Preview: History Awaits Next Contenders

June 2, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Hundreds of Michigan's top high school athletes will compete Saturday at seven MHSAA Track & Field championship meets taking place either in the Grand Rapids area or Kingsford in the Upper Peninsula. 

While some of the favorites in the boys meets are familiar past stars, many more contenders than in recent years will be attempting to write their championship stories for the first time. 

See below for some of the teams and individuals who should be among those in the championship mix at Saturday's boys meets. 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 Hudsonville Baldwin Middle School

Top Regional scores: Rockford 165½, Macomb Dakota 148½, East Kentwood 140.

Rockford: If the Rams are going to improve from 32nd last season and win their first MHSAA title, the points will come from a solid pair of distance runners in sophomore Cole Johnson – seeded first in the 1,600 (4:17.59) and second in the 800 (1:55.20) – and senior Isaac Harding, who is seeded second in the 3,200 (9:18.54). Those two also run on the fifth-seeded 3,200 relay (7:58.07), and Rockford also could get a nice points boost from senior pole vaulter Jonny De Haan (14-0).

Macomb Dakota: The Cougars also are seeking their first MHSAA title and tied for 44th a year ago, but should get a jump on the pack in field events with junior pole vaulter Cale Snyder (14-0) and senior long jumper De’Shon Collier (21-10½) in the mix for top places. Collier also is a contender in the 100 (10.96) and 200 (22.21) and as part of the fifth-seeded 400 relay (42.86).

East Kentwood: The Falcons fell back to second place last season but have won this meet five of the last seven and are the likely favorite again. Junior Khance Meyers ran the fastest 100 (10.58) at any Division 1 Regional by 15 hundredths of a second and has the fourth-fastest seed time in the 200 (21.69) and third-fastest in the 400 (49.32). He also runs on the top-seeded 800 relay (1:27.40). Junior Andre Welch is another contender, entering with the fourth-best Regional long jump (22-4½), and senior Isaiah Ledesma is in the mix for a high place in shot put (50-7¾).

Oxford’s Connor Bandel: The reigning shot put and discus champion should make a run at all-Finals records in both throws (64-½ in shot put and 210-1 in discus); he’s thrown 67 and 204, respectively.  

Wayne Memorial’s Montel Hood: He finished fourth in the 400 as a junior but enters Saturday with the top seed in that race (47.42) with a time only 42 hundredths of a second off the LP Division 1 record of 47.0 run by East Kentwood’s Ricco Hall in 2011.  

Jackson’s Anthony Owens: He missed the championship in long jump as a junior last season by four inches, but his Regional leap of 24 feet was the best in LP Division 1 by nearly a foot and only an inch shy of the all-Finals record of 24-1 jumped by Flushing’s Jeff Kline in 2009 – and Owens has gone 24-8.

East Lansing’s Kentre Patterson: The Trojans’ junior has launched into the elite this spring, posting the top Regional times in the 110 hurdles (13.94) and 300 hurdles (38.68).

Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Terius Wheatley: The son of Dearborn Heights Robichaud legend Tyrone can finish his high school career on the MHSAA champions list as well, entering with the top seed in high jump (6-8) and second (23-½) in long jump.

Southfield’s Delan Wynn: The Bluejays’ senior had a nice meet in 2015 with an eighth place in the 300 hurdles and a third as part of the 400 relay, but enters this weekend with the top seed in the 200 (21.49) and second in the 300 (38.84). 

LP Division 2 at Zeeland

Top Regional scores: Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 172, Grand Rapids Christian 152 2/3, Chelsea 150.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s: The reigning champion is loaded with sprint speed; junior Kahlee Hamler has the top seed in the 100 (10.78) and junior Richard Bowens ranks third in that race (10.95) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (39.29). Junior Shermond Dabney is seeded third in the 300 (39.24) and second in the 110 hurdles (14.55), and senior Tyler Cochran is fifth in the 400 (50.06). Hamler is part of the top-seeded 400 relay (43.41) and with Bowens on the top-seeded 800 relay (1:28.67), and Bowens and Cochran are on the fourth-seeded 1,600 relay (3:26.03). Bowens won the 300 hurdles last season.

Chelsea: Senior Bailey Edwards is seeded among the top four in both the 100 (10.98) and 200 (21.91 – seeded first), and senior Noah Van Reesema is seeded among the top eight in both hurdles races including second in the 300 (38.45). Sophomore Tom Oates should also score coming in fifth in the 1,600 (4:24.60), and all four relays qualified led by the sixth-seeded 400, eighth-seeded 1,600 and second-seeded 800 (1:29.72).  

Zeeland East: The Chix, last season’s runners-up, should contend again with plenty of scoring power and after also winning a Regional. Junior thrower Jonathan Berghorst is seeded among the top seven in both discus and shot put, while sophomore Corbin DeJonge could reach the podium in both hurdles races. Junior John Groendyk and sophomore Dan Cramer give East two contenders in the 800, and both join DeJonge and Khylin Barton on the top-seeded 1,600 relay (3:23.61). Barton, Cramer and Groendyk also run on the fifth-seeded 3,200 relay (8:10.34).  

Algonac’s Morgan Beadlescomb: The senior distance star is expected to add at least one more MHSAA title to the 1,600 championship won last season; Beadlescomb is seeded first in both the 1,600 (4:13.12) and 3,200 (9:25.54).

Lake Odessa Lakewood’s Noah Caudy: The reigning champion in the 110 hurdles, now a junior, is seeded sixth in that race (14.7) and the 300 (39.67).

Corunna’s Noah Jacobs: The Cavaliers’ junior is coming off the 3,200 championship in 2015 and has the second seed to Beadlescomb in that race (9:30.77) and third seed in the 1,600 (4:21.72).

St. Johns’ Steven Linton: After winning the 400 last season, the Redwings senior is pursuing two more titles seeded fifth in the 100 (11.01) and sixth in the 200 (22.40) to go with his top seed in the 400 (49.69).

Mason’s Justin Scavarda: The Bulldogs senior thrower won discus a year ago and was third in shot put, and comes in with the longest Regional tosses in both this time at 180-3 and 61-8, respectively.

Freeland’s Nathan Whitting: The reigning high jump champion tied for the third longest Regional jump, 6-5, and also runs on a relay.

Fruitport’s 3,200 relay: Seniors Kody Brooks, Seth Glover and Noah Hendricks and sophomore Cameron Oleen ran a Regional time of 7:56.24, which was more than nine seconds faster than the rest of the division and only six seconds off the meet record run by Zeeland East last season.  

LP Division 3 at Comstock Park

Top Regional scores: Frankenmuth 145½, Clinton Township Clintondale 144, Dundee 143½.

Frankenmuth: The champion as recently as 2011, Frankenmuth tied for 29th a year ago but could have enough individual contenders to make a run led by junior Dan Stone, seeded second in discus (160-10) and third in shot put (55-2). Junior Grant Bronner also will need to be significant; he’s tied for fourth in the high jump (6-4), seeded 10th in the 110 hurdles (15.53) and 13th in the 300 hurdles (41.8), one spot behind senior teammate Jonathan Worden (41.5)

Hillsdale: The Hornets, runners-up last season, also had one of the top Regional winning scores two weeks ago and have competitors in 12 events. Among those who could be key are sophomore Devin Van Dusen, who is seeded fourth in the 100 (11.1) and 200 (22.6), and senior Brock Eves, who is fifth in the 1,600 (4:24.03) and also qualified in the 3,200. Van Dusen also runs on the third-seeded 1,600 relay (3:29.32).

Sanford Meridian: The 2014 champion was fourth last year and should be able to score in bunches led by Christian Petre, who is seeded second in the 100 (11.06) and first in the 200 (22.40) and runs on the top-seeded 400 relay (43.79) and third-seeded 800 relay (1:31.67). He’s the reigning champ in the 100. Senior Monte Petre also has top-10 seeds in the sprints and runs on the eighth-seeded 1,600 relay.

Grand Rapids West Catholic’s Carl Myers: The reigning shot put champion is seeded first in both throws as a senior with a 164-6 in the discus and 61-8½ in the shot put; he could approach the meet record in the shot put of 63-9½ set by Allendale’s Zach Hill in 2009.  

Hesperia’s Nate McKeown: The reigning champion in the high jump went 6-10 at his Regional and could take a shot at the meet record of 7-0 set by Frankenmuth’s Andrew Dodson in 2005; McKeown also has the top seed in the long jump at 21-3 after finishing fifth in that event last season.

Reed City’s Nate Fasbender: After winning pole vault last season as a junior at 14-0, Fasbender went 15-0 at his Regional, three inches higher than the next best competitor in the division.

St. Louis’ Evan Goodell: He placed eighth in the 3,200  a year ago, but enters with the fastest Regional times in that race (9:36.87) and the 1,600 (4:19.86).

Macomb Lutheran North’s Zach Stadnika: The reigning 110 hurdles champion placed in three events in 2015 and will compete in a different combination of three Saturday; he’s seeded ninth in the 110 (14.83) and first in the long jump (22-3) and also will compete in high jump.

Grandville Calvin Christian’s Abe Visser: The reigning 3,200 champ is seeded third both in that race (9:44.46) and the 1,600 (4:21.22).

LP Division 4 at Grand Rapids Houseman Stadium

Top Regional scores: Saugatuck 215, Ubly 155, Marcellus 153.

Saugatuck: The Indians are going for their second straight title and third in four seasons after tying with Concord for first in 2015. Junior Blake Dunn is one of the top all-around athletes in Michigan and a reigning champion in the 300 hurdles; he’s seeded first in that race (39.49) as well as the 110 (14.94) and runs on two relays. Junior Xavier Cardona has top-seven seeds in both throws, and a strong group of distance runners should help carry the load. Freshman Corey Gorgas, sophomore Keegan Seifert and junior Zachary Pettinga have the second, third and fourth seeds, respectively, in the 3,200, and Pettinga also is seeded sixth in the 1,600. The 3,200 relay is seeded fourth.

Concord: The other reigning co-champion has competitors in nine events, led by junior Montez Brewer; he’s seeded first in the 100 (10.98) and runs on top-five-seeded 400 and 800 relays. Senior Chase Hinkle is seeded ninth in the 200, and senior Kamron McDonald and junior Jacob Randall are both tied for fourth in the high jump (6-1).   

Saginaw Nouvel: After tying for 40th in Division 3 last season, Nouvel could make a move on its first boys track & field title since 1989. Senior Jacob Gray is seeded fourth in discus (139-1) and seventh in shot put (47-4½), and junior Robi Stuart is second in shot put (52-3½). Junior Matt Bartels also could pick up some points, seeded third in the 1,600 (4:36.95) and fifth in the 3,200 (10:15.47). The 400 and 800 relays are seeded fourth and eighth, respectively.

Merrill's Jacob Kulhanek: The reigning pole vault champion, now a senior, qualified with a 13-3, fifth highest in Division 4 but only three inches below four competitors tied for the top height.

Evart’s Santana Scott: He was sixth in the 1,600 and second in the 3,200 as a junior, and both races will have new champions Saturday; he has the top seeds in both at 4:27.93 and 9:59.92, respectively.

UP Division 1 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Marquette 93, Houghton 73, Negaunee 44.

Marquette: The Redmen returned to the top last season with their fourth title in six seasons but after two without finishing first. They have to be the favorite again paced by reigning 1,600 and 3,200 champion Lance Rambo; he’s seeded first in the 1,600 (4:23.42), 3,200 (10:03.46) and 800 (1:59.90). Senior Patrick Burmeister is seeded first in the 100 (11.51) and second in the 200 (23.48), and senior Payton Muljo is first in the shot put (48-7). Marquette’s 1,600 relay (3:37.64) and 3,200 relay (8:21.47) also carry top seeds. Muljo won shot put last season.

Houghton: The top-seeded 800 relay (1:34.81) and strong field events should put Houghton into the mix. Senior Brad Ohtonen is seeded first in the discus (129-1¾) and second in shot put (44-7), and senior Hunter Richards is tied for first in high jump (6-0) and fourth in long jump (19-1½). Junior Casey Lentowich in the 110 hurdles (16.30) and sophomore Clayton Sayen in the 400 (52.21) also bring top seeds. Ohtonen won discus last season.

Kingsford’s Trevor Roberts: The standout junior won the long jump and 100 last year; he’s seeded fourth in the 100 (11.68), sixth in the 200 (32.91) and runs on two seeded relays including the favored 400 relay (45.49).

Kingsford’s Brandon Kowalkowski: Last season’s high jump champion is two inches off the top Regional performers at 5-10 and also runs on the 400 and 800 relays.

UP Division 2 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Ishpeming 97½, Iron Mountain 56, Iron River West Iron County 48.

Ishpeming: The Hematites have competitors in 16 events, including top-seeded senior Andrew Poirier in the 300 hurdles (46.61) and the top-seeded 800 relay (1:38.72). The 3,200 relay (9:46.91), 400 relay (47.36) and 1,600 relay (3:49.72) all are seeded second, as are senior Nick Coment in long jump (18-6½), junior Isaac Olson in the 200 (24.72) and junior Daren Guichin in the 1,600 (4:53.86).

Iron Mountain: Senior Nate Carey could lead the Mountaineers to their first title since 2000; he’s part of the top-seeded 3,200 relay (9:19.39) and is top-seeded in the 1,600 (4:52.88) and 3,200 (10:47.2). Junior Aaron Bolo had the top Regional high jump at 5-11, and senior Tanner Huotari has the top seed in the 800 (2:11.7).

Ironwood’s Isaac Aukee: The reigning pole vault champion, now a senior, comes in at 8-6 but went 11-6 last season. 

UP Division 3 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Rapid River 76, Powers North Central 71, Pickford 67.

Powers North Central: The Jets look like a possibility for a first title since 2005 with a number of top seeds; senior Brendan Gatien is tops in shot put (47-2) as is senior Morgan Cox in the high jump (6-0, tied) and both the 400 (46.91) and 1,600 relays (3:40.73). Senior Bryce Holle, the reigning champion in the 400, is seeded second in that race (52.65) and also qualified in the 800.

Rapid River: The reigning runner-up has competitors in 14 events and enough high seeds to make a run at a first title since 2003. Senior Dan Blair is top-seeded in both the 800 (2:07.24) and 1,600 (4:37.24).

Munising’s Brett Hannah: One of two who starred in leading Munising to the title last year, Hannah is the reigning champ in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. He will run all three plus the 400 (52.44), the only race in which he’s seeded first.  

Crystal Falls Forest Park’s Billy Ragio: Last season’s pole vault champion set the meet record at 13-3½ as a junior and two weeks ago had the top Regional vault in the division at 12-6; he’ll also run the 100.

PHOTO: Orchard Lake St. Mary's celebrates its championship last season in Lower Peninsula Division 2.

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.)