From Blue Waters to Yellow Walls: Lobsters join the Upper School

The Providence Academy Track and Field Team is known for its competitive spirit, so it is unsurprising when new students join and show prospective talent. On Friday May 13th, three transfer students demonstrated their speed in a race after school coined ‘Lobster Fest’. The three students, Wallis, Claudius, and Da Pinchi, transferred from the prestigious local HiVee to race and amassed many fans by the end of the day.

Sam Trombley ’22 and Mac Clark ’22 make the new students feel at home showing them familiar faces leading up to Lobster Fest.

The transfers were initially invited to the school by Jack Lindberg ‘22 and Matthew Narog ‘22 with the approval of Upper School Administrative Assistant Mrs. Kate Gregg and the sponsorship of Upper School English Teacher Mr. Adam Schmalzbauer. The idea was hatched the night of PA’s Prom on May 7th and was swiftly put into action on the following five days to accommodate for the students’ peculiar needs. Luckily, Lindberg had prior experience with similar types of students and equipped Schmalzbauer’s room with a comfortable tank for them to stay in. “We did have some trouble finding the proper type of water,” commented Narog. 

Even with that difficulty, everything was ready to go for the 8:30 A.M. bell, but the transfers were nowhere to be found. They nonchalantly arrived around 9:30 A.M. to join their first class of the day: Senior Seminar. Fittingly, they became a part of a ‘fishbowl’ discussion on the book Persuasion by Jane Austen. “They learned about the dangers of vanity and the limits of persuasion,” explained Schmalzbauer. 

As they stayed with Schmalzbauer throughout the day, he got to know their character. He described, “Wallis was quite inattentive while Claudius was rambunctious. Da Pinchi was definitely a scholar and I predict that he would have had very good scores.” He continued, “I enjoyed having them in my class and miss them, but I understand that they had to return to their true home.”

Claudius, Wallis, and Da Pinchi (pictured left to right) soaking up knowledge from Schmalzbauer’s literature classes.

As the transfers prepared for their race at the end of the day, excitement built in the student body. Flyers had already been put up in days prior, but everyone, from Seniors to Freshmen to faculty, was buzzing with excitement on Friday. As soon as the last bell rang, a crowd swarmed in the atrium where the race was to take place. Mac Clark ‘22 and Sam Trombley ‘22 acted as security to keep the crowd at bay while Joseph Uzelac ‘22 announced the festivities. As Wallis, Claudius, and Da Pinchi paraded out, their weights and odds were announced. Da Pinchi was the favored racer, especially after eating five pieces of shrimp (compared to the others only having one), while Wallis was the underdog of the afternoon. 

Tension was high as the racers got ready and once the race commenced, the atrium erupted in encouraging yells. Although shrimp was placed in front of the competitors for motivation, the racers were not used to such a vigorous school day and were reluctant to move. In particular, Wallis refused to move and his coach Lindberg remarked, “It was just not his thing.” 

Lucas Priemueller ’22 displaying his overwhelming excitement as his coachee, Claudius, make his first move.

After a few slow-moving minutes, Claudis, coached by Lucas Priemueller ‘22, was declared the winner after moving the farthest, which was approximately one marble tile.

Priemueller explained, “He was quite prepared after going through some of Coach Hohenecker’s grueling workouts.” Da Pinchi came in second with his coach, Narog, explaining, “He is more a jack of all trades. He is not necessarily the best, but he can do many things.” Wallis, after moving nowhere, came in last. 

The atrium cleared out instantaneously and the racers were taken home to rest and take a …bath. Their experience at Providence was overwhelmingly positive and they brought good to the school.

Schmalzbauer explained, “They did a great job at demonstrating the powers of freedom to students.”  While they only appeared for one day, they helped close out the year with a laugh. And, although Wallis was the loser in the race, Lindberg made sure to say, “He was a winner in his taste.”

Watt He Does: The Electric Life of Mr. Plucinski

“Crazy. Hair.” are the words that come to Robotics team member Nathan Hemmesch’s ‘22 mind when thinking of Mr. Michael Plucinski, Upper School Physics Teacher and Robotics Coach. Plucinski’s distinctive fluff is his trademark that helps the student body identify him from far down the hallway. But, Plucinski is more than a good head of hair: he is a man of many talents. While on the weekdays Plucinski dedicates his life to physics and his students, on the weekends, he gives his time to his family, emergency medical care, and music. 

Brothers Matthew and Mitchell Plucinski pose with their Dad, US Physics teacher, Michael in front of one of the two ambulances Plucinski works with. (Photo courtesy of Michael Plucinski)

Plucinski, who is affectionately referred to as Mr. P by his students, is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) over the summer break and nearly every Friday night for the Ridgeview Ambulance in Waconia and the Mayo Clinic Ambulance in St. Cloud. The long drive there is worth the commute, as the shifts are twelve hours long, usually running from five PM to five AM. Although this seems like a tedious and energy-draining task, he comments, “It usually is a lot of waiting for a call and being prepared to spring into action.” 

Once a call finally is made, Plucinski and his team arrive on the scene within fifteen minutes to help. He reflects, “Even though my energy over the shift ebbs and flows, I still get butterflies every time we receive a call.” Once the ambulance arrives, he and the team get to work to help the caller and, if needed, drive them to the hospital. Here, Plucinski’s physics knowledge comes in handy to help him as he drives, ensuring the smoothest ride possible for the staff and patient in the back. 

Plucinski showing his sons, Mitchell and Matthew, his “second home” on the weekends. (Photo courtesy of Michael Plucinski)

Not only does his knowledge of physics apply to EMT work, but what he learns in the ambulance also applies to his life and students. The patience Plucinski has acquired after years of waiting during EMT shifts is exhibited in the classroom.

Advanced Physics student Mary Lee Rillens ‘22 remarks, “I ask a lot of questions and he always makes sure to answer without ever being demeaning. He takes the time to make sure I fully understand everything and doesn’t stop helping until he knows I don’t have any more confusion.” 

Although his patience is the most prevalent trait his EMT background brings to the classroom, all Honors and Advanced Physics students know that he loves to pay homage to EMT work by using ambulances in word problems. “[Ambulances] are actually an amazing way to exhibit many concepts, such as the difference between distance and displacement,” Plucinski explains. 

Plucinski sharing joyful hymns on the piano during Easter Mass. (Photo courtesy of Michael Plucinski)

The brisk EMT life is only part of Plucinski’s weekends. The other half is dedicated to music, specifically to playing the piano. Musically inclined since childhood, Plucinski played the clarinet in high school and college orchestra. He has participated in a jazz-rock student band on the piano and even in a mini-teacher band with former Providence instructors Mr. Fischer and Mr. Smith. Plucinski is currently a piano sub for four separate parishes, which allows him to play regularly.  He notes, “I always find myself drawn to playing music. It is such an amazing break that lets me exercise a different part of my brain.”

Plucinski’s crazy life and various talents outside of Providence may be unknown to many, but the traits he has picked up from them shine through in his teaching. What is known about him, is, in the words of Hemmesch, “Mr. P is a dedicated mentor through and through, whether it is in listening to your latest wacky robot design, pushing your fascinations in physics, or patiently waiting for the Robotics team to get through yet another rant.”

From Feasting to Fasting: First Grade Mardi Gras Celebration

With the snow melting and temperatures rising, the season of Lent is upon us. But before the focus on pillars of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, many Mardi Gras celebrations took place, including one within Providence’s yellow halls. This year the first grade class became the “Krewe of Rolling Readers” by making their very own parade floats while also enjoying Mardi Gras treats and learning about the traditions that originated in New Orleans.

First Grader Emma Reed proudly explaining her float based on The Day the Crayons Came Home.

Each student was tasked to make a shoebox float inspired by their favorite book before Fat Tuesday. The students were able to express their creativity by using flashing lights, bright colors, and twinkling sequins to create show-stopping pieces. Although the students were the heads of the project, it became a great bonding experience for families as they worked together to get them finished.

“I loved doing it with my mom!” first grader Emma Reed excitedly exclaimed while showing off her float. 

The final projects lined the lower school hallways to display the first graders’ masterpieces and to share them with the other grades. The students also were able to bring in the book that their float was based on so that others could read it or so that teachers could read to them during free time. Creator of this new tradition, first-grade teacher Mrs. Lee, explained, “It’s a great way to celebrate while also being exposed to different literature. I wanted this project to not only create a great memory but also educate my students.” 

Not only did the first graders get to read new books, but they also gained new knowledge about the American traditions of Mardi Gras. First grader Ethan Scotfield shared some of what he learned, teaching, “Mardi means Tuesday and Gras means fat in French.” The class also learned that the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold, and green represent justice, power, and faith respectively. 

The King’s Cake festively decorated and ready to be eaten.

The first graders feasted on a traditional treat called the King’s Cake, which is a pastry cake decorated in rich purple, cheery yellow, and vibrant green that is baked with a tiny baby hidden in the center. Traditionally, whomever gets the baby in their slice has to buy the next King’s Cake, but in the class it represented good luck for whomever received it. Even though only one person found the baby, Lucy Pfiffner shared, “I think the baby gives good luck to the whole world!” 

After the festivities came to a close, the reflective period of Lent started. The celebratory atmosphere has shifted so that everyone can focus internally on their relationship with God as they prepare for the Resurrection of Christ. As this season progresses, Father McClellan advises, “God has given us this time to reflect. Make a good effort and trust in Him, He will do the rest.”

Diving for Gold: Girls’ Swim and Dive Season Success

The state team celebrating after placing seventh overall. Providence girls Carly Bixby ’24, Ali Herlofsky ’24, and Anna Heaney ’22 participated on this team.

“We have a swim team?!” is a common exclamation when many in the Providence community hear that a handful of Providence girls participate in a cooperative team with The Blake School. Not only do these PA girls participate on the team, but they are vital members for the success achieved. On November 19th and 20th, the girls swam in the MSHSL A State Championship Meet, where they placed seventh, tying with the long-time rivals the Breck Mustangs. 

Olivia Ryan ’25, bottom, swimming breaststroke in the 200 Medley relay at the Section Meet.

Leading up to the state meet, the JV team, which includes Kate Borchardt ‘26 and Rachel Bartles ‘25, swam in the JV Championship Meet over Halloween weekend. Both girls achieved multiple best times this season. The Varsity team, which includes Providence girls Olivia Ryan ‘25, Ali Herlofsky ‘24, Carly Bixby ‘24, Pia Leiseth ‘23, and Anna Heaney ‘22, competed in the Section 2A Championship Meet one week prior to the state meet.  They placed third overall, advancing all three relays and four individuals, including Bixby and Heaney, to the state meet. 

Head coach Luke Johnson commented, “They are instrumental to our success. I don’t know what we would do without the Providence girls.” 

Even though the girls do not attend Blake with the others, it does not hinder relationships. “Some of them [PA swimmers] are my best friends; we get along so well and can do anything together,” Molly Seidel ‘24 explained. This was proven at the state meet, where Blake teammates came to support both the Blake and Providence swimmers. 

At state, the Providence girls showed how fundamental they are to the team. The 200 medley relay, which included Heaney, placed seventh, the 200 freestyle relay, including Bixby placed third, and the 400 freestyle relay, including both Bixby and Heaney, placed fourth and broke a school record.

Carly Bixby ’24 elated yet exhausted after breaking the 200 freestyle school record and swimming an All-American Consideration time.

Two Providence girls also showed their strength in individual events. Heaney placed eighteenth overall in the 500 freestyle. Bixby showed phenomenal success in her individual events. She placed first in 200 freestyle, swimming an All-American Consideration time, personal best, and school record. In the 100 freestyle, she placed second, also swimming an All-American Consideration time and personal best while shattering her previous school record. 

By the end of the meet, the girls had both shed tears and celebrated with hugs. “I could tell that it was a bittersweet moment. This team has accomplished so much, but it was the last time the seniors would be swimming with them,” Johnson observed.

Four seniors, including Heaney are graduating, but this does not mean the team will be any less successful. Most of the girls participating are underclassmen, so they are only getting faster as they push the limits in their training. Bixby exclaimed,  “Next year I’m planning on making new records and hope that more people qualify for state. I definitely think everyone is capable and it is going to happen next year!”

Crossing the Finish Line: A Spectacular End to the Girls’ Cross Country Season

Saturday November 6th was a typical sunny and cheerful day. But, for our girls’ cross country team, it was also the day of the Cross Country State Tournament at St. Olaf College, which they had previously qualified for by placing second at the section meet. 

The state runners (names listed above) huddle together to give each other support before the start of the race.

The 2021 season has been marked by the girls’ outstanding performances and determination. As a testimony of their excellence, the girls placed thirteenth out of all single ‘A’ teams in the state. Captain Sophie Koch ‘22 said, “We ran this race as a celebration of the season.” 

This is not the first time the team has run at State. The girls qualified in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, where they also had very successful runs. Three girls on this year’s team also competed on those previous teams: Koch, Emma Kelly ‘22, and Aly Marshall ‘23.

At this state meet, Kelly finished the race in 23rd place, earning her the title of an All-State Athlete.  Other strong performers include Marshall, and Leni Kuhn ‘26, who both placed in the top 100. 

This was the first state meet for Kuhn and half the team, yet the girls did not let this cause them anxiety. Kuhn commented, “The atmosphere was relaxed. The race itself wasn’t scary, but the large crowds were nerve-wracking.” 

Emma Kelly ’22 and Sophie Koch ’22 pose with Coaches Fogle and Hohenecker before their last high school cross country meet.

“Everyone was very positive before the race and their energy was calm,” Coach Dan Hickel agreed.

Instead of focusing on the crowds or the competitive atmosphere, the girls focused on their bond as a team. They started this process the day before by having a pre-meet pasta party to get excited for the race. Koch remarked, “We like to focus on coming together as a team that always supports one another.” Kuhn elaborated on their bond, commenting, “After the race was over, I wasn’t thinking about myself, but how we got to run together in our last meet as a team with our two senior captains. I am so proud of them.” 

The girls’ captains, Koch and Kelly, performed in the final meet of their high school cross country career, but the future’s looking bright for them, as they both plan for the next steps of their lives in college. Even though the absence of their talent will be a loss for the team next year, the girls have great prospects for the upcoming seasons. Hickel agreed, stating, “We have a young team with a lot of leadership and talent. They possess the mindsets of long-distance runners, which is a great promise for success.”