LANSING, MI - It’s called the best night in Lansing sports history, the one night where the best high school student-athletes strut the red carpet, pose for a photo opp and most importantly are recognized for being standouts in their sport.
The Lansing State Journal (LSJ) held it’s inaugural Greater Lansing Sports Awards Show on Tuesday, June 7th at the Lansing Center where almost 40 awards were given, and over 1,000 student-athletes, parents, coaches and supporters were in attendance.
The Greater Lansing Sports Awards is a year long recognition of the best athletes and performances that are summed up in one night. It’s a way to celebrate all that is right in the world of high school sports- the perseverance, camaraderie and sense of community.
The awards recognize the LSJ Dream Teams, which are comprised of the top players in each Greater Lansing MHSAA-recognized sport. The search begins with their annual football coverage and runs through the end of the spring sports season. Some of the awards recognized are male and female athlete of the year, coach of the year, team of the year, academic athlete of the year, fan awards, etc.
Many of the award recipients thanked their coaches, teammates, parents and teachers during their acceptance. East Lansing Girl’s Basketball Taryn McCutcheon was named the Girl’s Basketball Player of the Year after transferring to East Lansing High School from West Virginia in January. She thanked God and her family, then “the community for accepting me when I came.”
Lansing Catholic’s Tony Poljan and Williamston’s Renee Sturm were awarded the LSJ’s Male and Female Athletes of the Year. Sturm accepted her award wearing shorts and a t-shirt after arriving late coming straight from the Hornet’s home regional semifinal victory over Allen Park Cabrini High School.
“I didn’t get the dress up memo,” she joked then went on to say, “It’s special and really awesome to be surrounded by all of these athletes and be selected for this award. It’s just cool to see hard work pay off.” Sturm will play basketball in the fall at Ferris State University.
Let’s not forget the keynote speaker Kirk Cousins, former Michigan State University Football standout and current Quarterback for the Washington Redskins. He flashed back to the taxing times of his beginning NFL days, when the stage got a bit big and he got a bit smaller. Once praised MSU starting quarterback found himself as the backup for the Redskins, and criticism was not far behind.
“Tough times don’t last but tough people do,” MSU Football Head Coach Mark Dantonio would tell him. Cousins shared his story to the room full of high school athletes, “I think for me, I had to live that reality the last couple of years.”
In 2014, three years into his NFL career he was given the chance to play, “I didn’t play very well and I was benched,” said Cousins. One year later he earned the starting quarterback spot and led the Redskins to the NFC East Crown with a 9-7 record.
After Cousins breakout season in 2015, Washington placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on him which acts as a one-year $19.95 million contract. “I definitely feel a sense of urgency now as a starting quarterback to make good on that opportunity and have some sustained success,” said Cousins.
He used his journey from struggle to success to send a message to the crowd of athletes, parents and attendees during a half hour Q&A session. “You have to understand that things aren’t always going to go your way. When they do, accept it with humility and responsibility, and when they don’t, don’t just be a victim, choose to find a way to fix it.”
He also provided advice on how to find success on and off the field for athletes and students who are headed to college. “It’s very important as an athlete to remember that, while sports are a big part of your life and it’s a big part of what you do, it’s not your identity. It’s not who you are at the end of the day.”
“I challenge you to be a great decision-maker, understand that every decision you make has consequences. There’s a tomorrow for every today, and you have to live with the consequences of the decisions that you make, good or bad,” Cousins said.
2016 GREATER LANSING SPORTS AWARD WINNERS:
Female athlete of the year: Renee Sturm, Williamston
Male athlete of the year: Tony Poljan, Lansing Catholic
Team of the year: Lansing Catholic boys cross country
Coach of the year: Nick Binder, Mason
Comeback player of the year: Kamrin Reed, Holt
Video of the year: Clay Soule, Dansville
Courage award: Brendan Brown, Mason
Scholar-athlete of the year: Lindsey Carlson, Charlotte
Boys cross country runner of the year: Noah Jacobs, Corunna
Girls cross country runner of the year: Stephanie Vanis, East Lansing
Girls golfer of the year: Jessica Kim, Okemos
Boys soccer player of the year: Leutrim Shefkiu, Mason
Girls swimmer of the year: Freyja Garbaccio, Okemos
Girls diver of the year: Mary Phillips, East Lansing
Boys tennis player of the year: Alex Reinbold, Charlotte
Volleyball player of the year: Meredith Norris, Corunna
Boys water polo player of the year: Andrew Himebaugh, Okemos
Football offensive player of the year: Jared Smith, Pewamo-Westphalia
Football defensive player of the year: Jace Demenov, Ithaca
Boys basketball player of the year: Brandon Johns, East Lansing
Girls basketball player of the year: Taryn McCutcheon, East Lansing
Hockey player of the year: Anders Staky, Okemos
Boys swimmer of the year: Joey Lashbrook, Waverly/Lansing Catholic
Boys diver of the year: Riese Penn, Ionia
Wrestler of the year: Ian Parker, St. Johns
Boys golfer of the year: Ian Carroll, East Lansing
Boys lacrosse player of the year: Bennett Sherman, Okemos
Girls lacrosse player of the year: Angela Palmer, Okemos
Girls soccer player of the year: Danielle Stephan, DeWitt
Softball player of the year: Bry Chapman, Holt
Girls tennis player of the year: Alisa Sabotic, Okemos
Boys track runner of the year: Noah Jacobs, Corunna
Girls track runner of the year: Taylor Manson, East Lansing
Girls water polo player of the year: Sarah Williams, Okemos