Preview: Boys Title Contenders Abound

May 30, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This MHSAA boys track and field season has been unpredictable, thanks in large part to the wild weather that has marked this spring.

But it served as a sign for this weekend’s seven Finals to be run in the Grand Rapids area and Kingsford High School, as team championships could be up for grabs among a number of teams in at least five of the seven meets.

See below for some of the teams and individuals who could be standing on the podium when their events are done. Click for meet information including all qualifiers and come back Saturday night for results as they come in, and check out MHSAA.TV for live streaming of running events from both peninsulas, available with subscription.

LP DIVISION 1 at Rockford

Top Regional scores: 1. East Kentwood 231, 2. Saline 160.4, 3. Warren DeLaSalle 137.

East Kentwood: The Falcons have won four of the last five Division 1 titles and are the reigning champions. They are bringing 19 entries – including all four relays – to Rockford, with the 400 and 1,600 relays carrying the fastest Regional seed times in the meet. Seniors Devin McKinney and Antoine Lloyd also earned the fastest 110 hurdles times and could score big between them in the hurdles races and 200.

Saline: The Hornets could get into the team title mix with points coming in the middle distance and distance races and relays. Junior Logan Wetzel is a contender in the 1,600 and 800 and senior Ryan Wilkie is among favorites in the latter. They also team up on a pair of relays seeded third.

Oak Park: Seniors Maurice Allen and Eli Minor have the chance to earn 30 points in the 100, 200 and 400 combined if their can repeat their Regional times. A pair of relays also are seeded among the top two in those events.

Lincoln Park’s Robert Atwater: The high-flying senior finished second at his Regional in the high jump, but won the event at the 2013 Final and jumped 7-0 at a coaches association meet last weekend – a height which would be good enough to set the LP Division 1 Final record if he can repeat Saturday. He also had the fourth-longest Regional long jump, 22-1¼ inches.

Birmingham Groves’ Ross Williams: The reigning champion in the 300 hurdles enters his final MHSAA meet with the fastest Regional time (38.56 seconds) in that race this season, plus the fourth-fastest in the 110 hurdles race.

Grand Blanc's Grant Fisher: He helped his team to a runner-up finish last season by winning the 3,200 and enters this weekend with the top Regional time in both that race (9:26.09) and the 1,600 (4:12.48).

LP DIVISION 2 at Grand Rapids Houseman Stadium

Top Regional scores: 1. St. Joseph 210.34, 2. Sturgis 162. 3. Melvindale 136.

Auburn Hills Avondale: After a season at Division 1, the 2012 Division 2 champion is back and with a combination of sprinters and throwers that should make an impact. Junior Joshuwa Holloman won the 100 in LP Division 1 last season and has the top seed in that event after running a 10.83 at his Regional; he also enters with the sixth-seeded 200 time of 22.87. Senior Zachary Purcilly enters with the second-best Regional shot put (53-9) and discus (155-8) tosses. The 400 relay (43.81) also is second-seeded.   

Byron Center: The 2010 champion enters with two top-four seeded relays plus a distance runner and thrower expected to score big points. Senior Al Lake had the third-farthest shot put (52-5¼) and farthest discus (175-7) toss at Regionals, while senior John Sattler enters with the fastest 1,600 seed (4:15.2) and second-fastest in the 800 (1:56).

Zeeland West: The Dux have entries in eight individual events plus three relays, and many are seeded to score well. Senior Danny Bauder has the second-fastest 100 (10.99) and fastest 200 (22.51) times coming in, with senior Jason Tran ranking first in 110 hurdles (14.7) and second in the 300 (39.75). The 400 relay team (43.58) including both also owns a top seed.

Allendale’s Nate Couturier: The fifth-place finisher in 300 hurdles in 2013 enters with the top seed (39.12) in that race, the second-fastest in the 110 (14.96) and as a member of two top-eight relays.

Coldwater’s Logan Targgart: The sixth-place finisher in discus last season, he should be in the hunt for both throws with the third-best discus (151-1) and fourth-best shot put (52-4) tosses at Regionals.

Saginaw Swan Valley’s Alex Grace: One of the top-gaining running backs in MHSAA history, Grace’s speed should earn points this weekend as he enters with the second-fastest 200 (22.58) and 12th-fastest 100 (11.24); he also is running on the sixth-seeded 400 relay.

LP DIVISION 3 at Comstock Park

Top Regional scores: 1. Watervliet 189, 2. Macomb Lutheran North 157, 3. Grand Rapids West Catholic 156.

Hillsdale: The Hornets are seeded among the top eight in three relays and also should get points from a number of individuals. Senior Zach Hardway is the top seed in the 800 (1:57.52) and seventh in the 1,600 (4:30.9), while sophomore Brock Eves is seventh in the 3,200 (9:51.29), junior Austin Hawkins in fifth in the long jump (20-10½) and junior Jimmy Felske is tied for fourth in the 100 (11.16).

Sanford Meridian: The Mustangs could approach meet records in both the 400 and 1,600 relays; the LP D3 400 record is 43.25 and Meridian ran 43.52 at its Regional, and the 1,600 record is 3:22.37 and Meridian ran 3:24.37 to earn the top seed. The Mustangs also enter with the top-seeded 800 relay (1:31.53), senior Kevin Scheibert the top seed in the 400 (50.08) and senior Jacob Ham the second seed in the 200 (22.82). Senior Jacob Wenzlick should contend in long jump after posting the third-farthest Regional leap of 21-1½.  

Standish-Sterling: The Panthers placed third last season and should make a run at the title with senior Clay Walderzak the returning champion in shot put and top seeded in both that throw (56-7½) and the discus (170-5). The 400, 1,600 and 3,200 relays all are seeded among the top six, as are senior Jim Cousins in the 400 (50.99) and senior Matt Crawford in the 300 hurdles (41.09).

Lansing Catholic’s Keenan Rebera: A junior and last season’s 3,200 champion also earned a cross country title in the fall and enters with the fourth seed in the 3,200 (9:47.94) and top seed in the 1,600 (4:25.73).

Mason County Central’s Chase Barnett: The reigning champion in the 800 and 1,600 can finish his career Saturday with four more titles; he’s seeded only 15th in the 1,600 (4:38) but second in the 800 (1:57.99) and fifth in the 3,200 (9:48.74), plus will run on the 3,200 relay.

Saginaw Nouvel’s Tyler Hendricks: After winning the 200 last season, Hendricks will look to finish his high school career with a repeat in that race entering with a seed time of 23.36 and tied for fourth-fastest in the 100 (11.16).

LP DIVISION 4 at Hudsonville Middle School

Top Regional scores: 1. Lutheran Westland 307, Southfield Christian 280, Concord 186.

Concord: The Yellow Jackets are seeking their first team title since 2010 and have the mix of standout sprinters and distance runners to appear the likely favorite. Senior Nolen Bright-Mitchell is the reigning champion in the 200 and could approach meet records in the 100 (10.77) and 200 (22.18); his Regional times converted from hand timing were 10.84 and 22.24, respectively, and he’s also seeded third in the 400 (51.34). Junior Jesse Hersha is a two-time MHSAA cross country champion and enters with the third-fastest 1,600 (4:29.34) seed time and fastest in the 3,200 (9:50.84). Two relays are top-seeded, with a third the third seed and a fourth relay seeded eighth.

Saugatuck: The reigning champion could dominate relays and middle distance and distance races. The 3,200 relay (8:17.67) and 1,600 relay (3:31.42) are both seeded first, with the 800 relay (1:34.13) seeded fourth. Junior Jacob Pettinga has the fourth seeds in the 1,600 (4:33.4) and 3,200 (10:05.04), senior Andrew Poolman has the top seed in the 400 (50.8), freshman Blake Dunn has the fourth in the 300 hurdles (41.87), senior Clayton Springer has the third in the 3,200 (10:02.3), and senior Wes Webbert (2:01.26) and junior Joe Brown (2:01.87) have the fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 800.

Southfield Christian: The Eagles are positioned to push the contenders. Junior Blake Washington is seeded third in the 200 (23.25) and seventh in the 100 (11.36) and runs on 800 (1:33.97) and 400 (45.38) relays both seeded among the top three. Senior Donald Parker enters as the sixth seed in the 200 (23.53).

Evart’s Max Hodges: The returning champ in the 800 is seeded third in that race (2:01.08) and also will run the 1,600 and on a relay.

Genesee’s Damertrius Nelson: The reigning long jump champion tied for eighth-longest Regional jump (20-1) and is seeded fifth in the 100 (11.35).

Homer’s Gavin Towery: After winning the pole vault last season, he must again contend with North Muskegon’s Jacob Walton, who Towery beat in the tie-breaker to claim the title.

Kalamazoo Christian’s Clayton Meldrum: The reigning 300 hurdles champion is seeded fifth in that race (42.07) and ninth in the 100 hurdles (16.07) and also will run the 200.

Marion’s Tyrell Hall: The senior finished only sixth in long jump last season, but his Regional jump this month of 23-0¼ would break the LP D4 Finals record by more than eight inches. He also will run the 100 and 200.

UP DIVISION 1 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: 1. Kingsford 80, Negaunee 56, Marquette 50.

Gladstone: The reigning champion returns 400 winner Chris Sedenquist, who is seeded first in that race (53.14) and third in the 200 (23.79), plus top thrower Cody Malanowski; he’s seeded first in shot put (45-3) and second in discus (121-11). The 800 relay (1:36.15) is seeded first and the 400 relay (3:44.14) is seeded third.

Marquette: The Redmen are seeking their fourth team title in five seasons, keyed by four relays seeded third or higher including the top-seeded 1,600 (3:40.34). Sophomore Lance Rambo is seeded second in the 3,200 (10:11.84) and 1,600 (4:35.05), and junior Andrew Banitt is the top seed in the 800 (2:04.77) with two more teammates among the top four in that race.

Escanaba’s Eric Cousineau: The junior won the 3,200 last season and is seeded fifth in that race (10:24.57) and will also run on the 3,200 relay.

Kingsford’s Cole Tengesdahl: The senior is the reigning champion in the 100 (12.41) and also will run the 200 (24.24) and on two relays seeded fourth or higher.

Negaunee’s Austin Caya: The reigning pole vault champion had the highest Regional vault in this division (12-0) and also will run on the 400 relay.

Sault Ste. Marie’s Parker Scott: The reigning champ in the 800 and 1,600 continues to dominate as a sophomore; he’s the top seed in the 1,600 (4:34.96) and 3,200 (10:10.36) and the third seed in the 800 (2:09.41). He also will run on the 3,200 relay.

UP DIVISION 2 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: 1. Ishpeming 57, 2. Manistique 74, 3. St. Ignace 47.5.

Ishpeming: Last season’s runner-up should contend again for its first MHSAA Finals title since 2003 with a significant boost from field events. Senior Bobby Zhulkie is the second-seeded shot putter (41-9) and high jumper (5-8), and senior Noah Olgren is the top-seeded pole vaulter (12-0). The 1,600 relay (3:46.94) also is top-seeded, and the 800 relay (1:39.44) is second. Senior Derek Decaire (second in the 100 at 11.84), junior Tommy Potter (fourth in the 1,600 at 5:08.04, second in the 800 at 2:13.54 and fourth in the 3,200 at 11:35.74) and junior Nate Meyer (second in the 400 at 55.34, fourth in the 200 at 24.14) are among individuals who should score well.

Manistique: The Emeralds claimed the title last season, their first since 1960. Reigning 200 and 400 champion Ryan Ramey is arguably the top returning standout at this meet, and he’s seeded first in the 400 (54.64) and seventh in the 200 (24.54). Senior Tyler Kangas (tied for second in high jump at 5-8, fourth in discus at 113-6) should provide a boost, and the 3,200 relay (9:21.84) is seeded first.

Hancock’s Jacob Jarvis: He finished third in the 110 hurdles last season as a junior, but could approach the meet record of 15.4 seconds in this race after running a converted hand time of 15.64 at his Regional. He’s also the top seed in the 300 (42.34) and runs on the top-seeded 800 relay (1:38.84).

Hancock’s Gage Hawthorne: The reigning discus champion could repeat and claim shot put as well; he’s the top seed in discus (140-0) by more than 20 feet and also top in shot put (48-3) by more than six feet.

Ishpeming Westwood’s Vincente Carlson: The returning champion in the 110 hurdles is seeded second to Jarvis in that race (15.84) and second to Jarvis as well in the 300 (44.64). Carlson also will run on the 1,600 relay.

UP DIVISION 3 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: 1. Pickford 90.75, 2. Munising 74, T-3. Rapid River 63, T-3. Felch North Dickinson 63.

Pickford: No school in MHSAA history has won even half as many team titles as Pickford, which has 34 and is seeking its second in three seasons. The Panthers don’t have a top seed at this meet, but are represented in every event led by second-seeded long jumper Jared Hatfield (18-1½).

Munising: The Mustangs are seeking their first team title since 1996 and will rely heavily on standouts Brett Hannah and Andy Cooper. Hannah is the reigning champion in the 3,200 and enters with the second seed in that race (11:15.54) and the 1,600 (4:51.84) and the fifth in the 800 (2:17.54). Cooper is tied for the top seed in high jump (6-0) with teammate Alex Hill, and also is top-seeded in the 110 (16.34) and 300 hurdles (42.54) and second in the 200 (23.94).

Cooks Big Bay de Noc’s Cole Potvin: After winning the 400 in 2013, he could add three more titles with the top seeds in that race (53.94) and the 200 (23.84) and the third-best (tied) in the high jump (5-6).

Felch North Dickinson’s Tim Hruska: With titles in the 110 and 300 hurdles and the 100, the senior scored nearly half of North Dickinson’s points as his team won last season’s overall championship. He’s the second seed in the 110 (16.70) and 300 (44.24), the fifth in the 100 (12.04) and the eighth in the 200 (25.24).

PHOTO: Saginaw Nouvel's Tyler Hendricks claimed last season's LP Division 3 200 championship and should contend in that race and the 100 this weekend. (Click to see more

Not Even Sky Seems Limit as Richards Keeps Calvary Sports Soaring

By Tom Kendra
Special for

January 4, 2024

Bradley Richards believes that life is all about trying new things, setting bigger goals and pushing yourself to new heights – in his case, literally.

West MichiganRichards, now a 6-foot-5, 190-pound junior basketball standout at tiny Fruitport Calvary Christian, played on the school’s fifth-grade team when he was in second grade.

He remembers staring longingly at the rim in those days and dreaming about dunking, before making that dream a reality by throwing one down in February of his seventh-grade year.

While his three older sisters - Taylor, Allyson and Kelsey - were leading the Calvary girls basketball program to new heights, he vowed he would do the same with the boys program someday.

Bradley and his teammates accomplished that goal last spring, winning the school’s first boys District basketball title despite a roster with no seniors.

This season, Calvary came flying out of the gate with a 5-0 start and is now 5-2 heading into Friday’s home game against Saugatuck.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Bradley, who averages 29 points and 14 rebounds per game. “Our school is so small that we’re more like a family. It’s not about me. I’m just so happy for our school and all of the guys on the team.”

The next goal is to repeat as District champions and try to win a Regional title, before setting his sights at clearing 7 feet in the high jump this spring.

“I’m going to try to get past that this year,” said Bradley in his typical humble, matter-of-fact fashion.

One thing his father and fourth-year Fruitport Calvary Christian boys basketball coach Brad Richards has learned is to not put anything past his only son, the youngest of his four children.

Bradley displayed an interest in music as a young boy and now sings in the school’s worship group and plays the saxophone, piano and guitar. Last fall, he played high school football for the first time as part of a cooperative agreement with Muskegon Catholic Central and wound up starting at wide receiver and defensive back for the state powerhouse program.

“He’s blessed and he’s gifted – yes,” said his father, who also coached all three of his girls during their Calvary Christian basketball careers. “But he works so hard.

“Bradley sets goals and works toward them. He’s always looking for the next thing to do.”

True to his school

One thing he doesn’t like to do is media interviews. Specifically, he doesn’t like calling attention to himself.

“He is pretty quiet and would rather have his teammates get the attention,” said his mother, Joy.

Fruitport Calvary Christian is one of the smallest schools on the entire Lakeshore with 51 students in grades 9-12, and just 17 boys in the high school.

Richards lines up to shoot a free throw. The Eagles take great pride in their ability to compete against much larger schools. They made a huge statement during the first full week of December with three convincing victories over bigger schools.

That week started on Tuesday, Dec. 5, with Calvary’s first-ever boys basketball win over neighbor Fruitport, a Division 2 school that competes in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue. Bradley scored 35 points with 14 rebounds in that game, with clutch free throws by role player Eric Dubois Quayle sealing the win.

Two days later, Richards scored 36 points with 17 rebounds in a win over Grand Rapids Sacred Heart.

Calvary then capped the 3-0 week Friday with a victory over Kent City, another Division 2 school, as Bradley scored 36 points with 18 rebounds.

Calvary is led by the “big three” of juniors Richards and Quinn Swanson and senior Sam Zelenka. Swanson, the team’s second-leading scorer with 17 points plus six rebounds and three assists per game, injured his knee last week against Schoolcraft and his health will have a huge bearing on the team’s success going forward. Zelenka is the top defender and averages 11 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

The other starters are junior workhorse Zach McFarren, who owns the school’s shot put and discus records and has played all but six minutes over the team’s seven games, and senior Nolan Ghezzi.

Richards, already a two-time Associated Press all-state selection who even made the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan all-state team as an eighth grader, has seen every gimmick defense to try and shut him down, including box-and-twos and triple teams. He credits his experience in football and track with helping him deal with it.

“There is usually a quick guy in front of me and a big guy behind me,” said Bradley, who scored a career-high 47 points in a game last season. “Football has really helped me, because I’m not as scared of the contact. The high jumping has helped me to elevate and get my shot off.”

Great heights

Jim McHugh is a high jump legend from Pentwater who went on to become a two-time national champion in the event at Hillsdale College, and he now coaches West Michigan athletes in the event.

The first time he worked with Bradley Richards, in April of last year, he knew he had something special on his hands.

“Bradley went up and literally hurdled the bar at 5-11,” said McHugh. “I was in shock. I said to myself: ‘This is gonna be a heck of a ride.’ The kid is a generational talent.”

The coaching of McHugh paid immediate dividends, as Bradley improved from a top jump of 6-1½ as a freshman to 6-6½ in last year’s Regional meet. Then came the Division 4 Finals at Hudsonville a few weeks later.

Bradley won the first track Finals championship for Fruitport Calvary with a leap of 6-10 – which was 3 inches higher than anyone else in any of the four Lower Peninsula divisions and entire Upper Peninsula that day – and caught the attention of college scouts from across the country.

Playing as part of a cooperative with Muskegon Catholic Central, Richards works to get away from a Traverse City St. Francis tackler. The following week, he competed at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Philadelphia and placed second with a jump of 6-8.24.

McHugh shudders to think of how high his prodigy can soar. He has his sights set on the Division 4 Finals record of 6-10½ (Kurt Schneider, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, 2009), the Muskegon-area record of 7-0 (Steve Paulsen, Fremont, 1998) and the all-division/class Finals record of 7-1 (John Payment, Brimley, 1989).

“God has given him incredible talent, but he also has the desire it takes,” said McHugh, who is also working with another Division I college high jump prospect in Hart junior Addison Hovey. “I gave him a workout plan, and he has done every bit of it. He has cleaned up his diet, done the cold showers and the cold bathtubs, everything. I’m excited to see the results.”

Richards, whose first love was basketball, admits he is smitten with the high jump and seeing how high he can soar.

Now, when asked about his favorite athletes, he still mentions Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant, but he also includes Olympic gold medalist high jumper Mutaz Barshim of Qatar – who made news by not taking additional jumps at the 2020 Olympics in Japan, thereby sharing the gold medal with Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy.

“I just respect that so much, sharing the gold medal,” Bradley said.

Decision time

Now the Bradley Richards recruiting saga has begun and, for him, it’s not just about choosing what school – it’s also about choosing what sport.

“I would like to do both, play basketball and high jump in college, if possible,” Bradley said.

That would certainly be a possibility if Bradley follows in his family’s footsteps at Cornerstone University. His father was a basketball standout at Cornerstone, which is where he met Joy, and all three of his sisters played for the Golden Eagles. (Kelsey is currently a student assistant for this year’s team.)

Playing both may not be possible if he pursues high jump at the Division I level, where Michigan and Illinois are among schools actively recruiting him.

“I know at some point I’m going to have to make a decision, but I don’t have to right now,” said the 17-year-old Bradley. “So it doesn’t do me any good to sit and stress about it all the time.”

Instead, he is focused on more immediate goals.

The first is figuring out a way for his basketball team to snap a two-game losing skid and get positioned for another postseason run.

Then it will be trying to clear the magical high jump number of 7-0, and beyond. And don’t forget football, where he would love to start off his senior year by helping Muskegon Catholic improve on its 6-5 record from a year ago and make a run at the school’s 13th state football championship.

Only after all of that will it be college decision time.

“It’s not an easy choice, and it will take a lot of prayer and discernment,” admitted Richards, who will look for help from his immediate family and his school family in making his choice. “I’ll figure it out. I usually do.”

Tom KendraTom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Fruitport Calvary Christian’s Bradley Richards stands atop the podium after winning the high jump last spring at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals. (Middle) Richards lines up to shoot a free throw. (Below) Playing as part of a cooperative with Muskegon Catholic Central, Richards works to get away from a Traverse City St. Francis tackler. (Track photo courtesy of Joy Richards; basketball and football photos courtesy of Local Sports Journal.)