Hayes Continues to Cultivate Growth of Lacrosse, Generations of Officials

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 18, 2022

This spring, more than 60 years after she graduated from high school, Pat Hayes is officiating five and sometimes six girls lacrosse games a week.

The sport has grown significantly especially over the last 20 years, and there are games at all levels to be played. And Hayes, who has helped guide that growth from the sport’s start in Michigan, has helped make sure those games do get played whether as the assigner of officials to work them, trainer of officials build up the ranks or often as the umpire herself.

Pat Hayes“I played four sports in high school; that’s all we had back then – basketball, swimming, field hockey and tennis,” Hayes said. “And (my coach) said to me, ‘Just remember the last time you didn’t have officials on one of your field hockey games, or basketball games.’ I said, ‘Well, we always had umpires.’ And she said, ‘When you leave here, that’s your time to give back to the next girls. And I’ve been doing that ever since.”

A knowledgeable leader and valued voice for girls lacrosse from its start in Michigan, Hayes’ dedication to the sport began long before its eventual sponsorship by the Michigan High School Athletic Association began with the 2004-05 school year. A longtime coach and official, Hayes has helped guide the growth of the sport most recently as one of the most respected umpires, officials assigners and trainers in the state – and she is being honored for those contributions with this year’s MHSAA Vern L. Norris Award.

The Norris Award is presented annually to a veteran official who has been active in a local officials association, has mentored other officials, and has been involved in officials’ education. It is named for Vern L. Norris, who served as executive director of the MHSAA from 1978-86 and was well-respected by officials on the state and national levels.

Hayes is in her 22nd year as an MHSAA-registered official, a tenure which has included eight years of soccer, five of volleyball and one of basketball – and every season of lacrosse since it became an MHSAA-sponsored sport nearly two decades ago. She also has built a legendary international career as an official for field hockey, which while not an MHSAA-sponsored sport is played by more than 30 of the state’s high schools.

Hayes has officiated both field hockey and lacrosse since graduating from Detroit Western High School in 1958. She also has more than three decades of coaching experience across multiple sports, and is best-known by the most recent generations in her sports as a prized trainer and officials assigner especially in lacrosse and field hockey.

“My reward, when I train somebody, is watching them excel, and my real reward is if they get picked to do a (MHSAA) Final, and there have been several of them that I have trained that have done that,” she said. “And several of them now are doing college lacrosse, which is even more of a reward for me. Watching them go and excel and move on to the next level is my reward.”

While still a student at Wayne State University in 1960-61, Hayes coached field hockey and started the lacrosse program at Grosse Pointe Sacred Heart Academy. After two years there, she moved to Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart, where she remained until 1970 teaching chemistry and biology, coaching field hockey, lacrosse, basketball and volleyball and serving as athletic director as well.

She then left teaching with the birth of her second of three daughters, but continued to officiate. When her daughters reached high school at Birmingham Seaholm, she returned as a coach of the Maples’ freshman boys and then junior varsity girls basketball teams. In 1985 she began a 22-year stint at Detroit Country Day coaching girls lacrosse with five years also coaching freshman boys basketball. She coached the Yellowjackets girls lacrosse team to the first Division 2 championship game and a runner-up finish in 2005.

Hayes currently assigns lacrosse officials for 28 schools as part of the Lacrosse Zebras Organization of Michigan. She has worked seven MHSAA Girls Lacrosse Finals and also officiated college lacrosse at the Division II and III levels. She is retiring this spring after 35 years assigning girls soccer officials as well.

Perhaps her most legendary work has come in field hockey. She played on the U.S. national team and over the last half-century has been considered among the top field hockey officials in the world. She has officiated that sport at the college level for 45 years, with an NCAA Championship assignment in 1986, and she also officiated three World Cup tournaments and the 2004 Olympics as a technical official. She assigns officials for all of Michigan’s high school field hockey games during the sport’s fall season.

Hayes has been recognized numerous times for her extensive service to school sports. She was inducted into the U.S. Lacrosse Michigan Chapter Hall of Fame in 2009 and was named an honorary member of the USA Field Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004. She was named to the Bloomfield Hills Roeper School Hall of Fame in 2016 and Detroit Catholic High School League Hall of Fame in 2018. She received the Oakland County Athletic Director Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

"Pat has been a leader and pioneer in officiating, especially creating opportunities for female officials. She has been a true leader for years in lacrosse, soccer and field hockey," MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. "She has that perfect combination of compassion, toughness, grace and grit. Michigan's officiating community is fortunate to have Pat Hayes." 

Hayes graduated from Detroit Western High School in 1958 and with a bachelor’s degree in education from Wayne State University in 1962.

In addition to her continued service to athletics, Hayes has received the Good Neighbor Award for volunteering with the Quarton Lake Neighborhood Association in Birmingham.

Hayes and husband John Hayes were married 50 years, until his death in 2016. Their three daughters all played college athletics, but not lacrosse or field hockey – instead golf, volleyball and soccer.

Previous recipients of the Norris Award

1992 – Ted Wilson, East Detroit
1993 – Fred Briggs, Burton
1994 – Joe Brodie, Flat Rock
1995 – Jim Massar, Flint
1996 – Jim Lamoreaux, St. Ignace
1997 – Ken Myllyla, Escanaba
1998 – Blake Hagman, Kalamazoo
1999 – Richard Kalahar, Jackson
2000 – Barb Beckett, Traverse City; Karl Newingham, Bay City
2001 – Herb Lipschultz, Kalamazoo
2002 – Robert Scholie, Hancock
2003 – Ron Nagy, Hazel Park
2004 – Carl Van Heck, Grand Rapids
2005 – Bruce Moss, Alma
2006 – Jeanne Skinner, Grand Rapids
2007 – Terry Wakeley, Grayling
2008 – Will Lynch, Honor
2009 – James Danhoff, Richland
2010 – John Juday Sr., Petoskey
2011 – Robert Williams, Redford
2012 – Lyle Berry, Rockford
2013 – Tom Minter, Okemos
2014 – Hugh R. Jewell, West Bloomfield
2015 – Sam Davis, Lansing
2016 – Linda Hoover, Marshall
2017 – Michael Gentry, Shelby Township
2018 – Jill Baker-Cooley, Big Rapids
2019 – David Buck, St. Joseph
2020 – Hugh Matson, Saginaw
2021 - Lewis Clingman, Grand Rapids

20, 30, 40, 45, 50, 55 & 60-YEAR OFFICIALS

The officials on this list are receiving their 20, 30, 40, 45, 50, 55 or 60-year service awards.


Adrian – Christopher M. Jones
Albion – Matt M. Overweg
Ann Arbor – Brad R. Nevin
Ann Arbor – Luis E. Acosta
Auburn – David J. Radke

Battle Creek – Melvin C. McKnight
Bay City – Thomas E. Barnikow
Bay City – Martin Brown
Bellaire – William J. Johnston
Bellaire – Michael A. Sizen
Belmont – Terrence P. Kerwin
Berrien Springs – Daryl L. Boughton
Beulah – Joe M. Johnson
Birch Run – Joel D. Barnes
Boyne City – Hal G. Price
Brimley – Vincent A. Gross
Bristol – Milan Vuchenich
Burton – Michael J. Vogt
Byron Center – Patrick J. Lane

Canton – Christopher J. Floyd
Canton – Robert R. Maybouer
Canton – Donald W. Mullett
Cassopolis – Charles A. Conner
Cassopolis – Douglas S. Conner
Chesterfield – Erik C. Law
Chesterfield – Ronald G. Masters
Clinton Township – Richard G. Croci
Coldwater – Courtney J. Dean
Coloma – James G. Kalinowski
Commerce Township – James J. McGuigan

Davison – Scott McConnelee
Davison – Edward D. Rodden
Dearborn – Ralph D. Capler
Dearborn – Oliver H. Fragoso
Dearborn – Joseph M. Salmassi
Detroit – Hershell Bell Jr.
Detroit – Rayford Evans
Detroit – Donald F. Gay Jr.
Detroit – Andrew Hill Jr.
Detroit – Herman Pierce
Detroit – Sherell S. Stanley Esq.
Detroit – Gregory Williams
Detroit – Richard A. Hughes
DeWitt – Bret J. Wegenke
Dryden – Mark E. Stevens

Farmington Hills – Jeffrey E. Dornseifer
Farmington Hills – Rob T. Holmes
Farwell – James C. Betts
Fenton – Donald G. Lougheed
Flat Rock – Patricia L. Brodie
Flint – Chris R. Daly
Flushing – Angela Del Morone
Flushing – William J. Furno
Flushing – Thomas F. Theile
Freeland – Bob Diekman
Fremont – Ty Miller
Fruitport – Chad J. Vanderstelt

Gaylord – Michele R. Curtis
Gladwin – Kevin S. Krenzke
Gobles – Michael R. Spencer
Grand Haven – Michael E. Keith
Grand Haven – Ben Wieringa
Grand Ledge – Matthew R. Allen
Grand Rapids – Marquese T. Allen Sr.
Grand Rapids – Kecia Y. Bennett
Grand Rapids – Charles F. Ely III
Grand Rapids – Brett A. Lambert
Grand Rapids – Jay Spencer
Grand Rapids – Gregory S. Yarhouse
Grosse Pointe – Lisa Favors
Grosse Pointe Woods – Michael A. Zilli
Gwinn – Kathy G. Foulks
Gwinn – Steven M. Foulks

Hamtramck – Thomas A. Habitz Jr.
Hartland – Steven P. Tannar
Hillsdale – Bruce A. Britton
Holland – Michael D. Costello
Holland – Vincent L. Duckworth
Holland – Karl Z. Nadolsky
Holland – Heather M. Tietze
Holland – Matt B. Vanderhulst
Holland – David M. Zessin
Howell – Ryan E. Decker
Hudsonville – Bruce Ritsema

Ironwood – Dan L. Meyer
Ironwood – Jeffrey R. Wasley
Ishpeming – John L. Burke

Jackson – Todd R. Sonnenberg
Jackson – Justin D. Ward
Jenison – Mark K. Lundvick

Kalamazoo – Bruce Beery
Kalamazoo – Kris M. Brown Jr.
Kalamazoo – Alan E. Clark
Kalamazoo – William S. Wilkinson
Kaleva – Michael Phillips
Kentwood – Gerry Erb

Lake Orion – Debra L. Bunker-Plasters
Lambertville – Tom M. Condon
Lambertville – Steven M. Rechsteiner
Lansing – Joseph Bard Jr.
Lansing – Donald Childs
Lansing – Natalie J. Queen
Lapeer – Peter S. Haggadone
Litchfield – Mickey J. Rowe
Livonia – Dennis O. Betts
Livonia – Kevin J. Kashat
Ludington – Genevieve M. Knudsen
Ludington – J. R. Schoon

Macomb – Marc W. Sonnenfeld
Manistique – Kelley L. Spettel
Marinette – Jim Kostura
Marquette – Blaine M. Barabas
Marquette – Roxin Zhang
Mason – Heidi S. Hopper
Mason – Robert D. Manes
Midland – Stephen A. Kamin
Milan – Ryan P. Chadderton
Millington – Glen W. Reinert
Monroe – Terrance E. Leabhart
Monroe – Thomas M. Malik
Mount Pleasant – Audie S. Hawkins Sr.

Newport – Kenneth H. Trimiew
North Branch – Luke D. Reynolds
North Muskegon – Anthony T. McBride
Novi – Rick A. VanDerVeer
Novi – Jeffrey S. Woodbury

Okemos – Matthew D. Wilcox
Ontonagon – Patrick A. Pestka
Oxford – Elizabeth A. Cilfone

Petoskey – John F. Tompkins
Portage – Curtis D. Messing
Portage – William L. Rutledge
Portage – David W. Steinmiller

Reese – Kent A. Houghtaling
Reese – Kris K. Shoemate
Richland – Glenn R. Bushouse
Rochester – Luis J. Arellano
Rochester Hills – Peter L. Olson
Rockford – Todd J. Frazier
Royal Oak – James V. Stockel
Rudyard – Steven T. May

Saginaw – Luke S. Schmiege
Sault Ste. Marie – Mike Heyboer
Scotts – David J. Blough
Shelby Township – Gregory J. Lefevre
Shelby Township – Denise L. Roeschke
Southfield – Joel E. Moore
Springport – Steven B. Keeler
St. Helen – Donald L. Hancock
Standish – Steven J. Stodolak
Sterling Heights – David R. Krellwitz
Stevensville – Daniel S. Barz
Swanton – Paul Ramirez
Swartz Creek – Mike Gomez
Swartz Creek – Timothy M. Mowry

Taylor – Cedric Binns
Toledo – Jeremy L. Petroff
Trenton – Eric A. Towe
Trenton – Jason J. Towe
Troy – Peter R. Bucheli

Vanderbilt – John W. Bifoss Jr.
Vicksburg – Carl E. Keller

Wakefield – Peter W. Yon
Warren – Kevin S. Kitka
Washington – William B. Pochinco
West Bloomfield – Kenneth M. Bertin
Westland – Calvin E. Denson
Wolverine – Daniel D. Ashenfelter
Wyoming – Darryl M. Dillard

Ypsilanti – Eva L. Bower

Zeeland – Ted C. Patrick


Albion – Arthur E. Kale

Battle Creek – Laurie S. Mueller
Bay City – Gary L. Merrill
Beverly Hills – Thomas I. Prysby
Bonita Springs – Bryan R. Wild
Byron Center – Todd A. Powell

Cambridge – Mark D. Dooley
Capac – Tom R. Mailloux
Carleton – Geno R. Walker
Cedar Springs – Shane P. Wood
Charlotte – Ron W. Bristol
Charlotte – Michael K. Sumner
Cheboygan – Thom L. Wissner
Columbiaville – Russell M. Cossaboom

Davisburg – Leo P. Flynn
Dearborn Heights – Kenneth E. Butler
Detroit – Damon M. Brown
Detroit – Rich J. Plackowski
DeWitt – Jeffrey R. Spedoske
DeWitt – Mark R. Uyl
Dowagiac – Larry G. Brewer
Dowagiac – Don East

East China – Kirk A. Seibert
East China – Michael J. Welser
East Tawas – Kenneth C. Baker
Escanaba – Kevin P. Ayotte
Essexville – David A. Lovely

Falmouth – Don L. Blue Jr.
Fennville – Philip R. Bard
Ferndale – Mose F. Smith Jr.

Gaylord – Vern W. Collins
Grand Blanc – Dean P. Tondreau
Grand Haven – Lori L. Spelde
Grand Ledge – Daniel P. West
Grand Rapids – Pete M. Cool
Grand Rapids – Geoffrey Henderson
Grand Rapids – Dwayne W. Moore
Grass Lake – Daniel S. Trudell

Harbor Beach – Darryl J. Wehner
Hartland – Larry A. Mach
Hemlock – James R. La Grow II
Holton – Joseph M. Stine

Indian River – David M. Reeb
Iron Mountain – Bruce M. Tapio
Iron Mountain – Hans E. Wienke

Jackson – Paul A. McDonald

Kalamazoo – O'Neal Ollie

Lake City – Richard A. Bradley
Lake Orion – Michael K. Sopko
Lakeport – Kenneth E. Marzka
Lansing – Scott Barnes
Lansing – Lloyd Richard Kieft
Leslie – Juan P. Zamora Jr.
Livonia – Sharon E. Harris-Agrusa
Ludington – Aaron R. Condit

Mesick – Daniel L. Cochrane
Monroe – James T. Beck
Monroe – Brian A. Lamour
Morrice – Andrew P. Flynn
Mount Clemens – Shawn C. Dinkfelt

New Baltimore – Thomas L. Hebben
Norton Shores – Brian R. Holman
Novi – Ron S. Angell

Oakland Township – John C. Bowie
Ortonville – Stephen M. Hendershott
Owosso – Thomas F. Rau

Paw Paw – David P. DeCou
Petersburg – David J. Szenderski
Pinckney – Charles F. Krochmal
Pinconning – Denny M. Wiltse
Port Huron – Tyrone T. Christmas
Portage – William F. Louthan

Reese – David H. Selden
Riverview – Gary E. Kulchar
Rockford – Angela C. DeVito

Saginaw – Michael W. Clark
Saginaw – Brian J. Weaver
Saint Charles – Larry G. Graf
Shelby Township – David J. Roeschke
South Haven – Timothy J. Rediess
South Rockwood – James E. Martin
Southfield – Wayne C. Smith
Spring Lake – David C. Gross
St Clair – Dale R. Kaufman
St Ignace – Eric J. Danielson
St Ignace – Robert J. Lee
St Johns – Daniel J. LeVeque
St Joseph – John W. Ruddell
Stevensville – Larry L. Ward
Swartz Creek – Terry L. Scrivener
Sylvania – Shawn R. Glass

Traverse City – Kevin A. Novorolsky

Waterford – Marc J. Cooper
West Bloomfield – Donald C. Brewer
West Bloomfield – Barry E. Yett
West Branch – Anthony J. Buckett
Whitehall – Warren F. Kent III
Wyandotte – John P. Rzeppa


Adrian – Brenda Betz
Allen Park – Brett S. Davis

Bay Harbor – Peter C. Fitzsimons
Berrien Springs – Michael B. Emerson
Boyne City – Jeffery A. Grice
Buckley – Charles E. Bott
Burton – Gibbon J. Goulish

Chesterfield – James P. Lewis

Dearborn – Gary J. Trocino
Dearborn Heights – Alan Kevwitch
Dearborn Heights – Shaun P. Soraghan
Decatur – Daniel K. Benson

Farmington – Gerald G. Potter
Farmington Hills – Peter Beer
Fenton – Mark D. Larson

Gladwin – Rick C. Stone
Goshen – Stephen V. Grinczel
Grand Rapids – William J. Wagner
Grand Rapids – Brian M. Zdanowski
Grandville – Peter J. VanGessel
Greenville – Thomas W. Kohn
Grosse Pointe – Michael J. Peltz

Holly – Dale M. Smith
Howell – Thomas J. Guilmette
Howell – Kenneth G. Wikle

Jackson – Tim E. Hoffman
Jackson – Phillip T. Westheimer
Jackson – Dennis V. Whitehead

Kalamazoo – Trent J. Anderson
Kalamazoo – Michael T. Aumack
Kalamazoo – Carol Willson

Lake Worth – Russell D. Johnson
Livonia – David J. Askew
Livonia – James M. Gibbons

Mason – Mark R. Sefcik
Monroe – Michael T. Knabusch

Newport – George S. Harvey

Oak Park – Robert L. Czech
Owosso – Michael Selleck
Oxford – Michael L. Dunn

Paw Paw – Horace M. Turner
Plainwell – John R. Martin
Portage – Gary A. Therrian
Posen – Mary E. Wozniak

Quinnesec – David R. Soderbloom

Saginaw – Rudy T. Kocsis
Saginaw – Ray Powers
Shelby Township – Helmut Egger
St. Clair Shores – Ross Klein
St. Ignace – Martin J. Spencer

Troy – Ramiro J. Bucheli

Weidman – Eric E. Gronda
West Bloomfield – Brian W. McKenna
Wolverine – Stephen M. Johnson


Adrian – Don C. Fry
Alma – Bruce M. Moss

Bristol – David J. Blough
Brooklyn – Thomas W. Crampton
Brown City – Richard Lee

Climax – Wayne C. Patterson
Crystal – Robert A. Youngs

Davison – Douglas C. Dillon
Davison – Randy Hutton
Detroit – Patricia E. Jones
Detroit – Bertha M. Smiley
DeWitt – John C. Hoekje

Farmington Hills – John D. Scott
Fenton – Richard D. Massa
Frankenmuth – Dennis Krafft

Gladstone – David P. Gagnon

Hazel Park – Ronald R. Nagy
Highland – Deborah S. Heck

Imlay City – Jeff M. Weingartz
Ionia – Paul D. Carmichael
Iron Mountain – John J. Sacchetti
Iron Mountain – Doug A. Schupp
Ironwood – Jeff D. Haapoja

Kalamazoo – Kirk G. Hart

Lansing – Bryan L. Smith
Linden – Reed W. Johnson

Manistee – Tom L. Guenthardt
Muskegon – Jeffery A. Burr

Negaunee – Philip M. DeGabriele
Norton Shores – Richard L. Anderegg
Norton Shores – Jim Tate

Plymouth – Thomas J. Poma
Posen – Frank Wozniak

Rapid River – Jeffrey A. Schram

Saginaw – Charles S. Sherman
Saginaw – Suzanne R. Swanton

Shelby Township – Michael L. Hessen
St. Clair – Garth E. Jones
Sturgis – David R. Cherry

Trenton – Max Monas
Troy – Joseph E. Thilman

Warren – Larry R. Leeper
Warren – Stephen Stuckey
Williamston – Michael A. Nestell


Battle Creek – Charles M. Hobbs
Brighton – Bruce D. Ritter

Davison – Patrick J. McKenna

Farmington – Raymond A. Cranston

Grand Rapids – Tom J. Essenburg

Howell – James L. Downs

Iron Mountain – Kenneth E. Marchetti

Ludington – Ronald E. Mousel

Plymouth – Brian F. Foust

Saginaw – John B. Musulin
Spruce – Leslie L. Miller
St. Clair Shores – George Mihalic
St. Joseph – Frederick A. Fenrick
Sunrise – Thomas J. Lieckfelt

Taylor – Alphonse P. Ruffner
Tekonsha – Brian C. Briegel

Westland – James J. McPartlin
Wyoming – Robert L. Stewart


Clarkston – Tony Malinowski
Comstock Park – Paul L. VanOveren

Grand Rapids – Kenneth H. Terpstra

Haslett – Rodney H. Horton

Negaunee – Roland K. Koski

Owosso – Jim G. Niemiec

Rochester Hills – Walter E. Popyk

West Bloomfield – Alan K. Kaczander


Mount Pleasant – Norman R. Sorenson

St. Clair Shores – Diane M. Johnson

PHOTO Official Pat Hayes sets up the opening faceoff for the 2009 Division 2 Final. (MHSAA file photo.)

Longtime Officials, Statistician Honored for Decades as 'Behind-the-Scenes' Heroes

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

February 23, 2024

BROWN CITY – Jerry Sauder thought he was going to be a presenter Thursday night, as his alma mater Brown City was honoring officials Curt Lowe and Joel Venia and school statistician Todd Vandewarker for their decades of service.

Bay & ThumbBut that was simply a ruse by fellow official Tom Mailloux and Brown City athletic director Tony Burton to get Sauder there to join the ceremony and receive his own award for 50 years as an official.

With Sauder on the court, 175 total years of involvement with athletics were honored between the JV and varsity Unionville-Sebewaing vs. Brown City girls basketball games. Sauder spent 50 years as an official, Lowe and Venia 45, and Vandewarker has spent 35 years as a statistician, all across multiple sports.

“Tonight, we gather to pay tribute to those whose steadfast dedication has woven the fabric of excellence into the tapestry of Michigan high school athletics,” Brown City principal Brad Hale said to kick off the ceremony. “It is with profound gratitude that we extend our heartfelt appreciation to the unsung heroes behind the scenes – the pillars whose tireless efforts ensure that each game unfolds seamlessly, each moment etched with the spirit of sportsmanship and fair play. … Tonight, we shine a spotlight on a few whose commitment spans decades, illuminating the path for generations of athletes to follow.”

Sauder’s 50 years as an official included 25 as a Division I college basketball referee. He is currently working in an administrative role with Elite Officiating, overseeing officials in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference. He’s officiated NCAA Tournament games and contests around the world after getting noticed at a camp at Western Michigan University.

“I’ve always said I’m the luckiest guy to put on a shirt,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to be selected to be given the opportunity. There’s a lot of guys that could have, but weren’t set up to do it at that time.”

During his time as a high school official, Sauder reffed MHSAA Finals for basketball and football. He also spent time officiating baseball and softball games. 

He began officiating when his best friend Jim Seidell, a longtime coach and administrator in Brown City, convinced him to start. Sauder knows his path isn’t a common one, and that it’s not easy to convince people to get into officiating. But with perseverance, opportunities are available.

Vanderwarker receives his award for 35 years as a school statistician. “There’s a dire need right now,” Sauder said. “We’ve got to do something because if we don’t, high school sports as we know it is going to suffer. … I was fortunate to have good people around me that mentored me. Kids start, they last a couple years and they walk away from it. They don’t pay enough money to get yelled at like people go at you now. I don’t blame the young people.”

Lowe, who officiated Thursday night’s JV game before the ceremony, got his start thanks to Sauder and Seidell. Also a Brown City graduate, Lowe’s 45 years of officiating include multiple assignments at MHSAA Football and Basketball Finals. He’s also been on the court for women’s college basketball games.

“Officiating is like family,” Lowe said. “I have met so many people – wonderful people. And, over 45 years, it’s been a ton.”

While he’s worked plenty of games in the Thumb, much of Lowe’s time as an official was spent in the Saginaw and Flint area, where he was able to officiate games featuring some of the state’s greatest athletes, including Mateen Cleaves, Draymond Green, Mark Ingram and the late Charles Rogers. 

“Those were the best games, and Jerry got me in there,” Lowe said. “That was the best ball ever. It was just amazing to watch.”

Lowe’s crew Thursday night included a pair of younger officials who later officiated the varsity game with Mailloux. Lowe thinks it’s a great opportunity for athletes who want to stay connected to sports.

Venia’s start in officiating was more by happenstance. He was working the scoreboard for rec basketball games in his hometown of Marysville, and one day needed to fill in as an official. After reffing the game, he made $10 as opposed to the $5 he got for running the scoreboard, and made the move. 

He’s still doing football games but is no longer on the basketball court or softball or baseball diamonds. 

“It’s probably the contacts you make in the little towns,” Venia said about what has kept him in the officiating business. “I go down to the Macomb area and do that. In football, we always take five games up in the Thumb. I know so many people up here. With the kids, it keeps you younger, keeps you moving.”

Like Sauder and Lowe, Venia has officiated multiple MHSAA Football and Basketball Finals.

Lowe refs the junior varsity game before the recognition ceremony. He played football, basketball and baseball in high school, and thinks that experience can be “tremendous” for future officials. But he was quick to point out that those who don’t have that experience can also thrive.

“I’ve worked with a couple guys that never played,” Venia said. “(Mailloux) never played football, but he’s a good football official. I mentored a guy that never played basketball, Jordan Stevens, who is the softball coach at South Dakota State. He never played basketball, never played football, but he was a very good official. I think it gives you an advantage, but by no means is it a barrier if you haven’t played.”

The person with the best seat in the house as Sauder, Lowe and Venia have run up and down the court or football field in Brown City has been Vandewarker, who was celebrated for his decades of service as a statistician.

When asked how he got started, he pointed at Burton.

“That guy suckered me into it,” Vandewarker said with a laugh.

Vandewarker was himself a Brown City athlete, competing in football, basketball and track. Over his more than three decades keeping stats, he’s seen several great Green Devils and opposing athletes – so many that he couldn’t narrow them down.

“A couple thousand (games),” he said. “I’ve seen some stuff, I’ve seen some good stuff. A lot of good players. Too many memorable ones to mention, I guess. I’ve seen the best of the coaches and heard everything they have to say. Best of the refs – I was in high school and Jerry Sauder was reffing my games.”

At that point, Vandewarker had to step away and start the pregame clock for varsity warm-ups. But when he came back, he had an idea of how long he may remain at the center of Brown City athletics.

“I always said as long as Tony and Cindy (Burton, Brown City’s assistant AD) were around,” he said. “But I don’t know. I’ll probably go for another 10-15, put a good 50 in. I think I got that in me, still.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) From left: MHSAA-registered officials Curt Lowe, Joel Venia and Jerry Sauder and Brown City statistician Todd Vandewarker stand together as they are celebrated Thursday at Brown City. (Middle) Vanderwarker receives his award for 35 years as a school statistician. (Below) Lowe refs the junior varsity game before the recognition ceremony. (Photos by Paul Costanzo.)