SAC Sounds Off on School Sports

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

February 17, 2017

During a school year in which much of the focus is on, and coming from, student-athletes in Michigan and around the country, what better stage is there on which to showcase the MHSAA Student Advisory Council?

Following are thoughts and opinions from various SAC members as they relate to defining and defending educational athletics.

Jack Donnelly
Ottawa Lake Whiteford senior
Football, Baseball

Role as a SAC Member: “As an SAC member, I’ve learned a lot about being a good student and good role model for others. I try to bring back the points that I learn from our sessions to the team that I am on; to set a good example for others, especially the underclassmen. I figure if the underclassmen learn it now, it will only help them later.”

School Sports vs. Non-School: “I love the school spirit that things like the ‘Battle of the Fans’ emphasize. School sports should be about spirit and communities.”

Most Enjoyable Aspects: “The best part of high school sports, I feel, is being part of a team and the enjoyment that comes from being a close-knit group. There are lots of guys who I’ve been playing football with now since the third grade. That’s a bond that will last forever.”

Lindsay Duca
East Grand Rapids senior
Volleyball, Lacrosse

Role as a SAC Member: “Reminding and encouraging my teammates on the field/court as well as my fellow peers in the student section – a unique component of school sports – to cultivate an amicable surrounding for all of those engaging in the competition is a constant duty I perform to help my school emulate MHSAA values.”

School Sports vs. Non-School: “High school sports are played by student-athletes, and the academic component of that title always takes priority. This gives high school sports a healthier and more balanced environment as schoolwork and academic achievement are equally important, something that is entirely disregarded in club, rec, and even often college athletics. Playing for the fun of the game and appreciating each teammate as integral to the success of the team I think are also essential elements of high school sports that make it such a quality and genuine experience.”

Most Enjoyable Aspects: “I love the sense of community that school sports foster, one that can not only be seen around the high school but enveloping the entire town. Playing for the name written on your jersey, one that has been worn and passed down by past players who loved the game just like you, gives you a purpose, a more meaningful sense of belonging and identity than just a kid on a court. That is a pretty special opportunity.”

Cade Smeznik
Yale senior
Football, Basketball, Baseball

Most Enjoyable Aspects: “I enjoy the fans and intensity of the games. The fans make a real difference in games because when you have a huge crowd cheering you on, you want to give them a good game. The fans can also dictate how a game can go, like in basketball when you have a loud crazy student section, opponents get intimated and it hypes you and your teammates up and can swing the game in your favor.”

School vs. Non-School: “There's no better feeling than playing in front of your hometown under the lights on Friday night or on any night, especially rivalry games or playoff games which bring most of the community together and create such an intense atmosphere you can't help but love it.”

Sydney Hanson
Alma junior
Cross Country, Basketball, Soccer

Role as a SAC Member: “As a SAC member I feel like it's my job to display myself as a leader in my sports, and support all the other sports. I need to convey a demeanor that motivates my school to follow MHSAA messages. Also, I will try to take opportunities I get to teach students about what MHSAA really is about, because many don't really know what it is.”

Most Enjoyable Aspects: “I most enjoy the team aspect of sports. I love the bond that is created with my teammates and how if you are a close-knit team, it shows in your performance.”

Hunter Gandee
Temperance Bedford junior

Most Enjoyable Aspects: “I enjoy the bonding between teammates. Bonding that doesn't just happen on the field but also in the classroom, and at other athletic and non-athletic events. I also enjoy the sense of pride for one’s high school and holding up traditions.”

Marissa Immel
Munising senior
Volleyball, Tennis, Basketball, Golf, Track & Field

Most Enjoyable Aspects: “I really enjoy competing and working with my teammates to achieve our goals. I also enjoy meeting new people and making friends with opposing players!”

Alex Janosi
Dexter senior
Swimming, Water Polo

Role as a SAC Member: “I can do a lot by doing the right thing at a high level. By competing at a high level of play, most of the eyes are on such athletes. Doing simple things to show what sports are really about make a big impact on the high school community. From simply shaking someone's hand to running a sportsmanship summit, I can do a lot as a SAC member.”

School Sports vs. Non-School: “I think the big thing is just knowing why you play sports. We play to get energy out and have fun. At the higher levels, it's a job and adds more stress to the player's life.”

Most Enjoyable Aspects: “I enjoy being part of community that supports everyone. It's fun to be able to play for all those people you represent and to know they will be there for you.”

Darby Dean
Lowell junior
Football (Fr., Soph.), Soccer, Basketball

Role as a SAC Member: “To deliver the right message to our communities, we need to cultivate a motivated group of students within our communities who have the same thoughts and ideas as to what high school sports offer.”

School Sports vs. Non-School: “A few things that are a part of high school sports that lack in other levels are a sense of investment to a certain activity, the idea of wearing and taking pride in your school and community colors, and civic mindedness. As compared to club sports or recreational sports, I believe high school sports give an opportunity to high schoolers to honor their school and their community colors in something bigger than themselves. Not only that, but it gives the chance for kids to work with kids they have grown up around for the majority of their lives.”

Most Enjoyable Aspects: “Again, I believe one of my favorite parts about high school sports is being able to represent my school and community in something bigger than myself. Also, I believe nothing beats the feeling of winning a big game against a rival with my best friends right on the field with me.”

PHOTO: East Grand Rapids’ Lindsay Duca (22), a member of the MHSAA Student Advisory Council, looks for an open teammate during last season’s Girls Lacrosse Division 2 Final.

Performance of the Week: Grand Ledge's Alaina Yaney

March 17, 2023

Alaina YaneyAlaina Yaney ♦ Grand Ledge
Senior ♦ Gymnastics

After finishing runner-up by just half a point as a junior, Yaney closed her high school gymnastics career Saturday with the Division 1 all-around championship, posting an all-around score of 38.075 and with first places on balance beam (9.475) and vault (9.700). She also tied for second on floor exercise (9.575) and finished third on uneven parallel bars (9.325). Her vault score tied for 16th-highest in Division 1 Finals competition all-time. 

Not surprisingly, Yaney also was her Regional's all-around champion (37.550). She also helped Grand Ledge finish eighth in Friday's Team Final competition, with her 37.475 the highest all-around score that day, before the next afternoon becoming the eighth Comets gymnast to win the Finals' Division 1 individual championship. A gymnast since age 3, Yaney will continue academically at Central Michigan Univerrsity and is considering attempting to walk-on the gymnastics team. 

@mhsaasports 🤸‍♀️POW: Alaina Yaney #performanceoftheweek #gymnast #allaround #beam #vault #firstplace #gymnastics #statechamp #champion #individual #record #grandledge #comets #congrats #MHSAA #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #TikTok#mistudentaid #fyp @alaina_yaney ♬ Beat Automotivo Tan Tan Tan Viral - WZ Beat

Follow the MHSAA on TikTok.

MI Student Aid's "Performance of the Week" features are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

2022-23 Honorees

March 9: Braeden Davis, Dundee wrestling - Report
March 2:
Gabriel Sanchez-Burks, Ann Arbor Pioneer swimming - Report
Feb. 23:
Grace Sobczak, Marquette swimming - Report
Feb. 16:
Kaitlynn Demers, Gibraltar Carlson competitive cheer - Report
Feb. 9:
Indya Davis, West Bloomfield basketball - Report
Feb. 2:
Braydon Sorenson, Onekama skiing - Report
Jan. 26:
Shayne Hruska, Iron Mountain wrestling - Report
Jan. 19:
Kayla Tafanelli, Warren Woods-Tower bowling - Report
Dec. 20:
Brenden Paden, Riverview Gabriel Richard hockey - Report
Dec. 16:
Tuff Scott, Holton bowling - Report
Dec. 9:
Macey Fegan, Standish-Sterling basketball - Report
Dec. 2:
Treyton Siegert, Gladwin football - Report
Nov. 24:
Lily Witte, Dexter diving - Report
Nov. 17:
Navea Gauthier, Shelby volleyball - Report
Nov. 10:
Derek Huisman, Holland Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3:
Thomas Westphal, New Baltimore Anchor Bay cross country - Report
Oct. 27:
Justin Wickey, Colon football - Report
Oct. 20:
Owen DeMuth, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood tennis - Report
Oct. 13:
Mia Melendez, Ann Arbor Greenhills golf - Report
Oct. 6:
Shawn Foster, Grand Ledge football - Report
Sept. 30:
Hannah Smith, Temperance Bedford swimming - Report
Sept. 22:
Helen Sachs, Holland West Ottawa cross country - Report
Sept. 15:
Nina Horning, Lake Orion volleyball - Report
Sept 8:
Arturo Romero, Muskegon Oakridge soccer - Report
Sept. 1:
Austin King, Midland Dow tennis - Report
Aug. 25:
Olivia Hemmila, Troy Athens golf - Report

PHOTO Grand Ledge's Alaina Yaney competes during Friday's Team Final at White Lake Lakeland. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)