May 2019 ROAR












Rams Athletic Director

Tim Erickson

Set to Retire


















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Tim Erickson Retirement..............2-4

Ashton Pokorzynski Signing............5


Where Are They Now?.................8-9

Girls Track...............................10-11


Water Polo..............................14-15

Meijer Simply Give Classic......16-19

Comeback Chronicles.............20-21

Youth Lacrosse.......................22-24

Boys Track....................................25

Athletes of the Month..............26-32

* Cover Photo of Tim Erickson

Courtesy of Miles J. Postema


Managing Editor

Jeannie Gregory

Director of Business Operations

Joel Koch






ROAR Editor

Hello Ram Fans! Spring has been pretty reluctant in

coming, hasn’t it? As I sit and write this in the last days

of April, there is a call for snow in the forecast. Not just a

dusting, either, the meteorologists are calling for inches of the

white stuff. I think we were all hoping Mother Nature would

take the word “break” literally, but she obviously had other


The weather has had a decided effect on both the spring

sport schedules and the hapless teams that find themselves

battling it. It has been cold, it has been windy, and we’ve also

seen our share of rain and snow in April. Our Ram athletes and

coaches have handled it with impressive grit. They’ve been

out there doing their magic while parents, friends and fans have been wrapped in

blankets and still feeling the cold.

The cover of this month’s issue of ROAR carries the visage of Rockford High

School’s athletic director. I’ve known Tim for a long time, when our kids were playing

ball back in the late ‘90s. He got to know me quite a bit better when I was Editor

of the Rockford Independent Newspaper. He saw my work, he knew my coverage

through football and sometimes I was lucky enough to talk to him. Joel knew Tim

through a different avenue. They knew each other through officiating, and he admired

him also. There are certain people in Rockford who I will always be grateful

to for how they acted during the inception of ROAR Magazine. I’m not going to

lie, it is daunting to start your own business – especially one that is so public. Your

work is out there with thousands seeing it every single day (well, in the beginning

it might have been 10, but we’ve thankfully grown). Your success, or your failure,

is obvious to all. So, you have a tendency to remember those who held you up and

helped you and even made you believe in yourself and your business. Dr. Shibler

was the first RPS employee who did that for us, and Tim was the second.

I remember the phone call I made to reach out and see when we could meet. It

had been years since we had talked, so I was unsure of how it would go. I remembered

him, but through the years and huge number of people and events he deals

with on a daily basis I wondered if he’d remember the essence of me. I asked if we

needed a face-to-face to discuss ROAR and his immediate answer was no, I know

you and I trust you. I know you’ll do a great job and what do you need from me?

And, since that moment every time I needed something he has come through. He

literally holds a piece of the success of this magazine. I will be forever grateful, and

to be honest, will miss the man as much as every other Ram Fan in Rockford. Why?

Because he truly is a great guy.

On another note, the LPGA is coming to Blythefield Country Club. If you’ve never

gone, I highly recommend the short trip to the course to check out the action and

fun. One of the items I had no clue about was that last year’s champion So Yeon Ryu

turned around and donated $100,000 of her purse back to Simply Give. Even the

pros know what a great cause it is!


Action Tax Service

Bailey’s Quick Lube

Blakeslee Rop PLC

Bridge Street Burger Shack

Budget Blinds of Rockford

Cannonsburg Village


ChoiceOne Bank

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Druckenmiller Painting

Everyday Rockford

Farmers Insurance

Five Star Food Express Rockford

Great Northern Trading Company

H&S Companies

High School Fan Stand

Honey Creek Inn

Lake Mighigan Credit Union

Lidral Orthodontics

Little Caesars Pizza

Mark of the Z

Mercy Health

Metro Health - University of Mich.

Peak Performance Roof Cleaning

Nugent Builders

Pegasus Sports

Photo Evo

RE/MAX United

Robinet Physical Therapy

Rockford Chamber of Commerce

Rockford Realty

Scott Lowing - MWA Rep

Servpro of NE Grand Rapids

Sparta Chevrolet

Team Mortgage Company

The White Insurance Agency

Thom’s Hair Design



The Rockford Rams Lose Their MVP


ROAR Editor

It was the morning of Monday, April 15, and Rockford had

just received an impressive blanket of snow throughout the

night. The weather can be unpredictable during Spring in

Michigan; sunny and 70 degrees one day, and four inches of

snow the next, and the proof was on the school grounds. The

Rams spring sports schedule was in full swing, with plenty of

competitions slated for after school that day. The snow had

made a strong statement on the tennis court, and the Rams

were scheduled to host the East Kentwood Falcons at 4 p.m.

What is an athletic director to do?

Well, Rockford High School’s athletic director Tim Erickson

puts on his winter gear and starts to shovel, which was greatly

appreciated by Ram tennis head coach Tom Huizing. It’s the

kind of guy Erickson is, always making sure the game goes on.

This scenario, albeit in a myriad of different ways, has been

Erickson’s life for the past 12 years, from 2007 to today. His listed

responsibilities as AD are the athletic budget, management

of home contests, hiring of officials, arrangement of transportation

and supervision of away contests, and the yearly hiring/

evaluation of over 140 staff members. To him, it’s all just part

of his job as facilitator, communicator, mentor, coordinator,

organizer, scheduler and supporter. Throughout those years

Erickson has earned plenty of respect from his peers, coaches

and athletes as he put in an average of 55 hours a week (at

times up to 70).

But there’s a change in the wind. Rockford High School’s

No. 1 Ram Fan is hanging up his cleats, June 28, 2019. And, all

wearing orange and black knows it will cause a huge hole. Because

it’s not only about his tireless dedication, it’s about who

he is and how he tackled the job, with humor and heart.

Erickson started in the Rockford Public Schools system as

a middle school teacher in 1983, with a Bachelor of Science in

Secondary Administration degree, with an Industrial Education

major and a minor in Physical Education from Central

Michigan University. He became involved in Ram athletics immediately

as the middle school football coach and continued

by becoming the middle school wrestling coach. Throughout

the years he has coached at the high school level with stints as

the head coach of freshmen, JV and varsity baseball, JV football

and softball. He was the defensive coordinator from 1987-2000

and was an assistant varsity football coach from 2002-2007.

Rams football head coach Ralph Munger had plenty to say

about Erickson’s positive influence on his program.

“Tim has impacted our Rockford athletic programs in

many ways for over three decades,” confides Munger. “He has

coached various sports from youth level on up to the varsity

level and helped put our football summer FUNdamental Youth

Program into place. Tim impacted the growth of our football

program and helped put Rockford on the map. His expertise

as a defensive guru led to numerous playoff appearances, conference

and state championships.”

Photo above: An AD is a “Jack-of-all-trades” and Tim Erickson

relished his role. He paid equal attention to all Ram teams. Photo

below: Tim at work in his ofice. ~ Contributed photos


Tim enjoyed the support of fellow administrators and good

friends, Mike Cuneo, Dan Zang, Mike Ramm, and Doug Vander-

Jagt. ~ Contributed Photo

A member of the West Michigan Wrestling Officials Association,

he has served as an MHSAA registered official for 37

years, currently in wrestling but previously as well for basketball,

baseball, softball and volleyball.

Not only an excellent coach and official, Erickson also

served in roles within the RPS school system. He returned to

CMU and earned a Master of Arts in Educational Administration

in 1989 to help in his aspirations.

He was a teacher from 1983-2002, served as the ERMS Student

Activities Coordinator from 2000-04, the ERMS assistant

principal from 2002-04, and RHS assistant principal from

2004-07 before becoming RHS Director of Athletics in 2007.

Obviously, Erickson doesn’t flinch at being busy and had no

problem with tackling big jobs, including the AD job when it

became available after Keith Vree left the position.

“At the time the position became vacant I was looking for

a change and a growth opportunity,” Erickson shares. “I believed

that the athletic director position would be a good fit

due to my background as a player, coach, official, and parent

in various male and female sports.”

Erickson tackled the job with gusto and eye to detail. He

learned quickly it wasn’t just about coordinating schedules,

but there’s been plenty of rewards along the way.

“A surprise I may not have been prepared for was the crazy

amount of emails and deskwork that came with the job,”

Erickson shares. “A pleasant surprise was the great relationships

I quickly developed with athletic directors from schools

around the area. It is rewarding to be part of a large and successful

event from start to finish. It is also satisfying to watch

our teams improve throughout the season and I enjoy watching

our student-athletes compete at the highest level. I have

enjoyed the relationships I have developed with athletes, administrators,

coaches and colleagues.”

Besides receiving mentoring from fellow AD’s, Erickson has

enjoyed support from a number of other areas. One is his office


“Communication and staying on top of the ever-changing

schedule is a challenge,” he says. “Having a great office assistant

certainly helps and fortunately, we have always had an

awesome secretary in the athletic office.”

That secretary who was by his side for most of his time as

AD was Laurie Terranova. She was as impressed with Erickson

as he was with her.

It’s not all serious. Tim and Kevin O’Rourke dance with the RHS

Dance Team as Santa and Mrs. Claus during halftime at a basketball

game in 2013. ~ Contributed Photo

“I have known Tim for nearly 30 years,” she shares. “Our

kids played ball together and I worked with him at the middle

and high school levels for years before becoming his secretary

in the RHS Athletic Office in 2007. Tim has made a name for

himself in the Michigan athletic arena and has become an icon

in our school system. I truly believe they hired the right man

for the job when he was hired as athletic director. He is in it

for ALL the right reasons. His love for these kids and Rockford

athletics is apparent by the number of hours he spends here at

the school and on the fields, preparing for games and encouraging

our youth.”

Terranova stepped down last year and Kristi Swayze took

her place in the office, and she reiterates Erickson’s dedication

to his job.

“It has been a pleasure and rewarding experience to work

with Tim,” Swayze shares. “The amount of time and work he

selflessly gives to Rockford will be irreplaceable. His work

ethic, dedication and commitment to the student-athletes,

coaches, the conference and the MHSAA has no limit. The athletic

office will always feel a little empty without him here.”

“I appreciate all the support that I have received from the

Rockford administration. Over the years, I have been blessed

to work with a great administrative team, and I am surrounded

by a great coaching staff. We are fortunate to have so much

support in our community for educational athletics.”

Under his leadership, the Rams have earned 33 state titles

in 13 sports, and have hosted more than 20 state finals at Rockford.

In recent years, Erickson has earned a number of awards

to mark his exemplary work. He received the MHSAA Allen W.

Bush Award in 2016-17, was honored as the MHSAA Regional

AD of the Year in 2017-18, and was the 2018 West Michigan Officials

Association AD of the Year.

Munger isn’t surprised by the accolades.

“Tim has been a tireless worker his entire career. As our athletic

director, he has provided strong leadership to a growing

athletic program. Tim has also brought significant visibility to

our excellent facilities by hosting numerous MHSAA events.

His humble approach to getting things accomplished is a direct

result of his pouring his heart and soul into the school district

he has represented proudly as a teacher, coach, administrator

and athletic director.”



Munger cintinues, “He has been a respected ambassador

for the Rams within our conference, West Michigan and the

entire state. The recognition Tim has received from his peers

has been well earned and more than well deserved.” At press

time a replacement hasn’t been found for Erickson. Dr. Michael

Shibler, superintendent of RPS, understands the monumental

task of finding the next athletic director, and the role

they will play. The good news is there have been 120 applicants

to choose from.

“Tim has been outstanding for the Rockford Public Schools

systems,” says Shibler. “His leadership has been instrumental

in building strong athletic programs for boys and girls, and

this is for all the sports, not just the major ones. It will be difficult

to find a person who will be able to come in and do the

level of excellence Tim has provided in his tenure.”

But, again, it’s more about the man and Munger summed

up Erickson perfectly.

“Best of all, Tim’s quick wit, respected insight, and unique

ability to think out of the box has provided those around him

with an opportunity to grow professionally and personally,”

he shares. “Tim has influenced and impacted many during his

tenure in positive ways. His many talents have been appreciated

and enjoyed and we THANK him for sharing them with

all of us who are fortunate to know him as friend. Once a Ram,

always a Ram, and this Rockford Hall of Famer will forever be

remembered for his enormous contributions in growing and

leading one of Michigan’s largest and most successful athletic


At this time, Erickson doesn’t know what his future holds.

ROAR Rockford Pub Ad 7.5x4.5.pdf 1 4/5/19 11:17 AM

“I do not have any specific plans at this time,” Erickson

shares. “I suppose I’ll be busy for a while doing some fixup jobs

around the house and hope to do some traveling. I intend to

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The Erickson family, Justin, Tim, Carole, Jordan, Jennifer Dyer and

her husband Derek Dyer, celebrate Tim’s award. ~ Contributed


stay actively involved with high school athletics as an official

and also look forward to supporting the Rams as a spectator.”

Erickson sums up his experience with reverence.

“Nearly 40 years ago I accepted a job offer to work as a

middle school teacher at Rockford,” Erickson concludes. “I did

not know anything about the district – or even where Rockford

was located. I could never have imagined the growth and

success that has occurred within the Rockford Public Schools

and I feel blessed to be a part of it. I could not have chosen a

better community to work, live, and raise a family than Rockford,


And, the Ram faithful are just as grateful he chose Rockford.

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Pokorzynski Signs with Grace Christian University

The Grace Christian University

men’s basketball program is excited

to announce the addition of Ashton

Pokorzynski, a versatile 6’6” guard/

forward out of Rockford High School.

Ashton is the son of Jesse and Brittney

Pokorzynski, and a brother to Ty (13)

and Caden (12).

“We are really excited to add Ashton

and his family to the Grace family,” said

Head Coach Gary Bailey. “He brings a

unique set to the team as he can play the

guard spot at 6’6” and still bang inside if

he needs to. He has a college ready frame

and we really think he will develop into

a 2/3 guard for us. He jumps really well

and can shoot the three and has a great

release. We feel he can contribute right

away next season as he has shown a lot

of maturity on and off the floor.”

Ashton was an All-Conference player

as a senior captain under Head Coach

Kyle Clough at Rockford High School

during the 2018-19 season, averaging 11

points, six rebounds, and one block per

game. He helped lead the MHSAA Class

A Rams to a 12-8 finish in a very tough

OK Red Conference.

Ashton also played AAU basketball in

the spring for the West Michigan Lakers,

one of the premier travel programs in

the state of Michigan. He plans to pursue

a degree in business.

“I’m really excited to join the basketball

program and I like how they win so

many games and championships,” said

Ashton who signed a couple days after

the Tigers brought home the 2019 NCAA

DII National Championship banner.

With a host of highly talented verbal

commits and now Ashton’s official signing,

the 2019 recruiting class is looking

extremely strong for the Tigers.

Photo above: Ashton Pokorzynski signs his Letter of Intent as GCU Head Coach Gary

Bailey looks on. ~ Contributed Photo Photo below: Ashton Pokorzynski made a name for

himself on the court as a Ram standout. ~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography


The RHS Varsity Soccer Team (L-R) – Front Row: Christina McDonald, Jessica Mottl, Halia Hansen, Ellie Obenauf, Ashlee Wheaton,

Emerson Lillie, Ally Coleman, and Katelyn Hurst. Row Two: Abigail Rose, Melanie McBain, Emily Vriesenga, Megan McCauley, Rachel

Landis, Ashtyn Armock, and Megan Baker. Row Three: Alina Anderson, Lindsey Hayes, Avery Milo, Natlie Hammer, Faith DeVries, Ally

Orvis, Elle Schneider, and Ella Beach. Row Four: Assistant Coach Trevor Hunt, Assistant Coach Heidi Greenland, and Head Coach

Scott “Pep” Green. ~ Photo by Douglas Photography

Soccer Team Earns Respect Quickly


ROAR Editor

The Rams varsity soccer team kicked off their 2019 season

with a 4-0 loss to Forest Hills Central. It wasn’t surprising, as

Ram head coach Scott Green’s roster featured plenty of “green”

talent – there are only two seniors on the list, Ally Orvis and

Elle Schneider. That first game was a lesson, and the team grew

from it.

The Rams followed that initial loss with a win over Cedar

Springs and tied Mona Shores 2-2. After the tie, the Rams

claimed victories over Portage Central, Grand Ledge, West

Ottawa, and suffered a 1-0 loss against Hudsonville. The Rams

notched a huge win over Grandville 1-0. and then tied Caledonia

1-1, April 22, to add to their experience.

“5-2-2 with a team as young as we are is great,” shares Green.

“We are disappointed in the Hudsonville loss and Caledonia

tie because those should be wins, but it’s the OK Red and that’s

why it’s called the ‘Conference of Death’.”

That fact is helping the Rams to climb up the state rankings.

Rockford wasn’t even mentioned in the list released April 8,

with Grandville ranked No. 4.

When the rankings came out April 15, Grandville was at No.

5 and Rockford at No. 7. After the 1-0 victory over Grandville,

Rockford was bumped up to No. 5 and Grandville was lowered

to No. 9.



“Rankings don’t mean much to us – it’s a nice recognition

for the program, but we’re knee-deep in a battle for the OK

Red,” says Green. “Our talent level is deep. What has surprised

me is how the girls have matured and grown as a team so

quickly. Three quarters of this team never played varsity soccer,

so every experience is a new learning opportunity. They

are learning very quickly, and they are keeping their eye on

the prize. We are taking one game at a time and hope that our

body of work will include more trophies for Rockford soccer.”

Green is impressed with the quality of soccer the team is


“So many teams play kick and run,” he shares. “We are connected

to five, six, 10 passes, and building, to goal. When we

lose the ball, we have excellent team defense – very ‘in your

face’ style of pressing that makes it difficult for teams to attack.

Faith DeVries (1-0-1) and Alina Anderson (4-1-1) have

played solid in the net. We also are trying to teach the girls the

‘beauty’ of the game. Soccer is like art, an expression of your

personality. As they find their creativity, our offense gets more

and more dangerous.”

On top of solid play between the sticks, the Rams are looking

strong on the field, too. Ashtyn Armock and Ally Coleman

have been playing striker, with Megan McCauly and Natalie

Hammer attacking from the midfield. Meghan Baker, Abby

Rose and Emily Vriesenga have been attacking from the flanks.

Ally Orvis has been dangerous on set pieces and free kicks.

“Our goal is to keep learning and growing as a team,” concludes

Green. “This group is a special group that are destined

to do great things both on and off the field. As long as we continue

to get better and have fun, we will be successful.”

Green is looking for fans to come out and support his team

as they work their way through the schedule, especially at

Sophomore Megan Baker works the ball down the field in an early

season scrimmage. ~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography


“Our hope is to see more Rockford fans at our upcoming

home games. The crowds away have been huge with rowdy

student sections. It would be nice to see that at Rams Stadium

as well.”


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Where Are They Now?

Katie Clarin


Sometimes it’s the little things in life that mean the most.

Ask Katie Clarin, a 2002 Rockford High School graduate and

head coach of the Rams girls water polo team. It’s not about

the state championships, or even the national championship

she won as a player that are mentioned when asked what

coaching brings to her personally. No, it’s something closer to

the heart.

“Some of my favorite moments, come when I am coaching

some of my younger athletes,” Clarin shares. “I have had middle

school girls come out who have never swam and the first

time they figure out how to swim with their faces in the water

or complete their first dive off a starting block and the pride

they have for themselves is such a great feeling. To know you

helped in a small way is pretty special.”

Many know Clarin as the current head coach of the highly

successful girls water polo team. She was plenty more to Rockford

athletics “back in the day.” She was known for her prowess

in the pool – having played all four years for the Rams water

polo team. But, Clarin also played varsity basketball for two


After graduating, she took her water polo ball to Michigan

State University and played there as a Spartan. To Clarin, it was

an easy pick.

“I always wanted to go to a large school. The campus and

opportunities that MSU offered were probably the biggest

draw. Being able to play water polo at a higher level was a

big bonus and made the decision easy. And, one of my older

brothers also went to MSU, so I think visiting him there and

the feeling of being a Spartan was very exciting to me.”

She was inducted into the Rockford Athletic Hall of Fame

in 2017, and their biography captured many of Clarin’s accomplishments

along the way: “Before graduating from Rockford

High School in 2002, as the Ted Carlson Award winner and

the OK Red Athlete of the Year, Katie excelled in two sports.

She was a two-year starter in girls basketball and was the team

captain and Most Valuable Player in 2001. She was also an

All-Conference Honorable Mention performer. In girl’s water

Ram water polo head coach Katie Clarin talks to her team prior

to a match. ~ Photo by Jeff Tow

polo, she won four varsity letters and her career was filled with

All-Conference, All-Region, All-State (first team 2001-02) and

All-American (4th team – 2001, 2nd team – 2002) honors. She

was the team M.V.P. in 2001 and 2002. She continued her water

polo success at M.S.U. from 2003-06. She was All-Big Ten

four years as well as four years on the All National First Team.

Katie was the M.V.P. of the National Tournament in 2006. She

scored the winning goal with nine seconds left in the game to

beat Florida 5-4 for the national championship. Presently, Katie

is teaching 7th-8th grade math at North Rockford Middle

School. She has continued to share her athletic knowledge.

She coached middle school volleyball (2011-2016) and was the

men’s water polo assistant coach (2006-2008). She is in her

12th year as a middle school swim coach. She has also been the

head women’s water polo coach since 2014, after serving as an

assistant from 2008-13. In 2016, her team was state runner up,

and she was the Women’s Michigan Water Polo Coach of the


Clarin had added more to her resume, as she now coaches

the swim team at Blythefield Country Club.


The 2019 Ram water polo team, and coach Katie Clarin, give a cheer poolside. ~ Photo by Jeff Tow

Katie Clarin was a standout when she played at Michigan State

University. ~ Contributed Photo

“My family was a big part of my success in athletics and education,”

she shares. “I grew up the youngest in my family with

two older brothers both of whom played water polo. That is

when I grew to love the sport. I definitely was the little sister

who wanted to complete with her brothers and their friends

and if I was going to do that I had to keep up somehow. I think

I learned a lot about working hard and my competitiveness

from them.”

Clarin also gives a nod to her high school coaches, water

polo coach Mike Westgate and basketball coach Vinny Vogg.

“They always made the sport fun but at the same time

taught us that preparation and work ethic were the key to success,”

she shares.

“All of our coaches cared about us as individuals and while

they wanted us to do well on the court and in the pool, it was

also very obvious they wanted us to be happy and succeed after

we left Rockford, as well. Balance is one word I think of –

especially, at Rockford we hold our student-athletes to high

standards in everything that they do. My coaches at Rockford

definitely wanted us to excel and work for everything that we

earned but they always wanted us to enjoy the process and the

experience. And it was more fun to enjoy when we were working

hard and seeing the results from that hard work.”

Clarin was surprised she ended up back “home.”

“I actually didn’t plan it. When I went to college, I didn’t see

myself returning but once you leave and have other experiences,

I think it makes you realize what a special place Rockford is.

I started coaching with the boys water polo program actually

and shortly after I decided I wanted to go back to school and

get my masters and get into education. Coaching led me to

wanting to get in the classroom and work with students every


Clarin added her Masters in Education from Aquinas College

to her BA in advertising from MSU.

Through the time, her love for coaching has never wavered.

“My favorite part of coaching is watching my athletes grow.

Not only as athletes, but as people and seeing them accomplish

their goals,” Clarin concludes. “As a coach, I want to share

my passion for athletics and competing, but even more so, I

hope that I am a positive role model and am able to make a

small impact on my athlete’s lives as they leave Rockford and

move on to the next stages of their lives.”


Jillian Roney (left) and Peyton Korytkowski are an impressive force to be reckoned with on the track in the 300m hurdles. They finished

1-2 against Grand Haven in this photo. ~ Photo by Kari Korytkowski

Track Team Poised and Prepared


ROAR Editor

The Rams girls track & field team is drawing notice throughout

the state for their times and accomplishments. Last year

they claimed the MITCA Team State Meet and landed second in

the MHSAA Girls Track & Field State Finals. Head coach Randy

Vander Veen has plenty of weapons at his disposal to have a

big season again this year. His answer at the start of the season

when asked what the team’s goal for the year was? ”WIN.” The

2019 team has been doing just that, racking up plenty of victories

on the oval.

The team kicked off the season with a 111-17 win over Greenville,

and followed that by starting their OK Red season with

a 132.5-24.5 win over Grandville. The team then claimed their

own invitational, tallying 265 points to earn the title, the closest

competitor was Northville, who totaled 147. Following that,

the Fighting Scots from Caledonia were no match for the team,

with Rockford topping them, 114-23. OK Red opponent Grand

Haven gave the Rams more of a challenge, but RHS still topped

them 97-40.

Vander Veen knows it’s a long season for his Rams.

“So far – so good – but we’re only as good as our next meet,”

he shares. “We not only compete against the other schools

(teams) but with ourselves, also. We have made progress – but

as the weather begins to warm up, we need to accelerate our

progress. We still have a ways to go to get to where we want/

need to be for the end of the championship season.”

He’s also happy with what he sees coming from his roster.

“We are getting great performances from a number of athletes

– that’s how and why the team is performing so well,” he


Those great performances are coming in almost every one

of the 17 events the team faces.

In the sprints he has Jillian Roney, Abby Nash, Grace Gohl

and freshman Kate Zang piling up some points, and PRs along

the way. The 400m shows the talents of freshman Grace Flanders,

and Grace Vanderwiel, and the 800m showcases sophomore

Lexie Allshouse and Karlie Gardner. The distance runs

also give him plenty of talent, with Emma Everhart-Deckard

and freshman Bailey Ewan shining in their events.

Add to that mix the incredible talent of Ericka Vander-

Lende, who can successfully run in any of the three distance

events and the Rams are a formidable opponent. In the Grand

Haven meet she not only broke her own school record in the

1600m, but also ran the fastest time in the entire country that

night, at 4:41.01.

The hurdlers give the Rams some solid points with freshman

Aimee Zang, Natalie Huls, and Valencia Goldsmith. Jillian

Roney adds points here, too. She has just come back to the

track after an injury and is already making a difference for the

Lady Rams team.


It’s all about depth. Members of one of the configurations of the

4x800 Relay team (L-R) Lily Weirich, Evelyn Grimm, Bailey Ewen

and Riley Thompson. ~ Contributed Photo

“It was good to get Jillian back running the 300 hurdles –

she ran them for the first time this season,” Vander Veen says

of the April 22 meet. “Hopefully she stays healthy and on track

to finish strong.”

The field events also find talented Rams. Breanna Haverkamp

claims first in plenty of meets in both the discus and

shot put, with Averi Nixon close behind. The Rams have always

had a stellar reputation in the pole vault and this year is no

exception, with Haverkamp adding her talent here, along with

Reagan Ammon. The long jump is coming along with freshman

Natalie Barr posting a PR at the Grand Haven meet to

claim first. She’s joined by freshman Evelyn Grimm, who posted

her own PR that night. The high jump finds three Rams –

Alexis Lamancusa, Emalee Kraft and Goldsmith adding height

to their jumps as the season progresses.

Rockford also showcases the talents of the Korytkowski

triplets. The junior athletes are sprinkled throughout the

events and are making a huge difference for the Rams. Taylor

runs sprints and is usually showcased in the 200m and 400m

runs. Peyton adds points in the hurdles, with a focus on the

100m, claiming first for the Rams, but watch her in the 300m

hurdles, too. She posted a PR in the 300m hurdles during the

Grand Haven meet, and along with Roney, will be a nice 1-2

punch at meets and get the Rams valuable points during the

Kellie Gardner hits the finish line in the 800m run. ~ Photo by Kari


post-season. Shelby is Rockford’s top pole vaulter, setting a PR

at the Grand Haven meet with a vault of 10-07. Both Peyton and

Taylor are part of the 4x200m and 4x400m relay teams, and

Shelby has been known to be the starting leg of the 4x100m

relay team.

“The Korytkowski triplets keep rocking it,” shares Vander

Veen. “Between the three of them they cover eight events for

us. They are all doing well.”

The team’s motto was borrowed from USC – “FIGHT ON.”

Vander Veen explains, “it represents us and what we must

do to be successful. Not everything is going to be easy – bad

day in school – bad practice – bad race at a meet. We can’t fold

up shop, we must FIGHT ON and turn it around. It all starts

between the ears.”

And, it will end for the Rams on the track.





ROAR Editor

It has to feel good to dominate the team that bumped you

out of districts the year before in your first game of the season.

That’s exactly what the Ram varsity baseball team did when

they topped Lowell 12-2 to kick off their 2019 campaign, March

23. Just for good measure, the Rams followed that up three

days later with an identical 12-2 victory over the hapless Red

Arrows in a 4.5 inning mercy.

Zach Marshall earned the win on the mound in the first

game and Jake Engelkes stifled the Lowell bats in the second

game to help the Rams’ cause.

But, it was the bats that made a statement. In that first game,

Owen Cairns, Grant Martin, Cord Noble, and Zach Schamp

had doubles to kick off the season. Cairns put the exclamation

point on the Ram offense by hitting two. The doubles hit parade

continued in the second game with Joe Kelley, Luke Mc-

Lean, Cody Sterkenburg, and Martin each bagging a double in

that game. Sterkenburg also went yard in the bottom of the

third inning, sailing the ball over the left field fence with bases

loaded to register a grand slam.

Extra bases continued for the Rams, with Kelley smashing

three homeruns in four games as the Rams worked their way

through their early schedule. In that fourth homerun game on

April 13, Jake Engelkes, Kelley, Noble, and Kellen Mayle hit doubles.

McLean rapped a pair of 2-baggers.

Ram head coach Matt Vriesenga is enjoying the show.

“Last year we had 40 doubles for the entire year and two

homeruns,” he shares. “This year, through a third of the season,

we have 32 doubles and five homeruns. I think our good

start is due to the fact that we are hitting the ball very well.

I believe this is twofold. First, we have some big strong kids

who are good players and are putting good swings on the ball.

The second is we have a new hitting coach named Matt Schepel

who has done a fantastic job with our hitters. His approach to

hitting has definitely helped our offense. He was a great player

himself, but he also studies and researches hitting approach

and swing path and the kids have really bought in to this.”

Ram Joe Kelley has been impressive at the plate during the

varsity team’s 2019 campaign. ~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports


Vriesenga also points to the make-up of his roster.

“We have a very talented team and we have high expectations

of getting better throughout the season,” he continues.

“We have eight seniors, six juniors and three sophomores and

all have played significant innings this season. I am very happy

with our start to the season. I am not a huge believer in that

your overall record shows the success or lack of success you

have. Our record is 11-3, which is a great start to the season record-wise.”


Grant Martin slides into home plate during recent baseball

action. ~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography

Vriesenga continues, “However, the three losses and some

of the win, we could have done some things a lot better. The

thing we have been preaching over and over is paying attention

to details. Some of these details may seem so small, but

these could be the difference in a run or an out in a game

which changes the outcome for the positive or negative.”

It has been a good year so far, but the Rams have been rocky

at times. The team had a huge lead over OK Red foe East Kentwood

and watched it dwindle away to a 7-6 victory – it was a

win just the same, but it was a lucky one in the end. Recently,

the Rams downed Northview by a 15-4 trouncing, and then

turned around and fell by a 7-5 score in the second game of the


But, Vriesenga already has his team working on the game


“We need to improve in a few areas. For the most part it

is the MENTAL side of the game. Pitching has been good and

great at times. What I have been preaching is executing pitches.

Thinking the game rather than just going through the motions.

Understanding how when we get ahead in the count, it

allows us to dictate the outcome and have it be in our favor.

The runs we have given up, for the most part, are guys we give a

Pitcher Joe DeGarmo releases the ball at a home contest. ~ Photo

by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography

free pass to via a base on balls or hit batter with no outs. These

almost always end up coming around to score. On defense, it

is making sure we don’t give up free bases by throwing to the

wrong base or trying to do too much. Compounding mistakes

leads to the big inning for the other team. On offense, we have

done a great job hitting the ball and scoring runs and now our

focus is trying to take that extra base by running everything

out hard. Putting the pressure on the defense can lead to more

runs scored for us.”

Stats, game plans, work outs, practices and records are all

good for a team, but for Vriesenga his role as a coach transcends

what the team attains on the diamond.

“We have a group of players that I love to come to the field

and coach every day,” he shares. “They are good young men

who have a passion for their teammates. We preach that while

baseball is important, baseball isn’t the real world. There are

way more important things in this world than playing baseball.

They come to the field focused and ready to play and practice

hard which is fantastic, but we also want them to focus

on their family, school, friends and being positive influences

in each other’s lives. They clearly have had great examples at

home, and I am happy to be able to coach these young men.”

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Photo above: The Rams team captains (L-R) Samantha Tow, Jillian Snyman and Grace Bargwell lead the team both in and out of the

pool. Photo below: Rockford enjoys a much-needed rest. ~ Photos by Jeff Tow

Rams Earning Valuable Experience


ROAR Editor

The Rams water polo team headed into their season facing

some tough competition. Head coach Katie Clarin isn’t worried

as much about the team’s win/loss record as much as she

is about preparing her team for the rough waters ahead. Clarin’s

team is young, and she knows they’ll need as much experience

as they can get taking on the challenges of playing the

best teams in the state – and the state of Illinois.

“I feel very strongly that playing tough competition and

potentially losing some games at the beginning of the season

is much more beneficial than playing teams that may be a little

weaker and being able to beat those teams,” shares Clarin.

“This weekend we took our annual trip to Illinois. Every season

we travel to Lincolnshire, Illinois and play at Stevenson High

School against some of the top teams in Illinois. Teams in Illinois

are historically much more physical compared to back

at home. It is one of my favorite weekends because we learn

so much from playing different teams and experiencing the

physicality those teams bring. This year we didn’t win any but

lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Evanston, lost a close one

to Naperville Central, and played a 1-goal game until the end

with Fenwick, who is a perennial powerhouse in the state. I use

this weekend as a way to get a lot of kids experience so I play

more kids in all the games even if it is a little close compared

to when we are in conference and district games in Michigan.

Many years the weekend in Illinois serves as a turning point

for our team and season, I am hoping that will be the case this


The Rams are very young – both in age and experience.

They look to senior captains Jillian Snyman, Grace Bargwell,

and Samantha Tow for guidance both in and out of the pool.

The team also enjoys contributions from Sabrina Boss, Rachel

Gamm, Kaleigh Blockland, Paige Beers, Rylee Davis and Elise

Stein. There are two on the team that the Rams lean heavily on

in the pool, Snyman and Masy Folcik.

Snyman is a huge factor for the Rams because she has been

the starting goalie for the last two years. So far this year she has

had 132 saves in goal.


“Jillian is definitely one of our biggest leaders in the pool

– especially on the defensive end. Obviously, in goal she has

good vision on what is happening when we are on defense and

she has done a great job at communicating to her teammates.

The extra direction from the goalie has been very valuable, especially,

with our young team.”

Folcik, a junior, is looked upon as a leader in the water due

to her extensive experience and impressive talent. She leads

the team in three categories: goals (52), steals (48), and drawn

kickouts (21).

“Masy has done a great job so far of putting her teammates

on her back at times and helping to guide them as we learn

our offense,” shares Clarin. “As the year goes on more and

more teams know Masy and are working to shut her down and

it is starting to create opportunities for her teammates to capitalize

on. Masy is an athlete who is able to create her own offense

when the team needs it, but, at the same time, she knows

she needs her teammates if our team is going to be successful.”

Clarin and her assistants will help their team navigate

through the season, giving them the best chance to reach their

true potential.

“We have a lot of very talented younger players who are still

learning the game,” she concludes. “Many of the top teams in

the state have a lot more experience playing together coming

into the season. Each game, tournament, and practice we are

focusing on learning and growing and understanding that

there is a learning curve and we may struggle in some of our

earlier games, but we are working towards making a run in the


Ram goalie Jillian Snyman stops a Zeeland attempt during recent

water polo action. ~ Photo by Jeff Tow

Photo above: Masy Folcik working hard in the pool. Folcik is the

Rams’ leading scorer. Photo at left: The Rams team captains

wish a Zeeland opponent luck prior to their match. ~ Photos by

Jeff Tow



Blythefield Country Club Stop Named LPGA Tour’s ‘Best Fan Experience’

Michelle Wie reads a putt in the 2018 LPGA Meijer Classic at Blythefield Country Club. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory


ROAR Editor

The rolling hills of Blythefield Country Club (BCC) will once

again be the picturesque setting of the Meijer LPGA Classic for

Simply Give in 2019. The event will be featuring the biggest

names in women’s golf – along with a $2 million-dollar purse.

The Classic is celebrating its sixth year and has been hosted by

BCC since its inception in 2014. This year’s Classic will host a

full field of 144 of the best women golfers for 72 holes of stroke

play over four days of competition June 13-16. The event will

actually kick off Tuesday of that week with plenty of golfing


Last year, So Yeon Ryu claimed $300,000 for her first-place

finish, with an impressive 21-under-par. What’s even more impressive

is that she turned around and donated $100,000 to

the Meijer Simply Give program to help feed hungry families.

Caroline Masson claimed second at -19, and Lydia Ko landed

third at -18. Past winners of the event include: 2017 Brooke

Henderson, 2016 Sei Young Kim, 2015 Lexi Thompson, and

2014 Mirim Lee.

This year tournament officials have rerouted the course to

enhance spectator experience.

According to organizers, “The 2018 Meijer LPGA Classic for

Simply Give was recently awarded the ‘Best Fan Experience’ by

the LPGA Tour. To build upon that momentum and provide an

even greater fan experience, tournament officials will completely

reroute the course this year.”

“This enhancement gives everyone – spectators, volunteers,

TV viewers and players – a chance to get closer to the excitement

and allows us to better showcase how this week is so

much more than just golf,” said Cathy Cooper, Executive Director

of the Meijer LPGA Classic. “We are focused on making

this a fantastic event for the entire community and for families

while taking care of our hungry neighbors.”

The procession of the remaining holes will also change for

the 2019 tournament, please see map (page 18) to see the new

course layout for the event.

But, let’s get away from golf for a minute. This event has become

the must-attend event of the summer season, especially

for people lucky enough to live in the surrounding areas – in

particular Belmont and Rockford. Last year over 55,000 golf

enthusiasts poured through the spectator gate. It features live

music, a phenomenal atmosphere, and even entertainment

for the kids.


The event is highlighted by the Grand Taste at the Meijer

LPGA Classic – touted to be “the best food experience on any

tour.” It must be true, last year it sold out and people who

didn’t have tickets to Grand Taste could only look longingly

at those lucky enough to be under the tent savoring the delicious

fare. The Grand Taste Garden was added in 2018 to allow

even more people to enjoy the experience. The Garden features

food, outdoor games, chef demonstrations throughout

the weekend, barbeque and live music from local bands. The

Discovery Land is geared toward the younger set with many

hands-on experiences and activities.

Not enough? There will be Junior Clinics, and Pro-Am and

Celebrity Pro-Am golf to watch. Since Rockford is a town devoted

to running, the event also features the Meijer LPGA 5K

Run & Walk, presented by Kellogg’s. The race is scheduled

for Saturday, June 15 at the Rockford High School track at 8

a.m. Each participant will receive a branded T-shirt, two daily

tickets to the golf tournament (valid any one day Tuesday

through Sunday), and a complimentary breakfast provided by

Kellogg’s after the race. Cost to participate is $15, and if you

are a serious runner there are Meijer gift cards to be earned

– the top three runners in each age group will receive a $500,

$250 and $100 gift card, respectively. A one-mile Kid’s Fun Run

is added to the 2019 offerings for runners 10-and-under. The

cost is $10 to enter.

Cooper has overseen the event’s impressive growth

through the years and has been in her role since the Classic

kicked off in 2014. A resident, she raised her family in Rockford

and has stayed put, knowing what a special community it is. It

is due to that knowledge that had her confident that the golf

tournament would be a success from its onset. The first year’s

attendance was a pleasant surprise to her, but since 2014 she

and her team have worked hard to add to the atmosphere to

attract more people.

“I knew if we brought it to West Michigan the community

would support it,” Cooper says. “We are also grateful to work

with Blythefield Country Club in making it all happen. We

couldn’t do this without them. The event grows with each year,

and this year is no different – we are watching ticket sales go at

a record rate. It just shows how West Michigan embraces the


That growth is also due to an impressive number of sponsors

embracing their role in helping others less fortunate.

Meijer, of course, holds the key role, and plenty of others have

joined throughout the years.

But, it’s not just that the event is a premier golf tournament

for Cooper. The essential detail for her is that it is an important

community fundraiser.

Money donated through Simply Give gets distributed to the

more than 240 food pantries in the communities where Meijer

stores are located. The money allows food pantries to broaden

their selection of proteins from canned meats to lean turkey

and chicken, and offer fresh produce and dairy like yogurt,

cottage cheese and bananas. One of the food pantries that

benefits from the funds is North Kent Connect. Claire Guisfredi

is the executor director of the non-profit organization and

is grateful for the difference the funds make to her clients.

“For our families, this is so important for them to be able to

eat healthy, nutritious food,” says Guisfredi. “We couldn’t do

it without Meijer. Without them it would be only the canned

goods. We wouldn’t have money in the budget for fresh fruits

and vegetables or dairy.”

Golf pro So Yeon Ryu poses with the 2018 championship trophy

on the 18th green. Ryu donated $100,000 of that purse back to

the Meijer Simply Give program. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory

Popular pro golfer Brooke Henderson takes time out after her

round to sign autographs for fans. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory

North Kent Connect Executive Director Claire Guisfredi accepts

a check in 2018 from Meijer President and CEO Rick Keyes as

Brittany Lang looks on. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory




Rogue River Drive

Spectator Entrance/Exit





Map Key





Michelob Ultra 19th Hole



Media Center





Family Hospitality Area

Includes Changing &

Nursing Stations


Accessible Restrooms

First Aid









Driving Range

Northland Drive


Putting Green

Accessible Reserved Viewing


Public Viewing Deck

Meijer LPGA Discovery Land


Meijer Team Member Suite *

Grand Taste at the

Meijer LPGA Classic *

Grand Taste Garden

Meijer LPGA Classic *





* special pass required

Walking Paths

Course Yardage



































































18th Green



Viewing Deck


West River Drive


Champions Hub

PepsiCo Club


Member Suite






Professional golfer Brittany Lang, champion of the 2016 U.S.

Women’s Open, had plenty to say during the kickoff in 2018,

knowing what the event meant to the community.

“This is a great event for us,” Lang shares. “We are very fortunate

to have a lot of great events, but it is especially that way

with Meijer as a partner. They put up a great purse, they run

a smooth event, and you can see the impact they have on the

charities within the community, like today at North Kent Connect

food pantry. It’s not just a golf tournament, they have the

Grand Taste, they have concerts, and it’s great for the fans and

the players.”

Lang learned what a special place this area is with the fan

support the golfers have found with this particular event

through the years.

“I hadn’t spent much time up here in Michigan before this,

and I feel like this kind of community is perfect for us,” she

continues. “We draw tons of fans, which is exciting for us.”

“The Meijer LPGA Classic has made an incredible impact on

our hungry neighbors these past few years, and we know we

can continue that momentum next month with the community’s

help,” concludes Cooper. “The community has been such a

strong supporter of our tournament, and its focus on feeding

the hungry. The tournament is such a source of pride in what

we bring to the community. Simply Give is the reason we are

doing this, it’s to feed the hungry, it’s what it is all about.”

That, and some of the best women’s golf on the planet on a

Popular pro golfer Lexi Thompson poses with local celebrity Johnny

Agar (left) and his dad after signing his hat during last year’s

event. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory

beautiful course. The perfect combination on a summer weekend

– and it’s all in our own backyard.

For more information on events, ticket sales, pairings and

times go to

Photo at left: Anna Nordqvist tees off on No. 10 in 2018. Photo

above: Lydia Ko lines up her putt in front of plenty of fans and

media. ~ Photos by Jeannie Gregory





VanderMolen ‘Back Where She Belongs’


ROAR Editor

Sometimes life isn’t fair. It’s particularly difficult when

you are a gifted teenaged athlete poised on tackling your

future – and that future looks pretty golden. Ram senior

Karrington VanderMolen started a journey learning that

lesson when she was a sophomore.

The Ram standout, who has been playing lacrosse since

third grade, comes from a family of gifted lacrosse players.

Older sisters Alex and Mekenzie are both playing lacrosse at

Ohio State University after impressive careers at RHS. Karrington

had verbally committed to OSU herself during her

freshman year.

As a freshman, she tackled her lacrosse high school career,

impressing fans, coaches and players. She continued as a sophomore

and was the Rams’ leading goal scorer. But, something

happened during the season. She started experiencing incredible

pain in her feet. Ram trainers rolled her feet out and

taped them, but the pain became even worse. So, x-rays were

ordered. A diagnosis of tendinitis, then plantar fasciitis was

given. Physical therapy was ordered and Karrington worked at

getting better – but, nothing changed. As a matter of fact, she

was getting worse.

“It got to a point where I couldn’t walk anymore,” Karrington


A visit to a new doctor came with suggestions of pro low

therapy shots and dry needling.

“I had too much pain in my feet. I didn’t want needles in

my feet.”

Who could blame her? An ordered MRI showed a stress reaction

in her right foot in her second metatarsal. This called

for a boot for each foot for three weeks. When the boot came

off, Karrington felt blessed relief, but it didn’t last long. In a

few days all the pain came screaming back.

Her doctor then wanted to rule out a rare condition called

compartment syndrome.

“He didn’t think that was the case, but he had a hunch it

could be it,” continues Karrington. “When I had the testing

done it came back that I did have compartment syndrome.

Compartment syndrome is a condition in which increased

pressure within one of the body’s anatomical compartments

results in insufficient blood supply to tissue within that space.

Compartment syndrome is rare, but more common in elbows,

shins, and knees. Having compartment syndrome in your feet

is one in a million. With that being said, now knowing what

was wrong, I had to be watched very carefully because if I broke

my foot or got in a car accident there was a possibility I would

have to have my feet amputated. Compartment syndrome cuts

off the circulation and blood flow making it very dangerous.”

Karrington VanderMolen shows an opponent why she is considered

a tough adversary on the lacrosse field. ~ Photo by Eldon

Palmer Photography

Scary stuff for a teenager to deal with. And, frustrating as


Karrington found out in December of 2017 that she would

have to have surgery – on both feet. Another blow.


Karrington is happy to be back in the potent Ram lacrosse line up. ~ Photo by Eldon Palmer Photography

“I felt somewhat relieved when I found out, but I also felt

like, what if surgery didn’t fix it all the way? What if I wouldn’t

be the same player? Playing with the pain had almost made

me a better player pushing through the pain made me play for

something. I was disappointed because I knew I would miss

out on some of my junior season.”

Karrington had surgery on her right foot February 6, and

20 days later had surgery on her left foot. She tackled physical

therapy to rebuild muscle and get back in shape. She had to

wait over three months before she could practice again.

Those months were hard, with Karrington looking to her

mom for mental support, some comfort from friends, and

even received emotional therapy by brushing the horses at

the barn. She felt pretty alone on her journey to health and the

horses helped her keep calm and happier.

When the doctor gave her the clear to play, Karrington anxiously

picked her stick back up. It was tough.

“When she was able to come back, she was nowhere near

100 percent,” shares Ram lacrosse head coach Mike Emery.

“She worked very hard, but could not do things that she had

been able to previously. This was hard on her, as it would be

hard on anyone used to performing at a high level.”

Karrington kept working hard to get her game back. Emery

saw it come together in 2019.

“This year returning at 100 percent has given her a new perspective,”

Emery shares. “She realizes that the sport she loves

may not be forever and she really enjoys every moment. She

has been a positive influence on her teammates with her new

outlook. She takes the opportunity to play as a privilege. The

injury has matured her outlook as a person and as a player due

to all she has done to be back where she wants to be. It makes

her a better teammate and smarter player.”

Emery continues, “I am extremely proud of her hard work

and dedication to return to what she loves and the new maturity

she displays every day. She has really grown in the last year

as a person and has been a joy to coach this season.”

Karrington shows that maturity in her words.

“I learned that pushing myself wasn’t always the answer

and it was okay to take time off to let myself heal. I also learned

what I couldn’t do anymore and where I had to draw the line,

so I didn’t hurt myself.”

“Because the truth is,” she continues, “it’s not worth it. I

want to be able to walk for the rest of my life. I also learned

that I don’t need to do everything – I can take a step back. Every

day I still fight through the compartment syndrome as there

is not a permanent fix, but that won’t stop me from proving I

belong in the lacrosse community and it doesn’t make me any

less of a player, if anything It makes me better.”

And that better player will be joining her sisters at OSU,

right where she belongs.

of NE Grand Rapids

(616) 647-4300


Growth Spurt

Youth Lacrosse Program Enjoys Healthy Rosters


ROAR Editor

Rockford Boys Youth Lacrosse (RBYL)

is entering its late teens chronologically.

The program is healthy, robust, and a lot

of fun, just like a teen – and now offers

playing opportunities for players all the

way from kindergarten through eighth

grade. It wasn’t always that way. In the

beginning, it was just a couple of middle

school teams and a lot of begging

to find players. After all, no one knew

a lot about lacrosse when the program

started. Now, it’s what USLAX calls, “the

fastest growing sport.” If Rockford is any

indication, that might be true.

Chris Gervat, Director of Coaching

for the RBYL, is entering his second year

in his position for the program. He has

plenty of lacrosse experience to bring to

the volunteer position with almost 20

years of coaching expertise, including

overseeing a different youth program

and also a four-year stint as head coach

at Davenport University. He describes

what his program embodies.

“We focus on the growth of our individuals,

along with the growth of our

collective teams. Our goal is to have our

student-athletes be better individuals

from when they enter to the program

to when they leave the program. Yes,

we want to push our players and make

them better. We want to challenge them.

But, we also want them to enjoy being

with their teammates and coaches. Most

of all, we want them to have fun. Throwing

in some life lessons, discipline, and

building trust isn’t a bad thing either!”

The growth of the program came

gradually with Craig Swayze providing

an option for younger players that continues

today. Swayze not only coached

at the youth level in Rockford for three

years, he also coached five years at the

high school level.

“Thirteen years ago, lacrosse wasn’t

an option until fifth grade,” he shares.

“I started it for third/fourth graders in

2008, and eventually it went down to

first/second graders.”

Swayze, who grew up playing the

sport out East, started that first team

The Rockford Boys Youth Lacrosse program continues to grow in both numbers and

skills. ~ Contributed Photo

with his son Ben on it. He found that

filling out the rest of the roster proved


“The first year we had to call many

of our friends to recruit. Luckily many

of the kids had older brothers that were


That group of players who were on

the inaugural third/fourth grade team

grew to play lacrosse for the highly successful

Rockford High School team and

graduated in 2018. Ben entered Michigan

State University in the fall, where he

plays for their lacrosse team.

The bond between the youth program

and the high school program is


“The youth program is a separate entity

from the high school program, but

we have families with kids in both so

there are natural tie ins,” shares Rams

high school boys lacrosse coach Mike

DeWitt. “We like to work with the youth

program when we can so that kids can

make a seamless transition from the

youth program to the high school program.”

And the team does literally work with

the youth program.

“Our varsity works with the K-2 program

two times per week,” says DeWitt.

“We started this back in 2016 when there

was interest from parents to have their

kids try lacrosse at that age, but the

youth program didn’t have the coaches

available to run teams the way they

wanted to. As a varsity program, we volunteered

as a way to help build our program

and put our varsity players into a

leadership role with the ability to give

back. The high school players have the

opportunity to give back to the program

and also help teach and mentor young

kids. It’s a great way for them to learn

how to teach, lead and interact.”

Another interesting tie between the

youth program and high school program

is DeWitt actually coached one of

the fifth/sixth grade teams in the “early

years.” Swayze coached the second one.

Alongside Swayze’s 2018 graduating

senior were DeWitt’s from those youth

coaching years.

The varsity team’s involvement explains

how the K-2 level ticks, but there

are also other levels in the program.

There are opportunities for players in

grade levels 3/4, 5/6, and 7/8. The program

fields tournament teams for those

levels, also. The format for the K-2 players

is 5-versus-5, it is 7-versus-7 for the third/

fourth graders, and the fifth through

eighth graders play 10-versus-10, which

is what is played at the high school level.


According to Gervat, there are 60

players in the K-2 level and about 130

in grades third through eighth. The K-2

program mostly plays against each other

(six teams) and the other levels play

against teams from Forest Hills Central,

Forest Hills Eastern, Forest Hills Northern,

East Grand Rapids, Hudsonville,

and Caledonia. The season starts in

March and ends in early June.

Gervat attributes the healthy numbers

to a variety of reasons.

“A lot of off-season opportunities and

success of the high school program,” he

says. “We have a lot of opportunities for

student-athletes to try this out for free

to see if they enjoy it. There is a push

on social media and probably word of

mouth from our great parents that are

involved. Our board does a very good

job of staying in front of things and

adapting. Our president Tania Gordon is

a work horse. She puts in a ton of time

to make sure everything runs the best

it can. Also put a big emphasis on great

coaching. All teams, third-eighth grades

(eight teams), have paid coaches who

have playing experience. Parents help

and that is an added bonus to throw in

the discipline side as our paid coaches

are teaching the correct fundamentals.”

The youth lacrosse program stresses

character development and this year

they have put it in writing. There are decals

to be earned with the initials “JKC”

on them. These are in memory of Jared

Coleman, who tragically passed in a car

accident last year. Coleman was a player

at Davenport University and coached

the youth program at the third/fourth

grade level. Gervat had coached him

since he was in middle school.

“Jarred embodied what it meant to

help others and make others feel better

about themselves,” he shares. “Jarred

wanted to make you smile and also

like to push his players. He also worked

Photo above: The 2018 RHS lacrosse seniors who mostly kicked off the youth lacrosse

stampede in 2008 (L-R) Front Row: Ty DeGraaf, Cole Scheffler, Ben Stoklas, Ben Swayze

Second Row: Jonny King, Brian Bera, Carson Banfield, Kyle Heeren, Tyler Meyers Back

Row: Cam Kostus, Cole Blunt, Kevin Bieke, Collin Hartley, Nathan Flick, Lucas Galvin,

Josh Kleefisch. Photo below: The initial K-2 team in the RBYL. ~ Contributed Photo

his tail off to become a better lacrosse

player. Bottom line, he put others first.

Players all earn one decal if they display

some of the character traits of Jarred and

understand what it really means to be a

Rockford youth lacrosse player.”


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It is easy to see Gervat has a passion

for lacrosse and making a difference in

young players’ lives, despite the hard

work to keep the program moving


“I love to coach, I love seeing student-athletes

get from point A to point

B and this goes beyond sports,” he concludes.

“It gives the ability to instill great

values in young men, on how to treat

others and interact with others. I enjoy

seeing a student-athlete smile or enjoy

his time with his coaches and his teammates.

Sometimes it’s a needed distraction,

sometimes it’s just instilling confidence

to help these young men be the

best version of themselves. These things

make it all worth it.”

Swayze still loves the sport, and what

it can do for athletes, even though he is

no longer coaching.

“The great thing about lacrosse is

players of every shape and size can find

a spot on a lacrosse team,” he shares. “I

enjoy driving through neighborhoods

seeing younger kids with sticks in their

hands all year ‘round.”

For more information on the Rockford

Boys Youth Lacrosse program, go to

The Rockford Boys Youth Program offers playing opportunities for athletes from kindergarten

to eighth grade. ~ Contributed Photo


Boys Track & Field Team Looking Strong


ROAR Editor

The Rockford High School boys track & field team is picking

up right where they left off last year, despite only having

16 seniors on the roster. The Rams are looking to repeat as an

MHSAA Regional Champion, but first they need to get through

the competitive OK Red. The Rams kicked off their season with

an 85-42 victory over Greenville. They followed that by steamrolling

conference opponent Grandville 116-40. The Rockford

Invitational found the Rams getting narrowly beat by Zeeland

West for the title. Zeeland West was able to tally 156 points,

while the Rams totaled 141.5, a good finish for Rockford. The

Rams then topped another opponent, Caledonia, 78-59, and

then faced off on the track against potent OK Red opponent

Grand Haven and ended up on the wrong side of a 73-64 score.

A great start to their 2019 campaign.

When the season started, head coach Andy Martin knew it

would take an effort from the entire roster.

“We are excited to see what these young men can accomplish

this year,” said Martin. “We have a talented crew returning

and large, wild card group of newcomers – 42 of 105 kids

are experiencing high school track and field for the first time

ever. We have a large roster with a good mix of veterans and

newcomers. Our senior class of 16 is relatively small, comparatively

speaking, so we will be looking for some juniors to step

up and help provide additional leadership.”

The Rams have plenty of talent on the roster, and the underclassmen

have definitely stepped up to fill the holes. The

lack in age and experience hasn’t seemed to cause many hiccups

in the season so far.

The sprints have been handled nicely by Noah Stallworth,

Eli Haddad, Jackson Mosely and freshman Leo Vanderwiel is

developing nicely. John Vanden Heuvel is showing some nice

times in the 200m. Stallworth posted a PR in the 400m against

Grand Haven, with an impressive time of 51.90. Middle distance

is ably handled by Jack Grimm, Jacob Majoor, and Evan

Veldkamp, who posted a PR in the 800m against Grand Haven

of 2:07.43. Keep an eye on Ram sophomore Austin Riccobono

for the 800m, he is whittling off his time and has a PR of 2:15.12.

Grimm shines in the 1600m and is closely followed by fellow

teammate Ian Cook. Jude Parks and Cook ably handle the grueling

3200m run. Freshmen Kyle Sweeney and Alex Fahey look

to be the Ram future in this event.

Junior Jacob Rademacher and sophomore Gage Martin

handle the hurdles well for the Rams. Freshman Jacob Bissell

posted a PR in the 300m hurdles against Grand Haven, and

continues to make progress on the upperclassmen in the field.

Three Rams – Jacob Vega, Jaiden Friesen and Miles Watkins

posted PRs in the meet against Grand Haven in the shot put, so

the Rams are beginning to develop in the throws. Discus showcases

the talent of Caiden Krueger, and Vega – who also posted

a PR in this event against Grand Haven. Pole vault is strong

for the Rams, with Logan Murphy leading the way. Jacob Peck,

Aidan McNamara, and Zach Miller are working their way up

in height. Murphy also leads the team in the long jump, with

Caleb Bryant and Miller joining him in the pit for the Rams.

The Rams look strong as they head into the second half of

the season, shaving valuable time off their runs.

Photo above: Eli Haddad runs in the 4X200 relay in recent track

action. Photo below: Jude Parks edges out his Grandville opponent

in the 3200m run. ~ Photos by Kari Korytkowski





Athletes of the Month



Syd is a starting

junior forward

for the Rams. Syd

has led the team in

points, rebounds,

steals and assists.

Simply put, Syd is

a floor leader. She

prides herself on going

all out on both

sides of the ball. In

December, Syd set



the school record with 12 steals in one

game. She was consistently a floor general

for her team always finding a way

to help her team win. Whether it was a

steal, securing a rebound or knocking

down a “3,” Syd found a way. We are

looking forward to having Syd back next

season as a 3-year starter and another

run at an OK Red championship.


“Fisch,” a junior,

is one of the most

improved girls on

the team.

In January, she

secured a starting

spot for the Lady

Rams and never

looked back. In what

was a week for the

history books, the



Rams knocked off both Grand Haven

and East Kentwood at home, and Fisch

was an instrumental part of these wins.

Up two with seconds remaining, Fisch

hit a monster “3” to break the game wide

open against Grand Haven.

A few days later she led the team with

19 points against a tough Hudsonville



Anna is a senior

captain on the team.

She is considered

not only the best defender

on her team,

but also in our area.

Anna is a rare breed.

She is incredibly

athletic and talented.

But she also has

the most grit and

toughness of any kid



I have ever coached. She plays with the

kind of effort and selflessness that you

cannot teach. We ask her to shut down

the opposing team’s best player and she

never disappoints. Anna is planning on

taking her talents to Davenport University

where she will continue her career

in lacrosse. I am so proud of her and the

person that she has become.







Ashton was a senior

captain for our

team this winter and

started 20 games.

Ashton had an outstanding


where he averaged

9.6 point per game

and 6.0 rebounds



per game. Included in these games,

were breakout performances against

East Grand Rapids and No. 2 ranked

Muskegon where he scored 21 and 13

points, respectively. Ashton was certainly

an impact player on the floor for our

team this season, but perhaps his greatest

improvements and contributions

were made as a leader in our program.

His hard work, extra effort and commitment

to the team first mentality was extremely

important in our team’s success.

Nate also was a

senior captain for

our team his winter.

During the month

of January, Nate

reached the double-digit

point mark

in all five of our



games. Including

two double doubles

against East Kentwood and Caledonia.

Nate was our leading rebounder, as well

as our leading scorer this season. His

presence in the middle was critical to

our team’s success. Nate also proved to

be our fearless leader. Our team relied

greatly on his leadership and steady demeanor.

When things got tough, Nate

was the guy everyone looked to. Very

proud of his production on the floor, as

well as his leadership off the floor.

Brendan, a sophomore,

was our

point guard and

started 20 games

this season.

During the entire

month of February,

Brendan led

our team in assists,



also was the Ram’s third leading scorer

at 8.5 points per game. Brendan was a

workhorse. He led our team in minutes

played, and only averaged around two

turnovers per game.

Brendan’s game really started to

grow after the new year, and he played

with great confidence.

The Rams varsity basketball program

is very excited to have Brendan coming

back to lead our team for two more





Isabelle is the

Athlete of the Month

for December. She

is a junior and this

is her third season

in high school bowling.

This season

her game knowledge

has improved,

which led her to



shoot big games during competitions.

She has good sportsmanship and helps

cheer her teammates on during matches.

She has been a starter for the last two

years. In the conference, she is the third

highest average bowler with a 190 and

she has earned her spot on the All-Conference

team this year.


Emma is the Athlete

of the Month

for January. She is a

sophomore and has

been a starter since

her freshman year.

She holds the leadoff

position because

she is able to get the



team’s momentum


She is a good spare shooter and is

consistent at scoring good games. She

has good sportsmanship and has helped

her teammates throughout the season.

Her ending average is 174 which has led

to her success for a spot on the All-Conference

team this year.


Heather is the

Athlete of the

Month for February.

She is a senior and

is a captain on the

team. She has good

sportsmanship and

helped motivate her



team during competitions. She is a great

spare shooter and holds the conference

high average of 207. She has medaled in

every tournament and finished second

at Regionals for the Singles competition.

At the State Finals, she was top qualifier

averaging 234 and she finished in the

top eight. She has earned a spot on the

All-Conference team this year.




Chris is a senior

that has bowled

three years with

us and this year he

made the jump up

to the A Team and

had a very good

year. Chris helped

the Ram bowling



team place second at the post-conference

meet and was always willing to do

whatever was asked of him.

Chris was a lot of fun to have on the

varsity bowling team and will be missed

as I feel his best bowling is still ahead of

him in the future.



Trey has bowled

for us for four years

and this was his best

year. Trey bowled in

the four spot and

helped carry the

team most of the

year. Trey has been

one of the finest



young men to coach, he always listened

and had a smile on his face all four years

and no matter what he left standing

down the lane he came back smiling

and just picked it up. Trey finished the

year with a 207 average and was named

to the OK Red All-Conference team.


Matt has bowled

great all year and

has carried the Rams

bowling team in a

lot of matches.

Matt carries the

stress of bowling in

the five spot for the

Rams and when we




needed a big tenth frame Matt came

through for us.

He finished the season with a 212

average and bowled so well during the

2018/19 season that he was named to

the OK Red All-Conference team for the

third straight year.


Dan Sokol is a

great dynamic forward

who racked up

a ton of goals and

assists for the Rams

hockey team.

By 11 games into

the season, Dan had

accumulated 30



points playing on a top line with other


Dan was a leader offensively, has very

smart hockey sense, and is very effective

on the power play with goals and assists.



Aidan has been

the top defenseman

for the Ram hockey

team the past two

seasons. He was always

matched up

against the best offensive

player(s) on

the opposing team.



Aidan led by example to play shutdown

defense and help move the puck

up ice for the team. He scored some big

goals for us and controlled the power

play from the point.


Zac Sherman was

a dominant goaltender

who gave

the Rams a chance

to win every game.

He finishes third alltime

in season wins

for Rockford with

14-of-17 wins. Zac



is very athletic and can make saves in

many different ways in goal. His type of

play calmed the team down and allowed

the players who were in front of him on

the ice to play with confidence.



Blake has been a

valued teammate in

the Rockford wrestling

program for

four years. He has

always been willing

to take on the hard

assignment for the

benefit of the team.

Blake stepped into



the varsity lineup at 160-pounds when

the starting varsity wrestler went down

with an injury that held him out for over

half the season. Blake did an admirable

job. He won key matches throughout

the league season and finished third in

Kent County Championships, causing a

lot of wrestlers and coaches from opposing

teams to ask, “Where did he come


Rockford Wrestling knew Blake was

there all along and this year he shined

under pressure.





Jacob turned in

his finest season as

a wrestler this year,

his senior season.

Jacob earned a spot

in the varsity lineup

through hard work

throughout his high

school career.

Always a courageous

wrestler, Jacob proved to be an asset

to his team by wrestling up a weight

class for most of the year for the Rams.

A natural 189-pound athlete, Jacob

thrived taking on larger opponents in

the 215-pound weight class for most

dual meets for the Ram wrestling team.

His late-season efforts were key in providing

overall lineup strength in the

upper weight classes for the Rams as

the team won the league, district and

regional crowns for the Rams wrestling



Jack carried the

mantle of “can’t

miss” star wrestler

seemingly effortlessly,

without ever



stumbling this

season. Being the

coach’s son is never

easy. Jack never

shirked an assignment

and as a two-year captain of the

Rams, he led - on and off the mat. Jack is

a three-time state placer and a four-time

league champion.

Setting the pace with a ferocious

wrestling style, Jack amassed over 150 career

victories, but for Jack it was as much

about team success as it was personal.

Jack worked hard to make the 2018-19

Rams the most successful Ram team in

almost a decade leading through example

and mentoring younger wrestlers as

a captain coach.




Ashley is a junior

and this is her

third year as a varsity

gymnast. Ashley

has added in several

new skills this season

and has also become

one of the top



all-around scorers.

Her bar routine has earned her first place

at several competitions throughout the

season. She has been consistently working

hard all season! She placed 2nd on

bars, beam, and all around at Regionals.

At the State Finals, she placed third on

bars and seventh in the all-around.


Morgan is a junior

and this is her

third year as a varsity


Morgan is full of

power and big skills

which are shown

off on her two best

events the vault and




She is also one of this year’s top all

around scorers. At Regionals, she placed

first on floor and vault. At the Michigan

High School Athletic Association State

Finals, she placed first on the vault and

fifth in the all-around.


Reagan is a senior

and has competed

varsity gymnastics

all four

years. She has been

team captain for the

last two years. She is

one of this year’s top



leading all-around


She won Regionals in the all-around

with a career high score and then went

on to be Michigan High School Association

State Champion on the bars, beam,

and all-around for Division 2. She is a

great leader, student, and gymnast.




Nick is the senior

captain and a 4-year

varsity ski racer. He

is the defending

giant slalom State

Champion. He is an

incredible athlete

and was so much

fun to work with and

coach. His intensity



and focus in the gate is second to none

and his results speak for themselves. He

was the number one conference racer

this year and although he wasn’t able to

repeat as GS state champion, he did win

the slalom State Championship and was

placed on the First Team All-State.



Parker Wilson is

a first-year varsity

ski racer as a freshman

this year. Parker

has a great work

ethic and spends a

lot of her time training

and working on

her ski racing.



The commitment she has put into

this year was awesome to watch and was

very exciting to watch her ski within the

top 15 athletes in the conference consistently.

We are excited to work with Parker

for the next three years and watch her

grow as an incredible racer.


Karsen is a senior

ski racer and a

4-year varsity athlete

for the Rockford

High School ski

team. Karsen was in

the hunt for a top-

10 finish at states all

year long. She is a



long-time ski racer with a lot of experience.

Karsen was very fun to work with for

her senior year and was able to place

10th in giant slalom at states and earned

the honor of being named First team

All-State. Her experience and speed will

be missed next year!




Kyle is a senior

swimmer. He is a

4-year varsity letter

winner and one of

the team captains.

He is an All-State

swimmer on the 200

Freestyle Relay team

this year.



He is the fastest sprinter on the team

and posted a Michigan High School Athletic

Associatioin State qualifying time

of 21.71 in the 50 freestyle in the very first

swim meet of the season.

Kyle always leads his team by example

and you can’t find anyone who

works harder at practice than Kyle does.

Kyle is also an honors student as well

and has taken several AP and honors

level courses.


Zach is a senior

swimmer, a 4-year

varsity letter winner

and one of the team

captains. He is an

All-State swimmer

on the 200 Freestyle

Relay team and in

the 100 backstroke



(placing fourth) this year. He is one of

fastest sprinters on the team and was the

conference champion in the 100 backstroke.

He quietly leads by example and

works hard at every practice. He has offered

to swim some back-to-back events

in meets to help the team. He is an honors

student as well and has taken several

AP and honors level courses. His teammates

know they can count on Zach to

give every race his maximum effort.




Gavin is a senior

swimmer and a

4-year varsity letter

winner and one of

the team captains.

He was a member

of our 200 Medley

Relay team that took

second at the conference

meet and competed at the Michigan

High School Athletic Association

State Finals this year. He is the fastest

butterflier on the Rodkford High School

swim & dive team and is always leading

the team with his energetic encouragement.

Gavin has been an integral part

of the team’s success for four years and

has always taken the time to help the

younger less experienced swimmers at

practice and the meets.




I have watched

Bry as a timid but

growing sophomore,

to a confident

junior, to a well-seasoned

senior who I

can now consider a

friend. She is always

thinking of the team

before herself and

makes such calculated




She has really grown and become

comfortable and confident with her

dance abilities which has earned her in

top spots in formations. Bry, it has been

such a pleasure watching you grow up

and become such a prime example for

the rest of the dancers.

Thank you and good luck at Michigan

State University.



I have known

Sydney and her family

for many years

now and she is a

perfect example of

how an outstanding

dancer can also be

a great person and

student. She is always

someone I can

count on to create



routines and be trusted to run practice.

She has a genuine leadership quality

and she proves that hard work and persistence

earns you the spots in formation.

She has natural dance ability, but

she works every day to make herself better

which is one her best qualities. She

is someone that the rest of the team can

look up to and I hope that quality takes

her far in life! Good luck Sydney.


Emma is a junior

this year and has

grown tremendously

just in this season.

Her technique

has flourished, and

she is considered to

be one of our most



consistent, reliable

and strong dancers.

She has started

to show leadership qualities in her position

as a dancer on the RHS dance team

that has excited me as a coach to anticipate

all the great things she has to offer

our team.

Emma is always willing to take on

more than the average teammate and

has a great sense of humor that is always

appreciated for such a long season. Congratulations,






As a coach, you

always pray for

someone on your

roster that is super

versatile and

able to adjust well

to sudden change.

Olivia will honestly

do whatever I need

her to do. When I



ask her to jump into round 1, she does

it flawlessly. When I ask her if she can

try a tumbling pass, she executes it like

she’s been doing it forever. And when

I ask her if she can go into round 3 as a

flyer, she does it so effortlessly and like

she’s been doing it all season. We had a

few injuries earlier this season, and she

willingly jumped into the positions we

needed her in and it was a seamless transition.

Olivia has a great attitude. She

never complains, works SO hard, and

knows her role. She was a “utility” player

this year but was so incredibly important

to our team.


Madison was an

amazing addition to

our team this year!

Her selfless attitude,

outgoing personality,

and team-player

mentality made

such a huge impact

on our team environment

this year.



Madison is incredibly coachable. She

never complains, always answer with a

“yes,” and always seems to come in the

clutch with skills that we needed to put

on our best performance. She is mentally

and physically tough which makes her

an athlete that keeps getting better with

each season. She is always encouraging

her teammates with kind words, constructive

critiques, or a good laugh, and

was always such a positive influence on

our team this year. She is a natural leader,

a great teammate, and an amazing

all-around athlete that has offered so

much to our cheerleading program.


Mak was the only

freshman on our

team this year, but

you would never

know it. She fit SO

effortlessly into our

team and seamlessly

transitioned from

middle school to

varsity cheerleading



without even missing a beat. Mak was

in all three rounds this season for the

competitive cheer team, which is a rarity

for a freshman on varsity. But her positive

attitude, coachable personality, and

undeniable grit made Mak an incredible

fit for our team. Mak is one of the most

fearless people you will ever meet. She

never can say “no” to trying a new skill

or stunt and is always open to doing

something that might push her a little

further. She made a HUGE splash this

year, and I know that she’ll continue to

make a huge impact on our program for

years to come!




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