Saginaw Area Multisport Athletes Face Tough Tournament Decisions

Every year the challenge remains the same, with the disappointment and the feeling that someone is letting someone down.

But every year, high school multi-sport athletes are forced to choose between sports and their teammates on one of Michigan’s busiest sports days of the year.

This season, Freeland’s Evelynn Rybicki and Michigan Lutheran Seminary’s Ava Slieff are faced with the same decision and offered different responses.

Rybicki, a star of the Freeland softball team, qualified for the Division 2 state meet in the pole vault. Slieff, who helped lead Michigan Lutheran Seminary to a 21-win softball season, qualified in the 200 meters, as well as the 400 and 800 relays.

They are forced to choose between playing in the softball districts or the state track finals on Saturday.

“I love softball and I want to play softball,” Slieff said. “It’s disappointing not being able to play softball with my district teammates. You’d hope something could be done, but I’m going to meet athletics.

Slieff, who plays shortstop, pitcher and outfielder for the Cardinals, is hitting .369 with 16 stolen bases for a 21-12 Seminar team. Last season, Slieff also competed in Division 4 track and field competition, helping the Cardinals finish third in the 400m relay.

She wrapped up the 2022 regular season on Thursday, pitching a full game to help Seminary part ways with Birch Run.

“It is our school’s policy that co-ed sports athletes must make a choice before the season, choosing which sport is primary and which is secondary,” Seminary coach Seth LaBair said. “Whenever there is a scheduling conflict, the athlete opts for the main sport.

“Ava missed about 10 games for us when there were track meets. And since it’s her main sport, she’s going to the state meet on Saturday.

While Slieff competes in Hudsonville, his softball teammates will face Breckenridge in a district semifinal Saturday noon in Merrill.

Rybicki, a junior, is part of a strong Freeland track and field team and a 24-11 Freeland softball team. The Falcons finished third in the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association team meet, led by a trio of long-distance stars: Mara Longenecker, Whitney Farrell and Kiera Hansen. Farrell is committed to racing for Ferris State, while Hansen will race next season for Eastern Michigan. Longenecker will be Michigan’s favorite next season.

They will compete for the Falcons in the Division 2 state meet at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern, while Rybicki will play in the Division 2 softball district at Bullock Creek, taking on Essexville Garber at 10 a.m. in the semifinals. district.

“It’s just too bad she can’t do both,” Freeland softball coach Mike Rybicki said. “You hope the state would be able to create a situation where these athletes could do both. I understand that you can’t change the state of athletics competition. There are hundreds of volunteers and that requires a lot of coordination.

“But there’s no reason you can’t have a district softball tournament with four teams and three games on a Friday.”

Currently, the Michigan High School Athletic Association has made Saturday the default date for softball and baseball districts. The Saturday date for baseball is important due to pitching restrictions, but those restrictions do not extend to softball.

“Right now, to play Friday, all four teams in the district should be in agreement,” LaBair said. “It’s the best shot, and some districts are Friday. It would be a good idea especially for small schools like ours where there are more dual athletes.

“But right now, Ava is going to miss playing softball. If we don’t win, her season is over. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the situation.”

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AFTER

Freeland softball team continues turnaround season with sweep

Saginaw Area Regional Track Championship, State Meet Playoffs

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