Performance: Houghton's Clayton Sayen

May 14, 2018

Clayton Sayen
Houghton senior – Track & Field

Sayen added another night of highlights to an incredible senior campaign, winning a rare race combination of the 100, 400 and 3,200 meters at the Ontonagon Invitational on May 4 to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week” for April 30-May 6. He ran the 100 meters in 11.14 seconds to set a school record and the 400 in 49.76 to break another record he already held; Sayen also owns school records in the 200 (22.63) and 800 (1:56.83) and as part of the 1,600 and 3,200 relays.

Also a standout runner in the fall, Sayen capped his final high school cross country season by leading his team to the Upper Peninsula Division 1 championship and claiming the individual title by a tenth of a second with a time of 16:25.7 – the fourth fastest in U.P. Division 1 Finals history. During the winter, he moved on to hockey and helped the Gremlins to a No. 3 ranking in Division 3 during the regular season. He entered this spring as a three-time U.P. Track & Field Finals individual champion coming off last year’s wins in the 200 and 400 and as part of the 3,200 relay. He’s broken his two goals for this season – to go under 50 seconds in the 400 and 1:57.5 in the 800 – and the fastest meets are coming up with his Regional on Thursday at Negaunee and the Finals on June 2. This season also has provided a chance for Sayen to run with his brother Tyler, a freshman on the team.

Clayton carries a 3.9 grade-point average and will be sticking close to home after this spring, studying and running track and cross country at Michigan Tech. He plans to pursue a degree in engineering management, diving into his interests in science and also business, as he’d like to follow some of the footsteps of his father, a local business owner. But for a few more weeks of high school, Sayen will continue setting the pace – with his trademark headband and sunglasses he’s become known for around the U.P., and also with the speed that should put him in line to contend for a few more championships.

Coach Daniel Junttila said: “I’ve been coaching 38 years and I’m an outgoing guy, and you meet hundreds of coaches and you talk – and I’ve never spoken to anyone, let alone seen it where somebody will run the 3,200 that well, be a Division 1 champion (and then the 100) … that range of athleticism blows me away. And he just keeps bringing it. … I coached him in eighth grade football, so I knew him really well. He’s a special athlete with such will and drive. I could tell honestly when I saw him in eighth grade, and then I watched him in middle school track, and already as a freshman he was doing things that were very uncommon.”

Performance Point: “My primary focus for the day was the 100,” Sayen said of the Ontonagon meet. “I wanted to break our school record in the 100, which was an 11.23. I ended up getting it with an 11.14, and that was my first real event of the day; I ran the (3,200) relay at the beginning, but that was kinda just a cruise. There wasn’t a whole lot of competition there, so I used that as my warm-up. The 100 was to get the day going … and I won, and I was like, ‘Cool, I got the school record. That’s what I was going for today. So mission accomplished.’ It was a nice day overall, and I decided my next event the 400, I was going to push that one too because it was my goal sometime this season to go sub-50. At 49.76 I ran sub-50 and I met that goal, so the day was just excellent as it was. (Then) I’ve got the 2-mile left, so I’m going to see what I have left. I went out and I pushed myself in that one – not a phenomenal time, but I ended up winning. And it was just cool to have a meet under my belt where I won the shortest and the longest events.”

Run ’em all: When I first started in middle school, I was a distance runner. But growing up, I’ve always been a pretty fast sprinter. Way back in elementary school I was always the fastest kid in my class. It wasn’t until this year where I started doing them both, distance and sprints. My freshman year of high school, I was a strict 2-mile, 1-mile guy. And now I’m more of a 200, 400, 800 kind of guy. So I’ve kinda worked my way around the whole spectrum a little bit. This year I’m going to just try to combine the two and have a little fun with it. Because that was my main goal for the season, to have as much fun as I can.”

What a finish: “Cross Country was unbelievable – U.P. champions, I was the Division 1 individual winner. Cross country was so much fun, everything about it. I had a lot of fun in hockey too. We had a pretty successful season, had a lot of highlights there. And to wrap it up with track, how this season is going … senior year, athletically, it would be hard to beat.”

Brotherly bond: Having (Tyler) on the team with me, it’s a lot of fun. He’s a 400/800 runner, just like me, so before he runs I give him my strategy. He’ll go out and do the best he can – he’s a freshman, so he’s not going to put down some crazy times. … Having him on the team with me, it’s good bonding between the two of us.”

Signature style: “The headband, it started back about eighth grade with my buddy Seth (Helman) one day in practice. In middle school, my hair was kinda long, kinda in my eyes, so I told him, ‘I’m going to wear a headband.’ It just carried through high school, and then I decided to grow my hair really long. It’s not anymore; it’s short now. (But) as the years have gone on, the two of us, the headband has become our thing. That’s what we’re known for – head bands and sunglasses – that’s a thing we do together.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2017-18 honorees:
May 3: Autumn Roberts, Traverse City Central tennis - Read
April 26: Thomas Robinson, Wyoming Lee track & field - Read
March 29: Carlos Johnson, Benton Harbor basketball - Read
March 22: Shine Strickland-Gills, Saginaw Heritage basketball - Read
March 15: Skyler Cook-Weeks, Holland Christian swimming - Read
March 8: Dakota Greer, Howard City Tri-County wrestling - Read
March 1: Camree' Clegg, Wayne Memorial basketball - Read
February 23: Aliah Robertson, Sault Ste. Marie swimming - Read
February 16: Austin O'Hearon, Eaton Rapids wrestling - Read
February 9: Sophia Wiard, Muskegon Oakridge basketball - Read
February 2: Brenden Tulpa, Hartland hockey - Read
January 25: Brandon Whitman, Dundee wrestling - Read
January 18: Derek Maas, Holland West Ottawa swimming - Read
January 11: Lexi Niepoth, Bellaire basketball - Read
November 30: La'Darius Jefferson, Muskegon football - Read
November 23: Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison swimming - Read
November 16: Bryce Veasley, West Bloomfield football - Read 
November 9: Jose Penaloza, Holland soccer - Read
November 2: Karenna Duffey, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North cross country - Read
October 26: Anika Dy, Traverse City West golf - Read
October 19: Andrew Zhang, Bloomfield Hills tennis - Read
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Houghton’s Clayton Sayen carries the baton down the stretch during a relay this season. (Middle) Sayen, right, and teammate Seth Helman lead the pack during the U.P. Division 1 Cross Country Final last fall. (Top photo courtesy of the Houghton track & field program; middle photo by Kara Camps.)

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.)