Benzie Phenom's Story Continuing to Unfold on Track

By Tom Spencer
Special for

May 14, 2021

As the phrase “history in the making” originated, someone simply had to know there would be a long-distance runner in Northern Michigan named Hunter Jones.

Arguably, he is history in the making.

And, track enthusiasts have a chance to preview some of the history the Benzie Central High School runner will make. Emphasis on will. He already has made history in so many ways.

He is only a sophomore. And, the history he makes will have at least one asterisk —for the 2020 Michigan high school track season that wasn’t.

The Benzie track team is offering its next preview glimpses of history-making Monday at the Titan Last Chance Meet at Traverse City West. The next opportunities after that will be on the Benzie track, during the Northwest Conference meet May 21 and the MHSAA Regionals on May 25.

This history-in-the-making story to watch over the next month is Jones’ likely accomplishment of winning his first MHSAA individual track championship June 5 at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals at Jenison High School. Perhaps the only reason he hasn’t achieved that first title before is COVID-19 cancelled his freshman season.

Many onlookers believe Jones will do that in the 800. They also believe after re-hydrating, resting, stretching and foam rolling, he’ll hit the track again shortly after and win another state title in the 1,600.

And, they further believe, he’ll write even more history after a brief recovery to win the 3,200 and finish with three Finals championships in one day.

Benzie Central boys track & fieldJones is preparing for the Finals by competing is all three of those events in the same day in the remaining meets. He and his coaches are challenging him by adding a 400 in all of those meets including the Finals.

He may run the 1,600 relay in the Finals should his team qualify. So four state championships are not out of the question. He tried the four events earlier this week and narrowly missed winning all four in an eight-team meet on Benzie’s track. He started the open 400 a bit slow and finished less than one second behind Kingsley’s Gage Hessem.

“I don’t know if anybody — I don’t know if I — truly, truly appreciate what this kid is,” acknowledged Asa Kelly, the Huskies’ longtime distance coach and a former college runner. “We knew he was going to be good for a long time, but how good is the question, right?

“We’ve had multiple state champions and loads of all-state kids, but nobody quite like him,” added Kelly, who has coached the boys cross country team to three Division 3 Finals titles. “He’s got this insatiable desire to win.”

At the age of 16, Jones is already in the history books. He owns school, meet and event records. He also has cross country course records. When he runs cross country in the fall, he’ll be pursuing a third Finals championship to go with his Lower Peninsula Division 3 titles won as a freshman and sophomore.

He is also a national champion. He won the sophomore division in the 3,200 of the National Scholastic Athletic Federation indoor track event in Virginia this spring.

“I want to be a state champion in at least three events,” Jones offered as one of his goals for his first track season. “It doesn’t matter what it is – at least three events.

“I have to run four events, so I think it will be challenging for me to go to each event and try to win,” he continued. “I think it is a good goal to try to win those.”

His others goals for this season? He wants to break the school records in the 800 and 1,600. He broke the school record in 3,200 last week in Farmington running an 8:59.

Benzie Central boys cross countryAnother of his Benzie coaches, Traci Knudsen Kelly, has no doubt Jones will he will win three Division 3 Finals championships this June. She should know. She competed in the Big Ten as a member of the Indiana University cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams after setting records and winning state titles in 400, 800 and 1,600 runs at Suttons Bay High School.

“It’s a rare kid that comes along like him,” she noted. “I mean, I have never seen a high school kid like that.

“Between just the internal drive ... the will to win, the work ethic ... I mean, he’s the whole package.”

Jones’ brother Rick and sister Sarah are among the standouts in Benzie’s rich track and cross country past.  Hunter recalls watching his siblings compete, and as he started running he was winning races as a second grader against fifth and sixth graders.

“I used to be deathly scared of racing, and I would almost cry before races,” Jones recalled. “It was weird going up against people that were like double my height.”

Not so anymore for the decorated runner whose future may not have any limits.

“The fact that he is sophomore is what a lot of people forget,” said Asa Kelly. “He is so young yet, and he’s got so much in front of him.”

Yup, history in the making.

Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Benzie Central’s Hunter Jones warms up during a track meet this season. (Middle) Jones, with Benzie coaches Asa Kelly, left, and Traci Knudsen Kelly. (Below) Jones crosses the finish line during the Cross Country Finals at Michigan International Speedway. (Track photos by Tom Spencer. Cross country photo courtesy of Benzie Central's cross country program.)

Performance of the Week: Pickford's David Kozisek

June 9, 2023

David KozisekDavid Kozisek ♦ Pickford
Senior ♦ Track & Field

Kozisek was an exchange student from Czech Republic this school year, and when he returns home this week he'll do so having accomplished a rare feat in MHSAA track & field history. On Saturday he became the ninth male athlete to win four individual events at a Finals, taking first in the 110 hurdles (15.40), 300 hurdles (41.39), high jump (6-3) and long jump (20-10) in helping Pickford to the Upper Peninsula Division 2 team championship. 

After also playing football and basketball for the Panthers, Kozisek joined the track & field team this spring with plenty of knowledge having competed in that sport over the last six years in his home country. He was incredibly close to leaving an even larger historical imprint last weekend; Kozisek's long jump and high jump both were just one inch off tying UPD2 Finals records, and his 110 time missed that meet record by only six hundredths of a second. He was the first to win four boys events with the combination of two hurdles races and two jumps, and the second four-time individual winner joining Joe Baker, who in 1974 became the first from any school to win four Finals events. 



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2022-23 Honorees

June 1: Helena McLellan, Northville soccer - Report
May 25:
Mitchel Luck, Linden lacrosse - Report
May 18:
Ahava Le Febre, Holland tennis - Report
May 11:
Gracie Maloney, Macomb Dakota softball - Report
May 4:
Braxton Brann, Ann Arbor Huron track & field - Report
April 27:
Owen Patton, Vestaburg track & field - Report
April 20:
Lilly Damm, Millington softball - Report
April 13:
Larissa Huffman, Mackinaw City track & field - Report
April 6:
Darius Acuff, Detroit Cass Tech basketball - Report
March 23:
Regan Finkbeiner, Hemlock basketball - Report
March 16:
Alaina Yaney, Grand Ledge gymnastics - Report
March 9:
Braeden Davis, Dundee wrestling - Report
March 2:
Gabriel Sanchez-Burks, Ann Arbor Pioneer swimming - Report
Feb. 23:
Grace Sobczak, Marquette swimming - Report
Feb. 16:
Kaitlynn Demers, Gibraltar Carlson competitive cheer - Report
Feb. 9:
Indya Davis, West Bloomfield basketball - Report
Feb. 2:
Braydon Sorenson, Onekama skiing - Report
Jan. 26:
Shayna Hruska, Iron Mountain wrestling - Report
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Kayla Tafanelli, Warren Woods-Tower bowling - Report
Dec. 20:
Brenden Paden, Riverview Gabriel Richard hockey - Report
Dec. 16:
Tuff Scott, Holton bowling - Report
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Macey Fegan, Standish-Sterling basketball - Report
Dec. 2:
Treyton Siegert, Gladwin football - Report
Nov. 24:
Lily Witte, Dexter diving - Report
Nov. 17:
Navea Gauthier, Shelby volleyball - Report
Nov. 10:
Derek Huisman, Holland Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3:
Thomas Westphal, New Baltimore Anchor Bay cross country - Report
Oct. 27:
Justin Wickey, Colon football - Report
Oct. 20:
Owen DeMuth, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood tennis - Report
Oct. 13:
Mia Melendez, Ann Arbor Greenhills golf - Report
Oct. 6:
Shawn Foster, Grand Ledge football - Report
Sept. 30:
Hannah Smith, Temperance Bedford swimming - Report
Sept. 22:
Helen Sachs, Holland West Ottawa cross country - Report
Sept. 15:
Nina Horning, Lake Orion volleyball - Report
Sept 8:
Arturo Romero, Muskegon Oakridge soccer - Report
Sept. 1:
Austin King, Midland Dow tennis - Report
Aug. 25:
Olivia Hemmila, Troy Athens golf - Report

PHOTOS courtesy of 2BU Photography.