High 5s: 5/29/12

May 31, 2012

Each week, Second Half gives "High 5s" to athletes and a team based on their accomplishments the previous week or throughout the season. 

This week's individual recipients will finish their MHSAA careers Saturday hoping to add to championship resumes -- while our team honoree is hoping to take the first step this weekend toward a first Finals title in program history.

Latipha Cross
Southfield senior
Track and Field

Cross won both the 200 (25.56) and 400 meters (55.98) at the Oakland County Invitational, setting a meet record in the latter. Her 400 win avenged a Regional loss to Birmingham Seaholm's Aubrey Wilberding the week before. Cross also finished second in the 200 at the Regional and is qualified to run both at Saturday's MHSAA Division 1 Final at East Kentwood. She's hoping to improve on the all-Finals record she set last season in the 400 of 54.29 seconds -- and believes she can break 54 this weekend. She's signed to run next season at Eastern Michigan University -- and has beaten two forms of cancer the last two years, plus spent a short time homeless.

My favorite runner: "All-time, it's Sanya Richards (Olympic medalist and World Champion sprinter). I just love how she runs, the fact that she's always looking forward to getting better. She'll run a 50 that day (in the 400), and say 'I can do better than that.' I love that about her. She's never satisfied."

Hoop dreams: "Basketball was my first love, but track is the sport that gets me my money," Cross said with a laugh. "I love track with a passion though. When I'm on the track, nobody can hurt me -- they can't catch me. ... My favorite basketball player right now is Swin Cash. I love her. I like her tenacity. She always went out there and gave 110 percent."

I learned the most about running from: "My former coach Calvin Johnson (now at Southfield Lathrup). He's been there for me. ... Because of him, I fell back into track, got that same passion (as for hoops)."

Up next: Cross will major in social work and hopes to someday work with children. "It's important to me because I know how it is to not have anybody to fight for you. I know what feels like for kids to need somebody. I want to be an advocate for them."

(Click to read more.)

Zack Zingsheim
Lansing Catholic senior
Track and Field

Zingsheim will attempt to finish his record-setting career with a few more MHSAA championships at Saturday's Division 3 Final after winning the MHSAA Division 3 cross country title in the fall. He also earned an MHSAA track championship as part of the Cougars' 800-meter relay in 2011, and will run that relay, plus the 1,600 and 3,200 relays and the open 800 at Comstock. He won the 800 at his Regional by nearly five seconds with a time of 1:55.63. Zingsheim will continue to run this fall at Georgetown University.

Track man, track fan: "There's a certain thing about running. You've gotta love it. We're all Flotrack junkies. I was watching the Illinois state meet yesterday, the Texas state meet last week."

I learned the most about running from: "Probably my brother (Brandon, a 2001 Lansing Catholic grad). That's how I was introduced to the sport. He'd say, 'Zack, I'm going to run,' and it seemed like he was gone for two hours. I was just astounded, so shocked. He'd race me in sprints. I was pretty quick, and he was more of a distance guy. I never beat him, but he knew I loved the challenge. I've also been blessed with great coaches like Tim (Simpson, Lansing Catholic's head coach), our assistant coach Tim O'Hara, and guys like (teammates) Jimmy (Hicks) and Austin (Winter). The passion they have for the sport, they inspire you to want to be good."

I run like: "I can relate distance-wise to Robby Andrews. He ran for the University of Virginia. ... He's a late-kick guy. I used to be, but not as much this year. But growing up, as a runner, I knew I had foot speed waiting. I'd just wait and see what happened."

Up next: Zingsheim will run both cross country and track at Georgetown, and will major in accounting or finance. "I took an 'Intro to Business' class at LCC, and I really enjoyed it. I love the math side of business."

(Click to read more.)

Richland Gull Lake baseball

The Blue Devils are 34-2 and won the Greater Kalamazoo Tournament on Saturday with a 9-7 victory over Portage Central, formerly ranked in Division 1. Gull Lake is No. 1 in Division 2, and the Greater Kalamazoo title was its first since 2005. The Blue Devils are 72-4 over the last two seasons, which last spring included a run to the MHSAA Semifinals. They've continued to surge the last three weeks despite the loss of senior pitcher Nate Stegman -- and all-state selection in 2011 -- to an injury. (Click to read more.)

This spring's previous honorees

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.)