Preview: Prepare for Close Finishes

June 1, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Predicting the outcomes of MHSAA Track & Field Finals can be quite a leap. 

But here's a semi-reliable forecast after hours of poring over the qualifiers for Saturday's seven boys meets: Expect plenty of close competition as a number of teams have the singular standouts needed to push them into championship contention.

Below is a look at some of the teams and individuals to watch at Saturday’s boys meets. All events begin at 9 a.m. local time on both peninsulas.   

Click for meet information including all qualifiersCheck out MHSAA.TV for live streaming of running events from both peninsulas, available with subscription, and come back Saturday night for results as they come in and coverage of all seven meets on Second Half. 

The MHSAA Track & Field Finals are presented by the Michigan Army National Guard(All times/measurements referenced below were achieved during Regional competition.)

LP Division 1 at East Kentwood

Top Regional scores: 1. East Kentwood 166½, 2. Grand Blanc 139, 3. Oak Park 134.

East Kentwood is the reigning champion and has won six of the last nine LPD1 titles, doing so last year by 16½ points. Rockford was second and Oak Park third, and both could figure prominently again into Saturday’s final result.

East Kentwood: The Falcons return only one reigning champion – junior Logan Brown in the shot put, where he’s the top seed (57-8½) – but have plenty of options for scoring points. Senior Job Mayhue was second in the 110 hurdles last season and enters the weekend the top seed in that race (13.83) and the 300 (37.15). East Kentwood also will run the fourth-seeded 400 (42.80) and 800 (1:28.5) relays and third-seeded 1,600 relay (3:23.6).

Rockford: The rival Rams might have the best chance of catching East Kentwood. Senior Cole Johnson is the reigning 1,600 champ, and he’s seeded sixth in that race (4:20.02) and fifth in the 800 (1:55.59). Senior Gavin McIntyre is seeded second in the discus (157-1), and all four relays will run with multiple having a chance to break into the final heat.

Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Nick Foster: He finished third in the 1,600 as a sophomore in 2017 but could claim both long distance races this time with the top seed in the 3,200 (9:16.6) and the second seed in the 1,600 (4:17.84).

Macomb Dakota’s Jeron Kelley: After finishing ninth in the 100 and missing out on the 200 championship heat as a junior, Kelley enters as the top seed in the 100 (10.75) and third in the 200 (21.93).

Ypsilanti Lincoln’s Matthew Moorer: The senior speedster will try to repeat in the 400 and add the 200 title after finishing second in the latter last season. He’s seeded first in the 200 (21.56) and second in the 400 (48.07). 

LP Division 2 at Zeeland

Top Regional scores: Dearborn Divine Child 179½, 2. Zeeland East 151½ 3. Chelsea 128½.

Zeeland East claimed its first championship in the sport last season, by 29 points over runner-up Coldwater. Those two appear to have the best chances of pushing for the title again, with a few others including Chelsea also in a possible mix.

Coldwater: Last year’s finish was Coldwater’s first among the top two at a Finals, and many of the key contributors are back. Senior Shuaib Aljabaly took second in the 3,200 last season and will return for that race and as the top seed in the 1,600 (4:13.9). Throws have been another area of strength, and sophomore Dylan Targgart is seeded first in both the discus (165-10) and shot put (59-4), with senior teammates Zach Gipple (56-3) and Cole Targgart (53-2½) seeded second and fourth, respectively, in the latter. Both Targgarts placed in the discus last spring. Senior Adam Bailey also has a second seed, in the 300 hurdles (40.0), after finishing sixth a year ago.

Zeeland East: The Chix’ power lies also lies in throws and hurdles, plus relays. Senior Brenden Knoll (162-9) and junior Boone Bonnema (150-3) are second and fourth-seeded in shot put, and Knoll is the third seed in discus (53-7¾); he was shot put runner-up in 2017. Senior Corbin DeJonge has the top seed in the 110 hurdles (14.83) and the fourth in the 300 (40.31) after taking fourth last season in both races. But the deciding points could come from top-seeded 400 (43.47) and 800 (1:30.3) relays.

Dearborn Divine Child’s Luke Ciarelli: The reigning champion in the high jump enters his final high school meet as the second seed (6-3).

Fruitport’s Cameron Oleen: He won the 400 last season as a junior and enters as the second seed in that race (50.39) plus will compete in the 800. 

Wyoming Lee’s Thomas Robinson: The senior sprinter won the 100 and 200 in LPD3 the last two seasons, but could do the same in LPD2 as he enters with top seeds of 10.97 and 22.17, respectively.

LP Division 3 at Comstock Park

Top Regional scores: Warren Michigan Collegiate 164, Berrien Springs 153, Clare 144¼.

Five of the last six seasons have seen a first-time champion in LPD3. The last three seasons also have seen three straight runner-up finishes by Hillsdale (also seeking its first title). Saugatuck, Berrien Springs, Clare and Hanover-Horton are among teams that appear to have enough in what could be a low-scoring meet. Of those three, only Clare has won an MHSAA Finals in this sport – in 2000.

Clare: The Pioneers have talent spread throughout the lineup, starting with top-seeded 400 (44.06) and 800 (1:30.3) relays. Senior Noah Nivison has the top seed in discus (157-10), while senior Zac Stickler has the second seeds in discus (151-4) and shot put (56-9½); he was sixth in discus in 2017. Senior Xavier Martin adds another second seed in the 200 (22.23), and the 1,600 relay also has potential coming in as the fifth seed (3:31.4).

Hanover-Horton: The Comets could get points early with the top-seeded 3,200 relay (8:14.4) and have multiple racers in the 1,600 and 3,200. Senior Logan Melling is the top seed in the 800 (1:59.1) and the eighth seed in the 1,600 (4:26.8) after finishing second in the 1,600 and third in the 800 a year ago. Senior Dakota Manee adds the fifth seed in the 400 (51.04).

Houghton Lake’s Jackson Blanchard: The reigning champion in both hurdles races has the second seed in the 110 (14.97) and the top seed in the 300 (38.64), and he’ll also run the 200 in his final high school meet.

Hillsdale’s Spencer Eves: The reigning high jump champion, now a junior, is tied for the second-highest seed jump (6-4).

Chesaning’s Sam Forsyth: A senior, he won the long jump last season and is seeded third (tied) in that event (20-9) and sixth in the 200 (22.66).

Saugatuck’s Corey Gorgas: After coming in second in the 3,200 last season as a sophomore, Gorgas is seeded first in that race (9:34) and the 1,600 (4:21.7).

Harbor Springs’ Jeremy Kloss: He won the 1,600 and 3,200 in LPD4 as a sophomore and enters the LPD3 race Saturday with the second seed in the 800 (1:59.1) and the fourth in the 1,600 (4:25.7).

Kent City’s Giovanni Weeks: The junior standout is seeded first in the long jump (21-3) and 200 (21.99) and second in the 100 (11.06).

LP Division 4 at Hudsonville

Top Regional scores: Whittemore-Prescott 181, Southfield Christian 140, Lutheran Westland 135.

Whittemore-Prescott needed only 36 points last season to win its first championship in this sport, and the scoring could be that spread out again. If that’s the case, Addison, Kalamazoo Hackett or Hillsdale Academy might find itself contending as well. Hillsdale Academy was fifth last season, but only 10 points off the lead.

Addison: The Panthers will go after their first championship in this sport. Senior thrower Donovan Underwood is seeded first in discus (152-2) and fourth in shot put (46-½). Senior Dakota Knieper is seeded second in the 200 (50.74), and a handful of others are seeded in the 5-8 range of their respective events. All four relays are seeded seventh or higher, led by the third-seeded 800 (1:34.71).

Whittemore-Prescott: With competitors in 10 individual events and two contending relays, the Cardinals will have an opportunity to repeat. They won last year without a champion in any one event and enter Saturday without a top seed. But the 800 relay is seeded second (1:32.60) and the 1,600 relay is seeded third (3:34.18).

Marcellus’ Derek Flory: The reigning champion in the long jump and 300 hurdles is seeded first in the 300 (40.18) and third in the 110 hurdles (15.23) and will jump as well in his final high school meet.

Hale’s Patrick Harris: The reigning 400 champ is seeded first as a junior (50.52) and also will run the 200.

Harbor Beach’s Daniel Lanfear: He’s back as a senior to aim for a repeat in the high jump.

Sand Creek’s Alec Muck: The junior sprinter has three individual championships over his first two seasons and is seeded first in the 100 (10.77) and second in the 200 (22.11).

UP Division 1 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: 1. Marquette 84½, 2. Houghton 57, 3. Gladstone 53½.

Marquette is aiming to extend its UPD1 Finals winning streak to four straight seasons after finishing more than 50 points better than runner-up Iron Mountain a year ago. Houghton, however, finished only 3½ points out of the second spot last year and will make a push for its first team championship since 1992.

Marquette: The Redmen’s massive win last season came with only two individual champions. Only two individuals and two relays are seeded first for this weekend; junior Raphael Millado has the top spot in high jump (6-7) after finishing runner-up a year ago, and junior Mathurin Gagnon is first in the 800 (2:03.66).

Houghton: The Gremlins return more star power, led by senior Clayton Sayen – the reigning champion in the 200 and two-time reigning winner of the 400. He’s seeded first in the 100 (11.58) and 400 (51.34) and second in the 200 (23.38). Senior Kameron Simpkin is the reigning champ in pole vault, and senior Seth Helman is one of the peninsula’s top distance runners – he’s seeded third in the 1,600 (4:40.72) and second in the 3,200 (10:26.29).

Gladstone’s Adam Bruce: The junior emerged last season winning the 3,200, and he’s seeded third in that race (10:26.69) and the 800 (2:04.54) and second in the 1,600 (4:37.86).

Negaunee’s Colton Yesney: Arguably the top distance runner in the U.P. the last two school years, he’ll finish his career trying for a second straight win in the 1,600 and seeded first in that race (4:27.76) and the 3,200 (10:03.52), third in the 400 (53.48) and fourth in the 800 (2:04.57).

UP Division 2 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: 1. Ishpeming 65, 2. Iron Mountain 64½, 3. Newberry 45.

Newberry is the reigning champion after breaking Ishpeming’s three-year winning streak last spring. However, the Hematites finished second and may be the team to beat – although they’ll now have to fend off Iron Mountain again. The Mountaineers were the 2016 runners-up, then finished second last year in UPD1.

Iron Mountain: This could be the Mountaineers’ year to break through with a first team title since 2000. Junior Charlie Gerhard won the 300 hurdles in UPD1 last season and is seeded first in that race by more than a second (41.97). He’s also seeded second in the 110 hurdles (15.76) and tied for third in high jump (5-9). Seniors Michael Kulas (400 – 51.05) and Jacob Tucker (high jump – 6-3) and two relays also are seeded first.

Ishpeming: The Hematites have only two top seeds, but 11 among the top three – and that depth should pay off. Those number one seeds belong to sophomore Jonah Broberg in the 800 (2:10.32) – who is followed in that race by senior teammate Kyle Pruett (2:11.79) – and senior Hart Holmgren in the long jump (19-2½).

Stephenson’s Montell Glover: As a sophomore last year, he swept the 100, 200 and 400; as a junior he’s seeded first in the 100 (11.5) and 200 (23.02) and second in the 400 (51.25).

Ironwood’s Nick Niemi: The reigning champion in the 3,200 is seeded first in that race (10:24.85) and in the 1,600 (4:45.98) now as a junior.

Norway’s Inocencio Stankevich: He won the 300 hurdles last season and could double his total in his final high school meet, entering as the second seed in the 300 (43.32) and the top seed in the 110 hurdles (15.52).

UP Division 3 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Rapid River 83, Bessemer 80¼, Pickford 75½.

Rapid River will compete for its third straight team championship after edging Bessemer by four points at last year’s Finals. A Bessemer championship would be its second ever – and first since 1951.

Rapid River: Three returning individual champions give the Rockets a substantial start on their three-peat attempt. Senior Luke Gustafson won the pole vault last season and is tied for the top seed (11-6). Senior Logan Hardwick won the discus and is the top seed in that event (154-9) and the second seed in the shot put (45-9). And senior Lucas Sundling took first in the 400 in 2017 and is seeded first in that race (53.94) and the 100 (11.54) as well.

Bessemer: The Speedboys’ run at history will be aided by two returning individual champions. Senior Isaiah Aili won the 800 and 1,600 last year and is seeded second in both (2:09.43 and 4:51.07, respectively). Senior Brayden Tomes will look to repeat in the 200, where he’s seeded fifth (24.74), and he’s also seeded seventh in the 100 (12.0) and first in the 300 hurdles (44.34).

Pickford’s Nicholas Edington: He’s aiming to repeat in the high jump and is among those tied for fifth seed at 5-8.

Brimley’s Austin Plotkin: The sophomore will look to add to last year’s 3,200 title, and enters seeded fifth in that race (10:58.35) and seventh in the 1,600 (4:54.34).

Ewen-Trout Creek’s Jacob Witt: The senior football and basketball star is also a reigning shot put champion; he’s seeded first in that throw (45-11) and third in discus (143-9).

PHOTO: Reigning LPD3 long jump champion Sam Forsyth of Chesaning prepares to land during his Regional last month. (Click to see more from

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.)