Walt Kyle inspires community
By Gordon Beetle
The best sports story of the year is not one that was decided by points or one that broke school records. Instead, the best story of the year was when 200 people gathered to raise $7,000 for the Beacon House in Marquette and the fight against cancer.
The reason why this is the sports story of the year is because this charity event was spearheaded by NMU hockey coach Walt Kyle and River Valley State Bank in Marquette.
The Walt Kyle Mile was a walk against cancer sponsored by many local participants including the hockey team at Northern.
Kyle himself is a two-time survivor of cancer. “20 years ago I had two separate battles with bone cancer. So, I was fortunate enough and blessed to have another 20 years up to this point, and I know that there’s a lot of people that are going through the same trials that I did,” Kyle said to The North Wind in August . “You need help to do it, and to me, it was just the natural thing to do.”
Because of this day in August, people were able to see another side of Kyle than just the tough-nosed coach who stands behind his team barking out orders, and hollering at referees.
It is great to see coaches and athletes outside of their sport realizing that there is more to life than winning and losing.
The fact that Kyle was willing to rally his team and the community he lives in, to give time and effort to fighting cancer has shown me a new side to the hockey team.
Too often athletes in general are perceived to be airheaded jocks. When this team branched out to the community, it showed they had other goals in life besides beating Michigan Tech.
Coaches have always been known for the lessons they teach their athletes, and it is nice to see at the college level that these lessons aren’t always 100 percent about sports.
One lesson I found that Kyle taught was on the River Valley Bank Web site where he wrote: “In sport and life, you can waste a lot of energy worrying about things that are out of your control. Instead, you need to stay focused on the moment. And when a life-changing or game-winning moment presents itself, be prepared to act.”
I’m glad to see the people associated with NMU athletics act on something besides a game and race and give their time to a better cause. For once I think we all can learn from the hockey team and their coach, Walt Kyle.
Track team gains prominence
By Carson LeMahieu
For me, picking the story of the year for NMU sports wasn’t an easy decision. This year was full of notable headlines; the football team had its first nationally televised game in three decades, the volleyball team triumphantly returned to the NCAA Tournament and the hockey team captured third place in the CCHA Tournament for the second straight year. However, the accomplishments of one team stood out to me more than any other: the NMU track team.
When the NMU track team was formed in 2004, it finished in ninth place at the conference meet with a mere 1.5 points. This season, the team scored 47.5 points and notched a fifth-place finish at the GLIAC Indoor Championships.
Along with this finish in a conference meet, the team also achieved another important milestone for the program – its first national ranking ever. The team began the outdoor season ranked 16th in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, and held strong throughout the season and finished the season ranked 20th.
This ranking did not carry over to the outdoor season, and the team had to once again earn a spot. NMU did just that and is currently ranked 20th in the nation, and head coach Tom Barnes said he thinks the team should improve on this ranking during the last few weeks of the season.
Though the team is anchored by a strong senior class headlined by Natalie Bertucci and Leslie Luehmann, the bulk of the points scored came from athletes who will be returning to the team next year. In fact only six points were scored by seniors at the indoor conference meet, while 33.5 points were scored by freshmen.
One freshman in particular, Bailey Franklin, stands above the rest. At the indoor conference meet, Franklin scored 19.5 points for the team. Included in her effort was a conference championship in the triple jump. This past weekend, in her first heptathlon competition, she won.
If Tom Barnes can develop this strong freshman class, there is no reason that this team should not be a national powerhouse for at least the next four years. If I had to make a prediction, I would guess that this isn’t the last time that the track team will appear in a story of the year column in the next decade.