A 1959 graduate of GRCH who coached a variety of sports at both the high school and college levels. Jeff earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Calvin College and Masters Degree from Michigan State University. Among Jeff’s favorite memories at GRCH are of “…teaching and coaching with dedicated and passionate teachers and coaches who daily demonstrated Christian faith and equally strong love for students and athletes alike. I learned so much from these people and I am forever grateful for my twelve years at GRCH and the succeeding years of coaching the football team.”
While a student at GRCH, Jeff participated in cross country, and basketball. A few years later Jeff returned to the school system in which he grew up, teaching Physical Education at East Christian in 1965 and continuing through 1977 after the schools combined. During his many years of coaching, he impacted lives while coaching tennis, wrestling, JV and varsity football, including 3 years as head coach. Jeff also served as the varsity baseball coach, with his teams capturing City League championships in 1970 and 1977 during his 11 years.
In 1977, Jeff moved on to teaching and coaching at Calvin College. He was the head coach for the wrestling program for 5 seasons. Jeff’s greatest passion in coaching was baseball, and he was the head baseball coach at Calvin for a remarkable 27 easons. His teams won the MIAA Conference Championship in ’80, ’84, ’00, and ’02, testimony to excellent coaching over a lengthy period of time. Jeff led his ’84, ’00, and ’02 teams to berths in the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
“Coach P”, as Jeff was affectionately called by his athletes, always put others at ease with his infectious laugh and booming voice. Jeff and his wife Arlene have five daughters (Jeff said that God has a strange sense of humor), Lisa Udell, Cindy Groot, Julie DeShetler, Debra Legters, and Laurie Guikema, all of whom are GRCHS graduates.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Gwen DeMaat DeVries
The swimming accomplishments of Gwen DeMaat DeVries comprise a very lengthy list. She was one of the very best high school swimmers locally and nationally, and her college career continued that same level of excellence. Among Gwen’s favorite memories of her days as at GRCH are hanging out with her friends on the swim team, and having her sisters, Joan and Beth, as her coaches for her high school career.
At GRCH, Gwen was a 6-time State Champion, winning the 200 IM in ’83, the 200 Freestyle in ’84 and’85, and the 500 Freestyle for three consecutive seasons, ’83 through ’85. Gwen set three state records in the ’85 State Championship Meet, winning two individual events and swimming the lead lap of the 4×100 Freestyle Relay. She was the State of Michigan Class B Swimmer of the Year in ’83, ’84, and ’85, as well as being named MHSAA All-American those same years. She was undefeated in every individual race in her high school career, setting records in local and state races. Remarkably, she has five records here at GRCH that still stand, and those in a sport in which records are often very short-lived. While in high school, Gwen competed in the ’84 Olympic trials, as well as becoming the National Junior Olympic Champion in the 200 Freestyle.
Gwen’s accomplishments at the University of Michigan are equally impressive. She was a 6-time Big Ten conference champion in three events in ’87 and three again in ’89. In ’87, she became the first UM Women’s Swimmer to earn Big Ten Swimmer of the Year honors. She was named NCAA Honorable Mention in ’87 and ’89, and was an NCAA All-American in one event in ’88 and two events in ‘89. She was an All-Big Ten First Team selection in ’87, ’89, and ’90, while setting several Big Ten records and UM records. She still holds the 6th-best UM time in the 500 Freestyle and 7th-best UM time in the 1650 Freestyle. Gwen competed in the 1988 Olympic Trials in three events; her best finish was 10th in the 400 IM.
Among other accolades, Gwen was inducted into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
Gwen and husband Dave (a fellow GRCH alumnus) have three sons, Jack, Benjamin, and Mark. Gwen serves as the Director of the Board at Walker Charter Academy, where their two youngest sons attend.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Greg Heeres, a 1981 graduate, excelled in football, basketball, and baseball while at Grand Rapids Christian High. Greg’s favorite memories of his athletic career at GRCH include the loyal fans, the coaches who cared about their players for much more than just being athletes, and his teams winning games with class and sportsmanship. All three of Greg’s varsity coaches are GRCH Hall of Fame members: Bill Holwerda in football, Ken Zandee in basketball, and Dick VanderKamp in baseball.
Greg was a two year starter at quarterback on his GRCH football teams; in his senior year he was named team MVP,and earned All-City and All-State honors. He played two years of varsity basketball at GRCH, earning team MVP and All-City honors in his senior year. Greg played on the varsity baseball team at GRCH for three seasons. He excelled as a pitcher, earning All-City honors in his junior and senior years, and was team MVP and District All-State in his senior year. As a result of his 3-sport excellence, Greg was awarded GRCH’s highest athletic honor, the Eagle Athlete of the Year, in 1981.
Greg chose to attend Hope College, where he played four seasons of football. He was a team captain and earned All-American honors in his senior year while setting many school passing records. He also played four seasons of baseball, and earned All-Conference status in his junior year. In 1985, Greg was signed as a free agent by the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL.
After graduation from college, Greg continued in athletics as an assistant coach in football (coaching quarterbacks, of course), with a combined 21 seasons at GRCH and three other area high schools. Greg and his wife Becki have three children: Alexa, Austin, and Addisen. Greg is a partner at the Berends, Hendricks, Stuit Insurance Agency.
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” II Timothy 1:7
Steve Hondard, a 1989 graduate, is considered to be one of the all-time best basketball players in the long and storied history of Grand Rapids Christian High hoops. Among Steve’s favorite memories is the team in his senior year which had a season record of 23-3, losing in the Class A quarterfinals to the eventual state champions. Steve’s coach at GRCH was fellow Hall of Fame member Rich Schrotenboer.
Steve’s basketball career demonstrated steady and marked improvement year by year. He joined the varsity team at GRCH late in his sophomore season and by the end of his junior season had earned All-City honors. In his senior season, he was named to the All-City, All-Area, and All-State teams. Statistically, in his varsity career Steve averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds per game, while shooting 69.3% from the floor and 88.4% in free throws.
Turning down scholarship offers from larger schools, Steve chose to follow in the footsteps of his father Ralph to attend Calvin College. He immediately made a major impact in the basketball program there, earning all-conference honors in the MIAA in his freshman season, as he would do for each of the remaining three seasons. He was the leading scorer in the MIAA for his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, and was the MIAA Conference MVP in both his junior and senior years. In Steve’s junior year he led Calvin to its first-ever National Championship in basketball and was named the Final Four MVP. In his senior season, Steve was named the NCAA Division III Player of the Year. In addition to his excellence in basketball, Steve earned the status of GTE Academic All-American in his junior and senior seasons.
Following college, Steve was awarded a NCAA post-graduate scholarship. He also participated in the Athletes in Action 1993 Fall Tour and had multiple opportunities to continue his basketball career as a professional abroad. Steve serves as the Director of Finance at Visteon Corporation. Steve and his wife Shelly have four children: Luke, Levi, Isabelle, and Malachi.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
The East Christian 1966 Class B Basketball State Champions
During the ten-year period in which there were two Christian high schools in Grand Rapids, the East Christian Panthers excelled in several sports. One of the highlights was their 1966 State Championship in basketball.
After finishing the regular season in 3rd place in the City League with a 10-8 record, the Panthers won their second consecutive district title defeating Forest Hills and East Grand Rapids. In the regionals, East Christian defeated Hudsonville and won the regional championship by beating undefeated and #1-ranked South Christian 71–61. The Panthers then faced three top-10-ranked teams in their final three games, winning the quarterfinal game against 6th-ranked Allegan 54–48, and defeating 7th-ranked Ishpeming 54–49 in the semi-final game. In the state championship game, East Christian faced the 4th-ranked team River Rouge, winner of 5 consecutive class B State Championships and 48 straight tournament games. The Panthers controlled the game from the end of the first quarter, winning the 1966 Class B State Championship 76–66. Bill VanderWoude lead the team in scoring with 36 points (which stood as the Class B Championship Game scoring record until 2005), and Bernie Kuipers added 22 points. The team didn’t cut down the nets, because they were told by Coach Bykerk, (who was celebrating his 27th birthday that day) that there were three more games to be played that day.
The Team: Thomas Buter, Bernie Kuiper, Bill VanderWoude, Ron Flietstra, Tom Mulder, Bill Vandervelde, Jim Gritter, Michael Otte, Steve Veneklasen, Doug Hoeksema, Bill Rykse, Ron Kleinhuizen, Jim Telman, William Kuiper, Craig VanderLinde
Team Manager Dale Daverman, Coach Cornelius Bykerk