Don’t miss the Wildcats in action! Although tickets and venue capacity are limited, I’m so thankful to see our winter activities in full swing. We have been so blessed with state of the art facilities and it is energizing to see the flurry of activity around the campus.
If you can’t attend in person, I would like to invite you to check out the action through the live web feeds. The Jenison Athletic and Music Departments are utilizing Facebook pages and events to bring you a front row seat, without the trouble of finding a parking spot. It’s such an exciting way to honor our students and all their hard work.
The Jenison Bowling, Basketball, Wrestling, Competitive Cheer, Hockey, Boys Swim/Dive and Dance teams are currently enjoying their first season back in the OK Red.
You can also follow @JenisonWildcats on Twitter for all the game day info and reminders.
The staff at the Jenison Center for the Arts and the Jenison High School music programs also worked very hard to present safe and socially distanced concerts this week. The students work so hard and they deserve this time to show off! Check out the links below for upcoming broadcast of concerts this week.
To watch the junior high band performances TONIGHT (Thursday, February 25) at 6:30p, for 7th graders and 7:45pm for 8th graders, check out the live Facebook event.
To watch all the the high school orchestras perform TOMORROW NIGHT (Friday, February 26) starting at 5:30pm, check out the live Facebook feed.
It was amazing to be able to continue with the Fall athletics programs at Jenison High School this year. The camaraderie of the teams and the physical activity had been a real bright spot in the lives of these students and a balm for some of the weary hearts throughout the community. While we can all agree that this season wasn’t ideal – the teams showed up ready to put their whole heart into it and they were granted a chance to show what they were made of. Read about the unique training methods they employed to get ready while they kept each other safe: Sports Teams Persevere as They Await the Reinstatement of the Fall Season. And read to the end to see some of the memorable, record breaking highlights from this unforgettable year!
Jenison Athletics Boosters Auction
The Jenison Athletics Boosters is an independent organization of junior high and high school parents that raise funds to benefit all 1,000+ student athletes and athletic programming. Coordinating closely with the athletic department and administration, the JAB identifies programming needs and provides support where necessary.
The auction will run on the website https://jabauction.comnow until 6:00 PM on Sunday, December 13. There are some great products and local services up for bid; our student athletes would be very grateful for the support.
Football and Coach Rob Zeitman
Jenison Varsity Football Coach Rob Zeitman was recently recognized as Regional Coach of the Year for Division 2. Our community is so proud of all the great work he has done investing in his students on and off the field. We are blessed to have him leading the Wildcat Football program and he is a positive force in the lives of our students and athletes.
Our coaches and players had a terrific season. They gave us lots to cheer about and some great memories. Congrats to our seniors who laid a winning foundation for all future Wildcats! Seniors, Jaden VanDalsen, Ethan Kirkland, Nate Rose, and Ryan Robinson were selected as First Team All-Conference members for the OK-Red. Juniors, Caleb Dean and Ethan Mate were also selected as members of the OK-Red First Team All-Conference. Seniors, Garrett Blood and Dylan Andrus were selected as OK-Red Honorable Mention All-Conference Members. Congratulations to these young men.
Working hard, on and off the course, the Jenison Varsity Girls Cross Country team finished their season with a recognition of Academic All State. They are the epitome of committed student athletes. These successful runners have an outstanding combined GPA of 3.817 and they enjoyed a 2nd place finish at regionals with Mya Guikema leading the girls with a fourth place finish. Well done ladies, you are a phenomenal representation of our school and community.
The Jenison Varsity Boys Cross Country team had a big year finishing 2nd at regionals. They went on to place 19th overall at the state competition. This was the first time in 16 years they qualified for state – and they qualified as a team. Despite all odds of the season being cancelled then reinstated, this running family meant business, each putting forth fantastic effort. Senior Connor Vachon finished 8th in the State D1 Finals with a personal record time of 15:38. Congratulations to these young men – they’re going places fast!
Early November wrapped up the Girl’s OK Red Swim and Dive Championship with a 4th place finish overall. Every swimmer improved her time with a total of over 55 season or lifetime bests. The 200 Medley Relay Team (pictured below L to R) of Grace Albrecht, Elyse Radawski, Hailey Sherman, Rachel Huyser broke the 12-year old Jenison Varsity Record by 2.6 seconds with a time of 1:48.47! State cuts were made in every single swimming event. Seven swimmers qualified for the state competition. Way to go ladies – you took this unpredictable season and made it count!
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!
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.
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.
Varsity coach, Aaron Boersma and Junior Varsity coach, Jeff Brown excitedly move forward with their season in full swing.
Varsity coach, Linda Reimink and JV coach, Alanna Kremkow are happy to have their season count – no mulligan here!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
TORI VANDERVEEN | Cornerstone University, Track and Field
CAROLINE HUISTRA | Jackson College, Soccer
ANNA BARTZ | Drury University, Bowling
EMILY SILER | Saint Joseph University, Softball
CHASE POST | Davenport University, Lacrosse
LAUREN SLAGTER | Cornerstone, Bowling
MALACHI SMITH | Grace Christian University, Soccer
KRISTEN SZOST | Hope College, Lacrosse
MYCAH KASPER | Davenport University, Swimming
KAYLYNNE NICHOLSON | Albion College, Volleyball
GABRIEL SMITH-VERWYS | Ferris State University, Football
OLIVIA DAVIS | Davenport University, Track and Field
MORGAN LACOMBE | Lansing Community College, Softball
For frequent updates on all the athletic action, follow the Wildcats on social media.
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.
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!
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.
STM Players at the MSU game Saturday, September 7.
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.
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.
Tim 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
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.