SENIORS END HIGH SCHOOL WATER POLO CAREER WITH WINNING PLAY—Senior captains Derik Bothma, Connor Thelen, Kyle Peterson and Tyler Manikowski lift the state championship trophy. Photo by GORDON PETERSON Let’s start at the end. State championship game—end of third period—and Rockford water polo senior captain Tyler Manikowski has been struggling. At the side of the pool during the quarter break, he climbed out and said to Coach Dave McWatters, “Coach, put Eric in. He’s playing better than me”—Eric Chisholm the sophomore, Manikowski the senior. The senior captain gave way to a kid two years younger, a kid truly playing great water polo, saying, “Go, Eric. Go play. Go win this game.” With their tremendous shooters, Kentwood soon pulled ahead by two, but Rockford fought back with junior Jeff Schmitt’s three great goals, and then Kentwood scored a penalty shot to tie. Now under a minute, McWatters called time. Back at the side of the pool, he’s decided on the lineup to finish regulation time—six starters plus either Chisholm or Manikowski. The coach turned to Manikowski, who had been on the bench now for most of the fourth quarter, and said “Tyler, you’re the senior. It’s your call. Can you do it?” “Put me in, coach,” Manikowski replied. Peterson, to Bothma, to Thelen to Manikowksi is how the passing went. Manikowski had the greatest step-out to the ball he’s ever had, turned, saw the back of the net, and blew the ball past Kentwood’s great goalie, who had just moved to counter Bothma’s—and then Thelen’s—fakes. Manikowski’s two-meter defender hardly reacted. The defender was too tired. He had played every single second of the game. Coach McWatters commented, “Tyler’s unselfishness is a powerful example of what won us a state championship. Tyler calling himself out, making way for the young kid who was playing the best polo of his life, rested Tyler enough for that last minute, so he had the energy to make the greatest play of his life. Tyler’s unselfishness helped win us a state championship.” Many things go into winning a state championship. Peterson, to Bothma, to Thelen to Manikowski—that was the last play. Peterson, as he always does, set up his teammates for success. Bothma—the great shooter now because he’s also become a great passer—rose up […]
Parkside Elementary School student, Andy Hansen, 9, placed first in the 9-10-year-old age group in the 63-pound weight class at the MYWA Western Michigan regional championships recently held in Lowell. Hansen, son of Scott and Jennifer Hansen of Rockford, advances to the state championships at Michigan State University on April 4 and 5.