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04-02-2020 Tri-City Area Sports

Watervliet Press Box by John Oliphant

Watervliet athletic facilities

With the prospect of no high school sports taking place until August we took some time to speak with the Watervliet Athletic Director, Ken Dietz. Dietz has been at Watervliet for 14 years, overseeing some great seasons and developing a fine group of coaches and some new programs. The programs are currently going through a tough period of smaller-than-usual classes with a corresponding drop in the number of athletes. That situation is changing rapidly as the incoming classes are bigger and loaded with potential star athletes.

Despite the past couple down years the programs are doing well enough that there are more athletes than the existing facilities can comfortably handle. For example, in the fall the football field has crossed the line from full utilization to over utilization with the addition of a boys soccer program. The field is in use four and five days a week now, with three levels of football games, soccer, band, and the occasional rocket football series on Saturdays. The field took a beating this year and looked worse than ever when the season ended. But thanks to the good autumn weather and a dedicated maintenance crew led by Mark Isbrecht it will be in fine shape and lush again this fall.

Just the same, the growing soccer program is looking for its own practice and game space, and Dietz has proposed one on the northwest corner of the school’s existing property. Such a field, if approved, would take a big burden off the football field and requires field prep and fencing along Red Arrow Highway.

In the winter the basketball teams are forced to practice well into the evening due to the limited practice space. Consider the needs of four middle school basketball teams and five high school teams where none of them get to practice on their own and they’re always sharing a court with another team. These middle school teams are loaded with kids, often so many that they have to play as two teams for each grade. The addition of sixth graders on the teams just made them that much larger, which is by all accounts a great problem.

In the spring the situation eases a bit, unless the weather is bad and then everybody is vying for limited indoor space. The track is one area where the designer’s vision failed; it’s just six lanes and cannot be expanded, preventing any state tournament meets from being held in an otherwise fine facility.

Thankfully we have a successful local recreational program and public park for baseball and softball because there are area schools developing middle school teams in the next year or two. The school doesn’t have any space for more ball fields.

Dietz made a good point that when a graduate from the 1960s or 1970s comes back to Watervliet they are seeing the exact same facilities they played on 40 or 50 years ago. Thanks to dedicated coaches and that amazing maintenance crew everything is well-maintained and in fine condition, but there’s little new about the athletic facilities since the school opened in 1965. The people who designed the facilities did a great job, especially considering they probably hadn’t anticipated the development and growth of girl’s sports which didn’t exist then like they do now.

Dietz has presented ideas for an auxiliary gym facility to the school board to greatly ease the winter season crush and provide year-round indoor space for various sports and other community programs. Potentially this facility could also provide a major upgrade to the concession stand and the old restroom facilities. Unfortunately the board has had its hands full since then and hasn’t been able to explore the opportunity fully.

On balance, this facility situation is a good problem because it means we have a lot of kids involved in athletic programs and these programs are a significant component of the student’s overall education and development. Hopefully the community will support facility upgrades or modest expansions to accommodate these well-run and popular sports programs.

Coloma Press Box By Dave Vollrath

All Michigan Sports remain, “Wait and See”

All sports in our great state of Michigan remain in a holding pattern. From the lower levels of elementary age children, who are just beginning to compete in the sporting world, all the way up to our more revered college and professional ranks, one thing is the same, there are no organized practices, no games, no nothing. Everyone is urged to remain in their home without a valid reason for travel.

At the present time our local high school officials have been told the winter sports season is postponed until further notice. You have to reasonably assume that even though a postponement designation officially leaves the door open to finishing at some point it will most likely never take place and those winter sports will be cancelled.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT… Coloma Comet sophomore Caeleb Ishmael, even during uncertain times, works on his golf game at home. Caeleb, like all Michigan student athletes, is forced to work from home to practice his spring sport, which may or may not take place.

Also waiting in the wings, are the spring sports, which never really had a chance to get started. Most teams like baseball and softball never had the chance to finalize their rosters. In keeping a prayerful and positive thought that we will be able to complete the school year, and the spring sports, we will take a look this week at the Coloma baseball team.

Coloma head baseball coach Kevin VanPeteghem (Coach V) has stated that he is very much looking forward to some semblance of a season, and that there are some state models, which could be followed. Iowa for instance waits until summer to play their high school baseball, as the weather is more conducive to playing ball.

When the schools finally get out on the field, Coach V, is very excited about his team, which could have as many as seven seniors on the roster, all of whom have previous varsity experience. Five of those seniors were still playing basketball, and had not been able to attend the try outs, but the feelings among the coaches are that they would all make the varsity roster.

Ethan Price and Nick Eastman, are two of the seniors, who have been on the varsity since they were freshmen, and both made the all-conference team as juniors, much will be expected of these two senior leaders. In total there are about 32 players, for two teams. Coach V says that he thinks this could be an exciting and meaningful season for the Comets, as he begins his ninth season as the Comet head man.

The varsity and junior varsity teams should both be well balanced, as there are 11 freshmen players out this year. This is a great sign of how the program is succeeding under Coach V’s leadership. Also each class is represented by good numbers, another sign of a successful program.

Jacob Hammond and Conner Bittner have put in a great deal of preparation during the off season and Coach V is very much impressed with their progress over last year. Kevin Hearn is a junior, who will be starting his third year on the varsity, mostly playing at 1st base, and batting in the middle of the order, where he drives in more than his share of runs.

Three sophomores, who all made a meaningful impact and gained valuable experience as freshmen, return for Coach V. They are Jake Ickes, Dylan Nelson, and Ethan Vandermolen.

The Comets also have a new JV coach to lead the younger players. Josh Soderborg will be the head JV coach and preparing the younger players to eventually move up to the varsity. Josh is no stranger to Coloma, although he is currently a teacher in Watervliet schools. Josh graduated from Coloma and played baseball for the Comets under Coach V, while Kevin was still an assistant varsity coach.

Coach V states that his team from the seasoned vets to the newbies on the squad was all looking forward to this season. There was a special kind of excitement starting to build, while holding the early practices. The coaches had some really fun events planned, as the coaches always seem to come up with some meaningful and team bonding experiences that build the team and keep their attitudes aligned with the “grinder” type of mentality.

We should find out very soon whether we will have spring sports in Michigan, as of right now, it would be very much welcomed and needed.

Vandals damage brand new fences at CYBSA fields

It was discovered recently that the back stop fencing on Field #4 at the Coloma Youth Baseball Softball Association fields, which is brand new, had been purposely damaged. It appears the vandals used some type of bat or club to beat on the fencing which caused the fence to separate. The Hub restaurant in Coloma has offered a $500 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who are damaging this equipment. If anyone has any information regarding this taking place, please call the Coloma Township Police Department. This type of activity hurts everyone in terms of cost and hours making repairs.

Although everyone is chomping at the bit to get back to some semblance of normalcy, sports will always be here to bring people and communities together. We have to all get through this virus without losing anyone. Please follow the laws and direction of our elected officials who have the safety and well being of everyone in mind. Please stay in and stay safe.

Go Comets!

Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele

Hartford Powerlifting Team places 3 at MHSPLA State Competition

With current sports on the backburner, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, it is giving the opportunity for the Press Box to catch up on some of the previous athletic events that have happened throughout the course of the winter sports season. This week, we will look back at the Hartford Powerlifting Team, who competed in the MHSPLA State Meet back in early-March, and some Indian athletes walked away with some hardware for their efforts.

In the state meet, held at North Branch on Saturday, March 8, three Hartford men, Aldo Acevedo, David Fernandez, and Joey Lehmkuhl ended up being medalists. Two ladies, Melissa Müller and Emily Wilson, also competed in the meet and did not medal, but still represented the school with an outstanding effort.

Aldo Acevedo competed in the 114-pound weight class, and finished in 4th place overall. In the first discipline, the squat, he lifted 210 pounds, which put him in the top half of the overall standings. He fell back slightly in the classification after a 125-pound lift in the bench press, but rebounded with a strong performance in the dead lift, where he mustered a 275-pound lift, and brought him to his final position overall. His total weight lifted for the day was 610 pounds.

David Fernandez competed in the super heavyweight class, and also finished in 4th place overall. In the first discipline, the squat, he lifted 500 pounds, which tied him with two others for the second highest lift. He put together a lift of 260 pounds in the bench press, which saw him fall down the classification slightly, but remain among the top half of the field. He finished with a strong 550 pound lift in the dead lift, which brought him to his final position overall. His total weight lifted for the day was 1,310 pounds.

Joey Lehmkuhl competed in the 145-pound weight class, and finished in 8th place overall. In the first discipline, the squat, he lifted 300 pounds, which put him in the middle of the overall standings. He put together a lift of 205 pounds in the bench press, which saw him move up in the classification, and get into medal position. He finished with a solid lift of 370 pounds in the dead lift, which brought him to his final position overall. His total weight lifted for the day was 875 pounds.

Thanks to their two fourth place finishes and an eighth place finish, Hartford took 15th place as a team out of 61 teams that registered points.

Congratulations to Coach Manning, Coach Golas, Aldo, David, Joey, Melissa, Emily and the entire Powerlifting team on representing Hartford well this year! As always, GO INDIANS!

ACADEMIC ALL-STATE HONORS… Hartford Athletic Director Nick Blackmer presents 2019 Hartford High School graduate Makiah Tripp with Academic All-State honors. In the classroom Tripp carried a 4.2 GPA while competing as a 4-year varsity athlete in Sideline Cheer and a 2-year varsity athlete in Competitive Cheer. In her senior year Makiah received the Most Valuable Player award in Sideline Cheer and captained both Sideline and Competitive Cheer. She received both Team and Individual Academic All-State recognition for Competitive Cheer. Tripp was selected as a Herald-Palladium Academic All Star and a member of the 2019 Southwest 10 Conference Scholar Athletes. She was the president of the HHS Chapter of the National Honor Society and served on Student Council, while also competing in the Regional Science Olympiad and Quiz Bowl. Makiah is a freshman at the University of Michigan, studying Biopsychology Cognition and Neuroscience with plans to become a Pediatrician.

Press Box Player of the Week

By Jerrod Birmele

Mason Mireles, a member of the Hartford MyWay Wrestling team, is this week’s Tri-City Record Press Box Player of the Week.

This past season, Mason earned his 100th career win, while placing no lower than third in any of his 10 area tournaments. In those tournaments, he placed 1st on six different occasions, winning in his weight class at Otsego, Mendon, Gull Lake, Vicksburg, Dowagiac, and at the Central Region Greights Tournament at Holt. He also finished 2nd on a pair of occasions at South Haven and Constantine, and placed 3rd twice, with those finishes at the St. Valentine’s Brawl in Kalamazoo and at Sturgis.

Mason also traveled to two team tournaments, competing with Michigan Mayhem in December’s ChristmaSparty Tournament in Lansing, where he went 4-2 overall. Following the turn of the calendar to the New Year, he competed with the Michigan MyWay White 10U team at the NUWAY National Duals in Louisville, Kentucky, where he finished with a 4-3 record.

Outside of the wrestling mat, Mason plays on the major youth football team and the 5th grade basketball team in Hartford, and is involved in AYSO soccer. He has also played youth baseball in the past.

Mason is the son of Lee and Megan Mireles. Congratulations on this great honor, Mason! We look forward to seeing more of you in the future!


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