Reeths-Puffer ‘Ironman’ Slows Down to Help Team Surge

By Tom Kendra
Special for

May 6, 2021

Klay Grant’s strategy going into last week’s Greater Muskegon Athletic Association city track meet seemed, at first, counterintuitive.

“My plan was to try and run each event as slow as possible,” said Grant, a junior at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer, before adding:

“And still win.”

His plan to conserve energy – essentially sacrificing fast times for himself to try and gather as many points as possible for his team – worked to perfection as Grant became the first athlete in the 65-year history of the GMAA meet to take first place in the four longest events.

Grant’s “Ironman” performance and four first-place finishes accounted for 40 of his team’s 132 points, helping the Rockets edge six-time reigning champion Fruitport and win the meet for the first time since 2006.

Grant started his record-breaking night by running the anchor leg on R-P’s winning 3,200-meter relay team (8:40.84), then followed with wins in the open 1,600 (4:42.94), 800 (2:07.25) and 3,200 (10:29.69).

“Klay is all about the team,” explained Reeths-Puffer boys track coach Don Ketner, who is in his 15th year. “He’s the kind of kid that would give the shirt off of his back for you, and that’s basically what we asked him to do on Friday night.”

The GMAA Meet, known locally simply as the “City Meet,” dates back to the 1950s, and during its long history many male and female athletes have won four events. However, that feat normally happens with sprinters in short events and relays or with an athlete who picks up a win or two in the field events before the running finals begin.

Grant was the first to capture all four of the longest running events, but he said that individual feat was secondary. He said the best part was helping to deliver a memorable night for Reeths-Puffer, as his family is heavily invested in the Muskegon County school district and its track & field and cross country programs.

Both of his parents, Darren and Angie Grant, are Reeths-Puffer graduates and runners who went on to run in college at Indiana Wesleyan and now teach and coach in the R-P district. Darren Grant, who teaches fifth grade, is the Rockets’ head cross country coach and assistant boys track coach. Angie Grant teaches special education at the middle school and is the head girls track coach.

Muskegon Reeths-Puffer boys track & field“It was fun to be a part of such a great night,” said Grant, 17, who plans to go into the ministry and pursue Biblical studies in college. “Faith encompasses everything that I do, so it felt great to use my gifts to help out my teammates and coaches.”

Grant, who is also laser-focused in the classroom with a gaudy 4.333 GPA, is the third of four children. His older siblings are Cole and Kenna, and younger brother Kye is a talented runner on the Reeths-Puffer middle school team.

While running has always been a part of his life because of his parents, his primary sport growing up was soccer. In fact, it wasn’t until last year that he focused exclusively on track and cross country, which is why he believes he can greatly improve his times.

Perhaps the key race of the entire GMAA meet last week was the opening 3,200-meter relay, which Fruitport was favored to win. Ketner gambled that by putting Grant on the anchor leg, he might be able to catch up and pass Fruitport.

As it turned out, strong performances on the first three legs by freshmen Jackson Allen and Tate Bradley and senior Caden Tufts had the Rockets in the lead when Grant got the baton – allowing him to cruise to the tape and make a major statement in the process.

Grant then had a nice stretch of time to rest before his next race, the 1,600, but that was the first of three long races over a short period of time.

After pulling away from Jackson Helmer of Mona Shores in the 1,600, Grant had just three events of rest before getting back on the track for the 800 – the event he will likely focus on for the upcoming Ottawa-Kent Conference Green meet May 13 and the Division 2 Regional on May 20.

Then came the shortest turnaround of the night, with just the quick 200-meter run coming between the 800 and the 3,200.

Grant knew he could empty the tank in the 3,200, and it didn’t take long for Grant and his senior teammate and training partner Brett Schlaff to separate themselves from the rest of the field. With those two running 1-2 ahead of the pack, it was clear that the Rockets would pick up 18 points in that event and clinch the meet title.

The only drama remaining was whether Grant would make history or if the fresher Schlaff would prevail.  

“With about 300 meters to go they were still close and I said out loud: ‘Klay is so nice, he’s going to let Brett win,’” said Ketner.

Grant ended up pulling away over the final 200 meters to win the race and make history. Schlaff took a strong second, and the Rockets were on top of the Muskegon city track world for the first time in 15 years.

“My times were nothing special that night, that’s for sure,” said Grant. “But this meet wasn’t about me. This meet was all about the team.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Klay Grant (1) competes in the 800-meter run at the Rocket Invitational on April 16 at Reeths-Puffer. Grant won the race. (Middle) Grant cruises to victory in the 1,600-meter run at the GMAA city meet. (Photos by Payden Challinor.)

Preview: UP Boys Finals Loaded with Intriguing Opportunities

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 2, 2023

Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Boys Track & Field Finals can match storylines with any of the other events happening statewide on the busiest day of the school sports season.

The Division 1 meet will pit rivals returning after one point separated them a year ago, while Division 2 will see a pair of 2022 champions looking to win again.

Munising’s Micaiah Peramaki will compete in his last Finals after becoming the latest to win four individual events last spring, and Pickford’s David Kozisek will compete in his first and only Finals with a great possibility of becoming the next four-event champ.

All three divisions will again be contested at Kingsford High School, with preliminaries leading off the day at 9 a.m. local (Central) time. Tickets cost $11 and are available digitally only via GoFan. will live-stream the meets beginning at 9 a.m. (CDT)/10 a.m. (EDT), viewable with subscription.

Following is a glance at team contenders and individuals to watch in all three divisions:

Division 1

Team forecast: Marquette owns a two-year championship streak, but claimed last season’s title by a mere point ahead of Kingsford. The Flivvers will pose another challenge Saturday with a pair of relay favorites and strong field events hoping to counter Marquette’s distance stars and overall depth. Sault Ste. Marie, boasting excellence in the distance events as well, could factor significantly.

Matthew Colavecchi, Iron Mountain junior: Last season’s 100 and 200 champion in UPD2 will run on a contending 400 relay and had the sixth-fastest UPD1 Regional time in the 100 (11.85).

Will Fairchild, Iron Mountain senior: He finished fifth both in the 110 and 300 hurdles and eighth in long jump in UPD2 last season, but heads into these UPD1 Finals with the top Regional times for his division in both races – 16.05 and 42.48, respectively.

Michael Floriano, Kingsford junior: Last season’s 200 and 400 relay champion and 100 dash runner-up will run on two favored relays this time and also enters with the third-fastest UPD1 Regional times in the 100 (11.56) and 200 (23.94).

Drew Hughes, Gladstone senior: After running a relay at last year’s Finals, he’s set to run two plus enters with the top UPD1 Regional time in the 800 (2:05.23) and fourth-fastest in the 1,600 (4:38.46).

Gabe Litzner, Sault Ste. Marie freshman: The UPD1 cross country champion in the fall enters his first Track Finals with the top UPD1 Regional times in the 1,600 (4:35.42) and 3,200 (9:58.36).

Cole Myllyla, Kingsford senior: He’s another returning relay champ and also won the long jump and was sixth in the high jump last season. He’ll run on two favored relays and had the third-best UPD1 Regional long jump (20-¼).  

Carson VanderSchaaf, Marquette senior: He’s a two-time 3,200 champion and also won the 1,600 and as part of the 3,200 relay last spring, and he’ll enter Saturday with the second-fastest UPD1 Regional time in the 1,600 (4:37.21) and third-fastest in the 3,200 (10:02.40).

Colin VanderSchaaf, Marquette senior: He’s also won races the last two Finals, the 800 last year and 1,600 as a sophomore (finishing second to his brother last year), and enters this meet with the second-fastest UPD1 Regional times in the 400 (54.11) and 800 (2:06.68) and third-fastest in the 1,600 (4:37.28).

Division 2

Team forecast: Ishpeming has four won straight Division 2 titles (not counting canceled 2020), but Pickford – last season’s UPD3 champion – might be the favorite to continue its streak instead. The Panthers have contenders in several events and also will get help with a number of Bark River-Harris hopefuls slotting into possible high places as well. That said, the Hematites do have qualifiers in 16 events and depth to match anyone in the field.

Caden Awbrey, Pickford senior: He won the 300 hurdles in UPD3 and was second in the 110 last season, also running on championship and runner-up relays. He’ll run on two contending relays this weekend and enters with the UPD2 Regionals third-fastest 300 time (43.97) and fourth-fastest in the 110 (17.63).

Wyatt Demers, Manistique junior: He had a busy 2022 Finals with a relay championship, fifth places in the 100 and 400 and a third in the 200. He could top that as part of two contending relays and entering with the fastest UPD2 Regional times in the 100 (11.5) and 200 (23.24).  

Tramon Gauthier, Ishpeming junior: He played a major role in last year’s team title with a win in the 110 hurdles, second in the 300 and fourth-place long jump, and this weekend he enters with the second-best UPD2 Regional long jump (19-3), second-fastest 110 (16.41) and 300 hurdles (43.34) times and fourth-fastest in the 100 (11.99).

Hayden Hagen, Pickford junior: After also running on a relay champ last year in UPD3 and finishing fourth in the 3,200 and ninth in the 1,600, he’s lined up for a huge meet entering with the top UPD2 Regional times in the 800 (2:14.15), 1,600 (5:03.16) and 3,200 (11:08.89).

David Kozisek, Pickford senior: He could cap his lone season of high school track with one of the most memorable as he enters with the top UPD2 Regional times in the 110 (15.39) and 300 hurdles (42.37) and top high jump (5-10) and long jump (20-7½) as well.  

Owen Lester, St. Ignace junior: The reigning pole vault champion (and seventh-place finisher in the 300 hurdles) posted the top UPD2 Regional pole vault (11-6) by six inches.

Brayden Martin, Ishpeming junior: He had the farthest UPD2 shot put (43-8½) and second-longest discus toss (119-2) at Regionals, after finishing fourth in the shot put at last year’s Finals.

Division 3

Team forecast: There will be a new champion with Pickford in UPD2, with 2022 runner-up Munising coming off a Regional title after falling just nine points shy of catching the Panthers a year ago. The Mustangs have favorites in several events and contenders in most others. Newberry, fifth in UPD2 last season, also looks capable of making serious noise.

Joe Kelley, Munising junior: He finished fifth in the 300 and sixth in the 110 hurdles last season, but could play a massive part Saturday entering with the fastest UPD3 Regional 300 (44.81) and second-fastest time in the 110 (17.06).

Kalvin Kytta, Chassell sophomore: He finished seventh in both the 1,600 and 3,200 and 10th in the 800 as a freshman and also will be expected to score entering with the fastest UPD3 Regional times in the 1,600 (4:48.91) and 3,200 (10:56.07).

Seth Mills, Paradise Whitefish senior: He could become his school’s first Finals champion in this sport as he enters with the top UPD3 Regional discus throw (149-4) by more than 21 feet – and with that toss nearly 40 better than his fifth-place finish in the event a year ago. He also enters with the sixth-best UPD3 Regional shot put (38-5).  

Josiah Peramaki, Munising senior: The reigning pole vault champion also was third in the long jump and fifth in the 200 last season, and he’ll enter this weekend tied with the top UPD3 Regional pole vault (12-0) and also competing on a relay and in the long jump and 100, having posted the third-fastest time (11.73) in the sprint.

Micaiah Peramaki, Munising senior: He became the eighth boys four-time Finals individual champion last year winning the 100, 200, 400 and discus. He could add three more individual titles entering Saturday with UPD3 Regional bests in the 100 (11.24), 200 (23.47) and 400 (53.05) while also running on a contending relay.

Matthew Rahilly, Newberry sophomore: He was fifth in the long jump and ran on two scoring relays in UPD2 as a freshman, and enters this Finals with the best UPD3 Regional long jump (19-9) and tied for the second-best high jump (5-8).

Ian Sundling, Rapid River senior: The reigning long jump champ also finished seventh in high jump last season and will compete in both plus two relays, entering with the third-best UPD3 Regional long jump (19-1).

PHOTO Iron Mountain's Matthew Colavecchi (3) edges Pickford's David Kozisek (2) and Powers North Central's Luke Gorzinski (4) in a 200 heat at the April 17 Superior Dome Invitational. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)