Hackett '6' Claim 1st Title Since 1930

By Wes Morgan
Special for MHSAA.com

June 2, 2018

HUDSONVILLE – One day, when a Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep track championship team reunion is in order, it won’t require much effort rounding everyone up.

With only six young men representing the Irish on Saturday at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals at Hudsonville, head coach Simon Cholometes’ squad scored 51 points to win it all — the program’s first championship since 1930, when it was part of predecessor St. Augustine High School before boys began attending the newly-built Hackett High School in 1964.

All six Irish athletes made the all-state team, with junior Heath Baldwin leading the way with a pair of individual titles in the 110-meter hurdles (14.83 seconds) and the long jump (personal best 22 feet, 2½ inches).

After winning the hurdles, Baldwin paced around the infield with very little emotion.

“I kind of tried to come in with a cool and calm mindset,” he said. “I knew what I was capable of in the long jump and knew what I had to do for the 110s to win it. I’m just trying to stay relaxed. I know when I get too tight, good things are not going to happen.

“I came out and didn’t jump the way I wanted to. On my third jump, I really got my hips up and got the height I wanted.”

Sand Creek finished second with 36 points, and Breckenridge rounded out the top three with 33.

Hackett teammate Gus Magnell, a sophomore, was third in the 110 hurdles (15.14), and he ran a leg on the fifth-place 800 relay along with Christian Bartholomew, Eric Smith and Wade Poling. The quartet ran a time of 1:33.89. Bartholomew, Smith, Eric Wenzel and Magnell also placed fifth in the 400 (44.71).

Baldwin then nabbed a fourth-place time of 40.75 in the 300 hurdles, and Magnell secured the final all-state spot in eighth with a time of 41.20.

Magnell credited Cholometes for a drastic improvement in technique and the motivation to put in the extra work, and Baldwin for being, well, Baldwin.

“I would not be anywhere without my coach,” Magnell said. “To have a state champion you’re racing against every race, it really pushes you to keep getting better and better.”

“Those guys have a great relationship and they really feed off each other,” Cholometes added. “It’s very healthy competition with those guys, and they want to see each other do well.”

In the discus, Hackett sophomore Henry Zimmerman recorded a third-place toss of 145-10, and he made it a double all-state day with a sixth-place distance of 46-3 in the shot put.

Cholometes is in just his second year at Hackett after serving as an assistant coach at Sturgis, where he oversaw a sprint group that set several school records. 

“It has been a quick turnaround for us,” Cholometes said of the culture shift for the program. “I did think it was possible. I knew we had to go out and perform to our potential, and we did that. These guys put a lot of work in last summer and this winter leading up to the season. It was all that work coming together today.

“Heath is a pretty big-time performer, and he showed that today. Our sprint relays did well, as did Henry, scoring in both the throws. To win by [15 points] at a state meet, I was really pleased with that. Typically, it is pretty close.”

Sand Creek’s Alec Muck was the only other double winner Saturday as the junior claimed titles in the 100 (10.98) and the 200 (22.02). He ran the same time in the 100 as he did when he won in 2017. Muck also was the reigning champion in the 200 after running a 22.14 last year.

The rest of the meet offered quite a variety for fans that packed the stadium. Fulton captured a title in the 800 relay after Tristan Johnston, Jon Baker, Adam Duflo and Nate Alwood combined for a time of 1:31.15. In the 3,200 relay, Hillsdale Academy’s Nick Rush, John O’Connor, Connor Oakley and Ian Calvert clocked a winning time of 8:14.88. The 400 relay title belonged to Breckenridge’s Lukas Ebright, Caleb Hurt, Hunter Collins and Caden Foster (44.00) and the 1,600 team from Concord comprised of Zeavion Jones, T.J. Kessman, Vincent Giuliano and Bryan Smith produced a first-place time of 3:30.96.

Also topping the podium were Ubly’s Alex Grifka in the 1,600 (4:27.90), Hale’s Patrick Harris in the 400 (50.04), Derek Flory, of Marcellus, in the 300 hurdles (39.49), Deckerville’s Stephen Barker in the 800 (1:56.82) and Wyoming Potter’s House Christian’s Nathan Stout in the 3,200 (9:44.08).

In the field events, Coleman’s Cody Finney won the discus (151-1), Sand Creek’s Cole Hallett cleared a winning height of 13-6 in the pole vault, Carson City-Crystal’s Daniel Smith had the best shot put of the day with a toss of 52-9, and Hillsdale Academy’s Peter Kalthoff was first in the high jump (6-5).

Click for full results.

VIDEO: Alec Muck Runs To Double Wins – Again! 

PHOTOS: (Top) Hackett’s Heath Baldwin and Gus Magnell, second and third from left, respectively, break through for two of top three places in the 110 hurdles. (Middle) Sand Creek’s Alec Muck pushes toward the finish line for one of his sprint championships Saturday. (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.

Southwest CorridorThe 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.

Clockwise from top left: Hackett head track & field coach Charissa Dean, Liam Mann, Germinder and Gavin Sehy. “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.”

Seeing potential

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.”

The Irish celebrate last season’s Finals championship, from left: Dean, Sehy, Logan St. Martin, Alex Dumont, Mitch Eastman, Nick Doerr and Germinder. 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 ShebestPam 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 pamkzoo@aol.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.)