DETROIT – Two graduating athletes who were both state champions in their respective sports received the Catholic League’s “Walt Bazylewicz Athletes of the Year” awards Friday at Comerica Park.
Birmingham Marian’s Jansen Eichenlaub, a soccer player and track sprinter, and Novi Detroit Catholic Central’s Kevon Davenport, a wrestler, were named as the league’s top female and male athletes, respectively. Both winners were announced on the Detroit Tigers’ home field in between games of the Catholic League’s baseball championship games.
The awards are in tribute to Walt Bazylewicz, one of the Catholic League’s most storied coaches who became league director and presided over the Catholic League during a period of incredible growth in prep athletics. The winners’ names will be entered on a permanent plaque in conjunction with the Catholic League Hall of Fame.
Not surprisingly, both student-athletes were standout in their chosen pursuits.
Eichenlaub is an “A” student who earned eight varsity letters at Marian for soccer and track. The Bloomfield Township resident signed a national letter of intent to continue her soccer career at the University of Virginia.
“Jansen is perhaps one of the finest female athletes in Marian High School history,” Athletic Director David Feldman said. “She has the chance to compete in five state finals during her high school career with a possible two more to go, and she has helped her teams win two state championships so far.”
In soccer, Jansen led the Mustangs to a 54-match unbeaten streak and two state championships, and Marian is top-ranked in the state this spring. She was selected for All-America soccer honors and is on the Michigan Dream Team. In track, she ran on Marian’s state-champion 4x400 relay teams in both 2017 and 2018. She is all-state in both sports.
“When you meet Jansen you would never know that she is such a tremendous athlete,” Feldman said. “Jansen does not boast about her talents, in fact, she is the ultimate teammate and student, always giving credit to teammates and coaches. Jansen is a tireless worker who leads by example, making all those around her a better person and athlete.”
Her assistant soccer coach, Adam Gorski, agreed with that assessment.
“One would think that someone with these kinds of accomplishments is probably cocky and arrogant,” he said. “However, Jansen is the opposite of that. With the support of an amazing family, she has shown to be humble, approachable, and one of the hardest workers I have ever been around.”
Meanwhile, Davenport has won state championships in wrestling in all four years of high school, both for team and individual. He is one of a select few wrestlers in Michigan to win four individual titles, the first African-American to do so, and the first member of Catholic Central’s storied program to win four.
The Pontiac resident has a career record of 184-10 (42-1 as a senior) and earned a wrestling scholarship to the University of Nebraska. He is a two-time Shamrocks team captain and four-time All-American wrestler.
Catholic Central Athletic Director Aaron Babicz had nothing but praise for Davenport.
“He’s probably one of the more energetic students we’ve had at Catholic Central, not only on the mat but throughout the school and he’s been an exceptional young man in the community,” Babicz said. “He’s a great leader and a great role model, especially to the younger students. He definitely wears his faith on his sleeve. We hate to see him go. He’s obviously one of the most dominating wrestlers we’ve ever had here at CC.”
This year’s presentation of the Walt Bazylewicz Athlete of the Year Awards was done a bit differently than in the past. Previously, the winner was announced in advance and appeared at Comerica Park with two other finalists.
This time, the league invited all eight girls and boys finalists to attend the baseball championship, and announced the winner when all were on the field.
The other girls nominees include Farmington Hills Mercy’s Libby Bartels, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart’s Elizabeth Etterbeek, Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes’ Abbygayle Hoffman-Wiegand, Warren Regina’s Leah Munson, Royal Oak Shrine’s Grace Murray, Academy of the Sacred Heart’s Maelyn Thayer (formerly of Livonia Ladywood) and Chesterfield Austin Catholic’s Amanda Warren.
Boys nominees include Austin’s Benjamin Brown, Birmingham Brother Rice’s James Donaldson, Warren DeLaSalle’s Justin Huttenlocher, Clarkston Everest Collegiate’s Mitchell Lowney, Our Lady of the Lakes’ Noah Robak, Shrine’s Dan Romano, and Madison Heights Bishop Foley’s Kendel Taylor.