Chesaning Puts Away Win in Final Event
By Wes Morgan
Special for MHSAA.com
June 3, 2017
COMSTOCK PARK – The boys on the Chesaning track & field team are emotionally spent.
A Saturday saturated with stress gave way to pure bliss as the Indians kept grinding all the way to a Lower Peninsula Division 3 championship at Comstock Park.
Their lead dwindled to a single point, 43-42, with only the 1600-meter relay remaining. The Indians finished in fifth place — the most memorable fifth-place performance, perhaps, in the program’s history.
Chesaning ended the day with 47 points, followed by Hillsdale (42) and Frankenmuth (30).
Hillsdale’s Spencer Eves made things very interesting as his 6-foot, 7-inch performance to win the high jump boosted the Hornets to within a point of the lead with one event remaining.
However, knowing exactly what needed to be done in order to finish off the team title had Chesaning’s mile relay team focused. The mission was pretty clear at that point.
“We had to beat Hillsdale,” Sam Forsyth said. “So we went to work.”
Paxton Ruddy, Hayden Giesken, Forsyth and Zach McFarlan pieced together a time of 3 minutes, 24.03 seconds for fifth place. Hillsdale was 18th and the rest is history.
Chesaning produced a critical victory in the 800 relay when McFarlan, Brady Fraiser, Brandon Keys and Forsyth crossed the line in 1:29.55.
Forsyth gained even more points for the Indians with a first-place distance of 21-6½ in the long jump and a third-place performance in the 200 (22.88). McFarlan was third in the 400 with a personal-best time of 49.32, and the 400 relay team of Anthony Aquado, Fraiser, McFarlan and Keys landed on the all-state team with a seventh-place time of 43.93.
Ruddy also cleared a height of 6 feet, 6 inches for third place overall in the high jump.
“We knew coming into the meet that we had a chance at being in the top two,” Forsyth said. “But nothing is guaranteed. No matter what you are ranked in an event, you can never completely count on anything in track.
“Today was probably the most stressful and also the most successful day of my life. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of the meet. Winning titles in the 4x200 and the long jump is great, but bringing home the team title meant the most by far.”
There was certainly a pattern Saturday with wins coming in pairs for others in the field.
Wyoming Lee junior Thomas Robinson couldn’t be stopped in the sprints as he won the 100 in 10.84 and the 200 in 22.04. Bridgman’s Brian Patrick, a senior, dethroned defending 800 champ Anthony Evilsizor (Constantine) with a time of 1:53.81 in personal-record fashion. Patrick also went on to claim the mile championship with a dominant victory (4:11.50) that was a personal record as well.
Evilsizor, who is headed to the Marine Corps now that his high school career is over, tipped his cap to Patrick.
“I just tried to stick on his back to the end and see what happens,” said Evilsizor, whose time of 1:55.50 was a season best. “He didn’t die out. I knew he was the one coming for me. He’s put in the work. I’m not going to complain. It has been fun. I’m happy with second place.”
The hurdle races belonged to Houghton Lake’s Jackson Blanchard, a junior who ran a personal best to win the 110 hurdles (14.81) and his fastest time in the 300 (38.50).
In the throws, Frankenmuth senior Dan Stone muscled his way to a shot put championship with a distance of 60-9¾ (personal best) and a discus title with a throw of 171-00.
PHOTOS: (Top) Chesaning's Sam Forsyth launches during the long jump, which he won to help his team to the overall title. (Middle) Wyoming Lee's Thomas Robinson holds off Forsyth and others in the 200. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.
The 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.
“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.”
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.”
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 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@example.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.)