The red-and-white lights illuminated the Lansing Center stage like a clear night.
Yet the brightest stars inside the center Tuesday were the hundreds of area high school athletes who came together for the Lansing State Journal’s inaugural Greater Lansing Sports Awards Banquet.
“Well, this is a pretty cool event, huh?” said Charlotte’s Alex Reinbold, beaming as he accepted his award for LSJ Boys Tennis Player of the Year and gazing around the near-sellout crowd of about 1,000 athletes, parents, coaches and supporters.
Indeed, it was.
Reinbold was one of 28 athletes named the best in their respective sports in mid-Michigan at the red-carpet gala. Lansing Catholic’s Tony Poljan and Williamston’s Renee Sturm were named the LSJ’s Male and Female Athletes of the Year, respectively, as the top senior multisport athletes in mid-Michigan.
Sturm, who arrived late after the Hornets’ home regional semifinal soccer victory over Allen Park Cabrini High, accepted her award while still wearing her shorts and Williamston t-shirt. She joked that, “I didn’t get the dress-up memo.”
“It’s special and really awesome to be surrounded by all of these athletes and be selected for the award,” said Sturm, who will play basketball at Ferris State University in the fall. “It’s just cool to see hard work pay off.”
MSU Federal Credit Union and Sparrow Health System sponsored the event. Dean Transportation and Lansing Community College provided supporting sponsorships.
With the new format also comes a number of new awards. The Courage Award posthumously went to Mason’s Brendan Brown, a bowler who died in April after an 18-month battle with cancer. Lansing Catholic’s boys cross country team was named the Sparrow Team of the Year. Charlotte’s Lindsey Carlson earned the MSUFCU Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Holt’s Kamrin Reed earned the Comeback Player of the Year Award, and Mason boys soccer coach Nick Binder earned Coach of the Year.
Fan awards also were given to the Marching Band of the Year (Eaton Rapids), Student Section of the Year (Charlotte), Video of the Year (Clay Soule of Dansville) and Mascot of the Year (Pirate Pete from Pewamo-Westphalia).
Former Michigan State University quarterback Kirk Cousins answered questions from State Journal lead high school sports reporter Brian Calloway, giving advice to the high school athletes about how to find success on and off the field.
“My challenge to all of you is to understand that things aren’t always going to go your way,” said Cousins, the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins. “When they do, accept it with humility and responsibility. And when they don’t, don’t just be a victim, choose a way to try and fix it.”
Many of the athletes thanked their parents, coaches, teammates and teachers as they accepted their awards. East Lansing’s Taryn McCutcheon, the girls basketball Player of the Year, thanked God and her family first, then “the community for accepting me when I came” to mid-Michigan from West Virginia in January.
“And,” the future MSU women’s player added, “I want to thank whoever made the cheesecake. It was great.”