04-13-2017 Tri-City Area Sports

All Conference awards handed out for competitive cheer

 The Southwestern Athletic Conference recently handed out First Team and Honorable Mention awards for competitive cheer.

Coloma’s Kiara Cole, Kathryn Pawluk, and Hannah Strunk received First Team nods. Katelyn Johnson and Dasha Hogan were named Honorable Mention All-Conference.

Hartford’s Janell Babcock and Brittney Smith received First Team All-Conference awards. Teammates Alejandra Torres and Mariah Chancellor were proud winners of Honorable Mention nods.

YAY FOR KATHRYN!… Coloma varsity competitive cheer-leader Kathryn Pawluk received a First Team All-Conference award in the Southwestern Athletic Conference for her work during the year.

1ST TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE… Coloma’s Kiara Cole was one of three Comets named Southwestern Athletic Conference First Team All-Conference for competitive cheer.

Hartford Track open season with win over Decatur

 The Hartford boys’ varsity track team opened the 2017 season at home Wednesday, March 29 by topping Decatur. The track stars fell short, however, of beating conference rival Gobles.

According to head coach Brad Manning, the Indians had “eleven different athletes finish first in sixteen different events throughout the night.”

Riley Traver led Hartford by winning first place in five events. Traver also finished second in three events.

Herik Garcia performed well at the meet. He notched five first place finishes and took second place in two events.

This year’s squad is, in one word, young. As Manning stated the squad has “lots of newcomers, too many to name to be honest.  The bulk of the team is freshmen and sophomores.  Our team is very young so I’m likely to be surprised this spring. We are a somewhat unproven group looking to break out.”

AWARD WINNING HANNAH… Hannah Strunk, a member of the Coloma varsity competitive cheer team, recently received First Team All-Conference honors.

The team graduated only two players from last year’s squad, but they were “two very big contributors,” said Manning. “(The departure of the seniors) has left sizeable holes in our middles distance and distance groups, but we have lots of youngsters who should fill in nicely.”

BABCOCK’S BEST… Janell Babcock, a member of the varsity competitive cheerleading squad at Hartford, received First Team All-Conference honors.

With the season officially underway, Manning sees the possibility of success in quite a few events. “Riley Traver in sprints and high jump, Robert Ledesma in sprints, and the combination of Bob Johnson and Garrett Brandt in the throws” will help the team gain points.

“Traver ended last year very close to jumping six foot in the high jump, I’m hoping he will break that this year and compete at state.”

Manning also hopes “to see my middle distance runners have a breakout season.  There is a very close group of friends who all run the similar events and they are very proud of their team relay. I would love to see them do well.”

Although the squad works well together, Manning said everyone is focused on individual goals. Each athlete has set a specific personal goal and will work throughout the season to meet that goal. “Kids here run track to become a better athlete through the competition.”

Hartford traveled to Coloma Wednesday for a conference meet. Results from that event will be in next week’s Press Box. Following that Hartford will host Fennville on April 19.

HARTFORD CHEERLEADER AWARDED… Hartford varsity competitive cheerleader Britta-ny Smith was recently awarded First Team All-Conference honors. She was one of two In-dians to receive the nomination in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Comet Baseball ablaze with talent, ready to grind

 Coloma varsity baseball head coach Kevin VanPeteghem, in his sixth year as the Comets’ leader, had an unbeatable conference winning squad last year. The 2016 Comets went 12-0 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and 23-11 overall.

But that was last year.

This year’s team looks formidable from the onset. The team returns six key players from last year and is strengthened by the seven first-year varsity players who have joined the squad.

VanPeteghem, who is assisted by Jack Goodrick and Joe Stephens, has structured not only of the best infields around but has two key experienced pitchers ready to battle.

Mathew Kelley, a senior, and Calvin Starnes, a junior, will take to the mound for Coloma. Kelley is an All-Conference Honorable Mention award winner from last season. He was unbeatable in the conference as he pitched his way to a 5-0 record in the SAC. Overall Kelley posted a 7-2 record and a 2.37 earned run average for Coloma.

Joining Kelley on the mound will be Starnes.  Starnes also received an Honorable Mention nod last year. He was the team’s number three pitcher last year and had a 1.23 ERA. VanPeteghem said, “Kelley and Starnes offer a great one-two pitching combination.”

When not on the mound, Starnes will be behind the plate. VanPeteghem called Starnes an “excellent defensive catcher.”

Dylan LeClear is a two-time letter winner returning to the varsity squad.  LeClear will play the infield but has pitching experience under his belt. Last year, he had a 1.79 ERA garnered from 31 innings of play. VanPeteghem will look to LeClear’s “versatility and quiet leadership” as critical components to the team’s successes.

Grant Kroschel received an All-Conference Honorable Mention award last year, mainly for his work at the plate. His on base percentage of .472 was phenomenal as were his 21 stolen bases. VanPeteghem has moved Kroschel from second base to short stop this year and announced Kroschel will be the team’s leadoff hitter.

Anthony Abbott, in his second year on the varsity team, was also an Honorable Mention award winner last season.  VanPeteghem is depending on Abbott’s “big bat” in the middle of the lineup. Abbott’s batting average last year was a huge .448 in conference games. Abbott will help cover the outfield.

Danny Najacht will return to first base this season for the Comets. He is a three-time letter winner and was named First Team All-Conference last year. He led the squad in RBIs and hit .361.

Shane Champion, Robbie Schroeder, and Tevon Blazier are juniors playing in their first year on varsity.  All three will compete for playing time in the outfield.

Hunter Crist and Nathan Wilder are the lone sophomores on the team. Crist may be called into action as a pitcher and Wilder will settle in behind the plate.

Two freshmen have been named to the varsity squad.  Ethan Price, who VanPeteghem termed “very versatile,” will play both infield and outfield.  Nick Eastman will compete for playing time in the infield.

VanPeteghem’s team has talent but that doesn’t mitigate the coach’s concerns. “We have a lack of proven outfield depth, but lots of promise. We have some young guys that are going to be thrown into key positions and returning guys who are going to have to adjust to new positions.”

Make no mistake: the team is gunning for another conference title and has hopes for a district pennant as well.  “It is a very hard working group that has bought in completely to our ‘grinder’ mentality of hustling and being gritty,” VanPeteghem shared.

VanPeteghem, recognizing opponents want to beat Coloma, shared one thing the team is doing to remain focused on not only baseball but fun. The Comet squad has adopted a stuffed honey badger as a team mascot this year and carries it with them to practice and games. The honey badger is characteristically tough, ferocious, strong, and is tireless in combat. Keep your eyes on the Comet team: the same could be said for them this season.

Hartford girls’ split season track opener at home

 Hartford girls’ varsity track and field team split their home opening meet Wednesday, March 29. The squad topped Decatur but fell to Gobles. Gobles scored 81 points to Hartford’s 62, while Decatur tallied 49.

Amber Martin nabbed three first places and one second place against Gobles. Martin is Hartford’s returning state qualifier from last season.

Marisol Robles, a sophomore, won first place in the 800 meters and a second place in the 1600 meters.

Brynn Duffy, also a strong returning athlete from last year’s squad, took first in the long jump, second in the 100 meter hurdles, and third in the 300 meter hurdles.

Sophomore Janell Babcock leapt her way to first place in the pole vault and third place in the 1600 meter run.

Coloma outdueled by Saugatuck, tops Fennville

Coloma boys’ varsity track and field team opened their season at home Wednesday, March 29 with a victory over Fennville but suffered a 93-44 loss to Saugatuck.

Kobe Hunter took third place for Coloma in the long jump with a leap of 16’ 8”.

Jonah Jones threw the shot put 40’ for third place.

Gabe Doggett’s 10’ leap was good for second place in the pole vault.

Adam Hearn and Michael Dancer tied for third place in the high jump. Both leapt 5’.

Hearn’s time of 18.8 seconds in the 110 hurdles earned him a third place ranking.

Dale Noack finished the 100 meter dash in third place with a time of 12.03 seconds.

Josh Young raced to a first place finish in the 400 meter dash. He recorded a superfast time of 52.60 seconds.

Brandon Bower took second in the 300 meter hurdles with a time of 44.59 seconds.

Caleb Ellis garnered second place with his time of 2:15 in the 800 meter run.

Sincere Taylor and Derek Plitt pulled a one-two finish in the 200 meter dash. Taylor took first with a time of 23.58 seconds, while Plitt finished second with a time of 23.94 seconds.

Coloma’s relay teams finished first in the 800, 400, and 1600 meters. The relay teams also took second in the 3200 meters.

Watervliet Rec Council sets pre-season tourney dates

 The Watervliet Rec Council has set the dates for the boys’ and girls’ pre-season tournament for baseball and softball at Hays Park.

The boys will hit the field April 21 – 23 and April 28 – 30. Divisions for the boys include 6U, 8U/Instructional, Pony, Minors, and Majors.

This year the 6U t-ball league team has enough players to field six teams. Those teams will be coached by Rich Kiser, Tyler Ledesma, Britani Olds, Tim Bartee, Matt Prestidge, and Julia Clay.

SUNNY SUNDAY AT HAYS PARK… The basketball courts and baseball fields at Hays Park in Watervliet were filled Sun-day, as area temperatures hit the mid-70 degrees mark. Taking advantage of the warm weather was Nicholas Reeves, 8, who worked on throwing during practice. Mark Reeves, Nicho-las’s father, coaches the Water-vliet 8U team. The Watervliet pre-season baseball tourney kicks off April 21. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

Mark Reeves, Larry Ryan, and Nick Wilder will each coach a team of Instructional players.

Clint Jewel and Jason Querfurth were named as coaches of the two Minors teams.

John Hamilton, Rob Crago, and Ryan Kling are each coaching one of the three Majors team.

The Pony division will be represented by three Watervliet teams. Chad Priebe, Ryan VanNiel, and Carl Fish will each head up one squad.

The young ladies will take to the diamonds May 4 – 7.  They will play in 8U, 10U, 12U, and 14U divisions.

The 8U division has three teams and will be headed up by Martel Taylor, Tony Jacobs, and Nick Wigent.

The 10U league also has three squads hitting the dirt and pitching mound. Bryan Angelo, Wendy Bulat, and Tom Kiefer have been named as coaches.

In 12U Dan Whorton and Forrest Halamka will coach the two teams being fielded.

Jen VanNiel and Andy Gardiner will helm two teams in the 14U division.

Coloma relay teams win second place in home opener

The Coloma girls’ varsity track and field relay teams were the stars of the show Wednesday, March 29. The team of runners took second place in the 3200, 800, 400, and 1600 meter relay events.

Although the Comet team lost 122-15 to Saugatuck, there was plenty of talent on the track.

Divine Parker finished third in the 200 meter dash with a time of 31.07 seconds. Parker also took third in the long jump with a leap of 12’ 1”.

Kelly Walter took first place in the high jump with a leap of 4’ 11”. Samantha Scott finished third in the event with a jump of 4’ 8”. Scott ran to a third place finish in the 400 meters with a time of 1:13.70.

Destiny Motton’s time of 13.67 seconds in the 100 meter dash was good for second place.

Jimmie Johnson wrangles first victory of 2017 season at Texas

 Jimmie Johnson, a seven time NASCAR Cup Series champion, lassoed his first win of the 2017 season Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. The prolific driver took the checkered flag of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on a repaved track in the seventh event of the season.

For much of the race it appeared Ryan Blaney would get the win. His car was clearly the one to beat. At times Blaney outdrove his competition by two seconds per lap.

It was Johnson though who took command late in the race. He passed Kyle Larson on the second to last circuit of the 334-lap race.  Johnson, who led 18 laps, won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series of the year. He also secured his 81st career victory. He is seventh on the list of all-time NASCAR wins.

Larson finished second. He racked up his fifth top five this season.  Joey Logano led 38 laps on his way to a third place finish. Logano has four top five finishes and six top 10s this season.

Kevin Harvick started the race in the number one position. The pole sitter led 77 laps on the day and earned his first top five of the season after finishing in fourth place.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, rejoice! Junior also broke the top five for the first time this season; he finished in fifth place.

Blaney was the workhorse of the race. He led 148 laps.  Brad Keselowski led four laps, and Martin Truex Jr. took his turn at the head of the line as he led 49.

The race featured eight caution periods. Half of the 40-driver field finished the race on the lead lap.

Larson continues to lead the driver standings. Chase Elliott is a mere 17 points behind Larson in second place. Truex Jr. is 40 points behind the leader and one point ahead of fourth place held by Brad Keselowski. Logano rounds out the top five; he trails Larson by 72 points.

Blaney, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, and Harvick finish out the top 10.

The drivers are off next week as they celebrate Easter. On Sunday, April 23 the drivers fire up their engines for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Happy Easter, Pit Stop readers, I hope the Easter bunny is good to you.

Midway Baptist Church to hold annual sportsmen’s dinner April 22

 Midway Baptist Church will hold their annual sportsmen’s dinner on Saturday, April 22. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. and dinner will be served at 5:00 p.m.