Performance: Coldwater's Shuaib Aljabaly

October 7, 2016

Shuaib Aljabaly
Coldwater junior - Cross Country

In a relatively short time, Aljabaly has made an incredible impression on the cross country course. He started running with Coldwater's high school team only midway through his sophomore season but finished last fall placing eighth at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final. Now a junior, Aljabaly is undefeated this season and earned the Michigan National Guard "Performance of the Week" by winning Saturday's Otsego Invitational Division 2 race in a school-record 15:34, finishing just ahead of two more 2015 all-staters in Grand Rapids Christian's Justin Varineau and Otsego's Alex Comerford. 

Also a starting midfielder on Coldwater's No. 7-ranked soccer team, Aljabaly has led the Cardinals' cross country team to a No. 4 ranking in LP Division 2 – they finished second as a team at Otsego only to top-ranked Grand Rapids Christian. Varineau had finished one spot ahead of Aljabaly at last season's MHSAA Final – but Aljabaly was most familiar with Comerford (13th in LPD2 in 2015) as the two already had faced off this fall in a race of undefeated runners Sept. 24 at the Jackson Invitational. Aljabaly's time at Otsego also would've won that event's Division 1 race by 40 seconds.

Aljabaly played junior varsity soccer and ran track as a freshman, qualifying for the MHSAA Finals in the 3,200-meter run. At the convincing of his cross country coaches, Aljabaly gave that sport a try last fall and should contend for the LPD2 title this season and next; his 15:34 would've finished third at last season's MHSAA Final and he also broke 16 minutes with a 15:46 at Jackson. He'll likely face his fastest challenge so far this fall at Saturday's Portage Invitational, where he finished seventh in the Division 2 race last season. 

Cross Country coach Jim Bilsborrow said: “He is a real competitor who hates to lose. He also studies his opponents and knows what are their strong and weak points, which he tries to exploit. Now that he has made cross country his primary sport, he has been able and willing to do some more intense training, which of course has made him even better. He is also a real ‘team player’ who cares about his teammates and how well the team does. Of course, I must add that he is blessed with talent, as all great runners are endowed, but fortunately he is using his talent and not wasting it.”

Performance Point: “We raced the week before at Jackson and the course was pretty fast, and they said Otsego’s is even faster,” Aljabaly said. “I was 1.5 seconds away from the record at that (Jackson) race, so I had a good feeling about Otsego. … Usually I start kicking at the 2-mile mark; Coach is usually standing there telling me when to kick. But I waited until the 3-mile mark, the 2.9. I didn’t know if one of (Varineau and Comerford) would go or not. We just stayed together until I went, and I felt like they just dropped back. But (Varineau) was kicking strong; he was only four tenths of a second behind me. I was told he was six seconds behind me at the 3-mile mark. Everyone was just yelling so loud, it made me run faster.”

Doubling up: “(Playing two sports) is going better than last year. It’s pretty hard, but we’re 14-1-1 (now 15-1-1) in soccer and we just locked up the conference, so we’re doing pretty good there too. It’s really flexible, the schedule. The coaches talk it out before the season starts. Cross country is my primary so I go to cross country practice and I go to soccer practice unless there’s a meet the same day, and then I usually go to the cross country meet. I haven’t missed a soccer game, but this weekend (running) at Portage, I’m going to miss a soccer game.”

Back for more: “Last year I wasn’t going to do cross country, but Coach Bilsborrow got me to do it. I started halfway through the season and at Portage last year I broke the school record but on a short court (just less than 5K), and that’s what motivated me to keep running.”

Born to run: “I like the competition. I like being nervous before the race, the feeling of knowing who you’re up against, the competition mainly. … We didn’t really have strong competition at the first few races. At Jackson I went against (Comerford) and I kinda realized how he races and starts off at the beginning. At Otsego I thought I’d get (Comerford) but I wasn’t sure about (Varineau). ... (Competition) pushes me. It motivates me. At Jackson, Coach told me (Comerford) was undefeated too. One of us was going to lose that day.”

Now I know: “Last year at the Portage meet, I went out too fast. I didn’t know who I was going against, and it was the top 10 kids in the state. I led for a mile, but I didn’t know how to race last year; I didn’t know how to start and how to finish and how to race. I raced this summer at 5Ks and (learned) strategies and talked to Coach about it. Grand Rapids Christian, Otsego and most of the rest of the good kids are going to be there (Saturday), and it’s going to show me what I can do at state.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2016-17 honorees:
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – 

PHOTOS: (Top) Coldwater's Shuaib Aljabaly cruises through a course this season. (Middle) Aljabaly is undefeated in 2016 and will next race Saturday at the Portage Invitational. (Photos courtesy of the Coldwater boys cross country program.)

Storch Returns to Retirement After Elevating Alpena Teams From Cellar to Contenders

By Tom Spencer
Special for

December 16, 2022

It wasn’t long ago that Alpena boys and girls soccer opponents took their long bus rides to play the Wildcats expecting an easy win, and most likely by securing the victory by the eight-goal differential rule, commonly known as the “mercy rule.”

Worse yet, the Wildcats also had to take those trips across the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, as well as northern and southern journeys of two hours, dreading thoughts of experiencing yet another shortened game.

Those expectations started to change in 2011, when Tim Storch, arguably the most decorated coach in the history of Michigan high school soccer, took the reins of the Wildcats’ boys and girls programs.  

Storch made the move after retiring from Troy Athens as a teacher and coach of the Redhawks’ boys and girls soccer teams.

Slowly but surely, Alpena’s mercy losses disappeared – and wins over their Big North Conference opponents became reality. Under Storch, the Wildcats went from the cellar to challenging for titles.

But now, Storch is showing some mercy on the Big North – perhaps an early Christmas present. The conference schools won’t see him on sidelines any longer. He’s retiring – again.   

Storch is doing so after leading the Wildcats to wins over all conference opponents except Traverse City West. The Wildcats did get a tie this fall against the Titans, one of the BNC schools that regularly makes a deep postseason run, as Alpena stayed in the league title race most of the season.

“When I came to Alpena it was about trying to make the program relevant in the school, the community, the area, the BNC and northern Michigan,” Storch recalled. “We got to that point after some growing pains. 

“Early on we took our lumps, and we were mercied by everybody,” he continued. “By the end we were competitive with everybody.”

Storch, who started the Athens soccer programs from scratch in 1981, won eight Class A or Division 1 Finals titles with the Redhawks. He’s near the top of the lists of the winningest boys and girls soccer coaches in the state. The last of his 1,109 wins was a 3-1 victory over Bay City Western during this fall’s postseason.  

The Wildcats also beat conference opponent Cadillac in their District opener. They finished 14-6-3 on the season.   

Storch will be dearly missed in Northern Michigan, veteran Petoskey boys and girls coach Zach Jonker pointed out. Jonker’s Northmen picked up a victory over Alpena in the Division 2 District Final – also Storch’s last game. 

"Tim has had a legendary career as one of the most influential figures in Michigan high school soccer over the past 40 years while having an enormous impact on thousands of student-athletes,” Jonker said. “Over the past decade, Tim helped to dramatically raise the overall level of play in the Big North. 

Storch, holding the microphone, elevated the Wildcats’ girls and boys programs since taking over both in 2011. “He is one of fiercest competitors I have ever coached against, but he is also one of the most genuine and empathetic coaches I have ever encountered,” Jonker continued. “I feel fortunate to have been able to build a competitive relationship with him and call him a friend."

Storch’s last game with the Alpena girls also was a District Final, a 3-0 loss May 31 to West.

Storch is proud of what the Wildcats accomplished, noting logistics — unlike in southeastern Michigan — were a big challenge.

“We were an island,” Storch said. “We were big school in the middle of nowhere. 

“We couldn’t get together and have any kind of summer program with other communities because they didn’t have soccer, and if they had soccer they were at a Class D or C level that was way beneath what we were playing in the Big North.”

Storch’s tenure, which included six years serving as the Wildcats’ athletic director while coaching, drew accolades from his coaches and athletic directors. In addition to Jonker, Gaylord AD Christian Wilson, and West boys head coach and girls assistant coach Matt Griesinger gave high praise.

They are among those who will miss the successful coach.

“Tim leaves Alpena in better shape than when he arrived, and that is the true mark of a great coach and administrator,” Wilson said. “He has been an outstanding representative of Alpena High School, both as a soccer coach and as an athletic director. 

“Tim brought a level of stability and expertise and was well-thought of by players, coaches, and community members.”

Griesinger, who has led the Titans to considerable postseason success and upheld BNC dominance since taking over the West program eight seasons ago, was particularly impressed with Storch’s energy and passion for his players evident in every match.

“Tim is one of the most respected coaches in the state, and what he has done for the soccer communities in both Troy and Alpena is not just commendable, but also something that every high school coach should hope to emulate,” Griesinger stated. “Storch is a stand-up guy, and all of us other coaches in the BNC should consider ourselves lucky that our journeys in the sport overlapped.”

Storch is leaving Michigan high school sports as they face a shortage of referees and qualified coaches. He’s not certain of the exact reasons for it, but he points to time constraints and pressures faced on and off the field.

And, he knows the days of a teacher starting a career, coaching sports and sticking with it are long gone.

“My wife has always said I was a dinosaur,” Storch said with a chuckle. “Back in my day, even if you had family and kids, you still made time for coaching. 

“Coaching was part of my fiber — it kind of defined me.”

Storch is quick to point out “soccer coach” was just one of three hats he wore, along with history teacher and friend.

“I’m Mr. Storch to my students,” he recalls telling his student-athletes at Athens. “I’m Coach to my kids, and I am Tim to my friends.

“They are three different hats; I learned how to wear them and how to balance them.”

Storch looks back to all the friendships he’s made around the game of soccer – with former players, fellow coaches, and referees – with excitement for the future.  

He is also keeping in mind former players, referees and coaches who have passed on.

“It is kind of humbling when I think back all the years (to) coaches, referees and players I have interacted with,” he said. “We’re all here for a finite time. 

“We need to make the most of it and hopefully leave the place a better place when we leave.”

Tom 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 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) Recently-retired Alpena soccer coach Tim Storch, left, talks things over with one of his players. (Middle) Storch, holding the microphone, elevated the Wildcats’ girls and boys programs since taking over both in 2011. (Photos courtesy of Therese Shaw.)