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 HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Aspirations High as Reigning Champion Hackett Vaults Into New Season
By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com
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.
The 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.
“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.”
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.”
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 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@example.com 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.)