Pickford Hangs On with Win in Final Event to Secure UPD3 Championship

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

June 5, 2022

KINGSFORD — They were tested, but the Pickford boys came through with their first Upper Peninsula Division 3 track & field championship in a decade Saturday.

Pickford scored 91 points, followed by Munising with 82 and 2021 champ Dollar Bay at 56. Pickford was runner-up to Dollar Bay last season, with this team title its first since 2012.

The Panthers secured the title by winning the 1,600-meter relay in 3 minutes, 37.83 seconds.

“We were up by one point going into the 1,600 relay,” said Panthers’ coach Garde Kangas. “You can’t get much closer than that. One kid who’s a part of all our relays couldn’t be here because he had to go to a funeral. We had some kids step up. In long jump, we were seeded fourth or fifth and our guy (Noah Barowski) got second, and we ran our best time all year in the 1,600 relay.”

Junior Caden Awbrey provided the Panthers with a first in the 300-meter hurdles in 41.98 seconds and a second in the 110s (17.24).

“I really liked the start, but got a little sloppy in the end,” he said. “About halfway through I started clipping the hurdles (in the 300s). Although, this is something I can build on. I need to work on my form, and that takes time.

Dollar Bay track“Overall, I think the day has gone pretty well. Our 1,600 relay is fast and our 3,200 is solid. We were missing some people and still PR’d.”

Dollar Bay senior Nik Thomas set two UPD3 meet records on a sunny and warm day. He was clocked at 4:25.91 in the 1,600 and 10:05.59 in the 3,200, topping the previous-bests of 4:28.68 and 10:08.51 by Bessemer’s Uriah Aili three years ago. Thomas also won the 800 (2:01.27) and placed fourth in the 400 (53.03) on Saturday.

Ewen-Trout Creek senior Jonah Nordine was runner-up in all three races Thomas won, at 2:06.39, 4:40.3 and 10:26.51, respectively.

Munising was led by the Peramaki brothers. Micaiah won the 100 (11.52), 200 (23.7) and 400 (51.98) and discus at 127 feet, 4 inches, and Josiah took pole vault at 13 feet, 4 inches and placed third in long jump (18-4¾).

North Central junior Luke Gorzinski anchored the winning 400 relay (45.34) and 800, clocked at a school-record 1:35.31, and was runner-up in the 100 (11.57) and 200 (23.94).

“Our handoffs absolutely went real well,” he said. “I’ve had more time to work on those now that baseball is over. This is pretty awesome. We’ve been working toward this all season.”

Junior Trent Naser provided the Jets with a victory in the 110 hurdles (16.76) and a third in the 300s (42.78).

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Pickford's Caden Awbrey (6) leads the 300 hurdles on the way to winning the race Saturday. (Middle) Dollar Bay's Nikolas Thomas celebrates his win in the 1,600, one of his three championships at the meet. (Click for more from Cara Kamps/Run Michigan.)

Hackett Catholic Prep's Baldwin Carrying Hopes from Home to Paris

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

July 12, 2024

KALAMAZOO — Heath Baldwin studied Spanish at Hackett Catholic Prep, but he will need to brush up on some French as he heads to Paris to compete in the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The recent Michigan State University grad, who earned a master’s degree in marketing and research analytics, will compete in the decathlon, a two-day event Aug. 2-3 at the Stade de France.

While the Olympics will be televised in the United States, because of the time difference, Baldwin’s events will take place locally during the early morning hours.

Wishing him a Bon Voyage, more than 200 former classmates, friends, family and well-wishers plus six television crews congregated Thursday for an impressive sendoff, starting with the Hackett “Summer Ensemble” playing the school fight song.

A 2019 Hackett grad, Baldwin led the track & field team to three Regional championships, two MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 titles, was an individual five-time Finals champion, holds four school records and was named track & field Athlete of the Year for all divisions his senior season by the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association.

“I went through a lot at Hackett, obviously, with my dad (Roger)  passing away (in 2016) and I always had a great support system of people who took care of my family and made sure we were doing good,” Baldwin said. “They’ve stuck with me through college, too, following me in all my events and to this point, so it’s cool that I’m doing well now and they’re along for the ride.”

Hackett clears a hurdle during the 2019 MHSAA Finals.The ride will begin Tuesday when Baldwin travels to Germany to train before heading to Paris.

“Everything’s starting to feel more real,” he said. “I think once I get to Germany and start to train with other people, we’ll be able to get a little competitive. I think it will be fun training in Paris.”

Facing a huge crowd in Paris should not be a problem, he said.

“The more people will only help me. I’m a big adrenalin guy. I feel like I get more nervous talking at an event like this than I do for the Olympic Games.

“Once I get out on the track, everything just feels natural to me.”

Naturally a no-brainer

Baldwin’s Finals championships for Hackett had come in high jump, long jump and both hurdles races. Tackling the grueling decathlon was a no-brainer.

“I was good at the hurdles, high jump, long jump, which are three very technical events in the decathlon, so if you’re good at those three, you usually can pick up the other ones pretty easily is what they say,” he said.

“Also, I played baseball as a pitcher, so that correlated with the javelin. A lot of college coaches recruited me off that, I think.”

Baldwin said knew 2024 was an Olympic year, “so I thought it was something I maybe could do. After last year, when I scored above 8,000 points (in the decathlon) for the first time and came in sixth at the USAs, it became a little more realistic for me.”

The personable athlete not only qualified for the Olympics at this year’s U.S. Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., but won the decathlon with a personal best 8,625 points.

He finished first in the shot put (54 feet, 2½ inches), high jump (6-11¾), 110 hurdles (13.77 seconds) and javelin throw (218-9). 

MHSAA trophies Baldwin helped win decorated the stage for his sendoff.Other decathlon events are the 100 dash, long jump, 400 run, discus, pole vault and 1,500 run.

Baldwin earned Great Lakes Region Indoor and Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year honors and was named first team Academic All-American with a 3.8 GPA.

"We were awestruck at his athletic achievements (at Hackett),” said Judge Paul Bridenstine, the “Voice of the Irish.” 

“While he continued to play football, basketball, baseball exceptionally at Hackett, his athletic life was transformed when he was introduced to (former HCP track & field coach Simon Cholometes).”

Cholometes said Baldwin’s success is something that didn’t come out of nowhere.

“Heath put the wheels in motion a long time ago and worked harder than most people can even fathom,” he said. “I can remember 5:40 in the morning, Heath running sprints up that hill over there,” he said, pointing. “A foot of snow, running sprints up that tall hill.

“In college, he’s a Big 10 champ, three-time All-American, Great Lakes Region Indoor and Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year, MSU’s Athlete of the Year twice, holds five school records plus Big 10 records in heptathlon and decathlon.”

Family won't be far

Baldwin plans to be in Paris for the opening ceremonies and will be cheered on by his mom Suzann, sister Hope and brothers Aiden and Gowan.

The Olympian also will have a remembrance of his late father with him. He has a tattoo of his dad’s signature on the inside of his upper left arm.

A hurdle that was gifted to Baldwin on Thursday.Losing his father “was a big part of my life and obviously changed my perspective in the way I train and the way I live in a way he’d be proud of,” Baldwin said.

“We set some big goals going into this year and it’s been a dream. I love representing the Kalamazoo community and Michigan, Hackett and Michigan State.

“I like to remember everybody I compete for, and I think that gives you a bigger purpose when you go out there. That’s definitely something I’ll be doing at the Olympics in Paris. I’m excited to represent there and hopefully go for a medal.”

PHOTOS (Top) Health Baldwin, seated, signs a hat during his sendoff Thursday at Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep. (2) Baldwin clears a hurdle during the 2019 MHSAA Finals. (3) A hurdle was gifted to Baldwin on Thursday. (4) MHSAA trophies Baldwin helped win decorated the stage for his sendoff. (Sendoff photo by Pam Shebest.)