Mon. Jun 5th, 2023

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Reeths-Puffer junior Sophia Hekkema (23) dribbles the ball down the court for the duration of the fourth quarter of a Division 1 girls basketball district semifinals game involving Reeths-Puffer and Kenowa Hills at Reeths-Puffer Higher College in Muskegon on Wednesday, March two, 2022. The Reeths-Puffer Rockets beating the Kenowa Hills Knights 56-37. (Daniel Shular |

MUSKEGON – The ideal leaders and function models are the ones who place in the additional operate behind the scenes when there is no fanfare or specific interest place on them.

The ones who remain immediately after practice for additional reps, show up early to class to get some additional studying in, or devote hours of their personal time to give back to the neighborhood about them.

Every year, the Muskegon Sports Hall of Fame attempts to discover a male and female student-athlete from the nearby neighborhood who exemplifies these qualities and the 2023 edition of the Scholar-Athlete Award will be going to a pair of effectively-balanced leaders who take just as a lot pride in their operate in the classroom as they do their athletic achievements in the field of competitors.

Sophia Hekkema of Reeths-Puffer and Matt Danicek of Oakridge had been eventually selected as the 2023 Muskegon Sports Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete Award winners due to their outstanding athletic careers, excellent operate in the classroom and extraordinary volunteer efforts in their nearby communities.

The two senior standouts will be recognized for the duration of a Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday, June ten at the VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center in Muskegon. Tickets expense $50 for the common public and can be bought on-line by clicking right here.

The Muskegon Region Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors puts with each other a subcommittee every spring immediately after getting one particular male and one particular female candidate from every college in the Muskegon location for the annual Scholar-Athlete Award. Every candidate is expected to be a senior at their college with a verified track record in the field of competitors and inside the classroom.

The subcommittee then selects 5 male and female finalists from the pool of candidates and eventually selects a winner for every side of the award.

This year’s Gary Ostrom Male Scholar-Athlete Award finalists also incorporated Shane Cook of Whitehall, Jordan Briggs of Muskegon, Hunter Hogan of Ravenna, and Sam Kartes of Muskegon Catholic Central.

The more finalists for the Dick Hedges Female Scholar-Athlete Award incorporated Natalie Pannucci of North Muskegon, Lexie Bowers of Kent City, Emma Gillard of Ravenna, and Emma Peterson of Montague.

For Sophia Hekkema, the specific acknowledgment serves as a rewarding reminder that really hard operate and dedication does not go unnoticed in most walks of life.

“I really feel like a lot of individuals do recognize me as a really hard worker, in particular in my college, but it is sort of refreshing to know that other individuals even outdoors my direct neighborhood recognize that as well,” she told MLive immediately after finding out of her initially-spot finish for the award. “I do operate so really hard as each a student and an athlete, so it is usually a excellent feeling when you get rewarded for the operate you place in.”

Hekkema holds a three.861 GPA in the classroom, received a gold graduation cord, is a two-time National Honor Society member, was academic all-state in basketball twice (2022-23) and was academic all-state in volleyball in 2022.

The standout athlete for the Rockets earned 13 varsity letters like volleyball (four), basketball (four), soccer (four) and track (1). As a volleyball standout, Hekkema was a two-time all-conference choice and a two-time all-location choice.

She applied her uncommon mixture of size, speed and agility to her benefit on the basketball court, exactly where she was a two-time All-State choice, a 4-time all-conference choice, a 4-time member of the MLive Muskegon Dream Group and helped the Rockets to 3 conference championships and a district championship in 2020.

Hekkema was voted a group captain 3 instances for the duration of her higher college profession and was named group MVP for 3 seasons as effectively. She closed out her higher college basketball profession with far more than 1,000 profession points scored, which areas her second all-time in college history.

Soccer has verified to be Hekkema’s major sport, even so, as her capacity to play with each physicality and finesse for the duration of periods of a match has helped her turn into one particular of the most prolific aim scorers in the West Michigan location all through her prep profession.

The senior phenom has currently broken the college record for ambitions scored in a single season with 22 ambitions in every of the prior two springs. She was named group MVP twice (2021, 2022), won the Golden Boot Award (most ambitions scored) twice and won the Winger Award (most assists) twice. She is a two-time all-conference choice, a two-time all-district choice, a two-time all-area choice, a two-time MHSSCA all-state choice and was a initially-group choice in the 2022 MLive Muskegon Dream Group.

In spite of a busy workload, Hekkema believes her regimented life-style as an athlete has helped her excel in each elements of her life.

“People believe that I’m so busy all the time and I do not have time outdoors of college and sports, but sports have definitely helped me keep a schedule and be aim-oriented,” she added. “I can appear at my day and believe about my classes, then practice, and then when I get property from practice, I have this set quantity of time to do homework. I’ve usually identified that possessing a schedule is super beneficial and has permitted me to remain on all my tasks.”

Hekkema requires pride in her operate as a student-athlete so providing one hundred % work is nothing at all new to her.

“It was tricky, in particular this year getting my senior year and there’s the entire senioritis factor as well,” she mentioned of the challenges of getting a excellent student and athlete. “I can be a procrastinator at instances, but I’ve usually sort of prided myself in carrying out my operate and attempting to get it carried out to the ideal of my skills. I by no means really feel excellent about myself when I do not commit to a thing that I’m involved in, so I usually make positive to take pride in every thing that I do no matter whether that is how really hard I play when I’m playing a sport or how I execute in the classroom and the grades that I earn.

“I’m going to leave it all on the field when I’m playing soccer, and I want to leave it all in the classroom as well when I’m at college.”

As a leader in her neighborhood, Hekkema has spent 3 years on the Effect Club at Reeths-Puffer, which is a student leadership group that assists determine and implement possibilities for engagement and improvement at their college.

She has also been a Student Council Trustee twice (2021, 2022), a two-time peer tutor and is on the Reeths-Puffer student leadership board this year. She helped organize, raise funds and lead a group of students to honor nearby veterans for the duration of a boys and girls varsity basketball game this previous winter.

Hekkema also participated in a neighborhood outreach system that connected with a nearby defense enterprise and presented the need to have for service dogs for a veteran’s organization, which resulted in a $three,000 sponsorship for the school’s veterans’ evening occasion. The occasion raised more than $five,000 in donations to present to the Jaeger Foundation.

She has also been involved as a volunteer for the Feeding America Meals Truck system for the previous seven years and has helped help in the setup, organization and handing out of meals to these in need to have.

The future Michigan State University student has also spent time volunteering as a youth basketball and soccer coach at Reeths-Puffer youth camps.

“Before I even got into higher college and the National Honor Society, exactly where you have to volunteer to be involved in it, I would assist out with my church’s meals trucks,” mentioned Hekkema. “I do not know why specifically but it just has usually felt super rewarding, in particular when I was younger, to be capable to assist other individuals. I got to do some volunteer operate with my grandparents as well, which was a wonderful way for us to connect when I was younger and I believe it is crucial to give back to your neighborhood even so you can.”

Oakridge’s Matt Danicek (three) runs at Muskegon Catholic Central on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. Oakridge won 20-14. (Cory Morse |

For Matt Danicek, the chance to be named the major senior student-athlete in his neighborhood is a huge deal.

“I just really feel proud – it is a excellent accomplishment to get,” he mentioned. “It’s usually excellent to get your operate carried out in the classroom due to the fact you by no means know what your future’s going to be and that is usually a plus possessing that on the side.”

As an athlete, Danicek has excelled in football (four years), basketball (four years) and baseball (four years). He was named all-regional, all-district and all-conference in football this previous season, like All-State honors as a defensive back from the MHSFCA and was an honorable mention choice at quarterback in the MLive Muskegon Dream Group offense. He also received honorable mention all-conference honors in basketball and was named academic all-conference immediately after preserving a three.683 GPA all through his higher college profession.

The senior leader was one particular of the crucial playmakers for the Oakridge football group at quarterback, as he helped energy the Eagles to a ten-two season. Danicek completed with 446 yards rushing and seven touchdowns and was 104-for-157 passing for 1,401 yards and 13 touchdowns on offense. As a defensive back, Danicek had a group-higher 3 interceptions and seven pass breakups to go along with 18 tackles.

“(Football) is just way distinct,” he mentioned of his like for the game. “Basketball and baseball have a a lot distinct really feel and not everyone is involved. In football, we’re all going to war with each other and we’re just battling for every other. It is way distinct.”

The versatile student-athlete is also a Magna Cord recipient, a National Honor Society member, and an honor roll recipient. He also volunteers his time at youth basketball camps about Oakridge, gymnastics meets, 5k races and recycling events.

Danicek plans to attend Muskegon Neighborhood College subsequent fall exactly where he plans to get his associate’s degree and potentially pursue a enterprise profession.

The 2023 Muskegon Region Sports Hall of Fame induction class involves extended-time Fruitport volleyball coach Dan Potts, former Newaygo football standout Joe Berger, the 2009-2012 Mona Shores girls golf group and the 1953 Muskegon St. Joseph boys basketball group. Frank Coletta, a longtime volunteer and supporter of youth and higher college sports in Ravenna, will join the class as the 2023 Gene Young Distinguished Service Award winner.

For far more details on the Muskegon Region Sports Hall of Fame and its upcoming events, verify out the committee’s Facebook web page.


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