Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 31, 2013

Top 10: Grayling golf team suffered tragic loss on road

BY JAMES COOK jcook@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — GRAYLING — Tragedy came to Grayling this year.

A morning drive to a high school golf tournament turned into a nightmare.

Two vans collided. Three people died. A community rallied.

The odyssey of Grayling’s golf team is No. 2 on the Record-Eagle’s top 10 local sports stories of the year.

“You still see on cars and businesses the ‘Grayling supports’ stickers,” Grayling assistant principal Tim Sanchez said. “They’re all over the place, which is awesome. It’s not something that’s going to be forgotten anytime soon. Just the support, the community all rallying for each other, is pretty special. It’s a special community that we live in. I’m very, very proud to be from here.”

The April 29 crash at the intersection of County Road 612 and Crawford Lake Road NE in Excelsior Township claimed the lives of 18-year-old senior Louis Menard, 31-year-old golf coach Jason Potter and 27-year-old Cassandra Stapleton.

Potter was driving a Ford Freestar loaded with six Vikings players and clubs. Stapleton was a passenger in a white Ford Windstar driven by Rhonda Mitchell, 46, of Kalkaska.

After the two vehicles collided at high speed, the vans were mangled and the road was littered with golf clubs.

Mitchell — who was speeding at 77 mph and had drugs in her system — pleaded no contest in August to a misdemeanor charge of moving violation causing death and was sentenced in October to a year in jail.

“It was difficult with things like Facebook and everything else,” Sanchez said. “There was so much misinformation being put out that it was a tough time for everyone.”

The crash made national news.

Sanchez’ football team wore helmet stickers honoring the golf team all season. Vikings’ all-state wide receiver Tyler McClanahan was on the golf team, but didn’t travel to the tournament that day.

“We’re not going to forget about it,” Sanchez said. “We’re going to take advantage of every day we have here and do the best that we can.

“It’s a small school. Everybody knows everybody.”

In addition to the three deaths, five more Grayling golfers were injured.

Tyler Summers, a 16-year-old junior, suffered four fractured ribs, two broken vertebra, four pelvis fractures, a broken tailbone, fourth-degree burns on his right foot, second-degree burns on his left foot and a concussion after he was ejected from the van and landed 100 feet away due to the impact of the collision. He ended up under the other van, which caught fire. Summers was placed in a medically-induced coma following the crash, spending 94 days in various hospitals before being released.

Gunner Metzer, a 16-year-old sophomore, sustained a broken collarbone, a fractured vertebra, a concussion and facial lacerations.

Dallas Johnson, 15-year-old sophomore, had a broken pelvis and shoulder injuries.

Mason Krey, a 18-year-old senior, has a broken jaw, a broken rib, two fractured vertebra and multiple lacerations on his legs, neck and arms.

Jake Hinkle, 16, sustained a brain injury and multiple leg fractures.