High 5s - 2/21/12

February 21, 2012

Every Tuesday, Second Half honors 2-4 athletes and a team for its accomplishments during the current season.

Have a suggestion for a future High 5? Please offer suggestions by e-mail to [email protected]. Candidates often will have accomplished great things on the field of play -- but also will be recognized for other less obvious contributions to their teams, schools or the mission of high school athletics as a whole.

Dillon Mayer
Sault Ste. Marie senior
Swimming and Diving

Mayer won his second straight Upper Peninsula Finals diving championship Saturday in his home pool with a score of 226.55. He finished no worse than fourth at the Finals during his high school career, and set a school record this season with a six-dive score of 236.00. He also runs track and has a black belt in Kuk sool wan, a form of Korean martial arts.

"I have strived for the past four years to break the team diving record. This year I was finally able to break the team record, and then continued to break it through the season for a total of five times before the end of the season. Being the U.P. diving champion for the second year in a row was pretty awesome too!"

Up next: Mayer will attend either Michigan State University or Lake Superior State University, and hopes to dive if he attends MSU. He plans to major in fire science and paramedic studies. "I would like to work as a flight paramedic for a level one trauma center."

I learned the most about diving from: MSU diving coach Eric Best and Sault Ste. Marie coaches Ray Groeke and Kelli Vander Baan.

I look up to: "... the university divers I learned from at the MSU diving camp each year. They are amazing divers with a lot of knowledge to share."

I like most about diving: "From a competitive standpoint, I like the feeling of nailing a dive. From a recreational standpoint, I enjoy the thrill of trying new things."

I'm motivated by: "The new records on the record board, my family and my teammates."

Leah Hartman

Ovid-Elsie senior


Hartman bowled the first and one of only three 300 games in the state this season, on Jan. 4, according to listings maintained by the Michigan High School Interscholastic Bowling Coaches Association. Her high series of 524 is third-best in the state this winter, and she's carrying a 201 game average this season. She qualified for last season's MHSAA Division 3 Final and made the all-state third team. She also played volleyball and softball at the start of high school, but has focused on bowling the last two years.

"My first 300 game was the most memorable because other coaches announced my game at other tournaments, and my name was on a neon sign at 300 Bowl in Alma. It gave me a feeling of accomplishment"

Up next: Hartman is considering Alma College because of its strong art program and bowling team. She plans to spend her first year of college deciding between a major in fine arts and accounting. She could also compete on the Michigan Junior Masters or Junior Gold circuits. Among her goals: bowl an 800 series and sell her art.

I learned the most about bowling from: “Mike Braun. He is the instructor at Lansing Community College. He teaches bowling and he has been helping me achieve better bowling techniques. But before him, it was my mom Sherri Hartman and dad Don Hartman."

I look up to: "My mom, because she is the one person who is strong enough to take on life. And my dad, who has helped me with my bowling since the beginning. Then I look up to Pete Weber and Norm Duke, who are, in my opinion, the best PBA bowlers to ever set a foot on the lanes."

I love bowling because: "I have a lot of stress built into my life, and it is hard for me to stay focused. But when I bowl, it is the one time I feel like a genius. I want to continue bowling becuase I feel like there is nothing better than the feeling of your first 300 game, and all the fans who are cheering for you to win.

I'm driven by: "... when I walk into a bowling alley and I run into my fans who are cheering me on every step of the way, and the applause whenever I hear my name announced. It makes me feel proud of myself when others cheer when they hear my name."

Adam Coon

Fowlerville junior


Coon is seeking his third MHSAA individual championship. He won both his District and Regional and enters next weekend's Finals with a 46-0 record this season and 153-3 record over his three-year high school career. He won his first two MHSAA championships at 215 pounds and moved to 285 this winter. He also is a three-year starter on the Gladiators' football team, playing linebacker and on the offensive line, and placed sixth in shot put in Division 2 at last spring's track and field Finals.

Up next: Coon is just a junior, but would like to wrestle or play football at the next level and study aerospace engineering, with his sights set on the space program. "I'd love to go to space. It's always been a dream."\

I learned the most about wrestling from: "My dad, Dan Coon. He is the (Fowlerville) coach, and he continues to push me and teaches me the most."

I look up to: "Dan Coon. He teaches me a lot about life and wrestling, and he's just a great guy to look up to."

I love most about wrestling: "The aggressiveness, the contact and necessary skill. The strategy behind it. The technical skill. It tests you mental wit and brute strength."

I get ready for my match by: "I warm up five matches previous. With one match left, I slap myself, then take off my sweats and go to town."

Most shining moment: "My most memorable win was in summer wrestling, in Hungary (at the Cadet World Championships) . I won the Finals match there. after being down 4-0, and came back and ended up body locking him and winning the match."

Detroit Martin Luther King boys basketball

The Crusaders avenged earlier losses to both Detroit Crockett and then Detroit Pershing to win the Detroit Public School League championship, downing the Doughboys in the final 76-69.

The PSL championship was King's first since 1999. The Crusaders are 15-4 heading into next week's Operation Friendship game against the Detroit Catholic High School League A-B champion, which will be decided Saturday. Click to see all of Detroit King's scores this season.

Constantine Football All-Stater, Wrestling Champ Aiming for Grand Finale

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

April 30, 2024

CONSTANTINE – Bennett VandenBerg has earned many accolades over the last four years as a three-sport athlete at Constantine.

Southwest CorridorBut the awards aren't what the 6-foot-3, 240-pound standout will remember most when reflecting on his memories as an all-state football player, state champion wrestler and record-breaking throwing specialist on the Falcons' track & field squad.

"I'll remember how I represented our school and pushed myself to be the best I could be in each sport that I played," said VandenBerg, who has earned 12 varsity letters.

VandenBerg has evolved into one of the most accomplished athletes in the state this school year as a senior, especially standing out among those from smaller communities.

This past fall he was named first-team Division 5-6 all-state at defensive end in football before winning the Division 3 Individual Finals wrestling title at 285 pounds in early March at Ford Field.

VandenBerg's final goal is to win the discus title at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals on Saturday, June 1, in Kent City to end his Constantine career all-state in all three sports.

He broke the school record in the discus his junior year with a throw of 158 feet, 1 inch; the previous mark of 156-6 had been held by Doug Polasek since 1986. VandenBerg has eclipsed his school record twice this spring, most recently with a personal-best toss of 170-9 in a Southwestern Athletic Conference double dual meet with Schoolcraft and Kalamazoo Christian. He ranks No. 4 statewide in the event regardless of enrollment division. Lawton junior Mason Mayne at 175-4 is the only Division 3 competitor with a better throw than VandenBerg.

"It's really cool to have your name up on the school record board, but I'd like to make that mark more untouchable before I'm done," VandenBerg said. "My goal is to be a state discus champion. I've put in the necessary work for it. It would be nice to end my career that way."

Kyle Rimer, Constantine's veteran boys track & field coach, is most impressed with VandenBerg's leadership and presence in working with the Falcons' younger athletes.

VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. "Bennett loves to compete. Ever since he was a freshman, we've also had him on our 400-meter relay team. That's something he really enjoys doing. He's not just a thrower, but a good overall athlete with lots of drive,” Rimer said. “There's a lot of individuality in track & field, but I think he does a great job of leading the younger kids. He has the drive, accountability and technique to achieve his goal of being a state champion in his throwing events.”

VandenBerg is already a two-time Finals placer in the discus, earning sixth as a junior and seventh his sophomore year. He admits being a little disappointed with his distance at the 2023 state meet.

"In that particular event (discus) you need lots of focus and determination because there are a ton of tiny things you can mess up on that affect your throw. To become better you need to be consistent, show up every day and be willing to put in the work," VandenBerg said. "Right now I'm working on my speed in the circle and quickness in my follow-through."

VandenBerg also has been pleased with his improvement this spring in the shot put. He's increased his distance by over five feet and hopes to break the school record in that event as well. John Kampars (1967) holds Constantine's shot put record at 54-8¼, and VandenBerg's personal best is 48-10 in a double-dual meet this season against Parchment and Centreville.

"Shot put is a difficult event. You need power, but your form has to be top-notch – otherwise it's tough to move that 12-pound ball," VandenBerg said. "I would love to qualify for state in both the discus and shot put and be all-state in each. That would be amazing if I could be a state champion in either of those events."

VandenBerg has put in extra work in the offseason with special instruction from Bill Griffey of Next Throw in Plainwell, along with working with Constantine assistant track & field and head football coach Shawn Griffith.

"Bennett puts a lot of time into working on his throwing. He spends a lot of time in the weight room, and he's a bigger kid who is not afraid to be coached and listens to what other people tell him," Griffith said. "We're excited to see what he can do now that we've had warmer weather recently."

VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft.VandenBerg's motivation this spring follows a tremendous wrestling season that saw him finish 54-0 and capture the 285 championship with a 3-0 win in the title match over Reed City junior Wyatt Spalo.

"I gained 20 pounds of muscle and did everything you need to do to become a better athlete to wrestle the heavyweight division. Winning the title was overwhelming. It was everything I ever wanted, and the first 20 minutes after winning it was relief, especially after losing in the Finals as a junior. I just went into that last match and wrestled smart and confident," VandenBerg said. "My speed and strength gave me an advantage over the bigger heavyweights I faced this year."

Vandenberg, 188-22 with 104 career pins, became the 10th Finals champion in Constantine wrestling history and the first to achieve the feat since Kevin Watkins won a 152-pound crown in 2000.

VandenBerg competed at 189 as a freshman and sophomore. He was a Regional qualifier as a freshman and finished sixth in Division 3 as a sophomore before ending his junior campaign as the Finals runner-up at 215. 

"Bennett is a competitor who hates to lose, and if he does he learns from it. He had a lot of good practice partners on the team his first three years, and he wasn't going to be denied after losing in the Finals as a junior," said Constantine wrestling coach Dale Davidhizar Jr.

VandenBerg played on Constantine's varsity football team for four years. He got a lot of extra playing time as a freshman when Constantine reached the Division 6 Semifinals during in the COVID-shortened season. He led the Falcons in rushing as a sophomore before switching to tight end as a junior. Out of necessity, VandenBerg returned to lead Constantine in rushing and scoring again as a senior.

"Bennett learned a great deal from the older guys on the team his first three varsity seasons. He learned leadership qualities and is a very unselfish kid who is willing to do what's best for his team," Griffith said.

VandenBerg is most proud of Constantine winning a District crown last fall, especially after his senior class went 0-5-1 as eighth graders. VandenBerg posted 164 solo tackles at defensive end during his final high school season and was Constantine's main offensive weapon with 1,354 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing on 186 carries.

"Winning Districts as seniors in football was a special moment. As eighth graders, we weren't exactly the most athletic team, but we put in the work as we got older to become successful," VandenBerg said.

VandenBerg has been invited to play for the West team at the annual Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's East-West All-Star Game this summer.

College coaches have shown interest in VandenBerg in all three sports, especially football and wrestling. VandenBerg, who carries a cumulative GPA of 3.989 and scored 1110 on his SAT, is weighing his options in athletics but knows he wants to study either ecology or forestry in college.

"I love being outdoors and doing what I love to do," VandenBerg said.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Constantine’s Bennett VandenBerg competes in the discus during a home meet his junior season. (Middle) VandenBerg, top position, battles Wyatt Spalo in their Division championship wrestling match at 285 pounds in March at Ford Field. (Below) VandenBerg (34) carries the football during a 2023 regular-season home game against Schoolcraft. (Photos by Brandon Watson/Sturgis Journal.)