'Mr. Clutch,' Saugatuck Make Memorable Finish

June 1, 2013

By Chip Mundy
Special to Second Half

HUDSONVILLE – On the eve of the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 track and field event at Baldwin Street Middle School in Hudsonville, Saugatuck High School senior Bobby Drew was momentarily a forgotten young man.

Drew was still in the rest room when the team bus left for dinner without him Friday night, and a coach from another team discovered Drew alone and drove him the 20-some miles to join his teammates.

A Saugatuck coach was en route back to get Drew when a call was made that Drew was headed for the restaurant.

“I still got dinner, so we were cool,” Drew said. “It evened out. I got lasagna, and it was good.”

On Saturday, Drew was good, too, as were the rest of his teammates as Saugatuck won its first MHSAA team title with 58 points to outdistance runner-up Albion by 11.

“This is so unexpected,” Saugatuck coach Rick Bauer said. “We thought we would win a cross country title before we ever won a track title.

“Honestly, we came in with high seeds in a bunch of different events, and we said if we score as high as our seeds, we’d score 50 points and have a chance to win it. We scored 58 points. We scored higher than our seeds.”

One of those who scored higher than his seed was Drew, who plans to attend Wayne State University in the fall and play football. Drew was seeded second in the shot put and won it with a toss of 52 feet, 7 ½ inches, and he took second in the discus after being seeded third.

 “I never expected to do this in track,” he said. “When I was younger, back then I was always thinking I was going to do good but not this good. It’s just amazing to me.”

Perhaps the thing that amazes people about Drew is his ability to come up with a big throw on his final toss of an event.

“He was in fourth place, and on his last throw he throws 52 feet 7 and a half inches and wins,” Bauer said. “He goes from fourth to first and wins, and that’s the beauty of this sport; the swings that can happen.”

Drew just smiled when asked about his ability to come through on his final throws.

“People call me Mr. Clutch because of how I do on my last throw,” he said. “It’s just the nerves. I get nervous and pop it out there.”

Saugatuck also got a big performance from senior Sean Kelly, who repeated as champion in the 3,200 in 9:35.99 and ran the second leg on the Indians’ winning 3,200 relay team which also included senior Zach Kerr, sophomore Joe Brown and freshman Alex Anschutz. Kelly also was runner-up in the 1,600, which left him a bit less than satisfied.

“I got second in the mile, so that’s the one area that didn’t go the way I wanted,” he said, “but we won the team, so it went as good as expected.

“It definitely was a surprise that we’re as good as we are this year. … It all came together.”

Kelly came from behind to win the grueling 3,200.

“I went out a little slower than I wanted in the first mile, but then I just pushed the second half and made sure the leader didn’t get away from me,” he said. “On the last lap, I just gave it everything I had left, and it ended up being enough.”

Saugatuck also had Kerr finish third in the 800, and he ran the anchor leg for the Indians as they took third in the 1,600 relay.

“A lot of guys put in four years of work,” Bauer said. “Zach Kerr, Sean Kelly, they have put in summer, winter, spring and fall for four years, and this is how they deserve to go out.”

It was a bittersweet day for runner-up Albion, which won the team championship last year and shared it in 2011. The high school in Albion is closing after this school year, so this was the last track meet for the program.

The school closing is the bitter, but the sweet was the two MHSAA championships won by the Wildcats. Junior Nolen Bright-Mitchell, who said he will attend Marshall High School next season, won the 200 a year after winning the 400. Bright-Mitchell won in 22.44 seconds and also ran the anchor leg for Albion on its winning 800 relay team that included junior Jamil Short, senior Terrance Byrd and senior Bryan Peoples.

The Wildcats also placed second in the 1,600 relay – the final event of the meet and the final track event for Albion until a time when the high school might reopen.

The only other double winner was senior Alexander Lodes of Climax-Scotts. Lodes repeated as champion in the 100 in 11.32 seconds as he barely edged New Lothrop junior Amari Coleman, who finished in 11.34. Lodes also ran the first leg for Climax-Scotts as it edged Bright-Mitchell and Albion in the 400 relay.

Litchfield senior Jacob Patrick repeated as champion in the discus with a toss of 187-2 – nearly 35 feet better than the effort of the runner-up Drew. Patrick holds the LP Division 4 meet record of 190-0, which he set last year.

Evart, which finished third, had a champion in junior Max Hodges, who won the 800.

Other individual champions were sophomore Dametrius Nelson of Genesee in the long jump, junior Luke Meyer of Addison in the high jump, junior Gavin Towery of Homer in the pole vault, senior Andy Hauser of Pittsford in the 110 hurdles, senior Nick Vander Kooi of Fremont Providence Christian in the 1,600, senior Zack McGowen of White Cloud in the 400 and junior Clayton Meldrum of Kalamazoo Christian in the 300 hurdles.

Meyer, the state champion in the high jump, has agreed to play basketball at Central Michigan University after he graduates from Addison.

The other relay winner was White Cloud, which won the 1,600 relay.

Click for full results. 

PHOTO: Kalamazoo Christian's Clayton Meldrum clears a hurdle Saturday; he won the 300 and finished fifth in the 110 race. (Photo by Carter Sherline. Click to see more photo coverage 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.

Southwest CorridorThe 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.

Clockwise from top left: Hackett head track & field coach Charissa Dean, Liam Mann, Germinder and Gavin Sehy. “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.”

Seeing potential

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.”

The Irish celebrate last season’s Finals championship, from left: Dean, Sehy, Logan St. Martin, Alex Dumont, Mitch Eastman, Nick Doerr and Germinder. 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 ShebestPam 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 pamkzoo@aol.com 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.)