By K.D. Norris
When cross-town athletic rivals Wyoming Park and Rogers high schools combined to form the current Wyoming High School, two athletic traditions were combined and a new one was born.
That shared past and unified present was honored early this month as five one-time students athletes were inducted into the Wyoming High School athletic Hall of Fame.
The ceremony was held Feb. 10, between home boys and girls basketball games. Those inducted included Andy Vavere, Laura Erdmans Readle, Doug Chappell, Kim Blouw Norden and Eric Taylor.
For many of the inductees, it was not only night to be honored but to remember high school athletic careers and experiences still remembered fondly — including one where cross-town athletic competition led to a union of a different kind.
Andy Vavere, Rogers High Class of 1980, was not only a standout football, basketball and baseball athlete — highlighted by the basketball team’s deep runs into the state tournament in 1979 and 1980 — but he also met his future wife during his high school years.
“My favorite (athletic) memories were our tournament runs we had in 1979 and 1980. We were regional finalists in ’79 and semifinalists in ’80,” Vavere said. Rogers was 21-4 the first year and 21-5 the second.
During those years, Vavere was an OK Red all-conference baseball player in 1979, an all-conference quarterback in 1980, and a all-conference basketball player in both years. He was also the 1980 Adrian Allen Athlete of the Year Award winner.
But the longest lasting memory was meeting his wife, Margaret, who attended his school’s arch rival.
“I was a senior at Rogers High School in 1980 and she was at Wyoming Park, a competitive school, and we met through competition,” he said. “I started dating Margaret in 1979 and we got married in 1989.”
And, Vavere admitted, it was always a challenge to face Wyoming Park on the field: “Absolutely, those guys were great,” he said.
Running into the Hall of Fame
One of those “great” Wyoming Park athletes was cross country and track runner Kim Blouw, Class of 1990.
Blouw, who later graduated from Central Michigan University, was track all-state each of her four years of high school, and was an all-state cross country runner her junior and senior years. She held school records in the 800, 1,600, 3,200-meter runs as well as in the 2-mile relay run. And she was part of a state champion 2-mile relay team one year.
But, maybe, the highlife of her high school career was spring track practice after a 16-hour bus ride to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“I guess my favorite memories about high school would be my two coaches, Mr. (Frank) Grimm and Mr. (Dick) Locke, and traveling to South Carolina to go to Myrtle Beach, becoming a team, but not only a team but becoming a family,” Blouw said.
She also credits her family, both at home and on the Wyoming Park athletic teams, for keeping her focused and successful in her high school years.
“What made me do that was that I had two great parents who instilled a really good value system in us, myself and my brother,” she said. “I had really great coaches that really emphasized the importance of never giving up. I had a goal, and my goal was to go to college. And I was blessed with the ability to run. … So many people believed in me, encouraged me to excel in my career as a track and cross country runner. I embraced that.”
Three more honored with induction
Eric Taylor, Wyoming Park Class of 1988, had a basketball career that not only brought success to his high school, but to his college and professional teams as a player, and then carried him back nearly to full-circle as a high school basketball coach.
Taylor was an all-conference and all-state player his last two years at Wyoming Park, then played basketball and earned a degree at Oakland University. He went on to play professionally in Europe, winning multiple championships, and earn his masters degree from Grand Valley State University. He now coaches varsity basketball at Grand Rapids Christian High School.
“My passion is giving back to students and to influence their lives in a positive way everyday,” Taylor said in supplied material. “It’s about the legacy to reach, teach, love and support all students and be an example and a role everyday for all students.”
Doug Chappel, Rogers Class of 1979, died in 2012 but left a mark on the basketball record books both at his high school and at University of Detroit. He was a multi-sport athlete but starred on the basketball court in high school — including being all-conference three years, all state two years including being one of the top five players in the state his senior year, and scoring 1,300 points while grabbing more than 700 rebounds. He then played four years of college ball at Detroit, scoring nearly 1,200 points and gaining all-league honors.
Laura Readle, Wyoming Park Class of 1981, was a multi-sport athlete, including all-conference honors multiple years in volleyball, basketball and track. She was a rebounding machine on the basketball court, averaging 29 rebounds a game one year, and a record-braking sprinter on the track. She went on to gain her bachelors and masters degrees from Aquinas College, coached AAU basketball for 10 years and is now the track coach at Tri-County High School.
She also still runs, and runs and runs — including finishing marathons, ½ marathons, triathlons and the 25K River Bank run spread out over 30 years, and recently participated in a 5-hour adventure race. And the track for Wyoming Park, at Godwin High School, is still one of her favorite memories.
She remembers “when the only track that was ‘rubberized’ not cinder, in the late ’70s, at Godwin High School … every track meet all 8 schools in our conference would be there,” Readle said in supplied material. “I met many wonderful friends from all the other schools in our conference and I am still friends with many of them today. It is also where I met my husband. Many, many happy memories!”