2010-11 Hall of Fame News

Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame inducts milestone 25th anniversary class

Dan Bylsma, shown here coaching the Pittsburgh Penguins, played 10 seasons in the National Hockey League and is now one of the league's top coaches. Bylsma headlined the 2011 Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame induction class on Saturday night.

Dan Bylsma concluded the evening by telling the crowd at the 25th annual Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet that his "wide world of sports" started in Muskegon.

That journey started at his family's backyard ice rink, led all the way to playing and later coaching in the Stanley Cup finals and came full circle on Saturday night at the Holiday Inn in downtown Muskegon.

"I look out and see so many of the faces that taught me, coached me and played with and against me and made me who I am today," said Bylsma, the third-year head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins and one of three finalists for the National Hockey League's coach of the year honor.

"I am very humbled to be here tonight."

Bylsma's induction and his presence at the banquet — after initially not being able to attend due to team meetings that were later changed — was a perfect exclamation point to a special evening.

Preceding him into the MASHF on Saturday were student-athlete honorees Lauren Merz of Western Michigan Christian and Jamie Potts of Oakridge, service award winner Jim "Red" Heeres, Lee Gilbert and Josh Keur.

The bright future of the local sports hall was never more apparent than during the eloquent acceptance speeches from Merz and Potts, who both thanked God, family, coaches and teammates for helping them achieve their success.

The milestone 25th anniversary induction class brings the local hall's membership to 99 individuals, eight teams, 21 Distinguished Service Award winners and 32 student-athletes. The MASHF displays are housed on the concourse area of the L.C. Walker Arena in downtown Muskegon.

Jim "Red" Heeres

MU0619HEERES.jpgJim "Red" Heeres

Heeres started his acceptance speech by asking the crowd:

"What am I doing here?"

The answer to that question came in the presence of many of those that taught, coached and played for Heeres during his 48-year career at Whitehall High School.

Heeres coached football, basketball, baseball and softball for many years, but he obviously taught lessons that go well beyond the playing field during those years. A Facebook page thanking him for all he's done now has more than 1,200 fans.

Heeres was quick to point out during his speech that in this age of technology, human interaction and sharing and connecting is more critical than ever.

"God still does it through people," Heeres said. 

"I have tremendous gratitude, which comes from the heart. Out of the heart comes all of the issues of life."

Lee Gilbert

MU0619GILBERT.jpgLee Gilbert

Gilbert was one of the few basketball players in area history to start at the Division I level, then returned home and won more than 500 basketball games.

The standout Muskegon Heights and later University of Oklahoma player used most of his acceptance speech to thank what he called his "success team."

Family members, assistant coaches and teaching colleagues were all recognized by Gilbert, who won more than 500 high school basketball games at Heights and Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills.

"You don't get anywhere by yourself," Gilbert said. "There is a team of support behind all of us up here."

Gilbert guided Heights to back-to-back Class B state championships in 1978 and 1979, along with a runner-up finish in 1993. After Ottawa Hills, he also coached two years at Muskegon Community College before retiring.

 Josh Keur

MU0619KEUR.jpgJosh Keur

Echoing a theme of all of Saturday night's inductees, Keur said he owes much of his success to the tremendous support he received from the Muskegon area throughout his career — which he said continues today.

Keur, a three-sport star at Orchard View, went on to become a rare four-year starter at the Division I level as a tight end at Michigan State.

The 6-foot-5 redhead started off as primarily a blocking tight end under George Perles and developed into a major receiving option by his senior year under Nick Saban. He caught 34 passes for 355 yards as a senior and was named the Spartans' most valuable offensive player.

His professional career was cut short after he ruptured his Achilles' tendon three days before the Aloha Bowl in his senior year, but he has started a second sports career locally as North Muskegon's volleyball coach.

He left this year's student-athletes and everyone in the crowd with a couple of tidbits before stepping down.

"You can't cheat and be well-liked," Keur said, crediting that line to former Orchard View coach John Shillito. "And the secret is to fall in love with the game and to fall in love with the journey."

Dan Bylsma

MU0619BYLSMA.jpgDan Bylsma

Bylsma, like many young boys, dreamed of playing professional baseball, hockey or golf.

Unlike 99.9 percent of those boys, Bylsma had the talent, work ethic and grit to make that dream a reality.

The golf and baseball standout at Western Michigan Christian decided to focus on hockey later in his high school years, playing junior hockey in Ontario, college hockey at Bowling Green and lower-level professional hockey seemingly all over North America.

Bylsma stuck with it and wound up playing 429 games with the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

"Some of you might have played on our backyard ice rink," said Bylsma, who led Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup championship in 2009 in his first year as the Penguins' coach.

"That's where all of this began. That was my dreamland. Now it's a reality."

Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame continues to grow and evolve after 25 years

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tom Fallon addresses the crowd at the first Muskegon Area Sports
Hall of Fame induction banquet in 1987

This year’s Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame induction class brings a smile to the face of Gene Young.

Three outstanding athletes who are now award-winning coaches — Dan Bylsma, Lee Gilbert and Josh Keur — headline the local sports hall’s 25th induction banquet on June 18 at the Holiday Inn-Muskegon Harbor.

“The question was asked early on what we would do when we run out of quality inductees,” said Young, the MASHF’s president since 1994, with a smile.

“People underestimated the number of great athletes we have here in Muskegon in so many different sports. Our list isn’t running out, it’s still growing.”

The non-profit MASHF, which was started by former Muskegon Chronicle sports writer Dick Hedges in 1986 and has a 14-member volunteer board of directors, is indeed still growing and evolving 25 years later.

While the annual induction banquet is the group’s marquee event every year, Young emphasized that the MASHF has grown into a vibrant, year-round organization.

The MASHF plaques, memorabilia and exhibits have been displayed on the concourse area of the L.C. Walker Arena in downtown Muskegon since 1998. Those interested can experience Muskegon’s sports past at any time on the hall of fame’s web site at mashf.com.

The organization has hosted a Holiday Classic boys basketball tournament between Christmas and New Years since 2002 and, last year, added a girls basketball tournament.

Members of the board of directors regularly speak at local schools and civic organizations and have started a program at local middle schools to teach kids about Muskegon’s rich athletic history.

“This has really become a neat deal that is about more than just sports, it’s very pro-Muskegon,” Young said.

Hedges and Fallon

The MASHF began in a small room at the Muskegon County Museum with an all-star first induction class in 1987.

Four of the charter members of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of
Fame posed for this picture at the 1987 induction banquet. From left,
Earl Morrall, Leo Redmond, Okie Johnson and Sonny Grandelius.

The seven charter members of the hall are all giants in Muskegon sports lore — Gus Cohrs, Sonny Grandelius, Okie Johnson, Earl Morrall, Bennie Oosterbaan, Leo Redmond and Sally Sessions.

“I remember how moving that first banquet was, looking up there and seeing all those legends together for what proved to be the last time,” said longtime board member Jim Moyes, who has emceed the induction banquet each year since 1997, with the exception of 2007 when former Muskegon Fury broadcaster Terry Ficorelli was at the podium.

That first night was a dream come true for Hedges, who shifted seamlessly from his duties as a Chronicle sports writer to the president of the MASHF.

One of the best moves Hedges ever made was getting former Chronicle city editor and later Bay City Times editor-in-chief Tom Fallon to host the induction banquet. Fallon handled that duty with a classic, poetic approach performed from 1987 to 1996.

It was during those early years that the hall set its high standards for induction, which normally means more than just high school stardom, with almost all of the current 99 individual members going on to college or professional success. The hall also showed diversity from the start, honoring both male and female athletes in a variety of sports.

Among the big-name inductees from those early years were boxer Kenny Lane (1988), star basketball brothers MC Burton (1988) and Ed Burton (1989), hockey great Bryan McLay (1989), golf star Cliff Taylor (1992) and baseball-playing sisters Donna and Doris Cook (1993).

In 1991, the hall began honoringan annual Distinguished Service Award winner, who is a person who made a major contribution to sports in the area, but not as an athlete. Legendary Muskegon Chronicle sportswriter Mart Tardani was the first service award winner.

Fallon, known for his elegance at the podium, was also clearly in charge of the induction ceremonies.

That was never more apparent than at the 1991 banquet at the L.C. Walker Arena annex, the only one of the first 24 banquets which was not held at the downtown Muskegon Holiday Inn due to major renovation work.

When former Muskegon Heights and University of Michigan great John Regeczi went well over the allotted five-minute time for an acceptance speech and started rambling about the evolution of the prolate spheroid shape of the football, Fallon stepped in as Regeczi reached down to retrieve more notes off the floor and thanked him for his words.

Young and Moyes

The death of Hedges in 1994 was a crossroads for the MASHF, but Young was prepared for the challenge.

Young, the former community education director for Fruitport Schools and a local sports radio commentator, took charge immediately and the hall soon inducted its first team in 1995 (the 1927 Muskegon High School football team) and bridged a gap with the next generation with the first pair of Student-Athlete honorees in 1996 (Jamie Ahlgren of Mona Shores and Mike Burde of Newaygo).

Two years after the death of Hedges, Fallon stepped down as the emcee, which opened the door for the irrespressible Moyes.

”I never thought that we’d be able to replace Tom Fallon because he did such a good job and then we get Jim and he’s just as good,” MASHF board member Mike Mack said.

Moyes is opposite of Fallon in many ways in his approach, using humor, personal anecdotes and almost roasting the inductees while also honoring their accomplishments.

Among the many memorable inductees from the “Moyes Era” were ex-NFL football player Curtis Adams (1997), larger-than-life football coach Roger Chiaverini (1998), sailing legend John Nedeau (2004) and, just last year, two-time Olympic luge medalist Mark Grimmette.

While Moyes covered many of the inductees during his many years as the voice of Muskegon-area sports on the radio, he is often at his best when introducing inductees from outside of his comfort zone.

Moyes had the packed ballroom crowd in stitches in 2001, when he introduced drag racing star Dave Boertman and told the story about pulling up next to him at a red light late one night in downtown Muskegon.

During that same banquet in 2001 came Moyes’ classic induction speech for Sherm Poppen, the inventor of the Snurfer and considered the father of snowboarding. Moyes noted that the first snowboarding championship was held on Blockhouse Hill in North Muskegon, before telling the crowd:

”The winner of that first snowboard race was not some guy named Franz from Austria,” Moyes said, before pausing for effect. “The winner of that race was none other than the old bartender from the Bear Lake Tavern, Ted Slater!”

With that, Moyes had Slater, an area realtor, stand up in the back of the room as the crowd exploded with applause and laughter.

Still evolving

The busiest year in the MASHF’s 25-year history was 1998.

MU0611HALL3.jpgThe members of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame's
14-member volunteer board of directors. Back row, from left,
Jim Moyes, Steve Hoffman, Dan Beckeman, Gene Young,
Tom Stribley, Jon Sepeshy, Bob Page. Front row, from left,
Tom Kendra, Mike Mack, Terri Clock, Matt Duplissis, Al Nichols,
John Arter, Ron Pesch.

The hall had outgrown its cramped quarters at the Muskegon County Museum, so it moved its displays one block away to the concourse area of the downtown Walker Arena, the hub of the Muskegon-area sports scene.

Also that year, the local hall hosted the annual convention of the International Association of Sports Museums and Halls of Fame.

While Young holds the visible position of president and has emerged as the MASHF’s front man and spokesman, he is always quick to defer credit for the hall’s accomplishments - always mentioning the support of The Muskegon Chronicle and longtime publisher Gary Ostrom and the many talents of the hall’s board of directors.

Just last month, members of the hall of fame board met with Walker Arena manager and Muskegon Lumberjacks team owner Josh Mervis about keeping the hall’s exhibits at the Walker Arena while incorporating the hall with the arena’s new look.

Among the dreams of the MASHF board is to raise money to replace the wall of plaques with a video kiosk for the arena concourse, which will constantly scroll with names, photos and information on all of the hall’s members - which now numbers 99 individuals, eight teams, 21 service award winner and 32 student-athletes.

Board members say they are constantly re-energized by each year’s inductees.

”I remember walking in the Summer Celebration parade last year with Lynn Hahn (2010 inductee) and he had the biggest smile and a handshake for everyone as a new hall of fame member,” board member Matt Duplissis recalled. “It was priceless.”

Through the years, the inductees have proved to be interesting, informative, inspirational and certainly unpredictable.

In 2001, former Muskegon Mohawk hockey great Joe Kastelic told Gene Young on a weekly basis leading up to the ceremony how he hated speaking in front of crowds and wondered if he would be able to do it.

”Joe Kastelic’s speech might have been the best one ever - filled with humor and touching,” recalled board member Ron Pesch, the official historian of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. “He had the crowd in the palm of his hand.”


And when he signed off with three simple words, he was speaking for the many inductees before him and many still to come:

”Thank you, Muskegon,” said Kastelic, with tears streaming down his face.

Western Michigan Christian's Lauren Merz does it all, wins area Female Student-Athlete of the Year honor

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lauren Merz was the 5-9 middle hitter and captain for the Western Michigan Christian volleyball team.

The biggest question with Lauren Merz is how she found the time to do it all.

“Sports parents” know how crazy three sports can be, as Merz played soccer, volleyball and basketball at Western Michigan Christian. But she was just as involved in choir and band.

Throw in her duties as senior class president, co-chair of the Muskegon Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council and Student Council treasurer — and many other volunteer positions — and you wonder how Merz could possibly have graduated as WMC’s valedictorian with a 4.18 GPA.

“I’m pretty good at managing my time,” said Merz, the oldest of four children of Dr. Glen and Sherry Merz of Spring Lake.

“I guess it’s just a personal drive. I always want to do well. I’m a perfectionist.”

Merz was selected out of more than 30 candidates as the Muskegon area’s Female Student-Athlete of the Year, an award presented by The Muskegon Chronicle and the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame.

Merz will receive her award at the MASHF’s 25th annual induction banquet June 18 at the Holiday Inn-Muskegon Harbor.

Hard work and humility

Those that know her well say Merz’s secret is her combination of hard work and humility.

Lauren Merz played some in the field for the Western Michigan Christian soccer team, but is best known as the team's standout goalkeeper.

“She is an amazing athlete with a heart to work to improve at every opportunity,” WMC girls soccer coach Dan McAllister said. “Her humble heart and compassion toward her teammates has won her teammates over.”

McAllister said it’s that work ethic which has made Merz a college-level soccer goalkeeper.

Merz will attend Calvin College on a trustees scholarship in the fall, with a plan to major in pre-med and English with a minor in Spanish, and she also hopes to play goalkeeper on the Knights’ soccer team.

“Soccer has always been my No. 1 sport, ever since I was a little girl,” said Merz, who started playing goalie when she was in middle school at Grand Haven Christian.

She was an all-state honorable mention choice in soccer and was twice all-conference in the River Valley and a three-time all-district pick.

Merz also was a team captain for the WMC volleyball team, a 5-foot-9 middle hitter who led the team in both kills and digs. She was a two-time honorable mention all-state selection in volleyball.

“She was one of our captains and she did that role very well — on the court and off,” WMC volleyball coach Bret Noordhoff said. “The girls listened to what she said. I’ve really enjoyed coaching her for the past three years.”

Runs in the family

Merz is far from your typical jock.

She has developed a strong love and appreciation of music from her mother, Sherry, a piano teacher and choir accompanist.

Merz has been the first chair on the clarinet in the WMC band for all four years of high school and is also active in choir. She recently returned from Virginia Beach, Va., on a choir trip.

She said that her father, Glen, a family doctor at Mercy General Health Partners in Muskegon, has been another positive, supportive influence in her life.

“My dad always encourages me, never pressures me, but just supports me,” Merz said.

Merz has tried to pass on that supportive love to her three younger siblings — Julie, a sophomore who played on the same volleyball and soccer teams as Lauren this school year; Michael, a seventh-grader who loves basketball; and Jeffrey, a fifth-grader who Lauren calls “a real sports fanatic.”

In addition to school, sports, staying active at Ferrysburg Community Church, band, choir and community involvement, she makes a point of trying to be a good big sister.

“I try to set the example for them the best that I can,” Merz said. “I hope they enjoy high school as much as I have and I know that they will do well, too.”



Name:Beka German



Sports: Volleyball (4 years), Basketball (4 years), Soccer (4 years)

Honors-Awards: No More Sidelines, Student-Athlete Leadership Team, Cancer Walk, Spanish Club, second team all-area on 2010 Class B state championship volleyball team, four-year soccer starter, first team all-area basketball player as senior



Name:Ashley Cook



Sports: Volleyball (4 years), Basketball (4 years), Soccer (4 years)

Honors-Awards: National Honor Society, Freshman Focus Club, Students Against Drunk Driving, Captains Club, Hart Rotary student of month, Homecoming Queen candidate, three years of varsity basketball and volleyball, first team all-area and third team all-state in soccer 



:Katie LaRue



Sports:Cross country (3 years), Basketball (4 years), Track (4 years)

Honors-Awards:DECA nationals, National Honor Society, GVSU art school, Montague city council representative, four-year state track qualifier and two-time all-stater, basketball district champion



Rachel Hoffman



Sports:Volleyball (4 years), Basketball (4 years), Track (4 years)

Honors-Awards:SAFE, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Community Pride Day, Church youth group, Showcase, seven-time all-state in track and three-time state champion, two year all-conference in volleyball, basketball all-conference, team captain in all three sports, will play volleyball at Muskegon Community College

One of a kind: Muskegon Oakridge's Jamie Potts chosen Muskegon area Male Student-Athlete of the Year

 Saturday, May 28, 2011, 6:00 AM
KWS MH vs Oakridge fball 13 JAMIE POTTS.jpg
Jamie Potts set 12 school records in football at Oakridge. He also was a star basketball and baseball player, earning the Muskegon area Male Student-Athlete of the Year award.
It should be duly noted that Jamie Potts is a proud, born-and-raised Oakridge boy. He’s best known in the community as a stellar student, three-sport star athlete and model citizen.

And even though Potts rolls in near-celebrity status — possibly being selected in the upcoming Major League amateur baseball draft — he prefers deflecting the limelight to his fellow Oakridge boys.

“This is my home and I grew up playing with these guys,” Potts said with passion in his voice. “To play for Oakridge has been awesome and I couldn’t ask for a better school.

“I’ve learned a lot of things, but being close to teammates is the most important thing in sports. You achieve more when you care about the guys you play with and when you play together.”

Perhaps, no other Oakridge athlete has accomplished as much as Potts in three sports. But his talent and unselfish approach to all aspects of life separates him from most others.

For his all-around accomplishments in and out of sports, Potts was chosen the area’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year by The Chronicle and the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame.

He is the 16th recipient and the second from Oakridge High School.

In football, Potts (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) excelled as the star quarterback, punter and all-state defensive back and kicker.

In basketball, he inspired teammates as the possessed forward who could score, rebound and defend as well as anybody in West Michigan.

In baseball, he throws 87 mph fastballs, hits the ball all over the park and plays any position on the field.

“He’s one of those kids, as a three-sport athlete, I don’t know if Oakridge will have another one like him,” Oakridge boys basketball coach Tracy Ruel said.

In football, Potts set 12 school records as a quarterback and kicker and led the Eagles to the 2008 Division 5 state championship. He often was hounded by kids for autographs and high-fives at Russell Erickson Stadium.

“In my 42 years, he’s one of the top outstanding individuals I’ve had the chance to coach,” said recently-retired Oakridge football coach Jack Schugars. “Not only as a football player, but with his character and going out of his way to help others. He’s an outstanding young man who’s made a pretty big mark in the community.”

Schugars will never forget the time Potts suffered a slightly separated shoulder against Orchard View, yet he returned to the game to throw the winning touchdown pass in overtime.

KSM Oakridge v Blissfield bball 6.jpgJamie Potts is a four-year starter in baseball and may get selected in next month's baseball amateur draft.

Potts, the youngest son of Tom and Kathy Potts, will attend Grand Valley State University and plans to play football and baseball for the Lakers.

Ironically, both of Potts’ older brothers played on state championship football teams at Oakridge — Aaron (1997) and Andy (2005).

Ask Potts what saying or phrase he would tuck away in his wallet for the rest of his life and there is no hesitation:

“Yes, it’s a verse from the Bible, ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me,’” Potts said, quoting Philippians 4:13.

In basketball, Potts averaged 17.1 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.6 steals, 2.3 assists and showed his toughness by taking 14 charges during his All-Area senior season.

He had no trouble earning respect on the court.

“Once he got his (Grand Valley) verbal commitment out of the way, he went on a 10-game span where he had over 20 points and 12-13 rebounds per game,” said Ruel, whose team finished 10-10. “Once he got his basketball legs — if he wasn’t the best player in the area from the Christmas break on, he was one of the best. He’d meet any challenge out there.”

Potts could have skipped basketball as a senior. He could have taken the winter off to work on his baseball skills and lift weights for college football.

He could have, but he didn’t.

“I had a lot of pressure not to play — they said there was no point in playing because you weren’t going to play college basketball,” Potts said. “But I did it my whole life. Playing with those guys again, that’s why I did it. It was fun just competing against the guys in basketball again.”

You can find Potts cruising the east side of town in his 1999 Toyota Camry. He’s just as proud of that old car as his football helmet.

“I backed into a tree in the driveway and I smashed the back light,” Potts said. “I cracked the back bumper a few times. It was my brother’s car. It has a spoiler on the back and it has a sun roof. I’m happy with it.”

In baseball, Potts set several school records during his four years as a varsity starter. He’s currently hitting a whopping .580 with his power, speed and dangerous left-handed swing.

On the mound, Potts, 18, also has struck out 85 batters in 40 innings and is focused on leading the Eagles back to the Final Four in Battle Creek.

“He’s just a quality person,” Oakridge baseball coach Brandon Barry said about Potts, who has been featured more in center field this season. “And he’s a rarity these days that he can excel in 2-3 sports and not specialize. He’s made all of our teams competitive. His talents and his teammates’ talent have brought a lot of nice accolades to Oakridge High School.”

In addition, Potts’ bat speed and skills have caught the attention of scouts and there’s a good chance he may be drafted next month.

“I’ve been talking to the Texas Rangers and a Kansas City Royals scout,” said Potts, who plans to study sports management or broadcasting in college. “I would still go the college route, unless there was a lot of money offered that I couldn’t pass up.”

Potts realizes his prep career is coming to a close.

He plans to make the most of this final stretch of wearing the Oakridge uniform.

No matter what the future brings, Potts will cling to his Oakridge memories.

And he’ll always be a proud, born-and-raised Oakridge boy.



Name: Collin Breit

School: Western Michigan Christian

GPA: 4.13

Sports: Soccer (4 years), Golf (4 years), Basketball (3 years)

Honors-Awards: MHSAA Scholar Athlete Award, Hope College Presidential Award, Salutatorian, volunteer for International Aid, Child Abuse Council, school and church service projects, Student Council, Junior class president, senior class vice president, concert and jazz band (trombone), church youth band (piano); Soccer captain, “Warrior Award,” all-conference, All-Area, all-state first team; Golf all-conference, All-Area, all-state; Earned seven MHSAA state medals in three sports


MU0528ROOT2.jpgName: Anthony Root

School: Montague

GPA: 3.4

Sports: Football (4 years), Basketball (4 years), Baseball (2 years), Track (2 years)

Honors-Awards: Church youth group, Reading Buddies; Football all-conference, All-Area, all-state, played on two state championship teams and set state finals record for longest play from scrimmage (98-yard TD catch), signed to play football at Michigan Tech University; Basketball all-conference, All-Area honorable mention


Jerry Westerman

School: Grand Haven

GPA: 3.51

Sports: Football (4 years), Wrestling (4 years), Golf (1 year)

Honors-Awards: Volunteer at Robinson Baptist Church and Robinson Elementary Mentoring Program; All-OK Red first team, all-district, all-region, All-Area, all-state, academic all-state


Bryant Westra

School: Muskegon Catholic

GPA: 3.74

Sports: Football, Basketball, Baseball

Honors-Awards: Volunteer for McLaughlin Neighborhood Community Summer Camp and Bethany Christian Reformed Church children’s programs; Baseball captain, MVP, all-conference, All-Area; Basketball captain; Football captain


Whitehall's Jim 'Red' Heeres to be honored for years of service to students, athletes

Tom Kendra | The Muskegon Chronicle
Friday, February 04, 2011
M0204HEERES.jpgChronicle file photo

Jim “Red” Heeres may be 75 years old, but he cannot wait to go back to school.

Heeres retired last summer after 48 years as a teacher and coach at Whitehall High School, even though he didn’t want to.

“I absolutely love teaching and coaching — I never worked a day in my life,” said Heeres, who taught a variety of subjects and coached four sports. “The only reason I retired is so that one of the young teachers with a family could keep his job.”

But now Heeres, who is still recovering after falling in the weightroom and breaking his hip last fall, will be returning to Whitehall in March to teach four sections of the class for which he is best known, “Self-Discovery” — a class for seniors to look inside themselves and to evaluate who they are and what type of person they want to become in the future.

“I can’t wait,” Heeres said.

That passion for working with kids, both in teaching and coaching, is the main reason why Heeres will receive the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame’s 2011 Distinguished Service Award, given annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to sports in the area, but not as an athlete.

Heeres will be inducted along with Dan Bylsma, Lee Gilbert, Josh Keur and a male and female student-athlete winner at the MASHF’s 25th annual induction ceremony June 18 at the Holiday Inn-Muskegon Harbor.

“Every student I’ve ever had and every player I’ve ever coached will vicariously be part of that honor,” Heeres said.


Heeres has never been married and has no children of his own, but he became a father figure of sorts to thousands of Whitehall students through the years.

His sports background started back in his prep days at Western Michigan Christian High School, where he was part of the school’s first-ever graduating class in 1953 and played basketball for legendary Elmer Walcott.

Shortly after graduating, Walcott asked Heeres to be his junior varsity basketball coach that winter.

“That was pretty amazing,” Heeres recalled. “I was 18 years old and a junior varsity basketball coach. Elmer Walcott really believed in me and his confidence in me had a profound effect.”

Heeres was drafted into the Korean War out of high school and ended up serving time in Europe. He returned home and played basketball at Muskegon Community College, before finishing his college degree at Central Michigan University in 1962.

That summer he got a teaching job at Whitehall and that’s where he’s been ever since.

Heeres served as the Vikings’ athletic director for one year and coached football for 22 years, basketball for 10 years, baseball for 13 years and softball for 17 years.

Heeres started the softball program at Whitehall and the school’s softball field was renamed in his honor in 2005. (“I’m humbled almost to the point of embarrassment,” Heeres said at the time.)

His overall record as the Vikings’ softball coach was 235-174, with five West Michigan Conference titles, three Muskegon County championships and two district crowns. He was named The Chronicle’s All-Area softball coach of the year in 1992 and 1998.

But none of those numbers or awards mean a whole lot to him.

“The most satisfying part of coaching is to see kids have a victory over themselves,” Heeres said. “What I mean by that is that all of us have doubts about ourselves. Sports teaches us that we can go through pain, work hard, persevere and overcome so many things.”

Any doubts about his impact on the student and athletes of Whitehall can be erased by visiting the “Fans of Jim ‘Red’ Heeres” page on Facebook. It currently has 1,178 members and a wall full of tributes to an iconic figure in the community.

In the summertime, Heeres worked as the waterfront director at Camp Pendalouan for eight years, then served for 30 years as the director of the swimming school at White Lake Yacht Club.

Heeres remains busy in the summers, working as a seasonal employee at Hickory Knoll Golf Course in Whitehall, where he mows greens and washes golf carts.

But Heeres, a man of faith who led the Whitehall chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for more than 30 years, can’t wait to get back in the classroom at Whitehall in March and help more teenage kids try to make sense of it all.

“I can’t wait to get back inside the school and to look kids in the face and hear what they are feeling and what they are thinking,” Heeres said. “To me, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Freshman leads Muskegon over Reeths-Puffer; Mona Shores holds off Fruitport

David Tomczak | Muskegon Chronicle
December 30, 2010

Only a freshman, Muskegon point guard Janiece Levelston stands only 5-3.

But for most of Thursday night’s game against Reeths-Puffer, Levelston stood above everyone at the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Holiday Classic girls basketball tournament at Mona Shores.

Facing an unexpected tough pressure defense from the Rockets, Levelston controlled the game’s tempo and helped lead the Big Reds to a 37-34 victory.

“She’s a natural talent and she loves basketball,” Muskegon coach Tashuana “Peaches” Churchwell said. “Some of the things she’s able to do (on the court), she shouldn’t be able to do.”

It was a nice bounce-back win for the Big Reds, who fell in the opening game of the tournament to the host Sailors, 48-37.

Levelston led a Big Red offense that took some time to get going, falling behind a scrappy Puffer squad 9-6 after one quarter. The Rockets turned the tables on Muskegon, applying a 3-2 halfcourt trap defense that surprised the Big Reds.

“Actually, we weren’t expecting Reeths-Puffer to press,” Churchwell said. “But we are always ready for anything.”

Muskegon seemed to find its stride with a three-guard offense of Levelston, Wraenique Coleman and Khelsea Bahr, outscoring the Rockets 14-10 in the second quarter.

At one point, Muskegon took a seven-point lead before Puffer cut it to 20-19 at the half. But Muskegon never trailed again.

“When they took that seven-point lead late in the quarter we could have folded,” Reeths-Puffer coach Brandon Barry said. “But we made some big shots to get back into it.”

While Reeths-Puffer was able to hang around in the second half, it was unable to take advantage of 11 Muskegon fouls, making just 2-of-9 free throws in the half.
For the game, the Rockets finished 6-of-20 from the charity stripe.

“We hurt ourselves quite a bit,” Barry said. “But the tournament gave us a good look at what we have to work on.”

Holding a 33-30 lead for most of the final 3 minutes of the game, Levelston and Kiara Donaldson hit back-to-back jumpers to extend the Big Red lead.

“(Reeths-Puffer’s) press made us turn the ball over,” Levelston said. “(But) it made us work harder, play with more pride and pushed us forward.”

Muskegon also struggled at the line (1-of-7) but finished with a 16-13 field goal advantage, including a 4-2 edge from 3-point range.

Levelston led Muskegon with 10 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. Jasmine Clay, recovering from a concussion, came off the bench to score five points and grab six rebounds and Kiara Johnson had five rebounds, all in the fourth quarter.

The Big Reds improved to 2-5 while Reeths-Puffer fell to 1-5.

“It was good to come out (tonight) and have some success,” Churchwell said. “We’re just trying to get that winning vibe going.”

Mona Shores 40, Fruitport 32

Marylou Kiley found her stroke in the second half, scoring 12 of the 19 points for Mona Shores after halftime in a 40-32 win over Fruitport.

That was enough to hold off a Fruitport team that trailed 7-0 early in the game and bounced back to keep the game close throughout.

“It was just one of those battle games,” Mona Shores coach Brad Kurth said. “They played good defense and forced us to find good shots.”

Leading 22-17 at the half, Shores held the Trojans to six third-quarter points, all by Beka German. Once the Sailors shut her down in the fourth quarter, they increased their lead to 10 points.

Shores won both its games in the tournament and improved to 4-1 on the season, with its only loss coming at Grand Haven.

“We’re still working through the kinks with some of the younger players,” Kurth said. “But the kids are playing unselfish and buying into what we do.”

Meredith Smith led Shores with five steals and four assists, Kristina Kitchen had six rebounds and Sydney Tharp added five points.

German led Fruitport with 11 points and Rachael Folkmier grabbed 11 rebounds.

Muskegon turns tables on Muskegon Heights

Tom Kendra | The Muskegon Chronicle
December 30, 2010

Talk about role reversal.

Muskegon Heights is normally the more poised team, the team that smothers the opposition with full-court pressure, the team with the flock of long-armed jumping jacks who seem to block every shot and grab every rebound until the other team implodes out of frustration.

This year, Muskegon was that team.

Muskegon dominated Muskegon Heights in every facet, jumping out to a 15-6 lead and never taking its foot off the gas pedal in a stunningly easy 64-41 victory in front of 3,200 fans at the final game of the ninth annual Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Holiday Classic boys basketball tournament at Reeths-Puffer.

“It feels good, that’s for sure,” said Muskegon coach Bernard Loudermill, whose team snapped a two-game losing streak to the Tigers in the annual holiday tournament.

“We attacked the glass the whole game. I was pleased because we stayed in attack mode, even when we had a big lead. They made a couple of runs, but our kids did a good job of settling back down.”

Heights (4-1) could not match the length and jumping ability of the Big Reds inside.

The most impressive jumping jack for Muskegon was 6-3 junior Travell Oakes, who finished with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

But he was far from alone.

Other Big Reds who were active inside on both ends of the court were Kenneth McDaniel (four points and eight rebounds), Najee Brown-Duren (10 points and eight rebounds) and Todd Mitchell (10 points and six rebounds).

The best all-around game for Muskegon came from 6-1 junior guard Trellis Loudermill, the coach’s son, who scored a game-high 14 points with seven rebounds, six steals and six assists.

Heights coach Keith Guy was impressed by Muskegon’s aggressive play.

“My hat goes off to the Big Reds — it was Muskegon’s night,” said Guy, who guided Heights to the Class B semifinals last winter. “We have to grow some kids up in a hurry. I had some young kids playing in this environment and hopefully they learned some things.”

Muskegon (5-1) extended its lead to 29-17 at halftime and 43-28 after three quarters, but could never relax, not with the constant threat of a Heights run to ignite the largely orange-and-black clad crowd.

On this night, the Big Reds stayed aggressive and had an answer for a couple of mini-runs that Heights was able to muster.

Muskegon did it all despite playing most of the second half without senior guard and leading scorer Courtney Hill, who scored nine points but sat out most of the second half after picking up his fourth foul with 1 minute left before halftime.

Marquis Childers scored 11 points and Deontae Hudson added 10 points with six rebounds for a Heights team which often had a difficult time getting the ball up the court against Muskegon’s pressure and then struggled against Muskegon’s 2-3 matchup zone defense.

Rowmell Crawford, a 6-5 senior who transferred from Muskegon to Heights, had six points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots.

The exclamation point on the victory came with 2:13 remaining, when McDaniel grabbed yet another offensive rebound for his team and dunked it home.

“That felt great, to make a play like that and beat Heights in my senior year,” said McDaniel, a 6-5 senior with an incredibly long wingspan.

“It wasn’t so much getting the dunk, but just getting the victory. Heights has had our number for awhile.”

Not this year.

This time, Muskegon beat Muskegon Heights at its own game.

• Big play: Muskegon’s Najee Brown-Duren scored the first basket of the game off an offensive rebound, establishing the Big Reds’ inside dominance in a 64-41 victory over Muskegon Heights.
• Key stat: The Big Reds had five players score nine or more points, compared to just two for the Tigers.
• Game ball: Muskegon 6-3 junior Travell Oakes came off the bench to grab a game-high 12 rebounds with 11 points.
• Notable: Heights now holds a 6-2 record against Muskegon in the annual Hall of Fame Classic.
• Quotable: “That felt great, to make a play like that and beat Heights in my senior year” — Muskegon’s Kenneth McDaniel, talking about his fourth-quarter dunk.


Muskegon Heights battles past Reeths-Puffer in boys basketball, stays perfect heading into showdown against Muskegon

Tom Kendra | The Muskegon Chronicle
December 28, 2010

Muskegon Heights has the mystique.

Muskegon has the incentive.

That’s the top storyline heading into tonight’s 7:30 p.m. showdown between the two neighboring rivals in the final game of the ninth annual Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Holiday Classic boys basketball tournament at Reeths-Puffer.

Heights, which has dominated the Hall of Fame Classic since its inception in 2002 with a 15-1 record, overpowered host Reeths-Puffer, 75-48, in Tuesday’s second game.

The only team as impressive as the Tigers were the Big Reds, who hardly broke a sweat in a 66-42 win over Shelby in Tuesday’s opener.

The most interesting thing that happened on Tuesday’s humdrum opening night — which had the feel of a preview, a calm before the storm or even a junior varsity game leading up to the varsity — was the opposite reactions of the two winning coaches.

Muskegon coach Bernard Loudermill lauded his team’s focus.

“I was proud of the fact that we did not look ahead and that we were focused on taking care of business,” said Loudermill, whose team improved to 4-1 on the season.

Muskegon Heights coach Keith Guy, meanwhile, lambasted his team’s mentality.

“I didn’t think we had a business-like approach at all,” said Guy, whose team is now 4-0. “I’m not happy with the effort and we’re going to have to be a lot better (tonight). I wasn’t happy at all with our effort.”

The different reactions shows the different states of the two programs. Muskegon is the ultimate football school trying to establish a tradition of excellence in basketball. Heights is the quintessential basketball school which is constantly measuring itself against its own lofty standards.

The different reactions might also have something to do with the teams they were playing.

Shelby, which battled Muskegon into the fourth quarter in last year’s Holiday Classic, did not put up the same sort of fight this year. The Tigers finished the game with just nine team fouls.

Reeths-Puffer, meanwhile, did not go down without a fight.

The Rockets didn’t have a single player score in double figures, but they never stopped battling the entire night, pushing, shoving and fouling (finishing with 31 team fouls) for the entire four quarters.

Ryan Oosting was the most active of the Rockets, finishing with eight points and five steals. Scott Schultz also scored eight points and Darius Green and Jordan Anderson scored six points each.

Heights prevailed with a balanced scoring attack, led by Deontae Hudson with 17 points.

Darryl Terrell scored 12 points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting, DeShaun Thrower and Juwan Martin each scored nine points and Rowmell Crawford, a transfer from Muskegon, had eight points and nine rebounds.

It will be interesting to see if playing in Tuesday’s late game against a bruising Puffer team will take its toll on Heights heading into tonight’s showdown.

Or, as Guy hopes, Heights might have gotten its lackluster performance out of its system, shook off the rust of a 13-day stretch without a game and will come ready to play, as he called it, “Muskegon Heights basketball.”

Tonight promises to be something entirely different and something special — not only because the massive Reeths-Puffer Fieldhouse will likely be jam-packed with close to 4,000 fans, but also because both teams truly believe that they are going to win.

Consider this from Muskegon senior center Najee Brown-Duren:

“I think we’re ready for them this year. We’re looking forward to it.”

So are we.

Mona Shores beats Muskegon, Puffer downs Fruitport in girls basketball action at Hall of Fame Classic

Shawn Liverance  | The Muskegon Chronicle,
December 28, 2010

The Mona Shores girls basketball team relied on a sister act to earn a 48-37 win over Muskegon on Tuesday in the first girls basketball version of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Holiday Classic at Mona Shores.

Junior Brigid Kiley and senior MaryLou Kiley combined to score 28 points to lead the Sailors to the victory.

The Sailors rebounded from a slow start to pull out a win over Muskegon in a hard-fought game.

Shores trailed 16-14 at halftime, but outscored the Big Reds 34-21 in the second half.

“I thought we did a real good job persevering through some adversity tonight,” Mona Shores coach Brad Kurth said. “We knew when we play Muskegon it is always a battle and it was.”

It was a different Kiley that stepped up in each half for the Sailors, who improved to 3-1 on the season.

Brigid Kiley scored seven of her game-high 16 points in the opening half as the Sailors erased a seven-point Muskegon lead.

The Big Reds led 12-7 after one quarter and when Kiara Johnson made a basket early in the second quarter to increase the lead to 14-7, the Sailors got untracked.

Brigid Kiley led a 7-2 run to close the half by scoring four points as Muskegon took a 16-14 lead into intermission.

“We knew they would come out and play us tough,” Brigid Kiley said. “I thought we settled down quite a bit in the second half and played our type of game.”

It was her older sister, MaryLou, that keyed the Sailors’ third-quarter rally.

MaryLou Kiley scored the first four points of the third quarter and when Brigid Kiley completed a three-point play with 5 minutes left in the third quarter, it gave Shores its first lead since the opening minute of the game.

“It was good to see my sister make some key baskets for us in the second half,” Brigid Kiley said. “She is a good shooter and made some big baskets for us.”

The Sailors closed the third quarter on a 7-2 run to take a 30-26 lead into the final quarter, where they built their biggest lead of the game at 40-29 halfway through the fourth period.

Shores pulled away in the final quarter behind Sydney Tharp’s six points and five from MaryLou Kiley. 

Mona Shores did a good job shutting down Muskegon guard Kiara Donaldson. The senior guard was held to six points.

“Our No. 1 goal was to shut her down and for the most part I thought we did a real good job on her,” Kurth said. “We tried to trap her whenever we got the chance.”

The Sailors shot 45 percent from the field and limited Muskegon to 34 percent shooting, but were outrebounded by the Big Reds 31-25.

“I don’t like the fact we were outrebounded, but we handled their pressure fairly well I thought,” Kurth said. “Overall, I was happy to get the win even though we did not play that well.”

Freshman Janiece Levelston led the Big Reds with 12 points and Jasmine  Clay added 11.

Reeths-Puffer 30, Fruitport 22

Reeths-Puffer knows its formula for success this season.

Playing good defense and getting baskets in transition is what R-P will rely on and that is what it showed Tuesday against Fruitport.

“We are the kind of team that doesn’t have a lot of height,” Reeths-Puffer coach Brandon Barry said. “We need to play good defense and create turnovers and I thought we did that.”

The Rockets clamped down on the defensive end in the second half against Fruitport, allowing the Trojans only eight second-half points.

After the Rockets took a 5-4 lead into the second quarter, Fruitport rallied with five straight points to end the half and took a 14-11 lead into intermission.

R-P trailed 18-17 entering the final quarter, but Christy Schultz scored seven points and Claire Krohn added six as the Rockets outscored Fruitport 14-4 over the final 8 minutes.

“Our skill sets are not quite there yet, but we played hard and played good defense,” Barry said. “This is the type of game we our going to have to play if we want to win games.”

Schultz led the Rockets with nine points and Krohn added eight points.

Lauren Hazekamp led the Trojans with eight points.

Lee Gilbert, Dan Bylsma, Josh Keur joining Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame

by Tom Kendra
Friday, December 17, 2010

Hard to believe, but the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame will soon be a quarter-century old.

   And the local sports hall, which inducted the likes of Earl Morrall and Bennie Oosterbaan in its inaugural year back in 1987, continues to find quality individuals to join its elite fraternity.

   While the MASHF has reached out to smaller sports throughout its history, next year's 25th anniversary class will feature three legends in the area's three most popular spectator sports - Dan Bylsma (hockey), Lee Gilbert (basketball) and Josh Keur (football).

   The common link is that all three did enough to earn enshrinement as athletes, but they went on to become coaches as well.

   "These three individuals represent what we're all about in Muskegon," Hall of Fame President Gene Young said. "They were all incredible athletes who have given back."

   Bylsma, Gilbert and Keur will be inducted along with the rest of the "Class of 2011" at the hall's annual banquet on June 18, 2011, at the Holiday Inn-Muskegon Harbor.

   They will be joined by a Distinguished Service Award winner, which will be announced in January, and a male and female Student-Athlete Award winner, to be named in May.

   The hall is making an effort to invite back as many former inductees and student-athlete honorees as possible for the 25th anniversary, Young said.

   The MASHF, which started in a small room at what is now the Lakeshore Museum Center, now showcases its exhibits on the concourse at the L.C. Walker Arena in downtown Muskegon. Complete information on the hall of fame and all of its past inductees can be found at the hall's web site at www.mashf.com.

   Here's a thumbnail sketch of next year's three inductees. Complete profiles of each inductee will be printed just prior to the banquet in June.

Dan Bylsma
   Maybe it shouldn't have been a complete surprise that Bylsma took over as coach of a floundering Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team on Feb. 15, 2009, and less than four months later led them to a Stanley Cup championship.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma raises the Stanley Cup after the Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 to win Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup finals in Detroit. Bylsma, of Grand Haven, will join Lee Gilbert and Josh Keur as the 2011 inductees into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame next June. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

   After all, the now 40-year-old Bylsma has always been good right away.

   He was medalist at the Class D state golf finals as a freshman and, in the spring of his freshman year, helped Western Michigan Christian to a baseball state title. He was a state baseball Dream Team selection as a senior.

   Bylsma also played basketball for the Warriors, but ironically, the sport he ended up focusing on - hockey - was not offered at his high school.

   Bylsma played elite travel and junior hockey during his high school days, then went on to a standout four-year career at Bowling Green. He then played 12 years as a defensive forward in the National Hockey League, including 429 games with the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

   Bylsma was never the fastest skater or hardest shooter, but he was a dependable second- or third-line player who was known for his checking and ability to kill penalties. He retired from the NHL with 19 career goals and 43 assists.

   Five years after retiring as a player, the Grand Haven native hoisted the Stanley Cup as coach of the Penguins, the job he continues in today.

Lee Gilbert
LEEGILBERT.jpg   Most remember Gilbert as the longtime coach of the powerhouse Muskegon Heights basketball teams, but he was also one of the best players to ever come out of the Heights basketball factory.

   Gilbert was an all-state player coming out of Heights in 1970, where he went on to play two years at Robert Morris Junior College in Illinois and two years at the University of Oklahoma.

   Gilbert, who is now 58, started both years for the Sooners, leading the team in assists both years and serving as the team's captain his senior year.

   He returned to his alma mater as a special education teacher and took over as basketball coach in the fall of 1977 and immediately led the Tigers to back-to-back Class B state championships in 1978 and 1979.

   Gilbert went on to compile a 422-127 record at Heights, which also included a Class B runner-up finish in 1993. He won an amazing 15 district championships and eight regional titles.

   His final high school coaching job was at Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills, where he was 82-28, giving him a final varsity coaching record of 504-155.

   Gilbert then coached two years at Muskegon Community College before retiring.

Josh Keur
JOSHKEUR.jpg   Keur had a unique combination of great size and coordination, which allowed him to be a rare four-year football starter in the Big Ten.

   He developed his all-around ability as a three-sport star at Orchard View in the early 1990s.

   Keur was not only a dominating, four-year starter on the OV football team, but a two-year varsity starter in basketball and one of the state's best discus throwers. The key for Keur is that he maintained his coordination and athletic ability as he grew bigger.

   The 6-foot-5 Keur eventually topped out at about 280 pounds for MSU, where he caught 34 passes for 355 yards as a senior in 1997 under Coach Nick Saban. He was named the Spartans' offensive player of the year that season.

   His promising NFL career was dealt a devastating blow when he ruptured his Achilles tendon three days before the Aloha Bowl his senior year. Keur was still drafted and signed by the Indianapolis Colts and played there three years, including two years on the practice squad.

   Keur returned to Muskegon and is now the head coach of the North Muskegon girls volleyball team, which he led to the Class C quarterfinals this fall.

Mona Shores hosting girls basketball portion of Hall of Fame Holiday Classic

by Tom Kendra
Friday, December 17, 2010

Boys and girls basketball teams have been sharing the hardcourt in the winter for the past three years.

Now, they will share the spotlight of the annual Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Holiday Classic basketball tournament, which will include a girls varsity tournament for the first time later this month.

“We see this as a great opportunity for girls basketball in the area,” Hall of Fame President Gene Young said. “This will be a showcase for the girls, the same as it has been for the boys.”

While the boys tournament is held at the spacious fieldhouse at Reeths-Puffer, the girls event will be held at the new Sailor Center at Mona Shores.

Young lauded the efforts of Mona Shores athletic director Ryan Portenga, who approached the hall of fame board earlier this year about hosting a girls tournament at Shores’ new gymnasium.

The tournament will follow the same format as the boys event. Both are always held during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, with two days of competition involving four different schools. Freshman and junior varsity games will be played during the day, with the featured varsity games at night.

This year, the boys event will be Dec. 28-29 and feature Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Reeths-Puffer and Shelby.

The inaugural girls event will be on Dec. 28 and Dec. 30 and include Muskegon, Reeths-Puffer, Fruitport and Mona Shores.

The daily admission for the boys tournament is $6, while the daily charge for the girls tournament will be $5.
at Reeths-Puffer
Dec. 28:
Muskegon vs. Shelby, 6 p.m.
Muskegon Heights vs. Reeths-Puffer, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 29:
Reeths-Puffer vs. Shelby, 6 p.m.
Muskegon vs. Muskegon Heights, 7:30 p.m.

at Mona Shores

Dec. 28:
 Muskegon vs. Mona Shores, 6 p.m.
Fruitport vs. Reeths-Puffer, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 30:
Reeths-Puffer vs. Muskegon, 6 p.m.
 Mona Shores vs. Fruitport, 7:30 p.m.


Justin and Kendra Wilson think Holton is a very cool city, thank you
Monday, July 05, 2010
CPM Holton Justin and Kendra Wilson.jpg
Cory Morse/The Muskegon Chronicle
Justin and Kendra Wilson are pictured at their home Wednesday, June 23, 2010. Justin is the athletic director for Holton and Kendra is the girls varsity basketball coach. They are also both graduates of Holton.
TWIN LAKE — Forgive Justin and Kendra Wilson for not settling in a big “cool city.’’

While college grads and 20-somethings flock to the stimulating urban centers around the country, the Wilsons stay close to Holton.

They attended school at Holton.

They played sports at Holton.

And they now work and coach at Holton.

“We’re proud of where we’re from,’’ said the former Kendra Scanlon, who was the area’s 2003 Female Student-Athlete of the Year. “We want kids to be proud, too. That’s a big thing with my basketball program — having pride.’’

The Wilsons still wear their Holton pride on their sleeves.

Just a few years ago, they were popular student-athletes at the Class C rural school.

Today, Kendra coaches the girls varsity basketball team and Justin serves as the school’s athletic director.

Nine months ago, they bought their first home in Twin Lake’s Cedar Creek Township. It’s an inviting place to unwind among five scenic acres surrounded by trees.

And, of course, they live in the district, about an eight-minute drive to the high school.

“We saw 40 houses from Muskegon to Montague and Whitehall,’’ Justin said. “We decided to live in the district. It meant that much to us.’’

Giving back

Kendra Scanlon left quite a mark at Holton as a three-sport standout in basketball, volleyball and softball. She excelled in basketball, etching her name among the state record-book leaders for blocked shots in a game (15), season (178) and career (439).

Kendra played two years at Hope College as a post player, but opted not to compete her last two seasons.

Now, she’s on the bench leading the Red Devils girls varsity.

“I really enjoy coaching,’’ said the 24-year-old Kendra, who is employed at Master Tag in Montague. “It’s very rewarding. What draws me to it is giving back. It’s about giving them a high school experience they can be proud of.’’

Holton only won three girls games last season, but Kendra said the team will continue to work hard. She’s made a commitment to the elementary program and summer program to help the Red Devils stay competitive with other schools.

Justin, meanwhile, played key roles for Holton in football, basketball and baseball. He also played baseball at Muskegon Community College and graduated from Grand Valley State in 2007.

He had chances to work in other school districts after college, but was able to land a job at Holton. In his second year, Wilson was named the school’s AD after Dave Wall moved on to another job.

“That was one  of my goals,’’ Justin said. “I didn’t anticipate it happening so soon.

“I really care about our kids a lot. I grew up here in Twin Lake and I know a lot of the families. I want to see them succeed.’’

Holton has some of the top Class C facilities in the state, with a new turfed football/soccer stadium and new baseball and soccer facilities.

Wilson credits former Holton teacher and football coach Tom Cutler Jr. for inspiring him to pursue a career in education. Cutler often picked up Wilson for 5:30 a.m. weightlifting sessions his freshman season.

“He’d knock on my door and get me to the weight room,’’ the 26-year-old Wilson said. “I have a lot of respect for Tom. I sat in his office when he told me he was moving on (to Wayland). I was upset and that was me being a selfish ninth grader. I understand now it was best for him and his family. I said if I got a chance to be here, I’d like to stick around for years to come.’’

Justin and Kendra started dating when she was a senior in high school. Her brother, Mike, and Justin are still best friends.

The Wilsons were engaged on Christmas Eve of 2005 — Justin put the engagement ring on the tree — and they married in July of 2007.

They both come from big families, so it was a big wedding.

Their first dance as a married couple was to Tim McGraw’s song, “My Best Friend.’’

In their free time, the Wilsons enjoy bonfires with family and friends, golf, softball and canoeing down the White River. Those activities — and visiting Lake Michigan — make the Holton area a cool place.

“This is where our family and friends are,’’ Justin said. “If it’s Friday night and we go out to dinner, it’s with Holton alums.’’

Unfinished business

After a long work day, the Wilsons turn their attention to “Beesly,’’ a peppy 3-month-old male “Golden Doodle.’’ The well-groomed dog loves to play and Justin and Kendra don’t mind mixing it up with the newest member of their family.

For now, the Wilsons are content with their lives.

Of course, there may be future chances working in cool cities, but don’t count on it with the Wilsons.

They have goals to meet and challenges to conquer.

“I won three games last year,’’ Kendra said. “I haven’t done anything yet.

“Both of us are believers,’’ she added. “It may not be a perfect school — no schools are — but rather than complain, we’re trying to change that.’’

Justin agrees.

“We feel what we’re trying to accomplish is still unfinished,’’ he said. “We think our district will be one of the shining districts in the area the next 10 years.’’

Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame inducts 'Class of 2010' on Saturday night

By Tom Kendra | Muskegon Chronicle

June 06, 2010, 9:00AM
Stan Thomas called all the players from Newaygo’s back-to-back girls basketball state championship teams of 1984 and 1985 up to the front of the room Saturday at the Holiday Inn-Muskegon Harbor.

“Standing in front of you are doctors, lawyers, moms and business leaders,” Thomas told the crowd of 300 gathered for the 24th annual Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

“Their accomplishments go way beyond the high school basketball court.”

Of course, they do.

But for many, those ladies will always be the “Little Lions” who brought glory to tiny Newaygo, and remembering those special days is the reason the MASHF exists and people turn out every year to celebrate.

The Newaygo girls teams were the featured inductees on Saturday night, along with Barney Sutherland, Lynn Hahn and Mark Grimmette.

The evening began with two standout Student-Athletes being honored — Spring Lake’s Annie Steinlage and Montague’s Cody Kater.

Steinlage thanked her three siblings and expressed gratitude to his teammates because her pride and joy was “getting to go to school and play with them.”

Kater said he had one of the best high school experiences ever and, while he doesn’t like to wear his two football state championship rings, “it’s nice to have them laying around.”

Barney Sutherland

Barney Sutherland, who won the hall’s service award, said he “felt kind of numb being honored for doing something that I loved doing my whole life.”

The man who has become known as “Mr. Reeths-Puffer” for his years of service to the school, said it continues to be a labor of love to work with the R-P students.

Sutherland, who started a human relations club at Puffer in 1964 to deal with racial tensions, introduced his wife, Janet, and his children and grandchildren who were present — along with his “well-tanned son,” Darrell White.

White was a senior at Reeths-Puffer whose foster care money from the state ran out when he turned 18 years old. Sutherland took him into his home for three years and White, now 55, is an orthotist for Mercy General Health Partners in Muskegon.

Lynn Hahn

Lynn Hahn said that, even today, “the sound of a racquetball hitting that front wall is music to my ears.”

Hahn, a Whitehall chemist, would regularly venture to what is now the Omni Fitness Center in Muskegon Heights after work to play racquetball — and then he took his skills to the state, regional and national level.

Hahn won 16 state racquetball titles and three national championships. In 1988, he was the top-ranked player in the country in the men’s 55-and-older division.

“This is a very good day for the sport of racquetball,” said Hahn, who brought out a big group of Muskegon-area racquetball players who competed against him and learned from him.

Newaygo High School girls basketball teams of 1984 and 1985

Before Stan Thomas started introducing the 10 players, out of 13 total team members, who were present on Saturday night, he called up his wife, Bonnie.

“We used to call her ‘The Spaghetti Lady,’” said Thomas, alluding to the many meals that
Bonnie Thomas cooked for the team during those two championship seasons.

Thomas had four daughters, he coached Jodi and Jacki earlier, and Keri and Erica were key parts of the back-to-back title teams.

Newaygo beat Pewamo-Westphalia in the 1984 title game and heavily-favored Detroit St. Martin dePorres in the 1985 title game.

“These girls were very competitive, hard-working and dedicated,” said Thomas. “They are friends and good people.”

Team members in 1984 were Doreen Berger, Erica Thomas, Keri Thomas, Sandy Wagner, Kristin Long, Sonja Beckman, Dawn Bulk, Sheryl Frye and Kristen Westcott.

Returning to the 1985 team were the Thomas sisters, Wagner and Long. Newcomers in 1985 were Amy Schenk, Lori Maurer, Amy Saum and Tammy Morton.

Mark Grimmette

Mark Grimmette said that no matter what remote luge village he was in during his competitive days, “I felt the community of Muskegon behind me in all those places.”

Grimmette grew up next door to Muskegon State Park and helped build the luge run at the Winter Sports Complex.

He went on to become not only the first Muskegon-area athlete to win an Olympic medal — taking bronze in 1998 and silver in 2002 — but the most decorated athlete in U.S. Luge history, winning 65 international medals in doubles luge, most with longtime partner Brian Martin.

“All the way through, I tried to be humble and represent Muskegon as well as possible,” said the 39-year-old Grimmette, a 1989 Reeths-Puffer graduate.

He certainly did that.

Now, Grimmette will lead the U.S. Luge program as its director and head coach. One promising up-and-comer is U.S. Junior National team member Jake Hyrns of Muskegon, who took a few runs down Muskegon’s new year-round luge track with Grimmette on Saturday afternoon.

“Jake actually called me coach today, so that was pretty cool,” Grimmette said.

Looking Back: All-American Everett J. 'Sonny' Grandelius considering offers

by Dave LeMieux | Muskegon Chronicle
Monday, May 17, 2010
In three seasons (1959-1961) as head coach at the University of Colorado Grandelius (second from right) compiled a 20-11 record, including a trip to the Orange Bowl in 1961.

This week 47 years ago...

Muskegon Heights’ favorite son Sonny Grandelius had a bright future ahead of him when he returned home after a tour of duty in the Korea War.

The Chronicle said on May 19, 1953:

Three years of college football, then a rapid switch from the Michigan State ROTC to Uncle Sam’s uniform for a two-year hitch. ... Didn’t leave a lot of time for Everett J. (Sonny) Grandelius to ponder his civilian future.

Last weekend Sonny came home after an 11-month stay in Korea, where United States troops believe they are in a WAR. ... And he’s going to spend some time before he commits himself to a positive future.

Sonny appears ready to step back into a football uniform today. Weighing around 195 pounds, which was his best playing weight while with the Michigan State football team ... the weight he carried when he was just about a unanimous choice for All-America teams ... and he is thinking of football as his future.
* * *
In Michigan State's 1950 season opener, senior Sonny Grandelius ran for 184 yards. He finished the season with 1,023 yards and 11 TDs in 163 carries.First, there’s a trip tomorrow to Michigan State, where he has an appointment to talk over that future with Clarence (Biggie) Munn.

That’s not all, however. Sonny is seriously considering trying professional football or rugby. During his long Korean service, Wellington Mara of the New York Giants team in the National Football League has written at least once a week since Sonny went into the Army and especially since his discharge drew near, and it appeared he’d be out in time for football practice this fall.

Sonny was the top choice of the Giants from the draft meeting that covered seniors of 1950, his last year in college, when he not only made All-American, but was an outstanding star in the East-West football Shrine Hospital game and the Hawaii Hula Bowl game against professionals.
* * *
But Mara will have to bid high, it seems certain. Clem Crowe, the old Notre Dame star who is coaching pro rugby in the Canadian Northwest, already has made an offer for Sonny’s services and declares he’ll go as high as the Giants.

Two other rugby offers from Canada have been received, but until he has talked with all of them the All-American will keep his own counsel.

“I’ve been in Korea 11 months,” Sonny declares. “I’ve decided to get acquainted with my wife all over again and really get to know my son, Steven John, who was born in November. Of course, being out of the army now, I can take my family with me wherever I go.”

More on the story

By Dave LeMieux

The world was at Sonny Grandelius’ feet when he came home from the Korean War in the spring of 1953.
Sonny Grandelius
A football legend at Muskegon Heights and a record-setting All-American for Michigan State, the new father had his pick of job offers.

No surprise then that it would be the last time Sonny called Muskegon Heights home.

Sonny’s future would be a far different one from his father’s.

Sonny’s dad, Everett J. Grandelius, was a displaced Yooper who moved here from Bessemer at age 19 in 1923. He would never leave. The elder Grandelius worked 45 years at Lakey Foundry before retiring in 1969. He died here in 1991.

Sonny, on the other hand, criss-crossed the country, moving from job to job, with wife, Marty, and their growing family in tow, before finally settling down in Beverly Hills, Mich.

There was much success, and one notable setback, along the way.

First stop for the 11th pick in the third round of the 1952 NFL draft was a single season with the N.Y. Giants (278 yards in 108 carries, 1 TD, 3 fumbles).

Sonny Grandelius led Muskegon Heights to back-to-back state titles in 1945 as quarterback and in 1946 as a fullback. He was first team All-State in 1946 and was one of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame's inaugural inductees in 1987.Next came five years in East Lansing as an assistant to Hugh “Duffy” Daugherty, before Grandelius landed the head coaching job at the University of Colorado in 1959.

In three seasons in Boulder, Grandelius compiled a 20-11 record, capped in 1961 with a perfect 7-0 regular season, the Big Eight Conference championship and a trip to the Orange Bowl — a 25-7 loss to Louisiana State University.

It all ended in 1962 when Colorado fired Grandelius following what some reports called flagrant NCAA recruiting violations.

Within a month, though, Grandelius was back in the NFL as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. Following a one-season stint with the hapless Detroit Lions (7-5-2) in 1964, he signed on at CBS as a color commentator for one season.

Outside one year as general manager for the Detroit Wheels of the ill-fated World Football League in 1974, Grandelius spent the rest of his career as a businessman.

As well-traveled as he was, Grandelius never forgot his roots, taking the time in 1987 to write a letter thanking the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame for making him one its inaugural inductees.

“It was by far my biggest thrill and I’m sure it always will be,” Grandelius wrote. This from a man who played in what the Detroit News called the best high school football game ever played in the state, the Tigers’ 7-6 win over Muskegon in 1945.

Grandelius was inducted into the MSU Hall of Fame in 1994 and died in 2008.

Video of Sonny Grandelius (No. 24) in MSU's 1949 game against Notre Dame:


Grimmette to run athletic programs for USA Luge

April 28, 2010

When luger Mark Grimmette retired two months ago after competing in his fifth Olympics, he knew he wanted to stay involved in the sport but wasn't sure in what capacity.

Obviously, USA Luge had something big in store. Tuesday, the organization named Grimmette, 39, its sports program director, overseeing all athletic programs, including its national team heading into the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

"It's certainly a lot of responsibility, but what I wanted to do after competing is help athletes out, and with this I can definitely do that," said Grimmette, a two-time Olympic medalist with luge partner Brian Martin. "One of the strengths I have is that I know our athletes very well. They look up to me, and I've been very open with them."

Grimmette, who was the U.S. delegation flag bearer during the Opening Ceremonies for the Vancouver Games, began his new position Monday.

"Mark's retirement from active athletic competition served as a unique and timely opportunity for us to capitalize on the skills he has honed throughout his entire career," said Ron Rossi, USA Luge CEO.

Grimmette will return to his hometown for a visit this month; he'll be inducted into the Muskegon Sports Hall of Fame on June 5.

USA Luge also announced Tuesday that the contract of longtime coach Wolfgang Schadler will not be renewed.

The Life and Football Legacy of the Illinois Coach

Bob Zuppke was head football coach at the University of Illinois from 1912 to 1941, a period that saw two world wars, a major economic depression, and significant changes in higher education and the role of sports, as major intercollegiate competitions became primary public relations events for the most competitive universities. Often credited with several significant football innovations including the huddle, Zuppke won two national championships and won or tied for seven Big Ten conference titles. This biography of Zuppke is a study of his passion for football, his advocacy for its educational value and his ability to promote and market the game to the academic community and the general public. It places him in the context of multiple themes, including the development of interscholastic, intercollegiate and professional football; presidential support and public relations; sports psychology; stadium building and commercial sports; academic criticism; the fraternity system; boosters; and sports in a state-supported public university.

About the Author

Maynard Brichford is a university archivist emeritus in Urbana, Illinois.