Diaz, Jones Star Again, While Lansing Catholic Follows Standout Pair

By Scott DeCamp
Special for MHSAA.com

June 4, 2022

KENT CITY – Benny Diaz’ first three races of Saturday’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 Track & Field Finals at Kent City High School said a lot about his considerable ability and sheer speed.

His fourth and final race said a lot about his character, even though he didn’t win that one.

The Saugatuck senior blazed to championships in the 110-meter hurdles (13.64 seconds), 100 dash (11.16) and 300 hurdles (39.43) before he pulled up with a hamstring injury near the midway point of the 200 dash.

Diaz, a University of Michigan signee, had a chance to become a four-event winner, but it was not in the cards. After he bent over at the waist and paused on the track, he finished the 200 in a slow trot as the packed stands cheered him to the finish line. He was “slightly upset,” but just wanted to finish the race.

“I’d say it’s better to finish it than to just stop,” Diaz said. “I guess it says a lot about your character. You’re willing to finish things, even if it’s not going so well.”

Diaz’ injury opened the door for Lansing Catholic to capture its second Division 3 team championship, and first since 2012. Lansing Catholic finished with 38 points to edge Saugatuck by a single point.

Led by junior Hunter Jones’ pair of individual titles, Benzie Central placed third with 32 points. Pewamo-Westphalia (30) and Hart (29) rounded out the top five.

Lansing Catholic took first in the final race of the day, the 1,600 relay (3:25.91), to push the Cougars over the top. Senior Josh Otten anchored that winning relay, placed runner-up in the 400 and third in the 1,600, and he anchored the second-place 3,200 relay. Senior Dave Pruder was third in the 800, and he joined Otten on the aforementioned relays that scored valuable points for the Cougars.

“Every one of them came through,” said Lansing Catholic coach Tim Simpson, who also guided the Cougars to the Division 3 title in 2012. “Otten came through with a huge day, Pruder came through with a huge day. Everybody else did their job.”

Jones captured championships in the 800 (personal record 1:52.68) and 1,600 (4:10.68), and he finished second in the 3,200 (9:25.87) to join Diaz as one of the top performers of the meet.

Benzie Central trackJones now has three MHSAA track state titles under his belt, as well as three Division 3 cross country championships. He won the 1,600 at last year’s Finals.

“I was comfortable for the mile and the 800 I was strong, but after the 800 I was at the trash can – I wasn’t feeling well,” said Jones, who is close to announcing his college commitment to a Division I school but is keeping that announcement close to the vest.

“My coaches, they helped me out. They helped me gain confidence and I threw myself on the track, got around eight laps and got runner-up (in the 3,200).”

Diaz finishes his storybook high school track career with five total Finals titles, going back-to-back in both hurdles events as a junior and senior.

Hurdles are the specialty for the slender Diaz, a 6-foot-1, 160-pounder, who glides along the track and makes it look effortless.

Seemingly stuck with the pack in the 100 on Saturday, Benny turned on his jets in the final 30 meters and burst to an impressive victory. He said that he tends to be a slower starter and strong finisher.

“Oh, no, it’s like that – it’s like that,” Diaz said with a grin. “I can just be lackadaisical before the start and just, it turns on. I mean, that’s just the type of kid I am, kind of low energy, just chill. Don’t get too high, don’t get too low.

“That’s just my race. I’m usually behind at the start and then I catch up with my top speed – speed and endurance.”

Diaz hobbled to the medal stand after the 200. He attributed the left hamstring injury to nerve problems, which flared up Friday.

He said he didn’t know how the nerve issues started and was hoping it wouldn’t be an issue Saturday.

“I’ve just been managing it. I was trying to keep it a secret, but now it’s kind of out the window,” a smiling Diaz said.

“But, I mean, I’m still happy with 30 points.”

Other individual champions included Sanford Meridian’s Dane Plichta in the 200 (22.82), Richmond’s Evan Green in the 400 (49.79 PR), Manton’s Noah Morrow in the 3,200 (9:17.84), Mason County Central’s Andrew Quinn in shot put (61-1.5 PR), Hart’s Kellen Kimes in discus (165-10 PR), Lake City’s Gavin Bisballe in high jump (6-5), Ovid-Elsie’s Tryce Tokar in pole vault (14-3 PR) and Warren Michigan Collegiate’s Trevon Redding in long jump (22-5).

Other first-place relay teams included Madison Heights Bishop Foley in the 400 (44.38), Sanford Meridian in the 800 (1:30.97), and Traverse City St. Francis in the 3,200 (8:10.56).

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett sophomore Jacob Juip competed in the first-time adaptive events in the 100 (57.63) and 200 (2:17.57). 

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Saugatuck's Benny Diaz, middle, builds his lead in the 110 hurdles Saturday at Kent City. (Middle) Benzie Central's Hunter Jones sets the pace on the way to one of his two race wins. (Click for more by Carter Sherline/Run Michigan.)

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

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

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/RunMichigan.com.)