Preview: Star Power Expected to Shine

June 2, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The MHSAA Track & Field Finals again will draw one of the largest groups of competitors of any championship event in the state this school year.

And fans surely will recognize a number of names from Finals past – including, on the boys side, a number of seniors looking to add to their previous piles of titles.

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 be sure to check out MHSAA.TV for live streaming of running events from both peninsulas, available with subscription.

LP Division 1 at East Kentwood

Top Regional scores: East Kentwood 171½, Macomb Dakota 163, Rockford 160.

East Kentwood: The Falcons finished third a year ago, but a few years doesn’t erase memories of the program’s five Division 1 championships between 2009-14 and runner-up finish in 2015. Senior Khance Meyers could pile up points again as the reigning champion in the 100 and 200 meters – he has the division’s fastest times in both of those events this season (10.55 and 21.02, the latter wind-aided). The Falcons’ 800 relay also has run the fastest time in LP Division 1 and in the 1,600 the second fastest, and East Kentwood athletes have division top-three performances in three other events as well this spring.

Oak Park: Reigning 800 champion Cameron Cooper is back to pace the team champion, and he’s run the fastest race at that distance in LP Division 1 at 1:50.80 and had the fastest Regional 1,600 by more than a second. All four of Oak Park’s relays have run times among the top four in the division this season, with Cooper’s 1,600 relay has the fastest in that race at 3:16.56.

Rockford: The Rams finished nine points back of Oak Park last season but could make it much closer this time around. Junior Cole Johnson has run the division’s fastest 1,600 (4:09.43) and second-fastest 800 this season. Rockford also ran the division’s fastest 400 relay just last weekend (41.64), and has run the third-fastest times in the 800 and 1,600.

Ann Arbor Skyline junior Anthony Giannobile: The reigning champion in the 1,600 has run only the seventh fastest time in the division this spring, but should contend again.

East Lansing senior Kentre Patterson: The reigning champion in the 110 hurdles has run the fastest time in LP Division 1 in that race this spring (13.95) and the second-fastest time in the 300 (38.80).

Salem senior Mason Phillips: He returned to track & field this season for the first time since freshman year and started long jumping about a month ago – but his wind-aided season high of 24 feet, 1 inch, would tie the all-Finals record if he can replicate it Saturday without the breeze.

LP Division 2 at Zeeland

Top Regional scores: Dearborn Divine Child 179, Coldwater 150½, Zeeland East 144.

Corunna: The Cavaliers should be contenders for their first team championship since winning Class B back-to-back in 1998 and 1999. On Tuesday, senior Noah Jacobs ran the division’s fastest 3,200 this season (9:17.55) and sophomore brother Ben Jacobs ran the fastest 1,600 (4:20.46). They also are part of the 3,200 relay (7:57.58) that posted the division’s fastest time in the event over the weekend.

Grand Rapids Christian: The Eagles have top-10 performances this season in six individual events and three relays, with senior Faida Muriithi entering this weekend with the top long jump (23-1¾) this spring. The 800 relay (1:30.52) also has the fastest time in this division in that event.

Lansing Waverly: The Warriors look good to contend for their first MHSAA team title after the girls team won its first last spring. Waverly on Tuesday ran the division’s fastest 1,600 relay (3:25.96) and senior Wanya’ Sanders ran the fastest 400 (49.38). Sophomore Keshaun Harris has run top-three times in both hurdles races and he and Sanders are part of an 800 relay that has the second fastest time in the division.

Pierre Brown, Romulus junior: He finished third in the 100 last season and enters this weekend with the top time in the 100 (10.82) in the division this spring.

Noah Caudy, Lake Odessa Lakewood senior: The reigning champion in the 110 hurdles (and fourth-place finisher in the 300) could claim two titles; his 14.12 from his Regional is the fastest in the 110 race, and his 37.71 in the 300 earlier this week also is an LP Division 2 best.

Johnathon Sholl, Sturgis senior: Although his 22.63 is only the eighth fastest 200 time in the division this spring, he is the reigning champion in the event after running a time last year that would be the fastest this season. 

LP Division 3 at Comstock Park

Top Regional scores: 1. Warren Michigan Collegiate 151, 2. Clare 147½, 3. Chesaning 146½.

Chesaning: The Indians finished fourth last season with 28 points and could surpass that total just in relays; they have the top 400 (43.76) time in LP Division 3 this season, the fastest as well in the 800 (1:30.20) and the third-fastest in the 1,600. Juniors Sam Forsyth (22-1) and Brandon Keys (22-0½) have the top long jumps in the division this spring as well.

Hillsdale: The Hornets finished runners-up the last two seasons but might have enough to push for their first title. Junior Devin VanDusen ran the division’s second-fastest 100 this season at the Regional and will run on three relays. Senior Rees Nemeth should be a contender in the 110 hurdles, and has the top pole vault (15-9) by nearly a foot in LP Division 3. Senior Spencer Eves is tied for the top high jump (6-6) this spring, and thrower Tristan Burcham and long jumper Nathan Gimenez give Hillsdale contenders in the other three field events as well.

Saugatuck: The LP Division 4 champion two straight seasons and three of the last four will try to add a Division 3 title to the mix, although this time without four-time individual champion Blake Dunn, who was lost to a knee injury early this spring. Still, the team has pushed on led in part by sophomore Corey Gorgas and senior Zachary Pettinga, who both have times among the best in the division in the 3,200 and run on the 3,200 relay that’s posted the division’s fastest time (8:09.50) this season; Gorgas also ranks among the fastest 1,600 runners this spring.

Anthony Evilsizor, Constantine senior: He has the fourth-fastest time in the division in the 800, but is the reigning champ with a time last year that would be the best in the division this spring.

Evan Goodell, St. Louis senior: The reigning 3,200 champion is the one to beat in both distance races, entering with the division’s top times in both the 1,600 (4:18.18) and 3,200 (9:05.06). That 3,200 time would break the meet record by seven seconds.

Thomas Robinson, Wyoming Lee junior: The reigning champion in the 100 and 200 has run the division’s fastest times in both of those events this spring (10.78 and 21.78, respectively). Those times are within hundredths of a second of the meet records in those races.

Dan Stone, Frankenmuth senior: After taking fourth in discus and second in shot put as a junior, Stone has the top throws in both events this spring (183-10 and 59-11, respectively), the discus by nearly 20 feet and the shot put by nearly four.

LP Division 4 at Grand Rapids Houseman Field

Top Regional scores: 1. Whittemore-Prescott 187, Lutheran Westland 179, Manton 161½.

Concord: The Yellow Jackets’ rise from ninth last season could start with senior Daniel Mikovits, the reigning champ in the 800 with the fastest time in that race (1:56.75) in this division this season. Three qualifying relays have posted times among the top eight in the division as well, while seniors Bradley Hawkins (discus) and Justin Detgen (3,200) also are likely contenders.

Evart: Last season’s runner-up graduated a two-event champion but has athletes who have posted top-10 performances in the division this season in two sprints, two distance races and two field events. Junior Scott Martin is tied for top high jump (6-6), and the 400 relay’s best time ranks second.

Whittemore-Prescott: The Cardinals were sixth last season but only six points out of second place. The 800 relay’s top time of 1:32.43 is best in the division this season, and two more relays rank among the top six. Whittemore-Prescott could also get some needed points in the 400, 3,200 and field events and have qualifiers all over Saturday’s lineup.

Jeremy Kloss, Harbor Springs senior: He took only sixth in the 1,600 and 3,200 last season, but has the fastest times in the division in both races this spring (4:26.71 and 9:49.52, respectively).

Alec Muck, Sand Creek sophomore: The reigning 200 champion also took third in the 100 last year; his 22.43 in the 200 at the Regional is the fastest time in the division this spring, and his 11.04 in the 100 last weekend ranks third in that race.

Bryce Washington, Southfield Christian junior: Washington’s 6-3 at his Regional ties for sixth highest in the division this season, but he went 6-5 in winning at last year’s Finals.

Paxton Titus, Brighton Livingston Christian senior: The reigning discus champion also finished seventh in shot put last year, and he has the top tosses in both in 2017 – 182-6 and 58-10, respectively. That best shot put would break the meet record by more than four inches.

UP Division 1 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: 1. Marquette 92, 2. Houghton 53, 3. Iron Mountain 43.

Marquette: The Redmen have won two straight titles and doubled up the field at their Regional winning all four relays and finishing first in three field events – but with only two individual race champions. Senior Taylor Althouse came in only fourth at the Regional in high jump, but is the reigning Finals champion in that event. Senior Bradley Seaborg is the reigning champion in the 300 hurdles.

Houghton: Last season’s runner-up should again get a major boost from junior Clayton Sayen, who won the 200 and 400 and his Regional and is the reigning 400 Finals champion as well. Senior Casey Lentowich placed among the top six in both hurdles races last season and should score well again.

Ryan Jones, Sault Ste. Marie senior: Last season’s 200 champion actually placed in four events including two as part of relays. He won both the 100 and 200 at his Regional.

Kyle McKenzie, Gladstone senior: McKenzie is the reigning pole vault champ and won his Regional with a vault of 12-0, six inches higher than the next best and also six inches higher than his Finals height a year ago.

UP Division 2 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: 1. Newberry 104, 2. Ishpeming 67, T-3. Iron River West Iron County & St. Ignace, 29.

Newberry: The Indians are up a division after finishing third in UP Division 3 in 2016. They had the first-place finisher in every relay and all but one race at the Regional, while senior John Paramski got field event victories in the discus and shot put. Senior hurdler Alex Johnson and junior sprinter Andre James also both had multiple Regional wins.

Ishpeming: The Hematites are trying for their fourth straight Division 2 championship after pulling off the feat last year without an individual champion (but by winning three relays). Senior Grady Kerst should lead the charge; he won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at his Regional.

Alex Dewald, Hancock senior: He won both the 100 and 200 as a junior, and will need to make a jump after finishing fourth in both at his Regional this year.

David LaVake, St. Ignace senior: He was only fourth in his individual events at the Regional, the 100 and 400, but won the 400 last season at the Finals when he also ran on three relays.

Mitchell Peterson, St. Ignace senior: The reigning pole vault champion won by six inches last season, with the same distance (11-6) putting him second at the Regional last month.

Bryan Schram, Iron River West Iron County sophomore: After winning the shot put as a freshman (and finishing second in discus), Schram will try to win both throws after earning Regional titles in both.

UP Division 3 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: 1. Rapid River 93, 2. Pickford 87½, 3. Bessemer 84.

Rapid River: The reigning Division 3 champion returns reigning discus champion and shot put placer junior Logan Hardwick and crushed its Regional by winning every relay and all but one individual race (plus two field events). Junior Lucas Sundling won the 100, 200 and 400 at the Regional and won the 400 at the Finals last year for Big Bay de Noc.

Pickford: The Panthers should make a nice jump after tying for seventh last season. Pickford won three relays at its Regional and likely has the lead jumper in freshman Nick Edington, who won both the long and high at the Regional.

Garrett O’Neil, Felch North Dickinson senior: After winning both hurdles races as a junior, O’Neil is a strong favorite to repeat in both after winning them at his Regional by significant margins.

PHOTO: St. Louis' Evan Goodell, left, and Corunna's Noah Jacobs, here at the Ithaca Invitational this spring, are favorites to win distance championships while competing in different divisions at this weekend's MHSAA Track & Field Finals. (Click to see more from

Hastings Relays Reigns as State's Oldest Continuous Track & Field Meet

By Steve Vedder
Special for

April 10, 2024

Bob Branch remembers dabbling in other sports, but his first love was always running.

Mid-MichiganThe Hastings High School graduate admits he could never hit a baseball, football didn't especially appeal to him and basketball was just another way to spend time with friends. But for Branch, now 93, there was always track. That's the sport where his fondest and sharpest memories remain. And if you're talking track, many of his favorite memories come from participation in the state's oldest continuous track meet, the Hastings Relays.

Always held in early April, the meet dates back to 1937 – a bygone time that saw the first hostilities of World War II, gas at 20 cents a gallon and a loaf of bread selling for a dime.

And at a dusty old track surrounding the county fairgrounds in Hastings, a small relay event that included a scattering of participants from a dozen high schools was taking its first tentative steps.

Branch recalls a time when kids would run home after track practice because there were no buses, inexperienced young coaches had little actual knowledge of running fundamentals, and athletes looked at the sport as an afterthought after spending most of their high school days playing football and basketball.

The author wrote on the 50th anniversary of the Relays for the Hastings Banner nearly 40 years ago.For Branch, the relays were the ideal way to ease into the track season.

"I just liked to run," said Branch. "I remember I anchored a relay with my brother, and it always seemed cold when we had that meet. I remember teams would come from all over and you saw a lot of good athletes. Everybody seemed to have someone who was really good. Track wasn't very popular at that time, but I have a lot of good memories from running."

The Hastings Relays, which has changed formats and even names during its nearly nine-decade history, would traditionally kick off the track season. The meet was originally held at a makeshift quarter-mile track which surrounded the town's fairgrounds and was part of the city's annual Hastings Carnival – the track would become the midway during fair time.

The meet eventually moved to Johnson Field when the football field was dedicated in 1949 and ballooned to as many as 50 teams at its peak in 1957. For more than seven decades it was known as the Hastings Relays and then the Hastings Co-Ed relays before becoming the current Hastings Invitational, with the latest edition scheduled for Friday.

Johnson Field had a cinder track before it became an all-weather surface in the 1980s. During a time long before computers would be used to organize meet heats in mere minutes, Hastings coaches of all sports – defined as "volunteers" by the athletic department – would meet on the Friday before competition to hash out events.

People associated with the meet still recall the camaraderie built on those long Friday nights, followed by working what would often become 10-hour meets. Steve Hoke has been involved since watching his father, Jack, who coached teams at 15 of the meets beginning in 1951 and also had run in the first Hastings Relays. Steve Hoke later competed in the Relays as well during the early 1970s before becoming an assistant track coach, later the Hastings athletic director and now a volunteer worker.

"It was always a huge deal," said Hoke, who said the meet began as a pure relay event before transitioning to its current team format in the 1990s. "I remember we'd line the track the night before, and all the coaches would come to the house to organize everything. There was a brotherhood.”

Past athlete, coach and athletic director Steve Hoke shows some of the Relays awards from the 1930s.If you quiz many of the fleet of volunteers who've worked the relays over the years, each has a different memory from the meet. While Hoke describes the brotherhood and Branch the outstanding competition, others remember weather and the time a thunderstorm wiped out the line markings on the cinder track, or waking up to find three inches of snow that caused a rare cancellation of the meet. Others recall the shock of moving from the cinder to all-weather track or using the meet as an early measuring stick of what it would take to qualify for the state meet. The real old-timers remember the meet disappearing for three years during World War II.

Hastings native and Western Michigan grad Tom Duits was the state’s second collegian to break the four-minute mile when he ran a 3:59.2 at a meet in Philadelphia in 1978. Duits, who ran in three Hastings Relays, was in line to join the U.S. Olympic team in 1980 before the United States pulled out of the games due to tension with Russia.

Duits has his own memories of the meet and the competition he faced there.

"I remember sunshine and being excited to be competing again. There were all these athletes swarming around; it was an awesome display of talent," he said. "It was always one of the best meets we'd be in. You could pretty much see the level of runners who would be at state, which made it a big deal. It was always early, but you could tell where you stood. It was great exposure."

Hastings track star Wayne Oom competed in four Hastings Relays from 1984-87. One of his sharpest memories was the difference between running on a raw cinder track versus the far more comfortable all-weather surface.

"Those cinders would grind into your skin," said Oom, part of the Hastings school record in the two-mile relay. "But I think it helped us because when we'd go to other tracks, it seemed we would run faster. I remember how competitive it was, especially in the distances. There were some great runners."

While participants have their unique memories, so do coaches. Former Saxons coach Paul Fulmer remembers 2008 when his team finished first on the boys side of the meet while his wife, Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer, saw her girls team win the championship.

Tom Duits was one of the state’s biggest track stars of the 1970s and ran in three Hastings Relays."I knew we were one of the favorites to win because we were usually near the top of our conference and Regional," he said. "But then Katie's team was pretty good, and it was cool for them to win too."

Fulmer, who coached Hastings from 1978-81 and then 1985-2010, said at least part of the meet's popularity was derived from a unique way of scoring. Instead of individuals earning points solo, participants worked in pairs. For instance, two athletes would combine their shot put or long jump scores. New events such as the 1,500 relay and sprint medley were added.

"We had a tradition of being the state's oldest meet, and that was a big deal," Fulmer said. "And we ran a good relay; that attracted teams too. We took a lot of pride in that.

"And we'd get quite a lot of people to come to the meet. We'd set up until like 9 or 10 p.m., and then we'd have a party with all the coaches on Friday night."

While the meet has stretched 87 years, Branch said early participants and current runners have one thing in common: a drive to win. Branch ran in an era when the popularity of high school track was in its infancy. Today some of the best all-around athletes at a school are involved in the track program. The relays span the nearly nine decades in between.

"The quality of teams has gotten better and better," said Branch, the 1947 Lower Peninsula Class B Finals champ in the 220. "And this has made for a better meet. We would get guys who played football or baseball kind of drift into track, and that made the sport better. I think people began to appreciate track because we'd get teams from all over.

"We went from not really knowing what we were doing to track being a good sport. Even then, I'm not sure we appreciated what we had. We really liked the Hastings Relays and always wanted to do well there. It became popular and quite an honor to do well. Those are the kind of things I remember."

PHOTOS (Top) Racers run at the Hastings Relays, with several more awaiting their turns to compete at the longtime meet. (2) The author wrote on the 50th anniversary of the Relays for the Hastings Banner nearly 40 years ago. (3) Past athlete, coach and athletic director Steve Hoke shows some of the Relays awards from the 1930s. (4) Tom Duits was one of the state’s biggest track stars of the 1970s and ran in three Hastings Relays. (Top photo by Dan Goggins, Hoke photo provided by Steve Hoke and Duits photos provided by Tom Duits.)