KENT CITY – Kylee Poulton and Lani Bloom are small-school standouts headed for the big time of Division I track & field in the Big Ten Conference.
They showed why at Saturday’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals at Kent City High School. They’re about to be arch-rivals in college, too.
Poulton, a Holland Black River senior signed with Indiana University, sprinted to individual titles in the 100-meter dash (12.28 seconds) and 200 (24.83). Bloom, an Ithaca senior signed with Purdue University, ran away with championships in the 800 (2:11.86) and 1,600 (4:49.60). Both runners also anchored relays for their respective teams.
Cross country power Hart was a landslide winner of the team Finals title, the Pirates’ second overall and first since 2018, as they totaled 63 points – 24 more than runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia. Onsted was third (33), Montague fourth (29) and Quincy fifth (28).
“You know, it’s been fun. I know when I started coaching back in ’98 for Hart, they needed somebody and it kind of just grew into a passion. I love coaching – I like teaching school, but I love coaching, too,” said Hart girls track coach Calvin Ackley, who is an assistant for the Pirates’ girls cross country program that’s a five-time reigning champ in LP Division 3.
“It’s fun. It’s fun just to put Hart on the map a little bit in one small aspect of life. … If you’re going to do something, do it all-out, you know.”
All-out is exactly the way Poulton and Bloom performed Saturday.
For Poulton, those were her first two Finals championships. She had the best time of all qualifiers in the 400 but decided not to run that event because she wanted to conserve energy for the 200. Last year, she was LPD3 runner-up in the 100, third in the 200 and fourth in the 400.
Poulton ran the anchor leg on Black River’s 1,600 relay team to close the day Saturday. That quartet did not place, but she still enjoyed herself.
“This year was really fun. I really love my team this year,” said Poulton, who ran into a bit of a headwind Saturday but still felt strong. “Having a 4x4 relay has been, like, a highlight because it’s just so fun.
“In the past years, I wasn’t able to participate in relays, but we were able to put together a pretty good team this year and run in the state finals. I’d say my highlight would be the Regional meet. We were last (in the 1,600 relay) and then we ended up becoming first (at the Regional).”
Bloom is no stranger to MHSAA Finals championships. She also won 800 and 1,600 titles at last year’s Finals, plus she captured an LP Division 3 cross country championship in the fall.
Bloom anchored Ithaca’s 3,200 relay team that placed fourth.
“I was really nervous going into (Saturday’s meet) because I haven’t really had a lot of races where I had to have that get-up-and-go mindset where I had to, like, actually race my hardest, dive over the line every time,” she said. “It was a challenge for me today, but I feel like I really rose to the occasion and I’m really proud of what I did today.”
Other individual champions from Saturday’s LP Division 3 Finals included Onsted’s Emmry Ross in the 400 (57.93), Grand Rapids Covenant Christian’s Meghan Beute in the 3,200 (personal record 10:37.57), Pewamo-Westphalia’s Saige Martin in the 100 hurdles (15.23 PR) and 300 hurdles (46.24 PR), Sand Creek’s Grace Elliott in shot put (40-4.25 PR), Grayling’s Rylan Finstrom in discus (145-2 PR), Lawton’s Heidi Newhouse in high jump (5-5), Grand Rapids West Catholic’s Ally Olszewski in pole vault (11-0 PR) and Benzie Central’s Gloria Stepanovich in long jump (17-4.25).
Two of Montague’s relay teams claimed championships, in the 400 (50.24) and 800 (1:47.10). Ross helped Onsted also win the 1,600 relay (4:06.02), while Hart cruised to victory in the 3,200 (9:30.18).
“I mean, it’s crazy. We just came here with nine girls, and we knew we were seeded decently high. But just to go out here and finally do it has been something that I didn’t expect at the beginning of the season,” Hart senior Kendall Williamson said. “I had no idea we were going to be here.”
PHOTOS (Top) Holland Black River’s Kylee Poulton, middle, sets the pace during one of her sprint championships Saturday at Kent City. (Middle) Ithaca’s Lani Bloom builds a significant lead during one of her victories. (Click for more from Carter Sherline/Run Michigan.)