CHURCHILL — After five very successful seasons at the helm, Randy VanDyk recently stepped down as the head girls basketball coach at Manhattan Christian High School.
VanDyk was hired as the assistant principal at Chief Joseph Middle School in Bozeman, according Manhattan Christian Athletic Director Liz Flikkema, where he had served as a math teacher the past three years. The new position will not allow VanDyk to continue coaching duties.
“In most schools if you are any kind of administrator it’s very hard to coach. Some Class C schools, they still let people do that,” said Flikkema. “Most schools it’s an impossible situation just because of the time commitment. You’ve got a lot of stuff going on after school for an administrator as well as coaching. So he said he had to resign.”
VanDyk’s teams compiled a 68-51 record during his tenure, including a 35-18 mark against conference opponents. He guided the Eagles to back-to-back District 5B titles in 2008-09 and 2009-10, and three divisional tournament berths.
The 2009-10 squad posted a 20-7 record en route to winning the District 5B Tournament, placing third at the highly competitive Southern B Divisional and reaching the state Class B semifinals before losing Malta — the eventual state champion.
“He did an excellent job,” said Flikkema. “Just a really great guy too. The kids love him. It was a good situation.”
VanDyk stabilized a program that had endured three straight losing seasons after Flikkema retired as head coach following 23 years at the helm. After a 5-15 campaign in 2007-08, things turned around for Christian.
“I think he was blessed with some tremendous athletes. Both his daughters played for him, Hanna and Chelsea, and their classmates embraced basketball a lot,” said Flikkema. “He did have a whole batch there of wonderful kids that he was able to coach.”
The 6-foot Hanna VanDyk was an All-State post for the Eagles, leading the team to the State B tournament. This past season the 5-foot-10 Chelsea VanDyk helped Christian reach the Western C Divisonal after the school had moved down to the Class C ranks.
Both daughters have now graduated, and the program is expected to return just three seniors and five varsity players overall for the 2012-13 campaign. Numbers for the program might be so low that Christian may not field a C-squad or JV team this winter.
“If we can perhaps get a foreign exchange student or two, that might put us at 14. But it’s going to be a real small group,” said Flikkema. “Depending on the dynamics of the group, can we even field a JV team is our question right now.”
While that question remains, the school has already answered who will replace Randy VanDyk. Jeanette Walhof, a former assistant coach for Flikkema, was hired last week as the new coach.
Flikkema expects Walhof to breath new energy into the dwindling program.
“My biggest thing that I’m hoping to see, and I know it’s going to happen, is her enthusiasm. She’s so enthusiastic about whatever she does,” said Flikkema. “And that’s gotta rub off on some of our kids where they’ve also got to pour their heart and soul (into it). Because we graduated a whole pile of good seniors. We’re kind of like almost starting over with freshmen, sophomores and a couple juniors and seniors next year.”
Walhof is a California native and played prep basketball at Ripon Christian, which is located about two hours east of San Francisco. She played collegiately at Dordt College in Souix Center, Iowa before moving to Montana.
Once at Manhattan Christian, Walhof got into coaching and had tenures as both the C-squad and JV coach. Flikkema was grooming her to take over the program, but Walhof became pregnant with the second of her three children prior to the 2004-05 season and took a break from coaching.
Walhof did do some coaching at the junior high level over the past several years, and now, with a little more time to spare, she is ready to coach again at the high school level.
“Some of the kids in high school also had her, I believe, as a seventh grade coach,” said Flikkema. “They know her well.”
While Walhof didn’t get many opportunities to watch the team this past season, she’s anxious to meet her players and start preparing for the 2012-13 campaign.
“I guess at this point I’m excited to get to know the girls a little bit over the summer and see where we’re at,” she said. “We kind of have to get to know each other. That’s what we need to do, and then start from there.”
Walhof takes over a team that posted a 15-10 record this past season and finished fourth in District 11/12C. Seniors Elizabeth Armstrong, Julie Ovenell and Jacquelyn Visser are expected to return along with junior Halee Dyk and sophomore Shaelynn Feddes. All saw quality minutes with the varsity this past season.
“I’m excited to get started and to get going — to get playing with the girls. I think we’re going to have a fun year,” said Walhof, who had yet to formally meet with returning players. “We’re probably going to play a variety of grade levels. And so it’s going to take us a little bit to get used to a variety of grade levels together just because our numbers are small in the upper grade levels. We do not have a lot of upperclassmen returning. With being young I hope with have a lot of enthusiasm, and I’d love to get out there see what we got and give it our best shot.”
Walhof added: “Hopefully we can get some excitement going for the basketball program. And try and get a few things going over the summer. You have to take one step at a time and not get ahead of yourself.”