Four Howell athletes set athletic futures

Photo courtesy of Howell High School.
Four Howell athletes and their coaches pose after signing to play sports in college Wednesday. In the front row are (from left): Zoe Earl, Jacob Swift, Erin Honkala and Erin Utter. Behind them are Cody Workman, Tim Olszewski, Mark Bernas and Ron Pezzoni.
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It’s that time of year, when young women and men make the first big decision as young adults — where they will go to college.

For four Howell students, their decision also means they’ll have a chance to extend their athletic careers.

Zoe Earl, Erin Honkala, Jacob Swift and Erin Utter all made their decisions public last week, choices as individual as they are.

For Honkala and Utter, Wednesday’s signings were to play at the NCAA Division II level, Honkala for basketball at Northern Michigan and Utter to play softball at Ferris State.

If the concept of an Utter playing softball at Ferris State sounds familiar, it should. Utter’s older sister, Hallie, will be a junior for the Bulldogs this spring.

“I’ve always like Ferris,” Erin Utter said. “My sister plays there, and when the coach started recruiting me I was excited to have the chance to play with (Hallie).”

But there was more to her decision than sisterly love.

“I thought about going to Northwood,” she said. “I’m thinking about going into either marketing or public relations, and Northwood is a business school and didn’t have public relations. So I wanted the opportunity to choose.”

Utter is a pitcher-first baseman for Howell, and expects to take over as the Highlanders’ top pitcher this season.

Honkala will join a Howell grad, Tess Weatherly, at Northern Michigan, where she will decide between a career in business or in teaching.

Honkala is a center for the Howell basketball team whose agility and rebounding prowess made her into a prospect. Last season, she hauled down 28 rebounds in a game against Ann Arbor Skyline.

She committed to Northern in May and made it official on Wednesday.

“I talked to Lake Superior State a little, but Northern pulled me in,” she said, smiling. Besides Weatherly, Honkala will see a few of her cousins around the Northern Michigan campus.

Jacob Swift signed an academic scholarship to Albion College, where he will play lacrosse. Albion, a member of the NCAA’s Division III, doesn’t give out athletic scholarships, but Swift’s ability in the classroom paid off handsomely.

“I had a good connection with the coach,” Swift said. “The campus size is good for me, and it’s one of the best schools in the state for education. I want to be a teacher, and they have a great program.”

Swift played a lot of sports as a kid, and also played freshman football and ran track until switching to lacrosse.

“It’s a good mix of hand eye coordination and running,” Swift said of lacrosse. “It keeps you thinking all the time.”

Zoe Earl, meanwhile, didn’t attract much interest until late in her senior season at Howell, where she was a setter for the Highlanders volleyball team.

“The coach was at a tournament I was playing in,” she said. “I decided to make a visit and I really liked it. I liked the campus, the scholarship was nice, and I decided to sign.”

Earl will attend Mott Community College, working on her associate’s degree while playing volleyball and possibly transferring to play at a four-year college when she’s done at Mott.

Earl’s high school career is over in her sport, while the other are looking forward to playing their sports without worrying about what the future holds.

“It’s a relief,” Utter said. “It takes the pressure off. Now I can just work on getting better for college. I’m excited for my senior season. We’re going to be good. It should be good and exciting.”


  1. Congratulations Mr. Robinson.Good you keep your streak alive. Jacob Smith, really? Time to retire. You have been screwing up Howell athletes names for way too many years. May not be important to you, but it is important to them.

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