All three of this week's honorees have achieved some sort of first-time stardom this fall, either individually or as a team. And both Carli Snyder and Alex Grace will be back next fall to continue building on these accomplishments.
Macomb Dakota junior
(UPDATED 11/19) Snyder, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter, was an all-stater her first two seasons of high school. But she will be remembered even more for leading Macomb Dakota this fall to its first MHSAA championship in any girls sport. The Cougars defeated Temperance Bedford in three games in Saturday's Class A Final at Kellogg Arena. Snyder unofficially finished this season with 913 kills, good for seventh in the MHSAA record book since the beginning of the rally scoring era in 2004-05. Her 31 kills against Bedford were third-most for a Final during that time. Snyder already has committed to sign with the University of Florida next year. She likely will be among frontrunners for next fall's Miss Volleyball award.
Title talk: "We wanted this thing so bad. Every girl on this team wanted it so badly. Megan (Manierski) was setting the ball perfectly. She made it very easy to get kills. ... Just talking about this moment, this gym, it makes you just want to play harder than you ever have."
Winning recipe: "We've been a competitive team in practice and in games all year, so I think that helped us at that moment (in three close Finals games) when we just didn't want to lose. We refused to lose. ... We support each other no matter what. And we hustled so hard."
Shake it up: "We have some secret handshakes with other people, but mine are very complex. I don't know how we went about that. Megan and mine is from "Parent Trap," and then Megan Downey and mine, we just made it up at team dinner. We make it a bit more complex than it needs to be, but it's fun. And it's a great thing to calm us down for a game when we've played a bad one before."
Had to be a Gator: "I like warm weather. I love the coaches. I actually called Florida for my recruiting phone call because I was kinda bored one day at home and I was like, 'I got a letter from them.' I fell in love with the coaching staff, and I told my mom that I needed to go on a visit down there. It's incredible, and when I went down there I was even more in love. Even on the phone, I knew this is where I would end up. It's just that feeling. You know when you get that feeling, and it's incredible."
Saginaw Swan Valley sophomore
The Vikings' leading rusher is also one of the leading rushers in the state this season heading into Saturday's Division 4 Semifinal against Detroit Country Day. Grace has gained 2,091 yards plus run for 27 touchdowns, and needs only 109 yards and three more scores to make the MHSAA record book in both categories. He ran for 182 yards and three scores in the Vikings' Regional Final win over Croswell-Lexington. Grace took over as Swan Valley's running back this season after the graduation of his brother Johnathan, who rushed for 1,790 yards last season and now plays at Michigan Tech. Both brothers ran on Swan Valley's 400-meter relay that finished runner-up at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Track and Field Final in the spring. Alex is 6-0 and 185 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
I'd like to run like: "Even my brother. I like to look at myself as close to him. Professionally, (Minnesota Vikings back) Adrian Peterson. He's a tough runner, fast. He's strong."
Underdogs again: "The last game against Croswell, they were the No. 2 team and we were predicted to lose. But we came back and beat them. I use that underdog feeling to work harder each day."
Best brotherly advice: "Work hard, and if there are doubters, don't let them get you down."
Science and math: (My favorite classes are) biology and economics. They just come easy to me. I enjoy it."
Flint Beecher football
The Buccaneers, coached by former Michigan State and NFL standout Courtney Hawkins, were one of the final teams selected for the playoffs, at 5-4 after a 3-4 start. But Beecher advanced to this week's Division 7 Semifinal against Detroit Loyola by eliminating reigning champion Saginaw Nouvel, 19-15, in last week's Regional championship game. Beecher, now 8-4, has made the playoffs six straight years. The first of that run came in Hawkins' second as coach and after 12 straight losing seasons.
Previous 2012-13 honorees:
- Julia Bos, Grand Rapids Christian cross country - Click for more
- Morgan Bullock, Zeeland swimming - Click for more
- Nathan Burnand, Waterford Mott cross country - Click for more
- Aaron Chatfield, Burt Lake Northern Michigan Christian soccer - Click for more
- Erin Finn, West Bloomfield cross country - Click for more
- Billy Heckman, Portage Central tennis - Click for more
- Codi Jenshak, Escanaba tennis - Click for more
- Amanda McKinzie, Battle Creek St. Philip cross country - Click for more
- Connor Mora, Cedar Springs cross country - Click for more
- Kelsey Murphy, Plymouth golf - Click for more
- Dewey Lewis, Rockford soccer - Click for more
- Nick Raymond, Erie Mason cross country - Click for more
- Jacqueline Setas, Lansing Catholic golf - Click for more
- Michael Sienko, Williamston tennis - Click for more
- Beal City volleyball - Click for more
- East Kentwood soccer - Click for more
- Grand Blanc boys soccer - Click for more
- Ithaca football - Click for more
- Lansing Everett football - Click for more
- Ludington boys tennis - Click for more
- Muskegon Mona Shores girls golf - Click for more