Why do we live here?

David Keller

David Keller

by DAVID KELLER

School Board Trustee

Rockford Public Schools

I asked myself that exact question a few months ago when the snow was coming down and we hadn’t seen sunshine in several days. In addition to the winter season dragging on, our state economy was heading south, along with many of Michigan’s residents to look for warmer weather and better opportunities. So why do we live here? Why have we picked West Michigan, in this community of Rockford to reside and raise a family?

The answer for me is… my children. This is where I want to raise and educate my children. My wife has lived in Rockford her entire life, I’ve been here for the last 20 years, and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We have a great community and public school system. While I may be biased, there are not many school districts in this state that can boast the accomplishments that have made Rockford Public Schools the great school district that it is.

Rockford Public Schools (RPS) and its students are exemplary. To note just a few accolades and accomplishments, I didn’t have to dig too deep. Every RPS building has been recognized as a State and/or Exemplary National Blue Ribbon School-RPS is the only Class A school district in Michigan to earn this recognition. For four straight years, every school building in the Rockford school district has earned straight A’s through the Michigan Education YES! Accountability system-only one other school district in West Michigan has earned this recognition.

Rockford High School has had eight students recognized as National Merit Finalists over the past two years. One hundred and one Rockford students competed in this year’s Michigan Math Prize Test, nine of these students made the top 1,000 (out of approximately 12,000 taking the test) and our teams finished first and second in our division.

RPS had 12 teams qualify for the state competition of the Odyssey of the Mind program. Ten of these teams “placed” in the competition and five of these teams qualified for the world competition (the entire state of Michigan qualified only 15 teams to the world competition).

Our band and choir students consistently earn the highest ratings at all competitions. They have performed in such places as Carnegie Hall (N.Y.), Mormon Tabernacle (Utah) and events in Washington, D.C. During Rockford’s academic awards ceremony held in April earlier this year, over 1,000 students from Rockford’s freshman through senior class received academic awards-quite an accomplishment.

In the athletic arena, our students have achievements that many schools would be envious of. Rockford has accumulated 144 conference championships, 68 district championships, 70 regional championships, and 26 state championships in various team sports. Some of the recent state championship notables were in football, wrestling and water polo. We have also had many students compete to win individual state championships in their field. I don’t have enough room to list all of the conference, district and regional championships held by many of our Rockford sports teams. You need only to visit the high school gym and view the east wall to see all of these accomplishments-pretty amazing stuff.

All of these accomplishments may not otherwise have been obtainable without the hard work and dedication of our teachers, administration, support staff, coaches and volunteers. These individuals have high expectations for our students and have the ability to bring out the best in them. Not enough can be said about their commitment to our students.

And enough can’t be said about the community and the support that they give to Rockford Public Schools and our students. The bond that was passed in May 2008 will benefit RPS for years to come, and as you can see when you drive around our community, new construction has already started at many of our schools. This community is made up of many wonderful families that care about their children’s education and the Rockford school system. Education starts at home, and without having parents who stay highly involved with their children’s education, Rockford wouldn’t have the student success that we have today.

As I’m sitting here outside on my deck writing this article in the warm spring sunshine, winter seems long removed and I’m thinking to myself… all of the above, that’s why I live here. There aren’t many communities in the state similar to Rockford, and I want to extend my thanks to our Rockford teachers, administration, staff, volunteers, families, and all of the other individuals who are involved with and support Rockford Public Schools. You are what make this community of Rockford a great place to be.

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Kasper commits to Elmhurst College

Katie Kasper of Rockford has made a commitment to attend Elmhurst College in Illinois next fall where she will also play volleyball for the Bluejays.

“Katie was our first commit to the volleyball team this year and it was a sign of good things to come,” said Elmhurst Head Coach Julie Hall. “She is a six-foot lefty that can block and swing and has the attitude of wanting to prove herself. She will be a great addition to not only the volleyball team but to the college as well. I know Katie will be very involved, and as a premed major, will keep our high academic reputation solid. We’ll keep working on her vertical leap so she will become an even stronger threat. She is the first true right-side hitter we have had in a while, so there won’t be much positional training to do over her career. The fact that she can swing all across the net just adds to her offensive threats.”

Kasper earned two varsity letters in volleyball from Rockford High School. She was voted her team’s Most Improved Player and the November 2007 Athlete of the Month during her junior year. She served as team captain during her senior year.Also a success in the classroom, Kasper was a member of the National Honor Society.

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Rockford crew earns distinction as Michigan champions

Rockford’s men’s lightweight eight team of (front, l–r) Kyle Brown, Kylie Torres, Isaac Blenman; (back, l–r) Tyler Truxton, Troy Paskiewicz, Josh Houn, Tyler McDaniel, Sam Berndt and Trevor Holloway helps the Rams to victory.

Rockford’s men’s lightweight eight team of (front, l–r) Kyle Brown, Kylie Torres, Isaac Blenman; (back, l–r) Tyler Truxton, Troy Paskiewicz, Josh Houn, Tyler McDaniel, Sam Berndt and Trevor Holloway helps the Rams to victory.

by CANDY BURRIS

The Rockford crew team was prepared and went to Kensington Metro Park with one goal in mind:  to win the state title. They knew the competition would be tough, especially with powerhouses like Ann Arbor Pioneer and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in attendance. But the Rams charged forward and, at the end of the day, they stood tall and victorious.

Of the 13 boats that were entered, all made it to the finals-all which tallied points for the Rams. To make it fair for every participating school, only one boat was allowed per race. So, even though Rockford often had two boats in their lineup throughout the year, only one could be entered for this state regatta. The Rams assembled their best and started claiming the state champion distinction as each boat crossed the finish line. When all was over, the Rams earned seven first-place finishes, one second-place finish, and one third-place finish.

Staking claim to first place and earning the title of Michigan state champs were:

  •             men’s double-Tim Carlson, Sebastian Sirecki;
  •             women’s senior four-Michelle Kuhn, Darcy Peck, Olivia Kacsits,          Christine Kasper, coxswain Jenny Denike;
  •             women’s junior four-Maddie Anderson, Megan Korson, Camille Pulver, Rebecca Markam, coxswain Danille Frick;
  •             women’s lightweight eight-Raechel Wrona, Shelby Jacobs, Richelle Huizinga, Molly Guthrie, Chris Scoffield, Clara Harding, Katina Goad, Jane Vandervelde, coxswain Dani Teft;
  •             women’s lightweight four-Wrona, Harding, Jacobs, Scoffield, coxswain Lauren Fay;
  •             women’s junior eight-Anderson, Markam, Pulver, M. Korson, Kara Korson, Kendra Bilardello, Lena Kleinoeder, Sarah Lemanski, coxswain Frick;
  •             women’s junior four-M. Korson, Markam, Anderson, Pulver, coxswain Frick;
  •             men’s junior eight-Andrew Troyanowski, Zach Troyer, Ian Sims, Nate Harrison, Zach Haugen, Jeff Gleghorn, TJ Jacobs, Austin Burris, and coxswain Andrew Saelens.

Silver medal winners were the women’s senior eight boat of Shannon Schmutz, Alicia Dickinson, Olivia Neilsen, Marie Albano, Michelle Kuhn, Darcy Peck, Olivia Kacsits, Christine Kasper, and coxswain Jenny Denike.

Bronze medal winners were the men’s pair boat of Levi Pulver and Landon Burris.

The Rams will compete in two different regattas this weekend. Four of the boats are heading to the Scholastic Rowing Association National Regatta in New Jersey (women’s senior four, women’s junior four, women’s lightweight eight, women’s freshman eight), while the remaining team members will be competing at the Michigan High School Rowing Championship at Stony Creek Metro Park in Utica, Mich.

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Varsity softball team defeats Jenison 2-0 on senior night

Celebrating a senior-night win is (l–r) Alex Fulbright, Coach Casey Dunham, Sadie Jensen, Taylor Sergent, Assistant Coach Ralph Munger, and Carly Shutich.

Celebrating a senior-night win is (l–r) Alex Fulbright, Coach Casey Dunham, Sadie Jensen, Taylor Sergent, Assistant Coach Ralph Munger, and Carly Shutich.

It was the same old story for the Rockford Rams varsity softball team Monday afternoon, May 11, as they once again defeated the Jenison Wildcats by the score of 2-0.

This time, the Rams got it done in the standard seven innings, unlike the 13-inning marathon the teams engaged in earlier this season. Although the length of the game was different this time around, there were a number of similarities besides the obvious final tally. The game once again featured stellar pitching by Tricia Graham, some outstanding plays by the Ram defense, and a couple of big hits at key times to propel the Rams to the victory, which improved their OK Red record to 10-3 (22-5 overall), good for second place in the conference behind Hudsonville.

Graham, the Rams’ sophomore hurler, allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out seven Wildcat batters. The only serious threat she faced was in the fourth inning when Jenison got a two-out single for their first base runner of the game. After the next batter walked, Graham buckled down, got the next batter to strike out swinging to end the inning.

The Rams got on the board early in the contest thanks to another big hit by the Wildcat killer, centerfielder Lauren Pasciak. “LoLo,” who smacked the game-winning hit in the first meeting between the two teams, ripped a hard line drive toward center field, which eluded the Wildcat outfielder and made it all the way to the fence. The hit was ruled a triple, and Pasciak scored on a throwing error from the outfield to the cutoff.

The Rams clung on to the 1-0 lead for the majority of the afternoon. Junior catcher Karli Showers helped thwart a potential Jenison rally in the top of the sixth inning. With a fast runner already on second base with just one out, Showers made a spectacular diving catch of a fouled bunt attempt on the third-base side. Graham then calmly got the next batter to pop out to second baseman Taylor Sergent to end the inning.

The Rams gave themselves a little breathing room in the bottom of the sixth inning as Peyton Wells smacked a triple over the head of the right-fielder for a one-out triple. The next batter, senior third baseman Alex Fulbright, executed a perfect safety squeeze to score Wells from third and the final run of the game.

For the season, Graham is now 18-5 with an ERA of 0.83. She has struck out 280 batters while walking just 30 in over 151 innings pitched. Defensively, the Rams have committed 25 errors on the season compared to 68 by their opponents. Leading the charge offensively is Wells, the sophomore cleanup hitter. She leads the team in several categories, including batting average (0.383), RBIs (34), on-base percentage (0.457), and slugging percentage (0.630). Graham has also helped her own cause this year, providing power at the plate with nine extra-base hits, while Pasciak has eight extra-base hits. Senior shortstop and leadoff hitter Carly Shutich leads the team with 28 runs scored. Pasciak has scored 24 and right-fielder Morgan Ruchty has scored 23 times.

Rockford plays at East Kentwood on Wednesday, May 20. With a victory against the Falcons, the Rams can secure a second-place finish in the tough OK Red. Thursday, May 21, the team plays in the Mandy Tichelaar Tournament in Lowell. The following week, the Rams travel to Wayland to face the perennial power before beginning district tournament play on Saturday, May 30, at Greenville against Kenowa Hills.

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Ram rugby heads to Division III state championship game

Heading to the state championships is Rockford’s rugby team of (front, l–r) Marcus Flemming, Connor Smith, Jordan Loader, Matt Kuehl, Brady Gent, John Milewski, Max Macqueen, Aaron Plambeck, Logan Vermeer, Eric Pastula, Ryan Sciamanna; (middle) Adam Bursley, Andrew Barclay, Noah Carriere, Ben DeRyke, Scott Nadeau, Matt Nash, Joe Tennihill, Luke Counterman, Nic Williams, Curtis Day, Anthony Martinez, Dallas Hansen, Chris Zimmer, Jacob Wilson; (back) trainer Brooke Treadwell, Coach Brent Besemer, Zackary Nelson, Garrett Spaeth, Nate Baldwin, James Springvold, Erik Smoes, Clay Veldkamp, Bryan Ray, Kyle Pletzke, David Brower, Trevor Alferink, Brad Merritt, Ryan Siekman, Kyle Henry, Noah Taylor, Zachary Truskowski, Coach James Wood, Coach Mackenzie; (not pictured) Jacob Loader, Jim VanHattum and John Prussner.

Heading to the state championships is Rockford’s rugby team of (front, l–r) Marcus Flemming, Connor Smith, Jordan Loader, Matt Kuehl, Brady Gent, John Milewski, Max Macqueen, Aaron Plambeck, Logan Vermeer, Eric Pastula, Ryan Sciamanna; (middle) Adam Bursley, Andrew Barclay, Noah Carriere, Ben DeRyke, Scott Nadeau, Matt Nash, Joe Tennihill, Luke Counterman, Nic Williams, Curtis Day, Anthony Martinez, Dallas Hansen, Chris Zimmer, Jacob Wilson; (back) trainer Brooke Treadwell, Coach Brent Besemer, Zackary Nelson, Garrett Spaeth, Nate Baldwin, James Springvold, Erik Smoes, Clay Veldkamp, Bryan Ray, Kyle Pletzke, David Brower, Trevor Alferink, Brad Merritt, Ryan Siekman, Kyle Henry, Noah Taylor, Zachary Truskowski, Coach James Wood, Coach Mackenzie; (not pictured) Jacob Loader, Jim VanHattum and John Prussner.

by JAMES WOOD

This season has been no walk in the park for the defending Division I state champion Rockford Rams. With the loss of more than a full starting side of seniors from their 2008 campaign, this year’s squad has had their work cut out for them right from the get go. Younger and vastly undersized, this group has been learning that it takes nothing short of complete teamwork to put W’s on the board. Although the regular season left something to be desired, the 2009 Ram rugby team persisted and now finds itself heading to the Division III state championship game.

One of only a handful of upperclassmen, senior captain Kyle Pletzke has led the team from day one and has helped to keep things from derailing at the first sign of adversity. Pletzke has been with the club for the past four years and has seen both highs and lows.

“He helped keep morale up during the rough patches and kept everyone moving forward with purpose.” say the coaches.

In addition to Pletzke, the club will also be losing starting number eight Bryan Ray who has recently brought his game to a new level, along with starting fullback and try-saving extraordinaire Nate Baldwin, as well as rugby newcomers David Brower and Clay Veldkamp.

Even with the loss of this solid group of seniors, the Rams are looking ahead to an extremely bright future. “We have some talented guys who will be looking to fill the roles of our seniors who are moving on,” said the coaches. “Unfortunately some of our upperclassman standouts are having to miss the playoffs with injuries.”

Junior Dallas Hanson, the team’s starting flyhalf, is out with broken ribs, and backline menace junior Curtis Day has had to sit with an ankle injury.

“Our junior group on the field [Mark Flemming, James Springvold, Kyle Henry] have been playing some really solid rugby,” the coaches said. With the exception of a handful of juniors and seniors, most of the Rams’ starting lineup is comprised of underclassmen. “In any given match we may fill as many as seven to 11 of our starting sports with freshman and sophomore athletes,” said the coaches. “Seven of the spots have been filled by underclassmen on a nearly permanent basis, two of which are freshmen.”

Some of the talented freshman ruggers include Trevor Alferink, who has been one of the Rams’ strongest tacklers all season at flanker, Brady Gent at outside centre, Aaron Plambeck at scrumhalf, Jacob Wilson at prop and, although injured for most of the season but giving the team the spark they needed in the playoffs, Anthony Martinez at hoorker or number eight.

“What these young men have been able to do in conjunction with last year’s bunch is a testament that our youth program is working,” commented the coaching staff.

Sophomore starters this year include the likes of second row Andrew Barclay, prop Zack Nelson, hooker Chris “Bubba” Zimmer, scrum/flyhalf Luke Counterman, flanker Brad Merritt, and wing Adam Bursley. With such a young bunch, the Rams are looking forward to continued success in the future.

After defeating the likes of Anthony Wayne (Ohio) by a score of 24-7 and Gross Point 7-5 in last weekend’s playoff matches held at West Ottawa High School, the Rams are looking to add one more win to this season’s tally. They will be meeting up with Dearborn in the Division III state championship match this Saturday, May 23 at 11:00 a.m. All state championship matches are being held at Davenport University, 6191 Kraft Ave., Grand Rapids. The first game of the day will be kicking off at 9:00 a.m. and the last at 3:00 p.m.

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