Cardinals Cap Unbeaten Season with 1st Title

June 12, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

As coach Jeff Erickson searched the hallways for athletes to bolster his boys track & field team, he let them know up front this was not a sport where they’d get tons of attention and hype.

This season, those 28 athletes instead earned an MHSAA Finals championship.

With a few football players here, some basketball players there, and a boost from the cross country program started only four years ago, Whittemore-Prescott routed its Lower Peninsula Division 4 Regional opponents by 98 points and then claimed the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Division 4 team championship over Memorial Day weekend.

Technically, those accomplishments earned the Cardinals the MHSAA/Applebee’s Team of the Month award for May. But it’s impossible to not also mention what Whittemore-Prescott accomplished the following weekend, on June 3 – the Cardinals won their first MHSAA Finals boys track & field title, by five points over Manton, and without an individual event champion.

“For a Division 4 school to be as deep as we were, we had kids come out this year that really helped us out and added to our depth,” Erickson said. “We had the banquet (last week), and I told the kids the difference between us and everybody else was our number two and number three (in each event). Everybody is going to have one or two good kids, and sometimes that’s enough to win a state meet … but we had our share of really good kids, and our key was our number two and number three.”

Whittemore-Prescott won every meet it participated in this season.  

The 187 points scored at the Regional not only led to the large margin of victory, but were the most scored by a boys team at any Regional this spring. The Cardinals then won the MITCA team meet by 202 points with first place finishes in four events: junior Michael Eagen in long jump, junior Zane Aldrich in the 1,600 and by the 400 and 800 relays.

The MHSAA Finals are scored a little differently than MITCA’s team meet, taking more into account a team’s elite performances – but the Cardinals’ depth still showed through.

Although there were no individual winners, Eagen was second in the long jump, a half-inch out of first. Senior Azaiyah Bell took fifth in the 100 meters, and junior Bradley Lomason was sixth in the 400. Senior Hunter Kensa was seventh in the 800, and Aldrich was fourth in the 3,200. The 1,600 relay of senior Ian Driscoll, Bell, sophomore Ridge Schutte and Lomason took second, only a half-second back, and after the same group placed third in the 800 relay.

“I thought we had a chance to be very, very good, but believe it or not we lost a lot from last year,” said Erickson, referring to his team that finished sixth in LP Division 4 in 2016. “But teams lose kids every year. It’s really about trying to fill those voids and seeing into the future. We go after the (MITCA) team meet, because to be in the position (to win) you have to have three pole vaulters, three hurdlers, and that’s helped us to have that depth. We always try to have a back-up plan.”

Erickson, a 1989 graduate of the school, also had an advance plan to build up the program – although all of the pieces fell into place perhaps more smoothly than could have been imagined and with a few beneficial surprises along the way.

Groundwork was laid when Erickson started an offseason “Iron Club” for athletes from any program – for example, the softball team has been one of the biggest participants as Cardinals from all sports take advantage of another chance to put in extra work. Among those Erickson recalled recruiting to the Iron Club was now-senior Nick Stern, who won Regional titles this season in both the discus and shot put.

Another significant piece was the formation of the cross country program in 2013. Erickson, then the athletic director and track & field coach, was approached by then-sophomore Clayton Lange about starting the team. Erickson told Lange he’d do so and coach if Lange could find six classmates to fill out the roster with him – and when Lange did, Erickson and assistant Leroy Oliver got that program rolling.  

In addition to Oliver, Erickson found more valuable help. Al Kushion joined his track & field staff after 31 years coaching at McBain. Doug Grezeszak, a MITCA Hall of Fame coach at Ogemaw Heights and Whittemore-Prescott alum, also came on to assist. Tim and Jody Yorton joined to instruct the throwers; Jody had been an All-American at Ferris State.  

And Erickson’s contributions can’t be overstated. He originally took over the program on short notice while serving as athletic director in 2007 when his coach at the time was called into active military duty. Add in his roles in the formation of the cross country program and as a recruiter in the halls both for his team and the Iron Club. And then consider that this was his first school year not at the school – he moved on before last fall to the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District, about an hour drive from Whittemore-Prescott.

That daily trip meant relying more on his assistants. It also meant pushing Iron Club later into the afternoon, which meant athletes often went home and came back to work out – and Erickson said this team was especially committed to doing so.

“It was kind of a unique story from the perspective of that, and the kids and what they were able to do,” Erickson said. “What the kids were able to accomplish, it was such a great thing.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2016-17
Frankfort baseball - Report
Flushing girls basketball - Report
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central girls skiing - Report
Powers North Central boys basketball - Report
Dundee boys basketball - Report
Rockford girls swimming & diving - Report
Rochester girls golf - Report
September: Breckenridge football - Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Whittemore-Prescott’s boys track & field team stands together with its first MHSAA Finals trophy in the sport. (Middle) The Cardinals’ Zane Aldrich leads the pack during the 3,200 at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals at Grand Rapids Houseman Field. (Photos by Dave McCauley/

With 2nd Place in Final Race, Newberry Clinches 1st in Final Team Standings

By John Vrancic
Special for

June 2, 2024

KINGSFORD — The race for the Upper Peninsula Division 3 boys track & field championship came right down to the wire Saturday as Newberry edged St. Ignace 96-92 for top honors.

Third-place team finisher Lake Linden-Hubbell won the day’s final race, the 1,600-meter relay, in 3 minutes, 41.94 seconds, and Newberry hung on to edge St. Ignace by two steps for second place and its first title in eight years.

Newberry, which was runner-up to Munising last year, was clocked at 3:43.07 in the 1,600 relay on this sunny and mild late afternoon. The Saints finished nine hundredths of a second later.

“We knew we had to beat St. Ignace to win,” Newberry senior Kennedy Depew said after finishing the anchor leg. “This was my last race ever. I knew I had to give it my all. That’s also why I knew I had to scratch from the open 400. I would have been in four events. I think scratching from the 400 helped me save some energy. We weren’t satisfied with runner-up last year, which makes this year’s championship all the more satisfying.”

Classmate Gabe Luck provided Newberry with its lone individual first with a heave of 44 feet, 1¾ inches in shot put.

“We had a lot of injuries this year,” Newberry coach Drew Schultz said. “For all the obstacles we had, we wouldn’t have it any other way, having two of the best athletes decide it in the last race. I’m extremely proud of our guys. To win it that way is just insane. I’m proud of all our eastern-end kids.”

Chassell's Kalvin Kytta and Cedarville/DeTour's Ethan Snyder lead the pack of 1,600 runners. Depew also was runner-up in the 100-meter dash in 11.63 seconds.

Senior Jon Ingalls, who ran the last leg for the Saints, won the 110 hurdles (16.39) and 300s (42.89) and helped them place second in the 400 relay (45.94).

“Both hurdles were decent,” Ingalls said. “Those weren’t my best times, but it feels good to grind out a few more wins.”

Senior Owen Lester also provided the Saints with a victory in pole vault (12-6).

LL-H got firsts from senior Gabe Popko in discus at 153 feet, 4¼ inches, and classmate Matt Jokela in the 400 (51.09). Jokela also took third in the 100 (11.65).

“Real good hydration and confidence are keys,” Jokela said. “I think having confidence helps a little. I usually don’t go too hard out of the blocks. Then, I usually try to go as hard as I can in the last 200.”

Chassell junior Kalvin Kytta claimed three firsts, taking the 800 in a personal-best 2:03.62, 1,600 (4:39.58) and 3,200 (10:27.32).

“Three wins, I’m pretty happy with that,” he said. “The 800 went real well. Overall, I’m very happy with my performance today.”

Fourth-place Bessemer set UPD3 Finals records in the 400 relay (45.3) and 800 (1:34.64). Powers North Central previously set the record in the 400 (45.34) two years ago and Rock Mid Peninsula had held the 800 record since 2001 when it ran a 1:35.1.

“We shaved two seconds off in the 800 relay which feels good, and our handoffs in the 400 were good all year,” Bessemer senior Landon Peterson said. “Our school record in the 400 is 44.98, which is something we’ve done three times this year. Running on a rubber track gives you a much better grip, which helped us a lot today.”

Bessemer senior Tom Trudgeon became a four-event winner, also taking the 100 (11.46) and 200 (23.85).

Crystal Falls Forest Park freshman Vic Guiliani won high jump (6-0), and sophomore Michael Rexford went 19-9 in long jump, providing Escanaba Holy Name with its first U.P. Finals title since the school reopened in 2021.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Newberry runners celebrate taking second place in the 1,600 relay, allowing them to finish ahead of St. Ignace for the team title in Upper Peninsula Division 3. (Middle) Chassell's Kalvin Kytta and Cedarville/DeTour's Ethan Snyder lead the pack of 1,600 runners. (Click for more from Cara Kamps/