a New Season
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
New RHS Athletic Director...........6-7
Where Are They Now?.................8-9
All-Star State Champs............10-12
Fall Sports Preview..................13-31
* Cover Photo of Ram goalie
VOLUME 2 ISSUE 13
Director of Business Operations
Hello Ram Fans! We’ve reached a year in production of
ROAR Magazine. Joel Koch and I planned it that way. We
actually kicked off the website at the beginning of June
2018 to slowly work our way into the fall season. The plan was
that summer would be quieter and it would give us time to
prepare for the inaugural issue of ROAR. This year I’ve realized
that was a really good plan – the fall season is not only upon
us, some teams already have played a number of games and
It’s a crazy time, as the coaches are, more times than not,
parents. They not only have to make team selections through
try outs, coordinate practices, and make game plans, they also
have to get their own children prepared for the first day of school and all that goes
with it in the lead-up to the beginning of September.
The September installment of ROAR Magazine includes an overview of most
of the Rockford High School athletic teams. We are always excited to see what the
coaches have to say about their teams as they head into the new season. It’s great
to see some of the familiar names return to the sport and interesting to see the
new names, including siblings of past players. I continue to be impressed by the
class these coaches show in not only their words, but their actions. They do believe
that sports are an important component in our community producing top-notch
Another year of Mitchell’s Run is in the books, with plenty of funds being raised
for Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. The race itself is 21 years old now, while
the race’s namesake Mitchell Peterson has turned 23. Mitch was diagnosed with
Duchenne muscular dystrophy when he was just a toddler. The race is the result of
his parents taking on the debilitating disease. The event named a new Race Director,
Anessa Fehsenfeld. What a great pick Steve and Sandy Peterson made. Be sure
to read about her connection to the race and her passion for the cause.
What fun it was to watch the 111u All-Stars claim another State Championship!
This is how the ROAR website started last year. We covered their games and reveled
in the fun. This year was no different as we followed these talented young men as
they worked their way through the District 9 competition to earn the right to play
against the best teams in the state of Michigan. Next year they will be in the Majors
Division of Little League, and will work hard to make their way to the World Series
in Williamsport, PA. Be ready for their run next summer and cheer them on, win or
lose. Either one, I’ll guarantee you they’ll have fun as they face the competition.
A HUGE THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS
Action Tax Service
Bailey’s Quick Lube
Blakeslee Rop PLC
Boulder Creek Assisted Living
Bridge Street Burger Shack
Budget Blinds of Rockford
Cards of Wood
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Five Star Food Express Rockford
Great Northern Trading Company
High School Fan Stand
Innovative Builders & Remodelers
Lake Michigan Credit Union
Lenderink Tree Farm
Little Caesars Pizza
Metro Health - University of Mich.
Peak Performance Roof Cleaning
Robinet Physical Therapy
Rockford Chamber of Commerce
Scott Lowing - MWA Rep
Servpro of NE Grand Rapids
Team Mortgage Company
The Edge Barber Shop
The White Insurance Agency
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 1
And they’re off! The runners of the 21st Annual Mitchell’s Run Thru Rockford starting the premier 5K race, Saturday, Aug. 17.
~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS
They gathered, like they have for the past 20 years. An impressive
1,122 runners waited at the starting line at the Smith
Lapham Memorial Bridge in downtown Rockford, Saturday,
Aug. 17, banding together for something bigger than all of
them. That reason was lined up facing them, a visual reminder
of what Mitchell’s Run Thru Rockford (MRTR) is all about. Two
young men, and four boys were in a row, watching the runners
loosen up before the start of the 5K. Each were in different
stages of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and each are loved
and admired for their bravery by their families and the community.
One of them is Mitchell Peterson, the race’s namesake,
who was diagnosed with the debilitating disease when he was
two. His parents, Steve and Sandy Peterson founded the race
21 years ago. Another is Tyler Fehsenfeld, who was diagnosed
when he was six. Both are now young men, having battled the
disease for many years.
Another standing in that line was new MRTR Race Director
Anessa Fehsenfeld, Tyler’s mother. The line-up and singing
of the National Anthem each year is the moment she points
to that carries the true meaning of what is considered one of
Michigan’s premier 5K runs.
“Seeing all of our boys there representing the Duchenne
community at large is something special,” Fehsenfeld shares.
“Not only are they there to remind us why we are doing the
race, they show us what true courage really looks like. The
Mitchell’s Run Thru Rockford motto is ‘Race for fun, race for
fitness, race to end Duchenne.’ Regardless of why the runners
are there, we are a whole team that day running to end
Duchenne. It’s incredible to see a bridge full of people gathered
to support our boys and boys just like them around the
Mitchell’s Run has been impressive in its raising of funds,
which all go to Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD).
Everything PPMD does helps those with Duchenne live longer,
stronger lives. They will not rest until they end Duchenne for
every single person affected by the disease.
Since its inception, MRTR has raised over $1.8 million dollars,
with 100 percent of the funds going to this worthy organization.
After 20 years at the helm, the Petersons selected Fehsenfeld
to take over for them. They felt safe knowing the cause was
near and dear to her heart, just like theirs. The MRTR Facebook
page noted the change of leadership.
“We are thrilled with the impact that MRTR has been
able to make for Duchenne research and awareness here in
the Rockford community and beyond,” said Steve Peterson,
founder of MRTR and Race Director from 1998–2018. “When
we met Anessa and learned more about her family and her
connection to Duchenne, we knew this would be a great time
to hand the keys over to someone so passionate and able. We
are very excited to see MRTR continue on for its 21st year and
Fehsenfeld, who is also Chairman of the Board of Parent
Project Muscular Dystrophy, was the perfect fit for the Peterson’s
“I heard that Steve and Sandy had communicated it was
time to pass the baton after 20 years,” she says.
2 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
2019 TOP TEN FINISHERS
TOP TEN MALE FINISHERS
1. Ashton Walker Portland 16:42.47
2. Caden Meyer Zeeland 17:14.88
3. Garrett Lacy Cedar Springs 17:18.78
4. Zachary Start Jenison 17:26.71
5. Alex Fahey Rockford 17:33.35
6. Tim Kellner Rockford 17:35.66
7. Michael Gravelyn Rockford 17:42.27
8. Benjamin Pankow Haslett 17:50.60
9. Chad Zitzelsberger Rockford 17:52.50
10. Craig Stevenson Rockford 18:01.15
This year’s race raised $117, 891.20 for Parent Project Muscular
Dystrophy. Celebrating the amount are Steve Peterson, Mitchell
Peterson and Race Director Anessa Fehsenfeld (front) and Scott
Fehsenfeld and Larry Figurski (back). ~ Contributed Photo
“I approached them and said I would appreciate it if they
would consider me for the role. I’ve been passionate about the
race for more than 10 years, and even though I’d never coordinated
a race, I have run in 5Ks before. Mitchell’s Run is personal
to me because of Tyler.”The Petersons’ excellent selection for
director is already evident. The race ran as well as in years past,
preserving its reputation. Fehsenfeld brought new sponsors
and a longer reach to the event, also.
“We had new sponsors this year, including some from the
greater Grand Rapids area, in addition to the ones that have
been loyal over the years,” she shares. “It truly is remarkable to
see who steps up and gives donations to such a worthy event.
The support is just incredible, and we are so grateful. A number
of sponsors have already signed on for next year.”
Mitchell’s Run is not just about the donations of funds, either.
There were 178 giving souls who donated their time as
volunteers to help the event run seamlessly. Not only on the
day of, but the days, weeks and months leading up to race day.
Fehsenfeld also points to the talented MRTR Race Board and
the City of Rockford for the many things they do to prepare
for the race.
“I think people probably don’t understand the role they
play in helping us pull this event off,” she says. “The City is very
organized and coordinated as they prepare the streets with
barricades and cones. They also work hard to make sure we
have a safe race course for both the runners and the spectators.
They are an integral part of the race and we are grateful for
their support and help. They are the unsung heroes.”
Fehsenfeld also notes the Peterson’s role in the success of
the event through the years.
“I am so grateful to Steve and Sandy for not only starting
and organizing the event, but for trusting my family and
friends to step in and carry on their mission. I don’t take that
for granted. It had to be difficult for them to hand over control
of something so dear to their hearts.”
Everyone involved in the race has the same hope. That
TOP TEN FEMALE FINISHERS
1. Nicole Guzman Wyoming 18:27.79
2. Raychel Figurski Grandville 18:43.21
3. Jamie Lyberg Ada 18:53.56
4. Amanda Surdenik Grand Rapids 19:23.52
5. Emily Weinmann Rockford 20:01.75
6. Jennifer Wackerle Rockford 20:26.06
7. Jodilyn Jenkins Grandville 20:38.36
8. Grace Pregent Lowell 21:10.15
9. Bailey Ewen Rockford 21:25.46
10. Andrea Boot Wyoming 22:11.26
Photo above: Top male finisher Ashton Walker. Photo below: Top
female finisher Nicole Guzman. ~ Photos by Jeannie Gregory
someday there won’t be a need for a Mitchell’s Run and there
won’t be little boys and young men lined up facing the starting
line waiting for the National Anthem – and a cure. The “race to
end Duchenne” will thankfully be over.
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 3
Rockford junior water polo standout Hudson Verwys frustrates an opponent in early season action. ~ Photo by Tracy Saur
Verwys Shows Water Polo is for the Tough
Hudson Verwys was only a sophomore
in the fall of 2018 but had earned
his way to a starting position on the potent
Rockford High School water polo
team. A couple of mishaps, however, did
their best to keep him out of the water
and on the bench.
It was at the end of August when the
first injury occurred. While power washing
a neighbor’s driveway, he slipped
and fell off an outdoor half-wall onto
concrete and broke his scaphoid (the
bone between the wrist and thumb).
Even though it was broken, he and his
doctor opted to wait until the end of the
season to have surgery.
He healed as best he could and a
month later was able to join his teammates
in the pool. To hear him tell it,
until surgery, “the bone was just floating
around in there.”
According to Hudson, his doctor
gave the okay for him to return to the
pool after two weeks, but the school
athletic trainers made him wait another
two weeks. Sitting on the bench was
frustrating for Hudson.
“Around the team and other people, I
tried to stay positive. On a personal level
I just kind of kept putting it in the back
of my head until I could get back in. I
worked out a lot in order to stay in shape
for when I got cleared.”
Assistant coach Craig Peterman
watched how Hudson morphed with being
4 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
Hudson Verwys battled two injuries in 2018 to stay in the pool and help his team earn a third-place finish in the MWPA State Championships.
~ Photo by Tracy Saur
“I admired how he kept pushing
himself in practice and staying humble
about the injury,” he shares. “He turned
into a major leader on the bench and
was someone other players could talk
to and get advice about something that
happened in the pool.”
Hudson agrees he adjusted to his
new role for those four weeks.
“It’s not easy sitting on the back of
the bench, especially when your team is
down and there is nothing you can do
about it,” he shares.
But, his time on the bench taught
him something important. “I found that
you can encourage your team even if you
aren’t able to play.”
Hudson went to every practice and
every game to support his teammates.
He points to his head coach Jon Haga
as helping him deal with the situation.
“He was really encouraging and made
me feel included and an equal member
of the team. He kept saying, ‘Get healthy
and get back in.’”
Hudson was finally able to join his
state-ranked team as they worked their
way through their successful season
when another mishap rocked his world
at the end of October.
“I hurt my finger playing defense
in a practice scrimmage,” he shares. “I
thought it was just a bad jam and finished
the practice. The next day it was
crazy swollen and didn’t look good, so
we went to the children’s hospital in
downtown Grand Rapids and they said
that I had broken a bone in my finger on
my shooting hand. We were just getting
to the postseason and I didn’t want to let
my team down again because I missed
so much because of the wrist. I asked my
doctor if it would be bad to keep playing
with it and all she said was, ‘It’s probably
going to hurt but It’s already broken,
you can’t break it worse.’”
True to his personality, Hudson dealt
“I taped my hand up and played the
last couple weeks of the season with it
broken,” says Hudson matter-of-factly.
“It didn’t really feel great, but it was
The Rams ended the season with an
impressive third-place finish at the State
Championships. When it was over, Hudson
had surgery on his hand and then
worked his way through physical therapy,
preparing for the 2019 season.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t draw a
bit of ribbing from his teammates.
“They still all give my grief about how
I injured myself twice in one season,” he
shares. “Funny story, at the banquet at
the end of the season, the seniors give
out Mock Awards. Gavin Saur gave me
the Glass Bones award.”
Hudson has advice for any athlete
dealing with adversity.
“Just wait it out and don’t get emotional.
Keep those emotions inside till
you can get back in the game.”
Peterman, who took over as head
coach after Haga stepped down, is grateful
his starter is back in the line-up for
the 2019 campaign.
“It means we will have another scoring
threat and also a play-maker. He is
a player who can fill many roles and do
many things in the pool. To have him
back is a major blessing.”
of NE Grand Rapids
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 5
It’s a Great Time to Be a Ram’
New Rockford High School Athletic Director Cole Andrews
has been in his position for only about a month, but that
doesn’t mean he isn’t brimming with ideas to make his athletic
Andrews is bringing his experience as AD of Frankenmuth
and Oxford High Schools and incorporating them into the
needs of his new Ram community.
Top of the list is a new home for Rockford athletics on the
internet. It is a sleek new website, found at www.rockfordrams.
org, with plenty of information to be had, including an impressive
master schedule right on the top of the page that is a
loyal Ram Fan’s dream. Each date has individual listings of the
team, opponent, place and time of each contest. A wonderful
addition, considering it was always tough to find a comprehensive,
easily-read schedule of events.
Right now, Andrews and his team are working toward giving
Ram Fans the ability to find various athletic forms, purchase
tickets to events, and even obtain season passes. He is
hoping those capabilities will be available by the end of September.
“We want to provide a resource for our community parents
and student-athletes to obtain information basically about
anything Rockford athletics,” Andrews shares. “We want all
the resources there at their fingertips. They just go online and
boom, it’s there. Whether it be a form, or a team score. We even
are working toward having seasonal conference and overall
records and scores, even past season’s records. Each sport will
have a website that is linked to the main site and we are also
looking into having a ‘Coaches Corner.’”
Andrews knows this is a big order and also knows all this
work will take time. He is looking to himself, new assistant AD
Vic Villarreal and athletics secretary Kristi Swayze to do the
bulk of the work in the site’s upkeep. He also knows what a
boon it can be to an athletic program.
“I love doing this kind of stuff,” he shares. “We did this at
both Frankenmuth and Oxford and it was highly successful in
New Rockford High School Athletic Director Cole Andrews is
working hard to bring programs, safety and convenience to the
Ram Nation. ~ Contributed Photo
both schools. The coaches each get to build their own website
page and it is linked to the main site, and best of all, it is free
for them. Obviously, we need to get a buy-in from everyone.
Our goal is to have it completely finished in one to three years,
to be honest.”
Andrews is particularly happy about working with Arbiter
Sports on the schedules. One button is going to upload a
schedule change – whether it be postponed, rescheduled or
cancelled, and it will be instantly noted on the website. Gone
will be the constant phone calls to the office from fans and
parents when there is a thunderstorm or snow storm in the
6 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
According to Andrews, they are also working on a text alert
system that will also notify about changes in schedules so parents
and student-athletes will instantly know.
“The community can sign up for alerts and we’ll let them
know about any changes in schedules. We are also working on
a text alert system that the coaches can use to reach out directly
to the student-athletes on their team. Those alerts can be
used for team scores, too. For instance, if the soccer team reports
their score, it will be blasted to everyone who signed up.”
Team safety is paramount for Andrews and especially in
the sport of football with all the research on head injuries and
concussions. To battle those statistics and to protect football
student-athletes, the athletic program has joined forces with
the Rockford Sports Boosters to put every varsity football player
in a Riddell Speed Flex Helmet.
“It’s the highest safety-rated helmet, a 5 Star,” shares Andrews.
“This is great for our student-athletes. We wanted to
put the varsity kids in this high-tech helmet due to the speed
of the game. At the varsity level, the speed and impact is much
greater and this helmet will ensure their safety with top technology.
It’s a great feeling to see all of our players wearing a
Another project that is still developing at press time is a
branding campaign for Rockford Athletics. Andrews has talked
to a number of different vendors, and is driving toward
branding the Rams, much like what college teams do. He
thinks he may have found the perfect fit.
“We are really looking at ‘branding’ and signing an agreement.
This program would be the best thing for the school,
coaches and student-athletes, so we are looking deeply into
signing an agreement with Star Sports for Adidas. There is
The athletic department has launched a new website that offers
not only information, but convenience. ~ Contributed Photo
hopefully a big push for athletes and fans to be an Adidas
school, with everything from uniforms to practice jerseys. Basically,
we will receive special pricing for our teams in return
for our teams wearing Adidas products. I want to give the assurance
that this doesn’t mean we won’t use local vendors for
some of our apparel, just like we have in the past.”
Andrews estimates there will be a 35-40 percent discount
on the merchandise if the deal is signed.
“They provided an offer that is looking too good to pass up.
This exclusivity will give us purchasing power so we can get
more resources to put back into the teams and student-athletes.
We’re really excited about being able to bring so much
back to the teams. It’s a great time to be a Ram!”
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 7
CLASS OF 2008
Rams generally don’t look to go into
water, but no one ever told Rockford’s
Millicent (Brown) Powell that when she
was in high school. The 2008 Rockford
High School graduate made her mark
in the pool as a dual athlete. Milli was a
standout in both swimming and water
polo and notched plenty of records and
accolades along the way.
As she worked her way through her
high school career, she competed under
coaches Al Reickard and Mike Westgate
in water polo – both known for their
excellent coaching skills. She was also
blessed with the tutelage of Mike Cutler
and Tom Parks for swimming. Add that
to Milli’s impressive talent and you get
a beautiful combination of success. Milli
also spent time in the pool in the water
polo off-season competing on the Midwest
Zone team and competed in the
Great Lakes Water Polo Junior Olympics.
At RHS, Milli earned four varsity letters
in each sport and served as both
team’s co-captain as a senior. She garnered
plenty of awards through the
years, including All-Conference, All-Region,
All-State and All-American honors.
As a senior, she was named Regional and
State Tournament MVP, and the Michigan
Water Polo Association’s Girls Water
Polo Player of the Year. In swimming,
Where Are They Now?
she was a three-time state qualifier. Milli
put up huge numbers in the pool for
the water polo team, and when she left
the pool for the last time as a Ram, she
was Rockford’s all-time career leader in
assists (212), second in steals (381), and
third in goals scored (308).
“She was always one of the hardest
working athletes in the pool,” shares
Reickard. “Teams always had to account
for where she was at all times. On top of
being a major offensive threat, she had
the ability to shut down the opponent’s
best players defensively. Milli was always
working on improving herself and those
Not only an impressive athlete, Milli
also excelled in the classroom, earning
Academic All-State every year as she
worked her way through high school.
She showed a decided interest in math
and knew she was leaning toward making
it her career path.
“Many of the teachers and RHS taught
me how to take notes and write clearly to
express my research and opinions,” she
shares. “Dan Moderman was probably
the teacher who taught me how to write
with a purpose. Before his class, I had
never believed that I was a good writer
or could be an academic writer. My math
teachers helped shape me and encourage
me to continue to pursue math. Bob
Wells and Fred Reusch were instrumental
in my love for mathematics.”
After graduation, Milli became a
Wolverine taking her water talents to
Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan
with preferred walk-on status.
“My family had a tradition of being
fans of U of M and I really wanted to play
Division 1 water polo in college. I knew
Milli was a power in the pool in water polo
both in high school and in college.
~ Contributed Photo
the coach Matt Anderson from Junior
Olympics and other programs he also
coached when I was younger. The school
was also in-state and closer to home, so
it was nice to have that as well. At the
time, I was considering mathematics,
medical science, or physical therapy as
my majors and UM offered all of those
at a high level. Also, the school’s campus
and college town feel was so unique and
I loved the atmosphere of learning that
it gave me. I was also able to take a huge
variety of classes and had really amazing
professors who impacted my life.”
Academically, Wells and Reusch continued
cheering for Milli.
“They were both very supportive
when I began to pursue math teaching.
I actually taught my first mini-lesson in
Bob Wells’ classroom.”
8 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
Milli was an assistant for the SOCAL 16u Black team that claimed first at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics. ~ Contributed Photo
On the athletic side, she blazed her
own trail her first year in water polo and
ranked second amongst U-M freshmen
in goals (16) and points (24). As a sophomore,
Milli scored seven goals and 13
points, but things changed at the start
of her junior year.
“I was warming up my shoulder by
throwing passes and shooting,” she
shares. “I took one shot and something
clicked and felt weird in my shoulder. I
thought I had just pulled a muscle and
the pain would go away over time. I went
to physical therapy and tried to play
through the injury.”
Milli continues, “I was so upset that I
had such a serious injury. I felt helpless
and broken down, and I couldn’t keep
up with the varsity practices. I went to
physical therapy and played through
the injury, deciding to play club during
my junior and senior years while doing
intense physical therapy training. Over
the summer, between junior and senior
years, I had an MRI and found out that
I had a pretty significant tear in my labrum,
which is the connective tissue in
the shoulder capsule. The doctor said
that after the surgery I might not be able
to play again, or I could injure it worse,
depending on the healing process. My
trainer was amazing and was the reason
why I was able to keep playing. My senior
year was the most rewarding water
polo experience I had had since my senior
year in high school. The club team
was amazing, and we worked so hard together
to win two Big 10 club titles and
went to nationals both years I played. In
the end, I loved meeting new teammates
and was thankful to still be playing.”
She continued her college courses
transferring to Grand Valley State
University to pursue a double major in
mathematics and secondary education
with a minor in psychology. Milli eventually
landed in California, the perfect
place for a talented water polo player.
She is a math teacher and department
chair at Garden Grove High School and
loves working with her students and fellow
“I am also the head aquatics coach at
a small program called Crean Lutheran
High School. We are a very new team,
and this will be the first year we have
separate boys and girls teams instead of
a co-ed team. Being out here also gives
me the opportunity to keep playing water
polo. I began playing again in 2014
after my shoulder had healed. I play on a
masters team with the SOCAL water polo
club. I recently competed with SOCAL at
the Women’s Senior Nationals and we
took third place.”
She also helps coach a number of the
SOCAL teams as an assistant, including
the 16u boys team that claimed the
championship game for the USA Junior
Olympics title on July 23 of this year.
“It was an amazing moment to realize
we had won. We were actually down
3-0 at one point in the game and then we
went on a four-goal run to win the game
4-3. The boys worked so hard to claim
the title. We had been through so much
that weekend with clock and refereeing
errors. We had an unexpected loss
to Vanguard during the tournament,
so we had to go the back-door route
by playing and winning extra games to
reach the championship game. We were
all jumping and cheering and everyone
threw each other in the pool. I feel privileged
to be a part of it!”
Milli gives all her youth coaches plenty
of credit in attaining so much in the
pool. She easily lists significant reasons
why each inspired her in their own way,
but it is her dad, Kevin Brown, who had
the biggest impact.
“My dad was my swimming coach my
entire life. He has always been my most
important coach. We have always shared
the pool deck as our favorite place to be.
He taught me that no matter what kind of
day I had before I arrived at the deck, the
pool should always be the place where
I am most confident and show my best
self. He taught me that I should always
make sure I smile every day while I am
on deck because coaching can become
frustrating and exhausting if I don’t find
the best parts of it every day. My dad is
also a very level-headed coach and always
taught me that even if I am upset,
I need to act in a calm and decisive manner
to help continue progress and focus
on the end goals. I have watched my dad
transform so many young people into
confident and empowered adults.”
Obviously, those lessons took root as
Milli talks about her life as a coach.
“Coaching sports is the best part of
my day, every day,” she shares. “My athletes’
young energy and enthusiasm to
learn is so refreshing and inspiring. I
feel that I am able to help my athletes
through some of the most difficult experiences
they have had in their lives.
Being a coach gives me the opportunity
to support them through the good and
the hard times, through the wins and
Milli concludes, “I used to think that
coaching was just teaching someone
how to play a sport, but now I realize
how wrong I was. It is about creating and
cultivating a program that helps the athletes
grow into better people.”
Looks like Kevin Brown’s teachings
not only took root, they blossomed.
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 9
Hear Them Roar
10 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
Photo on facing page: The All-Stars celebrate their victory over Dexter in the State Championship game. Photo above: The 11u Rockford
Little League All-Stars pose with their trophy after earning a state crown for the second consecutive year. ~ Photos by Tanya Ramm
Rockford 11u All-Stars Best in State
It took the Rockford 11u All-Stars 14
games and a little under a month to do
it, but succeed they did. The band of talented
baseball players mowed down the
competition in the Little League Tournament
during the month of July. They
claimed the District 9 tournament to
earn the right to play the best teams in
the state. During the State portion, the
team continued their campaign claiming
the first seed out of Pool Play by going
undefeated. They followed that with
three huge victories in the single elimination
tournament to claim the State
Championship for the second consecutive
That was the hope of head coach Jeff
Geshel heading into the season.
“Winning the State Championship
again was the goal, but we knew it
wouldn’t be easy,” he shares. “At 10u, nobody
really knows who the teams to beat
are yet. But at 11u, having won the State
Championship the year before, we knew
we’d have a giant bullseye on our back.”
That bullseye didn’t seem to faze
his team as they kept calm and worked
their way through the Little League State
Tournament. They played six consecutive
days in the summer heat to claim the
title. The first three games were Pool Play
and Rockford was able to plate 39 runs,
while holding their opponents to just
one. Rockford found some tough competition
in Bracket Play. They faced off
against perennial powerhouse Grosse
Pointe Woods-Shores and was able to
give their fans a 5-4 thriller to move on.
A 10-0 mercy over St. Clair Little League
set the stage for a state final against Dexter.
“Dexter was the best hitting team
we faced,” says Geshel. “Gross Pointe
Woods-Shores in the quarterfinals was a
tricky opponent too, but our team and
Dexter were the two best teams at the
Dexter did give Rockford quite a bit
of competition and Geshel describes the
turning point in the game this way.
“During All-Stars’ baseball season we
practice a lot, and part of what you train
for is to be able to make the unexpected
play at the unexpected time. For us,
this play happened in the top of the fifth
inning of the State Championship game.
We were up 5-3 and their first two hitters
were retired easily on a pair of ground
outs. The next batter however singled
up the middle followed by an error.
With two runners on, the next batter hit
a well-placed ball to first base that appeared
as if it would load the bases. This
is when what I feel the play of the tournament
happened for us. Our first baseman,
Drew Ramm, realized he wasn’t going
to be able to field the ball and get to
first base in time. Instead, he looked up
to see the lead baserunner had rounded
third base a little too far, and without
hesitation, quickly fired the ball to our
third baseman, Eli Johnson. The runner
was tagged out ending the inning, shifting
all the momentum to our favor. We
put up two more runs in the bottom of
the fifth to stretch the lead to 7-3.”
CONTINUES ON PAGE 12
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 11
Geshel continues, “Dexter made it
interesting in the top of the sixth. They
scored two runs and moved the tying
runs to second and third base before the
final batter popped out to second baseman
Mason Plain to secure our back-toback
Geshel was thrilled for his team of Little
“The 10u title was completely unexpected
and truly felt like a magical
ride. But because of the 10u success, our
team had a lot more pressure this time
around and high expectations, both
from ourselves and others. We also experienced
a lot more adversity this season,
so therefore, the second Championship
Geshel points to many people who
were “difference makers” during the
“I can’t say enough good things about
this group of players. They have done
everything we as coaches have asked
and answered every challenge they
have been faced with. They come early
to each practice and game. They always
give their best effort, are coachable, display
great teamwork, and respect the
game, their opponents, and umpires.
Our parents are extremely committed
and supportive, and have done a great
job raising these boys. We had two very
knowledgeable and dedicated assistant
coaches, Mike Meeuwsen and Jeremy
Plain. I also want to thank the Rockford
Little League Board, and the entire community
of Rockford for their support
throughout our title run.
Congratulations goes to players
Chase Pitsch, Daniel Toole, Cole Mason,
Mason Plain, Manny Abro, Bryce Miller,
Nehemiah Kusreau, Grahm Beickman,
Breckton Meeuwsen, Carter VanderTuig,
Quinn Geshel, Eli Johnson, and Drew
Ramm. Also, to head coach Jeff Geshel,
and assistants Mike Meeuwsen and Jeremy
Plain for leading this team of All-
Stars in an exemplary way.
Photo above: The 11u All-Stars hoist their state championship trophy after topping
Dexter 7-5 in the finals. Photo below: The team takes a victory lap around the field with
the championship banner. ~ Photos by Tanya Ramm
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12 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
FALL SPORTS PREVIEW
An Overview of Your RHS Teams
The 2019 Varsity Rockford High School Sideline Cheer Team shows they’re ready to cheer on their beloved Rams. Pictured (not in
order): Seniors - Ellie Falconer, Abby Tomlinson, Alicia Brock, Cori Passarelli, Emma Dayton, Gabby Berry, and Maddie Marsh. Juniors
- Lexi Barraza, Cass McGregor, Emma Richter, Kaitlyn Shunk, Kaleigh Vanderberg, Lauren Lewis, Lydia McKee, and Megan McCambridge.
Sophomores - Libbie Montroy, An Neugen, and Paige Mitchell. ~ Contributed Photo
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 13
‘WE BEFORE ME’ ON THE GRIDIRON
The 2018 football season began in an unfamiliar pattern for
Rockford as they stumbled out of the gate to a 1-3 record after
their first four games. But armed with a sense of urgency to reclaim
what has become an annual rite of fall, the Rams closed
in typical Rockford style by winning six of their final eight
contests to earn their twenty-fourth consecutive trip to the
Michigan High School Athletic Association playoffs. Included
in that stretch was a pair of playoff wins and a one-point loss
in a Regional final contest against Saline that saw the Rams
come up 18 inches short on a two-point conversion attempt in
overtime that would have won the game and sent them to the
This season finds the Rams already faced with a monumental
hurdle right off the bat as legendary coach Ralph Munger
was laid temporarily low while undergoing an unexpected
quadruple bypass surgery a few weeks ago. The long-term
prognosis is excellent for Munger and the hope is that he may
be able to attend the opener against Grand Rapids Christian
from the press box. But that is all contingent on Munger’s recovery
and clearance from his medical team.
Fortunately, the Rams are blessed with a veteran crew of assistants
and Munger made arrangements that his substitutes
know what their roles are. Long term defensive coordinator
Randy VanderVeen has been named the interim head coach
and will continue to pull the strings on that side of the ball.
Steve Dengler has also been a fixture for Rockford as passing
game coordinator and special teams coach and will step into
the role of coordinating the offense.
After the opening contest at GR Christian, Rockford faces
their typical gauntlet of a schedule with two more non-conference
games against traditional powers Lowell and Muskegon
Mona Shores. With West Ottawa interspersed in those out of
conference tilts, Rockford will also face off with other OK Red
titans including Hudsonville, East Kentwood and Grandville.
The defense will feature a large infusion of new blood
across the board with the exception of the secondary. The defensive
line will involve a group effort as VanderVeen expects
no fewer than six players to draw the lion’s share of the action.
Seniors Ian Brofft and Reid Roberts will combine with juniors
Alex Karas, Nick Higgins, Josh Kozlowski and Logan Wert.
The linebackers are led by senior tri-captain James Kapp. He
will be joined by juniors Cole Gleason and Ben Tadych. Once
again, the position features little experience across the board.
14 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
The seniors are ready to lead the formidable Rockford Ram varsity team both off and on the football field. ~ Photo by Connie Hill
The secondary is the lone position group that will see some
veteran blood on the field. Junior Luke McLean returns at cornerback
where he will be joined by senior Nick McCauley. Senior
Dylan Dams will again man one of the safety spots where
he will be ably abetted by junior Andrew Lanham at the opposite
“The defensive line does not have a single player with any
varsity experience,” said VanderVeen. “At linebacker it is almost
the same story as we will be very young in some key positions.
We will have to accomplish things as a unit rather than
individually, but the kids are working hard to get where we are
supposed to be.”
The kicking game should feature another stalwart in Rockford’s
long line of excellent kickers. Junior Teagen Lenderink
will look to build on a solid sophomore campaign as the returning
kicker. Lenderink will also add punting to his repertoire
As inexperienced as the defense is, the offense will feature
a totally different level of returning players. Starting with returning
junior quarterback Chris Corey. Corey started multiple
games while seeing significant action in every contest last
The running backs are led by bruising senior tri-captain
Jaiden Friesen who plowed his way to All Conference honors
while leaving devastated defenders in his wake. He will
be joined by another stout ball carrier in junior Jacob Vega.
Tri-captain Jackson Mosely (senior), and juniors Ethan Nash
and McLean will also see their fair share of toting the rock offensively.
Eli Haddad is switching over to the other side of the ball as
he returns to lead the contingent of wide receivers.
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 15
Ram kicking standout Teagen Lenderink, a junior, will return for the Rams as not only the PAT and field goal kicker, but will also be
showing his punting skills on the gridiron during the team’s 2019 campaign. ~ Photo by Miles J. Postema
16 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
With plenty of experience on the field despite only being a junior, quarterback Chris Corey will be handling the offense for the Rockford
team during their 2019 campaign. ~ Photo by Miles J. Postema
Haddad will be joined by speedster Bradley Rohan-Blanton
and fellow senior Kellen Mayle as the Rams feature a formidable
slate of speed on the periphery of the offense.
As strong as the running back position is, the Rams may
field an even better lineup of offensive linemen. Senior Aiden
Hieshetter is another returning All-Conference player for
Rockford at offensive tackle. Senior Christian Morris will man
the other tackle position. Senior Tanner Hahnholt will line up
as one of the guards where he will be joined by a pair of juniors
who saw regular action on the offensive line during the 2018
campaign in Jayden Kolekamp at center and Ethan Schroeder
returning at guard.
“We feature some very good running backs, a solid line, and
veterans at most of the other skill positions,” said VanderVeen.
“But we still have a ways to go while we are working to gel as
a team. We are facing a high-quality team to begin the season
and we all realize the preparation we will need not only in this
game but in every contest we face in a very difficult schedule.”
The season will kick off at Grand Rapids Christian High
School on Thursday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m.
Senior Jaiden Friesen will continue his work on offense for the
Rams as a running back. ~ Photo by Miles J. Postema
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 17
RAMS PLAN TO
The volleyball team earned an impressive reputation last
season, drawing the notice of plenty of volleyball fans in the
State of Michigan. Head coach Kelly Delacher’s 2018 Rams
amassed a 47-12 record on their way to claiming their third
consecutive OK Red Title, their fourth consecutive District Title,
and a Regional Crown. With all their accomplishments,
the team enjoyed a Top 10 ranking throughout their season
and proved they belonged there by qualifying for the third
time out of the last seven years for the MHSAA State Finals.
In the State Championships, Rockford steamrolled Gull
Lake in the State quarterfinals and crushed Northville 3-1 in
the semi-finals to earn the right to play for the State Title. The
Rams took on the No. 2 ranked Lake Orion Dragons in the State
Finals and the Dragons proved to be an extremely tough opponent
and eventually topped the Rams 3-1. The Rockford volleyball
team closed their incredible season with State Runner-Up
Delacher, who enters his 15th season as the Rams head
coach, is preparing his team for this year’s competition and
is happy with his roster, which numbers 15 players. The roster
features nine senior veterans, only one junior, four sophomores
and a sole freshman.
The roster features key returners Madelyn Long, Claire Phillips,
and Megan Witte, who all enjoyed plenty of playing time
and experience on last year’s squad. The newcomers are freshman
Lizzie MacIntosh, sophomores Mackenzie Delacher, Ava
Young, Mara Stevens, and Alina Anderson.
Delacher likes the mix.
“We have great depth with an experienced group of nine
seniors that played in the State Finals last year, balanced with
some very talented young players. We have a bunch of players
that can play multiple positions.”
Ram Megan Witte, a powerhouse at the net for the team, returns
to the roster for Rockford’s 2019 campaign.
~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography
18 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
Returning to the court for the Rams is libero Madelyn Long. She made a decided impression on volleyball fans as she worked hard to
make sure the ball didn’t hit the floor. ~ Photo by “Papa” Razzi Sports Photography
One of his worries is the inexperience and youth of some
of his players.
“We have some young players in key roles and they will
have to pick up the speed of the varsity game.”
The team will be led by tri-captains Madelyn Long, Claire
Phillips, and Megan Witte, who are sure to pull from their
wide experience they gained last season to lead the team.
The Rams will also enjoy the experience of assistants Deanna
Delacher, Kelli Karelse, and Erin Brouwer to help them realize
their goals and key in on their team motto.
That motto is “Power in Purpose” which means that the
team has great power in having purpose in their practices,
how they carry themselves, inside and outside of the gym, and
how the team prepares for competition.
“I am excited to work with this group of athletes this year,”
concludes Delacher. “They have some big shoes to fill from last
year’s team, but they have some good experience, talent, and
a lot of heart.
“We will have great depth and our practices will be very
competitive which is important playing in the tough OK Red.”
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 19
Lili Schneider is the sole returner to the Rockford High School Varsity Girls Golf Team. ~ Contributed Photo
RIGHT ON PAR
It’s never easy when you lose half your team to graduation,
and add one more loss to injury. But let’s face it, when a coach
only has six athletes on his roster it’s going to happen pretty
Ram golf head coach Scott Kruisenga’s team enjoyed a lot
of success last year. In 2018, the Rams were able to claim a
third in Conference and a fourth in Regional competition. The
team had to face disappointment at the end of the season, just
missing the MHSAA State Finals as a team by just one place.
There were three seniors who contributed plenty throughout
the year, Kennedy Stoll, Lexi Lehmkuhl, and Sydney Green.
Even though the team didn’t qualify for the State Finals, Stoll
was able to compete as an individual to keep her season going.
Kruisenga knows he is facing plenty of youth and inexperience
with only one returner from last year’s squad. That is Lili
Schneider, who has worked on her game through the summer
and is ready to roll. To prove it, the team had their first competition
at The Meadows, Friday, Aug. 16, and Schneider led the
Rams shooting a 95 on the very difficult course.
20 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
Kruisenga not only has to face a young roster, he also has
to work with the fact that the Rams have very little varsity experience.
The team’s roster sports one senior, one junior, one sophomore
and three freshmen, so the Rams are sure to improve
as they work their way through the season. It’s that possibility
that has the coach looking at the upcoming year with enthusiasm.
“We obviously don’t have quite as much varsity experience
as in the recent years, but it is some of the best young talent
we’ve seen in a while.”
That “young talent” includes freshmen Mackenzie Davidson
and Bridget Parlmer, along with sophomore Marley Haeberle.
According to Kruisenga, all three had great tryouts and
a pretty solid start to the season at The Meadows. He is looking
forward to their growth.
“They are new to the program and the varsity squad. It is a
young roster with a very bright outlook for not only this season,
but their futures as Lady Rams.”
Now that Kruisenga has his players ready to go, he will help
them work on all the aspects of their games. He shows confidence
that with the natural talent for golf these young ladies
exhibit for golf it will be a fun year for everyone.
“We sent some great and experienced golfers out in our
last season,” concludes Kruisenga. “This will be exciting in a
different way as we have promising young ladies who are very
competitive and love the game of golf.”
“It is some of
the best young talent
we’ve seen in a while. ”
RHS Golf Head Coach
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 21
Senior goalie Ben Schuchardt is once again between the sticks for the Rams, frustrating opponents and denying scores. Schuchardt
also serves as one of the captains of the team. ~ Photo by Tracy Saur
The Rockford men’s water polo program is considered a
dynasty, and they’ve earned it. The team has enjoyed 26 consecutive
years as Conference Champions and has earned 15
consecutive District Titles. And then, let’s talk about State
Championships. The Rams have claimed the State Title in what
new head coach Craig Peterman calls a “straight flush” gathering
five in a row from 2003-07. They also claimed the State
Crown from 2012-14 to 3-peat, and then claimed back-to-back
Championships in 2016 and 2017.
The Rams were able to tally a record of 37-7 and earned a
third-place finish in the state during their 2018 season. They
had three key players who helped them earn the victories and
awards. The senior trio of Zach Burns, Kyle Arend, and Gavin
Saur struck fear into many a team as they helped the Ram
cause throughout the season.
“My concern is how our team will be able to adjust from
losing our three key players from last year’s team,” shares Peterman.
“Another concern is how well our team will adapt to a
new style of offense and defense. But we want people to know
that we will be demonstrating that even in a rebuilding year
Rockford can still accomplish great things.”
Reference the first paragraph of this article – champions
adjust, and Peterman’s team is already moving on.
“I am most looking forward to seeing which players will
be able to step up and replace our three key seniors from last
season. I am also looking forward to seeing how this team will
come together with a brand-new coaching staff. Lastly, I am
looking forward to seeing how our senior leadership helps our
younger players develop into great players.”
22 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
Despite the loss of the three seniors, this year’s roster looks
rock solid, with 39 athletes, including nine seniors and 11 juniors
that give the team plenty of experience. It returns offensive
threat Elijah Chino, defensive specialist Kyle Dedert, who
can shoot a ball, too, and goalie Ben Schuchardt who has proven
he is extremely capable in the net. The three seniors will
also serve as tri-captains and lead the Rams in and out of the
Talented Ram junior Hudson Verwys is back in the pool as
a starter after missing part of last year due to injuries and he is
ready to go. The team will also enjoy the addition of Nate Hopkins,
who was the leading scorer on the junior varsity team last
season. Another key component to the team is Nate Cheney,
who is a sophomore. Cheney has grown with the program
since middle school and has shown great strides in growth in
the sport of water polo.
The Rams will also return familiar faces to the pool. Goalie
Logan Harris, who saw play last year, will be back to help the
Rams between the sticks. Nate Hopkins, Trey Williams, Kyle
Dedert, Brenden Saur, Nick Deugaw, Nolan Graalman, Boede
Mitchell, Brendan Chaudoir, Drew Bargwell Christian Wagen,
Cade Dore, Matthew Weber, and Samuel Radtke all return for
the Rams after putting time in the pool during the 2018 season.
New faces include Jordan Miller, Jackson Irwin, Isaiah Baker,
and Dominic Galang, who will all be contributing to the team.
Don’t overlook the fact that there is a new coach at the
helm, either. Peterman took over the reins after Jon Haga
stepped down at the end of last season. Even though Peterman
is new to the varsity coaching role, he has plenty of Rockford
water polo experience. He carried the role of head coach of
the JV team for 10 years. He will also be assisted by three men
who know the game, Jerrad Reickard, Mason Westedt, and Jake
According to Peterman, the teams motto is “Shatter Expectations.”
“Other teams will think we are having a down year due to
losing our key offense from last season. We are going to shatter
their expectations by showing them that we can rebound
and rebuild our team around a new style of play.”
Peterman likes his team’s focus.
““This team is a group of kids that have the drive to do
amazing things,” he concludes. “I am looking forward to seeing
how this group of student-athletes rises to the challenge of
rebuilding and refocusing on the any goals we have. The team
may be young, but they are fearless when a challenge comes
Top photo: Senior captain Elijah Chino is a scoring threat in every
game. Bottom photo: Senior captain Kyle Dedert is a master of
defense in the pool and also shoots a mean ball.
~ Photos by Tracy Saur
Nate Cheney will be adding his skills to the Ram team in 2019.
~ Photo by Tracy Saur
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 23
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Lexie Allshouse returns to the cross country team and is sure to be one of the top runners for the Rams. ~ Photo by Elizabeth Geshel
The RHS girls cross country team carries a history steeped
in success. How many teams can say they’ve enjoyed six consecutive
conference titles, three consecutive Regional Crowns,
and get this, 23 consecutive trips to the State Finals? Impressive
numbers that show the program has reloaded time and
Last years team landed seventh in the MHSAA Girls Cross
Country State Championships. This year the Rams will have to
fill the very large shoes of graduating State Champion Ericka
VanderLende and All-State runner Emma Everhart-Deckard.
That doesn’t seem to be alarming head coach Ben Watson too
“This year’s squad has put in the work between last year and
this year to move into top tier runners,” says Watson. “Through
being a strong pack we will continue the tradition of excellence
that the Lady Rams are known for.”
Watson should know, he’s been at the helm for 14 years, he
knows the grind.
He has a sizable roster of 30, that features plenty of youth.
There are only four seniors on the team, and the count for
sophomores and freshmen is 19. But, sometimes youth is
good. He’s got some firepower for the trails, including three
All-Conference runners. Junior Lexie Allshouse, sophomore
Bailey Ewen, and senior Lizzie Bennett are sure to lead the pack
as the Rams tackle the competition.
Watson also points to the talented Riley Thompson, Hailey
Fike, Mara Sweeney and Sophie Ullery as key returners to his
team for the 2019 campaign.
The Rams are also sure to feel the impact from the presence
of newcomers Emma Flanders, Natalie Allshouse, and Nora
Hoekert, for this year and the years to come.
24 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Sophomore Bailey Ewen has worked hard in the off-season to
build on her freshman year. ~ Photo by Elizabeth Geshel
“We have had a lot of girls working really hard and that is
always fun to be a part of,” shares Watson. “Every year has its
own challenges and this year will be believing in ourselves and
that this group of girls can continue the tradition of excellence
the Lady Rams have established over the past two decades.”
The Rams already have a competition under their belts,
traveling to Portage for the Early Bird Meet, Friday, Aug. 16. The
team was able to earn a third-place finish. It is unfair to compare
the Rams to East Grand Rapids, who placed first with the
least points possible in a cross country meet with 15. However,
the Rams were close to Jenison, who claimed second with a 90,
compared to Rockford’s 106. Rockford saw three runners place
in the Top 25. Ewen was the top finisher for the Rams, landing
in 10th place, clocking in at 20:18. Allshouse placed 14th with
a time of 20:31 and Bennett finished 23rd with a time of 21:09.
“Our team motto is always ROHO. It means the best that we
can become…a constant pursuit of excellence and becoming
the best group of high school distance runners that we are capable
Ram Lizzie Bennett is sure to keep the Rams close to the competition
with her impressive times. ~ Photo by Elizabeth Geshel
“We have had a lot of girls
working really hard and that
is always fun to be a part of.”
RHS Girls Cross Country Head Coach
To reach those goals, Watson knows exactly what his team
“We have to work hard together, believe in one another,
and race as a tight group if we are going to have the most success
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 25
SWIM & DIVE TEAM
The 2019 Ram Swim & Dive Team is planning on building on last year’s success. ~ Photo by “Papa” Razi Sports Photography
Ram swim & dive coach Sara Binkley-Tow took the reins
over from Tom Parks last year and her team responded in a
big way, continuing the legacy. The team started the season by
claiming second in the 14-team West Michigan Relays, showing
their depth and talent at the start. The Rams continued to
churn things up, topping their competition as they worked
their way through their conference schedule. They were undefeated
when they faced off against West Ottawa in the pool,
and so were the pesky Panthers. The meet against the West
Ottawa Panthers proved the old adage, “every point counts.”
The Rams were ranked No. 4 in Division 1 and the Panthers
were also ranked in the Top 10. The swimmers gave their fans
a night to remember.
The meet featured plenty of talent in all the lanes, and
when the waves settled and numbers were tallied, the Panthers
claimed the victory by a single point, 158-157.
Rockford closed out the regular season with a 7-1 record as
they headed into the Conference Championships. The talented
team put on another impressive display in the pool to finish
their conference season with a solid second-place showing.
The Rams then competed in the MHSAA State Championships
and had a great day, earning an impressive fourth-place finish
to close out their 2018 season.
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26 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
SWIM & DIVE TEAM
“We have a great group
of leaders and a team
that genuinely cares
about each other.”
RHS Girls Swim & Dive Head Coach
The future of Ram swimming looks solid as Tow’s 47-woman
roster is chocked full of underclassmen. The Rams feature
the talents of only six seniors and six juniors and 35 sophomores
and freshmen. Tow likes the wide range of ages.
“We have a talented senior class with strong leadership
skills and a freshman class that is filled with depth and a willingness
to learn, grow, and contribute in their own way.”
The team will be ably led both in and out of the pool by
co-captains Masy Folcik and Rachel Gamm.
Tow is already excited about the possibilities for her team.
“We’re a young team so that creates unpredictability, but
in contrast, this will provide many opportunities for plenty
of growth,” she shares. “We have depth on this roster that
we’ve been missing for the last couple of years. We have a great
group of leaders and a team that genuinely cares about each
other. I’m also excited about the diversity of talent.”
During the 2019 campaign, Tow will be aided by assistants
John Hams, Chad Randall, and Erin Tramper.
The team has a motto, “Excellence, Team, Tenacity.”
“I expect excellence in and out of the pool,” says Tow. “The
girls know they represent the team and the Rockford community
everywhere they go, and they take that very seriously.
They understand that tenacity is a requirement if they want to
achieve their goals.”
Tow also points to the “Team” part of the motto.
“I think ROAR about Rockford the Pub dedication Ad 7.5x4.5.pdf it takes 1 4/5/19 to be on 11:17 an AM athletic
team while balancing school and family. How the team becomes
part of an athlete’s extended family and can understand
the struggles and celebrate the successes together.”
The second-year coach likes how the Rams are already looking
for the upcoming season.
“The team has bonded quickly and showing a lot of promise
through their dedication and hard work in practice,” Tow says.
“Every member of the team has a role and meets are where
those roles become clearer. I’m looking forward to those moments
when the unexpected happens and a swimmer or diver
achieves something incredible. It’s exhilarating!”
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SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 27
STATE CHAMPS RETURN TO THE PITCH
Last year was a huge year for the Sparta-Rock Rugby Club.
The team worked their way through their schedule and made
it all the way to the Rugby Michigan’s 2018 Girls Rugby State
Championships. There they faced off against the Grandville
Bulldogs – the only team that had topped them during the
season. The score in that first match was 14-0.
The players also had to face something else when they
stepped on the pitch at Davenport University’s Turf Field that
cold November day. The Bulldogs had amassed a record that
was highlighted by 44 consecutive wins.
It took the team just 2:02 to score their first try of the game,
when Grace Gohl blew down the left sideline and grounded
the ball on the try-line for five points to set the stage for the
27-15 victory for the State Title.
The defending State Champions will be led again in 2019 by
head coach Andy Dauser, who enters his sixth year at the helm.
He will be assisted by three who know their way around a rugby
pitch, Shawn Gent, Greg Peak and McKenzie Kovall.
The team sports a roster of 29 athletes, with an even spread
between the classes. There are 11 key returners who will again
be making a difference to the outcomes of the matches. Jasmine
Aqel, Alison Brower, Valencia Goldsmith, Grace Gohl,
Kara Kieras, Chaleigh Kutzly, Katie Gale, Olivia Male, Erin Ball,
Ta’myah Flowers and Kate McDowell will join forces again this
Those who are new and are already showing a natural aptitude
for the sport are Abby Way, Abby Zurich, Molly Smith,
and Elia Jenkins.
But, to Dauser, it’s not really about anything more than the
growth and development of his players - both on and off the
“Our team motto is ABI – Always Be Improving. It’s not just
a yearly motto, but a way of life. Rugby is not a mainstream
sport, so it really takes a lot of courage for a player to come out.
I don’t want them to feel any pressure to perform at a particular
skill level, but to have fun and always work to get better.
We try to compete with ourselves so we can always be the best
we can be each day.”
Valencia Goldsmith returns to the rugby team to show her own
brand of tough on the pitch. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
28 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
Grace Gohl will be sure to be adding more points to the rugby club’s score, just like last year. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
The fact that rugby is not a “mainstream sport” is a boon for
Dauser and for his players.
“The rugby experience is different from any other sport,” he
shares. “It is a social sport that will help you throughout life,
no matter where you go. We have team socials with our opponents
after every match, both home and away. What happens
on the pitch, stays on the pitch and does not carry over off the
field. We are a club team, but once you are part of a rugby team
you will be part of the sport of rugby the rest of your life.”
Dauser also loves how the sport of rugby is fluid.
“In the open field, rugby is position-less and all players are
able to call plays, pass and run with the ball. This helps players
be creative and does not just assign players to only one role on
the team. Anyone can be the quarterback and everyone is also
a lineman when needed.”
Dauser also likes how his sport is now helping rugby players
pursue college degrees.
“There are a growing number of college opportunities
every year. This past year, the players from our club received
“The rugby experience
is different from any other sport.”
Rugby Head Coach
scholarships from Harvard University, Lindenwood University,
West Chester University, and locally at Davenport University.”
Since the Sparta-Rock Rugby Club has topped the Grandville
Bulldogs for the State Crown in 2018, they will have the
target on their backs this year. It’s all good according to the
returning players. They were already looking forward to this
year before the trophy was even cold.
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 29
Coming at you! Ram Ben Lewis is one of 14 team members who will be tearing up the tennis courts for the Rams in 2019.
~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
“I can’t wait to see the
progress this team makes
throughout the season.”
RHS Boys Tennis Head Coach
The Rams varsity tennis team had a big year last year. Coach
Tom Huizing’s Rams were able to roll through their regular
season schedule with plenty of wins, going 10-2 on the season
and landing second in the competitive OK Red. But, the Rams
weren’t finished. They took on the competition at the MHSAA
D1 Regional and mowed down the competition there, too,
landing solidly in second place. The runner-up status earned
the entire team the right to move on to compete in the MHSAA
State Championships. The Rams closed out their season landing
11th place in the state.
This year’s team is looking to build on that foundation with
an even better year.
According to Huizing, “We plan on pulling out all the stops
The roster features 14 talented young men, with plenty of
youth. The team showcases only four seniors, two juniors, and
eight sophomores. Despite the youth, the roster features plenty
of key returners who made their mark last year. Huizing will
see the return of senior TJ Maskell at No. 1 singles, who shows
a true dedication to the craft and the sport. Also returning
from the 2018 campaign are Will Van Eck, Logan Lewendowski,
Caleb Werdon, Zander Werdon, Ben Lewis and Jake Osborn.
Huizing points to all eight sophomores as having the opportunity
to make a huge contribution to the Ram’s success.
30 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
Caleb Werdon returns to the 2019 team.
~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
“I can’t wait to see the progress this team makes throughout
the season,” shares Huizing. “The newcomers to the team
are dedicated and driven. They will compete at a high level
throughout the season. Practicing at a high level every day is
going to prove vital to the success of the team. My biggest concern
for this team is getting varsity experience and matches
under their belt.”
For now, Huizing is getting his young team prepared for
“I’m truly excited about this year’s team. I love the challenge
of working with such a young team. These players have all the
capabilities of being great. It’s up to me and our coaching staff
Will VanEck will be adding his talent to the team in a singles
flight. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
to bring the best out of these boys.”
Assistant coach Mark Wagley will return to help Huizing on
the courts with his plan to grow his team.
“The most important thing this year will be finding ways
to win,” Huizing shares. “We are not going to overpower our
competition, so it’s important to have a variety of different
strategies that these guys can pull from to win matches.”
Huizing is looking for constant improvement from his team
throughout the season, and that they work as a solid unit.
“The key to this season, is teamwork and believing in ourselves
and each other. We are going to win and lose as a team
and as a team we can get through any adversity that we face.”
SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 31
Ram senior Elijah Chino picked up right where he left off
at the end of the 2018 season. The water polo team had a big
weekend going 3-1, facing off against Dexter, Birmingham
Seaholm, West Ottawa, and St. Xavier. The team’s only loss of
the weekend was an 11-6 loss to Dexter.
Elijah was a big part of the team’s success. In the four games,
Elijah led the team in goals with 16. He also contributed to the
Ram cause by tallying five steals and notched two assists on
The Rams are always known for giving and the weekend
of Mitchell’s Run was no different. These young men, who are
members of the Rockford High School Boys Basketball program,
volunteered their time at the 5K event to help out and
support their community.
New Mitchell’s Run Race Director Anessa Fehsenfeld was
extremely grateful for the players’ service. “Mitchell’s Run and
the Fehsenfeld’s thank you for coming out this morning,” she
said. “We really appreciate your help!”
Rockford’s own Quinn Bentley and his travel team Motor
City Hit Dogs made it to the finals of their tournament in Cooperstown,
NY. Quinn and the Hit Dogs finished runner-up, losing
11-8 to earn runner-up status.
Quinn had a huge day at the plate, cracking two home runs
in the Championship game to make it a close game for his
team. Not only did he have a big Championship game, his total
home runs for the week was 10!
32 ROAR MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER, 2019
Photo by Tracy Saur
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