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

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.)