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.
“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.)
David Kozisek ♦ Pickford
Senior ♦ Track & Field
Kozisek was an exchange student from Czech Republic this school year, and when he returns home this week he'll do so having accomplished a rare feat in MHSAA track & field history. On Saturday he became the ninth male athlete to win four individual events at a Finals, taking first in the 110 hurdles (15.40), 300 hurdles (41.39), high jump (6-3) and long jump (20-10) in helping Pickford to the Upper Peninsula Division 2 team championship.
After also playing football and basketball for the Panthers, Kozisek joined the track & field team this spring with plenty of knowledge having competed in that sport over the last six years in his home country. He was incredibly close to leaving an even larger historical imprint last weekend; Kozisek's long jump and high jump both were just one inch off tying UPD2 Finals records, and his 110 time missed that meet record by only six hundredths of a second. He was the first to win four boys events with the combination of two hurdles races and two jumps, and the second four-time individual winner joining Joe Baker, who in 1974 became the first from any school to win four Finals events.
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June 1: Helena McLellan, Northville soccer - Report
May 25: Mitchel Luck, Linden lacrosse - Report
May 18: Ahava Le Febre, Holland tennis - Report
May 11: Gracie Maloney, Macomb Dakota softball - Report
May 4: Braxton Brann, Ann Arbor Huron track & field - Report
April 27: Owen Patton, Vestaburg track & field - Report
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March 2: Gabriel Sanchez-Burks, Ann Arbor Pioneer swimming - Report
Feb. 23: Grace Sobczak, Marquette swimming - Report
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Feb. 2: Braydon Sorenson, Onekama skiing - Report
Jan. 26: Shayna Hruska, Iron Mountain wrestling - Report
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Nov. 24: Lily Witte, Dexter diving - Report
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Oct. 20: Owen DeMuth, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood tennis - Report
Oct. 13: Mia Melendez, Ann Arbor Greenhills golf - Report
Oct. 6: Shawn Foster, Grand Ledge football - Report
Sept. 30: Hannah Smith, Temperance Bedford swimming - Report
Sept. 22: Helen Sachs, Holland West Ottawa cross country - Report
Sept. 15: Nina Horning, Lake Orion volleyball - Report
Sept 8: Arturo Romero, Muskegon Oakridge soccer - Report
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Aug. 25: Olivia Hemmila, Troy Athens golf - Report
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