HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS Elk winter sports endure familiar “wait and see”
As per Governor Whitmer’s emergency order beginning November 15 all MHSAA sports activity was suspended through December 8. The only contact allowed between a coach and a team or player in Michigan high school sports (fall, winter or spring) is through virtual communication.
The MHSAA Representative Council approved resuming winter sports practices on December 9, with competition to begin no sooner than January 4. Unfortunately, these dates are subject to change. The Elk Rapids community will have to return to the wait and see mode that began the fall sports season.
The Lady Elks varsity basketball team had four December games canceled, the boys varsity basketball season started after the girls this season, the boys have lost three games. Both teams are scheduled to play their season opener on January 8 in Charlevoix. The Bay Reps hockey team had completed tryouts and had several practices before the season was halted. The Reps have canceled at least seven regular season games, the Big Rapids Thanksgiving Tournament and the annual Scott Miller Tournament. The Elk Rapids bowling team did not have their season opening Baker Tournament and will bowl on Thursdays instead of Saturdays. There is no schedule out for the bowling team at this time. The Great North Alpine ski team competition does not normally begin until early January, but practices have been halted.
For winter sports, all competition will begin with the two spectator-per-participant limitation. For participants who have more than two parents or guardians, each school will be responsible for managing those situations. Face coverings will be required for Elk athletes in basketball and ice hockey at all times. Face coverings are optional for athletes while actively participating in bowling and skiing but will be required when not involved in active participation. Scrimmages are not allowed for all winter sports. Students from different schools can be together for official games, matches, meets and competitions.
These rules and guidelines are all subject to change. The only sure thing is that Elk Rapids fans, players and coaches will be more than ready to go when that greenlight is given.
CMS CROSS COUNTRY Cherryland runners future of strong varsity
Cherryland Middle School Cross Country Team 2020. front row: Coach Cam Ward, Coach Mary Pray, Keegan Kiel, Elisa McCool, Ezra Hubbard, Quinn Darnell, Owen Render, Kenzie Oeder, Riley Jenema, Coach Kristin Verrett. back row: Max Ward, Gwenyth Spinchich, Hunter Shellenbarger, Norah Wnek, Will Vanderheide, Brynne Schulte, Jason Jansen, Anna Pray, Edison Pike, Brooke Fluty.
Photo by Diane Drogowski, By the Bay Photography
The way to build an elite varsity sports team is to get future athletes interested early, while they are in middle school. That formula is working for the Elk varsity cross country program, with 18 runners competing from Cherryland in a successful season this year. “We invite the kids to join us in programs we have in the summer,” said Elk cross country coach Can Ward. “I ask them to give running two weeks, then see if you are motivated and having fun, if you’re not, how can we make it fun.”
The cross country numbers had diminished since the mid 2000 seasons, when Elk teams were competing for conference titles. Coach Ward, a former Elk cross country standout, took over the program in 2018 and set up a Cherryland program with Mary Pray as the coach. “Coach Pray is a valuable asset, I couldn’t do this without her,” Ward said. The Cherryland runners practice with the varsity and compete in meets scheduled for middle school at many of the varsity meets. The Cherryland boys and girls teams both finished with strong season, drawing recognition in northern Michigan. “The middle school and high school teams practice together, which is a real motivator for the middle school runners. They have fun competing in practice, and grow more motivated and enthusiastic towards the sport,” Ward said. Three boys, Max Ward, Jason Jansen and Will Vanderheide, along with two girls, Riley Jenema and Hunter Shellenbarger, will move up to the high school team next season, giving the Elks enough to runners to compete as full squads. There is a large number of very strong seventh grade runners looking ahead, which makes the future look very good for cross country in Elk Rapids.
CMS VOLLEYBALL Volleyball begins strong at Cherryland
Cherryland Middle School 8th Grade Volleyball Team 2020: Coach Derek Morton, Chloe Taylor, Haliegh Yocom, Julianna Albaugh, Caroline Best, Kayla Grant, Mattea Ball, Kylana Kiel, Madison Brown, Sophie Standerfer, Gabby Morton, Lexi Moore. Photo by Diane Drogowski, By the Bay Photography
Cherryland Middle School 7th/8th Grade Volleyball Team 2020: front row: Morgan Dreher, Heidi Straight, Amanda McCann, Ava Smith, Eva Findley. back row: Coach Mary Standerfer, Ashley McCann, Evelyn Klaft, Madeline Shifferd, Kaira Beauchamp, Olivia Williams. Photo by Diane Drogowski, By the Bay Photography
Cherryland Middle School 7th Grade Volleyball Team 2020: front row: Sierra Boloier, Myah Pescetello, Layla Arnold, Ellee Lavely, Ashien Burch, Cora Moore, Sophia Burch. back row: Audrey Nicholson, Megan Huizenga, Laci Springborn, Manyan Pitawanakwat, Julianna Hawkins, Coach Bethany Wilson. Not pictured: Marley Anderson. Photo by Diane Drogowski, By the Bay Photography
The CMS volleyball teams wrapped up their seasons in late October, making the best out of virus restrictions. The sport of volleyball is first played competitively in the seventh grade, introducing the basic fundamentals of the game. Three teams represented Cherryland this year, the eighth-grade team, the seventh-grade team and the combo team, made up of players in the seventh and eighth grade. Longtime CMS volleyball coach Joe Macaluso stepped aside from coaching after 19 years at the net. Derek Morton stepped up to coach the eighth-grade squad, guiding the team to a record of 6-4, with one scheduled game canceled and not made up. The eighth-grade squad also finished first in tournaments at Suttons Bay and Boyne City. There were 11 girls on the team this season. “Our strongest areas going into season were fundamentals. I tried to get every player in every position, so they are comfortable setting, passing and hitting. I saw the biggest improvements in court awareness, 5-1 rotation and serving,” Morton said.
Saint Elizabeth provides tough competition every year for the CMS teams, and continue to do so at the high school when they morph into St. Francis. “We beat Saint Elizabeth two out of three matches, and each match was very exciting to watch,” Morton said. “Both teams played the game the way it should be played, and it proves to be a great rivalry.” The eighth-grade team started practice late due to COVID restrictions but adapted and had a solid season. “Overall, it was a great season, with all the unknowns,” Morton said. “I’m very proud of the player growth in the sport at all levels.”
The seventh-grade squad had 13 players this season and was coached by Bethany Wilson, her second year at the helm. Several cancellations raised havoc with the schedule, the team did not finish with a winning record, but they learned to focus on the fundamentals. “This particular group was starting from the very basics,” explained Coach Wilson. “The largest improvement was their volleyball IQ, or overall knowledge about the game. Players knew which roles to play and that they needed to get three hits. It was exciting to see that much growth! The skills themselves also improved and our passing, setting, and serving made us competitive.”
In a game against Grayling at the end of the season, Coach Wilson watched her squad play the game with a two bump, set and spike in the first volley, a vast improvement from the first game of the year. “I was genuinely impressed and excited for them, because next year and in years to come they are going to be hard to beat because of their focus on fundamentals now instead of points,” Wilson said. “Even without a winning record, they had a lot of fun and were competitive. They knew their work would pay off. As they continue to play, I can see this group being a strong force in our program and I look forward to seeing them compete in the future.”
The number of players going out this year increased, calling for the need of a 7/8 combination team made up of 10 players, seven from grade eight and three seventh graders. The squad was coached by Mary Standerfer, stepping up to take the reins one week after the first practice began. The schedule was adjusted a few times, and wins and losses were not tallied, but the improvement throughout the season was noted. “They were a strong team to begin with, with excellent foundation skills and volleyball talent,” said Coach Standerfer. “We were very competitive against nearly all of our opponents and I couldn’t be happier about the effort the girls made throughout the season, their progress in developing as players, and the enjoyment we all seemed to have being a team.” The squad had experience, with all but two of the players having been in the CMS volleyball program. “We grew much stronger in serving and setting. This was a group of strong competitors, they wanted to learn, and were eager to get better.” The number of players and the competitive spirit they have shown at Cherryland this season should provide the Elk varsity and JV teams some muscle and Elk pride down the road. Congratulations to the CMS volleyball players and coaches on solid seasons, and for an exciting glimpse into the future of Elk Rapids volleyball!
Elk Rapids News 212 River Street P.O. Box 176 Elk Rapids, Michigan 49629 231-264-6670 Phone 231-264-6685 Fax