Heritage Sprinter Off to Stunning Start

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

May 2, 2018

When Marcus Montgomery took the advice of his good friend Juwan Roberts and joined the Saginaw Heritage track team prior to the 2017 season, he did it with the simple expectation of having fun.

He never imagined where he would be a year later – among the top 400-meter runners in the state and starting to see interest from Division I colleges. Montgomery’s personal best 400 time of 48.81 seconds, in a race he didn’t run competitively until this past winter, ranks third in the state this season in all divisions.

It’s an emergence longtime Heritage boys track coach Gary Loubert called “nothing short of stunning.”

“I wouldn’t have believed (this was possible),” the Heritage senior said. “Last year, at the beginning of the season, (Heritage girls track coach Ricky Flowers) did say that he was going to get me to states, but that was for the 100. But now, he’s got me somewhere I never thought I would be in a whole different event.”

As a junior, Montgomery started as a jumper, and eventually moved to sprints, where he was solid in the 100 and 200. While his times didn’t scream championship runner, the raw ability he showed while running at least gave a hint it could be pulled out of him. At 6-foot-4, Montgomery had the stride length – he just needed to learn how to use it.

Enter Flowers, a former World Class sprinter who ran at Michigan State University. Flowers, who coaches sprinters for both Heritage teams, took Montgomery under his wing, and even through the disappointment of him being academically ineligible to run in the 2017 Regional meet, he stuck with the talented youngster, encouraging him to work on the sport in the offseason.

“I just saw the length that he had and how he ran, and I said, ‘This kid probably could do something with some teaching,’” Flowers said. “I started giving him workouts and teaching him just how to run. This fall, I put it out to some of the kids to join my track club … long story short, Marcus ran indoors, he ran a 48. He came to all my practices, he got a taste of winning and learning how to run and finish races. Now we can’t keep him off the track. The best is yet to come.”

Montgomery’s first 400-meter run was more of a learning experience than a triumph. He finished it in about 54 seconds after running with no plan in place.

“For my first time, I did not have a strategy at all,” he said. “I full-on sprinted. I’m not going to lie, I was winded halfway through it. I honestly didn’t think (it would be my race) because of how winded I was, but just kept working at it.”

He ran at the Michigan Indoor Track Series meet in Saginaw and placed fourth with a time of 49.39 seconds, and won the Saginaw Valley State University Division 1 Indoor Invitational with a time of 49.2. He also qualified for the national competition in New York, but did not make the trip.

Now, even though the weather has been less than ideal for displays of speed, he’s carried that momentum over into his outdoor season, where he’s yet to be defeated in the 400. His success on the track has led to more focus off it, as Montgomery has put more focus on his school work.

“The success Marcus has been enjoying is transformative on so many other levels,” Loubert said. “He has grown in wonderful ways with a confident, but courteous attitude. He is extremely outgoing and a pure joy to coach. His teammates have really enjoyed watching the growth, too. He has definitely become a lead-by-example athlete. They are inspired by his progress and admire how smooth he runs. A little hard work and a growing positive attitude have been a catalyst for not only Marcus, but others are noticing and buying in. He is writing a story that will help strengthen our culture as a program.”

The prospect of running collegiately is a major motivator for Montgomery, who realizes that listening to his friend and coming out for track a year ago could very well have changed his life. He said the possibility has made him want to become a better student, as well as a better athlete.

But on the track, the future isn’t his concern.

“Coach has talked to me about that, about the things I can do and the things I have possibly in the future,” Montgomery said. “Myself, I’m more concentrated on right now. I’m sure when that time comes, it will hit me and my mind will be blown.”

Montgomery is worrying about being the best 400-meter runner he can be. Being the best 400-meter runner in Heritage history (the school record is within sight at 48.1), and the best 400-meter runner in the state.

“I want to be one of those guys that brings back a state championship for Heritage,” he said. “Most of this I’m doing not only for myself, but for my family and my school in general. I want to make everyone proud.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Marcus Montgomery (196) charges through a turn during the 400 at the MITS state meet in February at Saginaw Valley State University. (Middle) Montgomery sprints the final stretch during a race this spring. (Top photo by RunMichigan.com; bottom photo courtesy of Marcus Montgomery.)

Ruddy Brothers Return to Track, Help Lift Whiteford to Regional Title

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

May 23, 2023

OTTAWA LAKE – Shea and Ryin Ruddy are the answer to everyone who ever wondered if being fast in one or two other sports translates to being fast on the track.

Southeast & BorderIt does, and what they've accomplished this spring is more than enough proof.

In March, the Ruddy brothers came out for track for the first time since middle school for Ottawa Lake Whiteford after the district loosened the rules on athletes wanting to participate in multiple sports during the same season. About seven weeks later, the duo has qualified for the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals in four events each and will lead a contingent of 10 Bobcats to Kent City next week.

“What they are doing on the track is amazing,” said Whiteford track & field coach Jay Yockey. “Really, when you look at it, they’ve only lost a couple of races here and there. They aren’t finishing second. They are going out and winning races, winning meets. It is not a small feat at all.”

Shea, a senior, was a four-year starting quarterback for Whiteford who led the Bobcats to the Division 8 championship last fall, scoring the game-winning touchdown on an unforgettable, 17-play fourth-quarter drive. Since his freshman season, he’s also played basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.

Ryin, a junior, was also a starter on the Bobcats football team and followed in his older brother’s footsteps with basketball and baseball. 

This year, however, they went to Whiteford athletic director Jeremy Simmons to inquire about also running track. 

“I had each athlete attend a meeting with both coaches and their parents where we went over the rules,” Simmons said. “We made sure everyone was on the same page and answered questions that they had. Everything is outlined.”

Yockey found out early on what kind of athletes both were. 

“They are confident in their abilities but aren’t arrogant and boastful,” Yockey said. “For what they have accomplished this year is truly outstanding – and I understand they are doing pretty well in baseball, too.”

Saturday’s Division 3 Regional at Adrian Madison was a milestone day for both. 

Shea won the 400 and was on the 1,600 relay unit that finished first. He also was second in the 100 and part of the 400 relay that came in second.

Ryin was part of both of those relays, plus the 800 relay that placed second – and was Regional champion in the 300 hurdles.

Together, they helped the Bobcats to the team title.

“Ryin’s 300 race really sticks out to me as he is such a competitor and driven to win,” Yockey said.

 The 1,600 relay of Shea Ruddy, Dylan Anderson, Ryin Ruddy and Jake Iott show off their latest trophy with Whiteford coach Jay Yockey after the Bobcats claimed their first Regional track & field team title since 2007. (Ryin took to the hurdles quickly.

“He’s really done quite well with working his hurdle form, attacking each race and winning,” Yockey said. “He currently is seeded seventh in the state in an event that usually takes a season or two to perfect.”

Ryin last ran track in the seventh grade. Shea ran that season as well, which was his eighth-grade year.

“We had high expectations, but I think we exceeded what we thought we would do,” Shea said of this spring. “It was really tough to start, but it’s gotten a lot easier as I’ve gotten into the routine. I think it’s benefited me for both sports.” 

Shea started out the season competing in the high jump. About two weeks ago he gave the 400 a shot. He ended up winning the Regional in the event and is seeded second going into the Finals. 

The Hillsdale College football signee credits Coach Yockey with helping him get up to speed on what to do and not do on the track. 

“Coach Yockey helped me a lot. He got me into shape and told me where I needed to be with my times,” Ruddy said. “I kind of wish I would have done it in the past, but it’s all right. I think the years of experience would have paid off.”

Shea is the anchor on the 400 relay and leads off the 1,600 relay. The 1,600 unit holds the school record and had the fastest time of any 1,600 relay in Division 3 earlier this season.

“I knew adding Shea and Ryin would be a benefit for us,” said Yockey. “But, to go in and win a Regional title … that’s always the dream. The fact that we won a Regional title and will go to states with 12 scoring opportunities is definitely exciting. It exceeds my expectations from the start of the season.”

Whiteford had two other Regional champions Saturday – Keegan Masters won both the 1,600 and 3,200 and Stepan Masserant won the Pole Vault. The Regional title was Whiteford’s first since 2007, the same year the Bobcats won the school’s only track & field state championship.

It also comes just a year after Whiteford christened its new track and hosted its first home meet in more than a decade. Yockey said the new track helped ignite interest in the sport.

“Having a new track is huge,” he said. “Kids want to be a part of something they can be proud of, and kids weren’t proud of our track facility. I still hear upperclassmen joke about the gravel lane they had before I got here. 

“I think being able to host home meets, and a beautiful facility definitely helps in having kids come out and participate in track & field.”

Shea said he’s not surprised about the rapid rise of the Whiteford boys track & field team this season.

“I’m not shocked,” he said. “I knew we had the talent. We had to put it together, of course, and we’ve done that. I’m satisfied. I’m going to the states in four events. I can’t be disappointed with that.”

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Shea Ruddy (far left) takes the baton from brother Ryin during a relay this season. (Middle) The 1,600 relay of Shea Ruddy, Dylan Anderson, Ryin Ruddy and Jake Iott show off their latest trophy with Whiteford coach Jay Yockey after the Bobcats claimed their first Regional track & field team title since 2007. (Top photo by Deloris Clark-Osborne; middle photo courtesy of the Whiteford boys track & field program.)