Performance: Waverly's Keshaun Harris

May 24, 2019

Keshaun Harris
Lansing Waverly senior – Track & Field

The reigning Lower Peninsula Division 1 champion in the 300-meter hurdles, Harris put himself in position to challenge for multiple titles at next weekend’s MHSAA Finals with wins in both the 300 (38.71 seconds) and 110 (14.23) at last week’s Regional at East Lansing, earning him the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”

Harris’ winning 300 time was his season best, as was his 14.14 prelim time in the 110. Also an all-league football player during the fall and starting guard in basketball, Harris is among the state’s elite on the track and undefeated in both hurdles races this spring despite getting a slow start after hurting his right ankle in his final basketball game this winter. As noted, he won the LPD1 title in the 300 last season in a personal-record 37.81 seconds and just missed the double finishing seventh hundredths of a second behind East Kentwood’s Job Mayhue in the 110. Harris also finished second in the 110 and third in the 300 at the LPD2 Finals as a sophomore, and qualified for the LPD2 Finals in both races as a freshman, earning seventh place in the 110.

The 37.81 at last year’s Finals and the 14 flat he ran in the 110 at the 2018 Regional are Waverly school records – which says a lot as the Warriors have produced a number of state contenders over coach David Pike’s 29 seasons leading one of mid-Michigan’s strongest programs. Harris will announce next week where he’ll continue his academic and athletic careers at the collegiate level – he has Division I and II opportunities – and will bring both first-class hurdling skills and a 3.6 GPA with aspirations of studying kinesiology and becoming an athletic trainer.

Coach David Pike said:Keshaun’s success in the hurdles is due to his focus on getting better every day. He’s always the last one off the track, taking time each day to get the repetitions he needs to become fluent with each motion. The quickness and fluidity of his hurdling action come from years of focused practice. That’s not to say he’s hurdling 365 days a year. In fact, much of his success in track and field comes from his involvement in other sports. Football has helped him develop the strength and toughness needed to run through hurdle contact. Basketball with all of its jumping and rapid changes of direction has helped him become a more explosive and kinesthetically aware athlete. In the end, the bottom line is that Keshaun’s dedication to daily incremental improvement as an athlete has put him in position to compete for the state title in both the high and 300 hurdles.”

Performance Point: “Nobody really knew this but my coach, but I was sick,” Harris said in recalling the Regional. “I was pushing through it, so I just went out there and ran my best races of the season. I was dealing with the flu. .... Before the race I had to hydrate a lot. My body was a little weak. I had to make sure I got my body moving, got in a good warm-up, stayed loose and warm. I just went out there and gave it everything I’ve got and ran my best.”

Remembering runner-up: “(Last year’s 110 Final) has been in the back of my mind since it happened last year. My goal is still to be the state champion in both the 110 and 300. That’s been the goal since I came to Waverly, since I’ve been a freshman. That’s always been the goal, and always been a motivation too. … Last year I wasn’t as good with my form as I am this year. So this year as I go into this last week, I’m just working on form, getting over hurdles and getting back down quick and keeping everything tight.”

Multi-sport mechanics: “I think (all my sports) work together, because I’m always active doing something. Even in the winter or the summer, I’m always doing something. When track season comes around, I’m already in shape, and I’m already feeling good and strong. (Track has) made me even faster on the court or the field. I’m very elusive. I’m very flexible. So it’s helped me in a lot of areas.”

Looking up, looking ahead: “Aries Merritt, he’s an Olympic champion, and Grant Holloway goes to Florida and he’s another guy I look up to. I also look up to guys I ran against – Kentre Patterson (East Lansing), Noah Caudy (Lake Odessa Lakewood), even Job Mayhue who beat me last year. I still look up to all those guys, figure out what they’re doing and how I can input it into my hurdling. In track, you run against these guys so much. Once they’re gone, you’ve built a relationship with them, so it’s cool.”

Staying in sports: “I just like working with athletes and just being around sports, so I think (trainer) would be the perfect job to do. Actually, at the start of this season I had an ankle injury, I sprained it during my last basketball game, and that had me out for a month. As I worked with the athletic trainer at my school, I developed a love for wanting to become an athletic trainer and wanting to study kinesiology.” 

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard recognizes 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. 

Past 2018-19 honorees

May 16: Gabbie Sherman, Millington softball - Read
May 9:
Nathan Taylor, Muskegon Mona Shores golf - Read
May 2:
Ally Gaunt, New Baltimore Anchor Bay soccer - Read
April 25:
Kali Heivilin, Three Rivers softball - Read
March 28:
Rickea Jackson, Detroit Edison basketball - Read
March 21:
Noah Wiswary, Hudsonville Unity Christian basketball - Read
March 14:
Cam Peel, Spring Lake swimming - Read
March 7:
Jordan Hamdan, Hudson wrestling - Read
February 28:
Kevon Davenport, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Read
February 21:
Reagan Olli, Gaylord skiing - Read 
February 14:
Jake Stevenson, Traverse City Bay Reps hockey - Read
February 7: Molly Davis, Midland Dow basketball - Read
January 31:
Chris DeRocher, Alpena basketball - Read
January 24:
Imari Blond, Flint Kearsley bowling - Read
January 17: William Dunn, Quincy basketball - Read
November 29:
Dequan Finn, Detroit Martin Luther King football - Read
November 22: Paige Briggs, Lake Orion volleyball - Read
November 15:
Hunter Nowak, Morrice football - Read
November 8:
Jon Dougherty, Detroit Country Day soccer - Read
November 1:
Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25:
Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18:
Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4:
Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Lansing Waverly's Keshaun Harris charges toward the finish during last season's Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final in the 300 hurdles. (Middle) Harris clears a hurdle during the 110 championship race in 2018. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)

Hastings Relays Reigns as State's Oldest Continuous Track & Field Meet

By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com

April 10, 2024

Bob Branch remembers dabbling in other sports, but his first love was always running.

Mid-MichiganThe Hastings High School graduate admits he could never hit a baseball, football didn't especially appeal to him and basketball was just another way to spend time with friends. But for Branch, now 93, there was always track. That's the sport where his fondest and sharpest memories remain. And if you're talking track, many of his favorite memories come from participation in the state's oldest continuous track meet, the Hastings Relays.

Always held in early April, the meet dates back to 1937 – a bygone time that saw the first hostilities of World War II, gas at 20 cents a gallon and a loaf of bread selling for a dime.

And at a dusty old track surrounding the county fairgrounds in Hastings, a small relay event that included a scattering of participants from a dozen high schools was taking its first tentative steps.

Branch recalls a time when kids would run home after track practice because there were no buses, inexperienced young coaches had little actual knowledge of running fundamentals, and athletes looked at the sport as an afterthought after spending most of their high school days playing football and basketball.

The author wrote on the 50th anniversary of the Relays for the Hastings Banner nearly 40 years ago.For Branch, the relays were the ideal way to ease into the track season.

"I just liked to run," said Branch. "I remember I anchored a relay with my brother, and it always seemed cold when we had that meet. I remember teams would come from all over and you saw a lot of good athletes. Everybody seemed to have someone who was really good. Track wasn't very popular at that time, but I have a lot of good memories from running."

The Hastings Relays, which has changed formats and even names during its nearly nine-decade history, would traditionally kick off the track season. The meet was originally held at a makeshift quarter-mile track which surrounded the town's fairgrounds and was part of the city's annual Hastings Carnival – the track would become the midway during fair time.

The meet eventually moved to Johnson Field when the football field was dedicated in 1949 and ballooned to as many as 50 teams at its peak in 1957. For more than seven decades it was known as the Hastings Relays and then the Hastings Co-Ed relays before becoming the current Hastings Invitational, with the latest edition scheduled for Friday.

Johnson Field had a cinder track before it became an all-weather surface in the 1980s. During a time long before computers would be used to organize meet heats in mere minutes, Hastings coaches of all sports – defined as "volunteers" by the athletic department – would meet on the Friday before competition to hash out events.

People associated with the meet still recall the camaraderie built on those long Friday nights, followed by working what would often become 10-hour meets. Steve Hoke has been involved since watching his father, Jack, coach 15 of the meets beginning in 1951. Steve Hoke later competed in the relays during the early 1970s before becoming an assistant track coach, later the Hastings athletic director and now a volunteer worker.

"It was always a huge deal," said Hoke, who said the meet began as a pure relay event before transitioning to its current team format in the 1990s. "I remember we'd line the track the night before, and all the coaches would come to the house to organize everything. There was a brotherhood.”

Past athlete, coach and athletic director Steve Hoke shows some of the Relays awards from the 1930s.If you quiz many of the fleet of volunteers who've worked the relays over the years, each has a different memory from the meet. While Hoke describes the brotherhood and Branch the outstanding competition, others remember weather and the time a thunderstorm wiped out the line markings on the cinder track, or waking up to find three inches of snow that caused a rare cancellation of the meet. Others recall the shock of moving from the cinder to all-weather track or using the meet as an early measuring stick of what it would take to qualify for the state meet. The real old-timers remember the meet disappearing for three years during World War II.

Hastings native and Western Michigan grad Tom Duits was the state’s first collegian to break the four-minute mile when he ran a 3:59.2 at a meet in Philadelphia in 1978. Duits, who ran in three Hastings Relays, was in line to join the U.S. Olympic team in 1980 before the United States pulled out of the games due to tension with Russia.

Duits has his own memories of the meet and the competition he faced there.

"I remember sunshine and being excited to be competing again. There were all these athletes swarming around; it was an awesome display of talent," he said. "It was always one of the best meets we'd be in. You could pretty much see the level of runners who would be at state, which made it a big deal. It was always early, but you could tell where you stood. It was great exposure."

Hastings track star Wayne Oom competed in four Hastings Relays from 1984-87. One of his sharpest memories was the difference between running on a raw cinder track versus the far more comfortable all-weather surface.

"Those cinders would grind into your skin," said Oom, part of the Hastings school record in the two-mile relay. "But I think it helped us because when we'd go to other tracks, it seemed we would run faster. I remember how competitive it was, especially in the distances. There were some great runners."

While participants have their unique memories, so do coaches. Former Saxons coach Paul Fulmer remembers 2008 when his team finished first on the boys side of the meet while his wife, Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer, saw her girls team win the championship.

Tom Duits was one of the state’s biggest track stars of the 1970s and ran in three Hastings Relays."I knew we were one of the favorites to win because we were usually near the top of our conference and Regional," he said. "But then Katie's team was pretty good, and it was cool for them to win too."

Fulmer, who coached Hastings from 1978-81 and then 1985-2010, said at least part of the meet's popularity was derived from a unique way of scoring. Instead of individuals earning points solo, participants worked in pairs. For instance, two athletes would combine their shot put or long jump scores. New events such as the 1,500 relay and sprint medley were added.

"We had a tradition of being the state's oldest meet, and that was a big deal," Fulmer said. "And we ran a good relay; that attracted teams too. We took a lot of pride in that.

"And we'd get quite a lot of people to come to the meet. We'd set up until like 9 or 10 p.m., and then we'd have a party with all the coaches on Friday night."

While the meet has stretched 87 years, Branch said early participants and current runners have one thing in common: a drive to win. Branch ran in an era when the popularity of high school track was in its infancy. Today some of the best all-around athletes at a school are involved in the track program. The relays span the nearly nine decades in between.

"The quality of teams has gotten better and better," said Branch, the 1947 Lower Peninsula Class B Finals champ in the 220. "And this has made for a better meet. We would get guys who played football or baseball kind of drift into track, and that made the sport better. I think people began to appreciate track because we'd get teams from all over.

"We went from not really knowing what we were doing to track being a good sport. Even then, I'm not sure we appreciated what we had. We really liked the Hastings Relays and always wanted to do well there. It became popular and quite an honor to do well. Those are the kind of things I remember."

PHOTOS (Top) Racers run at the Hastings Relays, with several more awaiting their turns to compete at the longtime meet. (2) The author wrote on the 50th anniversary of the Relays for the Hastings Banner nearly 40 years ago. (3) Past athlete, coach and athletic director Steve Hoke shows some of the Relays awards from the 1930s. (4) Tom Duits was one of the state’s biggest track stars of the 1970s and ran in three Hastings Relays. (Top photo by Dan Goggins, Hoke photo provided by Steve Hoke and Duits photos provided by Tom Duits.)