Parchment Enjoys Exchange of Experiences

By Pam Shebest
Special for

May 23, 2016

PARCHMENT — Pecan pie and snow are just two surprises Khaled Bukhamseen found as an exchange student at Parchment High School.

“Pies are not as famous back home,” he said. “I actually learned how to make them so I can do that back home.

“My favorite is pecan pie. Oh my gosh.”

The Dammam, Saudi Arabia, native, who played soccer in the fall and competed on the track & field team this spring, had never seen snow.

“It was pretty sweet the first couple times, but then I got sick of it,” he said, grinning. “It was like, ‘OK, we had fun, you can leave now.’

“I had to buy actual winter clothes.”

Another surprise was organized sports.

When Bukhamseen decided to try out for the Parchment track team, he figured he would just drop in for practice whenever he felt like exercising.

He got a reality check when he realized what a commitment he had to make.

“They told me about track and the activities you can do, like races,” he said. “I thought I would give it a try. I was pretty sure I would like it because I’m fast.

“I like the competition. Sometimes you do so good and you get first place and you feel like you’re the best on the team. That’s the good part about it.”

Parchment’s track season is over for all but the six individuals who qualified last week for the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals. The exchange student is not one of them – but will finish his year in the United States with an experience valuable not only to him but his teammates and coaches as well.

The only high school sports at Bukhamseen’s school in Dammam are in physical education classes.

“I played soccer, but it was just a PE class where they try to vary the sports,” he said. “That was pretty much the only thing I did, and it was like once a week for 45 minutes.”

Once Bukhamseen showed interest in joining the track team, coach Matt Hodgson evaluated him for his strengths and weaknesses along with what the team needed.

“Khaled appeared to us to be stronger in the sprints than long distance,” Hodgson said. “I don’t think running five miles a day out on the road is something that interested him.”

The coach also made sure the sprinter knew what was expected.

“Organized athletics (in Saudi Arabia) are not like they are in America,” Hodgson said. “In fact, one day we talked about it and he said when he first came out for track he thought it was something you kinda showed up for and practiced when you wanted to and made a meet when you wanted to. 

“He said, ‘You don’t allow that, coach, do you?’ I said no; when you commit, you commit and you’re expected to be here every day.”

Bukhamseen competed in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, 400 relay and long jump.

Hodgson said Bukhamseen brought a lot of energy to the team.

“We always expect something quite hilarious to come out of his mouth daily,” the coach said. “He’s a good teammate who has really bonded with a lot of the kids on the team.

“Because he’s not used to this organization of athletics, he’s oftentimes running around saying ‘Coach, when’s my event, what am I doing?’ We always expect him to be a little frazzled at times at meets, and it’s quite comical.”

Bukhamseen wasn’t the only one benefiting from the exchange program. Members of the track team did, too.

He’s given us a different perspective on the world, and he’s told us about the people of Saudi Arabia,” said Donavan Hodgson, the coach’s son, who runs anchor on the 400 relay team. He’s a really funny guy and a really cool guy, too.”

Students also are getting a lesson in culture.

“I think in the United States, especially, there’s a really bad rap on Muslims and people from those areas,” Donavan Hodgson said. “Khaled’s the exact opposite of what (some may) think. He’s the most passive-aggressive guy ever. He’s a really good guy.”

Bukhamseen started the school year with the Kellay Fall and Bill Evans family and for the last few months has lived with the Kira and Franz Griggs family.

Kira Griggs was an exchange student in Paraguay when she was 15 years old and sees hosting a student as paying it forward.

“They really integrate into your family much more than you think,” she said. “You adapt to each other; he’s just another family member.

“He’s a typical teenager; always on his phone, out with friends. His English is so perfect. He’s a great kid, a great student. He has a lot of friends.”

Bukhamseen said it is not unusual for Saudis to study in the United States, especially for college, and his two brothers are currently studying in Seattle.

Although his native language is Arabic, Bukhamseen speaks excellent English.

“In Saudi Arabia it’s mandatory to learn English in first grade,” he said. “My dad has kept it up with me. My dad went to Houston to college.”

Bukhamseen takes most of his class notes in English, but, “If I have a note to the side, I’d write it in Arabic quick, especially a vocab test every Friday,” he said. “I would write the equivalent of the word in Arabic so I wouldn’t forget it.”

Track wasn’t his only sport at Parchment. 

When he first came to the United States in August, he integrated himself by joining the soccer team.

That also was an awakening.

“Having a team and a coach and practices, it’s way different than having it just once a week,” he said.

“I had to work out a little extra. They started earlier than me because I came a little late (August) to start the season.”

Soccer coach Matt Streitel has had exchange students on his teams before and said that each boy brings something different to the team.

“It’s cool,” he said. “You get that culture you might not get from other students.

“Khaled had a little bit of skill and was excited to be there.”

Bukhamseen had to go through a rigorous workshop before being accepted into the AFS Intercultural Program.

“Khaled has a great sense of humor,” said David Person, co-coordinator for the West Michigan chapter. “He had to go to Riyadh for orientation and he said it was from 7 to 8, so he thought he’d be in and out in an hour but it was a 13-hour orientation.

“What he had to go through to get here was very stringent. He’s the cream of the crop.”

Bukhamseen is also part of the YES Program, a government-sponsored youth exchange and study, Person said. 

“He’s here under U.S. government scholarship,” he said. “They go out and choose the best students ever, the future leaders.

“The YES Program works with programs that have large Muslim populations. He’s one of three YES students in this (southwest Michigan) area.” 

The others are at Kalamazoo Central and Battle Creek Central.

Pam 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 [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Khaled Bukhamseen rounds a turn during a recent Parchment track practice. (Middle top) Bukhamseen, Parchment coach Matt Hodgson, teammate Donavan Hodgson. (Middle below) Bukhamseen trains in the long jump. (Below) David Person, Kira Griggs. (Photos by Pam Shebest.)

Ruddy Brothers Return to Track, Help Lift Whiteford to Regional Title

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

May 23, 2023

OTTAWA LAKE – Shea and Ryin Ruddy are the answer to everyone who ever wondered if being fast in one or two other sports translates to being fast on the track.

Southeast & BorderIt does, and what they've accomplished this spring is more than enough proof.

In March, the Ruddy brothers came out for track for the first time since middle school for Ottawa Lake Whiteford after the district loosened the rules on athletes wanting to participate in multiple sports during the same season. About seven weeks later, the duo has qualified for the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals in four events each and will lead a contingent of 10 Bobcats to Kent City next week.

“What they are doing on the track is amazing,” said Whiteford track & field coach Jay Yockey. “Really, when you look at it, they’ve only lost a couple of races here and there. They aren’t finishing second. They are going out and winning races, winning meets. It is not a small feat at all.”

Shea, a senior, was a four-year starting quarterback for Whiteford who led the Bobcats to the Division 8 championship last fall, scoring the game-winning touchdown on an unforgettable, 17-play fourth-quarter drive. Since his freshman season, he’s also played basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.

Ryin, a junior, was also a starter on the Bobcats football team and followed in his older brother’s footsteps with basketball and baseball. 

This year, however, they went to Whiteford athletic director Jeremy Simmons to inquire about also running track. 

“I had each athlete attend a meeting with both coaches and their parents where we went over the rules,” Simmons said. “We made sure everyone was on the same page and answered questions that they had. Everything is outlined.”

Yockey found out early on what kind of athletes both were. 

“They are confident in their abilities but aren’t arrogant and boastful,” Yockey said. “For what they have accomplished this year is truly outstanding – and I understand they are doing pretty well in baseball, too.”

Saturday’s Division 3 Regional at Adrian Madison was a milestone day for both. 

Shea won the 400 and was on the 1,600 relay unit that finished first. He also was second in the 100 and part of the 400 relay that came in second.

Ryin was part of both of those relays, plus the 800 relay that placed second – and was Regional champion in the 300 hurdles.

Together, they helped the Bobcats to the team title.

“Ryin’s 300 race really sticks out to me as he is such a competitor and driven to win,” Yockey said.

 The 1,600 relay of Shea Ruddy, Dylan Anderson, Ryin Ruddy and Jake Iott show off their latest trophy with Whiteford coach Jay Yockey after the Bobcats claimed their first Regional track & field team title since 2007. (Ryin took to the hurdles quickly.

“He’s really done quite well with working his hurdle form, attacking each race and winning,” Yockey said. “He currently is seeded seventh in the state in an event that usually takes a season or two to perfect.”

Ryin last ran track in the seventh grade. Shea ran that season as well, which was his eighth-grade year.

“We had high expectations, but I think we exceeded what we thought we would do,” Shea said of this spring. “It was really tough to start, but it’s gotten a lot easier as I’ve gotten into the routine. I think it’s benefited me for both sports.” 

Shea started out the season competing in the high jump. About two weeks ago he gave the 400 a shot. He ended up winning the Regional in the event and is seeded second going into the Finals. 

The Hillsdale College football signee credits Coach Yockey with helping him get up to speed on what to do and not do on the track. 

“Coach Yockey helped me a lot. He got me into shape and told me where I needed to be with my times,” Ruddy said. “I kind of wish I would have done it in the past, but it’s all right. I think the years of experience would have paid off.”

Shea is the anchor on the 400 relay and leads off the 1,600 relay. The 1,600 unit holds the school record and had the fastest time of any 1,600 relay in Division 3 earlier this season.

“I knew adding Shea and Ryin would be a benefit for us,” said Yockey. “But, to go in and win a Regional title … that’s always the dream. The fact that we won a Regional title and will go to states with 12 scoring opportunities is definitely exciting. It exceeds my expectations from the start of the season.”

Whiteford had two other Regional champions Saturday – Keegan Masters won both the 1,600 and 3,200 and Stepan Masserant won the Pole Vault. The Regional title was Whiteford’s first since 2007, the same year the Bobcats won the school’s only track & field state championship.

It also comes just a year after Whiteford christened its new track and hosted its first home meet in more than a decade. Yockey said the new track helped ignite interest in the sport.

“Having a new track is huge,” he said. “Kids want to be a part of something they can be proud of, and kids weren’t proud of our track facility. I still hear upperclassmen joke about the gravel lane they had before I got here. 

“I think being able to host home meets, and a beautiful facility definitely helps in having kids come out and participate in track & field.”

Shea said he’s not surprised about the rapid rise of the Whiteford boys track & field team this season.

“I’m not shocked,” he said. “I knew we had the talent. We had to put it together, of course, and we’ve done that. I’m satisfied. I’m going to the states in four events. I can’t be disappointed with that.”

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Shea Ruddy (far left) takes the baton from brother Ryin during a relay this season. (Middle) The 1,600 relay of Shea Ruddy, Dylan Anderson, Ryin Ruddy and Jake Iott show off their latest trophy with Whiteford coach Jay Yockey after the Bobcats claimed their first Regional track & field team title since 2007. (Top photo by Deloris Clark-Osborne; middle photo courtesy of the Whiteford boys track & field program.)