PATRICK SEMANSKY/AP File Photo
Baltimore Orioles’ left fielder Nate McLouth hits a game-winning single in a Sept. 12 game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Baltimore. McLouth, a Whitehall High School graduate, enjoyed a career renaissance in the summer of 20
#1. Nate McLouth helps lead Orioles to playoffs
If it had ended in June for Nate McLouth, no one would have said he’d been anything but a rousing success.
McLouth, the only Whitehall High School athlete to ever be named to one of the four major pro sports’ All-Star teams, was struggling mightily through two months of the 2012 baseball season after returning to his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. His average had fallen to .140 and he’d driven in just two runs in 57 at-bats. Still, the then-30-year-old McLouth had already put together a nice career and made more money than he would ever need as a professional baseball player.
However, in a terrific turn of fate, that wasn’t the final chapter.
#2. Whitehall senior volleyball duo earns NCAA Div. I scholarships
A school of only a few hundred like Whitehall High School doesn’t see too many Division I-caliber athletes come through its ranks. Almost never does it see two on the same team in the same class.
Autumn Christenson and Hope Rillema were just such a pair for Whitehall the last four years, earning all manner of all-conference, all-region, all-state, and all-everything honors as the Vikings enjoyed a terrific run the last few seasons. Christenson recently signed a letter of intent to attend Michigan State University, while Rillema will go to Morehead State University.
#3. Whitehall volleyball advances to state semifinals
Christenson and Rillema, along with senior teammate Bailey Seeger, had their eyes on achieving one last thing before leaving Whitehall’s volleyball court for the final time — a state championship, a feat left unachieved by each Whitehall squad before.
It was not to be this season, but the Vikings came closer than any previous squad ever had, advancing to the state semifinals in Battle Creek and stretching top-flight opponent North Branch to a fourth game before falling short.
#4. Whitehall’s Welsh becomes GA for #1 ranked Notre Dame football
Things can happen quickly in college football coaching.
Whitehall High School alum Pat Welsh experienced a remarkable career bump, over the last couple of years. After the 2010 season, Welsh left Grand Valley State University, where he’d earned his degree and worked his way up to defensive assistant, to be the quarterbacks coach at Division III Wittenberg College. After just one season at that post, Welsh caught his big break when his former boss at Grand Valley State, Chuck Martin, called him up in spring 2012 and asked if he’d be interested in interviewing for the job of offensive graduate assistant at the University of Notre Dame. Martin was taking the job of offensive coordinator and had an assistant spot to fill.
#5. Whitehall wrestling advances to state semifinals
The MHSAA state wrestling tournament was created in 1988. Never had a Whitehall team made the state semifinals in that time — until 2012.
The Vikings, ranked sixth in Division 3 entering the postseason tournament, surprised many by blowing by opponents en route to the semifinals. Their sixth-place standing made them the lowest-ranked team in any of the four divisions to advance to the semifinal round after the Vikings upset Chippewa Hills 33-27 in the quarterfinals.
#6. Montague basketball advances to regionals
Although Montague placed just third in the West Michigan Conference during the 2011-12 regular season, the Wildcats saved their best for the postseason tournament and rallied all the way to the regional finals before falling to Shelby 58-53.
The Wildcats defeated Holton, Western Michigan Christian and North Muskegon to win the district championship, then beat NorthPointe Christian in the regional semifinal, setting up a conference showdown with Shelby.
#7. Ryan Van Bergen spends 4 months with Carolina Panthers
Whitehall High School alum Ryan Van Bergen got to live his dream for a few months in 2012 when the former University of Michigan defensive end signed with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent.
When Van Bergen signed the deal, he said it was because of the honesty the Panthers’ organization showed him throughout the draft process, including receiving a call from scout Mike Szabo late in the draft to inform Van Bergen that he was Carolina’s top choice as an undrafted free agent.
#8. Whitehall boys soccer three-peats at districts
“You can never count on them, and you can never assume them,” Whitehall coach Bryan Mahan said after his team won its third straight soccer district title in October by beating Ludington in the finals.
Perhaps not, but after winning six out of seven, one could forgive Whitehall for simply adding the regional tournament to the team’s schedule in future years.
me. The Vikes graduated five all-WMC first-team players, but the team’s consistent track record of success indicates that Whitehall is much more likely to reload than rebuild in 2013.
#9. Whitehall baseball wins district title
There wasn’t much drama in June when the Whitehall Vikings ripped through Ludington and Fremont by a combined 15-1 score to win the district championship, the team’s second straight district title.
Daniel Westrate was the headliner for Whitehall, pitching a six-inning no-hitter in the final game. Westrate didn’t get a chance to pitch the seventh because of the mercy rule, as Whitehall won 10-0. Zach Zweigle’s two-run single in the first inning opened the scoring and provided all the runs Whitehall would need.
#10. Wildcats’ football makes it 12 playoff appearances in a row
Trips to the postseason have become routine for Montague High School football, and 2012 was no exception, as the Wildcats put together an outstanding campaign that ended with another trip to the state playoffs.
Montague was fueled by a top-notch defense that shut out three of its first four opponents, then held the fifth — Whitehall — to just three points. Ultimately, Montague put together an impressive 8-1 season, the only loss coming on the road against Oakridge, which went on to an unbeaten regular season. Linebacker Jacob Marsh put up otherworldly tackling numbers en route to an all-West Michigan Conference selection, while quarterback and sometimes wide receiver Brandon Moore was a threat running, throwing and catching the ball on offense. The Wildcats blew out several opponents, but cut their teeth on close victories like the ones over Whitehall, Shelby and North Muskegon.
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