Patch Athletes of the Fall Season: Will Neef in Bloomfield
Fans celebrate region’s top athletes by voting early and often in athlete of the season polls.
The Patch Athlete of the Season polls closed on Wednesday night, and the competition was fierce until the very end.
Thousands of votes were cast to celebrate the region’s top athletes from the fall season.
Fans found creative ways to support their athletes, from sending out email blasts to posting on Facebook walls and Tweeting, to (we hear) pulling all-nighters to garner more votes. It was obvious from early on in the voting how much the communities, schools, friends and families of these athletes think of them.
ALL the nominees deserve recognition for their accomplishments.
The following 10 athletes earned the most votes from their respective Patch communities and are the winners of the Athlete of the Season polls.
Congratulations! Please lend your own congratulations in the comments at the end of this story.
Bloomfield Hills Athlete of the Season
The Bloomfield region received the most votes out of any of the polls. Four athletes each had more than 1,700 votes. The top two vote-getters combined for nearly 69,000 votes!
In the end, it was senior Andover soccer player Will Neef who pulled out a hotly contested win over Tariq Akeel from the Detroit Country Day soccer team. Neef had 36,625 votes for 49 percent of the votes cast (74,242). Akeel had the lead on Monday, but finished in second place with 33,092 votes and 44 percent of the vote.
Neef was the leading scorer with 15 goals this season on a Barons team that made a run all the way to the state semifinals. He scored goals in both regional games, including the game-winner against Trenton in the regional finals, and the semifinal game against Avondale.
Birmingham Athlete of the Season
Rishi Patel edged out schoolmate Tariq Akeel to win the Birmingham area athlete of the season.
Patel, a sophomore tennis player on the Detroit Country Day team, won the poll with 10,986 votes (43 percent of the 25,363 votes cast in Birmingham). Akeel, a soccer player on the DCD soccer team, finished in second place with 9,683 votes (38 percent). The senior also finished in second place in the Bloomfield Hills poll.
As the No. 3 singles for the Yellowjackets, Patel won the individual championship in Division 3 in two sets (6-1, 6-1) over the top seed Mike Kincaid from St. Joseph. Patel breezed through the tournament and didn’t lose a single set.
Ferndale Athlete of the Season
With 803 votes and 55 percent of the vote (1,460 total votes) junior quarterback Eric Ellis is the athlete of the season for the Ferndale area.
The quarterback helped turn things around for the Ferndale High School Eagles after a slow start. His two-touchdown performance against Avondale was one of the highlights of the entire season. Coach Ryan Dunlap said Ellis improved throughout the season and the junior ended up on the All-OAA team in the Blue division.
Ellis beat out fellow junior Leo Kopack in a hotly contested vote. Kopack had an early lead in the vote and Ellis surged in front. Kopack finished in second place with 452 votes.
Royal Oak Athlete of the Season
Ben Hill (freshman, Royal Oak High School cross country) was named the athlete of the season for the Royal Oak area. He received 2,624 votes and 58 percent of the vote (4450 total votes).
Hill was All-State at the Division 1 finals for his 28th place finish at the Michigan International Speedway. He ran his best time of the season (16:00) and is part of the team that was recognized as Academic All-State. Hill also played on the Ravens junior varsity soccer team during much of the season.
It was another tight race with junior Emily Heitchue receiving a lot of support. The swimmer finished in second place with 1,482 votes and 33 percent of the vote.
Berkley Athlete of the Season
Noah Kretchmer (freshman, tennis) ran away with the Berkley athlete of the season poll. The freshman finished with 134 votes and 54 percent of the vote (246 total votes).
Kretchmer stepped in as a freshman for the Bears at No. 1 singles and only lost three times this season. “It’s hard to step up (as a freshman) and do that,” his head coach Lenny Waldman said. His strong effort helped Berkley finish a perfect 5-0 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue division.
Sebastian Betzer, who finished all-league in cross country, was the runner-up in the Berkley area with 62 votes (25 percent of the vote).
Troy Athlete of the Season
Justin Losey (junior, Troy football) won the poll with 43 percent of the vote (2,275 of the 5,289 total votes).
In his second year as starting at quarterback for the Troy High School Colts, Losey made the All-OAA team and was one of only six players to be named to Troy’s 2011 Black Stallions Club. To gain membership each player must reach certain benchmarks in weight lifting and other physical activities like sit-ups.
Troy High School had a lot of fan support in the poll. Colts athletes finished in the top four spots in the poll and each received more than 600 votes. Jason Leslie, a senior on the soccer team, finished in second place with 1,585 votes (29 percent of the vote).
West Bloomfield Athlete of the Season
Jonah Folbe (junior, Frankel Jewish Academy soccer) defeated some of Oakland’s top athletes, including cross country star Erin Finn and tennis standout Andrew Cahn with a win in the West Bloomfield poll. He won with 1,067 of the 2,562 votes cast.
Folbe scored six goals and had 10 assists for the Jaguars' varsity soccer team, which completed its best record in school history at 10-2-1 and made it to district semifinals.
Cahn, Division 1’s Mr. Tennis, finished in second place with 755 votes (29 percent). Third-place finisher Claire Forhan, a senior on the diving team, also received a lot of support with 393 votes (15 percent).
Rochester Athlete of the Season
Gabby Thivierge (junior, Rochester Adams cross country and swimming) was the only athlete in the region to receive 60 percent of the vote. She ran away with the Rochester poll with 167 of the 274 votes cast.
Thivierge finished eighth place at the Division 1 state finals in cross country. She helped Adams finish sixth place as a team. The junior ran a team-best 18:11.7 at the Michigan International Speedway to earn All-State status. Tivierge also finished All-State at the Division 2 swimming finals in Holland. She finished seventh place in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:12.11.
Lake Orion Athlete of the Season
Annie Jongekrijg (senior, Lake Orion swimming) won the Lake Orion area poll with 40 percent of the vote (12 of the 30 votes cast).
Jongekrijg earned first place in the girls 100-yard freestyle at the Division 1 finals. The senior set a new record with her time of 50.32 seconds. She was All-State in the 50-yard freestyle event with a time of 23.52.
The rest of the vote was evenly spread out over the other three entrants. Shannon Murdock finished in second place, Sean Charotte in third and TJ Carey in fourth.
Clawson Athlete of the Season
Alli Costine (senior, volleyball) earned 51 percent of the vote in the Clawson area. She had 110 of the 213 votes to win the area’s athlete of the season poll.
The Clawson High School senior was the top offensive and defensive player for the Trojans in her third year on varsity. Costine also signed a scholarship to play volleyball at Macomb College in November.
Teammates on the soccer varsity team Tyler Jugon and Will Pasquin finished in second and third respectively. Jugon finished with 50 votes and 23 percent of the vote and Pasquin finished with 28 votes and 13 percent of the vote.