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.)

Goals Grow as Gladwin's Klein Seeks to Follow School Record with Big Finish

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

April 24, 2024

Logan Klein wanted to leave his mark on Gladwin athletics – and one could argue, as a starting offensive lineman on the 2022 Flying Gs football team which won the Division 5 title, he had already done that.

Bay & ThumbBut Klein was looking for more, so that spring, he switched from baseball to track & field, and went after it.

“Really, I mean, I wanted a school record,” Klein said. “I had played baseball for freshman and sophomore year, and I knew I wasn’t getting it in baseball. I was good, but I wasn’t that good. I did (track & field) in seventh grade, and I was pretty good. I was really close in junior high (to school records) but then in eighth grade, we had COVID.”

In his first year back in the sport, Klein achieved his goal, setting the Gladwin school record in the shot put and throwing his way to a third-place, all-state finish at the 2023 Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals.

Now, with a little more seasoning under his belt, he’s looking for even more.

“The big goal is to be a state champ,” he said. “The second goal, with how I’ve been throwing in the (discus) lately, I think I can be all-state in both events. That’s a really big one for me, too.”

Klein’s immediate success as a thrower didn’t come as a total surprise, as he really was quite good in seventh grade. He’s also a 6-foot-3, 270-pound athlete who, as mentioned, was a starter on a state championship-winning football team. The baseline was there.

He also had a willing teacher in teammate Logan Kokotovich, a 2023 Gladwin graduate who was a captain and Klein’s teammate in football, and the Gs’ top thrower prior to Klein’s arrival.

“(Klein) threw in junior high and he was pretty good, and then last year he started off real strong,” Gladwin boys track coach Buddy Goldsworthy said. “After lots of work on just technique stuff, he realized all the things he was doing wrong, then he just started throwing 50 footers. One person that helped make a good transition was Logan Kokotovich – he was good at football, too, and good friends with Klein. He showed Klein how to do a couple things better.”

On May 5, 2023, at the Nike Trax Invite at Meridian, Klein first threw over 50 feet in competition. Five days later, at the Jack Pine Conference meet, Klein had his school record, throwing 51 feet, 9 inches, smashing the old mark of 50-5 set in 1988.

Klein has high aspirations in both the shot and discus this spring.“I was starting to get up into the 50s, and I knew it was going to happen in the next meet,” he said. “I had been on a PR streak.”

He broke it again in his next meet, the first of four times he has eclipsed his chart-topping mark – which now stands at 55-4¼.

“He’s a big, strong kid, and he loved throwing in junior high,” Goldsworthy said. “We knew that he could be that guy. Now, we didn’t know he would be that guy so quickly. That was a pleasant surprise for us. He loves throwing. He spent a lot of time during the summer saying, ‘Hey, can we go up and throw? Can I take a shot or disc home this weekend and just throw?’ ‘I know you’re going to be gone on vacation, but can I have a shot to work on throws?’ He’s a real student of the game.”

Klein said he’s fallen in love with throwing, and there is certainly a part of him that wishes he had started as a freshman, knowing the massive leap he’s taken in such a short amount of time.

But his being so new to the sport makes him a very intriguing prospect for college coaches, if he chooses to go that route. There has been some communication, but Klein hasn’t decided yet if wants to follow up on throwing at the next level or go into the workforce by becoming an electrician, something that is waiting for him if he wants it.

“I was definitely not planning on (throwing in college),” he said. “I was actually a four-year starter for football, so that’s what I thought I was going to do. I’ve only been doing this for two years now, and I definitely can grow a lot more. A couple colleges have talked to me, and that’s what they were saying, that I really have a lot more potential.”

While he mulls over that decision, he’s working toward reaching those end-of-year goals he’s set, and also bringing along the next wave of Gladwin throwers.

“We talk about it a lot,” Goldsworthy said. “You want to leave a legacy. If you’re a jerk, no one’s going to remember, or they’re going to remember you not in the ways you want. He’s really taken that to heart and he’s the person that people want to be around. He’s going to be remembered that, yeah, he threw 60 feet, but he helped (junior Jacob) Hurst, he helped (freshman Harvey) Grove, he helped (freshman Nick) Brasseur. They’ll remember, ‘We wouldn’t have been as good if we didn’t have Klein around.’”

Klein said coaching also is in his future, whether that’s next year as he starts his career, or later down the line if he chooses to go to college.

With his mark already firmly left on Gladwin athletics, he wants to make sure others can do the same.

“I just like seeing my teammates grow,” he said. “We’ve got a freshman right now that’s really good. I told him, ‘I don’t care if you beat my record. I just want to be there to coach you through it.’”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Gladwin’s Logan Klein prepares to launch during a turn in the shot put circle. (Middle) Klein has high aspirations in both the shot and discus this spring. (Photos courtesy of the Gladwin athletic department.)