As a girl, Jody Gifford Markwart knew what kind of woman she wanted to be.
Like his mentors at Bay City Central, like his coaches at Ferris State University, and like his role model at home. Willingness, strong-minded and strong.
Softball would be her path to becoming a powerful, passionate and powerful woman, like the ones she admired the most.
“My mom told my trainer that I would be all American,” Markwart said. “She said ‘You better make my daughter a great player.’ My mom knew that strong women can make you do great things, and she knew my potential before I did.
Markwart made sure she harnessed every ounce of that potential, indeed becoming an American while leading Ferris State twice to the NCAA Division II World Series and starting in 1999 as the biggest hitter in the world. the history of the program.
Now she can add the Bay County Sports Hall of Fame to her resume as part of the Induction Class of 2021 to be honored on November 14 at the DoubleTree Hotel and Banquet Center in downtown Bay City. .
Growing up with a single mother, Markwart saw in Christine Gifford a daily strength she would emulate. She was never oriented towards athletics in her youth, but she eventually found this way of life on her own.
“Once I got to high school I discovered what it was like to be an athlete and how free it was to play sports,” said Markwart. “It was a great outlet.
“At first I didn’t know where it would take me. But I’ve had a lot of people tell me that with the right times, good things will happen.
“Giffy” was called to the Bay City Central varsity softball team before she even knew the rules of the game. But it was obvious to everyone in the Purple and Gold that he was a special athlete. who was on a special mission.
“She was just an old school player, full of blood and courage, the kind of player so fun to train,” said Kris Popp, the Bay County Sports Hall of Famer who coached Markwart in basketball. ball at Handy Middle School and in softball alongside head coach Fran Danek at Central.
“She wasn’t going to settle for less than her best. She did due diligence on her skills and it paid off for her. She didn’t expect to be handed it to her. She worked for it and won it.
Playing alongside top athletes like Kelly Spielhaupter, Beth Pawlak, Jamie Kowalkowski and Heather Musser, Markwart has helped Central succeed in basketball and softball.
She helped Wolves win three back-to-back district basketball titles under coach Dave Petrosky from 1992-94, going 45-4 in her last two seasons, while also stoking the fire. competitive which helped it to stand out.
“I could score if needed, I could play defense if needed – and I could get yelled at if I didn’t,” she said. “I didn’t want to be pampered, and Coach Petrosky was good about it. He wouldn’t accept anything less than 100 percent, and I responded to that kind of coaching. It would make me (tick off) and make me want to show him that I could do it.
Markwart was on three teams for the district softball title, including the 1995 team which went 37-4 and advanced to the Class A State Semifinals. Outfielder hard-hitting left hit 0.500 as a senior to win Saginaw Valley League and All State honors.
“I don’t remember having a bad day with this group,” she said. “The teammates were always trying to lift each other up. No one was killing anyone. We had a great camaraderie and we were determined to win. “
This winning attitude would travel well, and Markwart brought it with her to Big Rapids to play college softball at Ferris State. She would become the greatest hitter the Bulldogs have ever seen, breaking almost all of the Great Lake Intercollegiate Athletic Conference school hitting records.
More than 20 years later, she still holds Ferris’ records with 243 games played, a batting average of 0.373, 277 hits, 193 RBIs, 19 trebles and 31 homers. She ranks second with 743 batting appearances and third with 41 doubles and 57 stolen goals.
“It’s not how strong you are as a hitter, but your hand-eye coordination and your timing,” said Keri Becker, former FSU softball coach who is now director of athletics at the. Grand Valley State University. “It’s the timely release of the levers in the right order, and she got it.”
Becker marveled at the competitive spark and powerful punch from Markwart. She saw the two in full screen during a match when she motioned for Giffy to fake a cavity to help runners steal second and third.
“She didn’t fake cavities and the girl was thrown third – and I was furious,” Becker said. “What is she doing? Hit a home run on the next pitch. That’s the kind of player she is.
Markwart led Ferris at bat for three consecutive seasons, breaking a .409 record with a 10 home run as a junior in 1998 to win his second of three Great Lakes Regional First Team honors. And yet, people still have to talk about her defense first – and that cannon arm that made her a one-of-a-kind outfielder.
“Her freshman year during the fall ball, as we got to know each other, a ball came out to her – and almost effortlessly she threw a seed straight to home plate,” said Casey Munger, who played in the middle of the field next to Markwart at Ferris. “My jaw just dropped. I was in total awe. There, I said ‘OK, this is how we are going to play ball. I like it.’
“It was an example of the high standard she had for herself. And whether she knows it or not, she has set the tone and raised all of her teammates. “
Markwart and the Bulldogs would raise him to splendid heights. They rode to a third place finish at the 1998 NCAA National Championships and returned to the ultimate destination in 1999. Markwart would win the US third all-star team in second year and second team as a senior.
“It was like we were in a fairy tale,” Markwart said. “Everyone was doing their job. The header hitter was on base, the next hitters were following her and I was driving RBIs.
“It was a lot more fun for me than anything else. It was really hard work – there was a lot of sweat and tears – but it was an amazing trip.
A three-time all-GLIAC first team player and two-time GLIAC varsity winner, Markwart went on to become a high school teacher and softball coach. She was a university coach at Ionia and Lapeer.
But, to the surprise of anyone who knows Giffy’s competitive spirit, she had another athletic adventure in store. She joined the West Michigan Mayhem of the Women’s Football Alliance, leading her team to two Super Bowls and winning league MVP honors as quarterback in 2009.
“I wasn’t quite done competing once I discovered this competitive side of myself,” said Markwart, who was inducted into the Ferris State Hall of Fame in 2017.
Now 44 and a math teacher at Lapeer High School, Markwart recently retired from coaching after 18 seasons. She is married to Samantha Pipesh and is raising her teenage son, Jayden Markwart, as an athlete. And in every role, she tries to be a strong role model, like those who inspired her along the way.
“When you do something, anything, do it all,” she said. “I got this from my mother. No excuses, try harder and keep going until you get the results you want.
Markwart joins the Hall of Fame class of 2021 which includes Becki Bach Simmons, Traci Morin, Melissa Petty David, Gene Rademacher, Dan Revette, Terry Smith, Adam Vrable, the Essexville Garber 1974 football team and the baseball team Handy 1975.
Banquet tickets are available at baycountysports.com or during office hours at Bay City Central.
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