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Campus News

West Saint Paul 7th grader wins first place

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., Jan. 16, 2019 – Saint Thomas Academy Middle School held the first round of the National Geographic GeoBee on Monday, Jan. 14. Of the 147 students in grades 6-8 who participated in the school-level competition, 7th grader Max MapelLentz took first place, followed by Patrik Kilen, an 8th grader.

The school-level competition is the first round in the annual National Geographic GeoBee, a geography competition designed to inspire and reward students’ curiosity about the world. Questions cover geography as well as cultures, physical features, history and earth science. The National Geographic Society developed the GeoBee in 1989 in response to concern about the lack of geographic knowledge among young people in the United States. Over more than three decades, 120 million students have learned about the world through participation in the GeoBee.

School champions, including MapelLentz, will take an online qualifying test prior to Friday, Feb. 1; up to 100 of the top test scorers in Minnesota then become eligible to compete in at the State GeoBee on Friday, March 29 at the University of Minnesota. Saint Thomas Academy students have consistently advanced to the state-level competition.

The winners of the State GeoBees receive an all-expenses-paid trip to National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., next May to participate in the GeoBee national championship, competing for cash prizes, scholarships and an all-expenses-paid Lindblad expedition to the Galápagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour ll. In addition to the GeoBee, National Geographic also offers classroom resources, student experiences and professional development opportunities for educators.

About the National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society is a leading nonprofit that invests in bold people and transformative ideas in the fields of exploration, scientific research, storytelling and education. Through its grants and programs, it aspires to create a community of change, advancing key insights about the planet and probing some of the most pressing scientific questions of the time while ensuring that the next generation is armed with geographic knowledge and global understanding. Its goal is measurable impact: furthering exploration and educating people around the world to inspire solutions for the greater good. For more information, visit

Michael Driscoll '21 places first in the state

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., Jan. 15, 2019 – The Saint Thomas Academy rifle team consisting of Michael Driscoll ’21, Daniel Staelgraeve ’21, Jack Martin ’21 and Kaleb Rutgers ’19 won its second state championship of the year, when they won the state championship in the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) (box score). With the win, the team advances to the CMP regional championship to be held this spring at Camp Perry, Ohio.

Individually, Driscoll finished 1st overall, Rutgers 3rd, Staelgraeve 4th and Martin 10th.

Saint Thomas Academy is coached by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Paul Preblich, U.S. Army (ret.).

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., Jan. 10, 2019 – Saint Thomas Academy announced today that Greg ‘72 and Tom Vannelli will step down as co-head coaches of the varsity hockey team following the 2018-2019 season. While Tom will no longer be involved, Greg will contribute to key aspects of the program to ensure a smooth transition to a new head coach. Greg will also continue teaching health and phy ed at the Academy and coaching the varsity golf team.

Since 2003, when the Vannellis became co-head coaches, the Cadets have won 5 state hockey championships, 10 section championships and 4 conference championships. Through last season, the teams tallied 343 wins, 87 losses and 16 ties. The Cadets had the honor of playing on an outdoor rink at Holman Field for Hockey Day Minnesota in 2015 and annually share a top-ranked position with the best AA teams in the state. Since 2003, 30 Cadet hockey players have collectively received approximately $6 million in college hockey scholarships.

“Tom and Greg instituted new training methods that have been a winning formula and have had a profound impact on all of our athletic teams,” said Bob Slater ’77, athletics and activities director. “They understand the science behind athletic performance and have used that science with the single-minded purpose of raising the bar for Cadets hockey. Individualized off-season training has helped our athletes reshape their bodies and increase their cardiovascular endurance. Applying sound nutritional science has shortened recovery times. And in-game technology has helped maximize the use of players and adjust game strategy.”

The Vannelli family is well-known in Minnesota hockey. Tom and Greg’s father was a referee for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Both Tom and his son, Mike, were captains for the University of Minnesota Gopher hockey team. Greg was a two-time, All-American at the University of St. Thomas. Tom's younger son Rob '08, who was integral to the Cadets’ state championships in 2006 and 2008, played juniors for a year before going on to the University of St. Thomas. Rob and Mike, as well as Greg Monohan ’82, are now assistant coaches for the Cadets.

The Academy will post for the head coaching position soon, with candidates screened following the season. The Academy hopes to name a new head coach by the end of the school year.

Saint Thomas Academy finishes the season as conference champions

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., Dec. 3, 2018 – In one of the closest matches in the history of the National Air Rifle League, the Saint Thomas Academy Rifle Team narrowly lost to Lebanon AJROTC in the first-round of the championship tournament. Both teams scored 2,183 points (box score). By rule, the tie was settled by highest number of "inner tens." Lebanon AJROTC won the tie 70 to 68. (The closest match in league history was decided by just one inner ten.) Saint Thomas Academy (team page) finished the season as Junior Rifle Club conference champions with a 5-3 record overall record.

In the match, Saint Thomas Academy was led by Michael Driscoll ’21, who shot a 550. The remaining contributing members were Daniel Staelgraeve ’21, Kaleb Rutgers ’19 and John Copeland ’19. Saint Thomas Academy is coached by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Paul Preblich, U.S. Army (ret.).

Sponsored by the Orion Scoring System, the National Air Rifle League is a national team league for high school teams and junior rifle clubs. The league has two parts: an 8-week round-robin regular season, where teams compete for their division's title, followed by the post-season, comprised of two single elimination tournaments. Only the top 16 teams across all divisions advance to the post-season to compete for the league title.

In each match, the teams compete in a Three-Position Air Rifle match. The match is modeled after Olympic rifle competitions but adapted to high school athletes. Each athlete shoots 10 shots in three different shooting positions, prone, standing and kneeling. Each shot is worth a maximum of 10 points. The sum of points scored in the 30 shots is the athlete's total. The team score is comprised of the best four athletes from each team. For more information on the league, including complete standings, visit

Six Additional Seniors Promoted to Cadet Lieutenant Colonel

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., Nov. 26, 2018 – As an independent military leadership Academy, Saint Thomas Academy today named Luke Kolar ’19 the 111th Cadet Colonel. Kolar assumed the highest-ranking role in the Corps of Cadets following Wednesday’s annual suspense-filled promotion ceremony, when Headmaster Matthew Mohs ‘90 presented him with the Fleming Saber.

While attending Saint Thomas Academy the past four years, Kolar has risen to a level of leadership and excellence in nearly every capacity. His resume includes:


  • Cross country: 4 years; senior captain. Four-time All-Conference and three-time "Most Valuable Runner."
  • Track and field: 4 years; junior and senior captain. Recipient of the Coaches' Award and the Jack Zahr Leadership Award. Selected All-Conference in his junior year.
  • Experimental Vehicle Team (EVT): 4 years; student driver as a junior.
  • Peer Mentoring: 2 years; senior captain.
  • Citation school newspaper: 4 years; 3 years as Editor, currently Front-Page Editor. Recipient of the Annual Editor Academic Award for his work.
  • Model UN team member for three years; senior captain. EMUNC Best Delegate Honorable Mention.
  • Cadence (literary magazine): 3 years; Editor-in-Chief as a senior.
  • Frequent contributing writer for Saber, the Saint Thomas Academy alumni publication.


  • Three-time Eagle Academic Award recipient for annual GPA of 3.90 or better
  • National Merit Scholar semi-finalist
  • Faculty Award recipient
  • Recipient of 3 military awards in 2017-2018
  • Dartmouth Book Award recipient
  • University of Rochester Bausch & Lomb Award
  • Elected leader of winning field trip project, 2018

Kolar also volunteers in a Living Well Disability Services’ group home and is co-founder and leader of "Churros for Charity" at Saint Thomas Academy. He hopes to attend college on the East Coast following graduation. Kolar attended Our Lady of Grace Catholic School in Edina through 8th grade. He is the son of Mike ’87 and Amy.

“Luke brings a great deal of maturity and respect of his peers to the role of Cadet Colonel,” said Commandant of Cadets Col. Neil Hetherington (ret.), U.S. Army. “Those are important factors for a Cadet Colonel to be successful. I look forward to working closely with him throughout the year to further develop his leadership abilities as well as those of every Cadet at the Academy.”

Kolar was chosen from among 16 senior class officers by a board including the Headmaster, Commandant of Cadets, Deputy Commandant of Cadets, Upper School Director, the Dean of Students, Director of Academic Life, a faculty representative and a student representative. The board considers academic performance, co-curricular involvement, merits and demerits, military performance and leadership abilities.

“As a senior today, I’m still in awe of the immense impact this school has had on me since my first days as a freshman,” Kolar said. “Saint Thomas Academy teaches skills that can be applied to any career or role in life; ambitious competition, countless hands-on leadership scenarios, and lessons in diligence that characterize a Cadet’s high school years perfectly complement the values of compassion, community, and courage that the Academy instills in young men. Saint Thomas Academy is a place like no other, and I’m forever grateful for the amazing experience of maturing here.”

As Cadet Colonel, Kolar will work closely with the Academy’s administrators and military leaders to implement a wide variety of events at the Academy, including brigade formal inspection and the Archbishop’s Review in the spring. The Cadet Colonel also acts as liaison between the Cadets and the faculty and administration, often influencing or handling disciplinary matters.

Six additional seniors were promoted from Cadet Captain to Cadet Lieutenant Colonel. They are:

  • Callan Happe, named Deputy Brigade Commander. Happe hopes to study business or economics at Boston College, Villanova University or the University of Notre Dame following graduation.
  • Thomas Mayleben, named Chief of Staff. Mayleben, the younger brother of 2015-2016 Cadet Colonel William Mayleben, hopes to attend the University of Notre Dame or Duke University next year.
  • Hayes Reding, Battalion Commander, will attend and play lacrosse at College of the Holy Cross.
  • Brendan McFadden, Battalion Commander, is hoping to attend either Boston College and Santa Clara University.
  • Maxwell McFarland, Battalion Commander, is hoping to attend Gonzaga University or University of Portland following graduation.
  • Joseph Motzel was named Brigade Operations Officer (S3). Motzel hopes to attend the United States Naval Academy or Boston College next year.

(L-R): Hayes Reding, Joseph Motzel, Callan Happe, Luke Kolar, Thomas Mayleben, Brendan McFadden, Maxwell McFarland