EAST KENTWOOD – Dave Emeott is making some changes to his East Kentwood boys track & field team this summer.
After the Falcons’ field events put on a dominant display Saturday to lead the team to a second straight Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship, Emeott feels it’s time for a new name.
“Officially now, for at least one year, we’re going to be East Kentwood Field & Track from now on,” Emeott said. “Everything changes, the Twitter page, the Facebook page, T-shirts will be made. The field events guys took a lot of pride, and it was fun because those were the first events of the morning. We came out of the morning with 40 points, or whatever they ended up scoring.”
East Kentwood finished with 61 points, well ahead of second-place Ann Arbor Pioneer, which had 39. Saline and Grand Blanc tied for third with 37 points, while Rockford was fifth with 35.
Logan Brown (shot put), Trevor Stephenson (pole vault) and Job Mayhue (110-meter hurdles) won individual titles for the Falcons, who have won seven of the last 10 team championships in the division. By the time Mayhue won the hurdles, the third running final of the day, his team already had 46 points, which would prove enough to clinch the title.
“When you look at where we won, it wasn’t just that we were overwhelmingly more talented than everybody; where the points were scored was in the technical events – shot put, long jump, pole vault – those three events alone we scored with seven guys in those events,” Emeott said. “Then the hurdles and the relays, that was really our day. It’s cool to do it in a different way.”
Stephenson’s pole vault title came after a head-to-head battle with Saline’s Eric Harris that featured multiple MHSAA Finals records. Stephenson won with a height of 16 feet, 9½ inches, a new all-division meet record. Harris took second at 16-6½, which also broke the previous record.
“I was surprised that I cleared that,” Stephenson said. “I was coming in thinking 16 feet might be the winning height, then Eric Harris from Saline just kept pushing the bar up and I just kept going with him. Eventually it got to 16-9½, and I just didn’t feel like it was there, and I got over and it was an amazing feeling.”
Mayhue won the hurdles with a time of 13.99 seconds, while Brown won the shot put with a throw of 57-1½.
Rockford’s Cole Johnson pulled off an impressive double in the 800 and 1,600, winning both with strong finishes. In the 800, he ran past a tight pack in the final 50 meters to win in 1:53.11, edging out Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Netunji Paige who finished in 1:53.41.
In the 1,600, Johnson took an early lead, then had to surge over the final lap to overtake a strong field and win in 4:08.47, less than two tenths of a second ahead of Pioneer’s Nick Foster who was second in 4:08.64.
“My race plan in the beginning (of the 1,600) was to try and push the pace to try and beat our school record held by Dathan Ritzenhein, a 4:05.9,” Johnson said. “The first lap, I knew I was going to go out fast, and I just tried to keep pushing it the second and third lap, but I fell off a little bit. Then the race plan was just kind of holding form a little bit that last lap to try and get the win. I found a lot of energy from all the people supporting me and all the fans; it is packed here today. Winning the mile in Michigan is very prestigious, so that’s kind of what kept me going as I got passed on that last lap.”
Oak Park’s Donnie James pulled off a double of his own, and was four hundredths of a second away from pulling off a triple. James ran 47.14 to hold off a strong field in the 400 meters, and 21.2 to squeak out a win in the 200. He finished second in the 100 with a time of 10.7, just edged by Eric Labonte of Traverse City West, who won in 10.66 seconds.
In the 400, James won from an outside lane, holding off charges from Saginaw Heritage’s Marcus Montgomery (47.65) and Ypsilanti Lincoln’s Matthew Moorer (47.79), who were chasing him from the inside.
“I had that mentality that I know I had to run at full speed because I had Matthew Moorer and Montgomery (behind me),” James said. “It was a lot of competition during that time, so I had to get my head geeked because I knew I had to run this to get first place for our team. My coach said catch the dude off the turn and to just run it like you did indoors.”
Lansing Waverly’s Keshaun Harris won the 300 hurdles in 37.81 seconds. Pioneer’s Foster won the 3,200 in 9:07.93. Grand Blanc’s Aidan Martini won the discus with a throw of 167-2. Traverse City Central’s Cassidy Henshaw won the high jump with a height of 6-9. West Bloomfield’s AJ Abbott won the long jump with a distance of 23-7¼.
Ann Arbor Pioneer (Foster, Paige, Aldo Pando-Girard and John Florence) won the 3,200 relay in 7:45.64. Detroit Martin Luther King (Jaeveyon Morton, Dylan Brown, Dequan Finn and Jalen McGaughy) won the 800 relay in 1:26.74. Farmington Hills Harrison (Moet Andrews, Alfred Hollie, Joe Stevens and Ben Williams) won the 400 relay out of the second heat with a time of 42.39. Grand Blanc (Austin Rippee, Victor Zarour, Jo Coleman and Jeronn Body) won the 1,600 relay in 3:20.48.
PHOTOS: (Top) East Kentwood’s Job Mayhue, middle, hurdles to the lead on the way to winning the 110 race. (Middle) Oak Park’s Donnie James, right, holds off Ypsilanti Lincoln’s Matthew Moorer in the 200. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)
Bradley Richards believes that life is all about trying new things, setting bigger goals and pushing yourself to new heights – in his case, literally.
Richards, now a 6-foot-5, 190-pound junior basketball standout at tiny Fruitport Calvary Christian, played on the school’s fifth-grade team when he was in second grade.
He remembers staring longingly at the rim in those days and dreaming about dunking, before making that dream a reality by throwing one down in February of his seventh-grade year.
While his three older sisters - Taylor, Allyson and Kelsey - were leading the Calvary girls basketball program to new heights, he vowed he would do the same with the boys program someday.
Bradley and his teammates accomplished that goal last spring, winning the school’s first boys District basketball title despite a roster with no seniors.
This season, Calvary came flying out of the gate with a 5-0 start and is now 5-2 heading into Friday’s home game against Saugatuck.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Bradley, who averages 29 points and 14 rebounds per game. “Our school is so small that we’re more like a family. It’s not about me. I’m just so happy for our school and all of the guys on the team.”
The next goal is to repeat as District champions and try to win a Regional title, before setting his sights at clearing 7 feet in the high jump this spring.
“I’m going to try to get past that this year,” said Bradley in his typical humble, matter-of-fact fashion.
One thing his father and fourth-year Fruitport Calvary Christian boys basketball coach Brad Richards has learned is to not put anything past his only son, the youngest of his four children.
Bradley displayed an interest in music as a young boy and now sings in the school’s worship group and plays the saxophone, piano and guitar. Last fall, he played high school football for the first time as part of a cooperative agreement with Muskegon Catholic Central and wound up starting at wide receiver and defensive back for the state powerhouse program.
“He’s blessed and he’s gifted – yes,” said his father, who also coached all three of his girls during their Calvary Christian basketball careers. “But he works so hard.
“Bradley sets goals and works toward them. He’s always looking for the next thing to do.”
True to his school
One thing he doesn’t like to do is media interviews. Specifically, he doesn’t like calling attention to himself.
“He is pretty quiet and would rather have his teammates get the attention,” said his mother, Joy.
Fruitport Calvary Christian is one of the smallest schools on the entire Lakeshore with 51 students in grades 9-12, and just 17 boys in the high school.
The Eagles take great pride in their ability to compete against much larger schools. They made a huge statement during the first full week of December with three convincing victories over bigger schools.
That week started on Tuesday, Dec. 5, with Calvary’s first-ever boys basketball win over neighbor Fruitport, a Division 2 school that competes in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue. Bradley scored 35 points with 14 rebounds in that game, with clutch free throws by role player Eric Dubois Quayle sealing the win.
Two days later, Richards scored 36 points with 17 rebounds in a win over Grand Rapids Sacred Heart.
Calvary then capped the 3-0 week Friday with a victory over Kent City, another Division 2 school, as Bradley scored 36 points with 18 rebounds.
Calvary is led by the “big three” of juniors Richards and Quinn Swanson and senior Sam Zelenka. Swanson, the team’s second-leading scorer with 17 points plus six rebounds and three assists per game, injured his knee last week against Schoolcraft and his health will have a huge bearing on the team’s success going forward. Zelenka is the top defender and averages 11 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
The other starters are junior workhorse Zach McFarren, who owns the school’s shot put and discus records and has played all but six minutes over the team’s seven games, and senior Nolan Ghezzi.
Richards, already a two-time Associated Press all-state selection who even made the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan all-state team as an eighth grader, has seen every gimmick defense to try and shut him down, including box-and-twos and triple teams. He credits his experience in football and track with helping him deal with it.
“There is usually a quick guy in front of me and a big guy behind me,” said Bradley, who scored a career-high 47 points in a game last season. “Football has really helped me, because I’m not as scared of the contact. The high jumping has helped me to elevate and get my shot off.”
Jim McHugh is a high jump legend from Pentwater who went on to become a two-time national champion in the event at Hillsdale College, and he now coaches West Michigan athletes in the event.
The first time he worked with Bradley Richards, in April of last year, he knew he had something special on his hands.
“Bradley went up and literally hurdled the bar at 5-11,” said McHugh. “I was in shock. I said to myself: ‘This is gonna be a heck of a ride.’ The kid is a generational talent.”
The coaching of McHugh paid immediate dividends, as Bradley improved from a top jump of 6-1½ as a freshman to 6-6½ in last year’s Regional meet. Then came the Division 4 Finals at Hudsonville a few weeks later.
Bradley won the first track Finals championship for Fruitport Calvary with a leap of 6-10 – which was 3 inches higher than anyone else in any of the four Lower Peninsula divisions and entire Upper Peninsula that day – and caught the attention of college scouts from across the country.
The following week, he competed at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Philadelphia and placed second with a jump of 6-8.24.
McHugh shudders to think of how high his prodigy can soar. He has his sights set on the Division 4 Finals record of 6-10½ (Kurt Schneider, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, 2009), the Muskegon-area record of 7-0 (Steve Paulsen, Fremont, 1998) and the all-division/class Finals record of 7-1 (John Payment, Brimley, 1989).
“God has given him incredible talent, but he also has the desire it takes,” said McHugh, who is also working with another Division I college high jump prospect in Hart junior Addison Hovey. “I gave him a workout plan, and he has done every bit of it. He has cleaned up his diet, done the cold showers and the cold bathtubs, everything. I’m excited to see the results.”
Richards, whose first love was basketball, admits he is smitten with the high jump and seeing how high he can soar.
Now, when asked about his favorite athletes, he still mentions Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant, but he also includes Olympic gold medalist high jumper Mutaz Barshim of Qatar – who made news by not taking additional jumps at the 2020 Olympics in Japan, thereby sharing the gold medal with Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy.
“I just respect that so much, sharing the gold medal,” Bradley said.
Now the Bradley Richards recruiting saga has begun and, for him, it’s not just about choosing what school – it’s also about choosing what sport.
“I would like to do both, play basketball and high jump in college, if possible,” Bradley said.
That would certainly be a possibility if Bradley follows in his family’s footsteps at Cornerstone University. His father was a basketball standout at Cornerstone, which is where he met Joy, and all three of his sisters played for the Golden Eagles. (Kelsey is currently a student assistant for this year’s team.)
Playing both may not be possible if he pursues high jump at the Division I level, where Michigan and Illinois are among schools actively recruiting him.
“I know at some point I’m going to have to make a decision, but I don’t have to right now,” said the 17-year-old Bradley. “So it doesn’t do me any good to sit and stress about it all the time.”
Instead, he is focused on more immediate goals.
The first is figuring out a way for his basketball team to snap a two-game losing skid and get positioned for another postseason run.
Then it will be trying to clear the magical high jump number of 7-0, and beyond. And don’t forget football, where he would love to start off his senior year by helping Muskegon Catholic improve on its 6-5 record from a year ago and make a run at the school’s 13th state football championship.
Only after all of that will it be college decision time.
“It’s not an easy choice, and it will take a lot of prayer and discernment,” admitted Richards, who will look for help from his immediate family and his school family in making his choice. “I’ll figure it out. I usually do.”
Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Fruitport Calvary Christian’s Bradley Richards stands atop the podium after winning the high jump last spring at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals. (Middle) Richards lines up to shoot a free throw. (Below) Playing as part of a cooperative with Muskegon Catholic Central, Richards works to get away from a Traverse City St. Francis tackler. (Track photo courtesy of Joy Richards; basketball and football photos courtesy of Local Sports Journal.)