With Fast Fall Finish, Alpena's Day Arrives

April 13, 2016

By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half

ALPENA – Mitchell Day, who had a breakout second-place finish in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Cross Country Final last November, is gearing up for what he hopes will be an equally strong track season.

The Alpena junior is one of the state’s top returning 3,200-meter runners. He finished 10th in LP Division 1 a year ago, and followed that up with a second-place finish at the Michigan Indoor Track Series state meet in late February.

“I feel very confident going into spring,” the 16-year-old said. “But I know there’s a lot of work to do, and I’m prepared to do it.”

Day started focusing on track during the winter with workouts designed to build base and improve strength. He said he hopes the results will translate into a faster, stronger kick.

Joe Donajkowski, who coaches the team’s distance runners, said Day is in a good spot, especially when it comes to his endurance.

“He knew he had to put the miles in to get better, and he’s certainly done that,” Donajkowski said. “He has a good base right now. I expect we’ll see some good performances from him throughout the season, as long as he stays healthy.”

Staying healthy is a key. An illness almost cost Day a spot in the MHSAA Final last June.

“I got sick a week or two before the Regional, and missed four or five days of training,” he said. “We were thinking it was walking pneumonia. Thankfully, it wasn’t, but I couldn’t train (properly).  I remember the first mile went well, we went through at 4:40, then it hit me like a wall. I struggled to finish and qualify (for the championship meet).”

Day placed fifth at the Regional in 9:38.65, which earned him the 28th seed at the Final. Given time to recover, Day came back and ran nearly 17 seconds faster in a school record 9:21.76 to take 10th in LP Division 1.

That time came as no surprise to coach Bob Bennett, who called Day a “driven” athlete who once he focuses on a goal “gets after it.”

Day also runs the 1,600 meters, as well as relays, but it’s the 3,200 that he enjoys most.

“The 1,600 is too short for my liking,” he said. “The 3,200 gives me a little bit more time to wear out my opponents.”

Day was a dual-sport fall athlete as a freshman and sophomore, splitting his time playing varsity soccer and running cross country. He also played travel soccer during the summer.

But he decided to give up soccer to focus on running.

“We’re happy he went that way, although I don’t know if our athletic director/soccer coach (Tim Storch) was that happy about it,” Bennett said with a laugh.

Day won two of the three Big North Conference cross country jamborees, claimed the Regional, then took second at the MHSAA Final.

Despite that success, he was second team all-conference. In the third and final league jamboree, which counted 50 percent in the team and individual standings, Day was tripped and lost his balance with about a mile to go.

“I was already dealing with an Achilles problem, and I got hit in the Achilles,” he said.

Down he went – and he didn’t get up right away, which proved costly. He finished back in the pack.

“It was frustrating, but it (motivated) me heading into the state meet,” he said.

Day’s training for the Final went well, so well “we knew I was in for a huge PR,” he said.

Initially, Day was hoping to run close to 15:05, but the wind that day made for a slower race.

“The mile splits were 4:50, and then 5:03-5:05, and then back down to 4:47-4:49,” he said. “The wind played a huge factor. A lot of us had to just hide behind a few of the guys and wait for the last three-quarters of a mile to duke it out.”

When it came to the three-quarter mile mark, the lead pack had whittled to include Rockford’s Isaac Harding and Cole Johnson, Grand Rapids Northview’s Enael Woldemichael, Traverse City Central’s Anthony Berry and Day.

Sizing up the leaders, Day didn’t necessarily like his chances.

“Cole Johnson is a 4:10 miler, Anthony is a 4:08, Isaac’s outstanding, so is Enael,” he said. “I was surrounded by some really good talent and I was like, ‘Shoot, I don’t know if I can keep up with these guys the last 1,200 meters. I don’t know if I have that kind of kick in me.’”

Harding eventually surged, and Day went with him.

“I had another gear I didn’t know I had,” he said. “It was second nature to take off with him.”

Harding won in 15:10.4. Day was three seconds back.

“I was happy with how that turned out,” he said. “I realized there was more in me than what I had shown in the past.”

His time of 15:13.4 was 13 seconds faster than his previous best – and it’s helped attract more interest from college recruiters.

Now, Day’s attention is on track, as a lingering winter finally seems to be giving way to spring.

Alpena’s first meet, last week’s Freeland Invitational, was canceled, but once the season finally gets underway, Day said his goal will be fairly simple.

“I just want to make sure I give it my all,” he said. “I’ll be satisfied if I can do that. I don’t really have any times I would like to hit. Sure, I would like to PR, but it’s more about knowing that I put it all out there and had no regrets.”

Bennett expects nothing less from his star runner.

“We just want him to run as well as he can,” Bennett said. “Physically, he’s a little bigger, more mature. Mentally, he’s right on course. We’re hoping he’s going to have a breakout year.”

Just like he had in cross country.

Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Alpena’s Mitchell Day competes during the fall’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Cross Country Final at Michigan International Speedway. (Middle) Day, far left, emerges from the pack during the 3,200-meter championship race at last spring’s MHSAA LP Division 1 Track & Field Final at Rockford. (Photos courtesy of the Day family.)

Preview: UP Boys Finals Loaded with Intriguing Opportunities

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

June 2, 2023

Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Boys Track & Field Finals can match storylines with any of the other events happening statewide on the busiest day of the school sports season.

The Division 1 meet will pit rivals returning after one point separated them a year ago, while Division 2 will see a pair of 2022 champions looking to win again.

Munising’s Micaiah Peramaki will compete in his last Finals after becoming the latest to win four individual events last spring, and Pickford’s David Kozisek will compete in his first and only Finals with a great possibility of becoming the next four-event champ.

All three divisions will again be contested at Kingsford High School, with preliminaries leading off the day at 9 a.m. local (Central) time. Tickets cost $11 and are available digitally only via GoFan.

MHSAA.tv will live-stream the meets beginning at 9 a.m. (CDT)/10 a.m. (EDT), viewable with subscription.

Following is a glance at team contenders and individuals to watch in all three divisions:

Division 1

Team forecast: Marquette owns a two-year championship streak, but claimed last season’s title by a mere point ahead of Kingsford. The Flivvers will pose another challenge Saturday with a pair of relay favorites and strong field events hoping to counter Marquette’s distance stars and overall depth. Sault Ste. Marie, boasting excellence in the distance events as well, could factor significantly.

Matthew Colavecchi, Iron Mountain junior: Last season’s 100 and 200 champion in UPD2 will run on a contending 400 relay and had the sixth-fastest UPD1 Regional time in the 100 (11.85).

Will Fairchild, Iron Mountain senior: He finished fifth both in the 110 and 300 hurdles and eighth in long jump in UPD2 last season, but heads into these UPD1 Finals with the top Regional times for his division in both races – 16.05 and 42.48, respectively.

Michael Floriano, Kingsford junior: Last season’s 200 and 400 relay champion and 100 dash runner-up will run on two favored relays this time and also enters with the third-fastest UPD1 Regional times in the 100 (11.56) and 200 (23.94).

Drew Hughes, Gladstone senior: After running a relay at last year’s Finals, he’s set to run two plus enters with the top UPD1 Regional time in the 800 (2:05.23) and fourth-fastest in the 1,600 (4:38.46).

Gabe Litzner, Sault Ste. Marie freshman: The UPD1 cross country champion in the fall enters his first Track Finals with the top UPD1 Regional times in the 1,600 (4:35.42) and 3,200 (9:58.36).

Cole Myllyla, Kingsford senior: He’s another returning relay champ and also won the long jump and was sixth in the high jump last season. He’ll run on two favored relays and had the third-best UPD1 Regional long jump (20-¼).  

Carson VanderSchaaf, Marquette senior: He’s a two-time 3,200 champion and also won the 1,600 and as part of the 3,200 relay last spring, and he’ll enter Saturday with the second-fastest UPD1 Regional time in the 1,600 (4:37.21) and third-fastest in the 3,200 (10:02.40).

Colin VanderSchaaf, Marquette senior: He’s also won races the last two Finals, the 800 last year and 1,600 as a sophomore (finishing second to his brother last year), and enters this meet with the second-fastest UPD1 Regional times in the 400 (54.11) and 800 (2:06.68) and third-fastest in the 1,600 (4:37.28).

Division 2

Team forecast: Ishpeming has four won straight Division 2 titles (not counting canceled 2020), but Pickford – last season’s UPD3 champion – might be the favorite to continue its streak instead. The Panthers have contenders in several events and also will get help with a number of Bark River-Harris hopefuls slotting into possible high places as well. That said, the Hematites do have qualifiers in 16 events and depth to match anyone in the field.

Caden Awbrey, Pickford senior: He won the 300 hurdles in UPD3 and was second in the 110 last season, also running on championship and runner-up relays. He’ll run on two contending relays this weekend and enters with the UPD2 Regionals third-fastest 300 time (43.97) and fourth-fastest in the 110 (17.63).

Wyatt Demers, Manistique junior: He had a busy 2022 Finals with a relay championship, fifth places in the 100 and 400 and a third in the 200. He could top that as part of two contending relays and entering with the fastest UPD2 Regional times in the 100 (11.5) and 200 (23.24).  

Tramon Gauthier, Ishpeming junior: He played a major role in last year’s team title with a win in the 110 hurdles, second in the 300 and fourth-place long jump, and this weekend he enters with the second-best UPD2 Regional long jump (19-3), second-fastest 110 (16.41) and 300 hurdles (43.34) times and fourth-fastest in the 100 (11.99).

Hayden Hagen, Pickford junior: After also running on a relay champ last year in UPD3 and finishing fourth in the 3,200 and ninth in the 1,600, he’s lined up for a huge meet entering with the top UPD2 Regional times in the 800 (2:14.15), 1,600 (5:03.16) and 3,200 (11:08.89).

David Kozisek, Pickford senior: He could cap his lone season of high school track with one of the most memorable as he enters with the top UPD2 Regional times in the 110 (15.39) and 300 hurdles (42.37) and top high jump (5-10) and long jump (20-7½) as well.  

Owen Lester, St. Ignace junior: The reigning pole vault champion (and seventh-place finisher in the 300 hurdles) posted the top UPD2 Regional pole vault (11-6) by six inches.

Brayden Martin, Ishpeming junior: He had the farthest UPD2 shot put (43-8½) and second-longest discus toss (119-2) at Regionals, after finishing fourth in the shot put at last year’s Finals.

Division 3

Team forecast: There will be a new champion with Pickford in UPD2, with 2022 runner-up Munising coming off a Regional title after falling just nine points shy of catching the Panthers a year ago. The Mustangs have favorites in several events and contenders in most others. Newberry, fifth in UPD2 last season, also looks capable of making serious noise.

Joe Kelley, Munising junior: He finished fifth in the 300 and sixth in the 110 hurdles last season, but could play a massive part Saturday entering with the fastest UPD3 Regional 300 (44.81) and second-fastest time in the 110 (17.06).

Kalvin Kytta, Chassell sophomore: He finished seventh in both the 1,600 and 3,200 and 10th in the 800 as a freshman and also will be expected to score entering with the fastest UPD3 Regional times in the 1,600 (4:48.91) and 3,200 (10:56.07).

Seth Mills, Paradise Whitefish senior: He could become his school’s first Finals champion in this sport as he enters with the top UPD3 Regional discus throw (149-4) by more than 21 feet – and with that toss nearly 40 better than his fifth-place finish in the event a year ago. He also enters with the sixth-best UPD3 Regional shot put (38-5).  

Josiah Peramaki, Munising senior: The reigning pole vault champion also was third in the long jump and fifth in the 200 last season, and he’ll enter this weekend tied with the top UPD3 Regional pole vault (12-0) and also competing on a relay and in the long jump and 100, having posted the third-fastest time (11.73) in the sprint.

Micaiah Peramaki, Munising senior: He became the eighth boys four-time Finals individual champion last year winning the 100, 200, 400 and discus. He could add three more individual titles entering Saturday with UPD3 Regional bests in the 100 (11.24), 200 (23.47) and 400 (53.05) while also running on a contending relay.

Matthew Rahilly, Newberry sophomore: He was fifth in the long jump and ran on two scoring relays in UPD2 as a freshman, and enters this Finals with the best UPD3 Regional long jump (19-9) and tied for the second-best high jump (5-8).

Ian Sundling, Rapid River senior: The reigning long jump champ also finished seventh in high jump last season and will compete in both plus two relays, entering with the third-best UPD3 Regional long jump (19-1).

PHOTO Iron Mountain's Matthew Colavecchi (3) edges Pickford's David Kozisek (2) and Powers North Central's Luke Gorzinski (4) in a 200 heat at the April 17 Superior Dome Invitational. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)