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Top 5 Male Athletes 2015-16: No. 3, Joey Zelenka

Nich Wolak • Updated Jul 19, 2016 at 12:32 AM

The Tribune is counting down its top five teams, male and female athletes of the 2015-16 school year. The No. 3 male, Joey Zelenka, is a rarity in today’s day and age — a three-sport standout. Zelenka used his speed to his advantage during his junior year at Grand Haven, excelling in football, hockey and baseball.

Football

Running back, 440 yards on 82 carries, six touchdowns; five receptions, 119 yards and a touchdown; 16 tackles as a part-time linebacker/safety

Former Grand Haven football coach Jason Duram on Zelenka: “First and foremost, Joey is a hard worker. He puts himself in a position for success every time he carries the ball because of the work he put in the offseason. He’s also a three-sport athlete. He’s a very talented individual. … The combination of all of those makes him a very talented individual. He’s been able to put all those skills together both running the football and catching the ball out of the backfield.”

On Zelenka’s consistency: “Every game he had his big moment. I really think that’s what stands out about Joey. He’s going to give consistent effort and play at a high level. That’s what you look for in great athletes. He’s the guy, he’s consistent. That’s why he’s able to play high on offense defense and special teams.”

On Zelenka’s leadership: “He’s an incredible leader. He leads by example. Guys want to follow someone like him. Whether he’s on the field or sideline. He’s always making an impact.”

Hockey

Forward, led team with 52 points in 25 games; named All-Conference, Second Team All-State

Coach Keegan Ferris on Zelenka: “I think, just like all of the sports, his work ethic is what makes him good. He’s a leader by example, a team captain. Every shift he gives everything he has to the betterment of the team. … His willingness to win is what makes him. I think that comes across the board, with hockey football and baseball.”

On Zelenka’s size-speed combination: “He’s a very fast skater. I think football translates well to hockey. He gets in the corners, gets dirty, doesn’t get knocked off the puck. … His physicality, along with the speed, gives him an advantage. Someone sees a guy that size, they’re not going to go to the corner with him, and if they do, they’re going to come out on the short end of the stick. That’s for sure.”

On Zelenka’s desire to play: “One game showed how tough he is. He strained his MCL and he got right back out there and wanted to give it all for his team. (He’s a) tough, tough kid. He loves the sport, as well as football and baseball. He just likes being out there with his buddies. He knows that time is short to play, and he’s taking advantage in being a three-sport athlete and really excelling in all three.”

Baseball

All-Conference third baseman/pitcher, typically batted second or third in lineup; batted .336 with 42 hits, 20 runs and 27 RBIs ; 2-2 as a pitcher, with a 2.83 ERA and 22 strikeouts

Coach Mike Hansen on Zelenka: “He’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s got exceptional speed. He’s got tremendous hand-eye coordination. And he’s got desire. It’s a pretty easy choice to put him (near) the top of the order.

“He’s got great hands. He’s fearless when he’s going for ground balls, which makes him a good third baseman.

“As a pitcher, he throws a lot of strikes. He has a really nice curveball and he’s very competitive. You like having all of those skills on any athlete on your team.”

On how Zelenka has improved since being pulled up to varsity part way through his freshman season: “Every year he’s gotten bigger, faster and stronger. And he already had the skills. … He’s just going to get better and better. As a younger player he didn’t have as much power. Last year he developed into a guy who could hit the ball in the gap and potentially out of the park.”

On Zelenka’s wheels: “He’s always going to be a .300 hitter. I’ve seen him beat out ground balls to second baseman. He’s a threat every time he step up to the plate.

“We had coaches commenting on how fast he is. They think he’s the fastest player in the O-K Red — at least on the baseball field.”

Best of the rest

No. 4, Jarod Wierengo, Fruitport

No. 5, Cole Kramer, Grand Haven 

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