Comeback Jump as Meaningful as Record
June 4, 2016
By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
HUDSONVILLE — Because it was wind-aided, the performance by Jackson senior Anthony Owens on Saturday won't count in the MHSAA track and field record books.
But while it won't go down officially as the best long jump ever at an MHSAA Finals, it was one of the greatest jumps, given the circumstances.
Owens was in third place going into the final jump at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 meet on Saturday at Baldwin Street Middle School. He not only had to overtake the two jumpers ahead of him, he had to overcome the pain of a hamstring injury that he suffered on his second jump of the day.
"It really wasn't working for me and things weren't going my way," Owens said. "But my coaches talked to me and told me this is my last year, to finish strong and leave it all out there and just have fun with it. That's kind of what I did for my last jump. It paid off a lot."
Did it ever.
Owens delivered a jump of 24 feet, 1.25 inches to pass Ann Arbor Pioneer's Terius Wheatley (23-10.75) and East Kentwood's Andre Welch (23-7) and win the long jump championship. Owens' jump eclipsed the 24-1 performance by Flushing's Jeff Kline in the 2009 Lower Peninsula Division 1 meet as the longest ever in any division of an MHSAA Final. However, the wind was at 2.4 meters per second when he jumped, more than the 2.0 that is allowable for record performances.
There is precedent for not including jumps that are wind-aided in the record book. In 1996, Midland's Okoineme Giwaagbomeirel won the Lower Peninsula Class A meet with a jump of 24-6 that was wind-aided.
The guts that it took for Owens to come through and win the long jump means more to him than the record. He was third with a jump of 23-3.25 going into his final jump.
"It was a big deal for me, because I didn't think I was going to be able to get 24 feet with my hamstring pulling on me," Owens said. "The fact I fought through it means a lot. I'm glad I could compete with those guys. Those guys, if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have got to 24-1 and got first."
While Wheatley and Welch are rivals, they are also friends who respect one another's ability.
"I know a lot of them," Owens said. "(Wheatley) is a great kid. I love competing with him. We get the best out of each other. He actually PR'd (personal record) today a lot. I think he was excited as much as me. He deserves the glory as much as I do. Without those guys, I don't think we'd be able to compete at our best, because we all know we're right there by each other."
Owens also felt inspiration from a former teammate, Maseo Moore, who died in an automobile crash on I-94 on May 24, 2015. Moore, a member of the track and field team, would have been a senior this season.
"Going into this track season, it really wasn't all about me," Owens said. "It was about the people around me. Our football coach would always tell us, 'It has everything to do with you and nothing to do with you.' When you take away what you're doing for yourself and define your 'why' and why you're doing it, you'll be successful and be a champion. Once I found my 'why' and why I was doing it and why I wanted to be at the top, it paid off. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my coaches and Maseo and all the support I have."
One all-division MHSAA Finals record that will stay in the books is the throw of 67 feet, 5.75 inches by Oxford senior Connor Bandel in the shot put. Bandel's throw broke the all-division record of 64 feet, 0.5 inches set by Todd Duckett of Kalamazoo Loy Norrix in the 1999 Lower Peninsula Class A meet. Bandel won by 13 feet, 1.25 inches.
Bandel also chased the discus record of 210-1 set by Cullen Prena of Walled Lake Central in the 2012 Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals, but he had to settle for a decisive victory with his throw of 198-11. Bandel won by 20 feet, 11 inches.
Bandel's record throw in the shot put came in the fifth of his six throws.
"It definitely felt like a good throw," he said. "I was actually kind of surprised by the distance, because I threw 57-2.5 last week, and that one actually felt better in comparison. I guess I did something a little bit different that I didn't notice and I ended up throwing a little bit farther."
While the wind aided Owens in the long jump, it may have hindered Bandel's bid for the discus record. His personal record is 204-2.
"The big difference today was the wind," said Bandel, who also swept both events last year and hit 198-11 twice on consecutive throws Saturday. "The 204-2, I had a pretty decent headwind to help lift the disc up a bit. The back wind knocked it down a bit."
In the team competition, Oak Park scored 55 points to win its first MHSAA boys track and field championship since the 1972 squad won the Class A title. Rockford was second with 46 points, while East Kentwood was third with 37. East Kentwood had won five of the previous seven Division 1 championships.
Oak Park's only victory came from junior Cameron Cooper, who took the 800 in 1:51.68. Senior Dekaryea Freeman was third in the 800, giving Oak Park 18 points in the event.
Miles Daniel was second in the 100, third in the 200 and ran on the fifth-place 400 relay team for Oak Park.
"The biggest thing we've got going for us is we got some football players to come out," Oak Park coach Robert Lynch said. "The football players came out, have been part of the track team and have put us over the edge."
East Kentwood's Khance Meyers won two events, taking the 100 in 10.73 seconds and helping the 800 relay team set a Division 1 meet record of 1:26.27. Ansel Jeffries, Shane Harris and Welch also ran on that relay team.
The other individual champions were East Lansing's Kentre Patterson (110 hurdles, 14.03); Ann Arbor Skyline's Anthony Giannobile (1,600, 4:11.48); Wayne Memorial's Montel Hood (400, 47.30); Dearborn's Adnan Hamka (300 hurdles, 39.62); Fenton's Jacob Lee (3,200, 9:07.72); Rockford's Jonny De Haan (pole vault, 15-0); and Mount Pleasant's Kalebb Perry (high jump, 6-7).
The other winning relays were run by Rockford (3,200, 7:43.92); Detroit Cass Tech (400, 42.26); and Saline (1,600, 3:19.37).
PHOTOS: (Top) Jackson's Anthony Owens prepares for launch on the way to winning the long jump championship. (Middle) Oxford's Connor Bandel stands atop the awards podium after repeating as shot put champion. (Photos by John Brabbs/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 [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.)