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Multiple Teams · Coaches from East Grand Rapids, East Kentwood earn national coaching honors

Butch Briggs and John Conlon share the same philosophy when it comes to winning coaching awards.

In the end, it all goes back to the athletes.

Briggs, the longtime swim coach at East Grand Rapids, and Conlon, who has coached boys and girls soccer at East Kentwood for  more than a decade, earned honors from the National Federation of State High School Associations on Wednesday.

Briggs, who has coached at EGR for 37 years, won national honors for boys swimming. It marked the second such national award for the longtime Pioneers coach, who previously won a national award in 2000 from the National Athletic High School Coaches Association.

“I started coaching in 1974, and I’ve always looked at awards like these as a reflection of the kids and the community you coach,” Briggs said.

The NFHS honors 20 coaches per year, 10 for boys sports and 10 for girls sports. Briggs’ honor was for the boys swimming program, which has won nine state championships (1976-’82, 2008 and ’10). The Pioneers also won girls championships in 1978 and ’79, every year from ’81 to ’86 and again in ’88, ’92, ’93, 1998-2001, ’09 and ’10.

Conlon was honored as the Section 7 coach of the year in boys soccer, which spans Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. He has coached for 24 separate seasons at East Kentwood, both boys and girls, spanning a 12-year run. The Falcons won Division 1 boys state titles in 2007, ’08 and ’10.

“Obviously, I think it’s a result of a cumulative body of people working together over the past five years,” Conlon said. “It’s a great honor to be represented, and it goes back to the players because they’re the ones that won the games on the field.”

Conlon previously won a national award from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in 2007.

GRAND RAPIDS CHRISTIAN AND ROCKFORD were two of five schools selected for the “Battle of the Fans,” a contest to determine which school has the top cheering section. The honor was voted on by Michigan High School Athletic Association and Student Advisory Council members. Members will visit the GR Christian/East Grand Rapids boys basketball game Jan. 27 and the Rockford/Hudsonville boys game Feb. 3 as part of the judging. Frankenmuth, Petoskey and Reese were the other three schools. Judging concludes Feb. 24, and winners will have footage displayed at the high school boys basketball finals in March.