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.)

Longtime Taylor AD, Game Official Ristovski Chose Athletics as Way to Give Back

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

February 20, 2024

There is a basketball court 5,000 miles from Sterling Heights with “MHL” painted on the center court.

Greater DetroitIt’s not the name of a local basketball league in the village where it is located – Siricino, Macedonia. Instead, it stands for Madison, Haleigh and Lola, the three daughters of longtime Michigan basketball coach, referee and athletic director Loren Ristovski.

“My dad loved going back (to Macedonia),” said Madison Ristovski. “He’s probably gone every summer since about 2017. His whole family still lives there. He loved going and visiting and seeing everyone.

“It was always a goal of his to give back to where he came from. He and Mom donated to the village to build a soccer field and basketball court with lights and everything. It was a pretty big deal. It’s something he wanted to do for them back home. We were very proud he did that.”

Loren Ristovski, athletic director for Taylor schools, died earlier this month while on leave to have surgery on his foot. It was a shock to his family, friends, and the Taylor community.

“It was a heavy blow,” said Matt Joseph, girls basketball coach at Utica Ford and a longtime friend of the Ristovski family. “It was like getting kicked in the gut. Basketball was his passion. Next to his family, basketball was definitely No. 1. He loved the game and all the intricacies of it. He loved seeing kids excel.”

Loren Ristovski heads an all-family officiating crew with Lola and his brother Dean Ristovski.Ristovski emigrated from Macedonia to Michigan when he was 9. He went to high school at Hamtramck St. Florian, where he excelled at basketball. He went to Wayne State University to get a degree in criminal justice and had plans to become a lawyer.

Before he could take the Law School Admission Test, however, basketball came calling.

“He started coaching at Henry Ford High School and Fuhrmann Middle School,” Madison said. “Once he realized how much he enjoyed coaching, he decided to go into education. He stayed the entire time. He never went to law school.”

Loren Ristovski became the head coach at Harper Woods but gave that up when his daughters were ready to start playing in high school.

“He gave up coaching varsity at Harper Woods so he could be at every one of my games,” Madison said.

He also coached them as youngsters, often teaming with Joseph to coach an AAU team.

“I met him when Madison was 5,” Joseph said. “He and I decided to put our daughters in the same parks and recreation team, and next thing you know we were coaching AAU.”

With Ristovski’s tutoring, Madison, Haleigh, and Lola all excelled at the game, each playing Division I college basketball after standout careers at Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett. In 2012, Liggett reached the Class C Final with all three starting. They combined for 55 of Liggett’s 57 points in the championship game, with Madison scoring 42 after earlier that week receiving the Miss Basketball Award.

Lola and Haleigh played at the University of Detroit Mercy, and Madison played at the University of Michigan. Today, Haleigh lives on the west side of the state and plays recreational basketball. Lola is a referee in the Catholic High School League as well as for the Division II Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and also works area Division III college games.

Madison is a teacher and the varsity girls basketball coach at Sterling Heights Stevenson.

“He taught us the game when we were very, very young,” Madison said. “We grew up in the gym with him and watched him coach his team. He coached me my whole life. He was very instrumental – he taught us all those things you need to become an athlete, and more importantly the things you need to do to succeed in life.”

Her dad is the reason she became a coach.

The daughters’ initials “MHL” glow on the court the family funded in Macedonia.“Watching my dad coach and seeing the impact he had on his high school athletes and even the kids in our church community – it inspired me to want to coach as well and give back like he did,” she said. “I watched him with my teammates and the impact he had on them. I thought it would be so cool if I could do the same for others.”

Loren Ristovski left a legacy at Taylor, too. School officials recounted several stories of how he balanced athletic budgets with the needs of student-athletes. He would lead fundraising efforts, created the Bitty Ball program for youth basketball players and cheerleaders and helped students become certified officials – and then would hire them to officiate games.

“He didn’t say no,” said Taylor boys basketball coach Chris Simons. “We made it work. We didn’t go out and ask people for a bunch of money. We would just do it. We all pulled together and made it work. Loren did everything he could to make things as pretty and presentable as he could with the budget we had.”

Ristovski also put on summer camps at both Taylor and at the Joe Dumars Fieldhouse in Sterling Heights, where he lived. He commuted about an hour to Taylor every day.

“He loved Taylor,” Madison said. “He loved who he worked with and the students. He included us, too. My mom would run the ticket table or do the scoreboard clock. I don’t know how many times I sold tickets for volleyball tournaments with him. He loved his people and loved having us there with him.”

Loren Ristovski, who played professional basketball in Europe during the late 1980s, ran well over 20 marathons in his life, including the Boston Marathon. He was a registered MHSAA official for 16 years, and in the weeks before his passing he refereed a varsity game in Rochester with his daughter, Lola.

“He looked at basketball, I think, differently than other people do,” Madison said. “He saw it as a way to have relationships with other people, to help people achieve their goals and to find meaningful relationships with others. It was more than just a game to him.”

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Loren Ristovski, far left, and wife Svetlana support their lineup of Division I basketball-playing daughters – from left: Madison, Haleigh and Lola. (Middle) Loren Ristovski heads an all-family officiating crew with Lola and his brother Dean Ristovski. (Below) The daughters’ initials “MHL” glow on the court the family funded in Macedonia. (Photos courtesy of Madison Ristovski.)