'I just wanted people to go the right way'

September 12, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

They were running in the dark – a key scene-setting detail to keep in mind.

So being familiar with the course surely gave St. Johns’ cross country runner Taryn Chapko an edge during her school’s Under the Lights Invitational on Aug 18.

And yet, she didn’t take advantage of it as much as she could have – making the first night of her sophomore season more memorable both for Chapko and the competitor who crossed the line first that evening.

The 5K course was lit in many places by large construction lamps, lights from the tennis courts or other portable fixtures set up to mark the way. But admittedly, some points were a little dim. And that’s where Chapko became a guide, yelling to a small pack of frontrunners ahead of her when to turn.

That probably doesn’t seem like a big deal – unless you’re Goodrich junior Jillian Lange. Lange ended up winning the race in 19:16. Chapko finished third in 19:48 – instead of first, which might’ve been the case especially if she had allowed the leaders to continue taking a wrong turn about a mile in.

Going the wrong way could’ve meant turning around, doubling back and losing time – or being disqualified for cutting the course shorter.

“I know a lot more people (this year) just from running, from other schools. We’re all doing the same thing. We all want to get better. I like helping people get better,” Chapko said. “It’s the first race, and they want to feel good about themselves for the rest of the season, because if you had a bad first race you might start getting down on yourself. And I don’t want people to be upset, especially with a race that’s so much fun.”

To be honest, Chapko didn’t think her little bit of directing was a big deal either – until St. Johns administrators received an email two weeks ago from Goodrich athletic director Dave Davis, who expressed his appreciation for her sportsmanship after hearing about it both from Lange and his cross country coaching staff. “Please relay to Taryn and your coaches my appreciation for this simple act of sportsmanship and kindness,” Davis wrote. “We need more of that.”

“I just wanted people to go the right way,” Chapko said, recalling the race last week. “I saw the email and I was like, ‘It’s bigger than I thought.’

“I guess it doesn’t happen too often.”

Or at least not as much as it should – which, again, should make this race stick out among the many both will run over the next few seasons of their high school careers.

This was the third year St. Johns has hosted the opening night meet. The first race goes off at 9:30 p.m. It’s a neat way to change up the 5K distance these runners will tackle a number of times over the following three months.

But admittedly, starting after dusk leaves a couple of dark spots on the course – especially behind the tennis courts and near a barn about a mile in to the first of two laps, where Lange and the frontrunners with her nearly left the path.

This was the first time Goodrich took part in the Under the Lights race, and Lange said this week that she remembers feeling like a little bit of an “outsider” starting out because her team hadn’t run in the event before. But when Chapko yelled out which way to go, that changed.

“It was out of nowhere, she’d be like ‘left,’ or ‘turn right,’ or ‘go around this,’” Lange recalled. “It was really great of her to think of me as another person she could help.

“In cross country, you’re racing against these people (and) it can get pretty harsh out there. You want to win. Just the fact she was kind enough to let me stay on course, because at some points she was pretty close to me and she could’ve gone in front when I was in front because I screwed up and went too far. She was just being honest in the race, and that’s what I like about it. The kindness really makes the race what it is, because that was fair.”

The pair of standouts had crossed paths before. In both runners’ last cross country race before meeting again at St. Johns, Lange finished seventh at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals in a time of 18:49. Chapko was 10th in 19:06. So finishing ahead of someone who had beaten her the last time out would have been an incredible way for Chapko to start this season – but not because Lange got lost.

There’s a kinship among distance runners, longtime Redwings coach Bob Sackrider has noticed over the years, and Chapko gets it. She also knows what it’s like to get off-course – she did so once as a freshman, and Sackrider has talked with his teams about how to handle that situation.

“Obviously there’s an enormous sense of pride that others recognized what we’re working toward,” Sackrider said of Davis’ note. “And I was thrilled that Taryn was able to have the wherewithal in the moment to employ what we’ve been talking about. It’s one thing to talk about it; it’s another thing to actually do it and actually be aware enough in the middle of the race to do it.”

Both runners have similar goals moving forward this fall. Both have times they are shooting to beat (and Chapko just did) – she said last week she was looking to break 19 minutes and she did so Saturday with an 18:56 at Bath, while Lange is hoping to break 18 after posting an 18:20 last October.

They both also are shooting to get their teams back to Michigan International Speedway and the MHSAA Finals on Nov. 4 – the next time the two are expected to cross paths again.

“It’ll be touching I guess. You make these friends, and you never see them, but you’re automatically just friends … (because) you have these similarities,” Lange said. “You can go up to a random person and be like, ‘Remember that time?’ That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Geoff Kimmerly joined the MHSAA as its Media & Content Coordinator in Sept. 2011 after 12 years as Prep Sports Editor of the Lansing State Journal. He has served as Editor of Second Half since its creation in Jan. 2012. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Ionia, Clinton, Shiawassee, Gratiot, Isabella, Clare and Montcalm counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Runners take off from the start of the Under the Lights Invitational last month. (Middle) Goodrich’s Jillian Lange pushes through the midpoint of last season’s Final at MIS. (Below) St. Johns’ Taryn Chapko sprints down the final stretch of the championship race last fall. (Top photo courtesy of St. Johns cross country, middle and below by RunMichigan.com.)

2023 Scholar-Athlete Award Recipients Announced in Class A

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

February 21, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association has selected 14 student-athletes from Class A member schools to receive scholarships through the MHSAA/Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete Award program. 

Farm Bureau InsuranceFarm Bureau Insurance, in its 34th year of sponsoring the award, will give $2,000 college scholarships to 32 individuals who represent their member schools in at least one sport in which the Association sponsors a postseason tournament. The first 30 scholarships are awarded proportionately by school classification and the number of student-athletes involved in those classes; also, there are two at-large honorees who can come from any classification.

Students applying for the Scholar-Athlete Award must be carrying at least a 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) grade-point average and have previously won a letter in a varsity sport in which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors a postseason tournament. Other requirements for the applicants were to show active participation in other school and community activities and produce an essay on the importance of sportsmanship in educational athletics.

The 32 scholarship recipients will be recognized March 25 during the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals at the Breslin Student Events Center in East Lansing.

The Class A Scholar-Athlete Award honorees are Jane Barnett, Royal Oak; Ella Blank, Birmingham Groves; Nora Chamas, Dearborn; Caroline Colt, Milford; Abby Frushour, DeWitt; Naomi Sowa, East Lansing; Keira Tolmie, Clarkston; James Baer, Holland; Brendan Downey, Grosse Pointe South; Ryan Lee, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern; Shubhan Nagarkar, Midland Dow; Shane Pitcher, Saline; Isaac Postema, Grand Haven; and Ian Robertson, Traverse City West.

Overviews of the scholarship recipients of the Class A Scholar-Athlete Award follow. A quote from each recipient's essay also is included:

(NOTE: If an athlete intended to play and was part of a spring sports team in 2020, that sport is counted among the athlete’s total although the season was canceled due to COVID-19.)

Jane BarnettJane Barnett, Royal Oak
Ran four seasons of varsity cross country and will compete in her fourth of track & field this spring. Also participating in Special Olympics Michigan Unified basketball. Helped cross country team to MHSAA Finals three times and earned all-league honors in track. Contributed to academic all-state team honor. Served or will serve as captain of both varsities. Serving as senior class secretary, second year as representative officer to district’s Parent Student Teacher Association and third year as officer for Model United Nations; also has served on student council all four years of high school. Playing fourth year in symphony orchestra, and was principal cellist. Participating in second year of National Honor Society, and designed and taught lessons weekly to second-grade student as a Study Buddy program mentor. Will attend University of Michigan and study public health sciences.

Essay Quote: “As a coach’s daughter, I have had a lifetime of appreciating the joys and the heartaches of the sport. Supporting others has taught me to be a better runner and person. Sportsmanship is not only a way to keep the peace; it's the foundation upon which the transformative nature of sports can take place.”

Ella BlankElla Blank, Birmingham Groves
Played three seasons of varsity golf, playing second of varsity basketball and will play fourth of varsity softball this spring; also played junior varsity volleyball as a freshman. Earned all-league in softball and was part of academic all-state teams in golf and softball. Served as captain of varsity golf and softball teams and junior varsity basketball team. Named National Merit Commended Scholar. Participating in second year of National Honor Society and third of National Math Honor Society. Serving as president of math club and co-president of Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. Playing fourth year in marching and jazz bands and symphony, and second as section leader. Founded and directs Sandlot Summer Camp and has umpired youth softball all four years of high school. Serving as The Hidden Opponent student-athletes mental health program campus captain, and has served as volunteer religious school teacher and camp counselor also throughout her high school career. Will attend University of Michigan and study physics.

Essay Quote: “Being a good sport goes beyond cordiality and shaking hands after a match. Good sportsmanship creates trust, and trust creates respect. ... Actions on the field have effects on opinions off of it.”

Nora ChamasNora Chamas, Dearborn
Ran two seasons of varsity cross country and will play her fourth of varsity tennis this spring. Helped tennis team to league championship as a junior and served as captain in that sport and as alternate captain for cross country. Participating in second year of National Honor Society and serving as chapter president, and also serving fourth year on student council. Serving second year on superintendent’s student advisory council and participating in fourth year of key club, serving as treasurer. Playing fourth year in orchestra and as first chair violinist. Participating in second year of social justice club and as social media manager, and serving as president of Discover Islam Club and DHS Pad Project having also founded the latter. Serving as treasurer of future medical professions club and representative in Arabic club, and in second year of tutoring elementary students. Earned multiple awards for work in voter registration. Is undecided where she will attend college and is still considering her future course of study.

Essay Quote: “To me, sportsmanship is the act of believing in others. … If we want to cultivate a flourishing population of students, we must first believe in one another. Only then will we find thoughtful pupils and passionate futurists.”

Caroline ColtCaroline Colt, Milford
Played three seasons of varsity golf and will play fourth of varsity tennis this spring; also created team and is participating in second year of Unified basketball. Qualified for MHSAA Golf Finals as individual as a junior and was part of academic all-state team, and also earned academic all-league in both sports. Served multiple seasons as golf varsity captain and will serve as tennis co-captain this spring. Participating in second years of National Honor Society, DECA and as part of student docent scholarship program with the Milford Historical Society. Serving as vice president of NHS chapter, assistant editor of school newspaper, ambassador for The Letter Project and treasurer of stock market club; also has served as assistant tennis coach for local parks & recreation department. Earned multiple DECA district championships. Is undecided where she will attend college, but plans to pursue studies in medicine and humanities.

Essay Quote: “As a golfer, tennis player, and all-around athlete, I have been told my entire life to follow the rules, play fair, and have fun. Yet, when faced with difficult choices, I often see my competitors lack honor and integrity. I believe that true sportsmanship is rare, yet is the most crucial characteristic of being a great athlete.”

Abby FrushourAbby Frushour, DeWitt
Competed four seasons on varsity swimming & diving team and will play her fourth season of tennis this spring. Helped swim & dive team to three league championships and earned all-zone honorable mention and all-league academic honors. Served as that team’s co-captain two seasons. Named a finalist for National Merit Scholarship and earned AP Scholar honor as a junior. Serving as class council president in fourth year as officer. Represented student body at district’s strategic planning retreat. Participating in second year of National Honor Society and first as part of school’s chamber choir. Participating in third year as part of youth camp teen service team. Is undecided where she will attend college, but intends to study political science.

Essay Quote: “We all know the rules for a socially acceptable handshake: right hand, firm grip, eye contact. However, you’ll find that these rules do not apply at the end of the 500-yard freestyle. After charging into the wall, with a pounding heart and burning arms and numb legs and not a single ounce of energy left, it’s difficult to care if you look stupid while congratulating your opponents. … But here’s the truth: It doesn’t matter how strange the interaction may look. So long as you make a genuine effort to recognize and respect the achievements of your opponent, you are practicing good sportsmanship.”

Naomi SowaNaomi Sowa, East Lansing
Played three seasons of varsity volleyball and will play her fourth of varsity softball this spring. Earned all-area and all-league in both sports, all-region in volleyball, and also all-league academic honors in both. Served as captain of both varsity teams. Carrying 4.0 GPA and earned AP Scholar Award posting highest-possible score on two exams. Participating in second year of National Honor Society and as chapter historian. Playing fourth year in school’s wind ensemble, as first chair clarinet as a senior, and previously earned festival award and performed at Michigan Music Conference. Is undecided where she will attend college, but intends to study computational mathematics or data science.

Essay Quote: “True sportsmanship lies in respecting others, and you cannot call yourself a conductor of sportsmanship without looking inward and reflecting on the actions you take and decisions you make. … Whether we accept it or not, the person we are on the playing surface is the same person we are in our everyday lives. Sportsmanship can be sought out in all things, in all places, and in all people. The empathetic capability goes beyond the playing surface, transcends the world of sports, and prepares athletes to journey through the world with a purpose, cultivating a duty to make the world a better place.”

Keira TolmieKeira Tolmie, Clarkston
Playing fourth season of varsity basketball and will play fourth of varsity softball this spring. Made all-state first team in softball and all-league and county in basketball, helping the latter to three District championships entering this winter. Selected as captain of both varsity teams multiple seasons. Carries 4.2 GPA and is participating in second year of National Honor Society. Serving second year on MHSAA Student Advisory Council and participating in third year in school’s leadership program. Served through high school as youth sports camp counselor and this year as elementary school mentor for refugee student. Will attend Central Michigan University and study on a pre-medical track as she pursues a career as a radiologist.

Essay Quote: “The only way I will be successful in life is to put others first and to earn the respect of those around me. Even in competition, it is possible to be respectful, show kindness, empathy and compassion all while working as hard as possible with a winning spirit. Complaining to officials, faking injuries and displaying anger after a loss does not show any respect as an athlete for the sport that you’ve worked so hard to excel at, and is counter-intuitive to why we compete.”

James BaerJames Baer, Holland
Competing in fourth varsity season on swimming & diving team and played second season of varsity tennis in the fall. Will compete in second varsity season of track & field this spring and also played junior varsity soccer as a freshman and sophomore. Earned all-state in swimming as a three-time Finals qualifier entering this season, and reached Finals flight quarterfinals in tennis. Serving as captain of swim & dive team and was captain of tennis team in the fall. Participating in second years of National Honor Society, serving on the executive board, and student senate. Participating in second year of chess club, as team captain, and also second year of quiz bowl. Selected for school’s top show choir in first year, as a senior, and was lead in school musical as a junior. Is undecided where he will attend college, but intends to study economics.

Essay Quote: “Ultimately, high school sports are outlets for student athletes to gain mental fortitude while learning valuable cooperative and leadership abilities. I am a naturally competitive person who is driven by goals; however, upon entering high school I quickly realized that I stood to gain more through building relationships with teammates and competitors than through setting records or winning matches.”

Brendan DowneyBrendan Downey, Grosse Pointe South
Ran four seasons of varsity cross country and will compete in fourth of track & field this spring; also played junior varsity basketball as a freshman. Qualified for MHSAA Finals in track the last two seasons and placed 16th in Lower Peninsula Division 1 in 1,600 meters. Earned all-league and all-county in cross country while ranking among school’s fastest all-time in that sport. Served as captain of cross country team and will serve as track & field captain this spring. Named National Merit Commended Scholar as a senior and AP Scholar with Distinction as a junior. Participating in second year of National Honor Society, serving as secretary, second year of Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society and first of Spanish Honor Society. Serving second year as copy editor and staff judge for school’s art and literary magazine, and has had poetry published. Participating in third year of school’s Interact Club and second in peer-to-peer program assisting students with autism. Will attend University of Michigan and major in public policy.

Essay Quote: “Sports are not just about the championship trophy or all-state status. Sports are a blueprint for life: they teach student-athletes to be respectful, to practice empathy, to be generous, and sometimes, to put another’s success before one’s own.”

Ryan LeeRyan Lee, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern
Played four seasons of varsity tennis, earning three all-state honors including making the first team twice, and helped team to two Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals championships while also earning one individual flight Finals title. Served as captain multiple seasons. Participating in second year of National Honor Society and participated in DECA throughout high school, earning state championship in 2022 and serving as club president. Participating in second year with Van Andel Institute Student Journal Club, as chapter president. Founded and serves as president of Racquets for Rapids, which refurbishes used racquets for redistribution to community organizations. Conducted carbon tax research through International Socioeconomic Laboratory, with findings approved for publication in Journal of Student Research. Is undecided where he will attend college, but intends to study economics and mathematics.

Essay Quote: “In a peculiar way, sports are a microcosm of life. We win, and we lose. We form the strongest of bonds and the greatest of rivalries. We learn the value of discipline and resilience, and we compete fiercely with others to reach victory. Through all this turmoil, it is sometimes a challenge to maintain sportsmanship, integrity, and compassion. Through tennis, more so than any other activity, I have had opportunities to develop these qualities such that they have become more important than the outcome.”

Shubhan NagarkarShubhan Nagarkar, Midland Dow
Played four years of tennis, helping team to Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals championship this past fall and reaching flight final and semifinals during last two seasons. Earned all-state honorable mention and ranks in MHSAA record book for multiple doubles categories. Named National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, and AP Scholar with Distinction twice. Qualified for national competitions as part of American Computer Science League and Math League, and earned MathCon national honorable mention. Serving as Michigan State University St. Andrews Research intern, and participated in robotics and math club all four years. Participating in second year of National Honor Society and third on A.H. Nickless Innovation Competition team. Playing fourth year in symphonic band and symphony orchestra, as clarinet section leader, and earned “1” state ratings for solo and ensemble clarinet, and piano from Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association. Is undecided where he will attend college, but intends to study biomedical engineering.

Essay Quote: “More than learning every detail about tennis in that first year of varsity, I absorbed the complex dynamics of sportsmanship and saw the ubiquity of it outside of sports. Whether it is displaying respect and gratitude to an opponent following a heart-wrenching loss in the state finals or restraining your pride and supporting others after a key win, you will never regret your actions.”

Shane PitcherShane Pitcher, Saline
Ran two years of varsity cross country and will compete in third of varsity track & field this spring. Earned all-region in cross country and all-league in track, and will finish senior year having served as captain of both teams. Participating in second years of National Honor Society – earning silver service honor – and student council. Participated in Boy Scouts throughout high school, attaining Eagle Scout plus earning two Eagle Palms, and was selected to BSA’s Order of the Arrow. Participating in third year including second on executive council for Connecting Club, and wrote $10,000 grant for a disability-inclusive space. Participated with Students About Staying Healthy chapter all four years including as treasurer as a senior, and three years in Generation Global program. Will attend Hope College and study social studies secondary education, with a minor in exercise science.

Essay Quote: “I understand that sports are emotional especially in the wake of a poor performance, but to be a sore loser after that says something about that person. It says to your opponent that you aren’t able to compose yourself and aren’t able to respond to hard situations. Responding with grace is always a more rewarding approach. Taking an inevitable loss with grace is a huge part of sportsmanship.”

Isaac PostemaIsaac Postema, Grand Haven
Played four seasons of varsity tennis, including at No. 1 singles his final three years. Won league championship and reached MHSAA Finals as a senior and earned all-state honorable mention for second time, and also senior all-state academic award. Served as team captain. Earned National Merit Scholarship Commendation as a junior and made academic honors list at Muskegon Community College during two years of early college program. Participating in second year of National Honor Society. Playing third year in orchestra and second as part of honors orchestra, as first chair cello, and earned “1” state rating from Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association and invitation to Michigan Music Conference. Playing third year in school’s GOTAK Fiddle Club and as rhythm leader as a senior. Is undecided where he will attend college.

Essay Quote: “Winning meant nothing if it was accompanied by taunting and celebrations, and losing was incredibly honorable if it was taken with humility and poise. Poor sportsmanship not only reflects badly on the individual but can also influence how people may feel about the sport, degrading it as a whole. Good sportsmanship reflects positively on the player and the sport, allowing everyone to enjoy it.”

Ian RobertsonIan Robertson, Traverse City West
Playing third season of varsity basketball, played two of varsity soccer and will play his third of varsity baseball this spring. Earned all-state honorable mention and league Player of the Year recognition in soccer and all-league and all-District in baseball. Helped those two teams to District championships and served as captain of all three varsity teams. Participating in fourth year of student senate, as student governor after also having served as recording secretary, and third year of National Honor Society. Has helped raise more than $20,000 for charity through student government work and contributed more than 85 hours of community service. Served as youth basketball coach throughout high school. Served as section leader of school’s “Bleacher Creatures” student section that won the 2021-22 MHSAA Battle of the Fans. Will attend Tufts University in Massachusetts and study on a pre-medical track.

Essay Quote: “At the end of the day, while winning and competing are some of the forefront goals of competitors, equally important is the experience and educational aspect that high school sports have to offer.”

Other Class A girls finalists for the Scholar-Athlete Award were Colleen Blackwood, Linden; Sophia Borowski, Grosse Pointe North; Abigail Cumings, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central; Kathleen Doneth, Mason; Ana Dunfee, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix; Amyla Eberhart, South Lyon East; Ella Eitniear, Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills; Miryam El-Saghir, Dearborn Edsel Ford; Sophia Hekkema, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer; Daria Igonin, Belleville; Kate Mazur, South Lyon East; Leah Merriam, Milford; Wendy Miedema, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix; Adrienne Staib, Fenton; Ella Thomas, Brownstown Woodhaven; Eva Whiteman, Holland; and Rachel Williamson, East Grand Rapids.

Other Class A boys finalists for the Scholar-Athlete Award were Connor Anderson, Cadillac; Abhinav Attaluri, Northville; Jack Bakus, Midland Dow; Treyton William Carr, Hudsonville; Isaac David Clark, Caledonia; Samuel Gibson, Plainwell; Braylen Himmelein, Davison; Henry Jackson, Bloomfield Hills; Nathan Katic, Fenton; Brayden Ryan LaCroix, Grandville; James Patterson Jr., Lake Orion; James Rocco, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix; Danny Safadi, Midland Dow; Harsimmer Sohi, Portage Central; Gavyn Stout, Muskegon Mona Shores; Trevor Wallar, Zeeland West; and David Whitaker, Northville.

The Class C/D scholarship award recipients were announced Feb. 7, and the Class B honorees were announced Feb. 14.

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The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.