By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Belding High School’s Redskin Arena was completed during the summer of 2012, a glistening gymnasium with seats the school colors of orange and black reaching from a sunken floor toward the domed rafters overhead.
Tonight, the school hopes to set an attendance record by filling those 2,250 seats – and standing-room capacity of 2,650 – for the first time in the building’s brief history.
Belding hosts Coopersville for boys and then girls varsity basketball games, beginning at 6 p.m. The “Fill the Gym” idea was hatched in part this fall during an MHSAA Sportsmanship Summit, said junior Greta Wilker, also a member of the MHSAA’s Student Advisory Council.
This fall’s Summits focused on crowd participation and featured stories of past Battle of the Fans participants that had helped build large community followings.
“We were trying to think of ways that we could get some of our lower levels involved as well as the community,” Wilker said. “So it originated as a ‘kids night’ where all of the kids from the elementary buildings would get in free.
“But then we decided to go bigger.”
Tonight, all who show at the door wearing a white shirt will get in free. Elementary teams will play at halftime, and the girls 2003 MHSAA Semifinals team and boys 2008 District champ will be honored. Alumni also will join the school's band for its performance.
Fans should have plenty to cheer on during the games well. The boys, after a tough start, have won two of their last four games, and the girls are 9-3 and in second place in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue.
“Our hope is that it reconnects the community with our teams by having a cool event,” Wilker said. “And that it gets our younger kids involved and excited about their future athletic careers at Belding.
“I’m really just hoping for a huge, awesome event where students and the community can have fun.”
PHOTO: Belding High School’s gymnasium, which has a standing-room capacity of 2,650. (Photo courtesy of Belding High School.)
STAMBAUGH — Danica Shamion has enjoyed plenty of success in track & field throughout her high school athletic career.
The West Iron County senior is also quite successful in basketball.
Shamion joined the 1,000-point club here Jan. 23 while scoring 34 in a 63-60 loss to Norway.
“That really felt good,” she said after last week’s 93-41 win over Bessemer on Senior Night. “I’m glad I was able to do that at home. Although, it would have been even better had we won that game.”
The Wykons scored five in double digits against the Speedgirls, led by senior Siena Stine with 20 points. Junior center Sidney Storti added 17 points, and Shamion finished with 16 points and 17 assists.
“Sidney is a real asset to our team,” Shamion said. “I can see the floor pretty well, and the other girls are doing a pretty good job getting open. This was our last home game. It definitely meant something to us.”
Shamion, an All-Upper Peninsula Division 1-3 first-team selection a year ago, twisted her ankle in a season-opening 47-40 triumph over Iron Mountain and missed the next three games.
West Iron was 1-3 going into the holiday break before getting back on track with a 42-28 victory over Kingsford on Jan. 2. That enabled the Wykons to improve to 4-3 before dropping six of their next seven games.
West Iron, which was 5-9 after dropping a 73-55 decision at Negaunee, had won four in a row prior to Thursday’s 46-44 loss at Calumet. But the Wykons bounced back with a 51-49 win over Ishpeming Westwood on Tuesday to get back to .500 at 10-10.
“We were trying to forge our identity and weren’t hitting our shots (earlier in the season),” Shamion said. “Although, we’ve been playing better defense lately. We’re pretty good one-on-one and usually play man-to-man. We try to run the floor and score in transition.
“Negaunee is probably the best team we’ve seen this year, although Ishpeming and Houghton are also very good and Calumet and Westwood are tough,” she added.
In track & field, Shamion set U.P. Division 2 Finals record in the 200-meter dash (26.34 seconds) and 400 (57.18) last season. She also won the 100 (12.79) and placed second in high jump at 4 feet, 10 inches. She is a three-time Finals champion in all three sprint races.
Shamion also made the all-U.P. Volleyball Dream Team in the fall.
She will continue on the track at Central Michigan University after she graduates from West Iron this spring.
“I didn’t know much about their program, but I was interested in what they had to offer,” she said. “The girls on the team are nice, which is part of the reason why I chose Central. It’s a relief to have that decided.”
John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
PHOTOS (Top) West Iron’s Danica Shamion (24) blocks a shot during her team’s game at Ishpeming on Jan. 15. (Middle) Shamion maintains possession of the ball. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)