DeBoer Looks to Steer Sailors to Breslin

February 18, 2016

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

CUTLERVILLE – Jenn DeBoer remembers the thrill of playing in the MHSAA Class B Final when she was a sophomore.

The South Christian standout would like nothing better than to revisit that feeling in her final season.

DeBoer, a 5-foot-7 point guard, is currently leading the Sailors toward what they hope is another extended postseason run.

South Christian is 16-1 with three games remaining in the regular season before Districts tip off in March.

“That was a lot of fun, and obviously it was different because I was a sophomore and I knew that I had two more years after that,” DeBoer said. “But this year it’s a big goal for all of us seniors. We’ve talked about how we want to get back there and end our senior season strong.”

Led by DeBoer and a cast of veteran senior teammates, the Sailors have displayed the potential to make some noise in the MHSAA tournament.

They’re seeking an Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold title and currently own a perfect 7-0 mark in league play. Their championship hopes hinge on upcoming showdowns with Wayland and Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

“It’s been a blast so far,” DeBoer said. “I couldn’t ask for a better senior season. Our team chemistry is so amazing, and the other seniors and I get along so well. Obviously, winning has been fun too, and it’s probably one of the best teams I’ve been on.”

DeBoer, a four-year varsity player who committed to Division II Grand Valley State University before her junior season, has been the floor general of this year’s squad.

She has contributed in every aspect of the game, averaging 16.8 points, 6.0 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 steals per contest.

First-year South Christian coach Kim Legge has watched DeBoer improve and mature throughout the past years.

“She has made strides because of her work ethic, and she always wants to learn,” said Legge, a longtime assistant under recently-retired coach Jim DeBruyn.

“She’s like a sponge, and she’s been to a point guard camp the past two summers. That has really helped with her decision-making and leadership skills.”

DeBoer recently established two new school records for her 3-point shooting prowess.

During a recent win over Hastings, she set a new mark for career 3-pointers that had stood since 2003 while also surpassing the single-season record.

DeBoer toppled Leah Pettinga’s career record of 93 3-pointers made. She currently has 45 on the season.

“It’s a huge honor to have the record now,” DeBoer said. “I knew I was pretty close because I focus on shooting 3s. It’s my favorite thing to do, and that’s just what I do. I wasn’t sure if I would ever make it, so it is definitely really cool to know that I have the record now.”

Legge didn’t know DeBoer was approaching the milestone until a few weeks ago, but she wasn’t surprised by the accomplishment.

“Anything that girl puts her mind to she seems to get done,” Legge said. “I got clued in a couple games before that she was getting close, but she would have never said anything to me. That’s how she is. She is so humble. It was a goal of hers, but it never would’ve come out of her mouth.”

DeBoer said the transition from DeBruyn to Legge wasn’t a difficult one.

“They both have similar coaching styles, but coach Legge is a lot more centered on defense so our defense this year has really picked up,” she said. “We have done a lot of the same things we’ve been doing in the past.”

DeBoer’s early commitment to the Lakers has allowed her to enjoy a stress-free final two seasons. It’s allowed her to focus strictly on helping her team succeed instead of lamenting over which college to choose.

“The pressure has been off, and I’ve been able to focus on my last basketball season at South,” DeBoer said. “The last four years have gone by pretty fast, and it doesn’t feel like I’m a senior until I think about it and look at old pictures. In a couple months I will be graduating, but I’m trying to enjoy high school while I’m still here.”

DeBoer is anticipating the jump to college, but is committed to ending her career on a high note.  

“I’m definitely looking forward to playing in college next year, but I would really like to have a good ending to this season,” DeBoer said. “If we keep working hard, then I think we will do pretty well in the postseason.”

Legge isn’t one to look ahead, but with a starting line-up consisting of all seniors, expectations are high for the remainder of the season.

“We have a hard road ahead of us the last week of conference (play) and I don’t feel like we have peaked,” she said. “I really focus on what my team needs to do to grow on a day-to-day basis. Every coach in the state hopes their team makes a tournament run, and at this point of the season, it’s a goal of ours.”  

Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids South Christian's Jenn DeBoer defends against Grand Rapids Catholic Central earlier this season. (Middle) DeBoer, 4, is one of a cast of experienced teammates hoping to finish with another Finals run; she takes the floor with Markayla Vander (24) and Sydney DeYoung (22). (Photos by Tracy DeYoung.)

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.)