ELK RIVER HIGH SCHOOL HALL OF FAME 2014
Lynn Milless, Clayton Rask, Dave Bleyhl, Ken Jordan, Tyler Grupa, Aleasha Jacobson, Greg Paffel, Haley Balcom, Dave Anderson, Chris McAlpine
Lynn Milless Long before Elk River became a power in tennis, a self-taught, iron-willed prodigy named Lynn Milless compiled the best record in school history with a 120-6 mark over four years at No. 1 singles. Her .952 percentage is still the Elk record by far. The 1982 graduate went to state undefeated three times, each time losing to the champion, in the first round twice and semifinals her senior year, when she placed third. The 5-foot-2 Rogers native learned tennis by watching Chris Evert and Bjorn Borg on TV. She started at age 11 by hitting balls against a wall with cereal bowls before her mom got her a racket to protect the cupboard. After the great prep career, Milless elected not to continue in college (she had a Gophers offer to walk-on), instead getting married at 19 and going to work. She’s the mother of four St. Michael-Albertville multi-sport athletes. One son was a state wrestling champion, one daughter helped Concordia-St. Paul volleyball win three national titles. Peck, who joins her brother Mike Milless as a Hall of Famer, is an operations manager for Innovative Psychological Consultants in Maple Grove.
Clayton Rask’s career golf highlight came this past June when the 29-year-old former Elk and Gopher star not only qualified for the U.S. Open but also made the cut, finishing 63rd. The Otsego native has played in minor league pro tours since college, currently PGA Canada. In high school, Rask (class of 2003) achieved the improbably feat of finishing in the top five at state four straight years, including one silver medal for second place. At the University of Minnesota, he had a four-year average of 74.47, helped the Gophers place third in the nation in 2006 and made all-Big Ten first team as a senior. His state ledger also includes two Minnesota Golf Champions titles.
Dave Bleyhl came to Elk River as a hockey player (Minneapolis Southwest, St. Cloud State) and coach, but started playing golf at age 26 at Elk River Golf Club and wound up one of the most successful prep coaches in the state. In 31 years (and counting) at the helm, his Elks have made a record 19 state trips, with one championship (2005), one runner-up and six third-places, and one state individual champion: his daughter, Laura, in 1989. They’ve also won conference 26 teams. The 72-year-old retired teacher (economics, government), who also coached Elk boys and girls hockey earlier in his tenure here, continues to coach and play golf, with no end in sight. He’s shot as low as 68 twice and won four seniors club titles.
Ken Jordan With an outstanding Elk career as both a wrestler and coach, Ken Jordan (1977) was chosen for his achievements in both. Jordan posted an 85-6 record at 98 through 112 pounds with state silver and bronze medals, and three conference titles. His .934 win percentage ranks 76th all-time in the state. At Bemidji State, he went 92-22-1 and placed seventh, fourth and third at nationals, making D-III All-America each year. He was BSU’s head coach for one season, before the program was cut due to Title IX. An administrator at ERHS for 32 years, Jordan was Elk head coach ten years (1988-98) and took three teams to state, with one second-place finish and two fourth-places. His tenure saw four individual state champions, 14 region champs, 33 state entrants, a 147-52-1 record and five conference titles.
Tyler Grupa Passing the ball was Tyler Grupa’s main forte in his three-year tenures at quarterback and point guard. The 6-foot-1 slinger holds Elk career records of 4,379 yards and 31 touchdowns, the single-season record of 18 touchdowns, and the single-game mark of 351 yards (vs. Anoka). He hit 108-of-203 for 1,724 yards as a junior and 134-of-220 for 1,836 yards as a senior (with all-stater Paul Martin as his main target). Grupa (1999) played in two state tournaments in basketball, helping the Elks place third his sophomore year by feeding the ball to the older guys, and scoring 15 points in a first-round 68-65 loss to state champ Minnetonka as a junior. He made all-conference as a senior. Living in Mankato, Grupa works in a group home and is finishing up his master’s degree.
Aleasha Jacobson was a big gun at the net during the ERHS’s best era of volleyball when the Elks went 69-13 over a three-year period, including 27-1 her senior year, losing in the section semifinals. The springy six-footer made the metro area top ten in kills and blocks while excelling in digging and passing as well. Jacobson (1999), with career totals of 768 kills and 458 blocks, was a Pioneer Press all-stater. She had a scholarship to South Dakota State, where she started at middle hitter right away, but her career was cut to one season due to a knee injury and four operations. Also a track standout, Jacobson ranks second in 100 hurdles (15.22), third in triple jump (36-6.5) and fifth in 300 hurdles (47.36) on the Elks all-time lists. Now Aleasha Williams, she is married to the Concordia University (St. Paul) football coach, has a 5-year-old son, and works for Mind Ware as an administrative assistant, living in Fridley.
Greg Paffel A year after Greg Paffel won a state championship in the discus, he abruptly ended his sports career for a higher calling. He’s now known as Father Greg, priest of three parishes in the Sauk Centre area. Paffel’s throw of 166-10 won gold at state in 1986, his senior year, when he also took fourth in shot put with 54-7 1/2. (His shot PR was 54-9 3/4.) Paffel, 5-foot-10 and 250 pounds as a senior, was also an offensive lineman in the fall, and spent winters lifting weights, with PR’s of 340 on bench and 505 squat. He had one year of track-and-field at Minnesota-Morris before leaving for a Franciscan seminary in Ohio. After stops and starts he entered the priesthood in 2001. He arrived at Sauk Centre after five years in Fergus Falls.
Haley Balcom Elk River’s 2004 state girls hockey championship team, and fifth-place team the year before, were anchored by Haley Balcom and a previous ERHS Hall of Fame pick, Anya Miller. Balcom was a superb skater, defender, and teammate, and could score, too, with 35 career goals and 67 assists for 102 points, sixth all-time with the Elks. She had 11 goals and 22 assists in the state championship season. The 5-foot-4 skater went on to start every game at Bemidji State for four years in the WCHA, notching five goals and 23 assists. In soccer, the 2004 grad was a swift, high-scoring forward and helped the Elks reach the region finals her senior year. Also a track star, she ranks third all-time for the Elks in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Now Haley Thompson, she lives with her husband and two daughters in Warroad, a good place for a hockey family. She has a teaching degree but is currently a stay-at-home mom.
Dave Anderson At age 12 in Zimmerman, Dave Anderson assembled a softball league for kids his age, and the former Elk tennis and hockey player been a master organizer ever since. Anderson (1970) was facilities coordinator for Elk River’s hugely-praised turn at hosting Hockey Day Minnesota this past January, a 10-month gig he regards as his most intensive and rewarding task ever. That covers a lot of ground. Over 30-some years, Anderson has directed several sports associations, including adult softball and youth soccer for over a decade each. As a Park and Rec commissioner since 1987, he’s been a driving force in the vast expansion of city parks, ball fields and running/skiing trails. A park in Otsego now bears his name. He was a college tennis player, helping St. Cloud State win three conference titles. An analytical chemist for the concrete firm Cretex, Anderson also lent his waxing skills to the Elk Nordic Ski team from 1990-2003, helping two daughters place first in freestyle at state, a son win a state relay gold and the Elk girls win the 1994 team title.
Chris McAlpine Chris McAlpine is ERHS’s only two-time state wrestling champion, winning at 125 as a junior and 130 as a senior. McAlpine’s 139-28 career record includes 11-0 in state tournament matches. He was 3-0 in duals when the Elks placed fourth his sophomore year, then 4-0 the next two years as an individual qualifier. He helped Augsburg win the MIAC team title as a freshman, wrestling at 149, but injuries limited him to two active seasons. McAlpine (2000), one of three Elk mat standouts in his family, is a branch manager at Wells-Fargo in Rogers, and has been a volunteer coach for both the Elks and Royals.