2017-06-08 / Sports

Coach needed for new North Bay merger

Wheelock steps down
By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

The future of the Cherryland Conference could be very much in question at the conclusion of a Suttons Bay Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Monday.

That’s because board members are expected to finalize a move that would send Northport girls basketball players to Suttons Bay, ending a longstanding Leelanau County rivalry with the formation of a third “North Bay” cooperative program between the districts.

“It appears we’ll be moving forward with this co-op,” Suttons Bay Athletic Director Doug Periard said on Tuesday. “We have an opportunity here to build a new community of athletics that started with boys and girls soccer.”

Low enrollment led Northport to make the move, which follows a 2016-17 campaign in which the Wildcats won their first Cherryland Conference title since 1976.

Only three girls teams—Grand Traverse Academy, Northport and St. Mary—competed in the conference in 2015-16 and 2016-17, however, meaning the pursuit of a 2017-18 crown could be a two-horse race. Increased interest in bowling and travel volleyball has prevented Traverse City Christian from putting a team together in each of the past two seasons.

Northport Athletic Director Joshua Vander Meulen was asked how the Northport community feels about the transition. Vander Meulen said people just want to know if the new co-op is "something they can stand behind."

"They just want to know the details because it's new and it's changing," he said. "The more they can sort through what it will mean for student-athletes, the more people will start to come around. My job is to listen to their concerns and do the best we can for our students."

All four Cherryland schools currently sponsor boys basketball teams, but that may change.

Northport boys may be heading to Suttons Bay sooner rather than later.

“It’s definitely in discussion,” Periard said.

In the meantime, Suttons Bay is one vote away from inheriting players from a Northport girls program that finished 13-5 last season. Suttons Bay girls, meanwhile, went 5-16 a year ago.

If approved, the new North Bay merger may be a welcome sight to the Lady Norse coaching staff—which will be under new direction this year.

Periard said girls coach David Wheelock, who replaced Todd Hursey prior to the 2015-16 season, has stepped down due to personal reasons.

“David was a fine young coach,” Periard said of Wheelock, who posted a two-year record of 11-32 as head coach. “I’m very glad we had him come into our program. He brought a lot of energy and a lot of ideas. His youthful enthusiasm helped move us forward. I’m sad to see him go but I wish him well, and so do the girls.”

Periard said those interested in the position are encouraged to contact the Suttons Bay Athletic Office, which can be reached at 271-8661.

This story has been updated with a quote from the Northport athletic director.

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