Special Year Thanks to No Specialization

August 7, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

As we embark on another sports-filled school year Monday, we can look to a recent Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central grad for the value of a school year filled with sports.

As specialization at the highs school level continues to be debated, Bryce Windham will start his college baseball career this fall at Division I Old Dominion University – after playing baseball but also football and basketball for the Falcons.

The MHSAA has long advocated athletes taking on as many sports as they have interest instead of focusing on just one in pursuit of a college scholarship – a position that’s received plenty of public backing of late, be it from stars of the U.S. women’s soccer team after their World Cup championship run or former Lansing Waverly multi-sport athlete John Smoltz during his enshrinement in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

Enter Windham – who easily could’ve been excused for focusing on baseball, or even basketball as his dad is the St. Mary’s varsity boys coach. Instead, Bryce quarterbacked the football team to last season’s Division 6 championship – breaking Ithaca’s national-best 69-game winning streak in the Final – before being named Class C Player of the Year by The Associated Press in basketball and earning a Most Valuable Player honor at the baseball state coaches association all-star game at Comerica Park this spring.

All three of Windham's teams reached at least the MHSAA Quarterfinals.

“His participation in football and basketball helped land a Division 1 baseball scholarship to Old Dominion. They were able to see his athleticism in basketball and toughness in football, and ODU’s coach loved it,” dad and hoops coach Randy Windham said.

“He probably would’ve given up football, and that ended up his greatest memory by winning a state championship.”

Click to read about Windham’s multitude of accomplishments as reported last month by the Monroe Evening News.

Honors Abound

National coaching honors were bestowed on a trio of Michigan coaches over the summer:

  • Retired Trenton ice hockey coach Mike Turner – the winningest hockey coach in MHSAA history with a record of 629-126-52 from 1974-81 and then 1995-2014 – was named National Coach of the Year in Special Sports by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. His teams won 11 MHSAA titles and finished runner-up four times. “I was there when the MHSAA added hockey as one of their sanctioned sports and crowned their first MHSAA state championships in 1975. At that time there were 60-70 high school teams participating, and now there are 170,” Turner said. “It has been great to be a part of the advancements made in the sport of high school hockey, with more teams participating, more player development, and more opportunities that exist for players after high school.”

  • Traverse City Central boys track and field and cross country coach John Lober won his second national coaching honor of the 2014-15 school year, named the NHSACA Coach of the Year for track and field to go with a previous honor earned in January from the National Federation of State High School Associations. He has coached the Traverse City Central boys track and field team since 1977 and also the boys cross country team since 1989. His 1992 track team won the Class A championship, and he has coached 17 individual MHSAA Finals champions. He was inducted into the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006. 

  • Ann Arbor Pioneer assistant girls swimming and diving coach Liz Hill was named the Assistant Coach of the Year for all girls sports by the NHSACA. Hill, a former All-American at the University of Michigan and standout sprinter at Pioneer, began assisting her husband Denny Hill in 1983 before becoming his fulltime assistant a few seasons later. Together they’ve led the Pioneers girls to 15 MHSAA team titles, the last two as co-head coaches.

Michigan Mourns

Fremont and the high school athletic community statewide mourned the death July 21 of longtime coach Rich Tompkins, who led Fremont’s boys cross country teams to six MHSAA cross country championships including three and a runner-up finish during his last decade of coaching before retiring in 1997.

The Muskegon Chronicle reported that his boys and girls cross country teams and boys track and field team combined for 45 league championships, with his boys cross country team winning 116 straight duals from 1977-88. Tompkins was executive director of the Michigan High School Coaches Association for more than a decade and served on its board for more than two decades.

Click to read more from the Chronicle on Tompkins’ legacy.

Officials in the News

The Monroe County Officials Association took to the county fair to encourage passers-by to “Be the Referee” – and received 47 sign-ups from people interested in the avocation. Visitors to an MCOA booth at the fair were told in some detail what is involved with being an MHSAA official, and those who then signed up to find out more about officiating football, basketball, baseball or softball (sports the MCOA trains for and schedules) will be invited to an orientation session where they will become eligible for one of 20 complimentary registration fees for this school year.

The West Michigan Officials Association marked a decade of support at the start of this summer for the Visually Impaired Sports and Activity Day, sponsored by the Helen DeVos Children’s Foundation. The WMOA has contributed nearly $18,000 to the event over the last 10 years as well as taking part in the event, which includes a number of sports and other activities.

The Saginaw Athletic Officials Association sent along this photo of five members who worked 2013-14 MHSAA Finals, from left: Mark Jarlock (baseball), Tom Behmlander (softball), Scott Helmka (football), Dale Brown (softball and football) and Mark Schoenow (football). The Baseball Final was Jarlock’s first; the other officials had worked Finals in the past.

PHOTO: (Top) Monroe St. Mary quarterback Bryce Windham unloads a pass during last season's Division 6 Final win over Ithaca at Ford Field. 

Ferndale Caps Winter Season with 1st Boys Hoops Title Since 1966

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

March 25, 2023

EAST LANSING – One team was going to end a long championship drought in Saturday’s boys basketball Division 2 Final.

Ferndale’s was especially lengthy, and spanned more than five decades.

And now it is no longer.

The Eagles won their first Finals championship in 57 years with a 44-38 victory over Grand Rapids South Christian at Breslin Center.

Ferndale had last won a state title in 1966.

“The drought is over,” Eagles coach Juan Rickman said. “That’s big time, and the biggest part about making it down here was seeing how charged up the community was and the school was so charged up. It’s the greatest feeling to see how vested our community was in our success.”

Christopher Williams (13) tries to power past South Christian’s Sam Weiss (23) to the rim.Ferndale senior Christopher Williams led the way with 16 points and four rebounds.

“It feels great,” Williams said. “Especially since the past four years we’ve been to the same place and lost twice in a row to the same team, and now it feels like weight is lifted off my shoulders.

“We started off the season 1-5, and going till now we knew if we stayed together through adversity then we could do it. And it made it more impactful that it was our coach’s first state title, and that’s what we wanted to do.”

Added senior point guard Cameron Reed, who had a game-high seven assists: “It’s incredibly special. I wasn't born back then, my teammates weren’t born and my coaches weren’t born. It definitely rejuvenated the whole city and community.”

Ferndale led 8-4 at the end of the first quarter, and both teams shot poorly in the first half. The Eagles connected on a paltry 24 percent from the field, and South Christian on 35 percent of its attempts. Nate Brinks drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Sailors a 16-14 halftime lead. 

Junior guard Jake Vermaas opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to make it 19-14, but Ferndale made a charge.

The Eagles sliced the deficit to one (25-24) on a 3-pointer by Trenton Ruth, and Cameron Reed tied it at 28-28 with an acrobatic layup.

“Our team was mentally strong, and I’m so proud of them for their accomplishment,” Rickman said. “Just so committed to the process and just being resilient.”

Cameron Reed (0) leads a break for the Eagles.An 8-2 spurt by Ferndale over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter made it 36-30.

“That was extremely important, and we always want to win the first four minutes,” Rickman said. “And we tried to open up the fourth quarter with what we call a kill; we want to get five straight stops and score on two or three of those possessions so we can build a lead. We did that fairly well against a good team.”

South Christian was attempting to win football and basketball Finals championships during the same school year, and was looking for its first basketball title since 2005.

“It was a really hard-fought game and I thought we played at our speed, but it got away from us a little bit,” first-year Sailors coach Taylor Johnson said.

“But it doesn’t take away from what we accomplished this year. We’ve been through it all, including three season-ending injuries, and to still make it to the state finals is an incredible feat.”

Senior Jacob DeHaan and Vermaas led the Sailors with 14 points apiece, while senior Sam Medendorp added seven points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Ferndale raises the Division 2 championship trophy Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) Christopher Williams (13) tries to power past South Christian’s Sam Weiss (23) to the rim. (Below) Cameron Reed (0) leads a break for the Eagles.