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Life Coach Robert Hollingsworth, Great Lakes Track Make A Difference

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CHRIS HARRISON-DOCKS Adapts To Surroundings

DESMOND FERGUSON Blends Hoops, Business

VO L •3 ISSUE O2 FEBRUARY

2 O 11 $5.OO US SPORT COMMUNITY PUBLISHING


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contents

FEATURES 10 CHANCE TO DANCE

7 From Karyns Dance Place Perform In Orlando

BY ANDREA NELSON

16 ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Robert Hollingsworth Leads Athletes In Every Way

BY CHIP MUNDY

20 BRAIN COACHING

Spartans Make Strides On Field, In Classroom

BY JENNIFER ORLANDO

22 HAVIN’ A BALL

Desmond Ferguson Is Living, Giving The Dream

BY ANDREA NELSON

24 SNOW DOUBT ABOUT IT

12

Past, Present And Future

Chris Harrison-Docks Still Developing On, Off The Court BY SAM HOSEY JR.

Area Ski Scene Still Vibrant Despite Tough Economy

BY DAN KILBRIDGE

28 FOREVER YOUNG

Running, Relationships Helped Icon Improve With Age

BY TIM WEATHERHEAD

DEPARTMENTS eb-servation

05 A Mag For All Seasons All Across Greater Lansing, Variety Remains The Spice Of sport BY JACK EBLING

news + notes

30 Boxers Back In Bath Young Men, Women Compete In Regional Tuneups BY CHIP MUNDY

sports authority

08 Sweet Sign Of Spring

March Magic Hoopfest Hand-On Fun For Fans Of All Ages BY BRENDAN DWYER

finish line

32 Chemistry Class

Leading The Team, Then The Big Ten BY KIRK COUSINS

Volume #3 • Issue #2 FEBRUARY 2011

FEBRUARY 2011

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assists

EDITOR Jack Ebling Jack has covered sports and more as a writer and broadcaster in Mid-Michigan since 1978. A three-time Michigan Sportswriter of the Year, he was a 2006 inductee into the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame. He has written four books on Michigan State and one on the Detroit Tigers and is finishing book six, Heart of a Spartan (www.heartofaspartanbook.com). He has contributed more than 125 pieces for national publications and is a founding partner in Sportswriters Direct, a new freelance business. The former English teacher and coach spent nearly a quarter-century as a beat writer and columnist for the Lansing State Journal and won 21 major writing awards. A two-time graduate of MSU, he has lived in Greater Lansing for 37 years. With his wife, Robin, he has helped raise two remarkable young adults, Zach and Ali.

CONTRIBUTORS Mike Major Born and raised in the Lansing area, Mike was always a huge sports fan, participating in baseball, football, basketball and golf in his youth. He served as the head boys basketball coach at Lansing Sexton from 1989-2005. Since leaving the coaching ranks, sports photography has filled that void. Mike can often be seen photographing area youth sports or playing a round of golf.

Chip Mundy Chip has spent his entire life in Mid-Michigan and always has had a passion for sports. He spent more than 25 years in the sports department at the Jackson Citizen Patriot and covered everything from Super Bowls and World Series to Little League Baseball and the rodeo. Chip’s first book, “Michigan Sports Trivia,” was published in November of 2010.

Publisher Sport Community Publishing Editor Jack Ebling Assistant EditorS Andy Flanagan Andrea Nelson WRITING Kirk Cousins Brendan Dwyer Jack Ebling Sam Hosey Jr. Dan Kilbridge Chip Mundy Andrea Nelson Jennifer Orlando Tim Weatherhead PhotographY Jacky Bastion Rey Del Rio Desmond Ferguson Mike Major Matthew Mitchell MSU Athletic Communications Tamera Nielsen Karyn Perry Dane Robison Terri Shaver J. Robin Sumbler MAGAZINE Design & LAYOUT Traction www.projecttraction.com Printing Millbrook Printing, Co. Mailer ICS

Greater Lansing Sport Magazine is published monthly by Sport Community Publishing with offices at 617 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48912. Postage is paid under USPS Permit #407. Subscriptions: One copy of the Greater Lansing Sport Magazine, is mailed complimentary to qualified business addresses in the Greater Lansing metropolitan area. Residential, promotional, out-of-area and additional subscriptions are available for $36 per year (a saving of 40% off the $5 cover price per issue) by mailing a check to Sport Community Publishing or paying online at www. SportLansing.com. When available, back issues can be purchased online for $10 each. Postmaster: Address changes should be sent to: Sport Community Publishing, 617 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing, Michigan 48912. 4 FEBRUARY 2011

Editorial Office 617 East Michigan Avenue Lansing, Michigan 48912 (517) 455-7810 www.SportLansing.com Copyright © 2011 Sport Community Publishing All rights reserved.


eb-servation

A Mag For All Seasons All Across Greater Lansing, Variety Remains The Spice Of

sport

BY JACK EBLING

It has been three-and-a-half years since I heard the idea, nearly two-and-a-half since it came to fruition. The concept was a community magazine. This one happened to deal with sports. I remember thinking, “Yeah, that might work...I wonder who’ll edit it and who’ll do the writing?” Hi. In Issue 23, I’m here to say we’re gaining traction. We’re becoming the publication you’ve wanted – or so the surveys say. Near the end of 2008, after Issue 3 or 4, someone said a local media person had predicted we’d be gone within a year. Not only are we still here, we’re nearing a couple of important milestones. We’ve published more than 1,000 pages and told a lot of great stories from Greater Lansing, more than I ever knew existed. I’d been part of the media for 30 years, almost to the day, when Issue 1 left the presses. And I heard more complaints in every one of those 30 than I have in the last three combined. Part of that positive feedback, all appreciated, is due to amazing work from an impressive staff – 74 writers and 61 photographers in all. But most of the credit belongs to you. Without incredible athletes and coaches, we never could’ve covered 276 stories, most of them inspiring in some way. And without a lot of the tips we’ve received from parents, friends and loyal supporters, we never would’ve been able to showcase 911 people in 99 different sports. Sport No. 100 will be on our cover next month. We know that already. We also know that the best is yet to come with a new design and a Wider World of sport. We’re proving that in our second issue that’s a half-inch wider, a magazine with even more of a local look. With that look comes a local feel, a commitment to Mid-Michigan that hasn’t changed since Day One.

That’s clear from our February cover story on Coach Robert Hollingsworth and the Great Lakes Track Club, the defending AAU indoor national champion. Chip Mundy’s layered profile is one of the best pieces we’ve run in sport. And Mike Major’s photography enhances the package. I happen to know Hollingsworth from trips to the AAU outdoor nationals in Norfolk, Va., and Knoxville, Tenn., with my son, Zach, a medalist under Hollingsworth’s tutelage. But much more than track technique, Great Lakes runners learn valuable lessons, as Mundy explains so well. Basketball, a winter-issue staple, is prominently featured again in pieces about two terrific shooters who can score on the move. Sam Hosey Jr.’s story on Okemos High junior Chris Harrison-Docks shows how a player can develop and prosper in different environments. When his father’s high-security job meant frequent relocation, Harrison-Docks did what great scorers must do – adjust and keep driving. And few athletes from Greater Lansing have had more success for more teams than Lansing’s Desmond Ferguson, as Assistant Editor Andrea Nelson explains. Ferguson has had success at Everett High, the University of Detroit Mercy and a long list of pro stops, including a brief NBA opportunity in Portland and his current minor-league stint in Halifax, Nova Scotia. But the best part of Ferguson’s odyssey is what he has done to prepare for life after competition. The story of Moneyball Sportswear shows which city he calls home. If February is here, can the MHSAA’s March Magic Hoopfest be far away? Brendan Dwyer

describes the fun that awaits fans of all ages in Jenison Field House. We hadn’t done much in sport with skiing in Mid-Michigan. That changes with a look at two high school programs and Michigan State’s club team, plus a check on the business of snow sports. Dan Kilbridge, an Internet colleague with the Spartan Tailgate 247 Sports site, was the right guy to slalom through that. He skied for East Lansing High and MSU. Writer Tim Weatherhead and photographer Dane Robison help us remember a fixture on the local running scene, Dick Young, who died at age 82 on January 11. And if football season never really ends, we take three very different looks at the season just past and the one that will be here before we know it in 2011. We start with a story on the academic component of Mark Dantonio’s program, a piece by Jennifer Orlando that includes the paths of linebacker Eric Gordon and injured fullback Josh Rouse. We take you to Orlando, Fla., for a winning performance in the Capital One Bowl by an area team, Karyns Dance Place in Holt. And we close with our back-page guest column, written by Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins. As we saw in a 2010 Finish Line piece by MSU basketball forward Draymond Green, leadership isn’t a sometimes thing. Neither is covering Greater Lansing sports in the best way we can. That’s where you come in, as tipsters for Issue 24 and beyond. We’re always looking for fascinating stories and inspirational people. When we stop finding them, we’ll stop publishing. And we plan to be here for many years. H

FEBRUARY 2011

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your shot

Send Us Your Photos! www.SportLansing.com Published photos will receive a poster commemorating Your Shot, courtesy of Capital Imaging.

Ruth’s Race The Holt girls cross country team sports their new purple uniforms – signifying pancreatic cancer awareness – at the start of the inaugural Ruth’s Race. The race honors assistant coach Ruth Pridgeon, who died from pancreatic cancer last May. PHOTOGRAPHED BY DANE ROBISON


greater lansing sports authority

Sweet Sign Of Spring

March Magic Hoopfest Hands-On Fun For Fans Of All Ages BY BRENDAN DWYER

Hoopfest Fun Returns This March! Whether you watch from the stands or take your best shot, March Magic Hoopfest is all-around fun.

While basketball is a winter sport, everyone knows the best part of the season happens in the spring. Yes, tournament time is true sports gold and a fun sign of spring – but it’s not the only one. Folks that make their way to East Lansing for the MHSAA state basketball tournament get another traditional treat – March Magic Hoopfest. This totally hands-on basketball fan fest will be back for its third great year at Jenison Field House March 24-26. The popularity of March Magic Hoopfest has grown each year and is quickly becoming a favorite annual event for attendees to the MHSAA tournament games, as well as various hoop-crazed basketball enthusiasts of every age. Last year this familyfriendly fan fest welcomed over 15,000 attendees into a lively Jenison Field House, transformed for the weekend into 33,000 square feet of hoops, hops and high school highlights. For those who might have missed March 8 FEBRUARY 2011

Magic Hoopfest in past years, here’s how it works: All those with valid 2011 MHSAA (boys or girls) basketball tournament tickets get in free; otherwise it’s $2. Along with taking part in numerous basketball activities and skill stations like the Three-Point Shoot-Out, Slam Dunk and Around-the-World, attendees can walk the Hall of History, showcasing championship games, life-size photos and display boards of games past. Hoopfest also has fun in store for young ones with a huge inflatable obstacle course and a bounce house for burning off steam. The three-day event will also be offering some great opportunities for youth basketball enthusiasts (4th to 8th grade) with the Learning from the Legends Clinic and the JumpBall Jamboree. The Learning from the Legends clinic is a free skills clinic for registrants (limit of 180) put on by coaching greats from the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan. The JumpBall Jamboree gives youth teams (5th to 8th grade) from the area the rare opportunity to compete against other teams from the area at center court of historic Jenison Field House. Enrollment in these two events is on a firstcome, first-served basis, so don’t delay! Visit www.marchmagichoopfest.com for info. Now you know all about Hoopfest. Want to get involved? Consider becoming one of the important sponsors of Hoopfest, or take your shot as a valued Hoopfest volunteer. The experience is enriching at any level. “A lot of volunteers are needed to make this event a success, and having volunteered for two years now, I’m all about it,” said Jill Kacel, Hoopfest fan and employee with Sutton Advisors in Lansing. “I love being part of the community, so being here and working with the kids and the families is really rewarding and a lot of fun.”

Volunteers, sponsors and past attendees aren’t the only ones excited to see the return of March Magic Hoopfest. Just ask one of the key organizations behind the event, the Greater Lansing Sports Authority (GLSA). “The GLSA is very proud to put on March Magic Hoopfest and I think it really adds to the whole MHSAA state basketball tournament experience,” said Meghan Carmody, manager of sports events for the GLSA. “If you’re watching any of the great games over at Breslin, come over to Jenison before or after to check out Hoopfest. If you’re not going to the MHSAA tournament games, Hoopfest is a really fun, hands-on basketball experience at a super-low cost. Either way, come out and play.” To register for events or learn more about the 2011 March Magic Hoopfest or the GLSA, call (517) 377-1411 or visit www.lansingsports.org or www.marchmagichoopfest.com. H

2011 Hoopfest At A Glance Jenison Field House Thursday, March 24 2 P.M. TO 7 P.M.

Friday, March 25 2 P.M. TO 8:30 P.M.

Saturday, March 26 10 A.M. TO 7 P.M.

Admission is $2 or FREE with valid 2011 MHSAA Basketball Tournament ticket.

www.marchmagichoopfest.com

Photography JACKY BASTION

As Michiganians trudge through these gray, snow-covered months they search with tethered optimism for signs that winter is soon to pass. These signs occur on the thermometer, on the branches of trees and sometimes even in the events that are held within the community.


e c n Cha e c n a D o T Orlando In rm o rf e P e c la P nce 7 From Karyns Da ON BY AN DR EA NE LS

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Dance Fever Karyn Perry’s Senior Dance Company (left to right): Allison Pingston, Lily Brown, Kailey Kraushaar, Haley Fuhrman, Annalise Seaton, Shannon Kraemer, Katie Casler.

Photography KARYN PERRY

The Michigan State football team wasn’t the only group from East Lansing that spent time on the field at the Capital One Bowl. Seven dancers from Karyns Dance Place of Holt were chosen to perform during the game’s halftime show. The dance team was invited to Orlando by ESP Productions after submitting an audition tape last June. They received a response from the production company within 10 minutes of applying. ESP told Karyn Perry’s Senior Dance Company they were very impressed with the tape and invited them to perform during the bowl’s halftime show on Jan. 1. “It was a quick response,” Perry said. “Actually, after going down there, we found that a lot of groups that submit audition tapes, and they sometimes will only take one girl from the entire team or a couple girls. It was very nice that they accepted all of us.” Even though the Company was invited to perform at the Capital One Bowl six months before the performance, Karyn’s dancers didn’t receive their dancing orders until the first week of December. It was a busy month for the girls, who practiced their routines for a few hours each night in addition to their regular dance classes. “It was really nerve-racking at first,” Mason Junior Lily Brown said. “I thought I wasn’t going to be able to learn it, that I would get there and look like a mess. But we spent a ton of time working together and going over things, so it really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.” Brown said it can be very hard to balance school and dance when preparing for such an important performance. She said the dancers have a lot of late nights at the studio finishing their schoolwork. But they nicknamed the area where they study “the cave” and have as much fun as they can while getting their homework done. “We’re all basically best friends,” Brown said. “We’ve gotten really close over the years. I would consider some of them my sisters. That’s

how we act together. We always have a ton of fun when we’re around each other.” Of the 22 girls who were invited to Orlando, seven of Perry’s dancers went on the Company’s road trip to Florida. They joined about 280 other girls from around the nation for a few days of fun and dancing. The entire group had two practices before their New Year’s Day performance. The dancers practiced in the ballroom of their hotel before heading out to a football practice field for a seven-hour rehearsal the following day. It wasn’t all about dancing, though. During their stay, ESP Productions provided the dancers with a day at Disney World and an afternoon at Universal Studios. Perry said they also had a formal dinner on New Year’s Eve. But the most memorable part of the Company’s trip came on New Year’s Day. “They wore smiles the entire day,” Perry said. “They had had a really long trip in the van. The first day we were in the van for 18 hours and they were up every morning at 6:00. They had very long days. A lot of them ended up sunburned for being on the field for 7 hours. But you could not have wiped the smiles off their faces.” The girls’ halftime performance was probably one of the shortest parts of their trip. But when asked what their favorite part of weeklong adventure was, the answer was unanimous: performing in front of thousands of people and on national television. “Disney, Universal, the parks that we went to were really fun,” Holt senior Kailey Kraushaar said. “But there’s just something about standing on a field in front of 65,000 people and getting ready to dance. It was really exhilarating.”

Holt sophomore Allison Pingston said the experience was overwhelming at first. But when she talked about the halftime performance, it was clear that those memories will last a lifetime. “It was really a feeling I’ve never felt before,” Pingston said. “During the dance I looked up for a second and it sunk in then because I was right there. It felt really cool.” The girls enjoyed performing during halftime of the Capital One Bowl, but it was a learning experience for them as well. Brown said it was good for her to be exposed to a different kind of dance than she studies at Karyns Dance Place. At the studio, Brown takes jazz, tap, pointe, ballet and modern dance classes. She described their halftime dance as “cheerleader-like.” In Perry’s 26 years of teaching at her studio, two groups of her dancers have been invited to perform at the Capital One Bowl. Perry said they also do a lot of public service-type performances, such as dancing in the pediatric ward of Sparrow Hospital. The girls give their audiences a performance to enjoy, but they receive a lot in return as well. Perry said dancing gives the girls poise and confidence in themselves and their bodies. The exercise gives them a sense of athleticism and strength, as well as a great sense of discipline. It’s easy to hear the pride in Perry’s voice as she talks about the dancers she trains, and it’s even easier to tell that there’s nothing she enjoys more than watching her girls grow before her eyes. “A lot of the girls I’ve had from the age of 3 until they leave the studio,” Perry said. “And a lot of those girls continue to stay in my life as they grow and mature and start their own families. I have some second-generation students now. I think being a part of their lives and seeing them grow and mature and become successful women and to know that I might have had something to do with, that is the best part of it.” And by giving her dancers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, Perry has been able to do that and much more. H FEBRUARY 2011

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Past,

&

Present

12 FEBRUARY 2011


To look at Chris Harrison-Docks, he is an average kid from Okemos. After a couple minutes of watching his Chicago-style ball handling, flashy passes and cold-blooded jump-shooting, it quickly becomes obvious that Harrison-Docks is anything but average. Then, the head-scratching and questions start: Justice Department. “It was good for Chris, Who is this kid? Where did he come from? And though, because I think he always had where did he learn to ball like that? basketball in his blood. Harrison-Docks is a 5-foot-11, 160-pound “I have two sons. And if you have kids, junior with more than a dozen full-ride you know all of them are different. He’s the athletic scholarship offers. Impressive, right? one who always hooped. Chris always wanted Not for Harrison-Docks, whose journey in to play. My other, he’s strictly video games life has shown him triumph, hardship and and cartoons. At my age, I was younger, so perspective. He carries a 3.6 grade-point it was a good thing. We would always play average and is a member of the National because I was still playing. So Chris was kind Honor Society. His mother, Marcia Docks, has of fortunate. My last year of college ball, (he) a Ph.D. in Education. Along with his father, was my ball boy then.” Ted Docks, she pushes education. That was just the beginning. HarrisonMake no mistake, Harrison-Docks has Docks began making a name for himself as gotten a few lessons on the basketball court early as elementary school. along the way, too. But there’s plenty more to “In Springfield everybody heard about this his life than hoops. kid who was really good,” Docks said. “He was “I was born in Ashville, Kentucky, two hours playing up maybe three or four grades. east of Lexington,” the soft-spoken Harrison“Then, one of the high school coaches Docks said. “I lived in Eastern Kentucky until called and said, ‘Can you help us out here?’ first grade. Then, we moved to Springfield, This wasn’t some Podunk high school. It was Illinois, and Gary, Indiana, where I finished Lanphier, the school of schools. At the time sixth grade. Then we moved to Louisville until they had (NBA All-Star) Andre Iguodala and my freshman year, when we came to Okemos.” Rich McBride, who used to play for Illinois, Quite the journey for Harrison-Docks, one of the best shooting guards in the nation. who forgot to mention a second stint in I was still active in basketball, so the coach Kentucky when he was in fifth grade. His would have me check Rich and try to challenge father, an African-American man who came him. He was that good in high school. So Chris into Chris’ life when he was 2, is his role got to be around that and see the rise and fall model and primary basketball influence. of things that can get kids.” And he takes the blame for the family’s Harrison-Docks saw a lot and learned from moving around. every observation. “It was my job. We have to move around a “He saw Iguodala, who didn’t get much little bit,” said Docks, a former point guard hype, then grew 6 inches,” Docks said. “I at Morehead State who works for the U.S. think Rich had to beg his AAU coach to let

&

Future

Chris Harrison-Docks Still Developing On, Off The Court BY SAM HOSEY JR.

FEBRUARY 2011

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past, present and future

Andre on it. The next year Andre is the man and he takes off. Chris saw the plight of those players. Andre is in the league now, and Rich is coaching high school.” With his father and other basketball ® influences, Harrison-Docks, already a basketball ® sponge, couldn’t help but benefit vicariously. ® “The work ethic, those lessons of defense and things like that,” his father said. “Even though you score, you’ve got to play D. You’ve got to be more than just that shooter they put in for the 3 when the team is down. You’ve got to be able to dribble. “It’s always been those things, my life lessons that I’ve tried to incorporate into basketball. Sports transcend life anyway. You have to be more than one-dimensional in life. So I always tried to instill that in him.” Harrison-Docks said he remembers things taking shape for him on and off the court when his family moved to Indiana for his sixth-grade year. 248 W. Grand River • East Lansing, MI 248 W. Grand River • East Lansing,“Once MI we got to Gary it was a total change,” Harrison-Docks said. “It humbles Grand River • East Lansing, MI everything. You see it on TV. It’s the lower end, the Murder Capital of the World. But when you’re living at 1033 Central Avenue and going to school every day, you see what people go through, see what they have and see their situations. It really brings you to realize how blessed you are. “Half the kids didn’t have a father or were DIGITAL X-RAYS missing a parent in their house. I couldn’t CHILD-FRIENDLY OFFICE count on my hands how many people I’d play EVENING HOURS AVAILABLE with in the park who said, ‘I dropped out of high school.’ They were so good you said, ‘Man, you could’ve made it!’ But they didn’t have the leadership or guidance my dad has had for me since I was a little kid. Living there really helped me mature as a player and a person. Seeing that environment is a humbling, humbling experience.” Kelly Anne Snyder DDS, P.C. Meanwhile, on the courts in Gary, HarrisonDocks developed a special friendship that is 2101 Aurelius Road, Suite 3 Holt, Michigan A L U M N U S coming full circle in Mid-Michigan. “My dad took me to this gym at Lew Wallace {517} 694-4700 High School,” Harrison-Docks said. “There’s this other kid on my team who’s killing, too, and it’s like, ‘Who is that?’ Come to find out it’s B.J. Branden Dawson. He ended up playing on my team for two years and becoming a good friend. I’ve known B.J. forever. It’s just funny that now we’re in Okemos, basically East Lansing, and B.J.’s coming to Michigan State next year.” It was in those formative times that www.snyderdentistry.com Harrison-Docks learned to be independent and

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What’s Up Docks? Okemos junior Chris

mentally tough. As a racial minority in Gary, he would often times be misjudged because of size and appearance. Given an opportunity to prove himself on the court, he would break down the stereotypes. It is that same drive and independence that he’s had to tone down in a team-oriented structure at Okemos, where Harrison-Docks is two years into a terrific career. And it’s his improvement as a leader that has Okemos among the surprise teams in the state and in the CAAC Blue title chase with Eastern and East Lansing. “He’s a natural leader and he understands the game so well that he tried to do a lot last year,” Okemos coach Dan Stolz said. “I think chemistry-wise there were moments of

Photography MIKE MAJOR

Harrison-Docks is equally fearless from NBA 3-point range or climbing among the trees.


friction. This year, he tried to do maybe too much early in the year. But we’ve talked to him about some things. And even in the last two weeks, he’s shown tremendous growth and has taken those things to heart. He’s becoming a better leader. He’s involving his teammates more.” Yes, Harrison-Docks has improved in leadership and some of the intangibles. But his skill level is also improved. HarrisonDocks is averaging 24 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.0 steals, while shooting an efficient 43-percent from 3-point range. His 30-foot jumper at the buzzer to beat Lansing Catholic in double-overtime was one of the biggest shots of the season. And he’s a major reason the Chieftains have been ranked as high as No. 6 in Class A. “He’s using his pull-up jumper a lot more,” Stolz said. “He’s getting everybody involved and is having more fun. It’s about relationships. It’s about going to battle with a group of guys you go to practice with. It’s not AAU. And it’s not all about me. I think Chris has really embraced that idea.” Stolz sees that every day. But he’s not the only one who has noticed. “He really seems to have more control of what Okemos wants to do on the floor,” said Geoff Kimmerly, prep sports editor of the Lansing State Journal. “If you look at Dan Stolz’s teams, he’s always had very, very good point guards who have been his extensions on the floor. Jason Price was the first one. Johnathon Jones, of course. And Chris has become that guy. “He’s making better decisions and finding a way to get his guys involved. He’s scoring when he needs to score. He’s made some shots to win games. He has to do that because he’s that kind of player. But he’s making smart decisions. He was one of the best ball-handlers in the area as a sophomore. He has taken that up a level and found ways to involve his teammates.” Thus, college coaches have been regular attendees at Harrison-Docks’ games. That’s nothing new, as he had three scholarship offers before playing a varsity game as a freshman in Louisville. Lately, schools like San Diego State, Central Michigan, Utah and Butler have offered. And if his play continues on the same upward trek, more coaches will rack up frequent-flyer miles to Lansing. “We always say, ‘Don’t talk about it. Be about it,’ ” Docks said. It’s obvious his son has been listening. H

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Robert Hollingsworth Leads Athletes In Every Way BY CHIP MUNDY

Robert Hollingsworth coaches track. He teaches life. At the Great Lakes Track Club, an AAU team that Hollingsworth coaches for Lansing-area athletes, coaching and teaching can happen at the same time. “He really tries to make you better, and he cares about us,” 12-year-old – and six-time national champion – Re’Anna Blair said. “I can get home, and he’ll send me an e-mail or something to tell me to stay positive.” Hollingsworth, 51, produces champions. The Great Lakes Track Club boasts 46 national champions and 200 Junior Olympics

16 FEBRUARY 2011

medalists. Last year it won its first national championship in the AAU Northern Indoor track and field meet at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill. The team will defend the national championship this month in Bloomington, Ill. Hollingsworth also helps youngsters as they grow up and sees a tie between learning

life lessons and winning in athletics. There are facts to back up that statement as well: Hollingsworth said 98 percent of his athletes go on to graduate from college. However, when asked what gives him more pleasure – watching an athlete win a national championship or watching a troubled youngster improve his or her life – Hollingsworth had a surprising answer. “I think it might be watching them win the national championship, because I know the discipline that is involved in doing that,” said Hollingsworth, a steward in the adult psych unit at Sparrow Hospital. “If they are able to acquire that, then they can use it in their personal lives.”


“The ultimate goal is to work with kids and keep them in school and off the streets. I have to have the insight to see the light at the end of the tunnel for them.” ROBERT HOLLINGSWORTH

Not all of the athletes on the Great Lakes Track Club have troubled pasts. Hollingsworth welcomes them all, as long as they show up on time and do what is asked of them. Jon Geer of Mason is one of the athletes who doesn’t need much help with life lessons. He has applied at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and is an honors student in high school. Hollingsworth looks to Geer as a leader. “At the end of the year, I don’t give out an MVP award, I give out a leadership award,” Hollingsworth said. “They don’t know it, but I’m always watching them. Jon is one of the great leaders.” Geer, who played football last fall for Mason, is a top-notch student with a seemingly bright future.

“Mainly I lead by example,” Geer said. “I try to lead when we’re doing our stretches and things like that. But if somebody gets out of line, I would confront them and tell the coach.” Sometimes it might seem like the youngsters are expecting a negative reaction from people in authority, and Hollingsworth might have had a taste of that with Tavarrio Davis. “When I would tell him to run harder, he would take it like it was a putdown,” Hollingsworth said. Davis, 18, is a student at Lansing Community College and understands that Hollingsworth was looking to help make him better, not criticize him.

“It’s not too strict, but we’re still getting good, and we have fun,” Davis said. Even one as young as 11-year-old Taylor Manson understands the concept. “He tells us what we’re doing wrong, and then he helps us fix it,” she said. “When I say I had issues, I had issues. I was horrible.” – Ira Moorer, 20, six-time national champion. Hollingsworth accepts the fact that some of the kids he inherits are troubled. Ira Moorer was one of those troubled youths. Not only was he one of the most troubled, he also is one of the biggest success stories. The school system was frustrated, and Moorer says he felt like he didn’t have anyone

FEBRUARY 2011

17


on the right track

SOLID STARTS The following are just a few of those who have run for the Great Lakes Track Club and gone on to bigger and better things: Mike Stowe: national medalist (Grand Valley) Kelly Robinson: 2 x national champion/4 x national medalist (Air Force Academy) Zach Ebling: national medalist (Kalamazoo College) Abraham Mach: 3 x national medalist/ Olympic Trials (Central Michigan) James Jackson: 2 x national champion/7 x national medalist (Ohio State)

Arthur Bouyer: national champion (Kansas) Jamie Carlson: 6 x national champion/ current national pentathlon record holder (North Carolina) Nicole Daggy: 2 x national medalist (Grand Valley) Liz Huber: 2 x national medalist (Michigan State) Calen Boyd: 4 x national medalist (Bethel College) Chris Scott: national champion (Eastern Michigan) Efferim Grettenberger: national medalist (Albion) David Hairston: national medalist (LCC, MSU) Alex Mishler: national medalist (Grand Valley) Ricardo Dabney: national medalist Kevin Hughs: national medalist (Michigan) Josh Colver: national medalist (Jackson CC) 18 FEBRUARY 2011

Training And Traveling Coach Robert Hollingsworth is surrounded by members of the Great Lakes Track Club, the defending AAU Junior Olympics indoor champs, who defended their title in early February in Bloominton, Ill.

who believed in him. While attending El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz Academy in Lansing, he was discovered by Hollingsworth. Moorer won and became a part of the team. Moorer brought with him an attitude that had caused problems in school, and Hollingsworth found himself faced with a tough-to-handle youngster. Everything came to a head at the 2005 Junior Olympics in New Orleans. The team was staying at the Holy Sisters of Mercy convent for free, so Hollingsworth wanted to be sure none of his athletes did anything to disrupt the nuns. Moorer didn’t comply. “He was in his room rapping and cursing at the top of his lungs,” Hollingsworth said. Hollingsworth went to Moorer’s room and told him to keep it down. Moore basically ignored him and continued rapping and cursing. “I told him to chill, man, I’m not doing anything bad,” Moorer said. Hollingsworth then made a tough decision. He told Moorer to return to Michigan the next day, basically kicking him off the team for the biggest meet of the year. “No way did I think he was going to do that,” Moorer said. “I was one of his best guys, and we were so far from home that I never expected to be sent home.” Moorer did not speak to Hollingsworth for a few months. One day their paths crossed as Moorer was working out. Moorer tried to ignore

Hollingsworth, who came to him and said, “I want you to be a part of the team.” Moorer accepted the offer. Six years later, he realizes that Hollingsworth did the right thing. “If that hadn’t happened, I think I would be just like all the rest of the guys in the neighborhood, hustling and doing all sorts of things,” Moorer said. “And I don’t regret what I did in New Orleans, either, because it helped me become the person that I am today. “If I were put in the same situation again, there is no question that I wouldn’t do what I did back then.” Moorer, 20, who works at Netflix in Lansing, is a six-time national champion and is running for the Lansing Community College track and field team. But he remains a part of the Great Lakes team and remains devoted to Hollingsworth. “When I got good, I had other coaches try and recruit me to their teams, but there is no way I would ever leave Coach,” Moorer said. “He was the one who was there when I wasn’t any good and believed in me.” In 1995, Hollingsworth was facing some stressful times. He was going through a divorce, and he wondered how much his commitment to the track team was affecting his personal life. He began to question if it all was even worth it any more. “I had two things to think about,” he said. “One, I didn’t have the money to continue to send the kids to the Junior Olympics. And two, we didn’t have as many kids as we used to.”

Photography MIKE MAJOR

Abbey Moran: 2 x national champion (LCC/CMU)


“We’ve only missed going to the Junior Olympics once, but it seems like we come close every year. It seems like we never have the money. Then, out of the blue, somebody comes through and helps us at the last minute.” ROBERT HOLLINGSWORTH

Hollingsworth needed both to continue. “All of a sudden, I was getting kids from all over – not just Lansing,” he said. “They were driving down from Clare and Ovid-Elsie and Perry.” That took care of the second part, but there remained the issue of finances. That year, tennis professional Todd Martin of Lansing got involved. The Lansing State Journal had published a story on Hollingsworth and his team and mentioned how it lacked funds. When Martin read the story, it caught his interest. “He contacted us and asked how much it cost to send each kid,” Hollingsworth said. “I told him, and I could hear him figuring it out, and I thought he might send us enough money to sponsor one or two kids. “I told some of the parents about it.

Naturally, they became excited. A few weeks passed, and they kept asking me about it, but I hadn’t heard anything back. Then, one day an envelope arrived in the mail with a check for $7,000 to be used for general purposes.” Hollingworth had his answers. “At that time, it was as if God spoke to me and said, ‘Is that what you needed?’ Hollingsworth said. “There are two kinds of coaches. One, the kind who have superior talent and just sit back and watch. And two, one that is interested in development. I think that’s a real coach.” - Robert Hollingsworth. The words “devoted” and “committed” might not be strong enough to describe Hollingsworth’s attitude toward coaching and teaching his athletes. He does not get paid for the 10-month-a-year job

and spends between $5,000 and $10,000 of his own money to fund the program. Why, you ask? Well, it dates back to when Hollingsworth was in elementary school, and some children did not have money to eat lunch on a daily basis. Even at a young age, Hollingsworth was troubled by what he saw, and he said a prayer to God. “I said, ‘If you help me, I’ll do something when I get older so kids won’t have to go to school hungry,’ ” he said. In 1979, he became active in an Outreach for Youth program, and from there he began the Great Lakes Track Club. “When I was 19, God lit the light for me,” Hollingsworth said. For Hollingsworth, a former track star at Eastern High School, the Great Lakes Track Club and its athletes are his life. He wouldn’t have it any other way, though he wouldn’t mind if things ran a bit smoother. “I guess if I could wish for one thing, it would be to find someone who has the same commitment and passion that I have,” Hollingsworth said. A willingness to fund that commitment and passion wouldn’t hurt, either. H

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Spartans Make Strides On Field, In Classroom

This past fall, two of Eric Gordon’s dreams were realized. “I came here to get a degree and be on the football team and to help win a Big Ten Championship,” he said. While he said it’s difficult to say which moment felt sweeter, Gordon and six of his teammates didn’t have to do that. They now have a Big Ten Championship ring and a degree from Michigan State University to display. “It’s a dream come true,” he said. Having a high graduation rate among student-athletes means a lot to MSU, too. Even though winning a share of the Big Ten title, finishing with school’s first 11-win season and playing in the Capital One Bowl do a lot for MSU’s national recognition in the athletic world, staying near the top of its class with student-graduation rate is just as crucial. Under Coach Dantonio’s tenure, it’s a process that begins before the football players step into Spartan Stadium for a game; it’s a mentality where promising diplomas is equally important as promising championships. “The first thing he ever said to us was that 20 FEBRUARY 2011

academics comes first,” Gordon said. “That’s what we’re here for – an education.” The mantra he preaches holds credence, for in four years as head coach, 54 of his players have received their undergraduate degrees. And during the 2010 season, 13 players were named to the 2010 Academic All-Big Ten Team. “Education is key to everbody’s success, ultimately, wherever they come from,” Dantonio said. “Guys make it through four or five years; there’s no attrition in that. They stay and make it through.” And most of the ones who don’t graduate in that time frame continue to come back to MSU and take classes to work toward their degrees, he said. This support for student athletes isn’t unique to football; there are seven academic coordinators who help with the 25 sports offered at MSU, said Todd Edwards, director of

academic services for student athletes at MSU. Edwards has direct oversight of football. “(Student athletes) are held to different standards than other students,” he said. “There is a fairly involved system/database in conjunction with the academic community that helps us keep in check.” Edwards added student athletes don’t have the same flexibility as other students because of time constraints associated with their particular sport. For instance, it’s more difficult for a student athlete to change their major. “Most eligibility rules are in place to ensure graduation within a five-year time frame for our student-athletes,” he said. Edwards said it’s a university-wide effort to aid student athletes in earning their degree, complete with the right facilities, like The Clara Bell Smith Student Athlete Academic Center. “At the time, (The Clara Bell Smith Student Athlete Academic Center) was one of the first stand-alone student academic buildings of its kind,” Edwards said. “It’s very, very accessible and it provides extensive tutorial services.” The Clara Bell Smith Student Athlete Academic Center was built as a result of a 1997

Photography MSU ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS/REY DEL RIO

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517.694.2144 • www.holtnr.org Winners Off The Field Graduates from the 2011 MSU football team surround Head Coach Mark Dantonio: (front left to right) Colin Neely, Josh Rouse, Marcus Hyde, Josh Bodell, Nick Bendzuck, Jesse Johnson, Eric Gordon, Aaron Bates; (back row) Jason Diehl, John Stipek, D.J. Young, J’Michael Deane, Charlie Gantt, Brian Linthicum, Jon Misch, Alex Shackleton.

donation from former MSU basketball player Steve Smith. It was named after his mother. “Without question, MSU does an outstanding job in that area; counselors and coaches do an outstanding job,” Dantonio said. “The Smith Center is one of the finest facilities I’ve seen.” According to its website, The Smith Center is the largest donation to any college or university by a professional athlete. But it’s more than just facilities that create a high student-athlete graduation rate – it’s the people, too. “A lot of credit goes to the academic people who are making sure our classes are scheduled in the morning so there’s no conflict with practice,” said fullback Josh Rouse, who graduated in May 2010 but had a year of eligibility left and decided to pursue another degree. Rouse’s playing was cut short due to a neck injury suffered on special teams in the seasonopener. His teammates wore “44” decals on the backs of their helmets to honor him in the last 12 games. And when Rouse praises the academic staff, that starts at the top. Dantonio is very involved in the process as well. “I meet once a week with (the players)

academically,” he said. “Coaches also serve as guidance counselors. On my to-do list every day there’s ’academics’ and during that time, I address those concerns.” It might very well be this attention to detail that prompted Dantonio to call MSU a “pioneer in academic athletic support.” “I can name places like USC, LSU, Virginia Tech, Michigan – all places with a Michigan State connection – and (MSU) was the first place with a blueprint of how to do it,” he said. “We have better support than anywhere I’ve been around.” It’s this type of support that has players coming back, and giving back, as Smith has done. “All of us who work with students can tell many stories of students who come back some time later to say how thankful they are,” Edwards said. “We’re very fortunate to play a role in students’ lives as they transition from high school to college to adulthood; we hope and trust we’re having a positive influence.” For many players, football ends with their time at MSU – that’s why earning an education is important, Rouse said. “A lot of guys are never going to have careers in football, so they do the things necessary to make the grades.” H

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Havin’ A Ball Desmond Ferguson Is Living, Giving The Dream

Ever since he was a solo 12-year-old barber in his local neighborhood, Desmond Ferguson has wanted to own his own business. Fortunately for basketball fans, Ferguson didn’t stay in the haircut business for long. Ferguson’s height and athletic ability jumpstarted his second career, one he has yet to give up. Starting at Lansing Everett High, Ferguson has played in multiple leagues over the past 19 years. He was a member of a stellar Team Michigan AAU basketball team in high school that included Kevin Garnett. He also helped the University of Detroit Mercy to back-to-back second-round NCAA Tournament appearances before taking his talents to the next level. In 11 years as a professional, Ferguson has played overseas from the Philippines to Venezuela, with a number of stops in between. He made a brief NBA appearance for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2004 and is now a member of the Premier Basketball League’s Halifax Rainmen in Nova Scotia. But when most professional players were spending their paychecks without a second thought, Ferguson was already making plans for life after basketball. During his first professional season in Holland, Ferguson returned to his dream 22 FEBRUARY 2011

of becoming an entrepreneur. Knowing he wanted to stay involved with basketball, Ferguson came up with the idea of a niche business specializing in customizable uniforms for sports teams. Moneyball Sportswear was born. The company launched in 2002 and has spread across the country. Ferguson said his company is unique because it allows coaches to customize their team’s uniforms from scratch. The company’s uniforms are just as unique as its name. “Moneyball” was a nickname Ferguson got from having a hot hand in one of Team Michigan’s tournaments. “I was a pretty good shooter, but I was coming across halfcourt and shooting and making every shot,” Ferguson said. “Every time I would shoot, when the ball was in the air, Kevin Garnett would yell ‘Moneyball! Moneyball!’” The rest is history. When it came time to name his new business, “Moneyball” was the perfect fit. The company’s current focus is providing uniforms to various high schools, AAU and college teams. Schools from Lansing,

Saginaw, Detroit and Missouri make up a few of more than a hundred teams Moneyball represents. Ferguson said he was able to expand outside Michigan because of the relationships he created and maintained over the years he has played basketball. “That’s really what it’s all about,” Ferguson said. “We got a product that’s good and we want to make money, but we’re really focused on relationships. And the relationships I’ve been able to make over the years have really been able to help us grow throughout the country.” But Moneyball Sportswear isn’t Ferguson’s only project. He also began two summer basketball programs. One caters to the young, the other to current and former college and professional players. The Desmond Ferguson Basketball Clinic for kids ages 8-17 was founded in 2004. Ferguson said the clinic is his way of giving back to Lansing. He tries to share his basketball and life experiences with the children. Ferguson said many kids aren’t given a chance to go beyond Lansing or Michigan. He hopes showing them that a Lansing native can have success will keep their dreams alive. “Unfortunately, you have a lot of young kids in Lansing who don’t really dream big or have goals,” Ferguson said. “I was a good high school player, but I wasn’t the greatest.

Photography DesMOND FERGUSON

BY ANDREA NELSON


I wasn’t an All-American. I wasn’t that good. I just like to let them know that, if I can make it, they can do anything they want to.” Denise Campbell has been volunteering with the clinic for three years. She said the kids look up to Ferguson like he’s a superstar because he’s such a great person. The best part of the camp for Campbell is knowing her efforts leave lasting impressions on the kids. “It gives them an opportunity to experience things that they’ve never experienced before,” Campbell said. “And of course when parents see that it’s free, even if their child has never played before or wasn’t interested in basketball, it gives them a chance to try something different.”

was growing up, the only summer league available to play in was in Detroit, and he wanted to offer athletes great competition closer to home. The league is going into its eighth season this year. Players from Michigan State, Central Michigan, Oakland, Lansing Community College and many other schools compete in the league. Ferguson said for players coming out of high school, the league is a great way to play against college and pro-level athletes and improve their game. Oakland University graduate Derick Nelson played in the summer league for six years. He’s currently in his first year playing overseas in Finland and recommends the summer league to any college

Every time I would shoot, when the ball was in the air, Kevin Garnett would yell “Moneyball! Moneyball!”

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Ferguson said it feels great knowing that he’s giving back to the children of his hometown, describing it as a feeling he will always cherish. “I get joy out of seeing those kids happy, seeing them there having fun and learning something,” Ferguson said. “It gives them an outlet as opposed to playing video games at home or whatnot. That’s what my joy comes out of, seeing them happy and seeing that I can possibly make a difference in one kid’s life, let alone multiple kids.” The second summer venture Ferguson started is the Moneyball Pro-Am Summer League. The league was formed to provide current and former college and professional athletes an opportunity to play competitive basketball. Ferguson said when he

athlete. Nelson said the extra competition helped him develop as a player by giving him a chance to test his talent against players from bigger schools, as well as professionals. “Playing against such talented players forces you to get better as the summer goes along,” Nelson said. “You don’t want to be embarrassed out on the court so you have to step up your game. It helps show where the weaknesses lie.” Ferguson founded his own company, began two summer sports programs and has played basketball professionally for over a decade. For many of those years, he’s done all that at once. Ferguson said it gets hectic, but his passion for basketball keeps him going. He’s living his dream. And there’s no doubt that his passion, excitement and dedication to the game make a lasting impression on everyone he encounters. “Desmond is a great person,” Nelson said. “He has always looked out for me and others my age like little brothers. He has always been there for advice when it was needed, and of course he gave us all somewhere to play during the summer in Lansing. He is definitely a role model in my eyes because of the way he gives back to where he came from, and I respect that so much.” Ferguson said he wanted to play basketball professionally for 12 years. He’s currently in his 11th season. Ferguson said he wants to play one more year before calling it quits. But he never knows how far his love for basketball will take him. For now, he’ll continue it all. He’s living the life his 12-year-old self could only dream. H

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Snow Do About It Area Ski Scene Still Vibrant Despite Tough Economy BY DAN KILBRIDGE

There’s nothing tangible about it, but almost everyone who has a passion for downhill skiing can describe the sensation. It gnaws throughout the warm days of summer, an almost insufferable feeling of want. The itch grows and grows, until one can finally feel the wind against their face and the snow underneath their skis – an almost religious experience. For skiers in Mid-Michigan, it can be a tough itch to scratch. With the nearest ski hill located 45 miles from Lansing, it takes plenty of time, dedication and money to stay involved with the sport. But skiers are a persistent bunch. Many describe themselves as fanatical. Despite the obstacles, they find a way. While local equipment shops have shut down and teams and organizations have disbanded, others continue to spring up in their place. Whether it’s through a competitive racing organization or just one to two family trips up north, the sport of skiing survives in Mid-Michigan through the persistence of its participants.

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Many people haven’t even heard of the Michigan State alpine ski team. Perhaps that’s 24 FEBRUARY 2011

because they ditch campus and carpool north six weekends each January and February. A member of the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association, MSU is a club team which races against schools such as Michigan, Central Michigan, Grand Valley State, Western Michigan, Alma and Notre Dame. Races are held Saturday and Sunday mornings – slalom one day, giant slalom the other – at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, roughly a three-hour drive from campus. The 38 members on this year’s team have various backgrounds and experience in the sport, which, according to senior team President Abby Fix, is exactly what makes the experience so special. “I think what I like best about ski team is that we take people of all abilities,” Fix said. “You have the people who are really competitive, and you have the people who don’t know how to ski when they join. You have such a wide range of skiers as it is, and everyone just wants to help each other out on the hill.”

Team members pay $375 in dues, which include USCSA racing fees, a lift ticket each race day and a share of the gas. In order to promote team unity, different team members are paired each weekend. They stay in motel rooms near Crystal Mountain once they arrive, often bunking with seven or eight fellow teammates. “You get to know people really fast,” Fix said. “Sleeping on the floor or spooning someone, those are usually your options.” While the team promotes itself in various ways on campus during Welcome Week and throughout the fall semester, word-of-mouth seems to work the best. Fix raced for East Grand Rapids High and first heard about the team through a friend who had joined the previous year. “I get to have fun outside every weekend and ski, and I love to free ski,” Fix said. “That’s what I enjoy. I could care less about what I get in racing – I don’t even check my scores.” While some do it for the overall experience, others join primarily to continue racing competitively. Junior packaging major Brett Nantau caught wind of the team his sophomore year and usually places in the top 10 of all competitors. He strips down to a Spandex outfit to increase speed called a GS Suit and thoroughly inspects the racing course before each run. “I loved racing in high school, so I definitely


oubt

FEBRUARY 2011

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snow doubt about it

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wanted to do it in college,” Nantau said. “It’s a great experience. It makes you feel like an NCAA athlete, even though it’s not an accredited sport, when you race against teams like Notre Dame and Michigan. When we go to Regionals, Wisconsin has a team. And Minnesota has a team. So it’s as competitive as you make it.” The MSU ski team also serves as a networking tool for college-aged kids who love the sport. By pairing distinct personalities with a common bond, connections are formed and lifetime friendships made. Once Fix graduates this spring, she plans on moving to Colorado and living with two friends she met through the MSU ski team. “I think ski team opened up my opportunities to meet people that feel the same way about the sport as I do,” Fix said. “It’s people who enjoy skiing multiple times a year, and it’s a lifestyle for them. It’s not just a hobby.”

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While one East Lansing-based ski team is thriving, another is no longer. East Lansing High had a membership of roughly 30 as recently as 2005, but participation dwindled until it finally bottomed out in the winter of 2009. It’s not as though the Trojans weren’t competitive. Jenn Cleary qualified for the state meet during the team’s last season. But by that

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Brighton High coach Greg Normand welcomed East Lansing’s remaining athletes to train with his team at Mt. Brighton during the week. Normand, president of the Mt. Brighton Division in the Southeastern Michigan Ski League, even moved practice back an hour from the normally scheduled time to accommodate members from East Lansing. This season, East Lansing became a co-op team with Brighton. And the remaining six athletes from East Lansing are able to compete in league races. “The team voted for it. We had a great run with the kids and got (the co-op) set up for two years,” Normand said. “They’re nice kids and we have fun with them. It’s nice to see them have an opportunity.”

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While racing may be down, interest in the sport is on the rise according to Trey Ouss, a manager at Summit Sports in East Lansing, which specializes in skiing and other outdoor activities. Despite the economy, Summit’s business has grown each year since it opened in 2004. “Our business has been fantastic,” Ouss said. “Even last year when everybody was down, we were still solid. The interest in skiing is still there.

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time interest had dwindled. The following season, with just three prospective members according to former coach Hugh Potter, the team folded. While skiing is an expensive sport, Potter says he doesn’t believe the economy played a big factor. Rather, a lack of local options means kids don’t grow up skiing with their parents as they used to. During the 1970s there was a local option in the Lansing Ski Club, a small hill located off Park Lake and Lake Lansing roads. East Lansing’s team trained there, while countless others learned the ropes of the sport at the close, affordable ski hill. “When the Lansing Ski Club was there, people were able to ski at a local place,” Potter said. “And what that meant is they got the bug. So people would then take their kids skiing up on the weekend. As a result, you got all these ski families.” The skiers at East Lansing High who still wanted to race found a way.

Racing has been down because of the economy. But it’s starting to come back a little bit.” While racing equipment tends to be more expensive, Ouss attributes the steady business to families who ski at places like Boyne, Nubs Nob and Caberfae Peaks on the weekends. Improved equipment has also been a big factor. Skis used to be better-suited for specific climates and snow conditions, which didn’t bode well for the ever-changing Michigan weather. Now, all-mountain skis designed to handle a variety of conditions make things much easier for those around the area. “In the last two to three years, skis have gotten a little bit wider. You can have a ski that’s easier to get in and out of turns,” Ouss said. “The benefit of the wide skis in Michigan is that it’s a lot of inconsistent snow all the time, and the wider platform makes it a lot easier. “It’s easier for beginners and easier for intermediates to improve and ski better. It’s

Photography TAMERA NELSON

blast, you’re in the wrong place.


like golfing. Everybody gets better with the better equipment.”

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One group which has done just fine no matter the equipment is the Okemos High ski team. The boys team has reached the Division 1 State Finals in three of the past five years, finishing fourth in 2007. The Chieftains take the hour-long bus trip to Mt. Brighton four times a week, with practice Mondays and Wednesdays and races Tuesdays and Thursdays. Athletes must purchase a $390 season pass, while bus trips and equipment are

we were kind of worried about it. But we all just love skiing. Having gates to train in makes it a lot more exciting than just free-skiing. It’s really nice to be able to do that.” First-year coach Chad Buehler juggles team duties, instructing at Boyne on the weekends and a full-time job at Unishippers. Buehler, an instructor in Utah for 15 years who still races competitively, became involved with the team through his son Beau, a junior. Buehler figured he could enhance the already-successful program through techniqueoriented coaching and training trips like the one Okemos took to Boyne Mountain in midJanuary. The dedication on everyone’s part is

Fun On And Off The Slopes The Okemos High ski team prepares for another trip to Mt. Brighton, their winter home away from home.

funded mostly by a strong boosters program, along with annual pay-to-play fees. Finances aside, the team requires a very strong time commitment. The team bus leaves at 4:30 p.m. for practice, at 3 p.m. on race days and doesn’t return to Okemos until after 9 p.m. That doesn’t deter dedicated members like junior Haley Crites, who began skiing at age 3. She’s following in the footsteps of older brothers Josh and Zach, who both skied for Okemos while they were in high school. “It’s really nice because we’re just thankful to have a ski team,” Crites said. “It’s so expensive. And with the school’s budget and everything,

paying off. Through January 25 the boys had won every race in the 11-team Mt. Brighton Division, while the girls had won all but two. Though the wins are impressive, there’s a lot more in play for the group of 21 athletes. “I always said ‘Hey, listen, we’re skiing,’” Buehler said. “If you’re gonna get kind of whacked out about things going right or things going wrong, take into consideration what you’re doing – trying to have fun. Skiing is supposed to be fun. So I have a really hard time trying to get crazy serious about the whole deal. If you’re not having a blast, you’re in the wrong place anyways.” H

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FOREVER YOUNG Running, Relationships Helped Icon Improve With Age BY TIM WEATHERHEAD

28 FEBRUARY 2011


Photography DANE ROBISON

For a longtime runner like Dick Young, one would assume a ceremony with the historical significance of carrying the Olympic Torch would be the pinnacle of his athletic career. Not so. Not when he had many other memories in a life that ended on Jan. 11 after a nine-year battle with prostate cancer – when he was 82 years Young. Young’s opportunity to run with the Torch came in 2002 in the lead-up to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He took the flame from Tim Staudt and gave it to Tom Izzo. “He had the wall of medals in his house from all of the races he won,” his son, Todd Young, said. “But that Olympic Torch was displayed in the darkest, most-hidden corner of his house, while the others were in well-lit places. “It’s a grand prize. It sat there because he didn’t earn it. He earned the 5K medals.” Dick Young earned professional respect as a civil engineer and spent 37 years with the Michigan Department of Transportation, designing bridges. But the most important bridges in anyone’s life are the ones they build with people. A memorial service on Jan. 22 at Holt Christian Church was evidence of that for someone who came to running and triathlons later in life – and to deeper relationships along the route. “We tried to introduce our dad as a man,” his daughter, Amy Charlie, said. “The running community knew him as the quirky little guy who came to all the races. That was only the last 20 years. A lot of people didn’t know him as a man, just for the running.” A lot of people didn’t know something else. They weren’t aware that the white-bearded character who made them smile was battling another opponent. “I can’t believe how many of his good friends didn’t know he was sick,” Todd Young said. “When the cancer metastasized in his bones, he had to have been having pain. But he didn’t complain. He wanted to get up and go.” Indeed, many of Dick Young’s friends, most of whom were fellow runners, couldn’t have known. Even as an octogenarian, he remained a fixture at running events around town. “He was an interesting old guy,” friend and fellow runner Bob Ulrich said. “I called him quirky. He had a big, white Santa Claus beard and an old-fashioned bucket hat. He had a little shuffle step and didn’t run very fast. But he was steady.” The morning of the memorial service, Ulrich recounted a story of running with Young at the DeWitt 5K Trail Run several years ago.

“It had rained all night preceding the race,” Ulrich said. “The course was a mess. The grass was slippery. The trails were slick, muddy and very treacherous. And there was standing water in low areas all along the trail. “Shortly after the race began, I came upon Dick and his patented, steady shuffle step. I decided to run with him and keep him company. To be honest, I wanted to make sure he didn’t get hurt. “As we came down the final hill and the finish line was in sight, Dick suddenly burst into a full run and passed me just as we crossed the finish line – always the competitor.” Even when his shuffle step betrayed him – like at the MSU Race for the Place a few years ago, when he tripped over a curb, broke his glasses and cut his face – he kept fighting. “We went back to help him and the first thing Dick said was, ‘Help me cross the finish line,’” Ulrich said. “He wouldn’t let anyone give him first aid. We helped him get across. Then, he got in an ambulance and got to the hospital.” Ulrich said mental toughness and the desire to finish a race were the reasons so many runners looked up to Young. “You thought he was a weak, little old man, but he was a fierce fighter,” Ulrich said. “If more people had the gumption and fortitude, getting out there and practicing every day. Lots of people looked up to him as an inspiration.” Young’s passion for running was born out of a desire to save money when gas prices soared in the early 1980s. He began biking to work, which spawned a desire to exercise and, eventually, a love for running that filled a void after his wife’s death. “God has a really weird way of giving you what you need, and that was what he needed,” his daughter said. “Throughout his life, he always had what he needed at the time. After my mother was gone, he needed that support group to survive.” To survive, to thrive and to grow, even as his body withered. But that’s what sports, especially activities like running, can do. “Dad worked awful hard all of his life,” his son said. “He seemed to have few friendships because he was always at work or working at something. “The running community gave him camaraderie and friendship. That changed his entire outlook on life. Certainly, he was more of a family man

Young At Heart Octogenarian runner Dick Young kept running well into a nine-year battle with prostate cancer.

after he started running than he was previously, when Amy and I were growing up.” His sister felt the same way. A transformation late in her dad’s life was a nice thing to see. “I was already grown and gone,” Amy Charlie said. “So that kind of behavior, I didn’t see it until much later in life, until my mother died six years ago. When my mother was gone and I had to spend more time with my dad, I started to notice him as a man and not as my father. “People would come up to me and tell me how great he was. He wasn’t that great growing up. He didn’t have friends and do all this stuff.” Father and son didn’t truly connect until very recently when Dick moved in with Todd. “I sat with him at the table and we used Google Earth,” the son said. “He took me back to Miriam, Indiana, his hometown. We walked the footbridge from his fraternity to his classroom at Purdue. “We ran the course down Grand River, where he carried the Olympic Torch. We even ran the San Diego Marathon in about 10 minutes!” Todd Young added that the last few months of his father’s life were a blessing. “It gave us a chance to get reacquainted,” a son said. “My dad became a friend.” H FEBRUARY 2011

29


news + notes

Young Men, Women Compete In Regional Tuneups BY CHIP MUNDY

The Clinton County Boxing Club could have as many as nine boxers competing February 19 on an amateur card at Bath High School.

Packing A Punch Amanda “Bobby” Cooper will compete for the Clinton County Boxing Club on Feb. 19.

EAST LANSING When former Michigan State football coach Nick Saban led Alabama to a 49-7 victory over the Spartans in the Capital One Bowl, it was the first time since 1981 that an ex-MSU head football coach faced the Spartans as the leader of another team. On September 26, 1981, Michigan State edged Bowling Green, 10-7. The Falcons were led by Denny Stolz, the Spartans’ head coach from 1973-75. Prior to that, you have to go back to Harry Kipke, the only man to serve as head football coach at Michigan and MSU. Kipke was in East Lansing in 1928 and back in Ann Arbor,

The bouts, all sanctioned by USA Boxing, will be the final tuneups for many local amateur boxers who will take part in the regionals in Kentucky at the end of the month. Local boxers expected to take part are Travis Vaillancourt (Bath), Chris Fry (Bath), Amanda Cooper (Bath), Lindsey Soderburg (Holt), Chad Rouse (Haslett), Matt Fedawa (St. Johns), Antonio Ursta (Lansing), Levi Simms (Lansing) and Ronica Rodriquez (Lansing). The doors will open at 5 p.m., and the action is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $6 for students and $10 for adults, who may purchase tickets in advance for $8. For more information, contact Bob Cooper at (517) 202-4885. H

where he had played, from 1929 to 1937. Kipke was 0-1 with the Spartans against U-M and 3-4-2 with the Wolverines against MSU, including losses in his final four games of the rivalry. Spencer Thompson, a senior midfielder for the Michigan State men’s soccer team, was selected by the Toronto FC in the second round of the Major League Soccer supplemental draft. Thompson, a two-time All-Big Ten selection, was the 26th overall pick in the draft. He had nine goals and 20 assists in his career with Michigan State, including a team-high eight assists this season.

Do you have News + Notes? Please send them to news@SportLansing.com 30 FEBRUARY 2011

HASLETT When the Haslett boys swimming team defeated Eaton Rapids/Charlotte 112-72 last month, it marked the 400th career victory for coach Bob Oliver. Oliver, who has directed both boys and girls teams, began coaching in 1977 at Saginaw MacArthur. Since then, he has coached at Saginaw Eisenhower (and Saginaw Heritage) and Williamston. He has coached the Haslett boys since the 20012002 season and the Haslett girls for three seasons.

IONIA Ionia High School boys cross country coach Chris Young was named the National Coach of the Year by National Federation of State High School Associations Coaches Association. Ionia, the 2009 Division 2 state champion, finished fifth last fall and won the Greater Lansing Invitational for the second consecutive year.

LANSING The Lansing area will be well represented this summer in the 31st annual Michigan High School Football Coaches Association all-star game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant. Those area players invited to play in the game, scheduled for June 25, are Waverly lineman Ramadan Ahmeti, Fulton running back/punter Jared Barton, Ithaca receiver Luke Capen, DeWitt quarterback Caleb Higbie, Sexton running back Onaje Miller, Williamston receiver/defensive back Dylan Monette, Holt lineman Kenny Rogers and St. Johns fullback/linebacker Colin Wilson. For many years, Thirsty Thursdays ($2 for draft beer or soda) have been a popular promotion for the Lansing Lugnuts, our local entry in the Class A Midwest League. This year, the Lugnuts are offering the $1 Deal Day for every Tuesday home game. Hot dogs, ice cream sandwiches and 16-ounce sodas will cost just $1 at Cooley Law School Stadium. The first $1 Deal Day will be held April 26, and there are seven more on the schedule.

Photography J. Robin SUMBLER

Boxers Back In Bath


finish line

Chemistry Class Leading The Team, Then The Big Ten BY KIRK COUSINS

A team’s success, the kind that produces 11-win seasons and Big Ten championships, is more chemistry than astrology. It isn’t about stars – four- and five-star recruits. It’s about the way players blend and relate to each other. Our coach, Mark Dantonio, said as much before last season began. During two-a-days, in our evening meetings, he said something he hadn’t said in my first three years on the team. “We have something special,” he told us. “I don’t know how many games we’ll win. But there’s talent here. And there’s leadership.” Sure enough, he was right. We had a corps of guys who’d played a lot when we were 6-7 the year before. They had been emotional leaders, the spirit of the team. They’d played against Notre Dame and Penn State and remembered those losses. Guys like Greg Jones, Joel Foreman, Charlie Gantt, Mark Dell and Eric Gordon had been there before. They knew what we had to do to win. I’d been there, too. And I learned something important my sophomore year. In the Big Ten, there was very little difference between teams that finished near the top and finished near the bottom. I saw we could play with anybody. And we could lose to anybody if we weren’t together – on and off the field. In 2010, we were together. We will be together again this fall. We just had to learn through experience. When the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl last year, I spent some time trying to figure out what made the Saints great. I wanted to know what they’d found that turned them into champions. Dan Roushar, our offensive line coach, is good friends with a coach on the Saints staff. He told me the Saints had a great locker room. I remembered that and realized a great locker room was something we could control. We may not have the 5-star recruits of other teams, but we could have a stronger bond than other teams. And I set out to make this happen. That doesn’t mean everyone had to hang out together every weekend. All the guys on our 32 FEBRUARY 2011

team aren’t the same. It meant that guys needed to relate to each other, understand each other and pull for each other. When that happened, we played harder and more focused because we were fighting for the guys next to us. Most fans never see that. They say the Spartans overachieved or underachieved. But it starts long before the first game. It starts with a spirit of togetherness that’s developed way back in the winter. You can’t put a price on that in tough times. You see it when a freshman can go to a senior and ask for help, knowing he will receive it. It’s when a senior isn’t self-absorbed and when he thinks about the team over his own success. Developing this isn’t as easy as it sounds. In 2007, when my freshman class arrived, we didn’t feel this kind of connection. But the 2010 team wasn’t segregated by class or status. We were all in it together. As a captain, that’s my job. I’m trying to create that environment 24/7. It’s about bringing guys closer and inspiring them to a higher level of play. It takes someone to challenge guys and encourage them to be all they can be. I did that this past off-season. And I wasn’t the only one. We had many guys who were willing to lead. We will again this year. And it doesn’t always come from star players. It comes from people other players respect, people like Larry Caper, who operates in a first-class manner. He isn’t enamored with himself. He’s about the team. Larry will be a junior this year, so leadership isn’t just for seniors. It’s for winners. We’ll seek to develop more leaders for this season. Max Bullough, among others, will be asked to step into a larger role and lead others. I remember my first game back in 2007. We had a guest speaker the night before the season-opener against UAB, Coach Dantonio’s first game. Coach Tom Izzo brought a former player of his to speak to our team. He stood in front of us and introduced Mateen Cleaves. I’d never heard a coach talk about a former

Captain Cousins MSU senior quarterback Kirk Cousins provides leadership 24 hours a day, on and off the field.

player the way Coach Izzo did about Mateen. By the end of Mateen’s talk, I said, “That’s who I want to be some day. I want to have that kind of an impact.” As a leader, I’ve tried to emulate the way Mateen operated and brought guys together. I still hope to do that in terms of raising others’ level of play. It isn’t what someone says you are when you get here. It’s what you are when you leave. Greg Jones was a three-star recruit. I was a two. Yet together, we played at a level high enough to win a championship. And the work’s not done. We’ll be very good again. Not strictly because of talented players, but because of people. It doesn’t start the first week of September. It’s an everyday thing, and you better believe it’s happening today. H

Photography MATTHEW MITCHELL/MSU ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

There’s something the most avid Michigan State football fan can’t understand, something only an insider can know.


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sport: Febraury 2011