Finals Preview: Opportunities Abound

May 31, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend's MHSAA Boys Track and Field Finals couldn't be set up better for new traditions and standouts to be born. 

Predicting team champions is tougher than usual with individual contenders spread evenly among a number of schools at just about every meet. And while there are a few names and faces to recognize, many are lesser-known at this point – with opportunities for that to change by Sunday morning.

See below for some of the teams and individuals that look most likely to supply memorable performances Saturday.

Click for meet information including all qualifiers and also Saturday night for results as they come in. And check out MHSAA.tv for live streaming coverage of running events from both peninsulas. (NOTE: "Top ranked" aren't listed for U.P. divisions because the coaches association does not produce U.P. rankings for this sport.)

LP DIVISION 1 at East Kentwood

Top ranked: No. 1 East Kentwood, No. 2 Davison, No. 3 Traverse City Central.

East Kentwood: The Falcons tied for eighth last season coming off three straight Division 1 championships, but are favored again thanks in part to three top-five qualifying relays including the best Regional finisher in the 400 (42.2). Junior Devin McKinney tied for the second-fastest Regional time in the 110 hurdles (14.0) and sophomore Kevin Smith did the same in the 100 (10.6).

Davison: After finishing in the middle of the pack in 2012, Davison should improve this season. Senior Gabe Hodge had the top qualifying time in the 400 (48.4) and two relays ran among the top six in the division at Regionals.

Lake Orion: The reigning champion was unranked at the end of the regular season. But with qualifiers spread out among so many teams in this division, Lake Orion looks good to make another impressive showing. The team has seven individual qualifiers including five with Regional times among the top eight in their events, and all four relays also qualified – including the top-running 3,200 (7:49.2).

Walled Lake Central’s Cullen Prena: The senior had the best Regional discus throw, 195-3, by nearly 20 feet and should approach the Division 1 Final record of 197-11 set by Portage Northern’s Joey Sarantos in 2001. Prena also had the second-best Regional shot put.

Birmingham Brother Rice’s Justin Flynn: Six sprinters went 10.6 or faster at Regionals in this division. But Flynn, a senior, was the lone runner to time 10.5 – which would beat Ricco Hall of East Kentwood’s record time of 10.55 at last season’s Final.

Utica’s Freddie Crittenden: The senior ran the Regional in 13.7, which would approach Kenneth Ferguson of Detroit Mumford’s record time of 13.65 set in 2002. Crittenden also had the fastest Regional time, 37.0, in the 300.

Other returning individual champions: Kevin Weiler, Swartz Creek (shot put, qualified first this season, fifth in discus), Brian Kettle, Highland-Milford (1,600, qualified third this season and tied for 17th in the 800), Jacorey Lipsey, Portage Northern (300 hurdles, qualified third this season and tied for fourth in the 110).

LP DIVISION 2 at Ada Forest Hills Eastern

Top ranked: No. 1 Zeeland West, No. 2 Williamston, No. 3 Adrian.

Zeeland West: The Dux have seven individual qualifiers and also will run all four relays – three relays posted Regional times that ranked among the top six in the division. Three individual qualifiers rank among the top eight in their events for West, which finished sixth last season.

Williamston: The Hornets should contend for their first team title since 2008 thanks to nine individual qualifiers – including five that rank among the top four in their events by Regional performance. Senior Austin Loewen is the favorite in both the 110 (14.2) and 300 hurdles (38.9) and won the former in 2012. All four relays also will run.

Chelsea: Also unranked at the end of the regular season, last season’s third-place team has two athletes who posted the top Regional performances in the division – senior Michael Hovater in pole vault (14-10) and senior Berkely Edwards in the 100 (10.4) – plus eight more qualifiers who rank among the top eight in their events based on Regional finishes.A 10.4 by Edwards would break the meet record and tie the all-Finals mark.

Cadillac’s Riley Norman: Last season’s shot put champion as a junior had the top Regional throw by nearly three feet of 57-6.5. He also had the eighth-best Regional discus toss of 152-9.

Petoskey’s Louis Lamberti: The senior will look to repeat as high jump champion, and his 6-8 jump at the Regional equaled his winning launch from the 2012 Final.

Cedar Springs’ Connor Mora: Division 2’s top distance runner is the reigning 800 and 1,600 title winner, but is changing up a bit from what he ran as a junior. He had the top Regional time in the 1,600 by more than six seconds at 4:11.1 and the best in the 3,200 by 18 seconds with a 9:13.9.

Allegan's Gary Jones: He won the 200 as a sophomore in 2011, and last month tied for the top Regional long jump (23-0) while posting the top time in the 200 (21.5).

LP DIVISION 3 at Comstock Park

Top ranked: No. 1 Lansing Catholic, No. 2 Ithaca, No. 3 Hanover-Horton.

Hanover-Horton: With reigning champion Lansing Catholic bringing only three qualifiers Saturday, Hanover-Horton could be the favorite with five individual qualifiers and three relays that posted times among the top seven at the division’s Regionals – including the top 3,200 relay (8:06.8). Senior Bryce Stroede is the reigning individual 3,200 champ and posted the second-best Regional time in that race (9:40.5), the 1,600 (4:18.1) and the best in the 800 (1:55.4).

Wyoming Kelloggsville: The fourth-ranked team at the end of the regular season could end up on top boasting the top Regional relay performer in the 400 (44.2), 800 (1:31.7) and 1,600 (3:27.8). Kelloggsville also qualified eight times in individual events, with senior T.J. Burnett tops in the 400 (49.6) and second in the 110 hurdles (14.7).

Standish-Sterling: Although ranked No. 6, Standish-Sterling could move into the mix with six individual qualifiers and three relays also running. Junior Clayton Walderzak is one of the division’s top throwers, coming in with the top Regional shot put (55-4.5) and second-best discus toss (163-10).

Niles Brandywine’s Evan Hartman: He had the top Regional discus throw by more than 15 feet of 179-3, less than two feet off the Division 3 Final record. He won the event last season; he also will compete in shot put.

Dillon Brooks, Perry: His 100 time at his Regional, 10.3, is simply incredible and would beat the all-Finals record by a tenth of a second. He also ran the top 200 Regional time, 22.1, and tied for the fourth-fastest 400 time with a 50.6.

Morley-Stanwood’s Travis McCuaig: The high jump champion as a junior, he looks good to add up to three more titles in his final weekend. He tied for the top Regional high jump of 6-5 after winning the Final last season at 6-8, and posted top-four times in both hurdles races. He’ll also compete in long jump.

LP DIVISION 4 at Hudsonville Baldwin Street Middle School

Top ranked: No. 1 Evart, No. 2 Saugatuck, No. 3 Petersburg-Summerfield.

Evart: The Wildcats will compete for their first  MHSAA team title with strength throughout the lineup. Four of the team’s 10 individual qualifiers are among the top eight in the division based on their Regional performances, and all four relays also will run. Three of those four relays posted Regional times among the top nine in the division.

Saugatuck: Also competing for its first MHSAA team title, Saugatuck might be the favorite with a number of athletes expected to score big. Five individual qualifiers and two relays are among the top five in their respective events based on their Regional finishes, with senior Sean Kelly posting the second-fastest times in both the 1,600 (4:28) and 3,200 (9:48.1). He is the reigning champion in the 3,200.

Albion: Despite being unranked at the end of the regular season, Albion is an intriguing possibility. The Wildcats shared the Division 4 team title in 2011 and won it outright last season, but the school is closing after this spring. The team brings 12 qualifiers and lots of scoring potential into its last Final. Eight of those qualifiers are ranked among the top eight in the division in their events based on Regionals, with Nolen Bright-Mitchell topping the lists in the 100 (10.6) and 200 (21.7). If he runs those times again Saturday, he’ll own two MHSAA meet records to go with his shared championship in the 400 last season. The 1,600 relay (3:30.5) also is a favorite.

Litchfield’s Jacob Patrick: The senior set the Division 4 Final discus record last season at 190 feet, and threw 189-6 at this spring’s Regional. He also tossed the division’s fourth-best shot put, 49-0.

Climax-Scotts’ Alexander Lodes: While Bright-Mitchell’s 100 time at the Regional would be fast enough to break this Final meet's record, so too would Lodes’ Regional time of 10.7. He’s also behind only Bright-Mitchell in the 200 with a Regional time of 21.9. Lodes won both races at the 2012 Final.

Morenci’s Austin Sandusky: With a time going down to the thousandth of a second, Sandusky tied with Bright-Mitchell for the 400 title in 2012. Now a sophomore, Sandusky enters Saturday tied for fourth-fastest with a time of 11.0 in the 100, fifth on the 200 list with a time of 22.9 and tied with Peck’s Cody Abrego for the best Regional time in the 400, 50.7.  

UP DIVISION 1 at Kingsford

Gladstone: The Braves finished runner-up to Marquette last season and are looking for their first title since finishing a run of six straight in 2009. They won their Regional with ease and have an incredible number of field event qualifiers – 13 – plus three relays that posted the second-fastest Regional times in their respective races. Thrower Jared Vuksan had the top Regional shot put of 52-2, which would break the record of 52-0.5 set three seasons ago, and is the reigning champ in that event. Teammate Justin Pederson ran the 100 in 10.78 at the Regional, which would erase Garrett Pentecost’s record time of 10.95 set last year for Marquette. Senior Justin Pederson is the favorite in multiple events, the long jump and 100.

Kingsford: The Finals hosts are seeking their first championship since 1990 and are coming off a Regional title as well. Kingsford can keep up with Gladstone with points from 10 individual race qualifiers plus four relays – and big performances by top Regional discus thrower Hilding Beaudoin and pole vaulter Ryan Camp. Beaudoin is the reigning champion in his event.

Escanaba’s Andrew Stenberg: The senior is the reigning champion in the 1,600 and had the third-fastest Regional time, 4:41.34. He also posted the third-fastest in the 3,200, 10:18.97.

Marquette’s Andrew Bannitt: He won the 800 last season as a freshman and had the fastest Regional time this spring, 2:03.79, by more than two seconds.

Menominee’s Bryan Hines: The senior comes in with the top Regional times in both the 110 (15.82) and 300 hurdles (42.86).

UP DIVISION 2 at Kingsford

Manistique: The Emeralds finished third in Division 1 last season and dominated their Division 2 Regional with wins in eight events. They come into Saturday with the top Regional performer in six events – including last season’s Division 1 300 hurdles champion, now-senior Kennar Broulire. His Regional time of 40.67 would best the Division 2 Final record of 41 seconds set in 2004, and he also comes in with the best Regional time in the 100 (11.34). Junior Ryan Ramey had the fastest Regional times in the 200 (23.37) and 400 (52.64), and the 3,200 relay (8:56.13) was more than 23 seconds faster than anyone else in the division.

Ishpeming: Also a Regional champion, Ishpeming has only one qualifier coming in off a Regional-best time – the 1,600 relay (3:41.66). But the Hematites have 19 qualifiers overall. Senior Hunter Wirtanen in the 100 and 200 and sophomore Nate Meyer in the 400 and 800 should put up big points as Ishpeming pursues its first team title since 2003. Meyer won the 400 last season.

Newberry’s James Sutton: He set the high jump record of 6-3.5 as a junior last season and jumped 6-7 at this season's Regional. He also had the top Regional long jump of 19-6 and is a contender in both hurdles races. He won the 110 hurdles last season and finished runner-up in the 300.

Ironwood’s Cole Stevens: The senior finished second in the pole vault last season at 11-0, but went 13-0 at this year’s Regional – which would be more than enough to break the Division 2 Final record of 12-6 set in 2001.

Ishpeming Westwood’s Vincente Carlson: He was the runner-up in the 110 hurdles as a freshman, and his 15.4 in the Regional a few weeks ago would tie the Division 2 Final record set in 2003. He also will run the 300.

Other returning individual champions: Conner Cappaert, Stephenson (3,200, qualified second this season and third in the 1,600).

UP DIVISION 3 at Kingsford

Bessemer: The Speedboys have four individual qualifiers among the top five in their events by Regional performance, but will rely on strong relays if they are to emerge from a strong group of potential contenders. The 800 relay (1:39.2) posted the fastest Regional time in the division and the 400 relay had the second-fastest in that event; the 1,600 and 3,200 also fell among the top eight. Junior Alex Smith had the second-longest long jump and tied for the best 100 time, 11.42.

Pickford: The reigning champion gets the nod over a few others who should be in the mix – including 2012 Division 2 champ St. Ignace, Rapid River and Felch North Dickinson – because of five individual qualifiers and two relays that posted top-five Regional performances in the division. Senior Jared Lavingne had the top 300 time, 42.93, and the third-fastest in the 100 hurdles (16.78). The 1,600 relay also comes in as a top seed after running a 3:46 at the Regional.

Rock Mid-Peninsula’s Brett Branstrom: The senior set the meet record for discus of 154-8 last season and had the top throw of these Regionals of 146-3. He also had the second-best shot put and high jump of this division’s Regionals.

St. Ignace’s Parker Simmons: He won the 100 and 200 in Division 2 last season as a junior and will compete in those and both jumps.

Other returning individual champions: Robert Metter, Rapid River (pole vault, qualified second this season), Jacob Pikka, Wakefield-Marenisco (shot put, qualified sixth this season and seventh in discus), Richard Bentley, St. Ignace (Division 2 pole vault, qualified third this season), Joe Ostman, St. Ignace (Division 2 shot put, qualified third this season and sixth in the 400).

PHOTO: Perry's Dillon Brooks (middle) won three titles at his Division 3 Regional and posted a 100 time of 10.3, good enough to set an all-Finals record if he can run that fast Saturday. (Click to see more at HighSchoolsSportsScene.com.) 

Not Even Sky Seems Limit as Richards Keeps Calvary Sports Soaring

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

January 4, 2024

Bradley Richards believes that life is all about trying new things, setting bigger goals and pushing yourself to new heights – in his case, literally.

West MichiganRichards, 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.

Richards lines up to shoot a free throw. 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.”

Great heights

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.

Playing as part of a cooperative with Muskegon Catholic Central, Richards works to get away from a Traverse City St. Francis tackler. 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.

Decision time

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 KendraTom 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.)