AMS Marathon Club Racks Up Miles and Good Health

Most of us look forward to our lunch break as being a relaxing mid-point in our day: an opportunity to step away from work at hand, turn off our phones, and breathe a little deeper.

Ironically, this group of determined Allendale Middle School kids have found a way to breathe a little deeper, too, but it’s not because they’re sitting down and relaxing. Instead, they’re spending their lunch hours running laps in the hallway the minute they’ve finished their lunches.

photo of the Allendale Middle School Marathon Club

Pictured above: the entire group of marathon hopefuls. The pack has now slimmed to 27 dedicated runners.

The Allendale Marathon Club is currently open only to sixth-graders who are willing to sacrifice a portion of their lunchtime in order to meet a lofty goal: running enough laps over the course of several weeks to complete those elusive 26.2 miles.

Started by Mrs. Shelley Jourden in 2008, she said what motivated her to get kids running was the fact that she began competing in 5Ks herself. She notes that oftentimes her students begin with ambitious goals and then soon thereafter, fall away when the work becomes too difficult.

But this year has been different.

“I currently have 27 students running.  This is a first to have that many stick with it!  I truly enjoy seeing the students set a goal and achieve it.  Many think it is impossible to run a total of 26.2 miles, but it’s not!  It also brings joy to see them encourage others to finish,” she said.

Allendale Middle School, Marathon Club, Allendale Public Schools

(pictured L to R) Sixth graders Chloe Williams and Heather Koenig

Mrs. Jourden spends her lunch hour standing in the hallway with popcicle sticks used to keep track of laps completed. Each time students run past her, they collect another stick and then turn in their pile before heading off to afternoon classes. Mrs. Jourden keeps track of how many times they run the loop.

While some students are intrigued by the 26.2 mile goal, just as many are encouraged by the idea of getting healthy and feeling better. Chloe Williams and Heather Koenig both note that since most of the winter is spent indoors, the opportunity to get moving was appealing. Though they haven’t been runners in the past, they say that Mrs. Jourden’s Marathon Club has given them the push they’ve needed to begin.

The club will keep running all spring, finally wrapping up the same week as the 6th grade award ceremony. At that time, students will be recognized with a certificate of completion, a gift, and will see their names added to the AMS Marathon Club plaque that hangs proudly in the hallway by Mrs. Jourden’s classroom.

We applaud the efforts of these young athletes! They inspire us all!

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It’s Time for Family Fitness Frenzy!

APS, Family Fitness Frenzy, Allendale Public Schools, Allendale Elementary PTO

Photo taken at FFF 2012.

Allendale’s 5th Annual Family Fitness Frenzy is revving up to once again promote health, an active lifestyle, and general wellness in the community. With activities planned from 9 am – noon this Saturday, March 16, families will enjoy the freedom to come and go at a pace that best fits their schedules.

Parent Volunteer Coordinators Wendy Williams and Melissa Fennell have worked tirelessly for months, along with with a team of parent volunteers, to put together a memorable — and meaningful — event for all who attend. While executing a successful fundraiser for the Allendale Elementary PTO is at the top of their list, they say that offering a day filled with fun and games is a close second.

“We hope the students, families, teachers, and community enjoy the updates our planning team made this year. We have put in a lot of thought and time, and considered lessons learned from past events. … Our hope is to create an atmosphere that brings everyone together.”

APS, Family Fitness Frenzy, Allendale Elementary PTO

GVSU Lakers Football interacting with kids at the 2012 Family Fitness Frenzy. We’re thrilled to welcome them back!

Events planned for this Saturday are FREE, but you are asked to register upon arrival. Games and activities will include:

  • Laker Football
  • Go Lakers Cheerleading
  • “You Think You Can Dance?”
  • Eye Olympics
  • Simon Says & Rock, Paper, Scissors
  • Kick it! Kickboxing
  • “Get Your Move on!”
  • La Pita Fresh
  • Energy Explosion!
  • 2 Intense Gymnastics
  • Cup Stacking

Each of these activities was made possible by the generosity of our community sponsors, without whose help the event could not take place!  A complete list of our sponsors can be found by clicking HERE. Please remember to thank them!

As in the past, T-shirts were allocated based on students raising at least $30 toward the event and will not be available for purchase at the Family Fitness Frenzy. If your child has brought a T-shirt (or two) home already, please make sure to wear them to the event!

Saturday’s entertainment will also include drawings for many prizes. A pledge of $30 will get your student’s name entered into the raffle for one of these great prizes! (flyer courtesy of the FFF planning team). Pledge money supports all of Allendale’s K-5 classrooms and prevents our students from having to sell candy, wrapping paper, or cookie dough to raise money.

Melissa and Wendy look forward to another terrific event and wish to thank everyone who played a part in this yearly community event.

“We could not have done this without our amazing planning team! I believe we had the best team ever — everyone clicked and rocked their roles by going above and beyond!”

We hope you’ll be able to join us for another exciting Family Fitness Frenzy!

Details again are:

Saturday, March 16

9 am – noon

Allendale High School Gymnasium


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Fall Sports Focus: Sideline Cheer

Coach Kyla Stern is having a wonderful fall coaching the largest group of young women that she’s seen in her time at Allendale High School. With dedicated athletes working hard to learn and achieve new techniques together, Coach Stern is seeing growth and teamwork push boundaries and reach new heights as the girls work to have cheer perceived as a sport.

“One of my favorite things about this team is their love for the sport. They are all so dedicated to being great and making the team the best it can be. It makes it so easy to coach when the girls share the same love for the sport as I do,” gushed Coach Stern.

The leadership of the seniors has played and continues to play a big role on the team when it comes to teaching and encouraging their teammates. She notes that Justice Jones is a young women who models kindness and integrity, adding that Justice, “…works great with everyone on the team.”

Sydni Bennett is another senior who leads by example, helping to teach the younger girls and sharing in their successes. These two young women are supported by sophomore Heather LeBrecque who is already rising to the top as an up-and-coming leader. Each member of the team, however, has a special role to play and is valued deeply for her unique contribution.

As all of our coaches would attest, the team could not be the group they are without the committed support of its parents. Tina Jones and Jodi Hankis-Jensen serve as booster reps, with Tina additionally assisting with fundraisers, shirt ordering, and other miscellaneous items. Parents involved with sideline cheer also willingly serve at the concession stands and help to prepare snacks for the girls to enjoy during halftime.

“I have great parent support! I am so fortunate to have so many parents involved. They make my life so much easier and it’s great for the girls when their parents are there to support them! … It’s great knowing that if I ever need help with anything, so many of the parents are right there willing to help!” said Coach Stern.

Kyla feels blessed to have gotten to know each of these girls over the years, and marks this season as her first with a group of young women that have been with her throughout their entire high school career. Working alongside one another for four years has given them a special bond and commitment to the whole.

“We all are on the same page as far as goals and what we want to accomplish. They are always asking me for new challenges and for me to push them harder. I am so lucky to have each and everyone of these girls!”

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Fall Sports Focus: Cross Country

Allendale Cross Country Team pounds out mile after mile during practice.

The Allendale High School Cross Country team knows a thing or two about perseverance and tenacity. After slogging through one of the hottest summers in recent history, the team has emerged dedicated and passionate about running the best race they can. Immersed in a tough conference, OK Blue runners know that every step counts and every mile is a victory.

Coach Grant Lofdahl shepherds his team with great care and a tender heart. “The kids on my team mean the world to me. It is absolutely the highlight of my day to come to practice and be a part of their lives.” He pointed out that while experience levels on his team range from rookie running to experienced long distance runners, each of the students wearing an Allendale uniform brings something valuable that adds to the spirit of the whole.

With no senior boys running this year, Coach Lofdahl is grateful to rely on the natural leadership skills brought to the field by juniors Micah Maness and Brad Hoekstra. Micah has been a CC runner for three years at AHS and is now maturing into a young man who brings leadership to the team by the kind of integrity and character he displays. Brad, also in his third year with the team, has grown to become one of the fastest runners in the Grand Rapids area. Both are serving as captains this year for the boys.

For their part, the girls boast their own leaders who fill the role of captains as well. Senior Katherine Ginn and junior  Layne Corner bring the work ethic, experience, and dedication the younger runners can look up to. Katherine shines as a young woman of integrity and admirable character, while Layne demonstrates success on the course that paves the way for both team and individual recognition.

Coach Lofdahl knows that success in any form would be hard-faught without the help of parents. “We absolutely would not be half the team we are without our amazing Cross Country Parents. From hosting team dinners, to chaperoning at camp, to volunteering their time at home meets and in so many other ways, the parents really make the season fun. Their support at meets has been tremendous over the years — cross is unique in that every parent supports their own athlete AND all the other athletes.”

“…The last finishers on our team get nearly as many cheers and congratulations as the all-conference performers, because parents and teammates alike understand that every one of them is competing to the best of their ability. We’ve also been blessed this season to have three excellent assistant coaches in Alex MacDonald, Nicole Hammer and Steve Fuelling, who have brought a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the team.”

Group warm ups

The team operates on a priority code that teaches Family First, School Second, Cross Country Third. Working off this mantra keeps goals in focus and priorities in balance. Students study hard and know that their primary “job” during this season of life is to be a student. The team bands together to offer academic support to one another if the opportunity arises, while celebrating those whose classroom efforts garner academic all-state honors, such as last year’s Ali Wiersma.

These student-athletes are intent on achieving their personal best with the help of coaches who think the world of them. “We have a very neat blend of personalities and experiences that make this team fun and entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re quite talented and are learning to take running seriously. We’ve set some high goals and we’re working hard every day to achieve those.”

Best Wishes to the Allendale Cross Country team as they continue to blaze new paths together. May the road rise up to meet you!

If you would like to cheer on our runners, please join us:

Tuesday, October 16: AHS

OK Blue Individual Conference Championships


Saturday, October 27: AHS

Regional Meet

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Fall Sports Focus: Soccer

With fields preened and freshly striped, the Allendale Varsity Soccer team slides on shin guards and laces their cleats with poise and positivity. This group of young men brings fresh heart and determination to a young program still growing and learning together.

Having worked together since mid-August, Coach Payton and Coach White have been most impressed with the way this group listens and shows an eagerness to learn, stating, “We have gotten better every day in practice! We had a tough start to the season, but the players are working hard and not giving up.”

It seems these men realize that “not giving up” is a life skill that will serve them well throughout life. It is a message that they’ve grasped with heart and hand, leaning on both their coaches and the student-leaders on the team to keep improving.  This year’s team captain, Quent Rauch is a senior who models the tireless work ethic and game mastery his teammates seek to emulate. He is quick to help teach the game and clarify confusion on the field, and does so with the kind of humility that makes him a servant leader in the truest sense.

Quent is supported by several other natural leaders that model excellence in their own way: Josh Longo (senior), Luke Hamlin (junior), and Cameron Ham (freshman) display a work ethic indicative of their varsity standing, spurring others to keep going — to not give up. Additionally, Abe Juarez (sophomore) and Hondo Ibanez (freshman) bring knowledge of the game and years of experience to the field.

Coach Payton notes that the Allendale community and team parents have done much to bolster the program and support our student-athletes. Julie Smoes has spearheaded fundraisers and has also partnered with Touka Kelly to help with the sorting and distributing of team shirt orders. Touka and many other parents have additionally gone out of their way to apply for grants or sponsorships from local businesses, bringing support to the program while creating a valuable partnership with our community.

Of course these moms also realize that a group of growing boys demands food, and they are ready to lend a hand — or a spoon full of casserole. Sonya Archer has offered to coordinate snacks for both the JV and Varsity teams, and is working with an army of others to provide upcoming team dinners. “I have been very thankful and impressed with the support from our parents. They are making the experience of playing soccer at Allendale a good one,” said Coach Payton.

“The players on this team have been really fun to work with. Not only are they good listeners and they come with a good attitude every day to practice, but they are good kids as well. I look forward to working with them more and more. I like just being around the kids. They work hard and they never give up.”

>>Consider coming out to show your support TODAY as the Falcons take on the Sparta High School Spartans!

The game will be held in Sparta at 6:45.

Go Falcon Soccer!!

For a complete list of contests, CLICK HERE.

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Fall Sports Focus: Girls Volleyball

AHS girls practicing together prior to the start of the school year.

This summer while many of us were still packing picnics for the beach, the girls of Allendale High School’s volleyball team were setting and spiking in the early morning hours, sending balls flying and shouts echoing through an otherwise empty gym.

Their hard work and diligence has already paid off: this August they won 2nd place in the Godwin Heights Volleyball Tournament! While this and their other two tournaments were non-conference match-ups, the preparation has set them on track for a great season. Mrs. Audra Murphy, head coach of the team, says that this group of girls is constantly working on something — whether it’s concentrating efforts on functioning as a team or on a specific skill, she sees the spark that comes from wanting to reach personal bests and achieve as a team.

“Everyday I’m in the gym I love seeing girls being successful by working hard. I love seeing them take joy in giving their best effort; take joy in hard work; take joy in being part of a team. I know what that felt like as a player, and now as a coach, I love helping to provide that opportunity for other young women.”

To promote an environment of growth and positivity, Mrs. Murphy has her players work on daily goals together. Each young woman uses large group stretch or warm-up time to share a personal goal with the group for accountability. Those goals might sound something like “not missing any serves” or “to get more kills than errors.”

But what the team enjoys more than the accountability with one another, perhaps, is the accountability, the trust, and the camaraderie they share with Mrs. Murphy. Each week or so during drills, Mrs. Murphy calls girls out one by one for a brief, private conference where she offers feedback on one individual skill and thoughts on how that student is contributing to being a team player. She reports that her players often site this conference time as being integral—and special—because they know they can ask questions and hear an honest answer — without an audience.

” I try to run a volleyball program that focuses on the positive strides I see rather than constantly correcting errors. I tell the girls that focusing on the little things each day can make a big difference in the long run.”

Now in her 4th season of coaching some of these girls, Mrs. Murphy says that the six seniors on the team certainly hold a special place in her heart. Of those six, three were voted as team captains by their teammates: Emily Patten, Paige Wells, and Kristin Doornbos.

“The fact that we have three captions says a lot, too,” Mrs. Murphy noted. “Typically we only select two captains, but this year there was a tie, so we kept all three in that role. These young women are natural leaders who have the drive to out-do themselves — to perform at their personal best. They want to be better. They’re not just there to socialize, they take the competition very seriously. “

Mrs. Murphy said that one of the great things about being a coach is that you have the unique opportunity to work with kids who want to be there and who want to play the sport. We hope that the Allendale community will share that desire and come out to support them this week for their league-opener against Wyoming!


Varsity: 6 pm

JV: 5 pm

Go Falcons!

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Fall Sports Focus: Football

Uniforms are ready, shoulder pads are waiting, and as if on cue, temperatures are dropping.

This fall marks Allendale High School football coach Ben Burk’s twelfth year of leading the Falcons on Friday nights, and he says he’s having the time of his life.

“This is a great group of guys who are working to come together as a team. It’s been an awful lot of fun working with guys who enjoy playing together.”

It’s no stretch to say that their practice time is work. The young men filling this year’s roster have been meeting since August 6, committing more than five hours a day to learning the playbook, running routes, defending the ball, and scoring points. With sixty-five students spanning three grades (five sophomores have been called up), Coach Burk said it’s evident that they all get along and love the game.

And while captains have not yet been chosen, natural leaders have begun to emerge. On defense, Dayton Wierenga is an energetic, emotional leader who brings enthusiasm and spark; when the team needs a lift, Dayton is there to encourage. Quarterback Hayden Majewski is stepping up and leading the charge down the field, while senior offensive lineman Keith Rodgers helps motivate groups and provide cohesion.

“One of the things that makes this group stand out,” said Coach Burk, “is their commitment to academics. This year the kids set goals for themselves individually, and then as a football team we set goals for the group. We’ve agreed that one of our top three team goals is for each guy to maintain a C+ or better in all their classes. That their focus remains in the classroom says a lot.” 

In an effort to help his players maintain their focus both on and off the field, Coach Burk is taking a cue from wrestling coach Duane Watson by incorporating nutrition into team time. With the help of an army of moms, all sixty-five players get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after school and a 16 oz glass of chocolate milk after practice. Newly crowned as one of the best natural recovery drinks available, the team consumes an average of 7 gallons of chocolate milk a day!

“Some of our kids have a very early lunch period,” Coach Burk explained. “If they’re eating lunch at 10:15, by the time school ends they need something to fill their bellies and help them think clearly. The effort of our team moms allows us to provide that, so by the time practice ends at 6:30, at least the boys have had something to tie them over.”

It’s that spirit of teamwork that epitomizes the 2012 Falcon Football Team: moms helping coaches, coaches helping kids, and kids helping one another meet their goals and become the best players and students they can be.

We hope you’ll cheer them on by joining them this Thursday at home for their 7 pm season opener vs. Unity Christian High School. Click here for a complete schedule of games.

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Family Fitness Frenzy

Four leaf clovers weren’t the only things springing green this St. Patrick’s Day — hundreds of Allendale students in green t-shirts filled the high school gym on March 17 for our fourth annual Family Fitness Frenzy!

Jumping their way to better health at the Allendale Eye Care Obstacle Course

Jennifer Kraai and Renee Malkowski were just two of the dozens of parent volunteers representing the Allendale PTO whose dedication made the day a huge success. Jennifer was pleased to share that the one-day fundraising event brought in roughly $15,000 to benefit Allendale schools and support special initiatives that don’t receive state funding.

The PTO is quick to share the credit, reminding us that ‘Frenzy day is truly a team effort! They thank principals Jill Wilson and Ryan Coghill and the elementary teachers for their encouragement and “awesome” support, insisting they couldn’t do it without them.

Students interact with GVSU football players at the 2012 Family Fitness Frenzy

The larger focus of helping families stay healthy was something new that captured the interest of many attending. Parents and children alike were encouraged to walk the track and explore zumba and karate together.

“It’s cool to see more families come out this year!” Jennifer beamed. “Kids had the opportunity to not only earn a t-shirt for themselves, but for every $25 raised they could earn a shirt for someone else, too. Many students took the cue to outfit their entire family for the event!”

Students receive instruction in karate

Students were tasked with completing all 6 stations which are loosely based on the Presidential Fitness Goals. We are grateful for the amazing support of our Allendale Community who made the stations possible:

Ready, set, GO!

Free jump ropes courtesy of Helen DeVos Children's Hospital!

I’m always humbled by the support of our community on days like this. It is so evident that we live in a place where parents want to see their children succeed, and in turn, they want to support the schools who help them on their way.

To all who came out, who sponsored a child’s fitness goals, who helped plan the event, who sponsored a station, who cheered behind the scenes, we thank you!

Autographs from GVSU players made his day!

Categories: Athletics/Fitness, Community News | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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