Tribune top five girls: No. 5 Jenna Core

Duncan MacLean • Jul 12, 2019 at 12:15 AM

The Tribune is counting down the top 5 male and female athletes, as well as teams, for the 2018-19 athletic season. Our No. 5 female athlete of the year is Spring Lake’s Jenna Core.

In an age of specialization, three-sport athletes are hard to come by. Even harder to find are three-sport athletes universally endorsed by their coaches and teammates. Jenna Core is one of those athletes.

Excelling on the volleyball and basketball court and the softball field come spring, Core cleaned up postseason accolades across the board with three All-Conference nods in her senior season and a pair of All-State awards for volleyball and softball. Her dominance on the softball field ended with a pair of big-hitting school records, as she finished her senior season with the all-time marks in career and single-season home runs.

Her success isn’t limited to the athletic field, as she was designated as a BCAM Outstanding Senior Student-Athlete this winter.

Universally praised by her coaches as a leader by example, Core was described as coachable, intelligent, hardworking and a student of the game.

She started her senior year like every other — as a member of the Spring Lake varsity volleyball team. The Lakers had a storybook season, capturing their first district title since 2013 before running into Grand Rapids Christian in the regional tournament.

Core posted across-the-board stellar stats, described by head coach Cassidy Hazekamp as a do-it-all, go-to player. Core blasted 422 kills in her senior season, good for sixth all-time in Laker history; converted 408 digs — good for fourth all-time; and posted an average of 3.58 digs per set — the second best of any Laker.

“She really is a do-it-all kind of player,” Hazekamp said. “It didn’t matter what we needed — a big dig, a set, or to really kill a ball — Jenna could, and would, do it for us. She also would never take credit for how good she was. Whenever she got a big, game-changing kill, she went right to her setter and told her how great of a pass it was.

“Apart from that, she was a must-have presence on the court. We were better when Jenna was out there because of her calming presence. She is such a quiet leader. She got the team to focus and really understood when we needed a play and how to get there.”

Core stuck around the Spring Lake gymnasium for the winter season, leading the Lakers in scoring as a forward for the basketball team. There, she displayed all the same qualities as she did on the volleyball court.

“She was a great captain,” said Spring Lake varsity head coach Cavin Mohrhardt. “She was a quiet leader by example. She was a hard worker in practice every day and was just a student of the game. She really loved the game. And, she could do it all on the court. She rebounded, she was our leading scorer, her free throw shooting was incredible and she just knew the game better than anyone.”

While an All-State sweep evaded Core, her skills were notorious at the free throw line, as she earned a spot in BCAM’s top-shot contest for free throw shooting as one of the best percentage shooters in the state. That prowess at the line helped her 19 points per game average, while her tall frame and gritty attitude produced a ludicrous 10 rebounds per game for a double-double average.

“Basketball is her third sport,” Mohrhardt said. “She still excelled at it. All that time she put into volleyball and softball and she was still a great basketball player. She’s just an athlete and beyond that a very fun person to be around.”

As if her fall and winter accolades weren’t enough, Core always turned things up in the spring. Joining her father, Bill Core, on the softball diamond was always a treat for Spring Lake teammates and fans.

Over the course of her senior season, Core posted ludicrous numbers at the plate, hitting .446 overall with 52 RBIs and 61 runs scored. As a bonus, she stole 18 bases.

Those numbers included 12 home runs, which broke her own single-season Spring Lake record of 11. The record-breaking bomb was poetic, coming in her final high school at-bat in the Lakers’ quarterfinal loss.

The 12 homeruns brought her career total to 37, shattering the previous Spring Lake record of 16. Her final number left her 16th on the MHSAA all-time list.

Core and her teammates capped an amazing four-year run for the Laker softball team. In her four-year varsity career, Spring Lake won four conference titles, four district titles and three regional championships. Individually, she scored 175 runs and brought home 169 RBIs.

“She is very versatile,” Spring Lake head coach Bill Core said. “It’s a bit of a cliché, but I think there is some truth to it — she is a coach's kid. She has a very high sports IQ. She has the ability to play defensively almost anywhere. She can hit for average, she can hit for power, she steals bases. She can do it all.

“As a coach, she is a dream player to have and Traci and I couldn’t be more proud of her as a daughter. We tried to keep it coach and player between the lines, but at home and when I get to watch her in the stands, I am extremely proud of her.

“With her finishing her senior year, you really start to ask, ‘Where did the time go?’ I couldn’t have dreamed all those years ago when she started playing what kind of player she would become.

“She is level headed and humble and a good teammate which is all you could ask for, and then you get to the banquet and finally look at the stats and say, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It is easy to lose sight of that during the season.

Core’s versatile talent and competitive attitude opened multiple doors for collegiate competition and, unsurprisingly, she’s entering all of them. She has already started summer training and competition with both the Hope College softball and volleyball teams, with plans to compete for both for the Flying Dutch. After splitting the coach, parent relationship for so many years, this will be a welcome relief.

“I’m very excited to get to just be a Jenna fan because that’s what I always have been,” Bill Core said. “There’s nothing better than sitting back and enjoying watching my kids play. Her brothers are her biggest critics, I get to just enjoy it.

“Of course, studies will be most important and she still has to earn her spot on those teams at tryouts, but we feel she has a good shot.”

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