Alwine's Risk Rewarded with Top Vault

By Wes Morgan
Special for

June 5, 2019

Wyatt Alwine was one more failed attempt away from having a very bad day at last Saturday’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 Track & Field Finals.

With some of his adrenaline reserve drained from a long rain delay, the Constantine junior — seeded No. 1 entering the meet — described himself as a “mental case” after having missed his first two tries at an opening height of 12 feet, 3 inches, one of which ended in the grass.

After finishing third overall for all-state status a year earlier, Alwine was in danger of not posting a height at all.  

“My head just wasn’t there,” he said. “The rain delays didn’t help. I think that was one of the main reasons for a lack of focus.”

A calming influence for Alwine throughout the storms was first-year Constantine pole vault coach Stephanie Teeple — a past three-time Finals champion at Sturgis (1998, 2000, 2001) who went on to do big things at the University of Nebraska and Western Michigan University, including breaking the WMU outdoor record. She always could count on her coach and father, Wes Teeple, who set a school record at Eastern Michigan University and won two league titles, and her mother, Cheryl, who also coached at Sturgis. Oh, and there was older brother Brad to lean on as well. Brad Teeple won a Class B crown in 1999 and went on to compete for Alabama and Nebraska.

Wes and Cheryl Teeple have made it to most Constantine meets this season after Stephanie joined the staff.

“It’s good to have their whole family,” Alwine said. They all come out and support us. It’s a family thing. They definitely know what they’re talking about.”

And when Alwine found himself on the brink of elimination Saturday, he was ready for some encouragement.

“He struggled a little bit on the first two and put it together on the third one,” Stephanie Teeple said of Alwine’s start to the day. “You can either give up or want it, pull through and clear it. Once he got those jitters out, he just improved from there.”

Alwine ended up with a personal-record of 14-3 to win the LPD3 championship, edging Beaverton junior Will Aldrich, who topped out at 14-0 in what ended up being a much more high-flying finals than in 2018. Alwine jumped 13-3 last year for his third-place finish — a height that was not even good enough for a top-eight spot this year.

But even after regaining confidence, Alwine had to trust his coach in crunch time. After clearing 13-9, it was time to take a chance.

Teeple told Alwine to move up to a 15-foot pole that he had never tried. This might not sound difficult to the uninitiated. But for anyone who has had the guts to vault, it’s a rocket ride into the unknown. Added length requires more speed, more strength, a rock-solid plant and nerves of steel. Breaking one out on the biggest stage amplifies the importance of all the above.

“I said, ‘I don’t know about this,’” Alwine recalled. “It’s a big pole. I just listened to her, and it ended up working out.”

“If he wouldn’t have gotten on that bigger pole, I’m not sure he would have gotten over 14-3 to win the meet,” Teeple said. “That’s all it takes, is one kid to get on a bigger pole and it makes all the difference. But that’s what’s good about Wyatt; he is pretty fearless. He has the tools to be a good vaulter, so I’m just glad I get to coach him and do what I know how to do best. I’m really excited for the future to see what he can do.”

Alwine wasn’t able to get over 14-6 cleanly as his leg caught the bar on his descent. After reviewing film of the attempt, Alwine said his body was nearly a foot over the bar.

“I knew I had something special when I got third at state,” Alwine said. “This year, with Miss Teeple coming in, she gave me pointers that really helped me more. It was a lot different. But it kind of clicked a lot better with me. Miss Teeple brought up how the bottom arm is your power. The plant is most important. That and moving up poles got me up to higher heights. 

“It kind of got me stoked to do some summer vaulting with her because I know the height is there. It’s exciting (that I won), but I’m already excited to get back to it.”

Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Constantine’s Wyatt Alwine clears the pole vault bar during the 2018 season. (Middle) Alwine, this spring. (Top photo courtesy of; middle courtesy of Wyatt Alwine.)

Not Even Sky Seems Limit as Richards Keeps Calvary Sports Soaring

By Tom Kendra
Special for

January 4, 2024

Bradley Richards believes that life is all about trying new things, setting bigger goals and pushing yourself to new heights – in his case, literally.

West MichiganRichards, now a 6-foot-5, 190-pound junior basketball standout at tiny Fruitport Calvary Christian, played on the school’s fifth-grade team when he was in second grade.

He remembers staring longingly at the rim in those days and dreaming about dunking, before making that dream a reality by throwing one down in February of his seventh-grade year.

While his three older sisters - Taylor, Allyson and Kelsey - were leading the Calvary girls basketball program to new heights, he vowed he would do the same with the boys program someday.

Bradley and his teammates accomplished that goal last spring, winning the school’s first boys District basketball title despite a roster with no seniors.

This season, Calvary came flying out of the gate with a 5-0 start and is now 5-2 heading into Friday’s home game against Saugatuck.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Bradley, who averages 29 points and 14 rebounds per game. “Our school is so small that we’re more like a family. It’s not about me. I’m just so happy for our school and all of the guys on the team.”

The next goal is to repeat as District champions and try to win a Regional title, before setting his sights at clearing 7 feet in the high jump this spring.

“I’m going to try to get past that this year,” said Bradley in his typical humble, matter-of-fact fashion.

One thing his father and fourth-year Fruitport Calvary Christian boys basketball coach Brad Richards has learned is to not put anything past his only son, the youngest of his four children.

Bradley displayed an interest in music as a young boy and now sings in the school’s worship group and plays the saxophone, piano and guitar. Last fall, he played high school football for the first time as part of a cooperative agreement with Muskegon Catholic Central and wound up starting at wide receiver and defensive back for the state powerhouse program.

“He’s blessed and he’s gifted – yes,” said his father, who also coached all three of his girls during their Calvary Christian basketball careers. “But he works so hard.

“Bradley sets goals and works toward them. He’s always looking for the next thing to do.”

True to his school

One thing he doesn’t like to do is media interviews. Specifically, he doesn’t like calling attention to himself.

“He is pretty quiet and would rather have his teammates get the attention,” said his mother, Joy.

Fruitport Calvary Christian is one of the smallest schools on the entire Lakeshore with 51 students in grades 9-12, and just 17 boys in the high school.

Richards lines up to shoot a free throw. The Eagles take great pride in their ability to compete against much larger schools. They made a huge statement during the first full week of December with three convincing victories over bigger schools.

That week started on Tuesday, Dec. 5, with Calvary’s first-ever boys basketball win over neighbor Fruitport, a Division 2 school that competes in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue. Bradley scored 35 points with 14 rebounds in that game, with clutch free throws by role player Eric Dubois Quayle sealing the win.

Two days later, Richards scored 36 points with 17 rebounds in a win over Grand Rapids Sacred Heart.

Calvary then capped the 3-0 week Friday with a victory over Kent City, another Division 2 school, as Bradley scored 36 points with 18 rebounds.

Calvary is led by the “big three” of juniors Richards and Quinn Swanson and senior Sam Zelenka. Swanson, the team’s second-leading scorer with 17 points plus six rebounds and three assists per game, injured his knee last week against Schoolcraft and his health will have a huge bearing on the team’s success going forward. Zelenka is the top defender and averages 11 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

The other starters are junior workhorse Zach McFarren, who owns the school’s shot put and discus records and has played all but six minutes over the team’s seven games, and senior Nolan Ghezzi.

Richards, already a two-time Associated Press all-state selection who even made the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan all-state team as an eighth grader, has seen every gimmick defense to try and shut him down, including box-and-twos and triple teams. He credits his experience in football and track with helping him deal with it.

“There is usually a quick guy in front of me and a big guy behind me,” said Bradley, who scored a career-high 47 points in a game last season. “Football has really helped me, because I’m not as scared of the contact. The high jumping has helped me to elevate and get my shot off.”

Great heights

Jim McHugh is a high jump legend from Pentwater who went on to become a two-time national champion in the event at Hillsdale College, and he now coaches West Michigan athletes in the event.

The first time he worked with Bradley Richards, in April of last year, he knew he had something special on his hands.

“Bradley went up and literally hurdled the bar at 5-11,” said McHugh. “I was in shock. I said to myself: ‘This is gonna be a heck of a ride.’ The kid is a generational talent.”

The coaching of McHugh paid immediate dividends, as Bradley improved from a top jump of 6-1½ as a freshman to 6-6½ in last year’s Regional meet. Then came the Division 4 Finals at Hudsonville a few weeks later.

Bradley won the first track Finals championship for Fruitport Calvary with a leap of 6-10 – which was 3 inches higher than anyone else in any of the four Lower Peninsula divisions and entire Upper Peninsula that day – and caught the attention of college scouts from across the country.

Playing as part of a cooperative with Muskegon Catholic Central, Richards works to get away from a Traverse City St. Francis tackler. The following week, he competed at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Philadelphia and placed second with a jump of 6-8.24.

McHugh shudders to think of how high his prodigy can soar. He has his sights set on the Division 4 Finals record of 6-10½ (Kurt Schneider, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, 2009), the Muskegon-area record of 7-0 (Steve Paulsen, Fremont, 1998) and the all-division/class Finals record of 7-1 (John Payment, Brimley, 1989).

“God has given him incredible talent, but he also has the desire it takes,” said McHugh, who is also working with another Division I college high jump prospect in Hart junior Addison Hovey. “I gave him a workout plan, and he has done every bit of it. He has cleaned up his diet, done the cold showers and the cold bathtubs, everything. I’m excited to see the results.”

Richards, whose first love was basketball, admits he is smitten with the high jump and seeing how high he can soar.

Now, when asked about his favorite athletes, he still mentions Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant, but he also includes Olympic gold medalist high jumper Mutaz Barshim of Qatar – who made news by not taking additional jumps at the 2020 Olympics in Japan, thereby sharing the gold medal with Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy.

“I just respect that so much, sharing the gold medal,” Bradley said.

Decision time

Now the Bradley Richards recruiting saga has begun and, for him, it’s not just about choosing what school – it’s also about choosing what sport.

“I would like to do both, play basketball and high jump in college, if possible,” Bradley said.

That would certainly be a possibility if Bradley follows in his family’s footsteps at Cornerstone University. His father was a basketball standout at Cornerstone, which is where he met Joy, and all three of his sisters played for the Golden Eagles. (Kelsey is currently a student assistant for this year’s team.)

Playing both may not be possible if he pursues high jump at the Division I level, where Michigan and Illinois are among schools actively recruiting him.

“I know at some point I’m going to have to make a decision, but I don’t have to right now,” said the 17-year-old Bradley. “So it doesn’t do me any good to sit and stress about it all the time.”

Instead, he is focused on more immediate goals.

The first is figuring out a way for his basketball team to snap a two-game losing skid and get positioned for another postseason run.

Then it will be trying to clear the magical high jump number of 7-0, and beyond. And don’t forget football, where he would love to start off his senior year by helping Muskegon Catholic improve on its 6-5 record from a year ago and make a run at the school’s 13th state football championship.

Only after all of that will it be college decision time.

“It’s not an easy choice, and it will take a lot of prayer and discernment,” admitted Richards, who will look for help from his immediate family and his school family in making his choice. “I’ll figure it out. I usually do.”

Tom KendraTom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Fruitport Calvary Christian’s Bradley Richards stands atop the podium after winning the high jump last spring at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals. (Middle) Richards lines up to shoot a free throw. (Below) Playing as part of a cooperative with Muskegon Catholic Central, Richards works to get away from a Traverse City St. Francis tackler. (Track photo courtesy of Joy Richards; basketball and football photos courtesy of Local Sports Journal.)