There is one phrase to describe the Howell baseball team’s season so far: hitting a home run.
The Highlanders currently hold a 17-5 record and are second (9-2) in the KLAA west division.
“We have been happy with our team’s performance this year but we all realize there is a great deal of the season to be played,” Coach Mike Weatherly said.
Most of their success has come from solid pitching and all around great play.
“We have exceptional depth in our pitching rotation and on a daily basis, multiple players have been stepping up during games to help us in big games,” Weatherly said.
Some other notable accomplishments the Highlanders have had are winning the prestigious Shelander Tournament. They defeated South Lyon High School 10-0 in the championship game to take the title.
They have also defeated multiple top ten teams in the state.
Howell has a solid group of upperclassmen and has very strong senior leadership.
“We really have been doing well this season and we should have a lot of momentum going into the playoffs if we can win our division,” senior Greg Cauley said.
While Howell is playing excellent ball this season, there are always aspects of the game that need improvement.
“We need to have more consistency in hitting with runners in scoring position. We also need to keep playing solid defense,” Weatherly said.
Howell baseball has high expectations as they complete the remainder of the season.
“We have achieved our first goal which was to win the Shelander. Our second goal is to win the league and our final goal is to win our last game on June 16,” Weatherly said.
Weatherly knows his team has what it takes to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“We believe our pitching will keep us in every game against any opponent. We have a very talented team that can reach its goals if we keep our focus.”
A new season with a lot of promise is beginning for the Howell wrestling team. Coached by Dan Minock, the team is looking to achieve success, even though they are a young team.
“We need to just improve and not worry about any of the scores or anything like that,” senior Alex Calandrino says. “We’re young and we got a lot to work on. We just have to be prepared for every dual meet.”
While Brighton (#4) and Hartland (#5) are both ranked in the top ten for Division 1 wrestling in the state of Michigan, Calandrino is more focused on his team.
“Well, we always have had Hartland as a challenge and Brighton has stepped it up big time [this year],” he says. “This year I feel like is our year to just get things down and improve as a team and see what happens,” he adds.
Athletic director Mr. Dan Hutcheson is also not worried about the rankings of other teams in the division.
“I don’t think it will be any tougher than it has been in the past. I think if you’re a true competitor you want teams to be good around you because that pushes you to train and be your best,” Mr. Hutcheson says. “If you look back at the last eight or nine years, there has been years we were ranked tenth in the state but third in our division of six teams. Wrestling is very tough in this area and I think that is good for us.”
Even though this season will be just as tough as years before, senior wrestler Marcus Wendel has high hopes for the team.
“I want the team to win states this year. That is my goal coming into this season and I’m sticking with it,” he says with a bright smile on his face.
For leaders of the team, Mr. Hutcheson explains why the word leader isn’t as simple as most people think.
“Well, a leader is a tough term. When it comes to being a leader, it’s not necessarily because you’re a senior or the best wrestler,” he says. “It’s supposed to be someone who leads by example and does things right, and I think Alex [Calandrino] fits that description.”
Calandrino, who was the state runner-up at the 125 pound class, the individual goal for this year is as high as it can get.
“My goal for this year is to go undefeated and be state champion,” Calandrino says in a determined voice.
For the team to have a successful season, there are a few things the team has to do according to Mr. Hutcheson.
“Number one, they have to come together as a group. They have to work together as a team. For them to have a successful season, a lot of the young kids need to step up. They need to believe in themselves as well,” Mr. Hutcheson says. “You have to believe in yourself and believe in your team, and good things can happen for you.”
Howell Varsity Hockey is kicking off another season with extremely high expectations. Even though the Highlanders graduated several seniors last year who had made a huge impact.
That experience and leadership were the major reasons why the team was so successful. Five seniors earned all-state honors and were inducted into the Howell High School Hall of Fame.
While it is difficult to replace these talented players, Highlander coach Randy Montrose believes his team has strongly rebuilt.
“Returning players always seem to step up and fill those positions. I believe our scoring will not be as concentrated and will be more spread out which I believe in the long run will make us harder to defend.”
During their offseason, the Howell icers focused on improving their physicality and shape.
“We really have been strength training and conditioning (over the entire summer) and just started to introduce items to our team as to systems and requirements as to our style of play,” coach Montrose said.
The Highlanders faced Detroit Catholic Central, one of the top ranked teams in the state, in a scrimmage last Nov. 9. The game was ugly for Howell as the Shamrocks skated to an 8-1 victory. Catholic Central dominated the Highlanders with shots on goal and time of possession.
“We simply failed to run our system and execute the coach’s game plan. We kind of went out there and skated around with our heads cut off,” senior forward captain Jordan Hawkins said.
Even though the outcome of the matchup was disappointing, coach Montrose was upbeat about the experience.
“The younger players were very nervous and I think it will help us prepare for facing hard competition later in the year
without the nerves coming into play.”
On Nov. 16, Howell faced a tough opponent in Livonia Stevenson. The Howell skaters rebounded nicely and defeated the Spartans 8-3. They flashed excellent signs of potential after passing the puck well and scoring a few quick goals.
Hawkins was satisfied with their performance.
“Last week’s game (against Catholic Central) was a wakeup call to everyone. We came out against (Livonia) Stevenson and really played well as a team. I think we definitely took a big step forward.”
It may be hard to tell where the Highlanders stand at this point, but senior returning all-state goalie Andrew Brownlee is confident they will be successful.
“I think we will have a great season this year. We went on a team building retreat and have become really close as a team.
We should be very consistent because we are going to do all the little things and pay attention to detail.”
Coach Montrose likes his team’s chances in the upcoming season as well.
“We have a good returning core of veteran players and most new additions are good young players. I believe we have the makings of a very good team. However, it may take us a little longer to get everyone up to speed with our style of play.”
While P.J. Krystyniak may not be the loudest guy on and off the ice, he makes sure that people listen to him in crucial moments.
“I’m mostly a quiet, soft-spoken person, but I usually get my point across when it needs to get across,” Krystyniak says.
The Howell senior, who is playing in his second season on the varsity team, is looking to continue the success the team has had the previous two seasons. Krystyniak’s goal is simple this year though: win it all.
“Our goal for this season as a team is to win the state championship,” Krystyniak says with a slight smile on his face. “We’ve been working all summer to work up to that goal and hopefully achieve it,” he adds.
His coach, Randy Montrose has high hopes for Krystyniak this season to help the team succeed.
“PJ is going to be a catalyst, [and] he’s going to be instrumental on our power play,” Montrose says. “We think that he’s going to be one of the guys that really help our team.”
Montrose also acknowledges the quiet manner in which Krystyniak leads the team. “We’re expecting him to lead quietly again,” Montrose says. “He’s not real loud when he talks but when he does speak people listen to him. He leads more by example,” he adds.
Even though Krystyniak has become a major leader and productive player for Howell, he used to not like hockey.
“I first started playing hockey when I was about five [years old], and to tell the truth, I hated it at first,” Krystyniak says chuckling. “My dad kept on pushing me though, and I finally began to love the sport.”
Though he still has a full season still left of high school hockey, Krystyniak’s greatest moment in hockey was his first high school game.
“We played against CC [Catholic Central] and there was a full stadium on hand. It was kind of a scary moment but it was also my favorite moment,” he says.
His inspiration throughout his life has been Steve Yzerman. Krystyniak is influnced by the way Yzerman carried himself and how he pushed through adversity. He tries to model those same characteristics during hockey and even in life situations as well.
Darek Kalisz, a junior on the hockey team, looks up to Krystyniak as a leader and admires how his presence alone has helped the team.
“His work ethic stands out the most to me,” Kalisz says. “He’s always positive and optimistic to many things on and off the ice.”
While hockey is one of the more important activities in his life right now, especially with the season just beginning, Krystyniak also enjoys some other sports.
“I enjoy hunting and fishing a lot. I used to play baseball competitively when I was younger, but hunting and fishing is what I like to do in my free time,” Krystyniak says.
Most people want to be remembered in some shape or form when they graduate from high school. Krystyniak wants to be recognized as the type of player he is on the ice.
“I want to be remembered as a silent leader on the hockey team; someone who always did what was needed to be done and was one of the hardest working players to play.”
He is already begun to make that impression, quietly.
The Highlander soccer team closed their year with a much improved season. The team finished with a 5-8-3 record and has a positive outlook for the seasons to follow. With many underclassmen returning, highlander soccer is sure to be stronger than ever in the near future.
“Our team meshed really well this year,” varsity soccer coach, Mr. Thomas Mate, said with a confident smile. “We had strong senior leadership and our underclassmen stepped up great when we needed them.”
Senior captains Danny Gilson, Sean Martin, and Kevin Quinn, “led their team well on and off the field,” fellow senior teammate Tim Hepler said. “They were fun to be around and made it enjoyable to be on the team.”
With strong victories against teams like Brighton and Pinckney, who are leaders in the division year in and year out, the Highlander soccer team is on the rebound after several quiet years without a playoff birth. This season
Howell lost to Holt in districts 4-1 but were without their head coach and some starters due to illness and injury.
With a meeting soon to come between the underclassmen of Howell soccer, they will vote on next season’s captains and set the goals for the 2012 season. Even though their record may not show success, Howell soccer is looking solid for future seasons and will continue to improve their level of play each year.
Starting back in August, when practice began for the Highlanders, they were destined to repeat for the state title.
The Howell equestrian team is made up of two parts, the “A” and “B” team, not based on skill but based on number of girls on the team. The “B” team is made up of six to nine girls and the “A” team has around over ten girls. With most of the members riding since they have been young and all owning their own horse or even two, this team means business.
The “B” team is composed of eight girls who took it all the way this year and won the state title for the Highlanders. To compete with the team a rider must be in three shows, and above all receive private lessons to sharpen up on their skills. Team captain Bri Rajala said, “We had a fun and successful year, and pulled off a great win again.”
The first district meets were located in Milford. The Highlanders surpassed the other riders and moved on to the next round of regionals. Regionals were located in Shiawassee County and were during the first October weekend. States were located in Midland during the 3rd weekend in October, and this is where it all mattered for the young riders. At the end of the first day the team was in fifth place overall and that’s when Coach Rajala had a team meeting and said, “Go hard or go home.” During the second day they climbed their way up to second place, finally on the last day the team pulled of a miraculous win and ended up in first place.
During districts, the team grew closer together and formed a great bond as the season grew more on the line. Junior Jenny Fusin said, “It’s not an individual score, but when everyone competes in different events and when everything is added up that is when it counts.”
Looking forward to the next season, the team is losing a lot of senior power but is also looking forward to the upcoming freshman class for new riders. One year can change a lot for a team but they are focused on the same goal as always: to go all the way and win states.
After losing a majority of their team to graduation last year, the Highlanders knew they were going to have their work cut out for them. There were also extremely high expectations, especially since they had just come off one of their most successful seasons in school history, claiming the division title and reaching the quarterfinals.
Nevertheless, the Highlanders entered the 2011 season with a winning mentality.
Howell looked very strong in their first game of the season at Eastern Michigan University, where they easily beat Utica Stevenson 21-6. It looked as though the Highlanders were on their way to replicate last season’s performance.
However, Howell revealed their weaknesses against a high powered Plymouth attack, losing 14-35.
The Highlanders bounced back from the tough loss and defeated Hartland in a tough battle, 20-13.
Despite the comeback performance at Hartland, Howell struggled the following four weeks.
In the first game of the losing streak, the Highlanders appeared to be taking care of business when they went into halftime, leading Pinckney 21-6. Howell came out flat in the second half and let the Pirates score 31 unanswered points.
The Highlanders sputtered offensively and the defense could not stop Pinckney through the air as they lost 21-37.
Howell then faced Grand Blanc away and was simply outmatched by a better opponent in a losing effort, 22-45.
On a cold rainy evening, the Highlanders lost their homecoming game in blowout to Milford, 7-42. The Howell offense was plagued by numerous turnovers, which ultimately decided the outcome.
In the last game of the horrible stretch, they faced their arch rival, the Brighton Bulldogs. Brighton’s offense proved to be relentless as they convincingly beat the Highlanders 42-21.
Even though Howell had hit the low point of their season, they refused to accept another defeat.
In their KLAA crossover matchup, they punished Waterford Mott on their way to a 48-3 win.
The final game of Howell’s season was against Inkster. For the seniors on the team, they would not be denied a victory as they dominated the contest, 35-8.
Throughout the course of the season, the Highlanders were led by seniors Greg Cauley, Josh Gardner, Jon Melanson, Dan Hannah and Nate Mimnaugh.
“They really did a great job providing leadership for our team. They used their experience and never gave up on the season,” Howell coach Aaron Metz said.
While Howell didn’t have the season they were looking for, it really helped with the development of the team.
“It was a building year for the program, with a lot of younger guys getting experience. We didn’t reach our ultimate goal but made improvements from the start of the season to the finish,” senior captain Mimnaugh said.
Highlander coach Metz was still proud of his team despite them finishing the season with a 4-5 record.
“The team gave great effort throughout the entire season. They didn’t quit and were able to finish the season on a high note.”
While it was a rebuilding year for the Highlanders, they will work hard to continue their winning ways next season.
“Hopefully, the juniors learned from this season and will apply that next year so we can have a great season,” coach Metz said.
A deep, forest green background. The brightest possible yellow striping the waist and wrists. An equally-bright name on the back, and list of accomplishments. And to top it all off, a brilliant gold “H”.
But what does the varsity jacket mean to our school? Where did it start?
In 1865, the Harvard University baseball team embroidered an old English ‘H’ on grey flannel shirts, fulfilling what was seen as a need for further identification. In 1875, the football team began to use the ‘H’, and the fad became tradition at Harvard. For the 25 years following the original invention, it became normal for the team captain to only allow players who participated in important games (mainly against their rivals, Yale and Princeton) to keep their lettered jerseys. All others were forced to return their jersey at the end of each season.
No one is really sure when the letter infiltrated high schools. The first evidence is shown in a 1911 Phoenix Union High School yearbook. Pictured is a student in a group photo wearing not a football uniform, but a V-neck sweater with a letter ‘P’ on the side.
Through the 1930’s, sweaters were home to the varsity letter. During the 20’s and 30’s, a lettered blanket was given as an award as well. Then in the 1930’s, letters started to appear on leather-sleeved, wool-bodied jackets.
There is no set style from school to school, so no two jackets look the same. At Brighton High School, the jackets feature an orange ‘B’ and a first name on the front, a paw print for the Brighton Bulldogs on one sleeve and the year of graduation on the other, and the back reads ‘Brighton Varsity’. The students can also attach patches for the activities in which they participate.
Here in Howell, a student can receive a letter for participation in any sports team and some additional extracurricular activities, from football to color guard. There is also an academic letter, received for being on the honor roll.
“I think that varsity jackets are cool way to show your accomplishments whether it be school or sports or clubs, even though the price for them isn’t that great,” says sophomore Rachel Dziabuda. She shares the same viewpoint as many students, especially in today’s economy; the jackets are expensive. At Spirit of Livingston, the spirit-wear store that supplies most schools in Livingston County, a varsity jacket for Howell High School costs $250, plus an extra $25 to attach the corresponding Highlander patch.
“Varsity jackets have become more of an icon of high school then what they really stand for. Even though I will be earning my letter in choir, it seems they have just become something everyone can get. They mean less these days,” argues Annie Bock, a sophomore in A Cappella. Choir letters are earned by participating in choir for two years, as opposed to the band letter which is earned on a point system.
“[Varsity jackets have] a positive effect on the school, because they showcase the elite, without being overbearing,” Dziabuda says.
No matter what the sport or club or activity, the varsity jacket which so boldly displays the gold ‘H’ will always symbolize Highlander pride.
It’s hard to believe, but Howell’s football season has quickly come to an end.
The Howell Highlanders were able to capture a victory in their final game of the year beating Inkster, 35-8. It was a Highlander rout throughout the entire contest, with several strong individual performances.
Third year starting quarterback and senior captain, Greg Cauley, finished his last high school football game with a bang. He passed for 161 yards, scoring two touchdowns through the air and one on the ground.
Senior running back, Jon Melanson, rushed for 68 yards and a score on 12 carries.
While the offense was firing from all cylinders, the defense was even better. The Highlanders came out of the gate aggressively and it remained throughout the entire contest. They put excellent pressure on the quarterback and were able to shut down Inkster’s speedy offense.
Junior linebacker Vincent Patritto had an excellent game, recording five tackles and two sacks.
In previous games this season, turnovers plagued Howell. It definitely wasn’t the case Friday night. The Highlanders did not turn the ball over once to the Vikings and it showed on the scoreboard.
This was not the kind of season Howell was aiming for, but they were able to send the seniors out on a high note after finishing with an impressive two game win streak.
Whether it is burning defenders on the football field, or busting through records around the track, Howell senior Joshua Gardner is not your typical high school student-athlete.
Gardner has participated in sports his whole life. One of his most influential people throughout his life was by his side the whole time.
“My dad coached the teams I was on as a kid,” Gardener says with a smirk. “Him and my mother helped shaped me into the person I am today.”
Over time Gardner’s immediate family grew larger with the separation of his parents and the eventual addition of a step-parent. Gardner’s father, Tom, works as an insurance agent while his mother, Kathy, works with Howell Public Schools as a first grade elementary teacher. Gardner has multiple siblings including his full sister, Katie, who cheers and plays softball for Howell. Also, Gardner has three step-siblings, brother Devon, and two sisters Shelby and Nicole.
In his youth years, Gardner played multiple sports such as basketball, football, and in time, track and field. Gardner played junior football in the Howell Area Junior Football League for Team White and basketball 6th through 8th grade for his middle school, Highlander Way. In Gardner’s late years of middle school, he played for Howell’s all-star team alongside the majority of what is now Howell’s varsity football team.
100 M 10.73
2011 State 4th place on 100 M dash
2011 State 5th 4×100
2011 Regional Champ 100 M
2011 regional runner up 4×100
2011 KLAA Champ 100 M
2011 KLAA 2nd 4×200
2011 KLAA 3rd 4×100
Gardner’s hall of fame athletic performance started when he stepped foot onto Howell’s High School campus. He proceeded to be dominant on Howell’s freshman football team often scoring two, three, even four touchdowns a game. This stellar performance caught the varsity coach’s eyes as they brought him up to play during their 2008 playoff run.
This was surreal to Gardner as he used to dream of playing at this level.
“When I was younger, I always looked up to the high school players. They were what I wanted to be one day,” Gardner says reminiscing on his past.
A prosperous year for Gardner was 2009 when he was only one of two sophomores to play on Howell’s varsity football team alongside fellow classman Greg Cauley. In the spring of 2010, Gardner ran for Howell’s varsity track and field team as a sophomore as well.
With experience under his belt, Gardner hit his 2010-2011 athletic year running, starting for the football team along with the varsity track team. Gardner started what ended up being one of the most accomplishing track seasons any athlete has ever had at Howell High School. Gardner made first team all-state his junior year in the 100 meter dash and 4×100 relay team. Gardner also broke Howell High School’s track records in the 100 meter dash with a time of 10.73 seconds, 4×100 relay time of 42.9 seconds, and the 4×200 relay time of 1:30.8.
Gardner’s epic season attracted many collegiate coaches as the summer of his senior year was packed with football exercise camps, college offers, and training for his senior football and track seasons.
Even though the 2010-2011 season was historical for the Howell football team, with the longest playoff run any team has ever had, the 2011-2012 season was not as kind. With the record of 4-5, this year’s team was young and inexperienced. To add to this, Gardner broke his scapula before the season started and missed a total of six weeks before debuting at the Grand Ledge game. Gardner still averaged four and a half tackles per game at the free safety position and six points per game at half back on offense. Gardener also had 34 carries for a total of 232 yards, averaging an astonishing 6.82 yards per carry. Alongside his rushing statistics, Gardner also averaged almost 30 yards per return on special teams with a touchdown in their last game against Waterford Mott High School.
Even with it being difficult to look at the bright side to a somewhat disappointing season, Gardner still sees the upside and only uses it as motivation for his upcoming senior track season.
“Losing really isn’t fun, but I still enjoyed my last season as a Highlander with my fellow teammates,” Gardner says.
Gardner was the captain of his track and field team as a junior, and a captain on his football team as a senior. With his leader-like work ethic and mentality he will undoubtedly be voted team captain this year on his track team and looks to break more school records and once again speedily lead his team to states’ in back to back seasons.
Although he is fast in competition, Gardner is taking his time picking his place for further education.
“I want to go to the place that gives me the best offer,” Gardner says with tension in his voice. “I’d like to pursue a career in sports medicine, though.”
No one knows how far Gardner’s talents will take him in life. All we know for sure is sports are his undying passion and if you’re ever looking for him, check a sports facility first.