'Field & Track' Earns Falcons' Latest Title
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
June 2, 2018
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.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)