Grass Lake Follows Bargesser's Lead to 1st Title since 1970

By Tim Robinson
Special for

June 6, 2021

JENISON — Despite having a big lead late in Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 track & field championship meet, Grass Lake coach Anthony Cole wasn’t interested in conceding anything.

“We haven’t won it yet,” he said, smiling.

He didn’t have to worry.

The Warriors won with 68 points, exactly double the number of second-place Benzie Central, to take their first Finals title since winning Class C in 1970. Their most recent top-two finish came when they placed second in Class D in 1997.

They won it this time with plenty of help from senior Brennan Bargesser, whose blonde hair, long on top, was braided twice across the top of his skull to a small bun at the back.

“Aerodynamic,” he said.

Whatever the reason, Bargesser won the 100, 200, and 400 while also running the anchor leg of Grass Lake’s champion 400 relay.

Pewamo-Westphalia track“It’s been really fun having a couple of Bargessers on the team,” Cole said of both Brennan and his sister Lexie, who keyed the Grass Lake girls team’s run to a Division 3 co-championship. “But it’s not just him. It’s been the whole squad all season long. We’ve been peaking all season long. We’ve got senior kids who have bought into everything we’ve sold them. It’s been real fun to watch.”

One of those seniors, Josh Sherwood, picked up points with fifth-place finishes in the 100 and 200 and ran the third leg on the winning 400 relay. Jack Easterday was fifth in the 100 hurdles and sixth in the 300 hurdles. Connor Vieghelan took second in the pole vault, and Trenton Holden was fourth in the discus.

“We’ve had a lot of really good seniors,” Cole said. “It’s really been their show. Every one of our kids all bought in, and it’s been fun to see.”

For Bargesser, Saturday’s meet was the culmination of a season that saw him miss time due to COVID-19 and some injuries.

“This was a dream come true,” he said. “My sister and I have dreamed about this for years, and it was really cool for us as siblings to do this on the same day.”

Bargesser, who will attend Bethel University in the fall, said his teammates were invaluable.

“I love track guys,” he said. “They’re all so nice every time. Doesn’t matter if you win or lose. Everyone is congratulating each other all of the time. It’s really nice to be around.”

As for winning the team championship, “we’ve been talking about it the whole day,” Bargesser said. “Our big goal was to get The Mitten, and we needed everyone to do that.”

The man with the aerodynamic ’do thanked God for his talent and his teammates, but also for the 10-plus mph breezes on the hottest day of the year so far. “The wind was awesome,” he said.

Pewamo-Westphalia, which tied Grass Lake for the girls title, finished third in the boys meet with 30 points.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grass Lake celebrates its Division 3 team track & field championship Saturday. (Middle) Pewamo-Westphalia's Jack Easterday clears a hurdle. (Photos by Tim Robinson.)

Hackett Catholic Prep's Baldwin Carrying Hopes from Home to Paris

By Pam Shebest
Special for

July 12, 2024

KALAMAZOO — Heath Baldwin studied Spanish at Hackett Catholic Prep, but he will need to brush up on some French as he heads to Paris to compete in the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The recent Michigan State University grad, who earned a master’s degree in marketing and research analytics, will compete in the decathlon, a two-day event Aug. 2-3 at the Stade de France.

While the Olympics will be televised in the United States, because of the time difference, Baldwin’s events will take place locally during the early morning hours.

Wishing him a Bon Voyage, more than 200 former classmates, friends, family and well-wishers plus six television crews congregated Thursday for an impressive sendoff, starting with the Hackett “Summer Ensemble” playing the school fight song.

A 2019 Hackett grad, Baldwin led the track & field team to three Regional championships, two MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 titles, was an individual five-time Finals champion, holds four school records and was named track & field Athlete of the Year for all divisions his senior season by the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association.

“I went through a lot at Hackett, obviously, with my dad (Roger)  passing away (in 2016) and I always had a great support system of people who took care of my family and made sure we were doing good,” Baldwin said. “They’ve stuck with me through college, too, following me in all my events and to this point, so it’s cool that I’m doing well now and they’re along for the ride.”

Hackett clears a hurdle during the 2019 MHSAA Finals.The ride will begin Tuesday when Baldwin travels to Germany to train before heading to Paris.

“Everything’s starting to feel more real,” he said. “I think once I get to Germany and start to train with other people, we’ll be able to get a little competitive. I think it will be fun training in Paris.”

Facing a huge crowd in Paris should not be a problem, he said.

“The more people will only help me. I’m a big adrenalin guy. I feel like I get more nervous talking at an event like this than I do for the Olympic Games.

“Once I get out on the track, everything just feels natural to me.”

Naturally a no-brainer

Baldwin’s Finals championships for Hackett had come in high jump, long jump and both hurdles races. Tackling the grueling decathlon was a no-brainer.

“I was good at the hurdles, high jump, long jump, which are three very technical events in the decathlon, so if you’re good at those three, you usually can pick up the other ones pretty easily is what they say,” he said.

“Also, I played baseball as a pitcher, so that correlated with the javelin. A lot of college coaches recruited me off that, I think.”

Baldwin said knew 2024 was an Olympic year, “so I thought it was something I maybe could do. After last year, when I scored above 8,000 points (in the decathlon) for the first time and came in sixth at the USAs, it became a little more realistic for me.”

The personable athlete not only qualified for the Olympics at this year’s U.S. Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., but won the decathlon with a personal best 8,625 points.

He finished first in the shot put (54 feet, 2½ inches), high jump (6-11¾), 110 hurdles (13.77 seconds) and javelin throw (218-9). 

MHSAA trophies Baldwin helped win decorated the stage for his sendoff.Other decathlon events are the 100 dash, long jump, 400 run, discus, pole vault and 1,500 run.

Baldwin earned Great Lakes Region Indoor and Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year honors and was named first team Academic All-American with a 3.8 GPA.

"We were awestruck at his athletic achievements (at Hackett),” said Judge Paul Bridenstine, the “Voice of the Irish.” 

“While he continued to play football, basketball, baseball exceptionally at Hackett, his athletic life was transformed when he was introduced to (former HCP track & field coach Simon Cholometes).”

Cholometes said Baldwin’s success is something that didn’t come out of nowhere.

“Heath put the wheels in motion a long time ago and worked harder than most people can even fathom,” he said. “I can remember 5:40 in the morning, Heath running sprints up that hill over there,” he said, pointing. “A foot of snow, running sprints up that tall hill.

“In college, he’s a Big 10 champ, three-time All-American, Great Lakes Region Indoor and Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year, MSU’s Athlete of the Year twice, holds five school records plus Big 10 records in heptathlon and decathlon.”

Family won't be far

Baldwin plans to be in Paris for the opening ceremonies and will be cheered on by his mom Suzann, sister Hope and brothers Aiden and Gowan.

The Olympian also will have a remembrance of his late father with him. He has a tattoo of his dad’s signature on the inside of his upper left arm.

A hurdle that was gifted to Baldwin on Thursday.Losing his father “was a big part of my life and obviously changed my perspective in the way I train and the way I live in a way he’d be proud of,” Baldwin said.

“We set some big goals going into this year and it’s been a dream. I love representing the Kalamazoo community and Michigan, Hackett and Michigan State.

“I like to remember everybody I compete for, and I think that gives you a bigger purpose when you go out there. That’s definitely something I’ll be doing at the Olympics in Paris. I’m excited to represent there and hopefully go for a medal.”

PHOTOS (Top) Health Baldwin, seated, signs a hat during his sendoff Thursday at Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep. (2) Baldwin clears a hurdle during the 2019 MHSAA Finals. (3) A hurdle was gifted to Baldwin on Thursday. (4) MHSAA trophies Baldwin helped win decorated the stage for his sendoff. (Sendoff photo by Pam Shebest.)