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Police search for suspect in string of electronic thefts

This man allegedly stole $4,500 worth of electronics from Walmart in Big Rapids.

The Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office is looking for the person that stole almost $4,500 in electronics from the Big Rapids Walmart early Tuesday morning, March 5.

Photo of suspect’s vehicle caught on surveillance footage during a previous theft. Same vehicle was at the Big Rapids Walmart, but the photo was more blurry.

According to police, surveillance footage showed a black male suspect enter the store at 21400 Perry Ave at about 3:20 a.m. He then pried open a locked case behind the employee counter and also cut a security cable to access high dollar electronics.  The man then stole 5 Apple watch 4th gen, 4 iPad 6th gen, 2 ACER laptops and 3 Lenovo Tab 4s, totaling $4,485.98.

According to Sgt. Mike Mohr, this is just one of 12 similar thefts, mostly occurring in Michigan. The first theft occurred January 22, 2019, and the latest was Tuesday at the Big Rapids Walmart Store.

If you recognize the suspect in the photo, or the suspect’s vehicle, or have any information on this theft, the Sheriff’s Office is asking you to contact the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office at 231-592-0150 or through email at tips@mecostacounty.org.

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Ringler and Serbenta place the cherry on top

Senior Ryan Ringler celebrates his state championship. Courtesy photo.
Junior Sage Serbenta takes his opponent airborne in the state finals. Courtesy photo.

Senior Ryan Ringler and junior Sage Serbenta iced the cake and placed the cherry on top of Ford Field to close out an epic season for the wrestling Red Hawks. 

In his final tournament wearing the Red Hawk singlet, Ringler triumphed to his second straight MHSAA Division 2 wrestling championship in the 171lb division with an unblemished record of 50-0. Ryan will graduate as the most decorated high school wrestler in school history with two state championships, four state medals, four conference championships and 207 victories.

Serbenta captured his first MHSAA wrestling championship at the 189lb weight class. Sage finished the season at 48-1 and will look to repeat in 2020. 

Senior Lucus Pienton once again took home the consolation championship for an unprecedented third time. Pienton will graduate his outstanding prep career as a Cedar Springs wrestling legend. Over four years, Lucus compiled three state medals, qualified for the state tournament as a freshman, claimed two conference championships and won nearly 160 bouts for the Red Hawks.

Trevor “Pee Wee” Marsman scraped his way to the podium with three solid victories and a seventh place All-State finish. Marsman will enter his junior season with 81 Cedar Springs victories. 

Senior Aaron Smith concluded his wrestling days with a top 12 finish and over 120 victories.

“The team was able to pull together and rise up at the right time to capitalize on one of the most memorable post season runs in Cedar Springs Sports history,” said head coach Nicholas Emery, a former Red Hawk wrestler and graduate of the class of 2001.

Wrestlers Ryan Ringler and Sage Serbenta are Division 2 state champions.

The team as a whole had a great season, winning the district title for the first time in over a decade, and the regional championship for the first time in 23 years. They went on to state, but lost to state champs Lowell in the quarterfinals. 

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Morales wins state championship in bowling

Boys team finishes 14th

This is the second year in a row that junior Omani Morales made it to the girls individual state bowling tournament. Last year she didn’t make it out of the qualifying rounds, but this year she made it count. Out of 60 bowlers vying for a chance to compete, Morales seeded in 10th place, with the top 16 advancing to the state final competition last Saturday, March 2.

State bowling champion Omani Morales with Coach Tim Jackson.

Morales first took on the number 7 seed, senior Shayleen Half, of Adrian, in her first match play two-game series, defeating her 432 pins to 393. She then took on sophomore Carly Snyder, of Middleville Thornapple-Kellogg, and won the two-game series 418-401.

In the semi-finals, she played freshman Karli VanDuinen of Muskegon Reeths-Puffer and beat her 388 pins to 318. In the final matchup, Morales bowled against senior Lindsey Juhl, of Escanaba, and won the two-game series 416-328 to claim the first ever Division 2 girls state bowling championship for Cedar Springs.

Senior Jonah Drake competed at the boys individual state finals tournament. He placed 50th at state.

The boys bowling team also competed at the state finals and finished in 14th place in Division 2.

Boys bowling team finished in 14th place at the state finals.

Congratulations to all the Cedar Springs High School bowlers on a great season!

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Both cheer and boys bowling headed to state finals

Boys bowling team won their first ever regional championship. L to R:  Andrew Fliearman, Alex Steil, Jonah Drake, Dane Conely,Josh Beebe, Ethan Plummer, Cody Marshall, Coach Tim Jackson. Courtesy photo.

By Judy Reed

History was made last weekend as the Cedar Springs Competitive Cheer locked in a bid to travel to state finals for the first time in nine years, and the boys bowling team won its first regional championship, enabling the team to travel to the state finals. Two individual bowlers—one from the boys team and one from the girls team—will also travel to the state finals. Turn to page 9 for all the info.

The Cedar Springs Competitive Cheer team will now head to state finals after placing third at regionals. Courtesy photo.

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Polar Vortex, Bomb cyclone and Odyssey of the Mind

This Odyssey of the Mind team from Cedar Trails Elementary will heading to the state finals on March 16. Courtesy photo.

What do they have in common? Creativity of course! Mother Nature or student teams it all happened this past weekend in West Michigan.

Cedar Springs sent three Odyssey of the mind teams to Greenville on February 23 to spontaneously think, present, and reach for the stars—meaning State Finals.

The new team of 1st-4th graders at Cedar Trails Elementary placed 2nd, reaching their goal, earning a trip to State Finals, and silver medals.

This team is coached by Morgan Burris and Rachel Stump with students, Blake Stump 4th grade; Kaleb Russell 4th grade; Luke Brown 4th grade; Hailey Nichols 3rd grade; Morgan Sanders 3rd grade; Isaac Brown 2nd grade; and Tanner Burris 1st grade.

The team from Cedar Springs Middle school earned a bronze 3rd place, narrowly missing a chance to advance. This team is by coached by Rhanda Bordeaux with students, Derek Bordeaux, Silas Johnson, William Dixon, Brayden Fisk, Riley Robb, and Holden Wolf. 

The other Cedar Springs Middle school team placed 4th, Honorable Mention. They are coached by Michelle Wiles and Traci Slager, with students Coryn Wiles; Alana Wiles; Nate Slager; Jeremiah Slager; Aiden Lakes; Brielle Sarniak; and Jack Cairy.

We wish the Cedar Trails team much luck at state finals on March 16, and congratulate all the students for their hard work and perseverance.

If you are interested in learning more about the Odyssey of the Mind program for your student check out miodyssey.com. Region 2.

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Children of CS grads racing quarter midget cars

Patrick and Penny (Towns) Christensen are both 1993 graduates of Cedar Springs who still consider Cedar Springs home. Both moved away shortly after high school and come back as often as possible. Penny works in education and Patrick works as a software engineer. The family currently resides in Georgia.

The Christensen family travel the country to see their boys race. Courtesy photo.

The Christensens have two sons who are race car drivers since the age of 5. Seth, 11, and Lane, 7, both driver USAC quarter midget race cars. The boys participate on the local, regional, and national level for the majority of the year. The family travels together to races as far away as: Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Texas, and Georgia. The race calendar stretches from February to November.

In February, the Christensen boys raced at Daytona International Speedway in Florida to kick off both Speed Weeks in Daytona and their USAC race season. Seth competed in Senior Honda, Light 160, and Light World Formula. He placed 4th, 12th, and 9th respectively. Lane competed in Junior Honda and Junior Animal. He placed 2nd and 12th respectively.

Lane Christensen is vying for a sponsorship opportunity. Courtesy photo.

According to Penny, many well-known race car drivers have started out in quarter midgets. Joey Logano, Harrison Burton, and Jeff Gordon all started in quarter midgets speeding around a 1/20th of a mile race track. “Many of the older boys who raced with Seth and Lane have already gone on to race bigger cars at larger venues,” she said.

Lane, the youngest, has a chance at a sponsorship opportunity. InTech trailers is letting race fans to vote for who wins the use of an InTech trailer and is the ambassador to their racing community. Lane received enough votes to make it out of over 200 racers to the top 10; he now wants to advance to the top ten finalists.

Voting is happening now through March 8th online. You can vote now for Lane Christensen at http://apply.intechtrailers.com/cast-your-vote. See the Christensen Family Motorsports Facebook fan page for more details and to follow the family through this racing season.

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FBI seeks to identify rightful owners in cultural artifacts case

Artifacts on display at Don Miller’s farm in 2014. For more than seven decades, Miller unearthed cultural artifacts from North America, South America, Asia, the Caribbean, and in Indo-Pacific regions such as Papua New Guinea. Photo courtesy FBI.gov.

Four years ago, after an operation in rural Indiana resulted in the largest single recovery of cultural property in FBI history, the Bureau’s Art Crime Team faced an unprecedented challenge: how to identify the rightful owners of more than 7,000 seized artifacts that came from locations spanning the globe.

The efforts to identify and repatriate the cultural property—which included approximately 500 sets of human remains looted largely from Native American burial grounds—is ongoing, and the FBI is now publicizing the case, along with an invitation-only website detailing the items, in the hopes of gaining further assistance from governments around the world and from Native American tribes.

 “There is no single expert that can tell us everything we need to know about all of this material,” said Special Agent Tim Carpenter, who oversees the FBI’s art theft program and who led the 2014 recovery effort in Indiana. “This case requires the FBI to go out and seek assistance from many experts in the field.”

The seized artifacts and human remains were part of a much larger collection amassed by Don Miller, a renowned scientist who helped build the first atomic bomb and a globetrotting amateur archaeologist whose passion for collecting sometimes crossed the line into illegality and outright looting.

Museum studies graduate students from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) help care for the recovered artifacts in a facility near Indianapolis where all the recovered artifacts are housed securely and temperature, humidity, and light levels are controlled. Students and highly trained IUPUI staff also help prepare the artifacts for shipping when repatriation occurs. Photo courtesy FBI.gov.

For more than seven decades, Miller unearthed cultural artifacts from North America, South America, Asia, the Caribbean, and in Indo-Pacific regions such as Papua New Guinea. A Ming Dynasty vase or intricate Italian mosaic might be on display in his home alongside Civil War and Revolutionary War items.

“Don would collect pretty much anything,” Carpenter said. “He collected from just about every corner of the globe.” Areas of his Waldron, Indiana, farmhouse where he displayed many of the approximately 42,000 items in his collection were stacked “floor to ceiling” with material, Carpenter said. “But his passion, I think, was Native American cultural goods.”

Although Miller opened his home over the years to school groups and others wishing to view his collection, he mostly kept hidden hundreds of human remains. A tip to the FBI in 2013 that he had such remains led Carpenter to his door.

A year before his death at the age of 91, Miller agreed to relinquish items he had likely acquired in violation of state and federal law and international treaties. “He cooperated with us throughout the course of the investigation,” Carpenter said, “and it was his wish that we take these objects and return them to their rightful owners, and for the Native American ancestors to be reburied appropriately.”

During a painstaking, six-day recovery operation in 2014, the FBI took possession of 7,000 items.

“It was a very complex operation,” Carpenter recalled. “We are not treating this material as simply evidence. These objects are historically, culturally, and spiritually important, and you have to take that into consideration.” He added, “We are dealing in many cases with objects that are thousands of years old. So imagine a scenario where you take an artifact that was created 4,000 years ago, survived in the ground or a tomb, survived being looted, survived being transported to the United States, has been in this guy’s house for the last 60 years, and the FBI comes along and we pick it up and we stumble and we drop it and we break it. That’s a pretty bad day.”

In many ways, he said, “We had to learn to become a museum.” Until the FBI can identify the rightful owners and repatriate the items—a task made more difficult because Miller did not keep detailed records—“we have to care for and curate these pieces like any museum would.”

To accomplish that, the Bureau partnered with tribal authorities and academic experts early on, consulting with archaeologists, anthropologists, and tribal experts on how to handle and care for the objects and human remains, and how best to locate their rightful owners.

The FBI leased space in a facility near Indianapolis where all the material is housed securely and temperature, humidity, and light levels are controlled. A team of anthropology and museum studies graduate students from Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis (IUPUI ) helps to curate the items and prepare them for shipping when repatriation occurs.

“My students work diligently to make sure that each piece is properly rehoused before it is shipped back to its homeland or to its proper country,” said Holly Cusack-McVeigh, a professor of anthropology and museum studies at IUPUI. “We make sure that nothing is just thrown in a checked bag and tossed into the belly of an airplane. Everything is handled with the utmost care.”

In addition to her background in anthropology and museum studies, Cusack-McVeigh has a deep knowledge of Native American culture and has been an invaluable partner to the FBI regarding the Miller artifacts, particularly the handling and repatriation of Native American human remains.

Cusack-McVeigh took part in the six-day recovery operation in 2014 and recalled that no one on the team was expecting to discover hundreds of remains. “The FBI immediately understood that these are human beings and we can’t treat them like inanimate objects,” she said. “They need to be treated with respect and dignity, and the FBI took that very seriously.”

Pete Coffey, who represents three affiliated North American tribes—the Mandan, the Hidatsa, and the Arikara—said he has “nothing but praise” for the agents who worked on the Miller case. “They made sure that the tribal representatives were included in all aspects of the repatriations,” he said. “They were very forthcoming with regard to procedures and policy.”

The affiliated tribes Coffee represents, known as the MHA Nation, were historically farmers along the Missouri River bottomlands. He has taken part in reburial ceremonies involving repatriated remains from the Miller collection and explained that in his culture, “When you die, your spirit goes back to your ancestral village. If you are not buried with proper ceremony, or if that was interrupted like these burials were, you will never be able to go to back to that village.”

When remains have been dug out of the ground after being laid to rest, he added, “Their spirits are wandering. They cannot rejoin their relatives and family members in the afterlife. That’s my motivation for doing these repatriations,” he said, “to make sure that these spirits are at rest.”

Robert Jones, special agent in charge of the Indianapolis Field Office at the time of the 2014 recovery operation, said he was “bothered immensely” by the fact that Miller had so many Native American remains.

“Even though this case didn’t fit with our traditional type of investigation,” he said, “the FBI was in the best position to be able to right this wrong”—not only regarding the repatriation of human remains but taking responsibility for the stewardship of thousands of culturally significant artifacts Miller had collected illegally. “I felt that if it weren’t for the FBI,” said Jones, currently special agent in charge of the Bureau’s Pittsburgh Field Office, “a vast amount of important historical material might have been lost forever.”

The task of returning the material to its rightful owners was never going to be easy, both Jones and Carpenter acknowledged, because Miller collected so much over such a long period of time and did not keep detailed records, and because the items were taken from all over the globe.

Although Carpenter’s team has had many successes in the past four years, with reburials of human remains and repatriations to numerous countries, he estimates that only about 15 percent of the material has been returned.

“Our ultimate goal in this entire operation has been the respectful repatriation of these objects and these ancestors to the people they were taken from,” he said. “And we want to do that with some measure of dignity.”

The FBI created an invitation-only website that contains information about all the recovered material. The idea was to have the experts “come to us,” Carpenter said. “They could review the collection relevant to their area, identify the pieces for us, tell us where they may belong, and then guide us in contacting the right individuals to begin the repatriation process.”

After the FBI took possession of the material, Carpenter’s team contacted all the federally recognized Native American tribes, which number nearly 600. Working through the United Nations, the team also notified the member nations about the recovered artifacts and the FBI’s website for viewing them. Nations nominated experts who contacted the FBI by sending an email to artifacts@fbi.gov.

“We would give them access to the website, which is not open to the public,” Carpenter said. “The intent was for them to then go online, review the material, and make claims for any objects they felt were their cultural patrimony. The same process held for Native American tribes.”

To date, he said, “We have not reached as large an audience as I’d hoped, and we have not been as successful as we’d like to be in identifying the pieces and getting the claims to come forward.”

To renew interest in the artifacts, the FBI has decided to publicize the case, providing information for the first time about the Miller investigation and the recovery and repatriation efforts. “We have a lot of work left to do,” Carpenter said, “and we can’t do that work until the experts come forward and help us identify these pieces and guide us on where they need to go.”

The FBI is asking official representatives of Native American tribes and foreign governments that would like to determine whether they have a claim to any of the recovered artifacts to contact the Bureau’s art theft program and submit a request via artifacts@fbi.gov.

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Girls basketball action

The Cedar Springs Girls Basketball Team wrapped up another busy weeks playing three games in four days. 

L to R: Seniors Courtney Pienta, Nicole VanderHoef, Brooke Weeks, Brighton Miller, Mikayla Lewis-Frank, and Ashley Wise were honored on seniors night, February 21.

Maggie Prins led Cedar Springs with 13 points and 13 rebounds, followed by Brighton Miller with 11 points and Avery Sparling with 8.

On Tuesday, February 19, the ladies traveled to Kent City High School to take on the 2nd ranked (Division 3) team in the state. Cedar Springs battled through out the night but a hot shooting Kent City Team (14 three-pointers) built a double-digit lead early in the second half that was too much for the Red Hawks to overcome. Kent City won the game 60-45.

The lady Red Hawks welcomed Forest Hills Central to town on Thursday, February 21, for the team’s final home game of the season and senior night. Seniors Courtney Pienta, Brighton Miller, Brooke Weeks, Nicole Vanderhoef, Mikayla Lewis-Frank, and Ashley Wise were honored prior to the contest.

After a tight contest for most of the night, FH Central came out on top by a score of 40-31. Avery Sparling led the Red Hawks in scoring with 14 points on the evening.

The ladies were back at it a night later as they traveled to Greenville. In a game in which Cedar led most of the evening, Greenville used a strong fourth quarter to defeat the Red Hawks 39-38. Brighton Miller and Maggie Prins each scored 10 points and Avery Sparling and Kyla Andres chipped in 8 points each.

Cedar Springs will play its final game of the regular season on Thursday, February 28, as they travel to Lowell to play the Red Arrows. 

District Tournament brackets are out and the Lady Red Hawks will play the winner of Greenville and Forest Hills Central on Wednesday night, March 6, at Northview High School. That game will start at 5:30 p.m. The District Final game will also be held at Northview High School on Friday, March 8, at 7:00 p.m.

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Cedar Springs Competitive Cheer to compete at State Finals

At the beginning of the season, the Lady Red Hawks Varsity Competitive Cheer team set one lofty goal: to earn a place on the mat at the State Finals on March 2. Since November, these ladies have been working hard and for the first time in 9 years, Cedar Springs High School will compete at the Michigan Division 2 State Finals. 

The Cedar Springs Competitive Cheer team will now head to state finals after placing third at regionals. Courtesy photo.

Advancing to the state finals was not an easy task. The Lady Red Hawks had to face 12 of the best teams in the area at the regional finals at Kenowa Hills on February 23 and had to place in the top 4 to advance to State. 

With heightened nerves, the team took the mat and performed strongly and entered Round 3 in 4th place. Determined to defend their position, the girls stepped onto the mat, pushed their nerves aside and performed one of their best Round 3 performances of the season. As the final scores were being announced, all the teams were huddled on the mat hoping to hear their school announced as one of the top 4 teams.  

The Lady Red Hawks jumped to their feet in excitement when their name was announced as finishing in 3rd place. “This team is passionate and performed their rounds with so much excitement and they executed!” said a proud and enthusiastic Coach Anne Olszewski. “Our Round 3 is one of the most difficult and they performed it to an appreciative crowd. Having parents and alumni in the stands makes a huge difference. I am just so glad to be sending four seniors that have been in our program since Rocket cheerleading! I am just so excited myself…I feel like we broke a barrier…it’s amazing! Everyone is going to know who the Red Hawks of Cedar Springs are after next Saturday.” 

The State Finals begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 2, at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids and will showcase the top 8 teams in the state of Michigan. These teams represent the best that Division 2 High School Competitive Cheer offers in our state. Congratulations and good luck Lady Red Hawks! One dream…one mission…the road to state. #EARNIT!

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Wrestlers are regional champs

The Cedar Springs Varsity Wrestling team claimed the title of regional champions last week. The last time they won that title was 23 years ago. Courtesy photo.

It’s been an exciting year for the Cedar Springs Varsity wrestling team, and last Wednesday evening proved to be one of the most exciting yet. Fresh off winning their first District title in over a decade, the Red Hawks were ready to take on some of the best wrestling teams in the area and claim a regional wrestling title—something they hadn’t done in 23 years. Click here to see how they made their dream come true.

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