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.)

Aspirations High as Reigning Champion Hackett Vaults Into New Season

By Pam Shebest
Special for

March 14, 2023

KALAMAZOO — Harrison Wheeler has not been a pole vaulter for very long – two weeks to be exact – but he already has some lofty goals.

Southwest CorridorThe sophomore is aiming for the Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep record board and, if he makes it, he will be in good company.

Coach Shelly (Martin) Germinder, a 2001 Hackett graduate, still holds the girls record of 10 feet, 2½ inches.

“I’m hoping to have my name next to hers (on the record board),” Wheeler said.

The sophomore has a few feet to go before surpassing current record holder Brian Kucinich, who vaulted 12 feet, 6 inches in 1992.

Wheeler’s unofficial best is 9 feet; officially it is 8 feet, 6 inches.

“That is going to be a very big jump in my pole vaulting career,” he said.

Wheeler is one of 42 athletes on the reigning MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 champion boys team, which includes 12 seniors and 13 juniors. Besides Wheeler, the team has six sophomores and 10 freshmen.

One of the returners is senior Liam Mann, who helped lead the Irish to the Finals title last year.

Mann, Andrew Finley, Evan Wurtz and Isaac Backman won the 800-meter relay with a time of 1:31.55 last season, setting a school record as well.

While he lost his relay mates, Mann said there are good runners to replace them.

“(Senior) Brice Brown is coming out to do track, and I’ve been working with him this winter,” Mann said. “Jude Coffman, who is a sophomore, is coming out this year. I think he’s going to be a good addition to our 4-by-1.

“(Junior) Gabe Oeurn, last year he was running solid times, but this year he’s been putting in the work and I think he’ll be able to break that 12-second barrier.”

Mann, who will attend Ashland (Ohio) University on a track scholarship in the fall, also added gold in the 200-meter dash (22.82) last season.

“Last year, I played basketball and was able to lift to keep in shape,” he said. “This year, I wanted to focus all my time on track, so I’ve been doing indoor track, practicing once a week and going to meets on weekends.”

He continued to put his skills on display as a running back during football season with Kalamazoo United, ending the fall with 1,413 rushing yards on 177 carries and 267 receiving yards on 10 catches.

Opportunities & possibilities

The biggest group of competitors impacted by graduation are the sprinters, coach Charissa Dean said.

“Hackett’s been really big on sprinting talent in general,” she said. “But track has 17 events, and only two of them are open sprint events and two are relays.

Clockwise from top left: Hackett head track & field coach Charissa Dean, Liam Mann, Germinder and Gavin Sehy. “The other 13 are wide open for possibilities, and there’s a lot of younger talent that’s coming back this year. While they didn’t go to the state meet, they are the next generation of athletes coming up.”

Among that next generation are freshmen Marek Butkiewicz and Sean Siems, who “are incredibly talented athletes,” Dean said.

“(Junior) Gavin Sehy figured out how to do the distance thing this year in cross country.”

Sehy said he wanted to run track, but wasn’t sure where he fit.

“I thought I was mid-distance when I was younger, but my dad forced me to do cross country my sixth-grade year and it turned out I was decent at it so I kept doing (long distance) in track,” he said.

“It’s kind of brutal at times to train for long distance, mentally and physically, because you have to go on long runs, but I have fun with it. At the cross country state finals, I hit an 11 flat split at the two-mile, which beat my 3,200 best from last season, so we have yet to see my best times.”

Butkiewicz and Sehy have been running consistently six days a week all winter to prepare for their first meet, March 22.

“I’ve never done track,” the freshman said. “I know I can perform well. I know my times compared to other people.”

A sophomore this year, Alex Dumont had a 400-meter time that “came out of nowhere,” Dean said. “Toward the end of the season we recruited him to do the 4x8, so an 800-meter runner. That kid came through.

‘We actually took him to the state meet in the 4x8. He did the lead leg, and I clocked him at a 2:07. He was sprinting. It was an amazing leg in that relay.”

Seeing potential

It was Germinder who converted Wheeler to the pole vault last year.

“Harrison’s a strong athlete, and just the way his mind works in that he asks questions and he wants to learn and he wants to improve,” she said.

“He wants to work hard, and he wants to put in the time. That’s something you need for that, along with the athletic component.”

The Irish celebrate last season’s Finals championship, from left: Dean, Sehy, Logan St. Martin, Alex Dumont, Mitch Eastman, Nick Doerr and Germinder. Wheeler, who said he was shocked at being successful right away, competed for two weeks last season before a foot injury suffered on a vault sidelined him.

“It took her a whole season to finally convince me to do it,” he said. “I grabbed a pole one day and ended up being really good at it. Ever since, I’ve had a love of it.

“The feeling I have once I get in the air is almost like I’m just floating. When you get really good vaults and you get that nice height and good form, you get what we call a ‘stall.’ You just feel like you’re sitting up in the air for a second. It’s gotta be the coolest thing ever.”

Germinder has the background to help the Irish vaulters.

While at Hackett, she competed in the AAU National Championships and said she learned from the best, Oran Mitchell, a noted pole vaulting coach.

Her own coaching style revolves around the safety of the athletes.

“You can teach a lot of people to grab hold of a pole and pop yourself over,” she said. “But I want to make sure my athletes are safe. That’s really, really important to me, and that’s something that was instilled in me.

“When you’re jumping 6 to 16 feet, that’s a long way to fall. Safety is very important to me. If you’re not willing to put in the time, then I’m not the coach for you.”

Germinder said one of the foundations on which the team is built is leadership, which was instilled in the younger athletes by last year’s seniors.

“That’s one of the things our program is built on,” she said. “If you’re there because you want to get ready for the next sports season, we’ll coach you for that.

“If you want to be a state champion, we’ll coach you for that. That’s the really unique thing about track. There’s something for everyone, whatever that might be.”

As for the girls team, numbers are steadily climbing.

Five years ago, the team had just two girls. This year, 25 girls are on the team.

No matter girls or boys, track or field events, one thing is common for all the athletes.

“We pray before every meet, we put God first, and all those pieces have fallen into place for us.” Germinder said.

“I really believe that foundation is what is going to be our success this year. It’s there, it’s just a different team.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Hackett's Harrison Wheeler points to the pole vaulting record he hopes to break this season, while pole vaulting coach Shelly (Martin) Germinder points to the record she still holds at the school. (Middle) Clockwise from top left: Hackett head track & field coach Charissa Dean, Liam Mann, Germinder and Gavin Sehy. (Below) The Irish celebrate last season’s Finals championship, from left: Dean, Sehy, Logan St. Martin, Alex Dumont, Mitch Eastman, Nick Doerr and Germinder. (Top photo and head shots by Pam Shebest; team photo courtesy of Hackett track & field.)