Suzanne Wardell explains the connection that comes with being the voice of Holt Rams football
As fans sat shivering in the drizzling rain, the football seniors played the fourth quarter of their last game on the Holt High School football field on Oct. 12, 2018. Yet, they weren’t the only ones who were experiencing one of their “lasts”. Just like she had always done for the past 27 years, Suzanne Wardell was up in the press box announcing the game. This was the last time she would be the voice of Holt Rams Football.
Wardell moved to Holt when she was 10 years old. She graduated from Holt High School in 1988, and then went on to graduate from Michigan State University with a degree in education. After college, she went back to Holt and taught 6th grade, and now 8th grade, for the past 25 years. She and her husband are retiring after this school year.
When Wardell was student teaching in Holt, she had been asked to announce for the football games in 1992. She was a student athletic trainer throughout her years of high school and her brother was on the varsity team that year, so she was familiar with football and had always been around it.
“I was announcing when [present varsity] coach, [Chad] Fulk, played...I remember he was the quarterback when I first started,” said Wardell.
Having been the announcer for so long, Wardell got to experience the transition to the new high school stadium.
“It's been interesting because I’ve had experience from being at Troost [stadium] because that's where we started and then being at the high school,” said Wardell. “It’s just kind of neat to see the differences in the two different stadiums.”
In 1995, the Holt varsity football team made it to the state finals at the Silverdome, which Wardell said was a memorable experience.
“Obviously I didn’t announce that game, but I got to sit up there with the announcers and make sure they pronounced all of our kids' names right. So that’s a really cool thing,” said Wardell.
With football being a predominantly male sport, there aren’t usually as many female announcers, which makes Wardell’s role even more important to her.
“There is always a sense of pride because you don’t hear many female announcers doing football...It was showing females that you can do whatever you want,” said Wardell.
By being a teacher and the athletic director at the Holt Junior High, Wardell said her students are her kids. Announcing at the football games has allowed her to see her former students.
“It's nice to see kids that I had at younger grades, you know, then they're in high school, at the different level...I can stay connected with them when they get to high school,” said Wardell.
The only time Wardell may see people after they leave the junior high is at the high school during football games. Because she has been in Holt for almost her entire life, Wardell said she has gotten to know everybody, as she has seen many generations grow.
“It's fun because you get to see different people that you don’t normally get to see all of the time,” said Wardell. “You get to see the turnover. It’s more the kids and being able to stay connected to them.”
Before the fourth quarter on senior night, an announcement was made stating Wardell’s retirement and her positive effect on the Holt community. In regards to this, the middle section of the press box, where Wardell would announce, will be named after her.
Wardell also received a football signed by the 2018 varsity football team, a golden microphone statue, and a functioning golden microphone that she then used to announce the fourth quarter. Wardell said she plans on using it at the Junior High for basketball games and will then donate it to the high school for future announcers to use.
“I’m one who doesn’t like a lot of fanfare, so I really didn’t expect anything, and I didn't want anything, but I got teary when they were reading it,” Wardell said.
Wardell and her husband are moving down to Florida to escape the cold and be with family. She said they will definitely be back to visit.
“It is emotional because I know I won't be seeing those kids anymore, and I won't be seeing any kids anymore,” said Wardell, as she began to tear up. “That’s the hard thing...I will miss the kids, and actually I’ll miss the parents and the families, because I have been in Holt forever.”