SAC Sounds Off on School Sports

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

February 17, 2017

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

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: St. Johns' Isabel Thelen

May 23, 2024

Isabel Thelen headshotIsabel Thelen ♦ St. Johns
Senior ♦ Tennis

Playing as part of St. Johns’ singles lineup for the fourth season – and at No. 1 singles for the second straight – Thelen will bring a 22-1 record into next weekend’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals at Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University. Thelen won her Regional last week, giving up only five games total in sweeping all three matches that day while also helping the Redwings finish runner-up to advance to the Finals as a team.

All of Thelen’s wins this spring have come in two sets, and her only loss was to Battle Creek Lakeview’s Maddy Simonds, who will be playing in the Division 2 Finals next weekend. Thelen also claimed the No. 1 singles championship at the Capital Area Activities Conference Red Tournament on Tuesday, winning both matches 6-0, 6-0. She’s a combined 91-10 during her high school career, and she also capped her basketball career this winter earning all-area and all-league honors. She will study next at Lansing Community College, possibly health sciences.

@mhsaasports 🎾POW: Isabel Thelen #tennis #stjohns #letsgo #champion #part1 #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

@mhsaasports 🎾POW: Isabel Thelen #tiktalk #questiontime #part2 #culvers #cat #airheadextreme #night #sand #beach #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

Follow the MHSAA on TikTok.'s "Performance of the Week" features are powered by MI Student Aid, a division within the Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP). 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.

Past 2023-24 Honorees

May 16: Ally Katinas, Novi lacrosse - Report
May 9:
Peter Roehl, Rochester Adams - Report
May 2:
Lilah Smith, Richland Gull Lake soccer - Report
April 25:
Mason Mayne, Lawton track & field - Report
April 18:
Alli Wright, Jenison softball - Report
April 11:
Chloe Wishart, Trenton soccer - Report
March 28:
Jenna Maki, Ishpeming basketball - Report
March 22:
Jaremiah Palmer, Niles Brandywine basketball - Report
March 15:
Leah Hodge, North Farmington gymnastics - Report
March 8:
Darius Marines, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Report
March 1:
Rylee Smith, Zeeland West bowling - Report
Feb. 22:
Caleb Lewandowski, Traverse City West skiing - Report
Feb. 15:
Jadin Mix, Onaway basketball - Report
Feb. 8:
Onalee Wallis, Cadillac skiing - Report
Feb. 1:
Abbey DeGraw, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek competitive cheer - Report
Jan. 25:
Ewan Todd, Riverview swimming - Report
Jan. 18:
Ashley Weller, Jackson Northwest basketball - Report
Jan. 11:
Michael Baldwin, Saginaw Arthur Hill wrestling - Report
Dec. 15:
Jena Fijolek, Fenton bowling - Report
Dec. 8:
Sophia Wagner, Escanaba gymnastics - Report
Dec. 1:
Isaiah Marshall, Southfield Arts & Technology football - Report
Nov. 24:
Sarah Bradley, Clarkston Everest Collegiate volleyball - Report
Nov. 17:
Kalieb Osborne, Waterford Mott football - Report
Nov. 10:
Tekalegn Vlasma, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3:
Colton Kinnie, Birmingham Seaholm football - Report
Oct. 27:
Lauren Timpf, Macomb Lutheran North golf - Report
Oct. 20:
Alena Li, Okemos golf - Report
Oct. 13:
Seth Norder, Grand Haven cross country - Report
Oct. 5:
Paige Anderson, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer golf - Report
Sept. 29:
MacKenzie Bisballe, Lake City volleyball - Report
Sept. 22:
Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15:
Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8:
Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1:
Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report

(Action photo by Alex Parsons; headshot by Iryshe Photography.)