Memorable Wins and Multi-Champs Highlight LPD1 Track's Return

By Steve Vedder
Special for

June 5, 2021

KENTWOOD – The particulars didn't necessarily matter to Rockford coach Andrew Martin. The only thing which truly mattered was the stunning finish to Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 1 boys track & field championships at East Kentwood.

Seemingly out of the running for the team title, the Rams' 1,600 relay – a foursome not even running in the event's fast heat – managed a third place in the final event to earn Rockford a tie with Fenton for first place in a wild meet.

Both teams finished with 34 points. Instead of finishing as low as third place in a meet where the top eight were separated by just 12 points, Rockford earned its first Finals crown in 12 years under Martin.

"It doesn't matter how we got there," Martin said of tying for the title. "We were seeded 10th, but these kids are all about doing your own thing."

The Rams relay was comprised of three seniors in Daniel Leja, Gage Martin and Jacob Peck and junior Jacob Bissell. While they finished with a time of 3:23.84, Fenton was slowed by not having a team qualify for the final relay. It was a turn of events which left Fenton coach Anthony McMillan pacing nervously as the final race played out.

"To still do what we did was great," he said. "These kids left a legacy, a path. To bring a state title home is a very special moment. To be one of the (two) teams means a lot to us."

Detroit Cass Tech trackRockford and Fenton were far from the only teams with a breath of life until the final event. Zeeland West finished third with 30 points, Ann Arbor Skyline had 28, Pinckney and Novi 25 and Dexter and Macomb Dakota 24.

While the team title was captivating to the very end, Skyline's Hobbs Kessler virtually stole the individual part of the Finals. Kessler, who became the first Michigan high schooler to qualify for the Olympic trials in 80 years, won the 1,600 (4:16.68) and the 800 (1:54.13). While those finishes weren't necessarily surprises, Kessler's ability to live up to high expectations – including amazing kicks in both events – was even more impressive.

"It's the way I like to win," he said of running his last lap of the 1,600 in 55.1 seconds while also coming from behind to win the 800. "I want to give myself the best shot to win. The wind hit, and I snuck in.

"I know if I work out well and run my best, good things will happen. I know who I have to listen to, and the others aren't as important.  I have a good support system, so I can just go out and win."

Kessler qualified for the Olympic trials last Saturday. He said he'll think more about the future now that the high school season is completed. But he wouldn't rule out competing in this summer's Japan Olympics.

"There's no reason to think I can't," he said.

Among the other double winners at East Kentwood were Tamaal Myers II of Detroit Cass Tech, who claimed the 110 hurdles (14.26) and 300 hurdles (37.87), and Udodi Onwuzurike of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, who won the 100 (10.55) and 200 (21.23).

Myers said an extremely strong headwind didn't do runners any favors. But he was able to overcome the obstacle because of physical toughness, he said.

"It was a strong wind, but I just pushed through it to finish where I did," he said. "Mentally, you just keep going forward. It's all about technique; it's the arms, legs, everything."

Among other runners winning events were Terrence Muex of Flint Carman-Ainsworth in the 400 (46.52) and Hartland's Riley Hough, who won the 3,200 (9:07.91).

Zeeland West won the 800 (1:28.12) and the 1,600 (3:21.82) relays.  St. Joseph won the 400 (42.65) and Novi the 3,200 (7:48.53).

Fenton/Rockford trackDexter's Cole Sheldon won the pole vault (15-3) to complete an inspiring climb that included failing to qualify as a freshmen, to finishing 26th in 2019 to winning Saturday.

"It was just hard work," said Sheldon, who was seeded fourth. "It's nice being the underdog. I didn't have that great of a Regional, and I told my coach I was saving it for the Finals."

Sheldon also credited teammate Noah Schultz, who finished second with a vault of 14-9.

"That was probably the best thing that could have happened to me," Sheldon said. "He's the reason I did so well. If he goes high, I want to go higher."

Among other field event winners was Zachary Webb of Macomb Dakota, who won the high jump in 6-6. While some competitors are actually surprised by winning a state title, Webb doesn't count himself among them.

"I knew when I came in here I couldn't miss," he said. "I wanted to put the pressure on others, and I think I did that. I practice so much, I knew I could do this. I break down a lot of video. If I'm going bad, I look at the video and fix what I need to fix."

The other field event winners were Drake Willenborg of South Lyon in the discus (183-3), Levi Honderd of Holland in the long jump (22-6) and Ben Haas of Clarkston in the shot put (57-8).

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Ann Arbor Skyline’s Hobbs Kessler celebrates his victory in the 800 on Saturday. (Middle) Detroit Cass Tech’s Tamaal Myers II sets the pace during his hurdles sweep. (Below) Fenton, top, and Rockford celebrate their team championships.(Action photos by Ike Lea; team photos by John Brabbs/   

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/