Soon After Gaylord Tornado, Charlevoix Steps in to Keep Regional on Track

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 25, 2022

At 4:45 p.m. Friday, while visiting a Lower Peninsula Division 1 Regional track & field meet at Novi High School, MHSAA assistant director Cody Inglis saw the first headline reporting a tornado had touched down in Gaylord.

Five minutes later, Inglis heard from Gaylord athletic director Christian Wilson. The school had remained outside of the tornado’s path – but there was significant damage in the community. Add in that Gaylord’s facilities might be needed to provide support in the aftermath – and at that point didn’t have power – and it was a quick and obvious decision to call off the next morning’s Division 2 Regional at Gaylord Community Field.

Within the next hour, northern Michigan’s high school sports community – and especially Charlevoix and athletic director Travis Garrett – would step in with a new plan for the 16 schools coming from as far away as Freeland, Ludington and Petoskey.

Charlevoix, which had hosted the Division 3 Regional that included its teams Thursday, was able to quickly turn things back around to be ready for those schools to arrive less than 18 hours later.

“It is amazing, knowing how much work and how many people it takes to put on an MHSAA Track Regional, that Travis would be able to get this set up as quickly as he did,” Wilson said. “After a few hours of many phone calls and many text messages, we were confident that we communicated to all of the people that needed to know that the Regional would be moved to Charlevoix High School, and they did an outstanding job representing the MHSAA the following day.”

The event timers and scorers from Thursday’s Charlevoix meet actually were scheduled for the Gaylord Regional as well – so instead they stayed in Charlevoix. Wilson and Inglis split up the 80 phone calls they needed to make to get all of the teams updated on the new site, and by 7 p.m. everyone knew about the adjusted travel plan.

That next morning, an outpouring of Charlevoix community members, including the school’s athletic boosters, came out to volunteer and make sure every detail was covered to provide a few more hundred athletes a championship experience.

“The irony is Christian and Gaylord host everything under the sun for the MHSAA. They come to the rescue for us all the time,” Inglis said. “This time, somebody came to his aid and after he’s come to ours and schools’ aids so many times.”

Also important to note: During that first hour, Inglis heard from three more schools in addition to Charlevoix that offered to host Saturday’s Regional if needed.

Charlevoix also collected a significant donation from fans that day for Gaylord High School to use to help families that suffered loss the previous afternoon.

“(Travis) called Monday and I told him thank you again, and he said people came out of the woodwork on Saturday for this,” Inglis said. “It’s another example of how in tough times, schools step up. And Charlevoix and Travis deserve a ton of credit because they went above and beyond.”

PHOTO Runners prepare for the start of a race while the field fills up Saturday at Charlevoix during the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Regional previously scheduled to be competed in Gaylord. (Photo courtesy of the Charlevoix athletic department.)

MHSAA ‘AD Connection Program’ Debuts with Start of 2023-24 School Year

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

August 7, 2023

A first-of-its-kind mentorship program is greeting more than 100 first-time high school athletic directors who are officially beginning their tenures at Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools with the start of the 2023-24 school year.

The “AD Connection Program” has matched those first-year high school athletic directors with one of eight mentors who have recently retired from the field and will now provide assistance as those new administrators transition to this essential role in school sports.

A total of 102 first-year high school athletic directors are beginning at MHSAA schools, meaning a new athletic administrator will be taking over at nearly 14 percent of the 750 member high schools across the state. Athletic director turnover at MHSAA high schools has reached 10 percent or more annually over the last few years, and it’s hoped that this additional mentorship will support athletic directors adjusting to the high pace and responsibilities of the position for the first time.

The AD Connection Program will build on training received at the required in-service program all new athletic directors must attend each fall. There is also a strong connection to programming from the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), the professional development organization for the state’s athletic administrators.

"When you crystalize it, the AD Connection Program is an attempt for us to give a true year-long in-service to new athletic directors with people who have done it,” said MHSAA Assistant Director Brad Bush, who is coordinating the program and joined the MHSAA staff in January after more than two decades as an athletic administrator at Chelsea High School. “This also connects new ADs with a larger professional group, and it will culminate in March at the annual MIAAA conference, where there will be several face-to-face meetings with all ADs.

“These mentors are meant to become that first-year AD’s go-to person.”

Mentors will conduct frequent meetings with their cohorts. They also will meet monthly (or more) with each first-time athletic director individually via zoom, and at least once during the academic year face-to-face at the mentee’s school.

The eight mentors, noting their most recent schools as an athletic director, are Chris Ervin (most recently at St. Johns), Brian Gordon (Royal Oak), Sean Jacques (Calumet), Tim Johnston (East Grand Rapids), Karen Leinaar (Frankfort), Scott Robertson (Grand Haven), Meg Seng (Ann Arbor Greenhills) and Wayne Welton (Chelsea). Leinaar also will serve as the AD Connection Program’s liaison to the MIAAA, which she serves as executive director.

High school practices at MHSAA member schools may begin today, Monday Aug. 7, for the nine fall sports for which the MHSAA sponsors a postseason tournament. The AD Connection Program was approved by the MHSAA Representative Council during its annual Winter Meeting on March 24.

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.