Kingsford Champion Again on Home Track
By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com
June 1, 2014
KINGSFORD — The Upper Peninsula Track Finals were still being held in Marquette the last time the Kingsford boys were crowned champions.
It was 1990. Bill Clinton was president, gasoline was selling for approximately $1 a gallon and the Flivvers were U.P. Class A-B champs.
They finally got the opportunity to be crowned Division 1 champions at their own facility Saturday, scoring 127 points. Marquette squeezed past Negaunee 82-81 for the runner-up trophy.
“The kids came together as a team, and I think today showed our depth,” said Kingsford assistant coach Bryan Johnson. “Even after winning big in our (Great Northern) conference meet last week, the guys never lost focus and Doug (coach Roberts) instilled that in them.”
The Flivvers added an exclamation mark to their victory by winning the day’s final event, the 1600-meter relay in a school-record 3 minutes, 31.18 seconds.
“We all ran great,” said junior Tyler Roberts, who anchored that relay. “There was great competition here today. Everybody competed hard, and we got it done. All year we trained hard and a ton of hard practices prepared us for today.”
Roberts also won the 400-meter dash in 51.08 seconds. Senior Jonah Carlson took discus at 140 feet, 11 inches and Ryan Camp earned the title in pole vault (13-0).
The Flivvers also won the 800 relay (1:31.94) and placed second in the 3200 event.
Senior Cole Tengesdahl, who helped the 800 relay, was runner-up in the 100 (11.57) and 300 (22.9).
Senior Ed Sexton added a second in the 110 hurdles (16.81). Junior Dan Fleming was runner-up in the 300 (42.49), with sophomore Brandon Kowalkowski second in high jump (5-11).
Sault Ste. Marie sophomore Parker Scott set a U.P. record in the 1,600 (4:18.09) and won the 800 (1:58.59), retaining his title in both races. He also placed third in the 3,200 (10:26.53) and helped the Blue Devils finish fourth in the 3,200 relay.
“I tried to run an even pace for the first two laps in the 1600,” said Scott, who will be moving to Texas with his family this summer. “I eased back a little in the third lap because I wanted to save it for the finish. I really like running up here, and I wanted to end it with a bang. This is really a special meet, and it’s great to have built all the camaraderie.”
Marquette opened with a victory in the 3,200 relay, and sophomore Lance Rambo was runner-up in the 1,600 (4:34.09) and 3,200 (10:16.79). Junior Andrew Banitt, who helped the winning relay, added a second in the 800 (2:01.71).
Negaunee had double winners in senior Kevin O’Keefe and Jason Bell. O’Keefe was clocked at 11.38 and 22.6 seconds in the 100 and 200, respectively, and Bell captured the 110 hurdles (15.95) and 300s (41.72).
Houghton junior Jacob Colling, running with stress fracture in his leg, did only the 3,200 and won that race in 10:07.67.
Defending champ Gladstone dropped to sixth this time with 39 points. Senior Cody Malanowski wont shot put (49-1½) and took second in discus (137-8).
PHOTO: Kingsford's Lucas Jennings works to move up in the pack during the 1,600 at Saturday's U.P. Division 1 Final. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)
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.
The 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.
“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.”
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.”
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)