Chippewas, Sabers and Lakers earn Academic All-State honors

Manistee’s Jamee Fugere earned individual Academic All-State honors from the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

It takes only about 90 minutes to determine a winner on the softball field. Being successful off the field, however, is a longer process.

A trio of area teams and individuals showed their dedication away from the diamond by earning Academic All-State honors from the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association. Manistee, Manistee Catholic Central and Bear Lake all took home team honors and each had an individual selected as well — Manistee’s Jamee Fugere, MCC’s Haley Doyle and Bear Lake’s Briann Bowling.

“To me, that’s one of the top honors you can get, as a team especially,” said Bear Lake coach Garret Waller. “I’m proud of it and they should all be very proud of that accomplishment.”

Teams must post a GPA of at least 3.00 while the individual honors, which go to seniors only, are for those with a GPA of 3.60 or better through all four years of high school.

“Academics come first, as far as I’m concerned, and sports second,” said MCC coach Dave Lijewski. “We always stress that you want to keep the grades up and work hard in the classroom and it shows on the field.”

Manistee earned Academic All-State honors as a team for at least the fifth straight year. (MHSSCA’s online records don’t indicate winners prior to 2009).

“We have a lot of smart athletes that take their grades seriously,” said Manistee coach Denise Lijewski, whose Chippewas won a sixth straight Division 3 district title. “They have to have good grades to play and they all realize that. They take pride in what they do in the classroom and it helps with what they do in the field.”

Fugere, an outfielder and Manistee’s Class of 2013 salutatorian, posted a GPA of 4.08, which checked in as the 10th highest among all individuals.

“She’s a hard worker,” Denise Lijewski said, “and it was great to see that she was recognized for it.”

MCC, which lost to Frankfort in a Division 4 district championship, earned academic team honors for a second straight year. It may have been tougher this time because a number of softball players also competed on the Sabers’ new varsity track and field team.

“There were times when the kids were getting behind in their work … and they were excused from practice,” Dave Lijewski said. “We made them go home and get their work done.”

Doyle, a first baseman and first-team selection to the West Michigan D League, posted a GPA of 3.72.

“She really put a lot into school and she was a good leader,” Dave Lijewski said.

Bear Lake earned team honors for the first time in Waller’s tenure, which began with the 2011 season, while Bowling earned individuals honors with a 3.76 GPA.

“Briann wasn’t even going to go out for softball and decided to at the last minute,” Waller said of Bowling, an outfielder who earned all-league and all-district honors. “I’m extremely proud of what she was able to accomplish. Not only did she help the team out by coming out, but she accomplished quite a bit. That doesn’t surprise me. She just flat-out works hard at everything.

“She was a good role model for the younger girls to look up to, not only on the field but in the classroom.”

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