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NATE SCHNEIDER: A salute to our numerous state champions this school year
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It was all capped off Saturday afternoon when the Mt. Pleasant High School baseball team capped off its amazing postseason run with a Division 2 state championship by defeating Richmond by a count of 7-2. That marked the third state title under 21st-year head coach Luke Epple, one of the best prep baseball coaches in Michigan.
The Oilers, after a near-hiccup in its pre-district game against Swan Valley as it held on for a 2-1 victory, proceeded to stomp all competition the rest of the way. Mt. Pleasant never had a game close than a four-run spread in district, regionals, quarterfinals, semifinals or the state championship game.
Well done, Oilers. Well done indeed.
While the Beal City baseball team fell one win short of its quest for a D4 title, it is impossible to not commend the Aggies on what has been one of the most exceptional baseball programs in the Morning Sun coverage area all eight years under coach Brad Antcliff.
Beal City is a prime example of a roster full of self-motivated players. Antcliff only provides the guidance and coaching as he has said many times that he does not need to push them to put in the diligent work to become excellent at their craft.
It is a shame that the Aggie seniors were unable to accomplish their dream of winning a state championship, something they were one win short of doing twice in football and twice in baseball.
But the lack of a state title does not diminish the fact that they were always in the conversation as one of the best teams in their respective division. On another day, any of those four state title game losses could have ended differently.
The Vestaburg softball team was tripped up by powerhouse Kalamazoo Christian in the semifinals, yet the remarkable season the Wolverines put together will be not soon forgotten. It was the first state semifinal appearance since 1986 and only that year plus the state runner-up Vestaburg softball team in 1980 rival this year’s version as the best in school history.
Needless to say, baseball and softball is alive and well in mid-Michigan. It will always be that way and likely continue to grow.
Moving back a couple weeks, the Chippewa Hills track and field team dominated the Division 2 state finals to win the state championship. With a loaded roster, the Warriors entered as the favorites and did not disappoint.
The Shepherd 3,200 relay team of Rachel Mathers, Katie Powell, Taylor Thrush and Katelyn Hutchinson won a state title at the Division 3 meet in a school-record time of 9:30.22.
Beal City’s Hannah Neyer, Hannah Steffke, Anna Reihl and Emily Steffke broke the school record at the Division 4 state meet to also win a state championship as they ran a time of 9:51.45.
Kirsten Olling of Breckenridge capped off an outstanding preps career with her fourth consecutive state title in the 3,200 at the Division 4 state finals.
On the boys side, Coleman’s Curtis Bell set a Division 4 state finals record in the pole vault with a leap of 15-foot-1 to claim the title.
Shifting to the ruthlessly cold winter season, the Sacred Heart Academy girls basketball team shined bright amidst all the freezing temperatures as it won its first Class D state championship in program history.
The Mt. Pleasant boys basketball team also had a tremendous season as it advanced to the Class A state semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Muskegon.
High school basketball in our area sometimes does not get the respect it deserves, but it certainly stood tall this past March.
In the sport of wrestling, 160-pounder Tristen Zienkiewicz from Farwell won all four of his matches to win an MHSAA state championship which was the first wrestling state title in school history.
Back in the fall, the unrivaled Ithaca football team extended its winning streak to 56 games in winning a fourth consecutive Division 6 state title. The only question there is who will be the first team to knock off the Yellowjackets since 2009 and in what year will it happen?
The aforementioned Beal City football team came super close to a state title of its own but was tripped up by Muskegon Catholic Central at Ford Field.
Not to be forgotten, Shepherd’s girls cross country team under coach Carey Hammel won the Division 3 state championship on Hammel’s birthday no less.
Beal City’s girls cross country team, coached by Dave King, ran to the D4 state championship.
Any way you slice it, this area is producing more than its fair share of champions. It’s fun for the student-athletes, the coaches, the communities, and I speak for all sportswriters when I say it is always fun to write about and cover a state champion.
Enjoy it, kids. You’ve all earned it.
Last Updated: 6/15/2014 5:29:06 PM EST