Speedy Mann Helps Make Hackett Catholic Prep Champ to Chase Again

By Drew Ellis
Special for Second Half

June 4, 2022

HUDSONVILLE – After two years away, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep is back on top of the Lower Peninsula Division 4 boys track & field world.

Using a balanced effort Saturday, the Irish held off 2021 champ Carson City-Crystal to take home the Finals hardware with 64 points. The Eagles finished with 56, while Wyoming Potter’s House Christian placed third with 45.

“Everybody came to work. We knew if we stood a chance, everyone had to get every point possible, and our guys did that,” Hackett coach Carl Scholten said of his team, which added its first title since repeating in 2018 and 2019. “This is a competitive group that has been driven to succeed all year, and this is a great culmination of all their work.”

Highlighting the day for the Irish was a 1-2-3 finish in the 200-meter dash. Junior Liam Mann took home the victory with a time of 22.82, while teammates Andrew Finley and Isaac Backman finished right behind him.

Mann was overcome with energy after the finish, so much so that he tripped and tumbled to the ground. However, the pain of the fall couldn’t overcome his joy of winning.

“I just gave it my all and as I was coming through, I started to celebrate a little bit and my legs just gave out,” Mann said of the tumble. “The race felt great. I knew I had my work cut out for me, but it felt great to win and see my teammates right there with me.”

Mann was also with Finley and Backman, and also Evan Wurtz, as the winning 800-meter relay team. The Irish finished with a time of 1:31.55. Backman came through with a championship of his own in the 400, winning with a time of 50.85.

Flint Beecher trackAlong with the three event wins, Hackett had a combined six runner-up or third-place finishes on the day.

Carson City-Crystal came up just shy of repeating as champion, but the Eagles still had three championship performances of their own.

Michigan-bound Zane Forist finished his throwing career on a high note, resetting his LP Division 4 Finals records in both the discus (200-4) and the shot put (67-5). His shot put toss was ¾ of an inch from matching the all-Finals record.

“I really didn’t know about (the record) until today, so it wasn’t something I was really shooting for,” Forist said. “I just wanted to PR (personal record), and I did that in both of my events, so I am really happy with my performance.”

Cavanaugh Barker took home the 300 hurdles title for Carson City-Crystal with a PR time of 40.02. He also finished second in the 110 hurdles.

Potter’s House was led by distance runner Lezawe Osterink, who won championships in both the 1,600 (4:24.29) and the 3,200 (9:38.23).

“The mile was more challenging. I have to do a lot of work in the mile,” Osterink said. “I was confident going into the two-mile. I knew I just had to run my race. In the mile, I knew I couldn’t make a mistake, because there were some really fast guys in that race that could leg me out.”

Flint Beecher junior Jaylin Townsend repeated as champion in the 100 dash with a time of 10.78. Townsend managed to win despite his left hand being in a cast after breaking a finger a little over a week ago.

“I feel pretty good about how things went. I’ve had to change my block start because of the broken finger,” Townsend said of his injury, which also is on his baton-carrying hand but didn’t prevent him from anchoring two scoring relays on the day. “It affected me more mentally than it did physically. I just had to focus on getting out quick and working on my technique.”

Reading junior Tyler Bays came out a winner in the 800 run with a time of 2:00.02, while Colon’s Alexander Stoll won the 110 hurdles with a PR time of 14.92.

Buckley won the 1,600-meter relay with a time of 3:30.71, while Clarkston Everest Collegiate won the 400-meter relay in a time of 44.17.

Coleman’s Isiah Biers won the championship in the pole vault with a PR vault of 13-4. Peck’s Alex Affer won the long jump with a PR leap of 22-3.25, while Marion’s Braden Prielipp won the high jump with a PR jump of 6-9.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Hackett's Andrew Finley, middle, wins his 100 dash prelim Saturday. (Middle) Flint Beecher's Jaylin Townsend, also middle, wins his 100 prelim as well on the way to repeating as race champion. (Click for more from Dave McCauley/Run Michigan.)

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.

Southwest CorridorThe 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.

Clockwise from top left: Hackett head track & field coach Charissa Dean, Liam Mann, Germinder and Gavin Sehy. “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.”

Seeing potential

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.”

The Irish celebrate last season’s Finals championship, from left: Dean, Sehy, Logan St. Martin, Alex Dumont, Mitch Eastman, Nick Doerr and Germinder. 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 ShebestPam 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 protected] 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.)