Jones Era Ends with 3 More Race Wins - But Better Yet, Benzie's 1st Team Title

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

June 4, 2023

KENT CITY – For four years of MHSAA cross country and track, Benzie Central’s boys runners and competitors alike have been trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Specifically, Benzie Central senior All-American Hunter Jones.

Well, Pol Molins lives with the Joneses (Hunter’s family) as a foreign-exchange student from Spain. Over the last few months, Molins has done a better job keeping up with Hunter Jones.

Now Jones, Molins and their Benzie Central teammates are all on the same level – as MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 champions. The Huskies captured their first MHSAA Boys Track & Field Finals title, powered by Jones’ three individual championships along with strong efforts by Molins & Co. at Kent City High School.

Benzie Central totaled 51 points to hold off runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia, which tallied 44 points. Hart finished third (38), Sanford Meridian fourth (36) and Ottawa Lake Whiteford fifth (28).

“I’m very proud of myself, but ultimately my biggest goal today was to win a team state championship. We came out here, that’s what we did,” said Jones, a 6-foot, 160-pound Wake Forest signee, who cruised to victories Saturday in the 800-meter run (1:57.60), 1,600 run (4:17.48) and 3,200 (9:10.19). 

Jones expressed much gratitude for not only Molins – who earned valuable points by taking second in the 1,600, fifth in the 3,200 and seventh in the 800 -- but for the other two runners on Benzie Central’s runner-up 3,200 relay team: Lucan Louwsma and Dorian Olson.

Benzie Central veteran coach Asa Kelly said Olson had never competed at Finals track meet before, and that this was the first time this foursome had run the 3,200.

“I really praise the 4x8 – those other two guys, they put us in the race and we got those eight points we needed,” Jones said. “If we didn’t run the 4x8, we would have lost. I thank those guys and I feel very blessed to finally get a team state championship. That’s been my biggest goal since I’ve gotten to Benzie.”

Teammate Pol Molins, second from right and leading the rest of the field, follow Jones.That’s a big statement coming from a generational runner who closes his MHSAA career with 10 individual Finals championships: four in Division 3 cross country and six in track & field.

Jones is a multiple-time national champion in various events as well as an indoor state champ numerous times. He holds MHSAA LP Division 3 Finals records in the 800 and 1,600, and he missed the Finals record in the 3,200 on Saturday by 1½ seconds.

After he learned Benzie Central had wrapped up the team title, he said he didn’t even care if he had won any events Saturday.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling, you know,” Jones said. “A couple of minutes ago, I was getting tears in my eyes and I was like, ‘It’s all over now.’ But I’m really happy that it ended with this and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I’m very, very happy.”

There was plenty of joy to go around Saturday. North Muskegon junior Jerry Wiegers, who was making his Finals debut, raced to victories in the 200 and 400 with personal-record times in both. In the 200, he won with a time of 22.11 seconds. In the 400, he finished first with a time of 49.49. 

Wiegers also anchored North Muskegon’s 800 relay team that placed seventh (1:32.44) for all-state honors.

“Yeah, I’m still processing it,” Wiegers said. “It’s just, like, a good feeling to have when all the work you put in through the whole year finally comes to a close out of everyone. I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time.”

It was a bit of a “bittersweet” day for Hart senior standout thrower Kellen Kimes. The Liberty University signee defended his Division 3 title in discus with a toss of 174 feet, 3 inches, but he came up just short in winning the shot put with a second-place toss of 57-¼.

It was the second-straight year Kimes finished runner-up in shot put, but the New Balance Indoor national champion in the weight throw was trying to keep proper perspective.

“I’m pretty sad that it’s over. I’ve got two more meets this year with the high school events, but from then on I’m going to be moving to college (competition),” Kimes said. “It’s easy to be, like, ‘OK, next chapter in my life,’ but I do need to spend some time reflecting on it and just realizing just how blessed I am with all the people that God’s put in my life.”

Kimes is a fierce competitor, but he’s always willing to help others, including his direct competition.

That was the case with Pewamo-Westphalia junior Gavin Nurenberg, who launched a personal record in shot put by two feet with an effort of 57-¼ that edged Kimes. 

“I mean, it means a lot. It’s just, we were competitors – honestly, he taught me the most out of anybody in shot put,” Nurenberg said. “Like, this guy is telling me, get like certain cues and stuff and I do credit him for some of that for sure.”

Other champions Saturday included: Warren Michigan Collegiate’s Jailin Spikes in the 100 (10.71 PR), Napoleon’s Holden Van Poppel in the 110 hurdles (14.48 PR), Delton Kellogg’s Torren Mapes in the 300 hurdles (40.01 PR), Meridian’s Sawyer Moloy in high jump (6-4), Ovid-Elsie’s Tryce Tokar in pole vault (15-0), Grayling’s Mitchel Harrington in long jump (22-1.75), Meridian’s 400 relay (Kenneth Emmerson, Madix Saunders, Nickolas Metzer and Brayden Riley; 43.47), Burton Atherton’s 800 relay (Romiel Clausell, Joseph Embury, Jaymes Vines, Patrick Rice; 1:30.51), Whiteford’s 1,600 relay (Shea Ruddy, Ryin Ruddy, Dylan Anderson, Jacob Iott; 3:27.28), and Hart’s 3,200 relay (Clayton Ackley, Seth Ackley, Guillermo Ortega, Wyatt Dean; 8:04.54). Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett junior Jake Juip won the adaptive 100 race (1:04.21), and Perry junior Alec Chapman competed in the adaptive shot put (3-8¼).

Benzie Central was the Division 3 runner-up in 2021 and 2001. This time, the Huskies got over the hump.

Dominant as Jones was, Molins provided quite the boost in the way of quality depth.

“It’s crazy with Pol (when he applied to be an exchange student) – they said he liked to run and he checked off track & field as an interest, but can’t find anything else about the kid,” Kelly said with a smile. “… In cross, he was maybe like 23rd (in the state) or something like that, but then over the course of the winter running every day with Hunter, he just exploded.”

Kelly said that Molins will head back to Spain in a few weeks and he’ll race in the Spanish U18 Nationals. Kelly noted that after this season with Benzie Central, Molins is ranked second in Spain for his division in the 1,500 and 800.

Molins, a sophomore who recently turned 16 years old, said he could not have asked for a better experience or better host family than the Joneses.

“They’ve pushed me in every way,” he said. “I’ve learned lots of stuff, a lot of discipline. I’ve worked a lot, put in a lot of miles. All of this, I’m going to take it to Spain. I’m going to get better and if I can, I’m going to come back in a couple of years for college. It would be great.

“I’m really grateful,” added the lanky, 6-foot-3 Molins. “l couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I’m looking forward to coming back one day and checking on everyone, how they are doing.”

Click for full results.

(PHOTOS) Benzie Central’s Hunter Jones, far right, leads one of his races by a significant margin Saturday at Kent City. (Middle) Teammate Pol Molins, second from right and leading the rest of the field, follow Jones. (Photos by Carter Sherline/

With 2nd Place in Final Race, Newberry Clinches 1st in Final Team Standings

By John Vrancic
Special for

June 2, 2024

KINGSFORD — The race for the Upper Peninsula Division 3 boys track & field championship came right down to the wire Saturday as Newberry edged St. Ignace 96-92 for top honors.

Third-place team finisher Lake Linden-Hubbell won the day’s final race, the 1,600-meter relay, in 3 minutes, 41.94 seconds, and Newberry hung on to edge St. Ignace by two steps for second place and its first title in eight years.

Newberry, which was runner-up to Munising last year, was clocked at 3:43.07 in the 1,600 relay on this sunny and mild late afternoon. The Saints finished nine hundredths of a second later.

“We knew we had to beat St. Ignace to win,” Newberry senior Kennedy Depew said after finishing the anchor leg. “This was my last race ever. I knew I had to give it my all. That’s also why I knew I had to scratch from the open 400. I would have been in four events. I think scratching from the 400 helped me save some energy. We weren’t satisfied with runner-up last year, which makes this year’s championship all the more satisfying.”

Classmate Gabe Luck provided Newberry with its lone individual first with a heave of 44 feet, 1¾ inches in shot put.

“We had a lot of injuries this year,” Newberry coach Drew Schultz said. “For all the obstacles we had, we wouldn’t have it any other way, having two of the best athletes decide it in the last race. I’m extremely proud of our guys. To win it that way is just insane. I’m proud of all our eastern-end kids.”

Chassell's Kalvin Kytta and Cedarville/DeTour's Ethan Snyder lead the pack of 1,600 runners. Depew also was runner-up in the 100-meter dash in 11.63 seconds.

Senior Jon Ingalls, who ran the last leg for the Saints, won the 110 hurdles (16.39) and 300s (42.89) and helped them place second in the 400 relay (45.94).

“Both hurdles were decent,” Ingalls said. “Those weren’t my best times, but it feels good to grind out a few more wins.”

Senior Owen Lester also provided the Saints with a victory in pole vault (12-6).

LL-H got firsts from senior Gabe Popko in discus at 153 feet, 4¼ inches, and classmate Matt Jokela in the 400 (51.09). Jokela also took third in the 100 (11.65).

“Real good hydration and confidence are keys,” Jokela said. “I think having confidence helps a little. I usually don’t go too hard out of the blocks. Then, I usually try to go as hard as I can in the last 200.”

Chassell junior Kalvin Kytta claimed three firsts, taking the 800 in a personal-best 2:03.62, 1,600 (4:39.58) and 3,200 (10:27.32).

“Three wins, I’m pretty happy with that,” he said. “The 800 went real well. Overall, I’m very happy with my performance today.”

Fourth-place Bessemer set UPD3 Finals records in the 400 relay (45.3) and 800 (1:34.64). Powers North Central previously set the record in the 400 (45.34) two years ago and Rock Mid Peninsula had held the 800 record since 2001 when it ran a 1:35.1.

“We shaved two seconds off in the 800 relay which feels good, and our handoffs in the 400 were good all year,” Bessemer senior Landon Peterson said. “Our school record in the 400 is 44.98, which is something we’ve done three times this year. Running on a rubber track gives you a much better grip, which helped us a lot today.”

Bessemer senior Tom Trudgeon became a four-event winner, also taking the 100 (11.46) and 200 (23.85).

Crystal Falls Forest Park freshman Vic Guiliani won high jump (6-0), and sophomore Michael Rexford went 19-9 in long jump, providing Escanaba Holy Name with its first U.P. Finals title since the school reopened in 2021.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Newberry runners celebrate taking second place in the 1,600 relay, allowing them to finish ahead of St. Ignace for the team title in Upper Peninsula Division 3. (Middle) Chassell's Kalvin Kytta and Cedarville/DeTour's Ethan Snyder lead the pack of 1,600 runners. (Click for more from Cara Kamps/