Coldwater Sends 7 Shot Putters to Finals

May 26, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Individually, Coldwater’s shot putters might not be the most sizable guys muscling up to the pit at this weekend’s MHSAA Track & Field Finals.

But as a group, the Cardinals might be the largest ever to advance to championship weekend – and perhaps the most athletic as well.

Coldwater has qualified an incredible seven shot putters for the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals at Zeeland.

They’ve been produced by throws coach Mike McConnell, one of the state’s more reputable in those events. But the magnificent seven also are a product of all-around athleticism – six are three-sport athletes, and the seventh plays two sports.

It’s difficult to track if seven qualifying shot putters from the same school was a first-time accomplishment at an MHSAA Regional. But it’s more than fair to call it rare.

“We have three seniors that are the cornerstone of our throwing team, but through the course of this year we have had three juniors and a freshman that have stepped up with them to make us, what I like to believe, one of the best throwing teams in the state,” Coldwater head boys track & field coach Jeff Schorfhaar said. “A lot of this has to do with the athleticism of our throwers … (and) I believe, and of course I am biased, that (McConnell) is one of the best throwing coaches in the state of Michigan.

“This will be something that we will remember for a long time, no matter what happens Saturday at Zeeland.”

McConnell’s work speaks for itself over two decades of Finals placers. He’s had at least one thrower score at an MHSAA Finals in 22 of the last 24 seasons at Coldwater and formerly Camden-Frontier. Highlighting some of the most recent successes, Coldwater’s Logan Targgart won shot put in Division 2 in 2015 and discus in 2014.

Senior Connor Covert, who finished fifth in both shot put and discus at the 2016 LP Division 2 Finals, led a group of Cardinals that took the top seven places in shot put at the Regional two weeks ago in Mason. Four throwers tossed personal records – third-place freshman Dylan Targgart, fifth-place junior Nathan Spray, sixth-place junior Cole Targgart and seventh-place senior Colin Klein. 

Covert and senior runner-up Sam DeMeester advanced to the Finals by finishing among the top two in the event. The other five Coldwater throwers cleared the automatic qualifying standard of 48 feet, 5 inches. Fourth-place junior Zach Gipple joined the personal record-setters with his third-farthest toss of this season.

DeMeester and Gipple also competed at the Finals in shot put last season, DeMeester just missing the medal stand with a ninth place finish. Covert’s 54-7 at this year’s Regional was half an inch farther than last year’s Finals throw. He, Dylan Targgart and Cole Targgart also made the Finals in discus, Covert and Dylan Targgart finishing first and second, respectively, at the Regional with Cole Targgart coming in fourth but clearing the automatic qualifying standard of 142-0.

The Coldwater boys track & field team is enjoying another memorable season as a whole and will be seeking a fourth straight top-10 Finals finish and winning its league and that Regional earlier this month.

Last season, they Cardinals finished eighth as a team at the LP Division 2 Finals, but only 3.5 points out of fifth. Theys were ranked fifth in the final Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association LP Division 2 poll two weeks ago before finishing ahead of No. 3 Battle Creek Harper Creek at both the Regional and league meets.

Block, Pilgrims Power to 1st League Title

We told the story at the start of this month of Lansing Christian junior Dawson Block, a multi-sport athlete contributing to three teams this spring – golf, baseball and track & field.

He’s now also a champion.

Block helped the Pilgrims to their first-ever league title in boys golf, as Lansing Christian finished one point ahead of Olivet in the Greater Lansing Activities Conference standings based on league jamborees and the end-of-season tournament.

Lansing Christian topped the standings heading into that final tournament, at Michigan State’s Forest Akers East, needing to finish no lower than second to clinch the title. Furthermore, they had to play without two seniors who were on a class trip to Washington, D.C.

With only five players available, the Pilgrims did finish second, just three strokes behind the Eagles. Parker Jamieson and Andrew Preiskorn were co-medalists with 83s, and Block shot a fourth-place 86 – in doing so, he earned the seventh and final spot on the all-league first team.

Block and his golf team continue their season Thursday with a Division 4 Regional at Hastings Country Club, seeking to make the MHSAA Finals for the first time. His baseball team will play in a Division 4 District on Saturday at Potterville. And while Block didn’t advance to the Division 4 Track & Field Finals, he did run a personal record and fifth-place 10:44.62 in the 3,200 meters at his Regional after finishing fourth in the 1,600 in 4:51.84.

PHOTOS: (Top) Coldwater’s throwers and throws coach, from left: Cole Targgart, Dylan Targgart, Zach Gipple, Colin Klein, coach Mike McConnell, Connor Covert, Sam DeMeester and Nathan Spray. (Middle) Lansing Christian’s boys golf team celebrates its first league title. (Photos courtesy of Mason and Lansing Christian’s athletic departments, respectively.)

Aspirations High as Reigning Champion Hackett Vaults Into New Season

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

March 14, 2023

KALAMAZOO — Harrison Wheeler has not been a pole vaulter for very long – two weeks to be exact – but he already has some lofty goals.

Southwest CorridorThe sophomore is aiming for the Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep record board and, if he makes it, he will be in good company.

Coach Shelly (Martin) Germinder, a 2001 Hackett graduate, still holds the girls record of 10 feet, 2½ inches.

“I’m hoping to have my name next to hers (on the record board),” Wheeler said.

The sophomore has a few feet to go before surpassing current record holder Brian Kucinich, who vaulted 12 feet, 6 inches in 1992.

Wheeler’s unofficial best is 9 feet; officially it is 8 feet, 6 inches.

“That is going to be a very big jump in my pole vaulting career,” he said.

Wheeler is one of 42 athletes on the reigning MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 champion boys team, which includes 12 seniors and 13 juniors. Besides Wheeler, the team has six sophomores and 10 freshmen.

One of the returners is senior Liam Mann, who helped lead the Irish to the Finals title last year.

Mann, Andrew Finley, Evan Wurtz and Isaac Backman won the 800-meter relay with a time of 1:31.55 last season, setting a school record as well.

While he lost his relay mates, Mann said there are good runners to replace them.

“(Senior) Brice Brown is coming out to do track, and I’ve been working with him this winter,” Mann said. “Jude Coffman, who is a sophomore, is coming out this year. I think he’s going to be a good addition to our 4-by-1.

“(Junior) Gabe Oeurn, last year he was running solid times, but this year he’s been putting in the work and I think he’ll be able to break that 12-second barrier.”

Mann, who will attend Ashland (Ohio) University on a track scholarship in the fall, also added gold in the 200-meter dash (22.82) last season.

“Last year, I played basketball and was able to lift to keep in shape,” he said. “This year, I wanted to focus all my time on track, so I’ve been doing indoor track, practicing once a week and going to meets on weekends.”

He continued to put his skills on display as a running back during football season with Kalamazoo United, ending the fall with 1,413 rushing yards on 177 carries and 267 receiving yards on 10 catches.

Opportunities & possibilities

The biggest group of competitors impacted by graduation are the sprinters, coach Charissa Dean said.

“Hackett’s been really big on sprinting talent in general,” she said. “But track has 17 events, and only two of them are open sprint events and two are relays.

Clockwise from top left: Hackett head track & field coach Charissa Dean, Liam Mann, Germinder and Gavin Sehy. “The other 13 are wide open for possibilities, and there’s a lot of younger talent that’s coming back this year. While they didn’t go to the state meet, they are the next generation of athletes coming up.”

Among that next generation are freshmen Marek Butkiewicz and Sean Siems, who “are incredibly talented athletes,” Dean said.

“(Junior) Gavin Sehy figured out how to do the distance thing this year in cross country.”

Sehy said he wanted to run track, but wasn’t sure where he fit.

“I thought I was mid-distance when I was younger, but my dad forced me to do cross country my sixth-grade year and it turned out I was decent at it so I kept doing (long distance) in track,” he said.

“It’s kind of brutal at times to train for long distance, mentally and physically, because you have to go on long runs, but I have fun with it. At the cross country state finals, I hit an 11 flat split at the two-mile, which beat my 3,200 best from last season, so we have yet to see my best times.”

Butkiewicz and Sehy have been running consistently six days a week all winter to prepare for their first meet, March 22.

“I’ve never done track,” the freshman said. “I know I can perform well. I know my times compared to other people.”

A sophomore this year, Alex Dumont had a 400-meter time that “came out of nowhere,” Dean said. “Toward the end of the season we recruited him to do the 4x8, so an 800-meter runner. That kid came through.

‘We actually took him to the state meet in the 4x8. He did the lead leg, and I clocked him at a 2:07. He was sprinting. It was an amazing leg in that relay.”

Seeing potential

It was Germinder who converted Wheeler to the pole vault last year.

“Harrison’s a strong athlete, and just the way his mind works in that he asks questions and he wants to learn and he wants to improve,” she said.

“He wants to work hard, and he wants to put in the time. That’s something you need for that, along with the athletic component.”

The Irish celebrate last season’s Finals championship, from left: Dean, Sehy, Logan St. Martin, Alex Dumont, Mitch Eastman, Nick Doerr and Germinder. Wheeler, who said he was shocked at being successful right away, competed for two weeks last season before a foot injury suffered on a vault sidelined him.

“It took her a whole season to finally convince me to do it,” he said. “I grabbed a pole one day and ended up being really good at it. Ever since, I’ve had a love of it.

“The feeling I have once I get in the air is almost like I’m just floating. When you get really good vaults and you get that nice height and good form, you get what we call a ‘stall.’ You just feel like you’re sitting up in the air for a second. It’s gotta be the coolest thing ever.”

Germinder has the background to help the Irish vaulters.

While at Hackett, she competed in the AAU National Championships and said she learned from the best, Oran Mitchell, a noted pole vaulting coach.

Her own coaching style revolves around the safety of the athletes.

“You can teach a lot of people to grab hold of a pole and pop yourself over,” she said. “But I want to make sure my athletes are safe. That’s really, really important to me, and that’s something that was instilled in me.

“When you’re jumping 6 to 16 feet, that’s a long way to fall. Safety is very important to me. If you’re not willing to put in the time, then I’m not the coach for you.”

Germinder said one of the foundations on which the team is built is leadership, which was instilled in the younger athletes by last year’s seniors.

“That’s one of the things our program is built on,” she said. “If you’re there because you want to get ready for the next sports season, we’ll coach you for that.

“If you want to be a state champion, we’ll coach you for that. That’s the really unique thing about track. There’s something for everyone, whatever that might be.”

As for the girls team, numbers are steadily climbing.

Five years ago, the team had just two girls. This year, 25 girls are on the team.

No matter girls or boys, track or field events, one thing is common for all the athletes.

“We pray before every meet, we put God first, and all those pieces have fallen into place for us.” Germinder said.

“I really believe that foundation is what is going to be our success this year. It’s there, it’s just a different team.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at pamkzoo@aol.com with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Hackett's Harrison Wheeler points to the pole vaulting record he hopes to break this season, while pole vaulting coach Shelly (Martin) Germinder points to the record she still holds at the school. (Middle) Clockwise from top left: Hackett head track & field coach Charissa Dean, Liam Mann, Germinder and Gavin Sehy. (Below) The Irish celebrate last season’s Finals championship, from left: Dean, Sehy, Logan St. Martin, Alex Dumont, Mitch Eastman, Nick Doerr and Germinder. (Top photo and head shots by Pam Shebest; team photo courtesy of Hackett track & field.)