Caro's Albrecht Proves to be Quick Study

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

August 29, 2017

Before the first cross country race of his life, Yami Albrecht stepped to the starting line without much of a plan.


Then a freshman at Caro, Albrecht knew he could run, but didn’t know how to pace himself over the course of a 5K or what type of strategy to employ other than “follow Zak.”

“During the race, I didn’t know what I was doing and thought that maybe cross country wasn’t for me, because I was dead tired in that race,” Albrecht said. “Zak Drews was my teammate at that point, we had trained together all summer and I was always right behind him in the workouts. So that was my expectation, to stay behind him. I did that until after the first mile, then I broke down a little bit.”

Two years, several wins and an MHSAA championship later, everyone is following Yami, and the junior is working to make sure it stays that way.

“Obviously I want to win more, but it pushes me to train harder,” said Albrecht, the reigning Lower Peninsula Division 3 champion. “In my training, I think about how people have a target on me now. I have to train that much harder if I want to be a state champ again. It’s definitely not a guarantee that just because I won last year that I’ll do it again.”

Albrecht’s talent was noticeable long before he ran that first cross country race in the late summer of 2015.

“I knew he was going to be good,” Caro coach Jeff Schember said. “He came over (from Ethiopia) in second grade, and I’m an elementary teacher, so I knew right away when I saw him in second grade that he was something special. I would throw a soccer ball on the field and nobody could catch him to take it away from him.”

Albrecht was born in Ethiopia and adopted at the age of 7. Sports were a way for him to connect to his new classmates.

“When I first came here, my first love was soccer,” he said. “I love sports, and that’s what I did, that’s how I met most of my friends. At recess, we would play basketball and soccer. It just went on from there.”

As a middle schooler, Albrecht ran track, where his mix of speed and endurance translated into plenty of success. In the fall, he wasn’t running on a cross country course, but rather a football field, where he was excelling as a running back.

He decided not to continue with football in high school, however, and cross country was a natural fit.

“It was well established that he was pretty athletic,” Schember said. “But we didn’t know how good he would be because he had never trained. He just came out and tried it, and after our first cross country meet his teammate beat him and he placed (fifth) and he was like, ‘Man, what did I get myself into?’ He’s ultra-competitive, but he’s coachable and he listens.”

Albrecht dazzled his freshman year, even while figuring the sport out. The fifth-place finish in that first meet was tied for his lowest of the season until he went to the Division 3 Final, where he finished eighth, securing an all-state honor.

As a sophomore, Albrecht said, he started to figure out racing even more. He proved it by never finishing worse than fourth and winning the Division 3 title with a personal best time of 15 minutes, 47.4 seconds.

He opened his junior season Aug. 24 by cruising to a victory at the Mike Jackson Memorial Meet at Croswell-Lexington – the same race in which he made his high school debut – in 16:16.4, more than 40 seconds faster than he crossed in the same race a year ago.

That type of improvement, mixed with the success he’s already had, should lead to plenty of opportunities at the college level for Albrecht, who has already had interest from several schools, including University of Nebraska.

“I want to run at the next level, for sure,” he said. “I always thought about it, but I wasn’t sure how big I would make it as a freshman or sophomore, or even now. I for sure want to run in college, though.”

Before he leaves, however, Albrecht wants to bring more than an individual title to Caro, which finished fifth as a team in LPD3 in 2016. 

“It can be a lot more fun winning it as a team,” he said. “It’s not just me having the joy of winning, it’s the whole team, so it’s a lot better that way. In our practice, even when the coaches tell us to go easy, the four juniors, obviously our pace is a little faster. But the freshmen always want to stick with us, and to see that from them is great.”

Keeping up might be difficult, but trying to stick with Albrecht could definitely pay off in the long run for the younger Tigers.

“When you’ve got a kid like that, a special talent like that, it does elevate everyone else around them,” Schember said. “He’s such a team player. He’s won his state title, now he’s focused on getting his teammates a state title. It’s fun when you’re sharing rather than just being an individual. He’s definitely a team player. It’s exciting.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Caro's Yami Albrecht sets the pace at Thursday's Mike Jackson Memorial Meet at Croswell-Lexington. (Middle) Albrecht is the reigning champion in Lower Peninsula Division 3. (Photos by Mark Rummel.)

Freeland's Hansen Smashes Longstanding Record, FHE Claims 1st Finals Victory

November 4, 2023

BROOKLYN — On the same day Rockford’s Dathan Ritzenhein set a course record at Michigan International Speedway that has never been approached, Kurtis Marlowe of Richland Gull Lake had a performance that was overshadowed.

But Marlowe’s winning time of 15:02.5 in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals in 2000 also stood the test of time.

Until Saturday.

Freeland junior TJ Hansen eclipsed the Division 2 record with his winning time of 14:52.8. Runner-up Solomon Kwartowitz of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood also nearly broke the previous record, finishing in 15:03.3.

Even though it was apparent from earlier races Saturday that perfect conditions made fast times possible, Hansen didn’t set out to break Marlowe’s record.

“No, my goal was to go out and win,” he said. “Play strategy from the front, let others do the work, then just push it. Whatever time I got, I was gonna get. I knew it was going to take a time like that to win it today.

Henry Dixon sets the pace for Forest Hills Eastern's first team championship.“I usually run close to a (personal record) every year at this meet. It’s one of my favorite courses. It’s definitely unique here at the speedway, so I really like the course, I really like to run it.”

Hansen went through the mile mark tied for 11th in 4:54.3, but you could’ve thrown a blanket over the top 12 runners at that point.

It was a three-man race between Hansen, Kwartowitz and 2022 champion Connell Alford of Chelsea when they reached the two-mile mark in 9:46.

Hansen made sure there would be no drama coming down the stretch.

“I was just trying to stay calm, let them do the work, just sit back,” he said. “When I needed to go, I was gonna go. My goal was to stay relaxed.”

Kwartowitz had no complaints with his race.

“It felt really smooth,” he said. “It was great. I didn’t get a chance to race these guys a bunch this year. I did at Spartan (Invitational, in September). I was really hoping to end it with a victory.”

The boys Division 2 team championship was a toss-up between four teams for the second year in a row, with Ada Forest Hills Eastern coming out on top with 134 points. Pinckney was second with 156, East Grand Rapids third with 175 and Allendale fourth with 176.

Last year, 32 points separated the top four teams.

Junior Henry Dixon led Forest Hills Eastern, placing sixth in 15:16.0. Senior Liam Hinman was 29th, senior Brendan Hoving was 30th, senior Cooper Jacobsen was 38th and junior Tyler Endres was 82nd.

It was the first MHSAA championship for Forest Hills Eastern, which had a program-best finish of fourth in 2007.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Freeland's TJ Hansen approaches the finish of his record run Saturday at MIS. (Middle) Henry Dixon sets the pace for Forest Hills Eastern's first team championship. (Photos by Dave McCauley/