Preview: UP Boys Finals Feature Fierce Team Races, Statewide Headliners

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 2, 2022

There’s an excellent chance many statewide eyes turn to Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Boys Track & Field Finals at Kingsford High School.

Start in high jump, where Menominee’s Brady Schultz is one of four athletes sharing the top performance in that event in Michigan this season. Ishpeming’s Jonny Matson is another intriguing story; he’s the top seed in four individual events, and if he wins all four will become just the ninth athlete in state history to do so at the MHSAA Finals. Powers North Central’s Luke Gorzinski and Ewen-Trout Creek’s Jaden Borseth are Division 3 contenders who have starred leading their teams to statewide Finals in football and basketball, respectively.

Of heightened interest closer to home, annual favorites Marquette and Ishpeming could face tough challenges in team title competition from Kingsford and Iron Mountain, respectively. Dollar Bay, a first-time team champ in 2021, will look to add another but with Pickford and Munising perhaps the favorites in Division 3 this time around.

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 three divisions.

Division 1

Team forecast: After seeing its latest Finals win streak end at four with Gladstone taking the 2019 championship, Marquette returned off the COVID year with a win ahead of runner-up Gladstone in 2021. Marquette also was first at its Regional two weeks ago, scoring nearly as many points as the other four teams combined. But watch out for Kingsford. The Flivvers, seeking their first team title since 2014, have qualifiers all over the meet and are seeded to have five event champions. Houghton has similar star power and potential for points.

Dryden Nelson, Calumet senior: The Copper Kings’ standout won the 100 and long jump last year, and he’s seeded first in the 100 (11.31) and second in the 200 (23.58) and long jump (19-11½). He will also run on the 400 relay.

Sasha Olsen, Gladstone senior: Last season’s pole vault champion also was fourth in high jump and is seeded third (5-9) in that event and will run on the 400 relay.  

Brady Schultz, Menominee senior: Schultz’s 6-7 in high jump at his Regional was seven inches higher than anyone else in UPD1, and his best of 6-9 remains tied for best in the state this spring. He set the UPD1 meet record last year at 6-8. He’ll also run on three relays including the second-seeded 800 and 1,600.

Lucas Tappy, Kingsford senior: The reigning shot put champion is top-seeded in that event by 3½ feet with a Regional toss of 46-2½.  

Carson VanderSchaaf, Marquette junior: This half of the distance twin duo is the top seed in the 1,600 (4:35.72) and 3,200 (9:59.88) and won the 3,200 last season.

Colin VanderSchaaf, Marquette junior: The reigning champ in the 1,600 is second-seeded to his brother by 12 hundredths of a second at 4:35.84 and top-seeded in the 800 (2:05.42) by less than a tenth of a second ahead of Houghton standout Eric Weiss. VanderSchaaf also will run the 400 and on the top-seeded 1,600 relay.

Division 2

Team forecast: The Hematites shared championship last season with Norway was its third straight title and sixth over the last seven seasons. Its Regional win two weeks ago came in part thanks to 10 event championships, and the team has six top seeds based on those performances. Iron Mountain has a qualifier in all but one event Saturday as it seeks its first team title since 2008.

Kingsford trackEric Edwards, Newberry senior: Last season’s shot put champion is the second seed this time (42-6¼) and will run on two relays including the top-seeded 800.

Nathan Hochstein, L’Anse senior: After sweeping the jumps last spring, Hochstein is the top seed in the high jump (5-7) and fifth in long jump (17-3), and may also run the 400 and on up to two relays.

Christian Koiveniemi, St. Ignace senior: The reigning 100 champ is seeded in the middle of that race and the 200 and tied for the second seed in the high jump (5-6). He’ll also likely run on the top-seeded 400 relay.

Jonny Matson, Ishpeming senior: He enters his first Finals as the top seed in all four of his events – the 100 (11.68), 200 (24.06), 400 (54.06) and long jump (20-0).

Eli Ostermeyer, L’Anse senior: The reigning discus champion is top-seeded in that event (122-9½), and third in shot put (41-9¼) coming off last season’s runner-up finish in that throw.  

Landon Sundelius, West Iron County senior: He won the 300 hurdles and was fourth in the 110 last season, but enters Saturday seeded first for both in 41.59 and 17.34, respectively.

Trevor Visnaw, St. Ignace sophomore: Las season’s pole vault champion is seeded second (10-6) and could run two relays, including on the top-seeded 400.

Division 3

Team forecast: Dollar Bay claimed its first Finals championship in this sport last season, edging Pickford by 12 points. Both should be in the mix Saturday, plus Munising is seeking its first team title since winning back-to-back in 2014 and 2015. The Mustangs have top seeds in four events, while Pickford has qualifiers in every event but one. An interesting addition is Norway, which shared the Division 2 championship last season and finished second at its Regional last month to Stephenson.

Jaden Borseth, Ewen-Trout Creek senior: The basketball standout is also a rare four-field event athlete and the top seed in the discus (127-9). He’ll also compete in the shot put and as the third seed in the long jump (18-9½), and placed in high jump as a junior.

Luke Gorzinski, Powers North Central junior: The 8-Player Finals championship quarterback is also the reigning UPD3 champ in the 200. He’s the top seed in the 100 (11.38), second in the 200 (23.92) and could run on two relays including the top-seeded 800.

Trenton Naser, Powers North Central senior: He finished second in the 300 hurdles and fourth in the 110 last season, but is the top seed in both this weekend at 44.04 and 16.94, respectively. He’s also slated for multiple relays including possibly the 800.

Micaiah Peramaki, Munising junior: After finishing runner-up in the 100 and third in the 200 last spring, Peramaki enters seeded second in the 100 (11.72) but first in the 200 (23.65) and 400 (53.31) – and also second-seeded in the discus (121-8).

Nikolas Thomas, Dollar Bay senior: He contributed to Dollar Bay’s first team title scoring points in the 1,600 and 3,200 and as part of last season’s winning 3,200 relay. He’ll have a much larger role in any repeat attempt as the top seed in the 800 (2:06.08), 1,600 (4:44.86) and 3,200 (10:46.15) and fourth seed in the 400 (54.43).

PHOTOS (Top) Marquette’s Lamb Ngafeeson (left) and Samuel Markey are step for step with each other near the start of their 110 hurdles Regional race last month. (Middle) Kingsford’s Cardel Morton (5) retains a slight lead on Marquette’s Colin VanderSchaaf (3) after the final handoff of the 1,600 relay at the May 13 Negaunee Lions Invitational. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)

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

By Steve Vedder
Special for

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, who coached teams at 15 of the meets beginning in 1951 and also had run in the first Hastings Relays. Steve Hoke later competed in the Relays as well 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 second 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.)