With the school year on its homestretch, many students find themselves getting ready for summer. For seniors, this last part of the school year can mean a hectic time of deciding their final college choice and sticking with it. For Erika Vichcales though, her choice was one of the harder ones a senior has to make.
Vichcales is going to Michigan Technological University in the fall of 2012. This choice, though, did not come easy.
“I have applied to the University of Michigan, Michigan Technological University, the Naval Academy, and West Point,” Vichcales says. “It was a very crazy time [in the fall], when trying to apply for all of these colleges.”
Applying to the Naval Academy, however, is a much different process than what other colleges have high school seniors do.
Vichcales explains how the Naval Academy requires a nomination from a United States senator or congressman, which is not an easy task to accomplish. An applicant also has to pass a physical fitness test, write a few essays (many colleges do not have their applicants even write an essay), and also take part in a few interviews.
“Applying for [the Naval Academy] was probably the craziest,” Erika says. “I should hear from them soon, but no matter what the decision is, I’m glad I got through the application stage,” she adds.
Vichcales’ academic accomplishments are a huge reason why she has been able to be put in this situation. Vichcales is currently the President of the National Honor Society at Howell High School, and she has made the academic honor roll the past three years. With these accomplishments, she has already earned some scholarships from Michigan Tech.
While Vichcales has achieved many great things academically so far in her life, her athletics are just as equally impressive.
As a freshman, Vichcales was on the varsity ski team and qualified for the state championship. Her junior ski season was cut short because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, also known as the ACL. Vichcales, a captain of the varsity ski team for two years, came back strong in her senior year to finish sixth in the league overall out of about seventy other competitors.
“I finished in the top twenty at regionals, which was a big accomplishment for me,” Vichcales says with a huge smile. “As a team we got second overall in the league, which is also very good,” she adds.
Vichcales is currently training for a triathlon. She swims before school three days a week, and runs the days she does not swim, along with the biking. She hopes to compete in two this summer, the proceeds in which go to charity.
Athletic Director of Howell High School, Dan Hutcheson, has also recognized Vichcales’ hard work both academically and athletically.
“I think she is a great person and an extremely hard worker,” Mr. Hutcheson says. “She has been definitely been dedicated to everything she does and worked hard to overcome some injuries and adversity to become the best she can be,” he adds.
Erika Vichcales senior year has been as busy as one can get. From figuring out what she will do academically after high school to bouncing back very well from an injury in skiing, Vichcales has always faced this stressful time with a positive attitude.
“After a long year, it was definitely a learning experience. Life throws you twists that are unexpected, but I have learned that you have to just go with it,” Vichcales says. “I cannot wait to start the next stage of my life, and hopefully continue skiing along the way.”
This season, the HHS varsity girls ski team took second place in the district, a new record for Howell.
“I think it’s been an incredible year,” says Dan Hutcheson, HHS athletic director. Though the team did not take first, they did pick up a trophy.
“This is the first time we’ve ever brought home hardware,” as sophomore Kayla Finch puts it. Finch is now in her second year on the team, and this year was ‘second flight,’ which means she had the second best time. She has her letter for skiing, and this year will be awarded a two-year pin. “I knew we were getting better… but I didn’t expect to go from almost last to second.”
At a ski meet, points are given to skiers for their rank based on time. First place is given one point, second is given two, and so on. The aim is to have the least points. Places are determined by a combined time from two different courses each skier runs during the meet. Falling is an automatic last place.
“I think everyone improved this year,” says coach Doug Gorton. Coach Gorton has been skiing for 48 years, and has coached for 20. According to the coach, most of the girls went to extra training before the season started. It helped a lot because the weather was so poor this season.
“The girls we have should be coming back strong next year… but we’re losing two good skiers so it’s hard to say,” Mr. Gorton says.
Despite the year’s success, next year may not follow suit. Coach Gorton says that what the team really needs to go further are more girls.
“I am fortunate that I’ve done so well skiing. It’s a great way to meet people, and I love my ski family,” says Finch with a content smile.
Temperatures have finally dropped below freezing and fresh snow now covers the surface of the ski slopes. The Howell varsity ski team is looking to be better than ever this season.
For the girls, senior Erika Vichcales and junior Nikki Kutsch will use their state championship experience to lead the team in the right direction. Vichcales will be the fastest returner if she has recovered well from her knee injury.
“My goal is to stay competitive after my injury. If all goes well, hopefully I will be able to qualify for states,” Vichcales said.
Niki Kutsch should be challenged by her twin sister Karli. Sophomore Kayla Finch is young but has a great amount of racing background and should move close to the front. Darian Meininger is the other senior who has developed into a solid skier. Not only is the team shaping up to be very competitive against their opposition this year but they also are going to be battling against themselves as well.
“I’m expecting as a team that we will push each other and continue to improve throughout the course of the season,” Vichcales said.
Coach Gorton has been very pleased with what he has seen and expects big things from them going forward. “All six of the returning girls have really worked on their skiing and should be a factor for the league championship.”
On the boy’s side, they will strive to improve by moving up in their league standings. “Our main goal every year is to improve over the last year. Our boys team was very young the last couple of years and they worked on gaining experience. This should be a good year for the boys,” Mr. Gorton said.
Nick Borchardt has been their fastest skier, but the team has really grown this year so there may be some unknown talent. All of the boys have updated their equipment in order to
be more competitive. With 11 members on the boy’s team, it will be a true dogfight for one of the six spots available at each race.
The most important meet of the year for both teams is regionals. It will be held at Alpine Valley ski area on February 16 and is where the team and individuals can qualify for the state meet. Some of the other important meets are the league meet at Mt. Brighton on February 9, the KLAA championship at Mt. Brighton on February 13, and the state finals for qualifiers at Nubs Nob on February 27.
In both of the years that she has been in high school, sophomore Niki Kutsch has been a part of the school’s ski team. This year, however, she took her talents one step further as she skied in the state competition at Marquette Mountain amongst the best high school skiers Michigan has to offer.
“Niki has a great attitude and work ethic. The reason she qualified for states is she concentrated on doing her best and making few mistakes. Niki is not intimidated by the competition or conditions and skis her race,” ski coach Doug Gorton said.
Despite only being 4’9” tall, a height that wouldn’t impress most fifth graders, Kutschs presence can be felt once she takes the slopes. Kutsch was the only member of Howells 12 person ski team to make it to the state competition this year, but like every other member, during the season she practiced after school Monday through Thursday at Mt. Brighton.
Kutsch qualified in a type of ski race called slalom. In slalom, the racer must ski through a set of poles (or gates) which alternate from side to side as the skier descends.
“I love skiing. It’s really fun and it’s a great way to stay healthy,” Kutsch said.
Kutsch has lived in Howell her whole life with her parents, twin sister and younger sister. Her dad, who skied in high school and in college, was the person who first got her interested in the sport when she was only four years old. Now Kutsch, her sisters and her parents go skiing every winter as a family at Boyne Mountain and various other slopes around Michigan.
In addition to skiing, in her free time Kutsch enjoys hanging out with her friends and family and going to the movies, and is also a member of the schools cross country/ track team.
She is also very social and has fun meeting new people and making new friends.
With two more years of high school ahead of her, Kutsch plans on skiing for Howell for the rest of them.
Key players: Kenny Miloser (senior, defense), Dakota Olvin (senior, defense), Jordan Simmonds (senior, forward), Branden Burton (senior, forward), Jake Henrikson (senior, forward), Gabe Daavettila (senior, forward), Andrew Brownlee (junior, goalie)
Season Outlook: Howell Varsity Hockey looks forward to another successful season after reaching the state finals the past two seasons. Team chemistry and leadership will be the key factors that will determine how far they go this season. Howell is very experienced this season with six seniors who will play significant roles on the team. The Highlanders aspire to advance deep in the post season and make it to their third consecutive state championship game.
Coach Comment: “This team has a lot of players that have played in one or both of the State Final games and have experienced the success over the past two seasons. Hopefully these players will be the catalyst to start the fire burning again and spread to the entire team by late February.” – Coach Montrose
Player Comment: “We hope to win states after two years of losing in the finals. We have several returning veterans that should help us reach our goal.” – Jordan Hawkins (Junior)
Rivalry: Brighton, Hartland
Key players: Jordan Phifer (Junior), Amanda Pompilius (Junior), Katelyn Beno (Senior), Courtney Schippers (Senior), Samantha Leventis (Freshman), Emily Laupp (Freshman)
Season Outlook: Howell Varsity Gymnastics plan to be very competitive for this season. Senior leadership will be key for the team’s success. All the girls have and continue working extremely hard to upgrade their routines. The two freshmen are learning fast and should improve quickly throughout the season as they gain experience. The girls are determined to all qualify individually for the State Finals.
Coach Comment: “The team should easily qualify for Regionals and could potentially be very competitive for a spot at the Team Finals. The team goal is to have all team members qualify for Regionals to give them a chance to qualify for State Individual Finals.” – Coach Gregory
Player Comment: “This year I feel that our main goal is to do the best that we can and have fun.” – Jordan Phifer (Junior)
Rivalry: Brighton, Walled Lake, Plymouth
Key players: Alex Calandrino (Junior), Troy Root (Senior), Taylor Moore (Senior), Mitch Faulkner (Senior), Jimmy Dobson (Senior), Kyle Barjon (Senior), Jimmy Walsh (Senior), Trevor Loge (Senior), Joe Brancheau (Junior), Marcus Wendel (Junior), Josh Spisak (Junior), Hayden Hughes (Sophomore), Chad Czerneski (Sophomore), Cam Englund (Sophomore), Ben Calandrino (Freshman)
Season Outlook: Howell Wrestling is ready to start another successful season in the KLAA West division. They have several upperclassmen that should make a very strong impact this season. They return one wrestler who made it to the state wrestling meet. They want to improve upon last season, hoping to earn the league championship and get to states as a team.
Coach Comment: “Our goals are always the same, win the league and go to team states.” – Coach Minock
Player Comment: “We are hoping to improve this season and have more guys make it to states.” – Junior Alex Calandrino
Rivalry: Brighton and Hartland
Key players: Aleksander Antic (Senior), Torey Williams (Senior), Brandon Nazione (Junior), William Ainsworth (Senior),
Season Outlook: Howell Varsity Basketball aspires to do great things this season. After a losing record last year, they strive to improve and surpass expectations. The boys want to make a serious run into playoffs with their main goal of winning a state championship. They have several returning players from last year who they will look to for leadership and experience.
Player Comment: “Our ultimate goal is to win our league, make it far in the playoffs, and win the state championship. The whole team has worked really hard in the offseason and we’ve tremendously improved.” – Aleksander Antic, senior
Rivalry: Brighton, Hartland
Key players: Kaytlin Stroinski (12), Bre’Ana Strong (12), Katie Kubiak (12), Emily Lorkowski (12), Mackenzie Cleary (12), Kathryn Wright (12), Shelby Demeuse (12), and Ashlyn Samples (12)
Season Outlook: The Lady Highlanders are excited to improve upon a very successful season last year. The girls have worked very hard in the off season to prepare themselves. Howell will have great post play this season. The key to their success will be for the guards to step up and make big plays despite their inexperience. Howell wants to repeat as West Division champions and as the KLAA conference champions. They also strive to make a deep run into the state tournament.
Coach Comment: “It should be a great season for this group. I as a coach love coaching them, and they always are willing to go the extra effort for the team which says a lot about these young ladies.” – Coach Clark
Player Comment: “I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do as a team. All the girls on the team are unselfish and will do whatever it takes to win.”- Bre’Ana Strong (Senior)
Key players: Joe Brosnan (Senior), Zac Cain (Junior), Christoph Hohenfeld (Senior), Garrett Murphy (Freshman), Bryan Stroinski (Sophomore)
Season Outlook: Howell Swimming has high expectations coming into the winter sports season. They have a mix of great talent and potential from the upperclassmen as well from the underclassmen. The team has a great turnout this season with over 35 swimmers. Howell lost seven seniors of their top ten swimmers from last year’s team that went to states. However, many people on the team have stepped up, and two foreign exchange students are expected to make a great impact this season.
Coach Comment: “We want to win the KLAA west division, win the KLAA Lakes conference, and place top 10 at the state championship meet.” – Coach Kasprzak
Player Comment: “Our goals are simple. We want to score top ten in the state meet, and we want to defend our title as returning champs. Initially, I didn’t think it was possible but now, looking at these brave boys who walked on deck the first day, well, maybe we might just be able to do that.” – Joe Brosnan (Senior)
Key players: Kelly Frazier (Senior), Megan Salas (Senior), Melanie Eastman (Senior), Michelle Michailuk (Senior)
Season Outlook: Howell Competitive Cheer is excited to show that they can compete among the best in the conference as well in the state this season. However, every meet will be battle in the tough KLAA West division for the girls. The team’s goals are to advance as far as possible in states, win the KLAA, and come closer in the standings to Brighton and Hartland. They have made great improvement since last season and have several seniors that will provide leadership.
Coach Comment: “The team has worked very hard and has improved incredibly. We are trying to prove that Howell is a solid program and a force to reckon with.” – Coach Rossman
Rivalry: Hartland and Brighton
Key players: Boys – Austin LaCarter (Senior), Justin Halstead (Junior); Girls- Danielle Robson (Junior), Heidi Maxwell (Senior)
Season Outlook: Boys – Boys Varsity Bowling will be dealing with a great amount of inexperience this season. Austin LaCarter is the only returning member from last year’s team. However, the team has great talent since the junior varsity took first in the JV State Championship tournament last year. The boys expect to compete in the middle of the pack or better in the KLAA West Division.
Girls – Girls Varsity Bowling expects to have an outstanding season. They are returning all five starters from last year’s team which won the first KLAA Division bowling title in school history. The girls have good experience and they will strive to win the KLAA West division for the second consecutive season.
Coach Comment: Boys: “Even with the boys being young they have a lot of potential after finishing 1st in the JV State Championship tournament last season.” – Coach Collopy
Girls: “With another year’s experience under their belts the girls team this year will look to win the KLAA West once again. Not only does this team have the potential to win the division they have the potential to compete for a Regional and State title.” – Coach Collopy
Player Comment: “Going from winning the JV state championship to varsity was a big step up and I’m expecting our team this year to have huge accomplishments.” – Justin Halstead (Junior)
Rivalry: 1-18-2011 vs. Brighton @ Pinz Bowling Center; 2-12-2011 vs. Brighton @ Whitmore Lanes
Key players: Girls – Erika Vichcales (Junior), Amanda Depuydt (Senior); Boys – Nick Borchardt (Sophomore), Lames Maize (Sophomore), Lee Mersch (Sophomore), Keegan Zemper (Sophomore)
Season Outlook: Howell Skiing is determined to have a strong season this winter. They will again compete in the Mt. Brighton Ski league. This league consists of 11 teams from Ann Arbor to Okemos. Howell Varsity Ski Team will again compete in the Mt. Brighton Ski league. The girls’ team is led by two upperclassmen that have a large amount of experience and who are capable of winning any race. All the girls will be pushing each other to get better. The boys’ team is dealing with a lot of inexperience with no upperclassmen on the team. However, they all have great talent and will be working hard to improve every day.
Coach Comment: Girls – “Our girls’ team is strong this year with eight members. Six girls returned from last year lead by Amanda Depuydt (Senior) and Erika Vichcales (Junior).” – Coach Gorton
Boys – “The boys’ team is very young this year. We have four sophomores and two freshmen. We look for Nick Borchardt to be the fastest of the boys. Lames Maize, Lee Mersch, and Keegan Zemper will be working hard to catch him.” – Coach Gorton
Player Comment: “We’ve put in a lot of hard work and are hoping to go far as a team this year. We all get along very well and push each other to do better every day.”- Erika Vichcales (Junior)
Rivalry: League races are held at Mt Brighton on Tuesdays and Thursdays in January and February. First race will be January 6th.