You often hear teammates refer to each other as “brothers”. An idea that camaraderie ties people beyond the game, beyond friendships into something that is deeper and more meaningful. A bond that is long lasting and doesn’t fade as seasons turn over. Rare is the case though when actual brothers are on the same team, even rarer when one is turning in his jersey as one is just putting his on. This is the case with brothers CJ and Drew Taunt for the Eastside hockey team this year. CJ is a graduating senior and team captain and Drew is a freshman just coming into the fold.
"It's been interesting because I've never actually played with my brother on the same team. This is actually just the first year. I get it - it's tough.” CJ said as he explained the dynamic between brother, leader and teammate. “Sometimes I want to say something as the captain, and I think maybe I shouldn't because I'm the older brother. Then there are times where I'm like you're being really annoying right now but as the captain I'm not going to say anything so I have to sit back. Finding the right balance has been different - but overall it's been a great experience.”
CJ’s ascension to Eastside team captain was a gradual one. Rising up, not just as a skilled player but also as a leader both on the ice and in the locker room.
“Every year the young man has progressed, he’s super smart and I see a kid on the ice today who is just light years ahead of the boy he was when he was a sophomore. He deserved the captain’s C. I had to give it to him. He may not be the most solid player on the team as far as ability is concerned but skills, and hockey sense and all the intangibles that a coach wants out of a kid are all there.” Eastside head coach Bob Scott said of CJ. “The positivity – he’s never negative, never down on his teammates. So this is a kid who anytime somebody’s done something wrong on the bench he’s like “hey maybe you should have done this” or “maybe you think about this” Instead of “that was totally wrong”. He approaches that kid and gives him it’s hard to say criticism in a way that doesn’t feel like criticism. He leads the team.”
For Drew the balance between brother and captain, teammate and leader has been an easy transition. Hanging around your older brother has its benefits especially when hitting the ice.
“I know a bunch of the teammates because of him playing on the team previously.” Drew said of his Eastside experience. “I like that it's a bit more laid back and we can have fun while playing the sport we like at the same time.”
Even with his short tenure on the team, it is apparent that Drew will carry on the Taunt hockey legacy that his brother started.
“Drew is a really pleasant addition to the team. You can see that the brothers enjoy playing with one another – and they play well together. They know what each other is going to do and that’s a big benefit.” Coach Scott said of Drew. “So as Drew is not as skilled a hockey player as his older brother – and who would expect him to be – you can see his brother is pulling him along. Pulling him up by his bootstraps in a way, and there’s definitely a chemistry between the two boys that you see. It’s not a competition chemistry – it’s a “I’m going to make you better” chemistry. Drew is an exceedingly pleasant young man to be around and I’m just getting to know him.”
The Taunt brothers will be taking the ice side by side for Eastside only a few more times as the short 2021 season winds down. No matter the score, the memories will endure because there’s no one who can challenge you, drive you and annoy you quite like your brother can and they will both be better for the experience.
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In a season like no other, one team has risen to the occasion and is standing tall above their competition. With wins over a previously undefeated Williamston team, and a very good DeWitt squad, the lady Vikings basketball team has emerged as the best team in the area. Currently undefeated they are top the CAAC Red once again.
“I definitely thought we were capable of it, but I am surprised just because typically we haven’t gotten off to very fast starts in the years past.” Haslett head coach Ross Baker said of his teams 6-0 start. “ I knew we were capable of it and I was pleased. We’ve played six pretty good games so far.”
One of the reasons that Haslett is playing so well is because their players, including sophomore Emily Homan, have come into the season excelling at a rate that was greater than expected.
“For Emily, I would say her personality and her drive. That goes for all of the girls, Obviously with Covid and the restrictions this summer we didn’t get a lot of team time – so a lot of that development and growth fell on them. They had to find the time, the outside courts or their driveways. Wherever they could work on their skill development. I agree, we’ve seen a lot of tremendous growth out of a lot of players and all that credit goes to them, their hard work and dedication."
Coach Baker knows that good seasons can turn quickly and he knows his team has room to improve, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. They are averaging big wins against teams with lower records, but against the better teams the games get tight.
"We need to continue to get more efficient offensively. I think we want to play at a fast pace this year, but we don’t want to play too fast. So there/s a fine balance that we want to find there, and we have to continue to be a good rebounding team. I think that through our first six games we’ve been a good rebounding team – but I think for us to be a good as we want to be we have to be a great rebounding team where everyone contributes.”
This Haslett team returned a number of players from last years District Champions and watching them play together on the floor there is a different energy, and camaraderie than you’d expect for such a shortened off season. We asked coach Baker why that was, and what was his favorite part of coaching the team this season.
“Just spending time with the team. This team in particular is so cohesive and so close on and off the floor. Every practice is a blast. They come in and whether our practice is two hours or an hour and a half, or a n hour and fifteen minutes – they work hard, they compete, they go at each other and but they have fun while doing it. They pick each other up, they’re energetic and it’s pretty special when you get a chance to be around something like that.”
The 2020-2021 High School bowling season is starting and as part of our season previews we talked to Haslett swimming coach Olivia Barbour on what to expect.
On starting the season: "So far the kids have all been really hard workers and adapting to the changes and I'm just looking forward to them finally getting to compete again because it's been since march since most of them have been in a pool. We started this week and they've been doing really well. I think that they were a little nervous at first about getting back in, we started on Saturday and they've all been in a really good mood. "
On their strongest events: "Probably the 500M Freestyle and we have 200 individual medley swimmers and some kids who are really good at the 100 Fly. In the medleys and relays - I think they'll be pretty good. We will have some kids move around a bit based on last year. We might have some flipping around because we lost six seniors."
Sometimes in life you just have a feeling that everything is going to go your way, and Haslett junior Lincoln Brecheisen had everything working when he broke the Haslett Varsity Bowling high score record with a near perfect 298 against Eaton Rapids at City Limits on Tuesday afternoon.
“I felt like it was just a good day I guess. In practice I was right on the mark the entire time, and in the game I got the first three strikes and I like – man today just feels really good!” Brecheisen commented post match. “Once I got to about five strikes, I knew I could still mess up but I didn’t. Then I got to about seven and I was thought man this is happening! Once I got to seven I knew I could get nine, then once I got the ninth strike I knew this was really it! I could really do this right now. Then my last throw was an okay shot but it didn’t get it in the end and just left two pins up. I was just trying to be as calm and collective the entire time, I wasn’t trying to act out of the ordinary. Just trying to be myself and stay positive. Go up there and throw one good shot and recompose and just do that over and over again.”
Brecheisen had a clean slate of strikes going into the tenth and with all the pressure on him, and he rose to the occasion.
“Nothing really came of it, he was just making great shots as the day went on and one shot just led to another. I just kept telling him to take it one shot at a time, which is something I tell the kids at practice. That way they aren’t getting nervous when they start accumulating multiple strikes in a row.” Haslett varsity coach Andrew Taylor said of the performance. “Lincoln handled it very well, he stayed focused the whole time and hit one shot after another. Before you knew it, it was the 10th frame and I think he handled the pressure very well.”
Collectively Haslett had a great match against Eaton Rapids with several bowlers achieving their personal bests. CJ Remier rolled a 231, Addy Fackler finished with 210, Madi Harris came in at 201, and Isaac Richmond finished with his personal best 175. Great job Vikings Bowlers!
Players of all ages are preparing for the upcoming basketball season and one of their most difficult tasks is understanding what the coaches want to see from them at the tryouts. Tryouts aren't just about making the team, they can be about which level a player is assigned to, or where they are assigned within a team. Often players are left blindly guessing what it is it that the coaches are looking for. We had a conversation with Haslett women's varsity basketball coach Ross Baker for his perspective to help demystify the tryout process.
What is it that you are looking for in players during tryouts? Coach Baker: "First you are looking at basketball specific things, passing, dribbling rebounding and shooting. You look for athleticism, quick feet and speed. Then you look if they are a hard worker. You want to know are they a good teammate? Are they coachable? I think those are the main points we are always looking for."
How does a bench player move up to a rotation player?"It's a number of things. We always tell our girls that we aren't always looking for the most talented five, we are looking for the five that play the best together. Some years we may need a little extra scoring in the lineup so we might be looking for more offense out of our players. Some years we might need a really good defender or a really good ball handler and a girl that can set teammates up.
I think each season and each year that question gets answered a little differently but what we're looking for are five girls that play as a team and can play as one unit where they can share the basketball. The big thing for us is defensively you have to be able to talk and communicate. You've got to be a great communicator.
For a lot of the younger players in the area their season has been delayed or cancelled. With practice time at a minimum a player might think that they can't improve but that is not the case. What can a player do to improve on their own?
"The nice thing about basketball is that it's a sport that you can get better at whether you are doing it individually, doing it as a team or doing it two on two or three on three. Anytime you can improve your ball handling you should. There's plenty of home workouts you can do in the garage, the basement, or the driveway. Working on both your strong hand and your off hand equally is key.
Try getting in as many shots in a day as possible. Unfortunately in Michigan we don't have great year round weather but you can always work on your shooting form, and there's plenty of really good shooting drills online for that. You can just lay on your back in the basement or lay in the back in the living room or in your bedroom. You don't need a lot of space - just two or three feet that's clear to just work on your shooting form. If you can shoot they will always find a place for you to play and I think that goes along with dribbling as well. If you can handle the basketball and you're a really good passer there's always a place for you on a team."
You'll be able to keep up with the Haslett Women's basketball team here on LansingHerald.com all season long.
Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow.' -M.A Radmacher
Those words are so fitting for Haslett Viking high school junior distance runner Graham Foster. A young man who through injury, timing, circumstances and fate has found himself unexpectedly leading his team to its future.
For Graham running was something that he always knew he could do and something he embraced since elementary school. “Ever since I was really young, I was really competitive. My first run was with Hershey’s (local youth running events) and I was always really fast. I was only average my first run but when I realized I could travel doing it and I really got competitive. So, I just ran as hard as I could and realized I was pretty good at this and I liked it too! I just believe that God gave me a gift for running and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Graham has progressed over the years to quietly being one of the better runners in the area, but has always been in a position where he was on the back part of excellent teams. A key contributor but always out of the spotlight. Happy to be a part of it all, but often overshadowed by older teammates and friends who collectively made up one of the best running teams, not just in the area but in the entire state. Then in a series of events he went from being the back runner on a good team to the lead runner on a team with young runners and unknown potential. The seniors graduated, fellow runners transferred and all of a sudden Graham was in an unfamiliar position. All eyes were looking at him.
“Graham had to step into a role that I wasn’t quite sure that he was ready for, and I don’t think Graham was ready for it – but in typical Graham fashion he embraced it, wanted to do as much as he could for the team and do whatever was necessary. Graham grew into it pretty quickly, but I also think it took a little bit away from his own running. I think it kind of hurt him in the long run because it’s a lot of pressure.”
Haslett Cross Country Coach Mike Homan said of Graham taking the lead of the Haslett Vikings men’s distance teams. “It’s easy when you are just following but its different when you are the leader. I think this next track season is going to help him tremendously…it was a learning experience for Graham this past season. Not only how to be a front runner but being a captain on the boy’s team, a team which had so much success last year. It put a lot of pressure on Graham.”
Not only was Foster now in a different position as team captain, he also had the personal challenge of overcoming a freak injury that sidelined him earlier in the year. While at a church youth group meet up last December, Graham was having fun with friends and just jumping around when he landed and felt a twinge in his knee. Being precocious he didn’t think much of it and pressed on. During indoor track season he noticed that the swelling in his knee wouldn’t go away and he had it checked out. The news from the doctor hit hard, he had torn his ACL and would need surgery. He was out of running, and would require weeks of both patience and physical therapy.
“I never thought about quitting but I did have my low points when my ACL injury happened. I got pretty down on myself.” Graham said of the injury. “My parents helped me out a lot, and I prayed on it and eventually I came back. No, I never once considered quitting.”
The road back for Graham was not an easy one. With COVID-19 isolating everyone, his motivations had to come from within and from those immediately around him. One of those guiding lights on his road to recovery was coach Homan who has experience guiding many athletes down Graham’s same path.
“I think you have to put expectations out there, but they have to be expectations that they can achieve. We all want to have our own goals but you have to have goals that are attainable. I think for Graham it was setting goals that he could hit, so that in the beginning – to him it sounded relatively easy, but I knew it would be tough for him to hit them. With every goal that you hit, you set another goal and you get so much confidence from that.” Homan said of Graham’s recovery. “Luckily Graham is a kid that can pretty much out work anything and it was easy to keep hitting those goals. We kept seeing that happen throughout the year. I’ll tell you what, those breakthrough moments are so special for a kid like him, and it’s so well deserved for Graham. I hope we have a normal track season, and that we can roll right into fall of next year. He’s going to have so much more under his belt.”
With the spring running season in front of him, Foster has been hitting the track for as much practice as he can get in. Winter weather simply isn’t going to stop him. Not now after coming so far.
“Coach helped by encouraging me when I’d get down on myself after the injury. He knew what I was capable of and that helped me a lot. He always believed in me. I think I’m fully recovered now and its just a matter of getting back in shape at this point. I’m really looking forward to seeing my new team again and working with them some more. I’m looking forward to hitting my new time and breaking my PR’s and hopefully figuring out which college I want to go.”
With his challenges behind him we have no doubt that Graham will go as far and as fast, as he possibly can.
Photo Courtesy of J. Henry
Haslett resident Nathan Westerlund was recently honored as part of State Senator Curtis Hertel Jrs. "Frontline Hero" initiative to recognize local heroes in the 23rd Senate District. Nate is a Certified Nurse’s Assistant at Burcham Hills in East Lansing. He is a full time MSU student working toward his goal of becoming a Physician’s Assistant. After a full week of classes when his friends are hanging out or enjoying football Saturdays, Nate spends his weekends caring for those who can no longer care for themselves, working with this vulnerable population through COVID-19.
Nate was nominated by Anne Wilson, whose mother, Deanna, was the first Burcham Hills resident he ever worked with. Deanna recently passed away after a 20+ year battle with Alzheimer’s and a brief battle with COVID-19, but received excellent care from Nate when she was not herself from the disease. He treated Deanna like a person, helping her to pick her outfit for the day and put on her signature red lipstick, turning on her favorite HGTV shows, and getting her treats for her sweet tooth. With a smile and positive attitude, he cared for Deanna with humor and dignity while encouraging her family through a difficult time.
Nate loved spending time with Deanna, saying it was just a pleasure to have the opportunity to make an impact on her, Anne, and the rest of their family. He admits COVID-19 has been difficult for the Burcham Hills employees and residents, as necessary safety precautions have altered what is usually a lively, energetic environment. Nate tries his hardest to make sure his residents are having the best experience possible, knowing many of them are struggling with the same feelings about the pandemic as the rest of us are. He’s happy to know his work has a positive impact, and that an act of kindness for those in need can help illuminate a dark time. Nate is truly a Frontline Hero, and our community thanks him for his dedication.
Nate will receive a $100 gift card to El Azteco East. El Azteco first opened its doors in a basement on East Lansing’s M.A.C. Ave in 1976, after New Mexican native Arturo Santa Cruz, who was an MSU student at the time, realized his dream of opening an authentic Mexican restaurant to an eager public. He quickly expanded to a second location in Lansing and in 1992, moved the campus location to its current home on Ann St. Famous for its cheese dip, topopo salad, and rooftop patio, El Az, as it’s affectionately known, is a Lansing area staple.
The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association recently recognized outstanding area players for post season awards. Here are your Vikings honorees:
Congratulations to all!