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06-25-2020 Tri-city Area Sports

NEXT… Like a line at the local grocery store, were numerous kayakers waiting for their turn to launch over the weekend in Watervliet at the county park on the Paw Paw River. High heat and humidity made this river even more attractive than usual. (Contributed photo)


Coloma Press Box By Dave Vollrath


Coloma Comet athletes back on the fields; state issues guidelines

There has probably never been a time in the history of this great country when one school year has come to a close one week and so many students, school staff, and even the parents have been immediately ready for the next school year to begin. Whether or not the K-12 schools in Michigan open on time later this summer is still being discussed by a panel of educational, government, and state health officials.

If they open, how many changes will take place at the direction of this panel, whose main objective at this point would certainly be the health and safety of the students? All of this is still anyone’s guess. In speaking with people around the area the last couple of weeks, most folks are confident that the 2020-21 school year will be happening. And of course along with that would be our Comet high school sports which are badly needed by our young people as part of their process in growing into adults.

A little more than a week ago the Michigan High School Athletic Association, the governing body over Michigan high school sports, announced to the schools that they once again could begin allowing the coaches to hold summer team conditioning drills at the schools but could do so outdoors only, and under specific guidelines. By now most people know the COVID-19 routine you must take part in before being allowed into many area businesses. Many of those same requirements will be necessary for the Coloma athletes to participate in each day’s work outs.

Comet Athletic Director Wendy Goodline mailed out to each family, who have students in the Coloma high school, a letter stipulating these requirements which affect every athlete, and also a list of rules for each specific sport. Some of the rules that must take place each day before participating for all athletes are as follows. They will have to satisfactorily answer four health related questions and have their temperature taken.

At the present time the governor is not allowing any students inside the school buildings at any time for any reason. Students are asked to bring their own water bottle, and along with their clothing, shoes, and towels, are asked not to share their personal items with any other athlete. Students should go home right after practice and shower or bathe immediately. When outside, face masks are optional. Sanitizer should be made available, and used by the coaches to clean equipment during activity, frequently, and afterward. Social distancing will take place, with 6-foot spacing, at all times during workouts. If there is a COVID-19 exposure, the sport and participants will not be allowed to participate for a minimum of 14 days.

Additional rules by sport

Football: Each player must keep a social distancing space from all other players and coaches. Common equipment such as the balls must be cleaned frequently and as needed during the workout. No contact what so ever among the players or with the players and equipment including sleds, dummies, or shields. No safety equipment should be worn except helmets at the present time.

Cross-country/ Track and Field: Runners should keep a 6-foot spacing between themselves and all other runners, with no grouping up, such as at the start or the finish.

Volleyball: There must be a 6-foot spacing between all players during any of the drills. The balls and other common equipment must be cleaned as needed during the session. All activity must take place outdoors.

Soccer: There should be no physical contact among the players and all drills should be designed to avoid player contact, and once again the soccer balls should be cleaned and disinfected frequently.

Sideline Cheer: No physical contact; chants and jumps only, with social distancing necessary.

Basketball: All activity presently has to take place outdoors, and all drills and conditioning runs should be done with proper spacing. All basketballs should be cleaned and wiped frequently, and as needed.

Baseball/Softball: All players should stay physically distant, and players should not share their equipment, including gloves, shoes, batting gloves, helmets, hats, or other catcher’s equipment.

Golf: Maintain social distancing.

Conditioning schedules

The following is a list of the current Coloma teams’ practice schedules. These are not official practices but preparations and conditioning only.

Football will be meeting on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The 7 on 7 scrimmages that take place every summer will hopefully also take place this year on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m., July 7 thru 23.

Baseball will meet up on Tuesdays 6-8 p.m. at the Coloma baseball field.

Volleyball will meet outside at the softball field, Monday thru Thursday 7:30-9:00 a.m.

Cross Country will begin on June 28 at Coach Churchill’s Farm at 7 p.m.; and Tuesdays at the high school at 9 a.m.

Boys basketball is meeting on Tuesdays at 5-6 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., and will be meeting on the Comet track until they are allowed to go back inside.

High School cheer will be meeting on the grass outside the wrestling room on Wednesdays from 10-11 a.m.

A note to Middle School parents says that there will be no summer workouts until late August.

National sports scene

As the professional sporting world is still struggling with when and how they will be able to get competition going again, baseball in particular was dealt another blow this week. The players once again rejected the owner’s proposal which included a 60-game regular season. Billions of dollars of lost revenue and wages is still the main sticking point.

MLB also announced this week that they were closing all of the major league training camps, with each scheduled to get a thorough cleaning before allowing the players and employees to return. It is looking like something needs to be done very soon for any baseball to be played this season, as the earliest date they could possibly start right now has been moved out to July 26.

Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele


More Hartford sports begin training – fall sports may happen?

As has been the case for months, and months, on end, we have seen the headlines pour in on the coronavirus pandemic, and lately how Michigan’s citizens have helped lead the state’s decline in cases and hospitalizations. While that may seem small it in itself has had a big impact on high school athletes, across the state of Michigan, who wishes to play sports in the fall. Despite the uncertainty, the Hartford Athletic Department is safely moving forward.

As mentioned last week, the Hartford Lady Indian Volleyball team began conditioning workouts, albeit outdoors due to the restrictions currently in place, last week. This week, however, the remainder of Hartford sports are scheduled to begin their “off season workouts”, as the cross-country, football and soccer teams will see their first summer conditioning and training sessions in the coming days.

While on the outside that may seem like some really great news, the reality is this fall is going to be far from normal. It is far from certain games and races will be held, as many restrictions are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future, and competitions are not allowed at this time. Certain sports carry a much higher risk of coronavirus transmission. The “new normal” will see coaches carrying around infrared thermometers and clipboards with not just plays, but monitoring forms trying to ensure their players safety.

While the situation has been differing statewide, the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) has been communicating with its member schools throughout the pandemic, and on June 10 the association sent out their second “summer guidance update”. The five-page document features a rubric of guidelines and tasks schools must follow and complete in this “new normal” age of athletic activities. Of course, the state will be altering orders in certain regions over time, and the guidelines will surely change.

Key points issued in the memorandum include the acknowledgment of outdoor activity continuing with groups of 100 (number increases to 250 in regions 6 and 8 – northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula) at a modified step 2, indoor activities at a modified step 2, also only in regions 6 and 8 (including gymnasiums, weight rooms, training centers, bowling alleys, etc.) and that all MHSAA out-of-season summer coaching regulations continue to apply.

Following the key points, administrators and coaches received some of the most important information released in the document, in the form of sport-specific activity and workouts for the summer. With that came the designation of low, moderate and high-risk sports. While all sports should be maintaining social distancing whenever possible, the MHSAA has also required individual sports to follow strict guidelines to keep their athletes safe.

In terms of Hartford fall sports, cross-country and sideline cheer are considered “low risk” sports, while boys soccer and volleyball are considered “moderate risk” sports and football is considered a “high risk” sport.

In terms of cross country and sideline cheer, individuals must continue to practice physical distancing – if outdoors (which is currently happening for sideline cheer due to indoor facility closures). In boys soccer, football and volleyball (which is also outdoors conditioning due to closures), common equipment, such as the ball, must be cleaned as permitted during a practice or workout session, while also maintaining adequate social distancing measures.

In addition to individual sport guidelines, the MHSAA also addressed the previously aforementioned “Step 2 Guidelines”. While we will not get into the specifics, highlighted reminders include facility cleaning, enter/ exit strategies, limits on gatherings, pre-workout screening, face coverings, hygiene practices, facility access, and physical activity and equipment.

Finer points of the guidelines can be found by visiting the MHSAA website at http://www.mhsaa.com.

As an loyal and proud supporter of Hartford athletics through the good and bad times, I know our administration, athletic department and coaching staff will be given the proper tools, and go above and beyond, to keep our student-athletes healthy and safe. Athletic leadership will continue to lead by example, and our coaches still are coaching plays and techniques like usual. But they will also be there to take their temperatures, ask those tough questions and follow guidelines properly – new job titles they never saw happening just three months ago.

In conclusion, what all of this suggests is that our association and schools are taking every possible measure to protect the health and safety of our student-athletes, which should be the top priority over wins and losses. And while some of the measures and restrictions that remain in place over time may be an inconvenience for a period, it will become a part of the “new normal” for a while. As a state, we have done our part since those early days, but we cannot let up now.

If you have a passion for high school sports and miss them, like I do, keep doing your part to make your communities a healthier place. By doing your part, some good will come from this, and maybe we will have some sports to talk about in the months to come – fingers crossed.

As always, GO INDIANS!

Watervliet Press Box by John Oliphant


Panther football offseason program begins, schedules released

The Panther football summer weightlifting and conditioning program began this week on the heels of a successful all-sports re-start last week. Schedules have been mailed to all high school football players. Anyone that knows of a student who may not have received the information should have them contact the athletic department at (269) 463-0733 for more information.

The volleyball program is also holding “open gym” practices this week, though they’ll be held outside because the school buildings are still closed. The team plans to go to team camp in Indiana next month.

Boys’ soccer and the cross-country team programs will also be offering summer workouts, contact the athletic department for details.

The news this week is the Panther football team opening the 2020 season when the South Haven Rams come to town on Thursday, August 27. It’s the first time the teams have met in many years, and the Rams are coming off a winless 2019 season where they scored just 34 points all year. Rams Coach Mark Eddy hopes to score a few wins this season but they have another relatively tough schedule for 2020, starting with the Panthers.

The Panthers then travel to Hartford on Thursday, September 3 to face the Indians. Hartford went 6-4 last season and made a trip to the playoffs, earning a game against eventual district champion Schoolcraft. The Panthers haven’t faced the Indians since 2016 when the powerful Panthers beat a depleted group of Indians 86-0 in the season opener. That was an extremely tough year for the Indians but they have been much better in the intervening years and are likely to be seeking some revenge for that last game.

While scheduled for Thursdays, these games could eventually be moved to Fridays. The rest of the 2020 schedule follows, with their opponent’s 2019 record.

September 11, at Buchanan (3-6)

September 18, Galesburg-Augusta (1-8)

September 26, at Fennville (4-5)

October 2, Constantine (8-3)

October 16, at Coloma (3-6)

October 23, at Parchment (2-7)

The boys’ soccer team kicks off on September 9 when Parchment visits, then Constantine on September 14, then a trip to Coloma on September 16.

The volleyball season opens at Coloma on September 15, then Saugatuck visits on September 17. The volleyball and soccer schedules are likely to expand throughout the summer, and the cross-country schedule is still wide open so far.

Ladies Monday Night Happy Hour Golf League

June 22 Golf Report from the Paw Paw Lake Golf Club:

Weekly Event Winner – Katherine Rodriguez; Low Gross – Cheryl Hutchins with 49; Low Putts – Cheryl Hutchins with 15; Low Net – Charlene Durfee, Kathy Osborne and Cheryl Hutchins with 35; Pars – Kathy Osborne on Holes #7 and #9 and Colleen McKeown on Hole 1.

PressBox Player of the Week

By Jerrod Birmele

Joey Lehmkuhl, a recent graduate of Hartford High School and a member of the Indian Cross-Country, Powerlifting (club) and Baseball teams, is the June 25, 2020 Tri-City Record Press Box Player of the Week.

Joey was the epitome of what it means to be a Hartford student-athlete during his four years in high school. He was successful in both his academic studies and athletic achievements. His accomplishments on the athletic fields and trails include being a four-year letter winner on the baseball team and a two-year letter winner on the cross-country team. And while powerlifting is considered a “club” sport, he made great strides to become stronger the past few years.

On the baseball diamond, Joey was a slick-fielding infielder, who primarily played second base and shortstop. While his complete career stats are not available, he would have come into this season having batted .440 last year while earning all-conference honors in the Southwest 10 Conference.

On the cross-country trail, Joey was always among the top runners for the green and white, solidifying himself as one of the team leaders. He ended his running career by finishing below 20 minutes in 19 of his 22 races, including 11 races where he ran below the 19 minute barrier. His career best time of 18:08 came in the regional meet at Centreville during his junior year. He was a two-time first team all-conference selection, and has been voted by his teammates as Most Valuable Runner.

In powerlifting, Joey fell short of making state his junior year and vowed to change that this year. And, after finishing 1st in his weight class at the regional meet by lifting 845 pounds total, he did just that. He followed that up with an 8th place finish in the state meet, improving his total lift by 30 pounds, as he finished with a total lift of 875 pounds (300 in the squat, 205 in the bench press and 370 in the dead lift).

However, Joey’s greatest accomplishments, as it should be, were in the classroom. He left Hartford High School as an honor’s graduate that finished in the top ten in his graduating class. He was a third-year academic award winner, a member of the National Honor Society, and a Southwest 10 Conference Scholar Athlete. At the virtual Senior Academic Awards night, he was honored with key awards in English and Social Studies, while earning certificates of merit in British Literature, Math Finance, Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates and Advanced PE.

Congratulations on this great honor, Joey! Thank you for all the memories you have given Hartford fans over the last four years. We wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors!

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