Tradition-Rich Kingston Adding to Legacy

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

January 31, 2018

Camryn MacGuire remembers watching Kingston varsity basketball games and dreaming about the day she could be on the court.

Evan Neff enjoyed going to games so much as a kid, he kept coming back even after his family moved away for a few years while he was in middle school.

Now both are leading the way for the Cardinals on the court as the Kingston girls and boys basketball teams are inspiring another group of youngsters in their small town.

“I know a lot of little kids come to our games and are huge fans,” said Neff, a sophomore on the boys team. “I know I’ve talked to a couple eighth graders, and they say they can’t wait to play on varsity with me their sophomore year. I think a lot of the littler kids can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Basketball is king in Kingston, and this winter, Cardinals fans have plenty to cheer about. The girls team was 12-0 heading into Wednesday night’s game against Croswell-Lexington, and ranked No. 1 in Class D by the Detroit Free Press and No. 2 by The Associated Press.

The boys started the season on a nine-game winning streak, and are 11-2.

“I think it’s the same thing wherever you’re going to: if you’re winning, if you’re putting a good product out there, you’re going to see a lot of people there,” boys coach Dave Lester said. “In our little town, it seems like everybody is there for the girls games and guys games. We’ve got a great, great student body. Our home games are electric. It’s a fun atmosphere. It’s fun to coach, and it’s gotta be fun to play.

“It’s what high school sports are all about. I think that atmosphere attracts your younger athletes to want to be a part of it. If they’re there and seeing us win, that’s contagious.”

Lester and girls coach Jay Green have been part of it for the better part of the past three decades, first as players for Kingston and now as coaches.

They played together in the late 1980s, and in Green’s senior year, he helped the boys team reach the MHSAA Quarterfinals.

Green returned to coach the girls team and win four District titles in four years – along with his brother, Dave – during the late 90s. Lester took over the girls program in 2003 and coached the team to the Quarterfinal. The Greens came back to the program in 2011, and Lester took over the boys team midway through the 2013-14 season.

“I think there’s probably a little more passion toward what you do, and what you’re trying to instill into the girls and the boys because you are an alumni,” Jay Green said. “I think both of us could say we were successful alumni in the past. And we both learned under coach Leon Westover when we played, then developed our own ideas, and we have that pride of seeing both the boys and girls doing well.”

Green credits his team’s current success, in part, to the parents in the program, who have taken the time to get their girls to the gym for years and been supportive throughout.

MacGuire agreed.

“My parents, and a bunch of the girls on my team’s parents were always pushing us, and always getting us to play as much as we could,” the point guard said. “They were always telling us that big things were coming. Our starting five is all juniors, and we’ve been playing together since the fourth grade or third grade.”

Kingston’s girls aren’t focused too much on the rankings, or the record, but more on preparing themselves for the postseason. They’ve already scored a win against Class C power Sandusky, and the game against Cros-Lex will provide a test against a strong Class B program. A game against another Class B school, Yale, was postponed because of weather this past Monday.

“I love playing bigger schools,” MacGuire said. “It gives you more competition, and you get to push yourself even more; then it’s even better if you come out with the win. It’s going to benefit us in the tournament.”

Their classmates are providing plenty of support to both teams. MacGuire said there’s been a buzz in the hallways all season, and both she and Neff said their teams make sure to cheer each other on whenever their schedules allow.

“I never really watched girls basketball until seventh or eighth grade when we moved back to Kingston,” Neff said. “I remember watching those teams, and I was really impressed. My eighth grade year, they had like four or five freshmen on varsity, and I knew they were going to be outstanding. Those girls work really hard, and they’re great athletes.”

“We try to make it to as many (boys) games as we can, even the road games,” MacGuire said. “We support each other both ways. It’s a good atmosphere.”

No Kingston team has ever been beyond the Quarterfinals, but the conference and District championships have piled up through the years. And as dedicated players keep walking into the program, it could just be a matter of time before a group of them breaks through.

“It’s just a tradition here, and our kids know it,” Lester said. “When you walk into our gym, there’s tons and tons of basketball banners. We really talk about tradition and how it would be great to continue that tradition and put up more banners.

“Obviously, we would like to make a long run. At some point, you want to win a state championship, but it’s a process. We’ve got some kids who were playing a lot of basketball, putting a lot of time into it. They want to win, and they want to be a part of that tradition.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Kingston’s Carley Smith, left, pushes the ball upcourt while junior Nathan Cloyd, right, launches a shot. (Middle) Gerilyn Carpenter looks for open teammates during a game this season. (Below) Sophomore Evan Neff works to get around a Bad Axe defender. (Photos by Spot On By Shari.)

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)