Tuesday, February 20, 2007
By Tom Kendra
Mark Jastrzembski knows exactly what he will do if he ever wins the lottery.
"I would put a 400-meter skating oval out at Muskegon State Park and get the whole place refrigerated," said Jastrzembski, 57, a lifelong resident of the Muskegon area.
"That would be my dream come true."
Jastrzembski's unselfish devotion to two groups -- the West Michigan Speedskating Club and the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex -- has earned him the 2007 Distinguished Service Award from the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame.
The Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to sports in the area, but not as an athlete -- a description which fits the high-energy Jastrzembski to a "T."
"Without Mark, it's highly unlikely that the Winter Sports Complex would still be running," said Jim Rudicil, the executive director of the Muskegon State Park facility, which features the luge, skating and cross-country skiing. "Mark is always there any time we need him and he has never asked for anything in return."
Jastrzembski will receive his award at this year's MASHF Induction Ceremony on June 2 at the Holiday Inn-Muskegon Harbor.
He will be joined by athletic inductees Karel Bailey, Jock Callander and Mark Konecny, along with a male and female high school student-athlete of the year, which will be announced in May.
Jastrzembski first got involved with the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex and the Muskegon Sports Council at the urging of complex founder Michael Knight, who knew of Jastrzembski's speedskating knowledge and wanted him to head up the council's "flat ice" activities.
That was 23 years ago, and Jastrzembski is still secretary of the Winter Sports Council board, the founder of the Michigan Winter Triathlon and was the guy cooking hamburgers and hot dogs at the facility's recent free family picnic.
While Jastrzembski is one of many individuals who have helped grow and develop the Winter Sports Complex, he has almost single-handedly run the West Michigan Speedskating Club for the past 19 years.
In 1988, Jastrzembski personally rented the ice at L.C. Walker Arena for six straight Saturdays. Six skaters showed up and the West Michigan Speedskating club was born.
The club, which has included hundreds of skaters from around the state over the past 19 years, now meets on Monday and Tuesday nights in Grand Rapids and Wednesday and Thursday nights in Muskegon. Jastrzembski never misses a practice.
The local club has produced many top skaters, including the club's first national champion, Grand Haven's Kelly Anderson, in 1990 and 1995. Her brother, Todd, was a national champ in 1992.
Other big names who got their start here include Derek Gray, Eva Rodansky, Mike Kooreman, Tom Cole and Kimberly Derrick of Caledonia, who competed in the Olympics last year in Italy.
But those that know Jastrzembski will tell you that he takes just as much pride in helping a youngster learn to skate as he does in producing an Olympian.
"Every Saturday or Sunday during our open skates, I'm able to teach at least one or two kids how to skate," said Jastrzembski, who is a retired third-shift worker from the Muskegon Correctional Facility who also did quite a bit of substitute teaching. "That is my weekly dose of personal satisfaction. To me, that is equal to an Olympian."
The West Michigan Speedskating Club really came of age in 1995, when it hosted the National Short-Track Speedskating Championships at the Walker Arena, where Apolo Ohno, Shani Davis and other future Olympians competed for local fans.
Jastrzembski has also been heavily involved in in-line skating events, founding the Michigan 400 in 1992, which was run for eight years either in the Great Lakes Downs parking lot or at the back parking lot at Muskegon Community College.
A lifelong bachelor, Jastrzembski figures teaching people skating and introducing them to the Winter Sports Complex is his way of giving back to the community he loves.
"I'm a single guy and I have some time," said Jastrzembski, 57. "I guess I see helping kids as part of my calling in life. I'm not done yet."
The local sports hall was formed in 1986 to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of Muskegon-area sports figures. The hall is located on the concourse of the L.C. Walker Arena.
The MASHF currently includes 86 members, eight teams, 16 Distinguished Service Award winners and 22 student-athlete award winners.
Mardi Suhs, Cadillac News
Saturday, February 3, 2007
Courtesy photo: Dick Dolack officiated his first NFL football game on his birthday in 1966. He picked jersey No. 31 to match his age when chosen for the coveted job.
They don’t get the fame, the glory, or the big bucks. No one knows them by name. But NFL officials suit up every weekend, run the field, and call the plays in front of millions of football fans.
Dick Dolack, whose brother Mike lives in Cadillac, always dreamed of refereeing with the “big guys” of the NFL. He pursued his goal by officiating high school and semi-pro games and sending in numerous letters of application. In addition, he officiated for the NBA from 1960 to 1966.
“I just enjoyed officiating,” Dolack confessed from his home in Muskegon. “I just kept at it.”
But when he got the call from the NFL in 1966, he became one of the youngest NFL officials in history after impressing scouts with his on-field conduct and passing a 25-page exam.
He beat out 500 other applicants and spent his career as a field judge, where he said, “I just have to watch the contact — you just have to see everything and all at the same time.”
One of his career highlights was being tapped to referee Super Bowl IX, considered an honor by the 45 officials who man the NFL games in any one season.
Dolack, who said he was “never afraid to throw the flag,” recalled what it was like to officiate in front of 80,000 fans and about 130 million viewers.
“To be honest,” he admitted, “Super Bowl IX wasn’t one of the big games that you see highlighted now. But working the Super Bowl was the epitome of everything. You had the gut feeling — what am I doing here working the Super Bowl?”
The 1975 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings, the last Super Bowl to be played in cold weather, was a match between two legendary quarterbacks — Terry Bradshaw and Fran Tarkenton. Dolack said the officials had meetings all day Thursday and Friday before the game to go over the mechanics and rule changes.
“We were supposed to open up the new Super Dome,” he remembered. “It was a big hoopla, the new indoor stadium, but it wasn’t ready. So they made the decision to go back out to Tulane stadium. It was a nasty day, with rain and sleet and snow.”
In the low-scoring game, the Steelers beat the Vikings 16 to 6.
Dolack retired in 1991 after a 25-year career with the NFL, but continued as an observer who scouts college officials, looking for the chosen few who make it to the ranks of the NFL.
Dolack observed that in his day the game was more “fun and games and not nasty — things were more relaxed. You made the call and you dreaded the Monday morning phone call from the office. The hassle you get about the call in today’s game — it seems so much more big business.”
He said calls were made not only by the rulebook, but also by “a lot of little intricacies — things discussed during meetings.”
Throughout his years with the NFL, Dolack kept his day job as a pharmacist in Norton Shores near Muskegon. In 1955 he married Patricia Smith, a cheerleader he crashed into while officiating a high school game, and together they raised three children. He’s been inducted into the Muskegon Area Hall of Fame and became the first official to join the Minor Pro Football League Hall of Fame. He is also in the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame.
Dick Dolack spent 25 years as an NFL official in the position of Field Judge, the official that lines up 25 yards deep in the defensive backfield on the tight end side of the field. His duties include:
Highlights of Dick Dolack’s 25 year NFL Officiating Career:
Football officials and
Football officials are in charge of enforcing the rules of the game. Officials are responsible for monitoring the game clock and play clock and recording all rule infractions.
The term referee is actually assigned to only one of the officials during a game. Each official has his own title and assigned responsibilities.
There would be no need for second-half heroics for Muskegon Heights' boys basketball team to beat rival Muskegon this time.
The Tigers haven't been a first-half team this season -- and they didn't have a good first three quarters against the Big Reds last time they met-- but they clicked early and often Friday in their latest meeting.
Muskegon Heights capped off the fifth annual Hall of Fame Basketball Classic in style by racing to a 20-8 first-quarter lead and coasting to a 65-46 win over the Big Reds in front of a sold-out Reeths-Puffer Gymnasium crowd.
The tournament is sponsored by the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame and also featured Mona Shores defeating Grand Haven 49-36 in the first game of the doubleheader.
"It was very nice to see us get after it right from the start," said Tigers coach Keith Guy. "I didn't have to do much motivating at all. If you can't get up for a game in front of 3,200 fans and playing Muskegon, than there's something wrong."
The Muskegon Heights seniors took it upon themselves to make sure their team got off to a strong start.
Forward Patrick Martin scored eight of his team's first 10 points, guard Stedman Briggs poured in 13 first-half points and guard David Fox chipped in some timely buckets as Heights opened up a 17-point lead in the second quarter. The Tigers would not let the lead slip below double-digits the rest of the way.
Both Briggs and Fox were struggling before the big game, but both came up with key contributions.
"It's always good to beat Muskegon," said Fox. "We knew we needed to come out and play hard.
"Coach (Guy) told Stedman he wanted him to start and finish games better and he stepped up and scored early for us. Coach told me to just relax and not think too much and I think it helped me feel more comfortable out there."
The hot Tiger start was fueled by energy and defense.
Eight of Heights' first 12 points came off Muskegon turnovers.
The Tigers forced eight Big Red turnovers in the opening eight minutes of action. The mistakes turned into Heights points as well as helped keep Muskegon off the scoreboard.
The Big Reds were limited to eight first-quarter points on three baskets. They weren't able to score on back-to-back possessions until the middle of the third quarter thanks to the stingy Tiger defense.
"We aren't very tall, so we need to play to our strengths," said Guy. "We need to use our quickness to create turnovers and turn our defense into offense. I thank God that we were able to control the tempo of the game and play to our strengths."
Martin scored 16 points, Briggs totaled 15 points, Reuben McFadden added 12 points and Fox contributed 11 points for the Tigers, who are 10-0 in the Basketball Classic.
Despite the early deficit, Muskegon hung around.
Chris Crawford drained four first-half 3-pointers on his way to 16 points and Bobby Miller canned three 3-pointers and totaled 13 points for the Big Reds.
Muskegon had a couple of chances to trim the deficit to nine points, but missed a couple easy shots and then watched Heights go on a 12-2 run to put it away.
"I was a little surprised they stayed in it after we went up big on them early," said Fox. "They showed a lot of heart."
Heights outshot Muskegon 49-34 percent and had a 36-28 rebounding advantage.
"We played hard, but we still took too many bad shots and made too many turnovers, which of course we all know Heights takes advantage of very well," said Muskegon head coach Bernard Loudermill. "At this point' we're trying to lay some building blocks. I'm hoping that when people watch us play, they see a team that's turning it around and making improvements when they work as a unit."
Briggs paced the Tigers on the boards with nine rebounds.
Mona Shores 49, Grand Haven
The Sailors and Bucs did not play inspiring basketball in the first half, but Shores picked it up in the final half to get the win.
The Sailor defense had its way with Grand Haven's offense, limiting the Bucs to less than 10 points in each of the first three quarters.
The final score proved to be misleading as Shores' lead ballooned to 24 points early in the fourth quarter before the Bucs rallied against the Sailor subs.
"It was a sloppy game, but I'm glad we were able to play well enough to pull away," said Mona Shores coach Jeremy Andres. "It's good to get the win and give us some momentum heading into some key O-K Green games coming up."
Junior forward Matt Heneveld led all scorers with 14 points.
Senior guards Russ Amidon and David Farnquist each tallied eight points apiece to give the Sailors, who play Zeeland East and Holland Christian in their next two games, a boost on offense.
Riley Hall and Kent Viening scored nine points each to lead the Bucs.
"We're just not executing on offense at all," said Grand Haven coach Steve Hewitt. "We're getting decent outside shots, but we're not making any of them, and we're not getting any movement inside at all."
Viening grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Bucs and Adam Dickerson paced the Sailors on the boards with six rebounds.
Muskegon basketball players are glad it is Christmas break and it has nothing to do with a rest from schoolwork.
The Big Reds have an opportunity to completely forget about the first fifth of the season with a good showing at the fifth annual Basketball Classic sponsored by the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame.
The first phase of the operation was successful for the Big Reds, who showed flashes of putting it together with teamwork in a 56-46 win over Grand Haven Thursday at Reeths-Puffer High School.
"It's great to be coming off a win," said junior guard Bobby Miller, whose team improved to 2-3. "We feel so much better than we did last week. We played more like a team instead of playing selfish and not sharing the ball."
If the Big Reds think this win feels good, then topping Muskegon Heights, which handled Mona Shores 63-50 in Thursday's nightcap, in tonight's prime-time matchup would put them over the rainbow. Tonight's games are Mona Shores vs. Grand Haven at 6 p.m., followed by Heights vs. Muskegon. Tickets are available for both games.
The Tigers have owned Muskegon the last four years, but a Big Reds' win tonight would help erase the memory of their collapse at the hands of their rivals a year ago.
To do that, Muskegon will have to improve even more on the improvements they made on both ends of the court against Grand Haven (2-4).
"I saw some good things at times," said Muskegon coach Bernard Loudermill. "We played much better than against Zeeland East, when we just shot it up without thinking of anyone else.
"There were still times when we were undisciplined, but we were able to get into our transition offense and scored out of our halfcourt offense, something we haven't done at all."
No one would have guessed things would get better for the Big Reds after they went through an eight-minute stretch in the first half getting outscored 18-3 by the Bucs.
Trailing 18-7, the Big Reds suddenly found their patience in the halfcourt, their energy on the boards and their tenacity on defense to close the half on a 14-6 run. Muskegon trailed 24-23 at the half.
Behind Miller's 14 points and nine points apiece from Takarri Churchwell and Larry Davis, Muskegon finally took the lead in the fourth quarter. The Bucs and Big Reds went back and forth for the next few minutes before the Big Reds ended the game on a 10-0 run, the difference in the game.
"I was pleased with our overall effort," said Loudermill. "Bobby is one of those players who is very explosive offensively and defensively and Larry Davis had a solid overall performance."
Grand Haven didn't get the break-out game it was looking for.
The Bucs were given a boost by the return of sophomore guard Austin Harper, who scored a game-high 16 points, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Bucs' lack of attack in the second half.
"We didn't execute offensively," said Grand Haven coach Steve Hewitt. "It looked like five games of 1-on-1 out there. We've got to do a better job of running the offense and hitting the shots that are there."
Aaron Johnson and Kent Viening added 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Bucs, who lost the rebounding (37-28) and turnover (19-12) battles to the Big Reds. Viening grabbed a game-high 13 boards.
Muskegon shot 50 percent from inside the 3-point arc and just 12 percent (2-of-17) beyond it. Still Loudermill was encouraged by the Big Reds' shot selection.
"We are starting to be more patient and more selective," said Loudermill. "We're identifying who can shoot the 3-pointer and who has no business hoisting it from out there."
Muskegon Heights 63, Mona Shores 50
When Muskegon Heights' offense is on, it's a thing of beauty.
Unfortunately for Tigers' coach Keith Guy, he's rarely seen it anywhere near the start of the game.
So far it hasn't hurt the Tigers much. It didn't Thursday against Mona Shores. Heights spotted the Sailors a 14-12 lead midway through the second quarter before turning it on for a 63-50 win in the nightcap.
The win continues Heights' dominance in the Classic and improves the Tigers' record to 3-1 this season.
"In that first half we were just one pass and let it fly," said Guy. "It wasn't pretty. When we executed our offense we were able to get the shots we wanted rather than taking shots the (Mona Shores) defense wanted."
The numbers speak for themselves.
Before halftime, the Tigers shot 39 percent. In the second half they scorched the nets at a 61 percent clip.
The hot shooting couldn't help the Tigers run away from Mona Shores (3-2), but it did help them to gradually pull away.
"I'm proud of the execution by our players," said Mona Shores coach Jeremy Andres. "Defensively, I think we did fine and the press didn't hurt us much, which is goal No. 1 when you play Muskegon Heights. They just shot great.
"When you have athletes like that and can shoot, it's tough to stop."
Five Tigers sank 3-pointers and three reached double figures in points, led by senior guard Andre Evans with 18 points. David Fox slashed his way to the basket for 12 points and Stedman Briggs added 11 points.
Muskegon Heights scored eight points in the first quarter, but averaged over 18 points the final three quarters.
The Sailors, who shot 35 percent, got big-time production from reserve David Farnquist, who sank 4-of-5 3-pointers for a team-high 14 points. Tony Roof added 11, but Shores' firepower was limited when do-everything forward Matt Heneveld was forced to sit for almost all of the second quarter with two fouls.
"Shores played great defense, they were well prepared for us," said Guy. "We knew they would come out strong. Getting Heneveld into foul trouble was huge for us. It was a big bonus."
Fox grabbed nine rebounds for Heights and Roof snagged eight boards for Shores.
Thursday, December 7, 2006
By Tom Kendra
CHRONICLE ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
Wait a minute, is Muskegon a football town or a hockey town? Maybe it's both.
And in case you haven't noticed, in addition to its well-earned reputation as a football and hockey hotbed, the Muskegon area is gaining a reputation around the state as a top area and one particular girls high school sport-volleyball.
The Muskegon Area Sports Hall of fame will induct a giant in each of those sports-Karel Bailey (volleyball), Jock Callander (hockey) and Mark Konecny (football) at its 21st induction ceremony on June 2nd at the Holiday Inn-Muskegon Harbor in downtown Muskegon.
"All I can say is that when you look at a class like this, of being our 21st year, for a small town were doing very, very well," said Gene Young the president of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame "Its a balanced class with a little bit of everything. "
Each year the Hall of Fame's 13 member board of directors considers hundreds of potential candidates, before holding a vote each November to determine the next group of inductees. Young said he is consistently amazed that the list of quality candidates never seems to diminish.
"There are still all kinds of outstanding people out there and that's one of the things that makes this job so exciting and so difficult," said Young, a retired Fruitport school administrator and local radio personality.
The three inductees will be the main event of the hall's annual June induction ceremony. The MASHF will have two more announcements leading up to the big day.
A Distinguished Service Award winner presented to an individual who made an outstanding contribution to sports in the area, but not as an athlete, will be announced in February. A male and female high-school student-athlete of the year will be named in May.
The local sports hall was formed in 1986 to recognize outstanding achievements of Muskegon-area sports figures. The hall is located on the concourse of the L. C. Walker Arena.
The MASHF currently includes 86 members, eight teams, 16 Distinguished Service Award winners and 22 student-athlete award winners.
The hall also hosts an annual holiday basketball tournament during Christmas break, which is set for December 28-29 at Reeths-Puffer High School. Participating schools this year are Grand Haven, Mona Shores, Muskegon and Muskegon Heights.
Here's a thumbnail sketch of the Class of 2006 inductees.
Karel Bailey was a true pioneer of girls high school sports in the Muskegon area.
Bailey, a Pontiac native and a three-sport star at Western Michigan University, began teaching and coaching at North Muskegon in 1975 and she's still doing it today.
Bailey first made her mark outdoors in track and field, leading the North Muskegon girls team for 13 years, winning five West Michigan Conference titles, two regional titles and state championships in 1977, 1979 and 1980.
She is perhaps best known locally for turning the Norse into a state volleyball powerhouse during her tenure as head coach from 1984 to 2003.
During that 19-year run, NM won 18 WMC titles, 15 district, six regionals, made it to the Final Four four times and the state finals once. Her overall varsity volleyball coaching record was 386-225-31.
Bailey's influence has been felt far outside the village of North Muskegon. She has been a mentor for many area female coaches with sought her advice for making it and a male-dominated profession. Bailey has also worked as a state volleyball official and as a major college field hockey official as well as serving on a number of volleyball committees for the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
Bailey and her husband, Tony, live in North Muskegon, where she is still an active teacher and coach in the middle school level.
The name Jock Callander still brings a smile to the face of Muskegon area hockey fans, who remember him as a dominant center on some of the great Muskegon Lumberjack teams of the late to 1980's.
Callander, a native of Regina, Saskatchewan, first came to Muskegon in 1984 and helped ignite a golden era of Muskegon hockey during his eight years here, where he was a local hero along with likes of Scott Gruhl and David Michayluk.
He top the 100-point mark during his first three years in town, highlighted by the 1986 Turner Cup title. The Lumberjacks parent club, the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League, took notice of his talent and Callander split time between Muskegon over the next five years. Callander led the Lumberjacks to another Turner Cup championship trophy in 1989 and then as part of the Penguins' Stanley Cup championship team in 1992 which was coached by Scotty Bowman and included greats like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Coffey, Kevin Stevens and Rick Tocchet.
After the Lumberjacks moved to Cleveland in 1992, Callander continued to be a force for the team long after most of his contemporaries had retired.
Callander played seven years in Cleveland and 18 years of professional hockey overall. He is the all-time leading scorer in International Hockey League history with 1,402 points, second all-time with 848 assists and third in league history with 554 goals.
Callander went on to be an assistant coach for Cleveland and then Houston of the AHL. He is now retired from hockey and living in suburban Cleveland.
Mark Konecny was the first player from the academic-rich Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association to make it to the National Football League. In doing so, the 1981 Mona Shores graduate broke through the glass ceiling and proved that talent and desire are more important than planning for a big-name college team.
Konecny first made his mark locally as one of the top quarterbacks in Mona Shores school history. He chose to attend Alma College where he was quickly converted to running back and wasted no time making his mark, rushing for 941 yards in the 1982 season.
In his senior year of 1984, Konecny became the first Alma rusher to top 1,000 yards in a season, finishing with a 1,058 yards, which placed him eighth in the nation in Division III.
He also led the MIAA in scoring and punt returns, earning him first-team all-conference honors an honorable mention on the Division III All-American team, the first MIAA player to receive that honor. Konecny started his pro career with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, but got his break into the NFL turning the strike season of 1987.
He joined Miami as a punt returner and averaged 7.7 yds per return. His best professional season was 1988 when, ironically, he replaced the recently-retired Bobby Morse from Muskegon Catholic as Philadelphia's punt returner. Konecny returned 17 kickoffs for 276 yards and 32 punts for 226 yards.
Konecny, who now lives in Colorado, suffered a career-ending injury in the first exhibition game of the 1989 season while playing for the New York Jets.