Thole: Swanson, Valley Chamber Chorale hit a home run

Stillwater graduate Jack Swanson joined the Valley Chamber Chorale to deliver a sterling performance at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater on April 21.
Stillwater graduate Jack Swanson joined the Valley Chamber Chorale to deliver a sterling performance at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater on April 21.

It’s not easy to get me moving on a Sunday afternoon unless it’s going to a football game, fishing or at least a barbecue.

That being said, I found myself among a packed house at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater for a five-star concert on Sunday, April 21.

Jack Swanson
Jack Swanson

I’ve been to a few Valley Chamber Chorale concerts in the past and have always enjoyed the experience. Several people told me that the featured soloist Jack Swanson had great pipes — they were right on, and I’m here to tell ya.

Swanson, a 2010 graduate of Stillwater High and a junior at the University of Oklahoma, can sing opera and Broadway show tunes with equal skill and zest. This young man has a voice, and the students at OU must know it because he had starring roles in the Norman school’s Opera Theater Productions of “Falstaff” and “Don Giovanni” to name a few — and I only know a few to name.

Jack would make a great “Sweeney Todd” and I could also picture him in “Oklahoma” or “The Barber of Seville” because, in my humble opinion, he has that kind of range and versatility. Maybe “Paint Your Wagon” or even name your favorite opera.

The best backfield star, and Oklahoma U has had monumental gridiron success, is as good as his supporting team and the Valley Chamber Chorale was hitting grand slams, scoring touchdowns and hitting three-point buzzer beaters in support.

It was a very enjoyable day at the NYC-like performance.


Today’s Sports Trivia

What year did Cassius Clay first win the world heavyweight title? Who was his opponent?


In the huddle

Coach John Scanlon begins his seventh season as top kick for the Ponies boys’ golf team. Captain Lars Lillehei was an all-conference performer and took medalist honors at the Section 4AAA tourney last year. Sophomore Sam Sicard, who was also an All-Suburban East Conference selection and co-captain Tony Pulido are expected to be big guns in the Ponies lineup as the good guys attempt to wrestle the SEC title away from Hastings, Forest Lake and Roseville…. The defending conference and section champion Stillwater girls’ golf team will be counting on the play of sophomore Erin Thiets and juniors Anna Kaul and Amanda Wolf. First-year head coach Nathan Schwarz sees his team battling Cretin, led by two-time defending state champ Celia Kuenster, Mounds View, East Ridge and Woodbury as perhaps the biggest threats to the Big Red. Schwarz replaced veteran Ponies coach Mike O’Rourke, who coached SAHS to state titles in 1986 and 1987, plus runner-up finishes in 2011 and 2012, during his 32-year tenure…. Several former Ponies girls’ track and field athletes are competing on college ovals this spring, including Taylor Huston at St. Ben’s, Cassie Pratt and Alex Crain at UW-La Crosse, Molly Allen and Emily Knudson at Augsburg, Annie Olson at UW-Stevens Point, Nora Gilbertson and Kristen Mueller at St. Olaf, Kelly O’Neill at Gustavus Adolphus, Morgan Kamps

Stillwater grad Hailey Boner helped lead the NDSU women’s golf team to the Summit League championship last week.
Stillwater grad Hailey Boner helped lead the NDSU women’s golf team to the Summit League championship last week.

and Kaylee Gombold at UW-River Falls…. Look for coach Scott Christensen’s Ponies thinclads to rule the conference and section meets, led by captains Wayde Hall and Eric Colvin of cross country fame, sprinter Makao Day and discus man Nate Bird. Freshman miler Eli Krahn is also off to a strong start…. The answer to Today’s Sports Trivia: Back in 1964, upstart Cassius Clay won the world heavyweight title when Sonny Liston was unable to answer the bell for the seventh round at Convention Hall in Miami Beach, Fla. I was in Fargo on a 10-day leave from the U.S. Navy when my father-in-law the late Howard Knudson and me watched the fight on a huge screen in the Fargo Auditorium. Clay was a huge underdog, but he just wore Liston out…. I’ll bet that you didn’t know the producers of the film “Chariots of Fire” intentionally added profanity to the movie to avoid a G-rating because they thought people would associate that with a movie for children. I thought the slow movie about early 20th century track and field was a huge bore — with or without the rating. Anyway, I thought the award-winning flick was overrated…. A couple of weeks ago, I talked of the exploits of Carson Cannon ’11, who stars for the Denver University men’s lacrosse team. He starts for the fourth-ranked Pioneers and started every game last year for the NCAA Tournament quarterfinalists. Alex Flock is a top scorer at North Dakota State, where Tristan Turner also plays. Tom Stahura plays for Indiana Tech and Max Tarnowski suits up for St. Cloud State. The Uppgren brothers John (Tufts University) and Turner (Choate Rosemary Hall Academy) are playing lacrosse out east. Turner is a Duke recruit. I love Tufts, whose moniker is “Jumbos”…. As long as we’re updating the college athletic scene, Stillwater’s Hailey Boner ’12 finished in a tie for sixth place — the top showing for any freshman in the field — as the NDSU women’s golf team won the Summit League Championship last week at Sky Creek Ranch in Keller, Texas. The Bison ended a long reign of dominance in the Summit League by Oral Roberts, which had won 15 straight conference championships dating back to 1998, and earned a spot in next week’s NCAA regionals at Stanford…. Ponies soccer and hockey player Hannah Okerstrom will play for St. Catherine’s next year…. I’ve been on this planet for 74 years and I realize that my problem isn’t poor hearing, it’s lack of comprehension…. Stillwater volleyball ace Bri Horwath has signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Division I Northern Illinois. She will be the second ex-Ponies player on the Huskies squad when she joins Kayla Zeno ’10. Bria’s dad is Brian Horwath, a starting guard on the Ponies’ 1982 state championship football team…. Where Has the Time Gone Department: Ann Margaret, that whirling dervish star of stage and screen, is 72 years young…. Together we build character, courage and loyalty…. finis


Today’s rumination #616

Cultivate your character and your reputation will take care of itself.

• • • •

George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Thursdays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: [email protected]