Coldwater Boys Trade Up for 1st Track Title
June 2, 2018
By Dan D’Addona & Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half
ZEELAND — Led by a trio of dominant throwers, the Coldwater boys track & field team had high hopes of winning the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals on Saturday.
The team finished runner-up to Zeeland East last year and returned most of its point scorers.
Coldwater turned the tables and surged to the championship this time with 60 points at Zeeland Stadium.
“It means a lot. We got second last year, and we were really happy with that,” Coldwater’s Dylan Targgart said. “But we have never done this in school history. It feels really good.”
Zeeland East was second with 53 points, followed by Harper Woods Chandler Park (37), Tecumseh (33), Chelsea (26), Saginaw (25), Flint Powers Catholic (21), Wyoming Lee (20), Essexville Garber (18) and Romulus (18).
Coldwater powered through the shot put, taking the top three places behind Dylan Targgart (61-2), Zach Gipple (54-0¼) and Cole Targgart (52-6¾).
“The energy is always there when we are in the ring, and that helps us a lot,” Dylan Targgart said. “It’s fun. After each person hits their throw, we build off of each other and off of the energy that the crowd is giving us.”
Zeeland East’s Boone Bonnema was fifth (52-1) in the shot put.
Dylan Targgart won the discus with a throw of 170 feet, 10 inches, holding off East’s Brenden Knoll (170-1).
Coldwater’s Shuaib Aljabaly added a win in the 1,600 in 4:16.56.
“Nobody remembers who finishes second,” Aljabaly said of 2017. “Finishing second last year was a big part of what we did today.”
Aljabaly placed second in the 3,200-meter run last season and said he needed to do more this season to help his team score points. He ran the 1,600 just a few times as a junior and made a concerted effort in this event to compete with the best.
“This year the mile was my best event,” he said. “I felt, in the shorter the race, the more guts you have to have. I wanted more of a challenge this year.”
Aljabaly placed third in the 3,200 and then, oddly, ran in the next and final race, the 1,600 relay and helped Coldwater finish seventh for two more points.
“It was great seeing everyone perform,” Targgart said.
Zeeland East’s Gabe Taylor, Alex Stockdale, Bryce Metzger and Corbin DeJonge won the 800-meter relay (1:29.67). The quartet also won the 400 (43.06).
DeJonge won the 300-meter hurdles in 38.14 for the Chix.
“My Regional time wasn’t very good, and I knew I had to do something different to try to win this, so I tried to bring it out way faster than I normally do, then try to have the crowd drag me through at the end,” DeJonge said. “It is tough because (the state title) as a team is what we were working toward.”
One of the more impressive athletes on this day was Thomas Robinson of Wyoming Lee. This was Lee’s first season competing at the Division 2 meet. Robinson won the 100 and 200 both of the last two seasons in Division 3, improving his times in both each time.
Robinson made it a double three-peat Saturday as he set personal bests in the 100 (10.85) and in the semifinals of the 200 (21.6). His winning time in the 200 was 21.62.
Robinson didn’t compete in track until his sophomore year, the same year he tried out for football. A 6-foot-1, 180-pound receiver, Robinson said he’s more of a fan in that sport than he is in track. Be that as it may, Robinson signed to run track at Michigan State.
“My football coach at the time told me I should go out for track,” he said. “He said it would make me better in football. I don’t like track as much as football. I’m just better at track.
“I felt good running the 200. I am getting better. Just look at my times.”
Like Robinson, Anthony Hudson of Harper Woods Chandler Park competed in football and track. And, like Robinson, Hudson began his high school career rather late. Hudson competed in track in middle school but decided not to compete as a freshman. He ran a couple of races as a sophomore before making a commitment his junior year. Last season he placed sixth in the long jump and was second in the 200. This season he won the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.68. He also placed fourth in the 200.
He held off Zeeland East’s DeJonge (14.69) by a hundredth of a second in the 110 in one of the closest races of the day.
“I didn’t think I’d be that good my freshman year,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t come out.”
Hudson signed to play football at Davenport University and said he might try both sports if he can handle the load. He plans on majoring in sports management in college.
Chances are not many in the crowd expected Jacob Denison of Tecumseh to do well in the 400 run. That’s all right. Denison followed his own expectations.
The junior won the 400 with a time of 49.27, a personal best. Last season he competed in one event, the 1,600 relay. Denison also ran on the 400 and 800 relays this season.
“I’ve been working hard all season for this,” he said. “It’s not much of a surprise to me. It was just a lot of hard work. I knew I had to take it out fast today. I had a good coach who got me out of the block faster, and I had a lot of support from my family. I’m blessed.”
Injuries held Alex Comerford back last season as the junior from Otsego placed 11th in the 3,200. Healed by the time fall rolled around, Comerford placed second at the Cross Country Finals and won the 3,200 on Saturday with a time of 9:07.25.
“It’s something I’ve been working on,” he said. “I haven’t been finishing well, and it was really my cross country season that started things. I got stronger. I grew up.”
In the 3,200-meter relay, Chelsea’s Connor Gilbreath, Jensen Holm, Carson Rabbitt and Tom Oates won in 7:56.48, holding off Zeeland West’s Carson Holwerda, Bryce Arredondo, Lunke Munsey and Matthew Converse (7:59.93).
Parma Western’s Alex Inosencio won the pole vault in 15-8, besting the field by an entire foot. Lake Fenton’s Jaden Zaitshik won the high jump in 6-7, and Saginaw’s Tony Martin won the long jump in 22-7.
Essexville Garber’s Josiah Morse won the 800 (1:55.63), and Lansing Catholic’s Ryan Schroeder, James Fedewa, Jack Fedewa and Ryan Ruiter won the 1,600 relay (3:23.27).
VIDEO: Coldwater's Shuab Aljabaly wins the 1,600.
VIDEO: Oak Park's Donnie James sets a meet record in the 200.
PHOTOS: (Top) Coldwater's Zach Gipple begins to unwind on a discus toss Saturday. (Middle) Chandler Park's Anthony Hudson, middle, stays just ahead of Zeeland East's Corbin DeJonge, left, in the 110 hurdles, which proved to be the closest race of the meet. (Photos by Janina Pollatz. Click for more from RunMichigan.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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)