Machiniak Sets Pace as Berrien Springs Edges Corunna in Matchup of Recent Champs

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

June 1, 2024

HAMILTON – After a rainy afternoon Saturday, the precipitation let up long enough for Berrien Springs’ boys track & field team to put the finishing touches on another MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals championship.

After Shamrocks head coach Jon Rodriquez collected his program’s second team title in three years, rain fell again at Hamilton High School’s Hawkeye Stadium, only heavier this time.

The reign returned for Berrien Springs.

“It feels great, man. It’s hard to say what it feels like,” said Shamrocks senior standout Jake Machiniak, who sprinted to first-place finishes in the 100- and 200-meter dashes plus anchored winning 400 and 800 relays.

“This team, they worked all offseason. This is the hardest group of workers I’ve ever had. All these guys, all the guys that scored, they’ve all come year-round. The relays, we performed. I performed in the opens. It’s great. It’s a great feeling, man. Two times, man. Two times. Second time winning the state. It’s fantastic, man.”

Machiniak, a Grand Valley State University commit, repeated in the 100 with a time of 10.74 seconds. He won the 200 in 21.76 seconds in addition to running the closing leg on Berrien Springs’ first-place 400 relay (42.13) and victorious 800 relay (1:28.24).

Machiniak powered Berrien Springs to 40 points as a team, allowing the Shamrocks to edge runner-up Corunna (38 points), the 2023 champion. DeWitt was third (34) and Charlotte fourth (28), followed by Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and Parma Western tied at fifth (26).

Last year, Berrien Springs tied for seventh, which fueled the Shamrocks’ hunger all offseason.

“Jake was on that team two years ago. He ran the 4x100 for us,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve kind of had our eyes on this the last two years. Last year we fell short a little bit, and this year the kids were hungry. They worked their butts off all year long, running in the summertime, running in the hallways in the wintertime, just getting ready for this moment. It’s awesome. It’s awesome to see.”

In the 400 relay, Machiniak was joined by Zander White, Samuel Magesa, and Kameron Autry. In the 800, it was Magesa, White, and Noah Jarvis.

Notre Dame Prep senior Zachary Mylenek took first place in the 400, finishing nearly a second better than his personal-record time of 48.49 seconds, and he was runner-up in the 200 (with a personal season-record 21.92).

Bound for Purdue University, where he plans to study mechanical engineering and perhaps walk on to the Boilermakers’ track team, Mylenek also anchored Notre Dame Prep’s seventh-place 1,600 relay team.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Zachary Mylenek, left, and Corunna’s Wyatt Bower race to the finish in a 200 prelim.He adapted to his circumstances and performed at a high level.

“The rain sucked, but I’ve been fortunate enough because we’ve been running in the rain a lot this year and I ran last year in it,” he said. “I just ran my race and other guys, I was listening, they don’t like running in the rain. It’s a mindset thing, and I just dialed in.”

Grosse Ile junior Sam Vesperman repeated in pole vault with an effort of 14 feet, 7 inches.

Vesperman was not expected to win last year, and he pulled it off. Being ranked No. 1 in pole vault coming into Saturday’s meet created more pressure for him.

“It was definitely different because I was projected to win it (this season),” Vesperman said. “Last year I was the second guy, right – I wasn’t the big name. It was definitely different having everybody (saying), ‘Oh, that’s the guy to get, so … .’”

Vesperman’s official personal record in pole vault is 15-3. On Saturday, he was pushed by Whitehall senior Ca’Mar Ready, who turned in a PR effort of 14-4, but Vesperman was able to execute when needed.

“Yeah, it’s really nice to win, but we just keep chasing that next bar, that next height. That’s definitely the motivational factor,” Vesperman said.

Other event winners included: Clio’s Elliott Sirianni in the 800 (1:55.09 PR), Freeland’s T.J. Hansen in the 1,600 (4:11.31), Pinckney’s Paul Moore in the 3,200 (9:07.53), Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Mill Coleman in the 110 hurdles (14.49), Charlotte’s Cutler Brandt in the 300 hurdles (38.48), Coopersville’s Gabe VanSickle in the shot put (61 feet, 2 inches), Wayland’s Adam Huff in discus (172-0), and Stevensville Lakeshore’s Declin Doroh in high jump (6-7) and Kaden Griffiths in long jump (22-9.25).

Hamilton won the 1,600 relay (3:23.40), while Marshall took first place in the 3,200 relay (7:48.49). Chelsea senior Jacob Nelson won the 100, 200 and 400 adaptive events.

Rodriguez started coaching at Berrien Springs in 2012, and he became head coach in 2014.

He said the Shamrocks improve in practice because there’s a lot of competition. Everybody is chasing Machiniak.

“I mean, we have Jake Machiniak, one of the top sprinters in the state, in practice and the kids want to beat him. They don’t just want to just, like, run with him; they want to try and beat him, so that competition in practice has been huge,” Rodriguez said.

“I’m just very proud of them. We showed up on the days that were important. On a big meet like this, it’s about being your best today – we had our best on the best day.”

Like Vesperman, Machiniak entered the 2024 season with a lot of pressure. He noted, however, that the only way to improve is to put oneself in pressure situations.

Machiniak said this team title feels better than the one won in 2022 because he played a bigger role. There’s strength in numbers, though, and Berrien Springs has been known to possess depth, especially in the sprints.

“That’s all Coach Rodriguez. Best coach in Michigan – it’s not even close,” Machiniak said. “He has us training in the offseason. He has us training winter, summer, spring, fall – all the time, man. We have a lot of guys at the state meet that come (put in the work) in the offseason, all year round. Year-round athletes that do speed training. As far as the sprints, that’s all Jonny Rodriguez – best coach in the nation.

“This group, I’ve grown up with this group, man. I’ve known these guys for a while. I’ve grown with them, I’ve trained with them, I’ve cried with them. You know, these are the guys that I’ve grown up with.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Berrien Springs’ Jake Machiniak, second from left, crosses the finish line first in the 100 during the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals on Saturday. (Middle) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Zachary Mylenek, left, and Corunna’s Wyatt Bower race to the finish in a 200 prelim. (Click for more from Dave McCauley/

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/