Monday, May 8, 2006

By Del Newell


Ritchie Jordan and Manny Newsome, two legendary basketball sharpshooters, were the first to be selected to receive the B'nai B'rith scholar-athlete awards. Newsome, who rewrote Western Michigan University's scoring records, was the first, being honored in 1963. And Jordan, the 5-foot-7 whiz from Fennville High School who could dunk a basketball, became the first prep the next year. Tuesday night at 7:30 at the Congregation of Moses, 20 high school seniors, 10 boys and 10 girls from 10 Kalamazoo area schools, will be honored.

This is the 34th year the popular B'nai B'rith awards reception, which is open to the public, has been held. Judith Bailey, WMU's president, will be the guest speaker. The B'nai B'rith award was created in 1963 by local businessman Irving Lando. It quickly expanded from one high school athlete to athletes from the original eight Greater Kalamazoo schools and then to 10 schools, with Gull Lake and Mattawan the most recent to be added.

In the late 1970s, at the suggestion of Dick Soisson, who was then athletic director at Hackett Catholic Central, girls were included in the B'nai B'rith awards. All of the award winners have successfully blended athletics and academics. Seven of this year's recipients are No. 1, or co-No. 1, in their class. Portage Northern's Shannon Smith and Portage Central's Kristen Eichorn, both of whom are softball standouts, are valedictorians at their respective schools. Also No. 1 academically are Comstock's Corey Lager, Gull Lake's co-valedictorians Erika Lancaster and Ross Reinhardt, Kalamazoo Christian's Carissa DeYoung and Parchment's Marissa Person. ``The recipients are selected by their respective athletic directors,'' said Leonard Lebowitz, who along with Gary Kushner are again co-chairmen of the event. ``The recipients are outstanding examples of the student leaders whose leadership will continue to positively impact the entire community in the future,'' Lebowitz said.

The following students are this year's recipients of the award:

Jessica Rateike
Parents: Keith and Teri Rateike
College plans: Carthage College or Western Michigan University; major in elementary education and accounting; play soccer.

Highlights: Won No. 3 singles flight at regional tennis tournaments three consecutive years. ... Wolverine Conference soccer all-star for two years and first-team selection in 2005. ... Comstock's soccer MVP and all-district selection in 2005.

Corey Lager
Parents: David and Mary Lager.
College plans: University of Michigan or Notre Dame; major in chemistry, also Spanish and premedicine.

Highlights: Played four years of varsity tennis at No. 1 singles. ...Varsity captain two years and also team MVP. ... All-stater and four years all-Wolverine Conference. ... Member of USTA Jr. Davis Cup team. ... Also played two years of varsity soccer. ... No. 1 in class.

Erika Lancaster
Gull Lake

Parents: Mark and Denise Lancaster.

College plans: To become a surgeon or radiologist.

Highlights: Played two years of varsity tennis and was part of Gull Lake's No. 1 doubles team both seasons. .. Also played two years of varsity soccer and was captain of junior varsity squad. ... Ranked as co-No. 1 in her class and finished with a 4.159 grade-point average.

Ross Reinhardt

Gull Lake

Parents: Robert and Cheryl Reinhardt.

College plans: Attend University of Michigan or New York University, possibly for audio engineering.

Highlights: Tennis was No. 1 sport as he was on the varsity for four years. ... Selected as most improved player as a freshman. ... Voted most valuable player as a junior. ... Had a 4.159 grade-point average, ranked No. 1 and shared Gull Lake's valedictorian honor.

Caitlin Bowman

Hackett Catholic Central

Parents: Gary Bowman and Kathleen Corbett.

College plans: Attend Albion College, Hope College or Michigan State; play soccer and maybe basketball.

Highlights: First-team all-stater in soccer as a goalkeeper for four years and all-Kalamazoo Valley Association four years. ... Was goalie on Division 4 state runner-up soccer squad in 2005. ... First-team all-KVA in basketball for three years and all-state honorable mention.

Ben Thayer

Hackett Catholic Central

Parents: David and Rachel Thayer.

College plans: Will attend Eastern Michigan University as a preferred walk-on in football.

Highlights: Earned 10 varsity letters, including three each in football and basketball. ... All-state honorable mention as a quarterback senior year. ... Hackett's most valuable player in football as senior and in basketball as a junior. ... All-KVA first team in both sports as senior.

Cassie Dickerson

Kalamazoo Central

Parents: Van and Stephanie Dickerson.

College plans: Will attend Ohio State University, major in animal science and earn a doctorate in veterinary science. Has a soccer scholarship.

Highlights: Played four years of varsity soccer and led Kalamazoo Central in scoring last three years. ... All-region and honorable mention all-stater as a junior. ... All-conference in 2003, 2004 and 2005. ... Also played basketball and volleyball, earning three varsity letters.

Zachary Atkins

Kalamazoo Central

Parents: Rick and Nancy Atkins.

College plans: Attend Western Michigan University and major in civil engineering.

Highlights: Played four years of hockey and three of football and baseball, earning 10 varsity letters. ... First-team Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference Central Division in baseball as a junior. ... Was an honorable mention all-conference selection in football.

Carissa DeYoung

Kalamazoo Christian

Parents: Ron and Fran DeYoung.

College plans: Attend Calvin College and major in business or Spanish.

Highlights: Leading scorer in basketball and all-KVA her senior season. ... On varsity track team four years, captain senior year and state qualifier sophomore and junior seasons. ... On first-place 3,200-meter relay team at G-K Track meet. ... No. 1 in class with 4.00 GPA.

Kyle Mastenbrook

Kalamazoo Christian

Parents: Jerry and Jayne Mastenbrook.

College plans: Attend Hope College or Western Michigan University. Wants to be a teacher and coach.

Highlights: Co-most valuable player as quarterback of football team his senior season and set school records for touchdown passes and yards passing in a game and for a season. ... Also played two years of varsity basketball and baseball. ... Was captain in basketball as a senior.

Emily Forrest

Loy Norrix

Parents: Pat and Anne Marie Forrest.

College plans: Attend Michigan State University and pursue degree in field involving working with children.

Highlights: Played tennis and volleyball for four years, the last two years on the varsity. ... Captain in tennis both junior and senior seasons. ... MVP on junior varsity volleyball team as sophomore and earned two varsity letters. ... Also played four years of club volleyball.

Cris Kaps

Loy Norrix

Parents: Igor and Despina Kaps.

College plans: Attend Kalamazoo College or Case Western Reserve University for premed.

Highlights: Played varsity soccer two years and Loy Norrix had 3-0 record against Kalamazoo Central. ... Was all-district and Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference honorable mention selection in soccer. ... Also was on varsity track team for one season.

Annie Stuedemann


Parents: John and Camille Stuedemann.

College plans: Attend NCAA Division I or II college and pursue nursing degree. Also plans to play softball.

Highlights: Will be four-year varsity letter winner in softball. ... All-SMAC and pitched perfect game in 2005. ... Led team in home runs in 2004 and 2005. ... Has 15 career home runs. ... Varsity swimmer for three years and holds school record in three events.

Trevor Baker


Parent: Kristen Murphy.

College plans: Attend Utah Valley State and pursue degree in mathematics/engineering. Also plans to run cross country and track.

Highlights: SMAC Central Division runner-up in the 3,200-meter run as a junior and this season is a captain of the track team. ... All-Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference in cross country in 204-05. ... Academic All-State and team captain in 2005 season.

Marissa Person


Parents: Dave and Laurie Person.

College plans: Attend University of Michigan or Michigan State University and major in engineering.

Highlights: Played four years of varsity tennis and was academic all-state and all-KVA every year. ... State finalist in 2004 and all-stater in 2003-04. ... 106 career tennis wins. ... Played soccer four years and was all-KVA in 2005. ... No. 1 in class with 3.94 grade-point average.

Alex Wolf


Parents: Tom and Kathy Wolf.

College plans: Play basketball at either Albion College, Kalamazoo College or Hope College; major in engineering.

Highlights: Four-year varsity starter in basketball and all-Kalamazoo Valley Association junior and sophomore seasons. Helped Parchment to district title in 2005. ... All-KVA in soccer as junior and sophomore. ... Also a state finalist in tennis as a freshman and junior.

Kristen Eichorn

Portage Central

Parents: Rick and Terri Eichorn.

College plans: Attend Michigan State University and study medicine.

Highlights: Captained the varsity basketball team last fall and was the top rebounder. ... Two-year starter in varsity softball and selected to all-conference team in 2005. ... Led team in RBIs her junior season. ... Tops in class with 4.7 (weighted) grade-point average.

Daniel Yonker

Portage Central

Parents: Steve and Sandy Yonker.

College plans: Attend Dickinson College (Carlisle, Pa.), Michigan State University or James Madison College; major in political science.

Highlights: Played two years of varsity football and was leading tackler as a linebacker and MVP on defense in 2005. ... First-team all-SMAC Central Division senior season. ... Earned four varsity letters in track and was captain three years and MVP in 2005.

Shannon Smith

Portage Northern

Parents: Rick and Judy Acker-Smith.

College plans: Western Kentucky University, major in accounting and play softball.

Highlights: Division 1 all-state catcher in 2005. ... Will be four-year all-SMAC player. ... Member of softball teams that have been state runners-up last two years. ... Played No. 1 singles in tennis from 2002-04 and was honorable mention all-state in 2003-04. ... No. 1 in class of 344.

Patrick Michael Cooper

Portage Northern

Parents: Steven and Kathy Cooper.

College plans: Attend United States Naval Academy and become a pilot; study history.

Highlights: Four years of varsity cross country and three times qualified for state meet. ... Most improved in 2003 and team captain in 2005. ... Most valuable in 2004 and 2005. ... Earned three varsity letters in track and qualified for state meet all three years.

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Comments about anything?

Thomas R. Wolf, Jr. <tom.wolf@wmich.edu>