Fall Sports Update 2020

Out of the box thinking in response to the uncertainty of Covid-19 has not been limited to the classroom. Our coaches and athletes have been tenacious in returning to the water, course, courts, and fields and we’ve seen an interesting start to the fall 2020 sports season.

Jenison High School Athletic Director, Tim Ritsema has been working alongside our high school teams to ensure the safety of our student athletes and provide the best opportunity to return to competition.

Our coaches and student athletes showed up ready to work hard and they continue to do so despite the uncertainty of our fall seasons. Obviously they want to compete, but their commitment to their team and overall resolve has been nothing short of amazing!

Go Wildcats!

Tim Ritsema

Read below for more about the relentless commitment of our student athletes and coaches as they navigate their season during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also, don’t miss the CATS ROAR, an in-depth Jenison Athletic Boosters wrap up of last year’s sports programs and other Athletic department highlights.


Girls Swimming and Diving

Swimming coach, Kyle Stumpf and Diving coach, Brian Zuehlke started training with their teams in August. Covid athletic protocols made it necessary for them to find outdoor venues for their practices. The swimming team travels in two smaller groups for training at a variety of locations including Coopersville, Camp Geneva in Holland and open water training at a local residential lake (with coaches supporting from kayaks). The diving team has been practicing at a local house with a diving board.

The team’s new mantra has been borrowed from Teddy Roosevelt – “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” And they are doing just that. The coaches have been reminding the girls (and themselves) that perseverance is key. They want to have a season and are doing everything they can, considering the circumstances, to expectantly prepare for a return to indoor swimming and diving this season.


Volleyball

Varsity coach, Joe Steenhuysen and Junior Varsity coach, Mya Udell have called the start of their fall season, ‘interesting and non-traditional’. The team is training outdoors as well; on the football field and they have traveled to an outdoor court in Caledonia (in some wet weather). As the football team has dealt with the loss/rescheduling of their season, the team also gained some new team members when four senior guys joined up to train with and manage the volleyball team.

Coach Steenhuysen is a first year coach in Jenison and shared that he has been impressed by the determination and commitment of these athletes and their families. The team is clearly important to them and no matter what has been thrown their way, they come in each day to work hard. Even though it’s been a non-traditional start to the season, he and the players have enjoyed every minute.


Boys Soccer and Football

They proceed with caution, but there are many soccer and football players with fingers crossed these days as we await communication from Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer regarding potentially reinstating their seasons to occur during this fall.

Jenison Football… TO BE CONTINUED. (Photo taken at the final official practice on 8.14.2020)

Boys Tennis

Varsity coach, Aaron Boersma and Junior Varsity coach, Jeff Brown excitedly move forward with their season in full swing.


Girls Golf

Varsity coach, Linda Reimink and JV coach, Alanna Kremkow are happy to have their season count – no mulligan here!


Cross Country

Jacci Storey (Boys coach) and Kelly Tavis (Girls coach) are running full steam ahead with their teams; and the team has recorded some very impressive times in their first few meets.

Frontline Fuel Boost

Our local heroes are highly respected and always deserving of our gratitude. However, the recent days of the COVID-19 pandemic have required them to go even more above and beyond with their servant attitudes.

As we closed the year without the spring sports season, the Jenison Athletic Boosters found themselves with an inventory of concessions that would have expired. Wanting to say thank you, they made a sweet donation to the frontline workers at Metro Health and the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department.

Thank you again, to all our local frontline workers, for the sacrifices you make, every day and especially during this pandemic. Your dedication, commitment and courage deserve our deepest gratitude and admiration. Your service is saving lives and making differences daily. 

Cross Country Challenge

Most people don’t even run 4 miles a day much less 48 miles in a weekend – but the Jenison High School Boy’s Cross Country team isn’t “most people”. In preparation for the fall season, the team usually participates in spring and summer fundraisers which were canceled this year. This required Coach Jacci Storey and her Jenison running family to get creative, organizing a 4x4x48 challenge, where they would run 48 miles in 48 hours.

Throughout the canceled track season, the team of runners felt the pain of separation, yet remained connected by their commitment to the team and their love of the sport. Supporting each other while training individually.

Coach Storey, Connor Vachon, Jaden Henderson, Luca Pham, and Austin Winkle, along with other members of the cross country team participated in the 4x4x48 challenge. The feeling of family was evident as graduated Cross Country athletes from the past season also came out to run the last leg. It’s amazing to see this strong family culture thrive – even when they graduate, they are still part of our Jenison Cross Country family!

As a sophomore at Jenison High School, Hunter Bowen was a member of the Cross Country team this past fall when he passed away. It was a devastating loss for this close knit group. Three of Hunter’s siblings who also were part of Coach Storey’s running family at JHS joined the 4x4x48 challenge. It was a beautiful reunion of friends and family.

The challenge kicked off at 4am on a Saturday morning at Maplewood Park and they ran another 4 mile distance every four hours until they completed 48 miles. And it wouldn’t be our team if they weren’t pushing themselves within the challenge. They started the 10th leg of the race on Sunday at 4:00pm and met a record for the group with an impressive 37 minute time.

Legs were tired but hearts were full as they accomplished their goal (actually completed in less than 48 hours) and exceeded their fundraiser goal amount Sunday night around midnight! Well done, gentlemen! Way to seize this opportunity to challenge yourself and finish strong.

Coach Storey’s daughter made a special appearance for one 4 mile leg as well!

Recognition for our Athletic Leaders

Jenison Varsity Football Coach, Rob Zeitman and Jenison Athletic Director, Tim Ritsema have received some exciting recognitions. Both men are well respected in their fields and committed to the families they serve in the Jenison community. The dedicated efforts from both of these leaders make our Wildcats Roar!

Rob Zeitman is nearing 20 years in Secondary Education. He loves focusing on all of his students – in the Economics and World History classrooms as well as on the football field. He led his staff as they spent many hours during the COVID-19 closure lending their time and muscles to help the Jenison Food Service Department continue to feed the community.

A member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association, Coach Zeitman is a leader among his peers and has been elected Regional Director. Having him as a part of the Jenison family, teaching our students, and coaching our athletes is of great value to the Jenison community!

We’re blessed to have Tim Ritsema leading our 7-12 athletic program. His passion and commitment to our student athletes is exceptional. He was recently recognized with the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association “Award of Merit”. Elected by peers, this award is given annually for the demonstrated long-term contributions, leadership and meritorious service to their profession. Jenison has definitely benefited from his experience and the expertise he has shown. Full MIAAA news story here.

Senior Athletes Sign

We are excited to be able to offer a world-class education that prepares students to achieve their goals and chase their dreams. And now, is the time of year when many seniors are plotting their course. For these Jenison High School seniors, that includes being able to continue their studies while playing the sport they love.

 

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The great thing about many of our student athletes is their tenacious work ethic and commitment to multiple interests including music, arts or other clubs. We are honored to be able to offer many quality experiences that function as an extension of our fantastic educational programs.

It’s thrilling to see a number of students signing national letters of intent for their colleges in the fall. Some of them have signed on even before their senior season has officially begun.

Our students receive outstanding support from the exceptional staff which helps them take advantage of opportunities and perform their best in all areas. Many staff continue building relationships after the bell has rung through coaching positions. A team mindset between athletic staff and teachers is genuine and provides a well rounded experience for our students.

I am proud to say that these Jenison High School students have been well prepared for this exciting next step – in the classroom and through their team experiences. No matter which mascot they adopt next year, I’m confident their Wildcat spirit will remain and propel them to achieve great things!

As the spring season draws to a close, more students will most likely be added to this list. 

Please join me in congratulating these hardworking seniors and their families! G O   W I L D C A T S!

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TORI VANDERVEEN | Cornerstone University, Track and Field

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CAROLINE HUISTRA | Jackson College, Soccer

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ANNA BARTZ | Drury University, Bowling

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EMILY SILER | Saint Joseph University, Softball

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CHASE POST | Davenport University, Lacrosse

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LAUREN SLAGTER | Cornerstone, Bowling

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MALACHI SMITH | Grace Christian University, Soccer

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KRISTEN SZOST | Hope College, Lacrosse

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MYCAH KASPER | Davenport University, Swimming

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KAYLYNNE NICHOLSON | Albion College, Volleyball

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GABRIEL SMITH-VERWYS | Ferris State University, Football

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OLIVIA DAVIS | Davenport University, Track and Field

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MORGAN LACOMBE | Lansing Community College, Softball

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For frequent updates on all the athletic action, follow the Wildcats on social media.

images@JenisonWildcats                  Unknown@Jenison_Wildcats

 

The Gridiron Border Battle

You don’t usually need a passport for “AWAY” games, but last week the varsity players of St. Thomas More (STM) Catholic Secondary School of Hamilton, Ontario did, as they loaded up to drive 5.5 hours for a memorable international experience in Jenison.

The STM football program tries to come to the midwest for a game at least once per year. They are one of the most prominent and highly decorated football teams in Ontario and Canada. They are also repeat Provincial Bowl Champions from 2015-2018. JHS Athletic Director, Tim Ritsema knew they would be a good competitor for us to start the season with and it was exciting to get the chance to host them.

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The football players weren’t the only ones hard at work preparing to show our northern neighbors the spirit of west Michigan.

Leading up to the 7:00 kick off, the David McKenzie stadium took a moment to be silent in memory of Jenison student, Sydney Carfine who passed away following a car accident earlier this summer. She was a cheerful person and beloved friend who would have been a senior this year.

Jenison Boy Scout Troop 354 presented the flags as both countries were honored with their anthem. Karen Ambs, recently retired Jenison elementary choir and music teacher, pulled together a group of volunteer singers to welcome our guests with live vocals singing ‘O Canada’. This group, appropriately named the CatPack Chorale, was made up of Jenison Alums, parents, community members, current students and even included two of our own varsity football players!

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Game nights look a little different for them at home so we were honored to treat the STM players to a fabulous “Friday Night Lights” experience – great crowd, awesome atmosphere, and stellar performances by the marching band for our national anthem and their half time show. Jenison Varsity Coach Rob Zeitman and AD Tim Ritsema agreed – a win would have been nice but the exposure our students receive in welcoming this team is a valuable interaction. Following the game, the teams shared a pizza party and came together to share little bit about their high school and football experiences.

The stadium atmosphere wasn’t the only thing that was different about this game for our opponents. There are different game rules in the United States versus Canada. In Canada, it’s three downs to get a first down. They play with a longer and wider field; they also play with 12 players on the field at a time instead of 11. That obviously didn’t deter them, as they came away with the win that night!

The STM team was also given the opportunity to catch an exciting American collegiate contest on their way home – stopping by East Lansing to see Michigan State beat Western Michigan, 51-17.

STM Head coach Claudio Silvestri was super appreciative of the our community saying:
Thank you so much for everything you have done to make this experience happen. Our players and coaches raved about the “Jenison” experience.  Your program is “top notch” and your facilities were incredible. It was the warmest  hospitality we experienced in the 17 years of doing this trip! Our kids were also blown away by the Michigan State experience!

Despite a loss for us on the field Friday night, hosting our first international game was a heartwarming WIN and the Jenison community did not disappoint! It was a great experience all around. 

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STM Players at the MSU game Saturday, September 7.

KidCAT Players Inspire

On the surface, it may seem like another celebration for the football team but look closer and you’ll see an initiative bringing a community together and modeling some pretty amazing attributes.

The KidCAT program started about 10 years ago when a teacher had the idea to foster a connection between the elementary students and the high school, with community events such as football games. It’s not always natural – especially for families who don’t know any players personally; however it has grown to be something that the varsity players and the elementary students look forward to each year.

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Sully Russ is one of 20 seniors on the team this year. He enjoyed sharing a visit with his Bauerwood friends. Go #24!

Early in the football season, classroom teachers adopt a player; sometimes a teacher is able to choose a player that once sat in their elementary rooms. The teachers and players alike, really appreciate having the opportunity to reconnect. This year, all 43 Varsity players were paired up with an excited classroom of little Wildcats ready to keep this tradition going. Teachers guide the young students in thoughtful exercises as they get to know their KidCAT player, then share notes, cards of encouragement, and small treats throughout the season.

And the Varsity guys get to give back as well. They are able to be a positive role model; sharing their character and work ethic in return. On the big day of the KidCAT football game, all the players go visit their elementary friends and spend some time with them. When the players arrive, the kids are star struck and in awe like a celebrity has entered their little world! It’s awesome to see the guys having a good time with some silly questions and leading the way for future generations as they promote literacy, community and kindness. As October is Anti-Bullying Month, we are proud to watch as the football team has also joined the Stomp Out Bullying, anti-bullying campaign this year. I’m proud of the leaders we have in this team.

The grand finale is when the students and their families rally to cheer on their KidCAT player at the Varsity football game. At game time, students are grouped in sections with their schools and it’s so fun to see our young fans totally engaged in the game while they cheer for their Wildcat. 

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Senior, Kyle Nott leads the pack through the student tunnel at the KidCAT game, October 12. Photo Courtesy of Damion Van Slyke Photography

 

 

 

 

 

Home Field Advantage for AD, Tim Ritsema

1270991261e92b45cadffeb0d92fe70aa2494837Tim Ritsema, our new Senior High Athletic Director, may be wrapping up his second full week on the Jenison High School campus but he is no stranger to these halls. A Hope College and Grand Valley State University grad, Tim actually started his career with us and is happy to be suiting up in Wildcat green again.

During that early decade, Tim was teaching PE, coaching Track and Cross Country; he also spent two years as the Jenison Junior High Athletic Director. Most recently, Zeeland East had the pleasure of Tim as their Athletic Director for 14 years. Those that worked closest with him during that time, describe him as one that will be remembered as the role model he is – as a father and a fan of athletics; while understanding and achieving a healthy balance.

Walking onto the track at Wildcat Stadium for the first time in 14 years was a surreal experience for Tim. He fondly reflects on former athletes and memorable contests, but it’s ultimately about the relationships. Not only with coaches and other staff, but the kids. Tim has such a heart for the student athlete and says he can’t imagine doing anything different. He will definitely acknowledge that “wins are fun, of course, but trophies fade.” His real inspiration comes from connecting with student athletes 5-10 years later. Finding out they are doing great things with their lives; “that just jazzes me up, and I am not ready to be done with that.” He recalls numerous valuable lessons in his upbringing when adults took an interest and invested in his life. He feels that being present and involved in students’ lives is what drives him daily

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Time has obviously passed and some things have changed (some of my former students are even coaching here now!) but I feel so at home and one thing remains, Jenison has strong programs and an outstanding reputation in so many areas; I intend to build on that momentum with new and fresh ideas. I am so excited to be back and I look forward to applying my years of experience gained at Zeeland.

Tim Ritsema, Jenison High School Athletic Director.

It is an honor to be able to offer a quality athletic experience that functions as an extension of our fantastic educational and fine arts programs – and that we have Tim back on our home turf! Let me officially say “Welcome (home) Tim!”, the Jenison families are blessed to have you lead our student athletes, teaching them character, commitment, a true sense of sportsmanship and an appreciation for that healthy balance.

We’ve Got Bowling Royalty at Jenison High!

Brother and sister team, Nick and Lauren Slagter come by their incredible bowling talent naturally. They also come from longtime bowling royalty. Their grandmother and dad are both in the Grand Rapids Bowling Hall of Fame!

Their dad [who has a 230 average and has bowled 25 perfect games!] and their maternal aunt coach the Jenison Bowling Team. Their family bowls together in a league on Thursday nights and while their mom grew up in a bowling strong family, their dad found his passion for bowling when he met their mom.

In bowling competition, similar to Olympic gymnastics, athletes compete at both team and individual levels. This past bowling season, both the girls and boys teams won the OK Black conference. Nick finished in 14th for individuals, losing to the eventual second place winner. Lauren may have lost to the eventual winner in the semifinals, but she made it farther than any other bowler in the history of JPS! The girls team qualified 1st in states and made it to the semifinals, which is also the farthest that any bowling team has ever made it in the history of Jenison!

Next year both Lauren and Nick are looking forward to keeping the teams intact, as there are no current seniors moving on. “It’ll be the same team, with more experience. We’ll be better equipped for next year and it’ll be a lot of fun.” They want to give special recognition to their teammates: Sarena Overbeek, Anna Bartz, Dustin Smith, and Tyler Miller.

Nick tries to take it in stride when he gets grief from his friends about bowling not being a real sport. He knows it’s a mental game more than anything else. “It takes precision accuracy and just two or three shots can put your team ahead.” Lauren likes to cite her fifth grade paper, “Bowling is a Sport” for evidence when this argument arises.

The siblings may be busy with their bowling schedules, but they make time for other sports as well. Nick also plays on the Jenison baseball team and while he knows they are “two very different sports, but the pressure is all the same; they build off one another and make me better as an athlete.” Lauren plays softball and adds, “You have to take your momentum from your bowling season and bring it into other sports and we have to bring that success and confidence into softball and baseball.”

As a junior, Nick is thinking about college and hoping for scholarships to allow him to bowl at the collegiate level. Lauren is a sophomore and acknowledges that she “has time” but it has crossed her mind to play softball as well as bowl when she gets to college. She wants to give a shout out to her family for always being a strong shoulder to cry on when it comes to school, sports, life, and school. “We’re stuck with each other, but we’re competitive and have fun.” Nick wants to make sure that his fifth grade teacher, Mr Diekman knows he made an impact on Nick’s life. “He’s taught me more than just school, he’s taught me about life – to stay positive – and I really appreciate that.”

Athletic Director Kevin VanDuyn knows JPS is lucky to have these two: “It is quite something to have the top bowler in the conference, by average, from both our boys and girls team.  What is more amazing is to have the top bowler from each be a brother and sister.  Congratulations to Nick for finishing the year with a conference leading 212 average and his sister Lauren with a 190 average.  The best news is they both come back next year!”

Lauren and Nick want everyone to know that bowling is really accessible for adults and kids alike. Lauren says, “You can bowl once or twice a week and get really good so it’s easy for kids to pick it up.” Nick adds, “Make sure you stay positive through the ups and downs because eventually you will come out on top.” [And that’s just good advice no matter what you’re doing!]

Congratulations, Nick and Lauren! Your talent and accomplishments not only make us proud but we can’t wait for next year’s season! Go Wildcats!

Homecoming 2017!

Another beautiful and inspiring Jenison Homecoming is in the books! Last Friday night, propelled by the theme of “Dr Seuss”, all of our High School classes, groups, and teams showed up to celebrate Jenison. We hope you will enjoy reliving the fun of the parade and football game here – hey, did you know our Varsity football team is 4 – 2?! We won our Homecoming game against Reeths-Puffer, 20-10. Way to go, Wildcats!

 

Happy Homecoming Jenison!