#TBT: Brimley Makes Name as UP Power

October 26, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Girls Volleyball Districts begin Monday, providing another generation the opportunity to become "Legends of the Games."

The MHSAA during the late 1990s and early 2000s honored past champions at the Finals as exactly that – and for today's #TBT we'll recall our 2000 volleyball honoree, Brimley, which was recognized the season the MHSAA's Finals became unified after formerly having separate tournaments for each peninsula. 

Below is the piece that ran in the souvenir program celebrating the Bays' dynasty. 

It was a legitimate question – "Where's Brimley?"

It had been a long time since the little town located off Whitefish Bay in the Upper Peninsula had made some noise on the statewide level with its school's sports success – not since back-to-back Class D MHSAA Boys Basketball crowns in 1950 and 1951.

It was 1978, and the growth of girls sports saw the birth of a volleyball team at Brimley. Charles Compo took on the coaching reins with very little experience in the sport, but with an eagerness to learn and to teach.

It was the start of something big.

Just two years later, the first MHSAA Upper Peninsula Girls Volleyball Tournament took place, won, somewhat predictably, by a bigger school. Class C St. Ignace took the measure of Bessemer in that first tournament, but what happened next gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "U.P. Power."

Over the next decade, Brimley established itself as the first volleyball dynasty in the Upper Peninsula, and in fact, raised its game to where it was occasionally the top-ranked team statewide in Class D in the coaches polls.

With open-class U.P. championships in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and the first U.P. Class D title in 1991, Brimley earned its spot as one of the Legends of the Games. 

But to earn that spot in U.P. and volleyball lore, the Bays had to travel – and oh, did they travel.

"We did a lot of traveling," Compo said. "That's where the competition was. It helped our program get statewide recognition."

Located just off I-75, the Bays went southbound weekend after weekend to face Lower Peninsula competition, which had been playing the game longer. It didn't take long for Brimley to become established as a force to be reckoned with.

"Being from the U.P., we traveled many, many hours on a bus. On those long trips, our teams became very close and developed lasting bonds," said Laura Compo, a setter on the team from 1985 to 1988. "When we arrived at some tournaments, many people wondered where Brimley was; they had never heard of us. Some would even laugh out loud about playing a Class D team from the U.P. More often than not, they wouldn't forget us at the end of a match and tournament. It was very rewarding to make our mark on Michigan volleyball."

While the road to success included long trips, it was an opponent of a relatively short drive away that was Brimley's largest hurdle in its rise to the top. Knocking off the first tournament champion, St. Ignace, was not an easy task.

"The St. Ignace team had beaten us every other time we had met over the previous three seasons and had our number," said Laura Newland, a setter on Compo's first three teams. "They looked like giants, they acted cocky and had a confidence about them that made our team feel like we didn't belong in the same gymnasium with them."

The breakthrough match was in the regional tournament that year, where the Bays finally defeated the Saints in three games to advance to the final level of the tournament.

"That game, the excitement of the fans, the near perfect game both sides played will always be the championship for me – it was one of the greatest experiences of my life," Newland said.

"The first time we defeated St. Ignace, everyone in the stands were on their feet. Some of the dads were crying," said Robin Burton, a setter on the team from 1980 to 1982. "It was the turning point for the team.”

Brimley took the U.P. title a week later by defeating Watersmeet. A team made up of three seniors, four sophomores and four juniors was poised for more success. "We should be better next year, we really should," said Compo after the first title.

Four more titles ensued, with back-to-back wins over Ironwood in 1982 and 1983 and Bessemer in 1984 and 1985. Sault Ste. Marie broke the first streak in 1986 by representing the Eastern U.P. in the finals and claiming the championship, but Brimley's last two Open Class titles came in 1987 and 1988. Two years later, Compo retired from coaching after compiling a 12-year record of 408-74. The next year, the U.P. tournament was broken into classes, and Brimley, directed by Coach Walter Hyvarinen, won the first Class D title.

The Brimley players remember Coach Compo.

"My fondest memory of the team is of Coach Compo," said Burton. "He was a motivator and made working hard fun. He gave much of his time to volleyball – not just practices and games – but in-between – finding new ways to improve our skills and getting us into tournaments all over the state. We wouldn't have been nearly as successful without his extra efforts."

"I remember all the hard work we put into practices and games. We had so much fun, we felt like one big family," said Sherri Carrick, an outside hitter from 1984-87. "Mr. Compo was such a great coach and person that only he could push me to be the player that I was."

Legends in high school sports are about teams that build up their communities, and for the decade of the 1980's, it happened in Brimley. It provided lifetime memories for a team that still makes those who took part feel every bit as proud today as they did while in the school's uniform.

"I remember that pride the most," said Barb Cameron, a middle hitter on the 1985-88 teams. "That, and the shared desire to win against all odds. People would say, 'Where's Brimley?' And we showed them!"

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)