By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Three educators who have combined for more than a century of service to high school athletics – Adrian Madison’s Kristen Isom, Holly’s Deb VanKuiken and Battle Creek’s Jim Cummins – have been named recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association's Allen W. Bush Award for 2016.
Al Bush served as executive director of the MHSAA for 10 years. The award honors individuals for past and continuing service to prep athletics as a coach, administrator, official, trainer, doctor or member of the media. The award was developed to bring recognition to men and women who are giving and serving without a lot of attention. This is the 25th year of the award, with selections made by the MHSAA's Representative Council.
“This year’s three Bush Award winners are tied by their dedication to working with our student-athletes on a day-to-day basis over the course of decades, providing guidance that in turn has been spread throughout their local and sport communities,” said John E. “Jack” Roberts, executive director of the MHSAA. “We are grateful for their service and pleased to honor them with the Bush Award.”
Isom, a member of the MHSAA’s Representative Council since 2008, recently completed her 30th year of service and currently is athletic director at Madison for grades 7-12. She’s also taught health and physical education and coached at least one of a variety of sports every year. She’s served as president of the Tri-County Conference for the last decade after previously serving as secretary and treasurer.
An MHSAA tournament host for many events over the years, Isom was named Region 6 Athletic Director of the Year in 2000 from the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. She’s a member of that association, the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and the Society of Health and Physical Educators of Michigan. The class adviser at Madison for this fall’s juniors, Isom also assists in selection for the MHSAA Student Advisory Council.
A graduate of Clinton High School, Isom earned her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, a master’s from Eastern Michigan University and has completed graduate courses from Fresno Pacific University. She’s active with Adrian’s United Church of Christ in various service projects, including an annual fundraiser for cancer research.
“As her community has grown over the years, and the needs and expectations have evolved for all of our schools, Kris Isom has provided valuable leadership at both the local and statewide levels,” Roberts said. “Her many contributions have been rooted in her belief in the mission of educational athletics. Her work with students at her school and input on selections for our Advisory Council show again her dedication to those learning those lessons by playing our games. She’s a worthy recipient of the Bush Award.”
VanKuiken also just completed her 30th year in education, including her 18th as an athletic administrator. She’s served as athletic director for Holly Area Schools the last 12 years after teaching at Bridgeport from 1984-1996 and then serving as assistant principal and athletic director at that school from 1996-2002. She coached softball, volleyball and both boys and girls tennis at various points during her time at Bridgeport, girls tennis as the varsity head coach from 1985-95. She also served as secretary and then president of the Tri-Valley Conference while at Bridgeport. Holly has added high school boys and girls bowling and middle school softball, baseball, swimming & diving and bowling during her tenure.
The Region 9 Athletic Director of the Year in 2007, VanKuiken was elected to the MIAAA Executive Board in 2005 and served as president during the 2007-08 school year. She helped produce a “Critical Incident Plans” DVD for the association to assist administrators statewide and created the first strategic plan for the MIAAA during her term as president. She received the MIAAA’s George Lovich Service Award in 2011.
VanKuiken also has served on the board of directors for The Academy of Sports Leadership, which plans and organizes camps for future coaches every summer in Ann Arbor, and is a member of the NIAAA, serving on its endowment committee. After a three-sport career at Lansing Sexton, he earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Central Michigan University and played field hockey collegiately, and she’s attained Certified Master Athletic Administrator status from the NIAAA. She received the MHSAA’s Women in Sports Leadership Award in 2009.
“Deb VanKuiken’s work shows she always has the athlete in mind, from the opportunities she’s worked to add through new programs at her school to the programs she’s initiated as a leader of the MIAAA,” Roberts said. “Her vision continues to benefit all groups she serves, not only athletes, but coaches and administrators as well. We’re pleased to recognize her with the Bush Award.
Like VanKuiken, Cummins also coached a number of sports at the high school level and primarily tennis; he coached that sport for 47 years in addition to baseball, football, basketball for 33 years and volleyball for 11. At Battle Creek Springfield and Battle Creek Central, he coached 67 Regional tennis champions and four flights that won individual Finals titles. His teams finished third at MHSAA Finals four times and won eight straight Kalamazoo Valley Association titles.
He’s perhaps most recognizable statewide for directing more than 40 MHSAA Tennis Finals for either boys or girls at various sites around the Lower Peninsula. He’s also managed an MHSAA Regional every year since 1974 for boys and all but three years since 1983 for girls, and has continued to serve on the MHSAA seeding and rules committees.
Cummins was twice named Class C/D Coach of the Year, once for boys season and once for girls, by the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches Association, and he was inducted into that association’s Hall of Fame in 1990. He also is a member of the Colon and Battle Creek Public Schools halls of fame and received the MHSTeCA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2014. Cummins graduated from Colon in 1963 and Central Michigan in 1967. He retired from public education after 30 years and currently is employed as an adjunct instructor of mathematics by Kellogg Community College. He was named Outstanding Educator by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995 and 1999.
“Jim Cummins’ impact on athletes and coaches over many years have turned into positive effects on hundreds as his lessons have been passed on,” Roberts said. “He has been especially valuable to the MHSAA as a knowledgeable voice in tennis and a tournament host in that sport at our highest level, and he’s also lent his time and expertise to our volleyball and wrestling tournaments over the years. We’re glad to honor Jim Cummins with the Bush Award.”
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,400 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 1.4 million spectators each year.
The 120 finalists for the Michigan High School Athletic Association's Scholar-Athlete Awards for the 2022-23 school year, presented by Farm Bureau Insurance, have been announced.
The program, in its 34th year, has recognized student-athletes since the 1989-90 school year and again this winter will honor 32 individuals from MHSAA member schools who participate in at least one sport in which the Association sponsors a postseason tournament.
Farm Bureau Insurance underwrites the Scholar-Athlete Awards and will present a $2,000 scholarship to each recipient. Since the beginning of the program, 896 scholarships have been awarded.
Scholarships will be presented proportionately by school classification, with 12 scholarships to be awarded to Class A student-athletes, six female and six male; eight scholarships will be awarded to Class B student-athletes, four female and four male; six scholarships will be awarded to Class C student-athletes, three female and three male; and four scholarships will be awarded to Class D student-athletes, two female and two male. In addition, two scholarships will be awarded at-large to minority recipients, regardless of school size.
Every MHSAA member high school could submit as many applications as there are scholarships available in its classification and could have more than one finalist. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood has four finalists and Kalamazoo Loy Norrix and Midland Dow have three finalists this year. Twelve schools have two finalists: Ada Forest Hills Eastern, Cass City, Fenton, Hillsdale Academy, Holland, Holland Christian, Milford, Negaunee, Northville, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary, South Lyon East, and Tecumseh.
Multiple-sport participation remains the norm among applicants. The average sport participation rate of the finalists is 2.88. There are 74 three-plus sport participants in the finalists field, and all but two of the 28 sports in which the MHSAA sponsors postseason tournaments are represented.
Of 421 schools which submitted applicants, 25 submitted the maximum allowed. This year, 1,440 applications were received. All applicants will be presented with certificates commemorating their achievement. Additional Scholar-Athlete information, including a complete list of scholarship nominees, can be found on the Scholar-Athlete page.
The applications were judged by a 65-member committee of school coaches, counselors, faculty members, administrators and board members from MHSAA member schools. Selection of the 32 scholarship recipients will take place in early February. Class C and D scholarship recipients will be announced Feb. 7, Class B scholarship recipients will be announced Feb. 14 and Class A scholarship recipients will be announced Feb. 21. All announcements will be made on the MHSAA Website.
To be eligible for the award, students must have a cumulative grade-point average of 3.50 (on a 4.0 scale) and previously have won a varsity letter in at least one sport in which the MHSAA sponsors a postseason tournament. Students also were asked to respond to a series of short essay questions, submit two letters of recommendation and a 500-word essay on the importance of sportsmanship in educational athletics.
Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan was founded in 1949 by Michigan farmers who wanted an insurance company that worked as hard as they did. Those values still guide the company today and are a big reason why it is known as Michigan’s Insurance Company, dedicated to protecting the farms, families, and businesses of this great state. Farm Bureau Insurance agents across Michigan provide a full range of insurance services—life, home, auto, farm, business, retirement, Lake Estate®, and more—protecting nearly 500,000 Michigan policyholders.
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.
2022-23 Scholar-Athlete Award Finalists
GIRLS CLASS A
Daria Igonin, Belleville
Ella Blank, Birmingham Groves
Ella Thomas, Brownstown Woodhaven
Keira Tolmie, Clarkston
Nora Chamas, Dearborn
Miryam El-Saghir, Dearborn Edsel Ford
Abigail Frushour, DeWitt
Rachel Williamson, East Grand Rapids
Naomi Sowa, East Lansing
Adrienne Staib, Fenton
Abigail Cumings, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central
Ella Eitniear, Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills
Sophia Borowski, Grosse Pointe North
Eva Whiteman, Holland
Ana Dunfee, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix
Wendy Miedema, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix
Colleen Blackwood, Linden
Kathleen Doneth, Mason
Caroline Colt, Milford
Leah Merriam, Milford
Sophia Hekkema, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
Jane Barnett, Royal Oak
Kate Mazur, South Lyon East
Amyla Eberhart, South Lyon East
BOYS CLASS A
Henry Jackson, Bloomfield Hills
Connor Anderson, Cadillac
Isaac David Clark, Caledonia
Braylen Himmelein, Davison
Nathan Katic, Fenton
Isaac Postema, Grand Haven
Ryan Lee, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern
Brayden Ryan LaCroix, Grandville
Brendan Downey, Grosse Pointe South
James R. Baer, Holland
Treyton William Carr, Hudsonville
James Rocco, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix
James Patterson Jr., Lake Orion
Shubhan Nagarkar, Midland Dow
Danny Safadi, Midland Dow
Jack Bakus, Midland Dow
Gavyn Stout, Muskegon Mona Shores
Abhinav Attaluri, Northville
David Whitaker, Northville
Samuel Gibson, Plainwell
Harsimmer Sohi, Portage Central
Shane Pitcher, Saline
Ian Robertson, Traverse City West
Trevor Wallar, Zeeland West
GIRLS CLASS B
Devin Johnston, Almont
Rylie Haist, Big Rapids
Jordan Richie, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Anna Smith, Clawson
Carney Salo, Escanaba
Ella Wagner, Essexville Garber
Lauren Harrold, Flint Powers Catholic
Tiffany Keller, Frankenmuth
Ainsley VandenBrink, Holland Christian
Claire Filpus, Houghton
Elaina Bortolini, Kingsford
Matelyn Midkiff, Midland Bullock Creek
Rachel Niskanen, Negaunee
Molly McNitt, Paw Paw
Chesney Wilke, Tecumseh
Allison Tate, Whitehall
BOYS CLASS B
Sreejay Ramakrishnan, Ada Forest Hills Eastern
Jacob Pallo, Ada Forest Hills Eastern
Aiden Eric Smith, Adrian
Evan Jose Evans, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
John Kersh, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Nathan Hooker, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Jacob Fenbert, Dundee
Michael App, Grand Rapids Catholic Central
James Oosterhouse, Holland Christian
Matthew Bowman, Milan
Philip Nelson, Negaunee
Grant H. Harkness, Newaygo
Nicholas Liparoto, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
Isaiah Pelc, Portland
Aldo Barba, Tecumseh
Camden Johnecheck, Williamston
GIRLS CLASS C
Tailor Onstott, Beal City
Saylar Cuthrell, Cass City
Kylie McGrath, Cass City
Claire Scholten, Charlevoix
Ruby Sierer, Clinton
Quinn Watts, Fowler
Danni Swihart, Hanover-Horton
Aziza Burgoon, Iron Mountain
Abigail Meyer, Marlette
Alaina Andrews, Ottawa Lake Whiteford
Laina Harger, St. Charles
Samantha Dietz, Watervliet
BOYS CLASS C
Logan Pflug, Cassopolis
Seth Vanderwest, Kent City
Ethan Green, Kingston
Andrew Mleczko, Madison Heights Bishop Foley
Grant Mason, Manistique
Blake O'Connor, Maple City Glen Lake
Brock Murphy, Menominee
Riley DeSarbo, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central
Ty Kohlmann, New Lothrop
Noah Etnyre, Plymouth Christian Academy
Brennan Cannaday, Royal Oak Shrine Catholic
Dirk Rierson, Unionville-Sebewaing
GIRLS CLASS D
Kylie Quist, Athens
Kasandra Lynn Waldi, Chesterfield Austin Catholic
Megan Roberts, Hillsdale Academy
Emma Case, Kinde North Huron
Monique Brisson, Munising
Makennah Uotila, Ontonagon
Gabriella Wenzel, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary
Macey Springer, Three Oaks River Valley
BOYS CLASS D
Ryan McDonell, Bay City All Saints
Luke Walker, Clarkston Everest Collegiate
Amos Norland, Dollar Bay
Brody Appelgren, Hillman
Caleb Diener, Hillsdale Academy
Matthew Zammit, Marine City Cardinal Mooney
James Blackburn, Martin
Caleb Munson, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary
PHOTO A group including 27 of last season's 32 MHSAA-Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete Award winners take a photo together during the banquet at Breslin Center.