Revived Mancelona Boys Charging Ahead
May 9, 2019
By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half
Ability alone won’t get it done on the track.
That’s why the transformation of the Mancelona boys track & field team didn’t happen until the Ironmen added confidence to their talent.
“I always thought they could do it,” said Rick Ancel, Mancelona’s head coach. “I always thought we had a lot of talent. They just didn’t believe in themselves, and they ran mediocre. Once they started believing, the workouts changed. The times changed. There are very few people they are afraid of. They get beat on certain days, but they don’t beat themselves up. I think before this change they were afraid before they ever got on the track.”
Since they’ve developed some faith in themselves the Ironmen have been a force to be reckoned with, running undefeated through every regular-season invitational they competed in last year on the way to capturing the Ski Valley Conference title. With most of its squad returning this season, Mancelona has continued to dominate meets and figures to be a shoo-in to capture the league crown for a second straight year when the conference championships are run May 22. The squad has been so impressive that it earned a No. 6 ranking in the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Division 3 poll two weeks ago.
“It’s kind of hard to think about (being ranked) because a couple years ago we weren’t even winning our conference let alone being ranked at the state level,” said junior Johnny Ancel, one of the team’s three captains, along with classmates Tommy Palmer and Wesley Fulk.
Members of the team or coaching staff point to when Rick Ancel took over as head coach before last year as the pivotal moment when the Ironmen’s outlook, preparation and performance all changed. Ancel, who ran collegiately at Saginaw Valley State, deflects the credit back to his team and its willingness to do what it takes to find success.
“I do remember during the year that the workouts started changing,” said Rick Ancel. “They started going from trying to complete a workout because they had to run that much to trying to improve. Instead of just getting through it, they were doing the workout to get better.”
The fruits of their labor paid off in the form of the league crown, a fifth-place finish in the Regional — which came in their first year competing in Division 3 — MHSAA Finals qualifiers in three events and a school record in the 1,600-meter relay.
“At the end of last year I was feeling pretty good,” said Fulk. “We were only losing two of our (top) people, so the majority of our team was still going to be here. I knew we were going to be better than last season.”
The Ironmen haven’t disappointed. In an indoor meet at Central Michigan University in mid-March, the Ironmen kicked off their season by finishing second among Division 3 and 4 teams, easily surpassing their 11th-place finish a year ago. They followed that by winning their first five regular-season meets outside. Only a second-place finish at the Blue Devil Classic in Gaylord — where Mancelona tested itself against Division 1 and 2 teams — broke up the streak of regular-season first-place finishes that started early last season.
“This year we added some big meets,” said Rick Ancel. “We really tried to ramp up our competition this year.”
Ancel’s veteran squad has welcomed the tougher competition. It’s a core of athletes who individually have the versatility to fill in at a number of different events and compete at a high level. The three captains, for instance, can run any event from the 100-meter dash up to the 800-meter run.
“We can try more people in different spots,” said Fulk.
It comes down to doing whatever the team needs at a particular meet. Even though track & field is in many ways an individual sport, the Ironmen see it from a team standpoint and embrace that perspective.
“We always start every meet and end every meet together as a team,” said Palmer. “You can’t do it alone, obviously. You can’t win a meet with just us three who are here or just one of us.”
Two years ago the Mancelona team had only 11 members. Depth is not an issue any longer, however, as the Ironmen have bolstered their roster and now have nearly every event covered. Sophomore Ryan Rebh is ranked among the best hurdlers in the state in Division 3. Sophomore Jayden Alfred is the reigning Regional champion in the high jump and long jump and has emerged as the team’s top sprinter this season. Sophomore distance runner Tyler McClure is a Finals qualifier in the 3,200-meter run. Junior Michael Wagner is one of the better discus throwers in the Ski Valley Conference. James Dunne, Ben Palmer, Sam Squires and Austin Anderson have been key point scorers as well.
Mancelona also has four top-notch relays — all four should be favored to win conference crowns — highlighted by the 1,600 team. Ancel, Tommy Palmer and Fulk all return for that squad and have their sights set on breaking the school record for a second straight year.
“We’re just trying to find the right day where we all run fast at the same time,” said Johnny Ancel. “We could probably break it again right now. We just haven’t found the day.”
Records aside, the Ironmen seem to have the lineup that could challenge for a Regional title. Mancelona’s last Regional championship came in 2012, but that was in Division 4. Running in Division 3 is a bit more difficult, the Ironmen say, but they are up for the challenge.
“Harbor Springs was (in Gaylord), and they’re in our division. They’re really good. We’ll meet them again at Regionals,” said Rick Ancel. “That will be a tough day for us, but I think we’ve got a shot at winning that.”
Chris Dobrowolski has covered northern Lower Peninsula sports since 1999 at the Ogemaw County Herald, Alpena News, Traverse City Record-Eagle and currently as sports editor at the Antrim Kalkaska Review since 2016. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Mancelona’s Ryan Rebh leads the charge through the 110-meter hurdles during a recent meet. (Middle) Jayden Alfred launches during the long jump. (Photos by Chris Dobrowolski.)
Preview: Lower Peninsula Boys Finals Filled with Standout Seniors
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
June 1, 2023
Seniors competing at this weekend’s Lower Peninsula Boys Track & Field Finals have won a combined 20 individual championships over the last three seasons, a feat even more impressive considering their freshman season in 2020 was canceled due to COVID-19.
But as is often the case in this sport, picking out individual favorites is a simpler task than reasoning out possible team champions – and that’s certainly true in at least three divisions this weekend.
All four LP Finals will again be contested at Grand Rapids-area schools, with pole vault and long jump beginning at 9 a.m., race semifinals and the 3,200 relay at 10 a.m. and the rest of the running finals starting at noon. Tickets cost $11 and are available digitally only via GoFan.
MHSAA.tv will live-stream all four meets beginning at 10 a.m., viewable with subscription.
Below is a glance at team contenders and individuals to watch in all four divisions:
LP Division 1 at Rockford
Team forecast: This meet has been won with 34 and 41 points over the last two seasons, and a few standouts could be the difference-makers Saturday. Ann Arbor Huron, led by Braxton Brann, has enough with him to make a run at a first Finals championship. Rockford, a co-champion in 2021, had three top-five seeded relays and speed in the sprints to be in the mix. Reigning champion Detroit U-D Jesuit and sprinter Jaiden Reed could make a strong push again.
Benne Anderson, Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills senior: He’s been the next of a stellar group of distance runners to come through Michigan, winning the LPD1 cross country title in the fall after taking the 3,200 title last spring. His Regional times were first in LPD1 in the 800 (1:52.98) and 3,200 (9:10.53) and second-fastest in the 1,600 (4:14.23).
Andrew Berryhill, Battle Creek Lakeview senior: Last season’s shot put champion and 11th-place finisher in discus posted the top LPD1 Regional throws in both at 58-6½ and 166-0, respectively.
Braxton Brann, Ann Arbor Huron senior: After finishing fourth in the 100 and second in the 200 at last season’s Finals, Brann enters this one coming off the fastest LPD1 Regional times in the 200 (21.65) and 110 hurdles (13.92) and fifth-fastest in the 100 (10.7).
Shamar Heard, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley junior: The reigning champion in the 100 and 200 is switching gears for this weekend entering with the fastest LPD1 Regional time in the 400 (48.46) and as part of two relays.
Nathan Levine, Canton junior: The reigning high jump champion at 6-8 jumped a winning 6-6 at his Regional and likely will contend with Muskegon Reeths-Puffer’s Liam McHugh, who posted a 6-8½ to also win a Regional title.
Kayenn Mabin, Kalamazoo Central senior: He had the second-fastest LPD1 Regional time in both the 110 (14.33) and 300 hurdles (39.21) and also is expected to run on two contending relays. He won the 110 and was fourth in the 300 last season.
Trent McFarland, Utica senior: The reigning 800 champion won last week with the third-fastest LPD1 Regional time overall of 1:53.91, about two seconds off his winning Finals time from 2022.
LP Division 2 at Ada Forest Hills Eastern
Team forecast: The last six LPD2 Finals have seen six schools win championships and three more finish runners-up. Berrien Springs has a chance to break that trend after claiming last year’s title, entering this weekend with the fastest 400 and 800 relays in all Division 2 Regionals, plus contenders in at least three individual events. Whitehall, third last year, is seeking its first Finals title since 1996 and combines a significant group of scorers in races, relays and field events. Forest Hills Eastern was last year’s runner-up and has representatives in nearly every race including all four relays, plus two field events. Vicksburg, Freeland and Corunna also have opportunities.
Dalton DeBeau, Frankenmuth senior: Last season’s discus champion and shot put seventh-place finisher won both at his Regional with throws that were third for shot put (53-9½) and sixth for discus (156-9) among all LPD2 Regional performances.
Stuart Gould, Howard City Tri County senior: His lone event at the 2022 Finals was a win in the 400, and he’ll be a little busier this time also contending in the 200 and running a relay. He finished second in the 400 (49.15) at his Regional to Whitehall junior Trannon Aylor – who finished second to Gould at last year’s Final.
Carter McCalister, Monroe Jefferson senior: He just missed scoring in the 3,200 last season, finishing ninth, but he should put up some points this time entering off the fastest LPD2 Regional times in both the 3,200 (9:20.47) and the 1,600 (4:17.33).
Aiden Sullivan, Ada Forest Hills Eastern senior: The reigning champion in the 800 is coming off a Regional win in 1:58.40, exactly two seconds off his Finals time of a team ago. He’ll also run the 1,600 and on two relays.
Michael Wright, Vicksburg senior: Only a single relay contributor at last year’s Finals, he’s set to offer much more with the fastest LPD2 Regional times in the 100 (10.82) and 200 (22.0) while running on two relays including a contender in the 800.
Division 3 at Kent City
Team forecast: The top seven teams last season finished within 10 points of each other, and a strong group of favorites could make this close at the top again. Sanford Meridian tied for sixth last season and enters with tons of scoring potential in sprints and jumps, including with the fastest 400 and 800 relays from all LPD3 Regionals. Benzie Central, third last spring, could be carried by distance stars Hunter Jones and Pol Molins. Last year’s ninth-place Chesaning has qualifiers all over the meet and contenders in hurdles and relays, and Hart – fifth last season – also is strong in distance, and throws.
Hunter Jones, Benzie Central senior: The graduating Benzie star and four-time cross country champion has won the 1,600 the last two seasons and the 800 last spring as well, and he ran the top LPD3 Regional times in the 800 (1:57.76), 1,600 (4:19.78) and 3,200 (9:24.89) – the latter two by notable margins – and was part of the fifth-fastest 3,200 relay.
Torren Mapes, Delton Kellogg junior: He competed in the 110 hurdles last season but didn’t make the final – but he’ll be in the hunt for multiple championships after running the second-fastest LPD3 Regional time in the 110 (15.34) and third-fastest in the 300 hurdles (41.13).
Kellen Kimes, Hart senior: Last season’s discus champ and shot put runner-up topped the LPD3 Regional performances in both with tosses of 181-9 and 57-11, respectively.
Brayden Riley, Sanford Meridian senior: He qualified in the 200 last season and didn’t make the final but was part of the winning 800 relay. He could pace a team title run entering with the fastest LPD3 Regional time in the 200 (22.25), fourth-fastest in the 100 (11.20) and as part of the two top sprint relays mentioned above.
Tryce Tokar, Ovid-Elsie sophomore: Last season’s pole vault champion as only a freshman posted the top LPD3 Regional vault (14-8¼) by more than eight inches.
Jerry Wiegers, North Muskegon junior: After finishing ninth in the 400 last season, Wiegers is lined up to score with the top 400 LPD3 Regional time (50.58) and second-fastest in the 200 (22.52).
Division 4 at Hudsonville
Team forecast: Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep is the reigning champion and has won three of the last four championships (not counting 2020, where the season was canceled due to COVID-19). The Irish have qualifiers in good position to score in five individual races, three relays and at least three field events. Flint Beecher has coverage in fewer events but big points potential in sprints, hurdles and relays led by speedy Jaylin Townsend. Reading has qualifiers in all but three events and a pair of relays that could lead a team title run.
Alex Affer, Peck senior: Last season’s long jump champ by more than three inches had the second-farthest LPD4 Regional jump this time (21-7¼), just a half-inch shorter than that of Detroit Frederick Douglass’s Anthany Buford, who finished second to Affer at last year’s Finals.
Tyler Bays, Reading senior: He’s back after winning the 800 and finishing third in the 1,600 last spring and returns with the third-best 800 (1:57.86), sixth-best 1,600 (4:32.95) and fourth-best 3,200 (10:00.98) times from all LPD4 Regionals.
Isiah Biers, Coleman senior: He won the pole vault last season by seven inches and enters with the fifth-best vault (12-9) from LPD4 Regionals.
Brady Feldpausch, Fowler sophomore: After running on a relay at last year’s Finals, Feldpausch will be busier entering with the top LPD4 Regional times in both the 110 (15.33) and 300 hurdles (40.84) and as part of two relays.
Liam Mann, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep senior: The reigning champion in the 200 and runner-up in the 100 also was part of a winning relay last season, and he enters with the second-fastest LPD4 Regional times in both the 100 (11.13) and 200 (22.76) and slated to run on both sprint relays.
Lezawe Osterink, Wyoming Potter’s House Christian senior: He’ll look to add to his 1,600, 3,200 and 3,200 relay championships from a season ago, plus two cross country titles, entering this weekend with the top LPD4 Regional time in the 1,600 (4:22.73) and also running the 3,200 and on two relays.
Braden Prielipp, Marion junior: He won the high jump by seven inches last season, and his 6-3 at his Regional was the third-highest in all of LPD4 two weeks ago. He’ll also long jump and run the 400 and on a relay.
Jaylin Townsend, Flint Beecher senior: He’ll look to add to his two sprint and one relay championship from 2021 and third individual title won last season in the 100. He had the fastest LPD4 Regional times in the 100 (10.99) and 200 (22.23) and will run on two relays expected to contend as well.
PHOTO Potter’s House Christian’s Lezawe Osterink takes the baton during a relay at last season’s LPD4 Finals. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)