Category Archives: Sports

Schoolcraft Sports Teams

Below are the photos for Schoolcraft’s Spring sports teams. All photos by Travis Smola.

Vicksburg Sports Teams

Below are the photos for Vickburg’s Spring sports teams. All photos by Travis Smola.

Schoolcraft Mulls Over Hiring Full-Time Athletic Trainer

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Jordan Love taking care of a Schoolcraft football player on the sidelines.

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft school board has approved hiring a full-time athletic trainer through a partnership with Bronson Methodist Hospital.

Schoolcraft currently uses an athletic trainer provided through Western Michigan University and Bronson’s two-year athletic trainer program. These trainers have been offered at no cost to the schools as the students finish their studies to become certified trainers.

New rule changes will soon require athletic trainers to have a master’s degree. Brad Toepper, a certified athletic trainer from Bronson, was present to explain details to the board. He said trainers won’t be able to be certified or licensed in the state of Michigan without a master’s degree.

But the change gives the district an opportunity to hire current trainer Jordan Love in a full-time capacity through a new partnership with Bronson to place full-time trainers in schools. Approximately five or six area schools have already signed on. In this program, athletic trainers are Bronson employees. The hospital picks up the salary and benefits. The district would have to pay a $25-28,000 fee to help support the program.

Toepper said the value of Love as a trainer was demonstrated in the 196 evaluations requiring documentation she recorded in 2018. He estimated the value of those evaluations at about $47,000.

Girls’ head basketball coach Steve Kulczyk said Love was the best trainer they’ve had so far, praising her professionalism and ability to balance multiple tasks. He noted he can’t coach the game and provide medical care at the same time for an athlete who needs it. “With Jordan over my shoulder, I don’t worry about it. I can coach,” Kulczyk said.

Head football coach Nathan Ferency was also at the meeting and said he especially appreciates Love’s services on things like concussion protocol. He said it was comforting to have her take an athlete out of the game because it takes that difficult decision out of his hands. He also praised her ability to handle a huge workload. “She’s always managing at least five, six or a dozen kids after school,” Ferency said. “She does amazing, amazing work and we’d be hard-pressed to replace her.”

Athletic Director Jeff Clark was also in favor of Love as a full-time athletic trainer noting that a full-timer would benefit from having an athlete’s full medical history from middle school onward. He said Love has become very familiar not just with the athletes, but also with the coaching staff.

“She’s tremendous, she eases the mind of our coaches,” Clark told the board.

If the district chose to hire Love, it would be an 11-month contract with the month of July off. Toepper said most of the trainers in the program choose to have their salary spread out over the whole year, similar to the pay schedule of a teacher.

While board members and Supt. Rusty Stitt supported the hire, they questioned how they would pay Bronson’s fee. One option is to charge an athletic trainer fee of $50 per athlete or $100 per family. Trustees Rachel Phelps and Jill Hunt expressed concern over this idea, feeling parents pay a lot into the district already. Both also felt it was making athletics into “pay-to-play.”

Board Vice-President Jason Walther and Trustee Wade Rutkoskie both felt the fee was fair, although Walther wanted to look at more options before charging families.

Rutkoskie felt parents often spend far more on private training sessions and equipment.
Board President Jennifer Gottschalk suggested having the finance committee look at the issue to see if it could be paid for out of the general fund. “I’m just saying let’s look in every crack and crevice before we charge our families,” Gottschalk said.

The board ultimately passed a resolution to commit to the hiring of Love, while giving the finance committee a month to look at funding options.

Grant Deal Decides to Play for Ashland University in Ohio

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Grant Deal and his family.

By Sue Moore

It was likely preordained that Grant Deal would be a standout athlete. His father, Brian, is the head coach for Vicksburg varsity baseball and assistant varsity football coach. The only query was in which game he’d excel.

The answer? “I like baseball but it’s too slow moving for me. Football appealed because I like to hit somebody on every play. Football is always a rush,” Deal said. Because he weighs in at 270 but is reasonably short for a tackle, he plays on the offensive line as a guard. He has a lineman’s body according to Tom Marchese, his football coach. He has been playing guard since his days in Rocket football.

After graduation in June, Deal will prepare for college life at Ashland University in Ohio. He will be red-shirted his freshman year as he prepares and learns the system of a team that plays Division II in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic conference.

“The coaching never ends,” Grant said, discussing his father’s input.

“I told Coach Marchese to treat Grant just like any other player,” Brian Deal said. “We were coaching together long before Grant was on the team. These last three years with Grant on the varsity we’ve been figuring it all out. Like when to be quiet and when to get after him. He would never hear from me in practice, but he might when we got home.”
It’s an honor to be recruited by Ashland, where he won’t be alone in the incoming freshman class, Deal said. A long-time buddy from Portage Central, running back Eli Potts, has also accepted an offer from Ashland. Lee Owens, Ashland’s head football coach, has been the recipient of many honors with his team’s playing for championships in a league that competes with Grand Valley State University and Ferris State University.

“I visited the school in July of 2018 and loved the environment. It’s not real big so I won’t get lost. It has top notch facilities,” Deal said. He plans to major in business as there are lots of things he feels he can do with a business degree after college. He declares that he doesn’t like to take center stage and get up in front of people, preferring to let his playing ability to speak for him.

His mom, Heather, is a nurse at Bronson Hospital. He has a sister, Anna, and a little brother, Luke.

Kaytee Harvey to Play Volleyball at Albion College

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Kaytee Harvey and her family.

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg Volleyball Coach Katrina Miller calls Kaytee Harvey her most improved player in the 2018 season. Now Harvey is moving on to play volleyball at Albion College with a bundle of academic scholarships to help with expenses.

Chad Miller, the assistant coach with his wife for the Vicksburg team, said Harvey is one of the nicest girls he has ever coached. “She’s a hard worker. She took my input and just went to work to improve. She’s possibly the best middle player now in our league. She has good arm swing on the ball when she attacks.”

Head Coach Miller complimented Harvey on her leadership. “She has a passion for the game. She realized she needed to step up as a senior and make a difference for the team. Her maturity as a leader made a big difference in our season.” She was chosen by her classmates for the basketball Homecoming Court.

Harvey chose Albion because of its small class size, the small campus and the one-on-one opportunities she will have with teachers. “I can get help if I need it,” Harvey said. She sports a 4.0 in her high school courses and plans on being a pre-med major at Albion. That might come naturally to her; her mom, Kim, is an Interventional Radiology Technologist who is presently working in Clearwater, FL. That means the family will be uprooting from Fulton where they have lived since Harvey was in second grade. She has a grandmother who lives just around the corner, so she can stay with her when she’s home from college. Her dad, Tim, is a 1981 Vicksburg graduate and works online from his home base, whether it be in Fulton or Clearwater, he said.

Four Eagle Wrestlers Win a Trip to State Tournament

River Fox stands on the podium as champion in his weight class (heavyweight) for Division 4 in Michigan, the first ever from Schoolcraft. He beat Jake Renfer from Manton High School 7-1 in the final round. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

Four Schoolcraft Eagle wrestlers were heading to Ford Field on March 1 and 2 for their chance at making history, to become a state champion for Schoolcraft. Senior River Fox took the state championship at 285 lbs. Caden Sukich, Mark Fox, and sophomore Hunter Martens competed but did not make it to the final rounds.

River is in his final season as an Eagle wrestler. He has an impressive 50-2 record and is the number one ranked wrestler, at 285 lbs, in Division 4. Hunter Martens has a 42-12 record and was the only sophomore going to state for Schoolcraft wrestling. He competed in the 119 lb class. Mark Fox joined his cousin River, with a 41-10 record in the 152 lb class.

Rounding out the Eagle Grapplers is Caden Sukich, at 112 lbs. Caden noted that he was going in with an overall record of 47-7. He has also added to his resume, being a two-time state qualifier, two-time SAC and District Champion. He has been wrestling since he was 7 years old. This will be his 10th season altogether. He said he wanted to “thank all of his coaches both on and off the mat. They have been big influence’s in my life.” He stated, he “couldn’t have done all that he has, without the love and support of his family, over countless weekends and weekdays, doing what he loves.”

Schoolcraft Wrestling Takes First Regional Championship

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Hunter Martens is shown here wrestling in the regionals. Mark Fox and Hunter Martens got beat in Round 2 at state. Caden Sukich made it to the 3rd round at state. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

The Schoolcraft wrestling team had won conference and district championships in the past. But until Feb. 13, it had yet to win a regional. That’s when the Eagles arrived at Watervliet High School. They first defeated Niles-Brandywine, then went on to beat the White Pigeon Chiefs, 40-33, to take the school’s first-ever regional championship.

The Eagles had faced the Chiefs earlier in the season and were defeated. This time it was for more than just a mark in the win column. The Eagles started out strong with wins by Hunter Martens, Jett Gott, Riley Watts and Mark Fox. Trailing by 12 points, it was River Fox’s turn to face off against the Number 2 ranked wrestler in the state. River was able to show why he is ranked number 1, answering the call with a pin. Lane Deloof then pinned his opponent, which brought the score to a tie. Last to wrestle was Caden Sukich. Caden was able to lock up the regional title win with a pin.

Schoolcraft was seeded 8th on its first-ever trip to the state championships. That meant it had to face the number-one seeded Clinton High School team Feb. 22, at Kalamazoo Wings Event Center. Clinton showed why it was ranked number one. Only two of the Eagle wrestlers were able to take away wins: River Fox pinned his opponent quickly. Caden Sukich took his bout all the way to the end, winning with a 17-7 decision.

Head Coach Rob Ling was awarded the Regional Coach of the year by the Michigan Wrestling Association. He said it was an honor and a direct reflection of his assistant coaches James Bippus, Zach VanZile and Vaughn Copeland. Rob said how proud he is of the young men and one young lady, Silver Fox. He is humbled to be part of such a great wrestling family.