I've now been at the Daily Press long enough to see an entire freshman class play their last football games as seniors. That same class is now in the midst of their last basketball season.
It seems like so long ago, and I think it feels that way because I've truly enjoyed every day of this career I've embarked on. Every game, every sport, every achievement, I have strived to treat with equal vigor and respect and each one stands out in my mind with. I have my favorite moments, sure, but hopefully, you as readers can't tell which they are.
My predecessor and mentor Denny Grall spent a generation at the desk I sit at now. He covered the children of athletes he wrote about when he started here and toward the end of his career he was covering some former athletes' grandchildren. It's remarkable.
Now as we embark on a new year filled with change and wonder, the focus of most sports fans may be on the NFL playoffs or other pro sports ventures, but here at the Daily Press we are in the midst of basketball season, and its already shaping up to be a solid one with several Delta and Menominee county teams off to promising starts.
I took some time this morning and reflected on the moments that stuck out for me over the past year, and here they are, in no particular order.
North Central basketball
The 2012-13 versions of the North Central Jets boys and girls basketball teams will be one I won't forget. The girls team I felt overachieved and summerized the magic of March Madness, upsetting a 22-0 Superior Central team in the regional semifinal. The Boys team displayed experience beyond their years as a team of juniors and one freshman rode an incredibly balanced effort all the way to the Breslin Center.
There was plenty to write about Olivia Nash and the Escanaba Eskymos girls basketball team during the 2011-12 season, but I didn't expect Nash to flourish at the level she did at Division I Oakland University, her freshman season there. She was named the Summit League Freshman of the Year after stepping up in a big way for the Golden Grizzlies in 2012-13. I was pleasantly surprised and I continue to follow her career as it continues.
2012-13 was an incredible year for the Escanaba Eskymos hockey team as they compiled the best season in school history. The team flat-out dominated most of the season with several mercy-rule victories, a 3-0 record at the prestigious Michigan Public School Hockey Showcase in Chelsea, Mich., a 3-0 record against rival Marquette and a prolonged playoff run. They were a joy to watch and write about.
Little League season is a lot of fun for me. You can't help but smile watching the kids with big dreams in tournament play in the middle of summer. Don't get me wrong, I love the high school baseball and softball seasons as well, but with Escanaba having hosted two state tournaments in 2013, it was a great time, and we tried to treat it with the same respect we'd give to any big event that comes to this area.
Rapid River football
Since going to 8-man three seasons ago, I can't write enough about the Rapid River Rockets football team. Jake Pearson and Hayden Hardwick were a tandem that I believe were unrivaled arcross the U.P., regardless of the division of football they play. It was truly an honor to cover Rapid River during an era where they played in two state championship games.
Wade Schetter and Brett Branstrom were two once-in-a-lifetime athletes that set the standard at their respective schools. Each left their alma maters as career scoring leaders in 2012-13. Branstrom recently had his number retired at Mid Peninsula, speaking to the mark he left on the program. Schetter topped the scoring mark at Carney-Nadeau where the list of 1,000 point scorers is considerably long, but beyond that, I consider him the prototypical underdog, a player who rose far above what a kid his size and ability should have been able to do. How fitting that the two of them are now teammates at Northern Michigan University. I'll look forward to watching their NCAA careers unfold.