'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.)  

Not Even Sky Seems Limit as Richards Keeps Calvary Sports Soaring

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

January 4, 2024

Bradley Richards believes that life is all about trying new things, setting bigger goals and pushing yourself to new heights – in his case, literally.

West MichiganRichards, now a 6-foot-5, 190-pound junior basketball standout at tiny Fruitport Calvary Christian, played on the school’s fifth-grade team when he was in second grade.

He remembers staring longingly at the rim in those days and dreaming about dunking, before making that dream a reality by throwing one down in February of his seventh-grade year.

While his three older sisters - Taylor, Allyson and Kelsey - were leading the Calvary girls basketball program to new heights, he vowed he would do the same with the boys program someday.

Bradley and his teammates accomplished that goal last spring, winning the school’s first boys District basketball title despite a roster with no seniors.

This season, Calvary came flying out of the gate with a 5-0 start and is now 5-2 heading into Friday’s home game against Saugatuck.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Bradley, who averages 29 points and 14 rebounds per game. “Our school is so small that we’re more like a family. It’s not about me. I’m just so happy for our school and all of the guys on the team.”

The next goal is to repeat as District champions and try to win a Regional title, before setting his sights at clearing 7 feet in the high jump this spring.

“I’m going to try to get past that this year,” said Bradley in his typical humble, matter-of-fact fashion.

One thing his father and fourth-year Fruitport Calvary Christian boys basketball coach Brad Richards has learned is to not put anything past his only son, the youngest of his four children.

Bradley displayed an interest in music as a young boy and now sings in the school’s worship group and plays the saxophone, piano and guitar. Last fall, he played high school football for the first time as part of a cooperative agreement with Muskegon Catholic Central and wound up starting at wide receiver and defensive back for the state powerhouse program.

“He’s blessed and he’s gifted – yes,” said his father, who also coached all three of his girls during their Calvary Christian basketball careers. “But he works so hard.

“Bradley sets goals and works toward them. He’s always looking for the next thing to do.”

True to his school

One thing he doesn’t like to do is media interviews. Specifically, he doesn’t like calling attention to himself.

“He is pretty quiet and would rather have his teammates get the attention,” said his mother, Joy.

Fruitport Calvary Christian is one of the smallest schools on the entire Lakeshore with 51 students in grades 9-12, and just 17 boys in the high school.

Richards lines up to shoot a free throw. The Eagles take great pride in their ability to compete against much larger schools. They made a huge statement during the first full week of December with three convincing victories over bigger schools.

That week started on Tuesday, Dec. 5, with Calvary’s first-ever boys basketball win over neighbor Fruitport, a Division 2 school that competes in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue. Bradley scored 35 points with 14 rebounds in that game, with clutch free throws by role player Eric Dubois Quayle sealing the win.

Two days later, Richards scored 36 points with 17 rebounds in a win over Grand Rapids Sacred Heart.

Calvary then capped the 3-0 week Friday with a victory over Kent City, another Division 2 school, as Bradley scored 36 points with 18 rebounds.

Calvary is led by the “big three” of juniors Richards and Quinn Swanson and senior Sam Zelenka. Swanson, the team’s second-leading scorer with 17 points plus six rebounds and three assists per game, injured his knee last week against Schoolcraft and his health will have a huge bearing on the team’s success going forward. Zelenka is the top defender and averages 11 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

The other starters are junior workhorse Zach McFarren, who owns the school’s shot put and discus records and has played all but six minutes over the team’s seven games, and senior Nolan Ghezzi.

Richards, already a two-time Associated Press all-state selection who even made the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan all-state team as an eighth grader, has seen every gimmick defense to try and shut him down, including box-and-twos and triple teams. He credits his experience in football and track with helping him deal with it.

“There is usually a quick guy in front of me and a big guy behind me,” said Bradley, who scored a career-high 47 points in a game last season. “Football has really helped me, because I’m not as scared of the contact. The high jumping has helped me to elevate and get my shot off.”

Great heights

Jim McHugh is a high jump legend from Pentwater who went on to become a two-time national champion in the event at Hillsdale College, and he now coaches West Michigan athletes in the event.

The first time he worked with Bradley Richards, in April of last year, he knew he had something special on his hands.

“Bradley went up and literally hurdled the bar at 5-11,” said McHugh. “I was in shock. I said to myself: ‘This is gonna be a heck of a ride.’ The kid is a generational talent.”

The coaching of McHugh paid immediate dividends, as Bradley improved from a top jump of 6-1½ as a freshman to 6-6½ in last year’s Regional meet. Then came the Division 4 Finals at Hudsonville a few weeks later.

Bradley won the first track Finals championship for Fruitport Calvary with a leap of 6-10 – which was 3 inches higher than anyone else in any of the four Lower Peninsula divisions and entire Upper Peninsula that day – and caught the attention of college scouts from across the country.

Playing as part of a cooperative with Muskegon Catholic Central, Richards works to get away from a Traverse City St. Francis tackler. The following week, he competed at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Philadelphia and placed second with a jump of 6-8.24.

McHugh shudders to think of how high his prodigy can soar. He has his sights set on the Division 4 Finals record of 6-10½ (Kurt Schneider, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, 2009), the Muskegon-area record of 7-0 (Steve Paulsen, Fremont, 1998) and the all-division/class Finals record of 7-1 (John Payment, Brimley, 1989).

“God has given him incredible talent, but he also has the desire it takes,” said McHugh, who is also working with another Division I college high jump prospect in Hart junior Addison Hovey. “I gave him a workout plan, and he has done every bit of it. He has cleaned up his diet, done the cold showers and the cold bathtubs, everything. I’m excited to see the results.”

Richards, whose first love was basketball, admits he is smitten with the high jump and seeing how high he can soar.

Now, when asked about his favorite athletes, he still mentions Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant, but he also includes Olympic gold medalist high jumper Mutaz Barshim of Qatar – who made news by not taking additional jumps at the 2020 Olympics in Japan, thereby sharing the gold medal with Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy.

“I just respect that so much, sharing the gold medal,” Bradley said.

Decision time

Now the Bradley Richards recruiting saga has begun and, for him, it’s not just about choosing what school – it’s also about choosing what sport.

“I would like to do both, play basketball and high jump in college, if possible,” Bradley said.

That would certainly be a possibility if Bradley follows in his family’s footsteps at Cornerstone University. His father was a basketball standout at Cornerstone, which is where he met Joy, and all three of his sisters played for the Golden Eagles. (Kelsey is currently a student assistant for this year’s team.)

Playing both may not be possible if he pursues high jump at the Division I level, where Michigan and Illinois are among schools actively recruiting him.

“I know at some point I’m going to have to make a decision, but I don’t have to right now,” said the 17-year-old Bradley. “So it doesn’t do me any good to sit and stress about it all the time.”

Instead, he is focused on more immediate goals.

The first is figuring out a way for his basketball team to snap a two-game losing skid and get positioned for another postseason run.

Then it will be trying to clear the magical high jump number of 7-0, and beyond. And don’t forget football, where he would love to start off his senior year by helping Muskegon Catholic improve on its 6-5 record from a year ago and make a run at the school’s 13th state football championship.

Only after all of that will it be college decision time.

“It’s not an easy choice, and it will take a lot of prayer and discernment,” admitted Richards, who will look for help from his immediate family and his school family in making his choice. “I’ll figure it out. I usually do.”

Tom KendraTom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Fruitport Calvary Christian’s Bradley Richards stands atop the podium after winning the high jump last spring at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals. (Middle) Richards lines up to shoot a free throw. (Below) Playing as part of a cooperative with Muskegon Catholic Central, Richards works to get away from a Traverse City St. Francis tackler. (Track photo courtesy of Joy Richards; basketball and football photos courtesy of Local Sports Journal.)