Sailor Nation Works Together to Save Life

December 12, 2019

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

Bob Mirkle calls it a miracle that he’s still alive.

The 74-year-old Norton Shores resident had a brush with death Oct. 18 in front of 7,000 fans packed into Sailor Stadium for the blockbuster Muskegon at Mona Shores football game.

Just as the huge crowd stood for the national anthem, Mirkle was slumping back onto the bleachers from cardiac arrest, later identified as the failure of a heart stent which had been implanted 18 years ago.

“Something’s wrong with grandpa!” screamed his grandson, causing a ruckus in the Mona Shores reserved section, about 10 rows below the press box.

What transpired over the next 30 minutes was an incredible performance by the Mona Shores fans, coaches, media and entire community to save Mirkle’s life. It was a textbook reaction which was lauded by Norton Shores public safety officials – and the Mirkle family.

“We live in a great community,” said Cheryl Mirkle, Bob’s wife, who stayed home that night to babysit two of her grandchildren. “In a lot of other places, he wouldn’t have made it. We were told that 1 out of 9 people who have that situation happen don’t make it. So we believe it was nothing short of a miracle.”

The immediate family surrounding Mirkle – many of whom were at the game to support Shores starting junior linebacker Karsen Marihugh, Bob’s great-nephew, and two other family members who are cheerleaders – helped clear a small area in the packed stands and get Mirkle down flat on his back.

A woman sitting four rows back, who was well trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, was able to clear Mirkle’s airway and immediately start chest compressions.

Mark Konecny, a Mona Shores assistant coach and part-time Norton Shores fireman, recognized what was going on and grabbed the automated external defibrillator (AED) on the sidelines and headed up into the stands. Konecny, who was an all-state quarterback for Shores in 1980 and went on to play two years in the NFL with Miami and Philadelphia, was able to connect the defibrillator and shock Mirkle’s heart back into action.

Joe Kinnucan, who was in the press box about to go on the air with a Sailor Nation Sports Network broadcast of the game, threw down his headset and made a beeline for Mirkle, leaving his son Noah to make his unplanned broadcasting debut.

“There was no second thought,” explained Kinnucan, whose full-time job is Deputy Fire Chief for the Norton Shores Fire Department. “You ask any first responder who is truly vested in their work, and they will tell you that they are always on call. I was just happy to be able to help out.”

The huge crowd and both teams, who were wired for one of the state’s biggest regular-season prep football games of the year, briefly put aside the intense rivalry and went dead quiet out of respect. Shores public address announcer Dan Vandermyde even asked those in attendance to say a prayer as Mirkle was carried underneath the bleachers, where Konecny and Kinnucan and others continued working on him as the game began.

Cheryl Mirkle, meanwhile, who was at home and receiving cryptic, panicked phone calls and texts from friends and family, believed that her husband had died. That is until she got a call from her niece, screaming: “He’s breathing! He’s alive!”

Cheryl first saw her husband at Mercy Hospital in Muskegon where, like a true fan, the first words out of his mouth were: “What’s the score?”

The score of that night’s game was surprisingly one-sided: Muskegon 53, Mona Shores 0. Since that shocking night, both Mirkle and the Sailors have been on the recovery trail.

Mirkle underwent heart bypass surgery Oct. 23, five days after the game, and ended up spending 11 days in the hospital. He is back home and even mowed the lawn one day, and will start his therapy sessions this week.

“I’m doing great,” said Mirkle, a retired truck driver and devout fisherman. “I’m getting better and getting ready to start going to therapy. My story has a happy ending.”

As Mirkle was recovering, the Sailors and Big Reds were putting together long playoff runs, with both culminating Thanksgiving weekend in MHSAA Finals appearances at Ford Field in Detroit.

Muskegon’s run came to a disappointing end in a 30-7 loss to River Rouge in the Division 3 championship game.

Mona Shores, meanwhile, continued its magic run under diminutive junior quarterback Brady Rose, upsetting Detroit Martin Luther King, 35-26, in the Division 2 title game.

It capped an amazing rags-to-riches story for Mona Shores, which until recently had become synonymous with losing on the football field. Shores had only one winning season during a 14-year stretch from 1998 to 2012, but ended its playoff drought in 2013 and then made it all the way to the Division 2 championship game in both 2014 and 2018, before taking it all this time.

“We have waited all of these years for Shores to win some football games, and now it’s happening,” said Cheryl, who has been going to games with her husband since the late 1980s when their nephew, Sam Wakefield, was playing for the Sailors. “It really has been an amazing season in so many ways.”

At the community celebration at the school’s gym on Dec. 1, Mona Shores athletic director Todd Conrad praised the community for its support of the team and for rising up and raising funds to help defray the cost of travel en route to the championship.

It was actually the second time this season that the Mona Shores community responded quickly in a time of need.

“The saving of that man’s life was a textbook example of an entire community responding in the right way,” said Kinnucan. “People responded in a split-second with training which they had acquired somewhere along the line.

“Sure, we went on to win a state championship, which is incredible, but it still doesn’t top that moment and how everyone worked together to save his life.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top left) Bob and Cheryl Mirkle sit for a photo with their three grandchildren during Christmas 2017. (Top right) Joe Kinnucan, far right, returns to the press box Oct. 18 to share with play-by-play partner Nick Davros and their viewers that a man in the stands who was experiencing a cardiac event was “breathing and had a pulse.” (Top below) The Sailor Nation Sports Network crew, from left: Nick Davros, Noah Kinnucan, Connor Fritz, Joe Kinnucan and John Hall (with videographer Kimon Kotos on the roof). (Middle) Bob Mirkle. (Photos courtesy of Joe Kinnucan and Bob Mirkle, respectively.)

Rep Council Approves Sponsorship of New Sports, Adjusts Winter Schedule at Spring Meeting

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 9, 2024

The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association took several actions during its Spring Meeting, May 5-6 in Gaylord, including approving the addition of boys volleyball and girls field hockey to the lineup of MHSAA-sponsored tournament sports beginning in 2025-26 and reorganizing the winter championship calendar to end one week earlier.

The Spring Meeting of the 19-member legislative body of the Association’s more than 1,500 member schools is generally the busiest of its sessions each year. The Council considered 28 committee proposals and dealt with a variety of eligibility rule, postseason tournament and operational issues.

After a yearlong conversation about emerging sports at MHSAA member schools, the Council approved a Volleyball Committee recommendation to begin sponsorship of boys volleyball with the 2025-26 school year. The Council also voted to begin sponsorship of girls field hockey beginning with 2025-26. Girls field hockey will be played during the Fall season, and boys volleyball during the Spring season, with the 2024-25 school year to serve as a development period as the MHSAA works with the current governing organizations for those sports. These will be the first sports added to the MHSAA’s tournament offerings since girls and boys lacrosse joined the lineup during the 2004-05 school year.

Changes to the MHSAA Winter Calendar will take effect in 2025-26 and include several adjustments to Finals schedules and practice starts that overall will lead to the winter sports season ending one week earlier – reflecting a fall survey that showed nearly 80 percent of MHSAA member schools felt the winter should be shortened. The reshaped winter sports calendar also completes competition before schools begin their spring breaks – which are being scheduled earlier than in the past – and places championships on dates that avoid potential facility conflicts.

Beginning with 2025-26, the last weekend in February will include the Team Wrestling, Bowling and Competitive Cheer Finals (with Skiing Finals remaining on the Monday of that week). The first weekend in March will include the Individual Wrestling, Boys Ice Hockey and Girls Gymnastics Finals. The Boys Basketball Finals will move to the second weekend of March with the Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming & Diving Finals, and the Girls Basketball Finals will permanently conclude the winter season during the third weekend of March. The Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals will remain in mid-February. With basketball seasons ending earlier, basketball practices will be able to begin five days earlier (on a Wednesday) to keep tryouts/first practice dates from falling during Thanksgiving week.

More changes to MHSAA Tournament competition will begin in 2024-25. The Council voted to add a team championship for girls wrestling to be awarded to the school with the most success in the girls bracket of the Individual Finals. A girls individual bracket was added for the 2021-22 season, and the team championship will be awarded based on individual finishes similarly to how boys team championships were awarded before the dual format Finals were created with the 1987-88 season. Also for 2024-25, the Council approved Basketball and Soccer Committee recommendations to seed the entire District tournaments in those sports using Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) data, which previously was used to seed only the top two teams in each bracket for girls and boys basketball and girls and boys soccer.

The Council also approved a classification change in football intended to protect the state’s smallest schools sponsoring the 11-player format. Continuing a conversation from its Winter Meeting in March, the Council approved a Football Committee recommendation to cap the enrollment of Division 8 schools at 250 students, and then divide the rest of the 11-player schools evenly to determine the enrollment lines for the other seven divisions. As more small schools have switched to 8-player, larger schools have shifted into Division 8 for 11-player – and this change guarantees Division 8 schools will play only similarly-small schools during the postseason, taking effect with the 2025-26 school year.

To continue supporting schools providing teams at multiple levels despite low participation, the Council voted to allow athletes in two more sports to compete on teams at two levels on the same day. The Council approved a Bowling Committee recommendation allowing bowlers to participate in subvarsity and varsity competition on the same day, provided the events are separate – bowlers may still be listed on only one match roster and bowl for one team during each event – and also approved a Girls Lacrosse Committee recommendation to allow athletes to play in no more than five quarters in one day, with overtime an extension of the fourth quarter. At multi-team girls lacrosse tournaments where both school teams are playing, an athlete would be allowed to play in as many halves or quarters as what the school’s highest team level that day is playing.

The Council bolstered the penalty for inappropriate behavior toward game officials, approving an Officials Review Committee recommendation modifying the penalty for any coach or athlete who is ejected for spitting at, hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing or intentionally and/or aggressively physically contacting a game official at any time during that competition or after being ejected. The offending coach or athlete shall be suspended from competition for the next 14 calendar days and must complete an online sportsmanship course. The offending coach also will not be eligible to coach in the MHSAA Tournament for that sport during that season, nor be allowed to be present at the site or within sight, sound or communication of a tournament event for that team.

Here is a summary of other notable actions taken by the Representative Council at the Spring Meeting, which will take effect during the 2024-25 school year unless noted:


• The Council approved a change to the athletic-related transfer (link) rule stating that an athlete is ineligible in all sports participated in during the current or previous school year if that student has transferred to a school where a coach is employed who previously was a school employee or third-party contractor at the athlete’s former school. This change of language bolsters the regulation to include links to a coach at the new school who previously was employed in any way by the previous school.

• The Council approved a change to the football practice and competition rule to state that a school may not take part in an interscholastic scrimmage with another school until the Wednesday of the second week of practice and only if the team has conducted football practice on at least seven separate previous days. A joint practice with another school is considered a scrimmage and may not take place until those seven days of practice have been completed.  

Sports Medicine

• The Council approved a Sports Medicine Advisory Committee recommendation to require high schools to attest by each season’s established deadline that their high school sports coaches have emergency action plans specific to location which are posted, dispersed, rehearsed, discussed and documented within their practice plans.

• The Council also approved a Committee recommendation requiring MHSAA Tournament host sites to have an AED (automated external defibrillator) within visible distance of the event.


• The Council approved an Officials Review Committee recommendation requiring a set minimum number of officials required to work an event, designated by sport and level (varsity or subvarsity).

Sport Matters

BASEBALL: The Council approved a Baseball Committee recommendation requiring varsity teams to submit their pitch count information electronically by noon the day following every game(s).

BOWLING: The Council approved a Bowling Committee recommendation allowing for Regionals – Team and Singles – to be competed on consecutive days between Wednesday and Saturday of that week to increase the possibility of more bowling centers being able to host. Previously Regionals could be bowled only on Fridays and Saturdays.

COMPETITIVE CHEER: The Council approved three Competitive Cheer Committee recommendations related to stunting while also prioritizing safety. In a braced suspended forward roll pyramid, the flyer and at least one bracer will be required to have a hand-to-hand/arm connection, with one or both hands/arms of the bracer connected to one hand/arm/foot of the flyer, and with this maneuver performed only to a cradle position or in a forward suspended role without twists.

Another change will allow a backward suspended roll when it originates from the cheering surface as long as both hands of the flyer maintain continuous hand-to-hand or hand-to-arm contact with the original bases or back spot.

A third change allows during an inversion the temporary loss of contact with the flyer while transitioning to a double-based sponge with both feet of the flyer in the hands of the bases, or to a cradle or shoulder-level or below stunt.

GOLF: The Council approved a Golf Committee recommendation to form a Golf Site Selection Committee to review Regional tournament groupings and determine host schools and courses.

SOCCER: The Council approved another Soccer Committee proposal to institute a running clock during the first half of matches when the goal differential is eight or more.

SWIMMING & DIVING: The Council approved a Swimming & Diving Committee recommendation requiring all times entered for MHSAA Finals for both individual and relay swim events to be the times that are the fastest achieved in varsity competition during the current season and electronically verifiable on

TENNIS: The Council approved a Tennis Committee recommendation requiring the MHSAA to reduce the number of Regional tournaments for a season from eight to six if the number of teams participating that season is fewer than 288.

TRACK & FIELD: The Council approved a Cross Country/Track & Field Committee recommendation allowing for athletes to qualify for MHSAA Finals by reaching predetermined standards during a window beginning April 1 of that season and extending until that athlete’s Regional meet.

WRESTLING: The Council approved a Wrestling Committee recommendation to amend the penalty for a team when a wrestler competes at an ineligible weight class during a dual event. If the ineligible wrestler is discovered during the involved match, that wrestler forfeits that match and the opposing team will be awarded six team points, plus the head coach of the team with the ineligible wrestler will be assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty resulting in a one-point team score deduction. If the ineligible wrestler is discovered after the involved match, any points earned by the offending wrestler are removed from the team score, along with the point for unsportsmanlike conduct, and six points are added to the offended team’s total. In both instances, neither wrestler involved in the match in question may compete again in that dual. If the ineligible wrestler is discovered after the dual is completed, the teams have left the mat area and the scorebook has been signed by the official, the results and team score will stand.

The Council also reviewed reports on membership, with 754 senior high schools and 774 junior high/middle schools in 2023-24 plus 60 elementary schools with 6th-grader participation; cooperative programs, with 392 high school programs for 720 teams during 2023-24; eligibility advancement applications, which totaled one; the use of Educational Transfer Forms, of which there were 128; school violations, attendance at athletic director in-service workshops and Coaches Advancement Program sessions; officials’ registrations (which were up 4.8 percent from 2022-23), rules meetings attendance, and officials reports submitted for the past three sports seasons. The Association’s $14.8 million budget for the 2024-25 school year also was approved.

The Representative Council is the 19-member legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities, and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.

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 1.4 million spectators each year.