2017-04-08 / News

Spring Practices Begin for Mackinac Island Sports Teams

By Erich T. Doerr

The Mackinac Island Lakers have entered a season of change, as practice has begun for the school’s spring sports, golf and track, following the completion of the winter basketball seasons. At least 23 Mackinac Island Public School students will be in competition for the Lakers across its two sports this season. The golf team’s first match will be Monday, April 24, in Pickford, while the track team begins its season Tuesday, April 18, in St. Ignace, if weather permits.

The golf team enters its 2017 season with 10 golfers and a new head coach. Teacher Gregg Neville has stepped up to fill the head coaching position after serving as an assistant last year under the retiring Dave Waaso.

“I’m excited for the season ahead,” Mr. Neville said.

The Lakers have already begun practicing for the new season, hitting foam balls inside the gymnasium. Once the weather improves, the team will move outside to The Jewel Golf Course neighboring the school, Grand Hotel’s course serving as their home turf for the season ahead. Mackinac Island’s lineup this year includes senior Christian Styburski, junior Nick Davis, sophomores Aaron Riggs and Alex Henlin, eighth graders Dominic Morse, Trevor Pereny, Tristan Greenlee, and Leon Sehoyan, and seventh graders Asher Topham and John Andress. Christian Styburski, Morse, and Pereny are expected to be the team’s leaders this season; all three practice their game regularly at Wawashkamo Golf Club.

Mackinac Island’s team features many young players this season, with Mr. Neville noting they will need to do a lot of work on their game now, but that it will mean stronger Lakers teams in the future. His goal for the season is to work on improving the team’s younger players as they get used to golfing at the varsity level. Mr. Neville wants to see where his team goes this season, as the young Lakers are not expected to make a large splash on the team level. On an individual level, Christian Styburski’s goal is making it to states, while also helping teach many of the team’s younger players.

“Christian has done a really good helping out,” Mr. Neville said. “He sets a good example.”

Mr. Neville said one of his team’s strengths this season will be its wealth of energy. All of his players are ready to get out there and show what the team is made of. Some of the younger players are new to golf, while the older ones are getting back into the swing of things after playing other sports.

The school is still looking at its options for a girls golf team this spring. Mary Patay will be the coach if one is established.

The Mackinac Island track team will feature a roster with 13 competitors this year, seven girls and six boys. Justin Gallagher is entering his fifth season as the team’s coach. The squad includes six high school students, with seniors Chris Riggs and Talon Greenlee, juniors Gabe Kromer and Cheyla Shunk, sophomore Gabriel Hepker, and freshman Hannah Styburski. The middle school competitors joining them will be brothers Albert and Xavier Mosley, Ariana Pereny, Mabel Styburski, Clara Chambers, Brooke Dziobak, and Ella Cowell.

Mr. Gallagher hopes his team will be able to field a girls relay team for the first time in several years this season. The girls on the team this year feature several sprinters and field event competitors. There will not be any boys relay teams this season, as the individual athletes are more focused on longer races.

The Lakers will compete against much larger local mainland schools throughout the season. The team’s lineup is a young and inexperienced, but its numbers are good by Island standards, although the squad is smaller than all of its opposition.

“It’s a little intimidating (going against bigger schools) for them until they get out there and learn that they can hold their own,” Mr. Gallagher said.

There is not a running track on Mackinac Island so the Lakers will compete on the road throughout their 2017 season. It also means the team has to be creative in where it practices. The team starts each season practicing in the gymnasium before improving weather allows it to move outdoors, running in front of the school on M-185. The team will move to Great Turtle Park once it thaws out as the park allows enough area for Mr. Gallagher to set up a makeshift track on the ground using temporary soccer paint. This allows the team to practice running around bends.

“Any little thing you can do to get them ready helps,” Mr. Gallagher said, noting he looking forward to training his athletes outdoors.

The team’s best endurance runners this season are expected to be Kromer and Hepker. Kromer qualified for the state finals in the mile run last year, and he and Hepker are both aiming to repeat that feat in 2017. The team’s female athletes are looking strong for the field events, with Hannah Styburski setting a goal this season to try to break the school’s distance record in the shot put. To achieve it, she’ll need a toss of about 30 feet. The Mosley brothers will also compete in throwing events, with Mr. Gallagher noting both are strong athletes, but will need to refine their technique as they work this season.

Mr. Gallagher said his athletes consistently focus on breaking their personal records in their respective events, noting all of his competitors are giving it their all. He hopes to see individual best performances improve throughout the season, as achieving that goal can improve the athletes’ confidence. The Lakers’ small size means they are unlikely to contend for a league championship or overall track meet victories, but that allows the team to focus more on winning the individual events it competes in.

“We might get overlooked in team sports, but in track you have a real chance to shine as an individual,” Mr. Gallagher said.

Mr. Gallagher was also coach of the school’s boys basketball team during the winter sports season. The Lakers posed a final record of 19-5 as the boys played hard, despite seeing their roster depleted a bit by injuries.

The Lakers’ play improved significantly throughout the 2016-17 season as they became much more patient on offense, passing more and taking better shots as the season went on. Mr. Gallagher said the highlight of the season was a pair of very competitive “barn burner” victories at home over Brimley’s Ojibwe Charter School. The Lakers edged their mainland opposition by one point in the Friday night game, then won again by just two points in the second game Saturday morning.

“We’ll lose a few strong seniors, so next year will be a rebuilding year, however, I think my players are up to the task,” Mr. Gallagher said. “The young ones are excited, and that’s half the battle.”

The school’s young girls basketball team under the command of Dr. Patay won three games during its 2016-17 season, making them count with their two regular season triumphs coming at home against traditional rivals from Beaver Island and Put-in-Bay, Ohio. The team also won a league playoff game against Paradise.

“The girls improved a lot over the season,” Dr. Patay said. “We knew it would be a tough one with only six players, and four of them coming from the middle school, but playing at the varsity level, I think we did very well.”

Dr. Patay said her players’ skills improved across the board as the season progressed. She found the team’s victories over its rivals to be the highlights of the year. She is already looking forward to next season and how her players can build upon their experiences from this one. She has recommended that her players keep playing sports during the offseason.

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