. She also spoke to community members in Iowa and called the student’s parents asking for comment. Potek said, “Never before had I written a piece that was so high profile and controversial. This story gave me a greater sensitivity in working with others and in understanding my rights as a journalist.”

Potek is considering the study of clinical psychology in college. She plans to take the skills she has learned through her high school journalism experiences and apply them to whatever field she chooses. Keekley said, “The students who write for the news page often comment on how easy it was to work with Elena. She is an excellent role model for the staff.”

Second Place winner was Jakki Thompson, editor of the St. Francis High School Crier newspaper.


MHSPA Guthrie Event Winners

The winners of the 2011 MHSPA Guthrie event are as follows:

Nadja Leonard-Hooper–St. Paul Academy

Olivia Delviscio–Eden Prairie High School

Kia Farhang–Mounds View High School

Crystal McClean–Champlin Park High School


MHSPA/MN Wild Event Winners

The 2011 MN Wild event winners are as follows:

Photo winner: Cristina Anfang, Minnehaha Academy








Broadcast winners: Jordan Wipf and Eric Sipe, Eastview

View the winning broadcast production here.

Story winner: Gary Nielsen, Robbinsdale Cooper

A Life of Hockey

By Gary Nielsen, Robbinsdale Cooper

The Xcel Energy Center has been home to the Minnesota Wild since 2000. Now it is also home to first year assistant coach Darby Hendrickson.

Hendrickson was one of the original Wild players and became a fan favorite in his playing days. In fact, he was the first player to score a goal in Wild history.

“It’s fun to be back and part of the Wild,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson was born in Richfield. When he was a child, Hendrickson suffered what he called “the worst” injury he ever has had. It was an eye injury and according to Hendrickson, the doctors gave him a 50-50 chance to see again. It was his ability to overcome adversity that would later help him persevere in hockey.

“What separates the top level is the mental part to deal with adversity,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson later enjoyed a successful high school career. In his senior season, Hendrickson was named Minnesota Mr. Hockey for 1991.

“High school hockey was really unique. Being able to play in the state tournament…it was like a dream come true,” Hendrickson said.

After high school, Hendrickson played hockey for the University of Minnesota. In his two seasons at Minnesota, Hendrickson collected 82 points (37-45).

When his time with the Gophers was over, Hendrickson went on to play for Toronto Maple Leafs American Hockey League affiliate. Hendrickson had earlier been drafted by Toronto in the 1990 NHL entry draft.

1994 was a particularly eventful year for Hendrickson. He played for the United States in the 1994 Winter Olympics. Later in the year, Hendrickson made his NHL debut for Toronto, playing two games in the Stanley Cup Finals.

“Playing in the Olympics was an unbelievable experience for me,” Hendrickson said.

After playing seven seasons in the NHL, Hendrickson finally came back home to play for the expansion Wild squad in 2000. Hendrickson scored 60 points while playing just over three seasons for the Wild. He was traded to the Avalanche during the 2003-2004 season. Hendrickson eventually retired from hockey after the 2006-2007 season.

“There’s still part of you that would love to play,” Hendrickson said.

At the start of the 2010 season, Hendrickson was hired to the Wild coaching staff as an assistant coach, after working for FSN North as a broadcaster.

“I hadn’t really thought about [coaching] when I was a player. My father was a coach for a few years. I was open to it when I was a player. You just never know if you’re going to get that opportunity,” Hendrickson said.

As a coach, Hendrickson has a good connection with the players on the Wild. He even played with several of them during his career.

During game days, Hendrickson is located above the ice watching the video of the game.

“I think what impresses me the most is the time and preparation that goes into coaching,” Hendrickson said.

This year, the Wild have had a lot of turnover on the roster compared to last year. Hendrickson pointed that out as a reason for some of the good things that the team has been able to accomplish this year.

“I think we’ve had some positives,” Hendrickson said. “It’s added some personality to the team.”

Hendrickson also said that a lot of NHL players have small “superstitions.” In reality, though, these superstitions are just part of their routine according to Hendrickson.

“A lot of superstitions are just routine. Some guys want to be the first guy on the ice, some like to be the last one off,” Hendrickson said.