High 5s: 10/31/12

October 31, 2012

Finishing lower than first is a rarity for this week's High 5 recipients, who have found themselves ahead of the pack throughout most of this fall's volleyball, cross country and football seasons.

Amanda McKinzie
Battle Creek St. Philip senior

McKinzie, a 6-foot outside hitter, helped lead St. Philip to a 66-2-1 record heading into the postseason and the overall top ranking, regardless of class, by the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association. The Tigers are going for their seventh consecutive MHSAA Class D championship, and McKinzie has been a key player on the last three. Her 2,396 career kills heading into the Regional rank fourth in the MHSAA record book since the beginning of the rally scoring era in 2004, and her 352 aces are 12th. She intends to sign with Virginia Tech and is one of 10 candidates for the state's Miss Volleyball award.

The candidate speaks: "I never would've thought (I'd be a finalist) when I was younger. I know so many good girls from around here too. It's just such an honor."

This is it: "I've started to feel the nerves. There aren't many (matches) left. I've been on (varsity) since freshman year, been on the teams that won all these past years, and I can feel the pressure. Yeah, this is it. We can't take things for granted." 

Had to be a Hokie: McKinzie also considered Duke and Indiana before settling on Virginia Tech. "The coaches, the facilities, just the all-around campus, how it's set up. It's easy to get around places. And the coaches are so welcoming. Everything they have for you is pretty much right there."

Staying in sport: Although McKinzie is unsure what she'll study, she's considering something in health and nutrition that is connected to athletics.

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Connor Mora
Cedar Springs senior
Cross country

Mora won last weekend's Division 2 Regional at Benzie Central by more than 22 seconds with a time of 14:54. That's 39 seconds faster than his MHSAA Finals time of 15:33 that placed him third last fall. He won the 1,600 and 800-meter runs at the Division 2 Track and Field Finals this spring.

Finally, 14s: "It doesn't feel like it happened. It's just an unimaginable feeling. It's been my goal since I started running, and at the end of my freshman year I realized I could do really well at this sport if put in the work. When I ran that time, I reailzied all that I'd been wroking for has paid off."

A nickname that stuck: Mora was labeled Mr. Competitive by his fourth-grade teacher.  “I was just your average little kid, like all the other little kids. I never thought of myself as fast. But one thing I do remember is I always liked to win at everything. Just everything. Every sort of competition."

No slam dunk: "I wish I was good at basketball. I didn't even make the team in middle school. I can't make a layup to save my life. (But) I still love playing. It's really fun. I like every sport, whether I'm good at it or not."

Up next: Mora hopes to continue running for a Division I college program, with Michigan and Michigan State among in-state possibilities. He'd like to study kinesiology and become a physical therapist.

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Ithaca football

The Yellowjackets are 10-0 heading into Friday's Division 6 Regional Final against Hemlock, and haven't lost since falling in a 2009 MHSAA Semifinal. Ithaca has won 38 straight games, with two Division 6 championships along the way, and holds the fifth-longest winning streak in MHSAA football history. The streak is the third longest since the beginning of the playoff era in 1975.

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Previous 2012-13 honorees: