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.)

Red Devils Impress as Ironwood Honors Record-Setter with Jim LaBlonde Invitational

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

May 20, 2024

IRONWOOD — The Ironwood track & field teams provided themselves with an opportunity to do a victory lap on a very special Saturday earlier this month.

Upper PeninsulaBoth teams were crowned champions at the first Jim LaBlonde Invitational on May 11 on their 350-meter track during a sunny and mild afternoon.

The Ironwood girls scored 126 points, followed by Hurley, Wis., with 43, Ontonagon 37 and Watersmeet with 13. Ironwood’s boys collected 100 points, followed by Hurley at 84, Ontonagon 32 and Watersmeet with seven in a meet held in honor of the former Luther L. Wright High School star athlete who passed away due to an aneurysm on March 31, 2019.

LaBlonde, who was recently inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame, was an all-Upper Peninsula football player and still holds school records in the 100 and 200-meter dashes from his senior year in 1997.

“This is very special to me personally,” Ironwood coach Cecilia Aho said. “Jim was a great person and athlete. I came to Ironwood from Argentina in December 2003 and know the family very well. I had some good conversations with Jim before he passed. This is a great tribute to him. It turned out to be a beautiful day. We had perfect weather and the kids from all four schools were smiling and having fun.

“Jim was well known in the community, not only as a coach, but as a parent. He was a phenomenal runner and football player.”

LaBlonde played football for three years at Wisconsin-LaCrosse and was on the school’s track team for a year while earning his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 2003.

He was a middle school teacher and coach in the Howard-Suamico District near Green Bay, Wis., at the time of his passing.

“He always asked about what was going on in Ironwood and was a good leader,” Aho said. “He would never turn his back on you when you asked him a question. The kids loved him. I wish I would have had a chance to work with him.”

The Ironwood teams take a photo together, at top, after sweeping the meets. Below, from left, LaBlonde’s brother-in-law Dave Lundin, sister Dena Lundin and parents Marlene and Jim LaBlonde attend the meet. Senior Aubrey Smith topped a field of four Ironwood runners in the 1600-meter run in 5 minutes, 55.69 seconds, followed by freshman Iyla Lagalo (6:54.08) and sophomore Aubrey Balduc (7:21.16).

Smith also won the 300 hurdles at 52.43, more than six seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

“It was nice to have everyone here,” Smith said. “It’s nice to have a home meet, especially on a Saturday. I think it’s a fun meet. It’s nice to know everyone here. I think this gives me a little momentum going into our remaining meets.”

Sophomore Emma Wardon was also a double winner for the Red Devils, taking shot put (32-11) and discus (87-0).

Ironwood sophomore Logan Holm took the 110 hurdles (20.17) and 300s (48.05), and Hurley had a triple-winner in junior Jeremiah Wallis, who captured the 100 (12.0), 200 (24.52) and long jump (17-3).

Watersmeet junior Thomas Carson won the 400 (54.06), five days after setting the school record (52.31) while placing second in the Welker Invitational at Ashland, Wis. (52.31).

“I strained my hamstring in Ashland,” he said. “It was a little windy up by the big lake (Superior) and there were a lot of good runners up there. I’m probably about 80-90 (percent), but everything went okay. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t overdo it. This is a nice little meet, especially for a Saturday.”

Ontonagon sophomore Violet Amos took the 200 (28.26) and 400 (1:02.03) and was runner-up to Hurley senior Jaana Aukee on a lean (13.65) in the 100.

“I’ve been in the 27s in the 200, but I’m very happy with my time in the 400” Amos said. “This being a little smaller track was probably a factor because the curves are a little tighter. I prefer to run a 400-meter track, although I like the running surface and competition.

“It’s always fun to come here. Our track is getting resurfaced. I’m looking forward to running on it the next couple years.”

Ontonagon coach Brian Amos said he also enjoys going to Ironwood.

“Ironwood runs a nice meet, and we get a chance to see Hurley,” he added. “It’s always nice to run against somebody different.”

John VrancicJohn Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTOS (Top) Ribbons and medals are set out to be awarded during the first Jim LaBlonde Invitational at Ironwood. (Middle) The Ironwood teams take a photo together, at top, after sweeping the meets. Below, from left, LaBlonde’s brother-in-law Dave Lundin, sister Dena Lundin and parents Marlene and Jim LaBlonde attend the meet. (Photos provided by the Ironwood Red Devil Booster Club.)