Carrollton's Voltz Making Big Leap in Long Jump

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 5, 2021

It makes sense that DJ Voltz excels at the long jump.

The Carrollton junior is fast – he qualified for the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals in the 100 meters as a freshman. He’s also a multi-year all-state honoree in both football and basketball, a testament to his incredible athleticism.

How quickly he has exceled, though, is a little shocking. 

Voltz’s jump of 22 feet, 2.5 inches, recorded April 30 at the Caro Tiger Invitational, is the state’s best early this season. He hit the mark in only his fifth time competing in the event.

“It’s really his first year doing it,” Carrollton track & field coach David Jaworski said. “He knew he wanted to long jump, and we knew with his speed and his athletic ability, it was something he could excel at. He’s a real competitive person. When he started, he was only able to hit (18 and 19 feet), but he’s been working with our jumpers coach, and one day he started hitting 20 and 21 consistently. It’s taken off from there.”

Extraordinary athletic achievement is nothing new for Voltz. He’s a star on the football field and the basketball court for the Cavaliers, having been named honorable mention all-state by The Associated Press in both sports as a sophomore and again as a junior in basketball, and second-team all-state as a junior in football. 

His position listing for football was specialist, which, while accurate, also doesn’t seem to fully encapsulate Voltz’s role.

“He is kind of a jack of all trades,” said Jaworski, who is also Carrollton’s offensive coordinator. “We line him up at quarterback, running back, receiver, punt returner, kick returner. He played corner his first couple years, but this year we had a little more pressing needs, so he went back and played safety for us. He kind of plays where we need him to.”

Carrollton footballFootball is king for Voltz, who plans to attend camps at Central Michigan and Grand Valley State among others this summer, and has a scholarship offer from Division II Gannon University in Florida. 

The 6-foot-3 speedster is being recruited as a cornerback at the next level, which would put him on the taller side of the position – the average NFL cornerback is just under 6 foot.

“They’ve been telling me when I get there, they like how I’m lanky and long,” Voltz said. “It’s easier for me to break up and intercept passes. I’m long and fast, and they said I’ve got quick feet, so I can stay with receivers.”

When asked what his position was on the basketball court, Voltz laughed before settling on combo guard. He averaged 17.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3.2 steals and 1.7 blocks this past season for a Carrollton team that was 13-5 and lost by one in the Regional Final.

“He doesn’t specialize in one thing,” Jaworski said. “He still goes and plays his AAU basketball tournaments. He has three or four football camps lined up early in June. He’s at track practice every day. He’s not one to miss things. He works tirelessly. He works with his own private trainer at times, and he’s also working hard at practice.”

That work ethic has quickly transformed Voltz from potential to production in the long jump, and there’s still room to grow.

“It’s all about the technique and how fast you’re running into it,” Voltz said. “You have to count your steps, make sure you jump and make sure you pick your feet up when you jump so you can have extra length in that sand pit. I still have a lot to learn. I really like doing long jump, and I’m getting the technique down. There’s always room to get better at it, and I’m trying to get even farther.”

The newfound success in the long jump has Voltz seriously considering adding track to his collegiate pursuits, and he said the football coaches he’s spoken with are on board with it.

For now, Voltz has his eyes on the school record, which at 23-2, he feels is attainable. He said he’s not thinking, yet, about potentially adding more all-state honors to his resume at the MHSAA Finals on June 5. 

“It’s still early,” he said. “I’m still focusing on getting better for that situation. I’m not really focused on the later on, I’m focused on what’s going on right now.”

His focus and constant presence with Carrollton athletics is something Jaworski said is setting an example for younger athletes in the community. Voltz is more than happy to add mentor to his long list of duties.

“It means a lot,” he said. “I want to set an example, and when I leave this school, I want to be one of the ones they talk about – one of the greats at Carrollton. I want them to want to follow in my footsteps and want to be better than me. I want them to beat my records one day.”

Paul CostanzoPaul 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) Carrollton’s DJ Voltz soars through a long jump attempt this spring. (Middle) Voltz fills one of his many roles on the Cavaliers’ football team. (Photos courtesy of the Carrollton track & field program & DJ Voltz.)

Aspirations High as Reigning Champion Hackett Vaults Into New Season

By Pam Shebest
Special for

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 [email protected] 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.)