Utica High honors athletic greats

2000 girls basketball team leads Hall of Fame class

By: Thomas Franz | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 19, 2016

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — They were the team after the perfect team.

The 2000 Utica High girls basketball team was faced with the unenviable task of following up the 1999 team, which went 27-0 and won the MHSAA Class A state title.

With just one starter returning from that team, there were plenty of new faces, but Utica coach Tom McDonald said the 2000 team began the year just like any other.

“Obviously, the things we did the previous year were fun, but I don’t know if it crossed our minds to do it again,” McDonald said. “We just attacked it the same way we always do. We were going to work hard and get better as the year went on, and see where that took us.”

That took them all the way to the Class A state semifinals.

The two-year stretch of basketball by Utica remains unmatched by Class A teams in Macomb County. The 1999 squad is still the only Class A team from Macomb County to win a state championship.

“I’ve been blessed over the years with hardworking teams, and that was just another one of those,” McDonald said. “They were great kids who got along with and played for one another.”

And that team, along with a host of other talented athletes and volunteers, took center stage Jan. 15 at Utica High with induction into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame inductees
• Rick Farr has been Utica’s first, and only, boys tennis coach. With 37 years of service to the school, Farr has earned five league championships. He’s twice earned the honor of Regional Coach of the Year, and in 2014, he was voted Coach of the Year by the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches Association. Farr has also coached varsity volleyball and soccer in his time at Utica.

• Paul Chapoton coached for 14 years at Utica, 12 of which were spent as the varsity baseball coach. Chapoton’s teams earned three league titles, two district titles, and made it to the 1975 state semifinals. Chapoton was the Oakland University head baseball coach 1988-1993, and in 2011,  he was honored as a distinguished alumnus.

• James Julian and Vicky Button were inducted with a distinguished service award. Julian coached junior varsity girls basketball for 10 years, and served as the official scorekeeper for home and away girls basketball games for 24 years. Button has spent more than 30 years as a member of the basketball programs through serving as the official clock operator. She was a supporter and member of the Utica athletic boosters club, and she also coached the freshman cheerleading team.

• Kristie Kieffer graduated in 1999 as an All-Conference and All-County honoree in softball and cross country. She competed in cross country for Oakland University for four years. She earned first-team All-Conference honors at OU and was also a two-time conference champion. Kieffer was inducted into the Hollie L. Lepley Hall of Fame at OU.

• Amanda Mergaert, a member of the 2009 class, went to the University of Utah to participate in four seasons each in cross country, and track and field. At Utica, Mergaert earned four varsity letters in each sport. Mergeart went on to break four Utah records while earning All-American honors five times between the two sports. She then became a professional runner for Oieselle & Brooks Beast and qualified for the USA Track & Field National Championship.

• Breanna Peabody graduated in 2008 after earning eight varsity letters in basketball, volleyball, and track and field. She was a member of teams that won three league and two district titles, and as an individual, she earned multiple All-County and All-State honors. At Oakland University, she broke multiple school records as a track athlete for four years. She has coached for more than three years at OU in sprints and hurdles.

• Michael Hollingsworth (2009) was a standout for the Chieftains in track and field, and basketball. He still holds the Utica long jump record with a distance of 22 feet, 11.75 inches, and he earned second place in the 2009 MHSAA Class A state finals. On the hardcourt, Hollingsworth was named league MVP and first-team All-State in 2009. He went on to play four years of basketball at Wayne State University, where his teams won GLIAC and league tournament titles.

• Bryan Garbarino (2008) earned six varsity letters in football and basketball, while also picking up league, county and Metro East honors. He played collegiately for Adrian College, where he became the team’s defensive MVP and team captain. He was also named to the Division 3 All-Star team.

• Robert Adkins III (2009) was a first-team All-State soccer honoree and helped lead the Chieftains to a pair of league titles. He played for the University of Indianapolis, where he has also been an assistant coach for two seasons.

• Thomas Scheemann (2001) earned a total of nine varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball. His teams won multiple league, district and regional titles. In 2001, he earned Dream Team and All-State honors for baseball.

• Mandy Piechowski (2006) earned seven varsity letters in basketball and track. She was named All-State and MVP for Macomb County in basketball, and league MVP in track. She played basketball at Michigan State University, where she was a two-year captain.

• Shelley Duncan (1986) was an All-State athlete in basketball, and track and field. She twice finished in the top three in high jump at the state finals, and has been an assistant coach at Utica for 10 years. She played collegiate basketball at Oakland Community College and the University of Missouri-Kansas.

• Audrey Huth (2009) was an eight-time letter winner in cross country and soccer. In 2007, she was the state runner-up in cross country. In college, she earned All-Big Ten honors in 2011 for Northwestern University. She also ran for one year at Duke University, where she was a member of the ACC champion distance medley relay team in 2014. She is now an assistant cross country coach at Northwestern.