September 2019 ROAR

jeanniegregory

RAM

READY

RHS Fall

Sports Previews

COMEBACK

CHRONICLES

HUDSON VERWYS

MITCHELL’S

RUN CONTINUES

RAISING BIG

FUNDS

LITTLE

LEAGUE

ALL-STARS

REPEAT FOR

STATE TITLE

...AND MUCH

MORE INSIDE

SEPTEMBER

2019


Welcoming

a New Season

SEPTEMBER

INSIDE THIS ISSUE

Mitchell’s Run.............................2-3

Comeback Chronicles.................4-5

New RHS Athletic Director...........6-7

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

All-Star State Champs............10-12

Fall Sports Preview..................13-31

Extra Credit..................................32

* Cover Photo of Ram goalie

Ben Schuchardt

compliments of

Tracy Saur

rockfordroar.com

VOLUME 2 ISSUE 13

Managing Editor

Jeannie Gregory

jeannie@rockfordroar.com

Director of Business Operations

Joel Koch

joel@rockfordroar.com

Rockford.ROAR

ROAR_Mag

ROAR_Mag

JEANNIE

GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

matches.

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

citizens.

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

ChoiceOne Bank

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Druckenmiller Painting

Everyday Rockford

Farmers Insurance

Five Star Food Express Rockford

Flo’s Collection

Great Northern Trading Company

H&S Companies

High School Fan Stand

Innovative Builders & Remodelers

Kellermeier Plumbing

Lake Michigan Credit Union

Lenderink Tree Farm

Lidral Orthodontics

Little Caesars Pizza

Mercy Health

Metro Health - University of Mich.

Peak Performance Roof Cleaning

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 Edge Barber Shop

The White Insurance Agency

Watson Rockford

Weingartz

Williams Orthodontics

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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

world.”

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

many more.”

Fehsenfeld, who is also Chairman of the Board of Parent

Project Muscular Dystrophy, was the perfect fit for the Peterson’s

beloved event.

“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


PROUDLY PRESENTS

Comeback

Chronicles

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

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

sidelined.

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

with it.

“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

worth it.”

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

(616) 647-4300

SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 5


MOVING FORWARD

It’s a Great Time to Be a Ram’

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

program successful.

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

day’s forecast.

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

Speed Flex.”

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!”

bouldercreekassistedliving.com

(616) 866-2911

SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 7


Millicent (Brown)

Powell

CLASS OF 2008

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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,

PROUDLY PRESENTS

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

around her.”

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

teachers.

“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

the losses.”

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

REPEAT CHAMPS

Rockford 11u All-Stars Best in State

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

year.

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

tournament.”

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

Championships!”

Geshel was thrilled for his team of Little

Leaguers.

“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

felt sweeter.”

Geshel points to many people who

were “difference makers” during the

dream summer.

“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

SIDELINE CHEER

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


FOOTBALL

‘WE BEFORE ME’ ON THE GRIDIRON

RANDY GREGORY

ROAR Contributor

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

state semifinals.

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


FOOTBALL

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

safety position.

“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

this year.

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

year.

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


FOOTBALL

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


FOOTBALL

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


VOLLEYBALL

RAMS PLAN TO

COURT WINS

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

status.

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


VOLLEYBALL

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


GOLF

Lili Schneider is the sole returner to the Rockford High School Varsity Girls Golf Team. ~ Contributed Photo

RIGHT ON PAR

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

often.

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


GOLF

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. ”

Scott Kruisenga

RHS Golf Head Coach

SEPTEMBER, 2019 ROAR MAGAZINE 21


WATER POLO

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

WATER WORKS

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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


WATER POLO

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

pool.

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

Vickery.

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

upon them.”

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

DISTANCE GOALS

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

time again.

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

much.

“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

of being.”

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.”

Ben Watson

RHS Girls Cross Country Head Coach

To reach those goals, Watson knows exactly what his team

must do.

“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

possible.”

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

POOL PLAY

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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.”

SARA BINKLEY-TOW

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


RUGBY

STATE CHAMPS RETURN TO THE PITCH

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

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

year.

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

field.

“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


RUGBY

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.”

Andy Dauser

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


TENNIS

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

NET PLAY

JEANNIE GREGORY

ROAR Editor

“I can’t wait to see the

progress this team makes

throughout the season.”

TOM HUIZING

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

this year.”

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


TENNIS

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

the season.

“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


ELIJAH CHINO

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 weekend.

RAMS BASKETBALL

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!”

QUINN BENTLEY

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 FINISH

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Photo by

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