Matelski Makes Own Path to Become Gaylord St. Mary's Long Jump Record Setter

By Tom Spencer
Special for

May 31, 2024

It wasn’t much of a long shot Rylan Matelski would become a school record holder this spring, according to Gaylord St. Mary track & field coaches. 

Northern Lower PeninsulaHowever, it came in the long jump — with a 21-foot, 8-inch leap at the Snowbirds’ first meet of the season at Indian River.

Despite the fact Matelski rarely had a true long jump runway to practice on, his coaches knew he was going to become a record holder. It might have something to do with a 21-foot leap he made as a junior, his first-ever experience with the sport of track. And to top it off, his record-setting performance this spring followed an offseason during which he experienced two seizures before the start of basketball this winter.

The Snowbirds’ previous school record was 21-3. Matelski will have another chance to break his own Saturday when he competes at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals at Hudsonville Baldwin Middle School.

“I already had it in my head that we were going to have a record holder at some time during the course of the season,” said Brian Oliver, the St. Mary head track coach. “That early in the season was pretty impressive, particularly up here where we have limited time to practice with the weather and such.”

Matelski admitted he was a little surprised.

“I was just feeling myself that day,” the senior three-sport star said. “When they said ‘21-8’ I was just stunned — I didn’t really know what to say.”

Gaylord St. Mary does not have a long jump area that allows for Matelski to properly train for his approach, takeoff and landing. He practiced mostly on grass and during warm-ups at competitors’ venues. Occasionally he picked up some practice time at neighboring Gaylord High School when the Blue Devils were not using their facility.

But you will never hear Matelski – nor his coaches – complain.

Matelski and father Gary Matelski confer in the long jump area. Another surprising factor in Matelski’s record-setting leap was that he was recovering from a hamstring injury at the time.

“It is because of his physicality and his work ethic and what he puts into what he does,” said Oliver. “You make what you do have available work, and not so much focus on not having the opportunities other kids do have on a day-in and day-out basis.”  

Matelski qualified for the Finals with a 20-2½ leap and third-place finish at his Regional. He nearly qualified in the 200 meters as well.

Unfortunately, Matelski aggravated his hamstring this week at the Gaylord Meet of Champions. It is unknown how that will impact his Finals performance. Unofficially at the Champions meet he went over 21 feet on all three jumps, but officially he was a scratch on all three. The longest scratched jump this week was 21-10. Matelski had come within three inches of the school record at last year’s Meet of Champions.

Matelski, whose favorite sport is basketball, is focused on having fun on the track. Whatever happens at the Finals is just fine with the graduating senior, who also played football and basketball for St. Mary.

“I would love to get 22 feet, but if I don’t it’s okay because I just want to have fun,” said Matelski, who will head to North Central Michigan College this fall to play basketball. “Track is for fun, mainly.”

Oliver, now in his eighth year as the Snowbirds’ coach, has been amazed by Matelski’s senior year.

“These kids go from sport to sport with no break,” said Oliver, who is a chiropractor in Gaylord away from track. “Although multi-sport athletes are better athletes, they are more prone to injury. For him to make it through that and still have the fortitude to be where he is at, I think, is pretty cool.”

Matelski is the oldest of three children adopted by Gary and Alison Matelski. Gary serves as the long jump coach for the Snowbirds and as the assistant NCMC basketball coach. He was raking the pits on opening day, as he usually did, and was the first to congratulate the new record holder.

Coach and father Matelski is amazed too at what has occurred this spring.

“We don’t have a long jump pit to practice on,” Gary Matelski said. “When he’s doing all this stuff he’s basically doing it in a field — we don’t get to work on the approach much.

“Rylan is a good indicator of not dwelling on the things you don’t have but really looking at the things you do have,” Matelski continued. “He concentrated on what he does have and making the best out of that instead of worrying about what he didn’t have.”

Rylan Matelski rolls along with the obstacles for the most part. He’s determined to put his challenges behind him to compete Saturday.

“It makes me a little bit inconsistent compared to the other kids who are jumping farther than me,” he’s acknowledged. “I need to keep pushing through everything no matter what.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Gaylord St. Mary’s Rylan Matelski long jumps and runs a relay. (Middle) Matelski and father Gary Matelski confer in the long jump area. (Photos courtesy of the Matelski family.)

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/