Fisher Goes the Distance at LP D1 Final
May 31, 2014
By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
ROCKFORD — Grant Fisher wasn't going to get snuck up on again.
As a sophomore last year, Fisher came down the final stretch with the lead in the 1,600-meter run at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Track and Field Final, only to be caught from behind by Lake Orion's T.J. Carey and lose by sixth-thousandths of a second.
The Grand Blanc distance star made up for it later in the day by winning the 3,200, then went on to win the MHSAA Division 1 and Foot Locker national cross country championships in the fall.
The one title he still lacked was the MHSAA 1,600 crown, which he took care of Saturday by jumping out to the lead and never looking back.
Fisher won in 4:10.82, having built a sizable cushion over fast-finishing Traverse City Central sophomore Anthony Berry, who took second in 4:12.64.
"Last year in the last 100 meters I got caught by T.J.," Fisher said. "That was a really disappointing one, because I was so close. This year, I wanted to get a victory this time and I didn't want to leave it too close to call. Usually, I sit and kick, but today it's about winning. I'll do what it takes to win."
With a 1,600 victory under his belt, Fisher took a different approach a couple hours later in the 3,200. He sat behind Royal Oak's Ben Hill until 200 meters remained, then won a sprint to the finish with a time of 9:07.11, covering the final lap in 59 seconds. Hill took second in 9:09.34.
Fisher became only the second boy in the last 12 years to sweep the distance events in LP Division 1, the last being Monroe's Justin Heck in 2008. Of seven runners who have swept the 1,600 and 3,200 in LP Class A or Division 1, only future Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein of Rockford had a faster combined time. Ritzenhein posted times of 4:08.08 and 9:00.63 in 2000.
"My plan going into the race was with 150 (meters) to go to make a move," Fisher said. "That's what I did. I had to wait like that, because I was pretty tired from the mile. That was a huge goal of mine to win the mile and two mile."
Fisher wasn't the only boy to turn in elite-level performances.
Junior Donavan Brazier of Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills set an MHSAA all-Finals record in the 800 with a time of 1:50.24. He broke the mark of 1:50.63 set by Rick Gledhill of Mt. Clemens Chippewa Valley in the 1988 LP Class A meet. Brazier was pushed down the stretch by Waterford Mott's Brennan Munley (second in 1:51.79) and Milford's Brian Kettle (third in 1:52.39).
"A 1:50 was pretty surprising," Brazier said. "I was hoping for a (personal record) from 1:52. I just hung on until the last 200 and gave it all I've got."
Saline's 3,200 relay team of John Davis, Ryan Gauche, Ryan Wilkie and Logan Wetzel set an all-Finals record with a time of 7:40.54, breaking Saline's mark of 7:41.27 set in 2004. Victory wasn’t even a given until Wetzel overtook Okemos on the final lap after the Hornets were in third place for much of the race. Wetzel ran a 1:50 closing leg.
"It's really hard to press in that last 200, 300 meters when you're all alone," Wetzel said. "Definitely having a guy to battle with made all the difference."
Oak Park senior Maurice Allen had the stamina to complete a difficult double, winning the 400 in 48.13 seconds and coming back three events later to take the 200 in 21.36. Earlier, he ran on a second-place 800 relay team.
"You're tired, but the thing is to get out in the lead in the first part of the race," Allen said. "If you can start, you can finish."
The only other athlete to win two individual events was Swartz Creek senior thrower Kevin Weiler. Weiler won the discus at 176 feet, 5 inches and the shot put at 60 feet, 4.5 inches.
East Kentwood won its fifth team championship in six years, scoring 71 points to beat Oak Park by 21. Saline was third with 37 points.
"It's one of those things where we're not necessarily winning everything, but we're taking seconds and thirds and scoring twice in events," East Kentwood coach Dave Emeott said. "It's a very special group of kids who worked crazy hard."
Antoine Lloyd, Kevin Smith and Devin McKinney each scored in four events for the Falcons. Lloyd had a hand in 27 points, winning the 110 high hurdles, taking second in the 300 hurdles, taking fourth in the high jump and running on a fifth-place 1,600 relay team. McKinney scored 25 points, taking third in the 110 hurdles; running on the winning 800 relay team with Smith, Ashley Bailey and Michael Catching; running on a sixth-place 400 relay team; and taking third in the 200. Smith had a hand in 23 points. He was on the winning 800 relay team.
PHOTO: Grand Blanc’s Grant Fisher leads a pack around a turn during the 1,600 at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final on Saturday at Rockford High School. (Click to see 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 email@example.com 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.)