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by Trinity Gruenberg

trinity@inhnews.com

    Mike Mahlen began his career at the Verndale School in 1969 as the health and phy ed teacher as well as the head coach for football and boys track. He also was assistant boys basketball coach for his first seven years.

    He added activities director (AD) to his title in 1977 while he continued teaching and coaching track until 1988 and football. He also was head baseball coach for three years. 

    In 2004, Mahlen retired from teaching, but stayed on as AD and head football coach. 

    On May 25, Mahlen officially retired. Greg Johnson will take over as AD and as dean of students. 

    Mahlen plans to continue coaching football.

    “When I get tired of going to practice, I’ll quit coaching,” he said.

    His love of coaching inadvertently created a media fueled friendly competition with Coach Ron Stolski of Brainerd for the number of winning games. 

    “It’s not a competition. We both still enjoy coaching. I’ll be starting my 50th year of coaching and he will start his 57th year. We’re not doing it for the wins or the record. We’re doing it because we love coaching kids,” said Mahlen.

    He shared the games are the easy part. They have great numbers and it depends on the grade. He shared he had 12 seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and 18 freshmen boys.

    He has even had one female on the team, Kelia Schmitz. Another female, seventh grader Abby Ervasti, also plays football and if she continues to play, could be Mahlen’s second ever female player. 

    During his career as AD and coach he has been recognized for several awards including: Region 6A Athletic Administrator of the Year during  1991-92, 2007-08 and 2016-17; Minnesota Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2009; and Minnesota State High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016. During his time as football coach, they have won two state titles in 1997 and 2002.They were state runner-up in football in 1987, 1994 and 1996. . . .

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