Performance: Oxford's Connor Bandel
June 1, 2016
Oxford senior – Track & Field
Bandel could’ve been a selection most weeks this season; the spring has included that many highlights for the reigning Lower Peninsula Division 1 champion in shot put and discus. He was perhaps most dominant at his Regional on May 20 at Lake Orion, winning shot put by 16 feet with a toss of 63, 7 inches, and discus by nearly 28 feet at 189-2 to earn the Michigan National Guard Performance of the Week for May 16-22.
Bandel went on to win the Oakland County Championship titles Friday in both at 67-2½ and 192-0, respectively, and his top throws this spring are that shot put and a discus toss of 204-2 on April 23 at the Oxford Invitational. He will compete in the LP Division 1 Finals this weekend with opportunities to break the all-Finals records in shot put (Todd Duckett, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix, 64-0½, 1999) and discus (Cullen Prena, Walled Lake Central, 210-1, 2012). Prena is among those Bandel has consulted for advice as he’s improved significantly over the last few seasons; his top throws in 2016 are six feet better in shot put and 11 in discus from a year ago.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior also played goalkeeper for Oxford’s varsity soccer team the last four seasons and will be the second sibling from his family to play at the Division I college level; he’s signed for track & field with the University of Florida, while his older sister Darien plays volleyball at Oakland University. Connor also played basketball as a freshman and carries a 3.3 grade-point average; he’s considering majoring in chemical or biomedical engineering.
Coach Matt Johnson said: “The number one thing Connor brings is (his example) that track and field is a year-round event, from conditioning to weight training to building camaraderie with his teammates around the track. … He’s a dedicated athlete, he sets goals for himself, and that would be a value set that I’d say could be passed on to another level of student. He’s not just setting benchmarks for things within reach; he’s setting dreams he’s going to work toward. Early on last year, he told me he’s aiming not for the state record, he’s aiming to become an international competitor, and that raises the bar right there. Most high school kids are not even thinking (about that) at that point.”
Performance Point: “I’m trying to improve every meet; that’s always the goal. But this past week I started to improve more. I’m constantly moving the benchmark forward a bit. … Sometimes I just can’t really explain how much emotions I'm feeling when something (like a personal record) just happened. When you PR something that you’ve never reached, it’s just so satisfying to actually do that.”
Expert advice: “The biggest thing with (my sister) was her type of dedication and trying to do the same thing as her. Another big thing was the recruiting process; it was nice to have a sibling because not only did I get to learn from her but my parents got to learn a lot from her about the questions to ask coaches and that kind of deal. (From Prena), I learned definitely technique from him; it’s nice to have him having worked with his college coach, because … then he could teach me a lot of what he had learned. I always ask him about summer track, nationals and international competition. Even though he hasn’t gone to an international competition, he went to meet qualifiers for those, and if I have questions about what the atmosphere is like, things like what I need to bring, he’s always a good resource.”
The mental game: “For me, it’s not to get really tense. If I get really tense, really focus on trying to throw as far as I can, I’m not going to throw as well. The more relaxed you are, the longer you’ll be, the more comfortable you’ll be. Not getting tight and seized up and that sort of deal, that’s the biggest thing to me, to really relax … and trust what I’ve been doing the last couple of years, be comfortable and have fun with it. If you have a smile on your face, you’ll probably throw farther … (and) I’m just trying to throw farther than I did before.”
Final countdown: “I’d definitely, now that I’ve won (in 2015), I would like to re-break the shot put record, and I would like to break the discus record for the first time. I really want to hit my goals; I wrote them down before the season, and I’m still on pace. I feel like breaking 79 (feet in shot put) and 215 (in discus) before the season is over, that would be absolutely fantastic.”
Create and explore: “I’ve always really been into math and science, always really liked the engineering aspects of creating and exploring new ideas. I thought with how much petroleum that the United State is using, and with how many athletes have injuries, I thought it would be cool to create new ways to produce energy, or for athletes the fastest ways to recover.”
– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2015-16 school year, Second Half and the Michigan 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 protecting lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2015-16 honorees
May 18: Kalyn Breckenridge, Birch Run girls soccer - Read
May 11: Morgan Beadlescomb, Algonac boys track & field - Read
May 4: Abby Krzywiecki, Farmington Hills Mercy softball - Read
April 27: Mike Mokma, Holland Christian baseball - Read
April 20: Abby Divozzo, Cadillac girls soccer - Read
March 30: Cassius Winston, Detroit U-D Jesuit boys basketball - Read
March 23: Kierra Fletcher, Warren Cousino girls basketball - Read
March 16: Jacob Montague, Grosse Pointe South swimming & diving - Read
March 9: Kyle Tuttle, St. Charles boys bowling - Read
March 2: Brittney Schnicke, Caledonia girls bowling - Read
Feb. 24: Kamari Newman, Detroit East English boys basketball - Read
Feb. 17: Jason Whitens, Powers North Central boys basketball - Read
Feb. 10: Rachel Hogan, Grand Ledge gymnastics - Read
Feb. 3: Nehemiah Mork, Midland Dow swimming & diving - Read
Jan. 27: Mardrekia Cook, Muskegon girls basketball - Read
Jan. 20: Sage Castillo, Hartland wrestling - Read
Jan. 13: Rob Zofchak, Dexter swimming & diving - Read
Jan. 6: Tyler Deming, Caro wrestling – Read
Dec. 15: Jordan Weber, East Jordan boys basketball – Read
Dec. 8: Kaitlyn Geers, Kent City girls basketball – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Oxford's Connor Bandel unloads a shot put during a meet this season. (Middle) Bandel is the reigning champion in both the discus and shot put in Lower Peninsula Division 1. (Photos courtesy of Connor Bandel.)
Ruddy Brothers Return to Track, Help Lift Whiteford to Regional Title
By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com
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.
It 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.
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 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.)