River Fox. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.
Austin Webb clear 6’3” in the high jump. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.
By Mark Blentlinger
Coach Josh Willoughby praised his track and field team for a great season, noting that the seniors achieved some impressive personal records. “They were very dominant in the field events. River Fox had a personal best in the shot put, with a throw of 47 feet 4 1/4 inches. Ben Sampley had his personal best in discus at 140 feet 3 1/2 inches,” Willoughby said. Austin Webb in the high jump achieved a personal best at 6 feet 3 inches and Taylor Meyer went 12 feet 1 inch in the pole vault.
The team finished the regular season as the runner-up in the SAC conference. The men’s Eagles will have some representation at the Division 3 State Championships on June 1, with senior River Fox in the shot put, senior Austin Webb in the high jump, senior Taylor Meyer in the pole vault and sophomore Jimmy Downs in the long jump.
On the lady Eagles’ side, the state qualifier is junior Aislyn Shannon in the 800 meters.
“It’s been a real rough season, to be honest with you,” Vicksburg Head Baseball Coach Brian Deal said after a doubleheader loss to Portage Northern.
The Bulldogs dropped the two games to Huskies 5-3 and 14-1. The first game was particularly frustrating – loss number 12 by two runs or less this year. “That really changes your whole season around,” Deal said. “If you get half of those games it makes a much better season.”
Vicksburg got into an early 2-0 hole in the first inning of the first game that turned into 3-0 in the second and then 4-0. Finally, in the bottom of the third, Chase Myers hit a single before Parker Wilson hit a big RBI double to bring him home and make it 4-1.
The two teams went scoreless in the fourth inning. In the bottom of the fifth, Jacob Conklin hit a nice double and Myers got another hit, but the Bulldogs came away with no runs. In the bottom of the sixth, Austin Ziegler started a small charge with a single and a stolen base before Joey McCowen drove him home on a single.
Levi Root picked up a hit next and Vicksburg had two on with two out when Tyler DeVries made the score 5-3 on a single. In the bottom of the seventh Myers got on base again, but the Bulldogs ran out of outs and lost the game. In game two the only Bulldog to score was Myers on a Portage Northern error.
When the team has won this year, it has often been a split. The team took an early May game against Otsego 6-5 and then lost the next game 5-3. It was the same story on the road against Dowagiac. The Bulldogs took game one 6-3 and lost game two 2-1.
Deal believes the youth of the team has shown up most in the batter’s box and in the fielding this year. The team has pitched well, but at times the team has struggled to get runs. “We have moments where we can do some really good things,” Deal said. “We’ve got to get into making the routine plays consistently and not giving up a run here and a run there because we overthrow a cutoff guy.”
The good news is this season the team will only graduate four seniors. Deal has high hopes that they’ll be much improved next season with a year of varsity level play under the younger players’ belts.
On May 29, the Eagle golf team headed to home greens at Olde Mill Golf course in Schoolcraft to host the Division 3, Region 15 championship. They faced off against Berrien Springs, Buchanan, Coloma, Comstock, Constantine, Delton Kellogg, Dowagiac Union, Hillsdale, Hopkins, Maple Valley, Niles-Brandywine, Olivet, Parchment, Quincy, and Watervliet – and bested them all.
The Eagles consisted of sophomores Max Desmond and Myalz Berkheiser, junior Parker Lawrence and seniors Collin Blalock and Bret DenHarder.
Lawrence started out as the number 3 seed, behind second seed Mitch Blank from Hillsdale and first seed Brendon Patmainieks of Constantine. Lawrence led the Eagles with a score of 79, followed by Max Desmond with an 85. Berkheizer shot a 95, DenHarder had a 96, while Blalock added a 98. The total overall score for the Eagles was a 355, 8 strokes better than runner up Dowagiac-Union at 363. Rounding out the top 3 teams was Delton-Kellogg with a 367.
On June 7, the Eagles will head to Ferris State University at Big Rapids for the Division 3 State Championship.
After finishing as runner up at regionals last season, the Schoolcraft girls’ tennis team was ready to carry home the trophy this year. They did that, beating out Brandywine, Berrien Springs, Bronson, Buchanan, Coloma, Dowagiac, Bridgman and New Buffalo. Brandywine was the closest to the Eagles, scoring 26 total team points, but the Eagles with 28 points brought the trophy home to Schoolcraft.
Along with winning the team Regional championship, there were three individuals and one doubles team that were also Regional champions; #2 singles Abby Blodgett, #3 singles Anisha Kersten, #4 singles Maya Pearce and #2 doubles team Annika Varker and Kelsey Feddema. Sophomore Maya Pearce is the only repeat champion. Pearce was last season’s #4 singles Regional champion.
The team was to play on May 31 and June 1 for the state championship. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd singles will be competing at Kalamazoo College, while #4 singles and all the doubles teams will be in action at Western Michigan University.
The regular season saw 9 wins and 4 losses, with individuals posting some impressive records themselves. 1st singles, Grace Deyoung, finished with a 14-8 record; #2 singles, Abby Blodgett, with 14-3; #3 singles, Anisha Kersten, with 18-5 and #4 singles, Maya Pearce, with 15-6.
The doubles teams finished regular season: #1 doubles, Kayla Julian/Savanah McDonald with 8-11; #2 doubles, Annika Varker/Kelsey Feddema with 17-1; #3 doubles, Grey Buchheit/Elsa Peterson with 15-4 and #4 doubles, Hope Spencer/Jaice Parker with 12-6.
The Eagles baseball team is full of talented underclassmen. However, among all of those young men is the lone senior, Connor Nutt. In addition to being an outstanding basketball and baseball athlete at Schoolcraft, Connor has added four over-the-fence home runs. Connor is a phenomenal student in the classroom as well. He was selected for the SAC Scholar Athlete Award and was also named to the SAC Academic All Conference team. Connor will be graduating with a 4.0 GPA, 45 college credits and will be starting at Western Michigan University Honors College as a sophomore.
Nutt was also the winner of the Kalamazoo County Excellence in Education scholarship for placing in the top two percent of all seniors in Kalamazoo County, winner of the Advia Foundation Youth Scholarship, the Dr. Jack and Charlene Sauer scholarship and the Schoolcraft Alumni scholarship. WMU also noticed his academics and awarded him the Haworth College of Business Dean’s Silver Star scholarship, as well as the Bronco Merit scholarship.
The Vicksburg varsity lacrosse team earned its fourth consecutive Southwest Michigan Men’s Lacrosse Conference title with a 7-4 win over the Mattawan Wildcats. They now have a record of 10-8.
“I thought we played great lacrosse,” Head Coach Mike Malloy said. The game was especially interesting because the victory came against Vicksburg’s old coach, Erik Frank, who now coaches the Wildcats.
Late in the game, the Bulldogs had some uncharacteristic penalties and turnovers that were enough to make the Bulldog faithful in attendance nervous.
“We kind of gave them some opportunities we weren’t giving them earlier in the game,” Malloy said. “Luckily they didn’t take advantage of it.”
It was Matt Hybels who opened the scoring for the Bulldogs, but the Wildcats answered right back only minutes later. The teams traded scores again a little later in the quarter as Hybels scored the second goal for Vicksburg. The score going into the half was tied 2-2.
In the third, Rhodes Conroy was the first to find the back of the net, but his goal was answered moments later. The next goal came on a long screamer by Michael Kessler and shortly after that the Bulldogs opened a two-score lead with Hybels’ third goal of the contest. Mattawan got another goal late in the game, but a second goal by Kessler and a late goal by John Carr helped seal the win and the Bulldogs’ fourth title, the first under Coach Malloy.
“These seniors, they deserve to go out this way. They really work hard for us,” Malloy said. “The amount of effort that they’ve put in these last four years has been incredible.”
The Bulldogs won their first post season game and earned a trip to the Regional Championship with a 17-6 victory over Portage Northern. The season ended the following week as the Bulldogs lost the Region 11 championship to Battle Creek Lakeview 12-9.
The Vicksburg varsity girls’ track team had an outstanding season, winning the Wolverine Conference meet.
Vicksburg just barely edged out Otsego by 1.4 points to pick up the victory. “It was kind of a barn burner,” Head Coach Lucas Wolthuis said. “We did enough. We scored more points than we were supposed to on paper, which is always good to see.”
In the relay events, the 4×400 team of Wile, Kendall, Ruger and Mulhearn came in second. The 4×200 team of Wile, Sam Richardson, Cate Curtis and Riddle took first. But the most notable time of the meet was set by Wile, Kendall, Richardson and Curtis in the 4×100 meter relay. Not only did the team win the event, but they also set a new school record of 51.27 seconds in the process.
One of the big difference makers in the meet was the 4×400 meter relay, won by the team of Grace Wile, Riley-Ann Bierema, Amelia Ruger and Mia Mulhearn. The Bulldogs got some extra help in that event with Plainwell finishing second, which meant Otsego needed eight points in discus to pass Vicksburg. When the results came in, Otsego had enough for second and a share of the season title, but not enough to win the meet.
The strength of the relay teams and shorter events like the 100 and 200-meter dash and hurdle events has been key to the team’s success all year. The team didn’t always win these events, but they racked up key points with high finishes.
“That was kind of the theme of the meet, winning with depth,” Wolthuis said. “That was a strength coming in, but then it was just going to be a matter of where does everyone else place? What points go where and kind of letting the meet fall where it falls.”
The depth played a key role in the Lady Bulldogs finishing second at Regionals the following week. Megan Kendall won the 100-meter dash. Kinsay Riddle took second in the 100-meter hurdles and Mia Mulhearn took second in the 300-meter hurdles.
The team had so much depth at the relay events this year that the coaches actually had difficulty picking who would run. “We challenged the girls early in the season to make our jobs hard on decisions on relays and they’ve done a great job of doing that,” Wolthuis said.
“We have just a plethora of great young ladies who put a lot of work in over the course of the season,” Wolthuis said. “We’re talented from seniors down to freshmen. We have people contributing from every age group and that’s been a big part of why we’ve been so successful – we have so many options to go to and so many people. We’re not just depending on one or two people.”