Kalamazoo Central Headlines LPD1 Finals with 1st Championship since 1965

By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com

June 2, 2024

KENTWOOD – Garrett Weeden figures that condensing a four-year dream to a single, all-or-nothing throw is not the easiest way to win a state championship.

But that was the unlikely storyline for Weeden in Saturday's shot put at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals at East Kentwood. With one throw left for him in the shot put, the Zeeland East senior was staring at a runner-up finish behind Walled Lake Central leader Tyler Marrogy, whose toss of 58 feet, 2 inches had topped the field.

What's worse is that Weeden freely admits there were past moments during his throwing career when he wouldn't have exactly – well, let's say – risen to the occasion.

All that was rushing through Weeden's mind before he stepped up with a last-ditch throw of 59 feet to win the event. Weeden has been in the hunt for a Finals title in the past, with a ninth place in the shot (and a sixth in the discus) a year ago, but the main prize had always eluded him. That is, until his last throw Saturday.

"I know I needed around a 58-4 and that I had thrown a 59-1 once at an indoor meet," said Weeden, whose previous outdoor best was a 57-7.  I wasn't thinking about technique or anything, I just got into it and threw. I just put it all out there.

"I used to be the kind of guy who didn't do well in situations like that. But I've gone to a lot of big meets that have given me confidence. I just knew I needed to step up and do it."

While Weeden's clutch throw was one of the best stories from the individual portion of the meet, Kalamazoo Central narrowly won a wild three-team race for first place. The Maroon Giants finished first with 41 points, just ahead of 39 by Clinton Township Chippewa Valley and 38 by Belleville. Grand Haven was fourth with 29 points, and Ann Arbor Huron had 26.

Kalamazoo Central coach Tyler Germain, whose team won its first Finals title since 1965, said he told his athletes the victory was possible.

"I told them maybe because I knew they could compete," he said. "I told them anything can happen, We just went out and competed; we ran real well. We weren't overconfident or anything, but we have a good, competitive group that I've seen grow up."

Northville’s Brendan Herger pulls away for the win in the 800. Kalamazoo Central wound up placing in six events, with a first by junior Jeremy Dixon in the 100 (10.72).

Four-year senior Latay'vion Braxton admitted that while his teammates listened closely to their coach's prediction, there was at least a trickle of doubt in the runners' minds at the start of the season.

"I don't think I felt like it was really in the plan," he said. "I don't know that we thought it would happen. But some of us grew up together, and we thought maybe this was the time to do it."

Among the most dominating showings in the meet were a pair of firsts in the 200 (21.36) and 400 (46.76) by Chippewa Valley's Shamar Heard. The University of Tennessee-bound Heard finishes an outstanding career with three Finals titles in the 200, two in the 400 and one in the 100. He also helped the 1,600 relay to a first (3:17.51) on Saturday.

"After my breakout year as a sophomore, I knew what I could do," he said. "I quit the 100, but still won as part of a (relay) team. It's been a challenge mentally and physically, but with repetition you learn to trust the process."

Among the other victories was a first place in the pole vault (15-3) by East Kentwood sophomore Reece Emeott, the son of Falcons coach Dave Emeott. Reese said he's been dreaming of a state championship in the pole vault since attending his father's offseason pole vault camp as a middle schooler.

"That's always been the goal; I've been working toward it since I was a little kid," he said. "I was the No. 1 seed, and I've been unbeaten the last couple months so I thought I'd have a chance. I just needed to be consistent. I knew I was good enough. I just had to execute."

Grand Haven senior Seth Norder won the 1,600 (4:03.01). He was the runner-up in that event two years ago and then spent more time in the 3,200 in 2023. Seven of the eight runners in the 1,600 ran personal bests, including Norder.

"I didn't like where my speed was so I worked on it," he said. "I knew this was a good field as the guys who finished second and third will be teammates with me at Michigan State next year. I thought I ran well."

Northville senior Brendan Herger gained a huge measure of satisfaction when he won the 800 (1:50.08). He finished runner-up in the event a year ago when he lagged down the stretch. This year Herger found himself in much the same situation, but lessons learned a year ago led to different results Saturday.

"I thought I had it last year, and it was a big disappointment," said Herger, who will compete in the upcoming New Balance nationals. "But that was only fuel for the fire this year. (Finishing second) actually helped me. This year I closed faster."

Relay winners on Saturday included Holland West Ottawa in the 800 (1:25.53) and 400 (41.35) and Northville in the 3,200 (7:44.52).

Individually, Schmar Gamble of Belleville won the 110 hurdles (13.85), Leonardo Peralta-Castro of Lincoln Park the 300 hurdles (37.93), Thomas Westphal of New Baltimore Anchor Bay the 3,200 (9:07.56), Isaac Quincy of Canton the long jump (23-3¾), Brock Fergison of Sturgis the high jump (6-10) and Clinton Allen of Grosse Pointe North the discus (177-3). Anchor Bay junior Luke Bowman won the adaptive 200, 400 and shot put events, and South Lyon freshman Owen Moerdyke won the adaptive 100 race.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Kalamazoo Central celebrates its first Finals championship Saturday since 1965. (Middle) Northville’s Brendan Herger pulls away for the win in the 800. (Click for more from John Brabbs/RunMichigan.com.)

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

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

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/RunMichigan.com.)