Preview: 4 Team Championships, Many More Contenders at LP Boys Finals

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 3, 2022

There are a number of knowns entering Saturday’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Boys Track & Field Finals, as a number of stars are returning and looking to add to their past achievements.

What’s more difficult to forecast than usual is how the team competitions will finish. All four divisions appear to have multiple serious contenders, and many more possible outcomes.

Events begin at 10 a.m. (EDT) and tickets to attend can be purchased online only at GoFan. The meets also will be broadcast on and viewable with subscription.

Below is a glance at team contenders and individuals to watch in all four divisions.

Division 1 at Rockford

Team forecast: Last season saw the top 10 teams packed in within 14 points of each other and co-champs Fenton and Rockford – and Saturday could produce something similar. Detroit U-D Jesuit is seeking its first team title since 1993 and has qualifiers in a variety of events but major strengths in sprints and relays. East Kentwood saw its three-season title streak end with a 13th-place finish last spring, but again has intriguing relay, sprint and hurdle possibilities. Rockford may again be in the hunt as well.

Braxton Brann, Ann Arbor Huron junior: He qualified in the 200 and 300 hurdles last season, and could leave a lasting impact this weekend entering as the top seed in the 100 (10.44) and 200 (21.26) and running on the 400 relay.

Riley Hough, Hartland senior: The latest Michigan distance runner to earn national acclaim, Hough will attempt to follow up his 3,200 title from last year and back-to-back LPD1 cross country championships while seeded first in both the 1,600 (4:13.17) and 3,200 (9:08.71).

Armon Howard, Rochester Adams senior: He's seeded sixth in the 100 hurdles and seventh in the 300, but he has the top 300 time in the state this spring (37.30) and third-best in the 110 (14.37). He also will run on two relays. 

Brayden Kennedy, Milford sophomore: He’s joined the state’s elite hurdlers in his second season, entering this weekend seeded first in the 300 (37.43) and second in the 110 (14.62).

Tamaal Myers II, Detroit Cass Tech senior: Last season’s champion in both hurdles races is seeded third in the 300 (37.87) and will run on the top-seeded 1,600 relay.  

Jaiden Reed, Detroit U-D Jesuit junior: He also should move up substantially after finishing ninth in the 100 in 2021. Reed is the second seed in both the 100 (10.45) and 200 (21.44) and will run on the second-seeded 400 and top-seeded 800 relays.

Kellen Reed, Holt senior: After qualifying in the 100 last season, he’ll have a much busier Saturday competing in four events. He’s seeded fourth in long jump (22-9) but with the state’s best leap this season of 23-4¾. He’s also seeded sixth in the 100, seventh in the 200 and could run on the top-seeded 400 relay.

Cole Sheldon, Dexter senior: The reigning pole vault champion has the top seed by eight inches at 16 feet and the state’s highest vault of the season at 16-1. He’ll also run on the 800 relay.

Division 2 at Ada Forest Hills Eastern

Team forecast: Reigning champion Frankenmuth could be lined up well with all four relays qualifying including the top-seeded 800 group, plus strengths in the sprints, hurdles and throws. Detroit Martin Luther King will be in the mix too with strong sprints and relays, and a contender in long jump. Flint Powers Catholic should make a push after finishing runner-up by only 3¾ points last season.

Patrick Adams, Allendale senior: The reigning champion in the 110 hurdles is seeded first in both hurdles races – at 15.09 in the 110 and 39.97 in the 300 – and he’ll also run on the 800 relay.

Camryn Battjes, Allendale senior: He won pole vault last season and is back in the mix with a top vault this spring of 14-6½ – although the field might be chasing Charlotte senior Landon Cosby after he went 15-7 at his Regional.

Troy Cranford, Romulus senior: The reigning 200 champion will run the 100, 200 and is seeded fourth in the 400 (50.36).

Austin Hamlin, Flint Powers Catholic senior: The reigning 100 champ is back in that race, seeded third in the 200 (22.49) and running on two top-three seeded relays.

Alex Mansfield, Monroe Jefferson senior: After finishing first in shot put and second in discus last season, he’ll again take a run at both titles seeded first in shot (59-9) and seventh in discus.

Luke Stowasser, Edwardsburg senior: The reigning champion in both jumps is tied for the top high jump in Michigan this season at 6-9 and had the best Regional long jump in LPD2 at 22-1.

Garrett Winter, Parchment senior: He finished fourth in the 3,200 and 10th in the 1,600 in Division 3 a year ago, but has major last-meet opportunities seeded first Saturday in both the 1,600 (4:20.83) and 3,200 (9:32.94).

Division 3 at Kent City

Team forecast: Division 3 has seen 11 champions over the last 12 Finals. The only team that won twice during that time, Sanford Meridian, should contend Saturday. Pewamo-Westphalia is a possibility with strong relays, hurdles and field events. Saugatuck and Benzie Central could follow multi-event individual stars into the mix as well.

Pewamo-Westphalia trackCarson Brunk, Potterville senior: He finished fifth in the 800 last season and should cap his high school career in a big way, seeded second in both the 800 (1:57.20) and 1,600 (4:23.20).

Benny Diaz, Saugatuck senior: After sweeping the hurdles races in Division 4 last season, Diaz is seeded first this weekend by nearly a second in the 110 (14.31) and almost a half-second in the 300 (39.75). He’s also seeded sixth in the 100 and fifth in the 200.

Hunter Jones, Benzie Central junior: The reigning 1,600 champ and three-time LPD3 cross country winner is seeded first in the 800 (1:54.42), 1,600 (4:19.51) and 3,200 (9:25.26).

Dane Plichta, Sanford Meridian senior: He finished third in the 200 last season and enters Saturday as the top seed in the 200 (22.36), tied for the top seed in the 100 (11.09) and running on two relays including the second-seeded 800.

Corey Schafer, Pewamo-Westphalia senior: The Pirates could receive their most points from Schafer, who was seventh in the 300 hurdles in 2021. He’s seeded second to Diaz in the 110 (15.26) and 300 (40.15) hurdles this time and will run on two relays.

Division 4 at Hudsonville Baldwin Middle School

Team forecast: Carson City-Crystal ended Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep’s two-season championship run last spring, and 2021 runner-up Saugatuck moving to Division 3 opens up even more possibilities. Hackett should return to contention and Carson City-Crystal will be back among the best as well. Reading, Flint Beecher, Concord and Hillsdale Academy all look to have enough points opportunities to push up the standings.

Tyler Bays, Reading junior: He finished 12th in the 1,600 last season, perhaps previewing this spring as he enters as the top seed in the 800 (1:59.64) and 1,600 (4:31.91) and could run on two of three relays including two second seeds.

Zane Forist, Carson City-Crystal senior: He set LPD4 Finals records in both the shot put and discus last season and has the state’s top throws by significant amounts this spring. He best shot put of 67-4 would threaten the all-Finals record.

Liam Mann, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep junior: He qualified in the 100 and as part of a relay last season, but could lead Hackett back into the team title mix this time seeded first in the 200 (23.01), second in the 100 (11.06) and running with the top-seeded 800 relay and fourth-seeded 400 group.

Jok Nhial, Wyoming Potter’s House Christian senior: He won the long jump last season and is tied for the fourth seed this time at 20-10. His 21-9½ at last season’s Final would be the top seed.

Jaylin Townsend, Flint Beecher junior: He also had a headlining 2021 Finals with championships in the 100 and 200 and as part of the 800 relay. He enters Saturday top-seeded in the 100 (10.83) and running on the top-seeded 400 relay and fourth-seeded 800 relay.

PHOTOS (Top) Carson City-Crystal's Zane Forist unloads a shot put toss during a league competition May 11. (Middle) Pewamo-Westphalia's Corey Schafer leaps a hurdle during the Alma Invitational on May 13. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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

By Pam Shebest
Special for

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.)