State's Fastest Aiming for Record Finish

May 24, 2017

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

KENTWOOD Khance Meyers is widely regarded as the fastest sprinter in the state.

The East Kentwood senior track star will attempt to live up to that billing next weekend when he competes in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals.

Meyers is the reigning champion in the 100 and 200.

“I feel amazing going into the state meet as a 100 and 200 runner and defending my title,” Meyers said. “I’m just really excited, and I’m planning on trying to take the state meet record in the 100 and going back for the 200 record and dropping that even more.”

Meyers made a sparkling debut last season at the Finals as a junior, becoming a dual champion while also setting a new meet record in the 200.

He clocked a 21.24, eclipsing the previous mark of 21.30 seconds.

Although he had never competed in the Finals until last season, Meyers had lofty expectations for himself.

He had spent the previous two seasons watching and waiting for his time to shine.

“Last year was just like, ‘wow,’” Meyers said. “I’m here, and it’s time to show them what I have. It’s my time to show them what I can do, and that’s where all the pressure came from. My coaches explained to me how big it was and how important it is to be a state champion and to try my best.”

Meyers also ran the first leg on the victorious 800 relay team.

For Meyers, his final Finals meet is expected to be special for a couple reasons.

Not that he needed extra motivation, but he will be running on his home turf as the Division 1 Finals will be held at East Kentwood High School.

“Being able to run my last year with my team and to run at East Kentwood is making me feel so amazing inside,” he said. “To have that feeling that I have that advantage to run in my home territory.”

Meyers has the top times in the state this season in both of his signature events (10.55 in the 100, 21.29 in the 200), but he knows the competition will be stiff at the Finals.

He isn’t taking anything for granted.

“You get everybody at their best level and everybody is battling for a title,” Meyers said. “There is just going to be a lot of pressure on not only me, but everyone else to get a state championship.

“I’m always looking at other people because someone who isn’t ranked can come out of nowhere. You have to be prepared for that, and being number one in the state you can’t slack off or take your time. You have to be fully alert that anybody can just come up and do anything.”

Falcons boys track coach David Emeott said Meyers remains humble despite his past accomplishments. He doesn’t rest on his laurels, and instead displays a work ethic that is unmatched.

“He’s a pretty amazing athlete, there’s no doubt about that, but he’s an incredible worker and no one outworks him,” he said. “He puts the time in on the track more than anybody and he spends time watching film and studying the sport.

“He does what he needs to do to get better, and it’s pretty rare. Usually you get a kid that talented and he doesn’t necessarily want to put in the time. He comes with some natural ability, but he just trusts the process.”

Meyers didn’t know he was gifted on the track until he was in middle school. As an eighth-grader, people began taking notice of his raw speed.

“I came from nowhere in seventh grade to somewhere the next year,” Meyers said. “I became pretty fast, and everyone was telling me that. I was happy and excited to become better for myself and also help people around me get better.”

Meyers also has displayed his prowess at the national level. He took part in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals and placed second in the 200 with a time of 20.78 seconds.

He said competing against the top runners in the country was beneficial.

“Running in the 200 open on the big stage at the national level was amazing,” he said. “That experience gave me a different thought process. I just wanted to run my race, and do what I can do to get better.”

Meyers, who next will attend Hinds Junior College in Mississippi (which finished fourth at junior college nationals this past weekend), has a ritual before the start of every race.

“I pray before I go, and I try to channel everything,” Meyers said. “I just have my mind go blank and just focus on the race. As soon as I get off the blocks, I know it’s just a straight shot from the starting line to the finish.”

Meyers will be the catalyst of an East Kentwood team that will vie for a team Division 1 title. The Falcons placed third last season.

“I feel good about where we’re at,” Emeott said. “All of the guys who made it through have the opportunity to score. If we step up and do our jobs and focus on what is important, then we have a real opportunity to maybe win another state title. I have no reason to think that we’re not definitely in the conversation.”

Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at[email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) East Kentwood's Khance Meyers breaks away from the field during last season's 200-meter preliminaries at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Meyers stays a step ahead of Oak Park's Miles Daniel (left) and Saginaw Heritage's Sean Beckom II during last season's 100 championship race. (Photos by Carter Sherline/

Red Devils Impress as Ironwood Honors Record-Setter with Jim LaBlonde Invitational

By John Vrancic
Special for

May 20, 2024

IRONWOOD — The Ironwood track & field teams provided themselves with an opportunity to do a victory lap on a very special Saturday earlier this month.

Upper PeninsulaBoth teams were crowned champions at the first Jim LaBlonde Invitational on May 11 on their 350-meter track during a sunny and mild afternoon.

The Ironwood girls scored 126 points, followed by Hurley, Wis., with 43, Ontonagon 37 and Watersmeet with 13. Ironwood’s boys collected 100 points, followed by Hurley at 84, Ontonagon 32 and Watersmeet with seven in a meet held in honor of the former Luther L. Wright High School star athlete who passed away due to an aneurysm on March 31, 2019.

LaBlonde, who was recently inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame, was an all-Upper Peninsula football player and still holds school records in the 100 and 200-meter dashes from his senior year in 1997.

“This is very special to me personally,” Ironwood coach Cecilia Aho said. “Jim was a great person and athlete. I came to Ironwood from Argentina in December 2003 and know the family very well. I had some good conversations with Jim before he passed. This is a great tribute to him. It turned out to be a beautiful day. We had perfect weather and the kids from all four schools were smiling and having fun.

“Jim was well known in the community, not only as a coach, but as a parent. He was a phenomenal runner and football player.”

LaBlonde played football for three years at Wisconsin-LaCrosse and was on the school’s track team for a year while earning his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 2003.

He was a middle school teacher and coach in the Howard-Suamico District near Green Bay, Wis., at the time of his passing.

“He always asked about what was going on in Ironwood and was a good leader,” Aho said. “He would never turn his back on you when you asked him a question. The kids loved him. I wish I would have had a chance to work with him.”

The Ironwood teams take a photo together, at top, after sweeping the meets. Below, from left, LaBlonde’s brother-in-law Dave Lundin, sister Dena Lundin and parents Marlene and Jim LaBlonde attend the meet. Senior Aubrey Smith topped a field of four Ironwood runners in the 1600-meter run in 5 minutes, 55.69 seconds, followed by freshman Iyla Lagalo (6:54.08) and sophomore Aubrey Balduc (7:21.16).

Smith also won the 300 hurdles at 52.43, more than six seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

“It was nice to have everyone here,” Smith said. “It’s nice to have a home meet, especially on a Saturday. I think it’s a fun meet. It’s nice to know everyone here. I think this gives me a little momentum going into our remaining meets.”

Sophomore Emma Wardon was also a double winner for the Red Devils, taking shot put (32-11) and discus (87-0).

Ironwood sophomore Logan Holm took the 110 hurdles (20.17) and 300s (48.05), and Hurley had a triple-winner in junior Jeremiah Wallis, who captured the 100 (12.0), 200 (24.52) and long jump (17-3).

Watersmeet junior Thomas Carson won the 400 (54.06), five days after setting the school record (52.31) while placing second in the Welker Invitational at Ashland, Wis. (52.31).

“I strained my hamstring in Ashland,” he said. “It was a little windy up by the big lake (Superior) and there were a lot of good runners up there. I’m probably about 80-90 (percent), but everything went okay. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t overdo it. This is a nice little meet, especially for a Saturday.”

Ontonagon sophomore Violet Amos took the 200 (28.26) and 400 (1:02.03) and was runner-up to Hurley senior Jaana Aukee on a lean (13.65) in the 100.

“I’ve been in the 27s in the 200, but I’m very happy with my time in the 400” Amos said. “This being a little smaller track was probably a factor because the curves are a little tighter. I prefer to run a 400-meter track, although I like the running surface and competition.

“It’s always fun to come here. Our track is getting resurfaced. I’m looking forward to running on it the next couple years.”

Ontonagon coach Brian Amos said he also enjoys going to Ironwood.

“Ironwood runs a nice meet, and we get a chance to see Hurley,” he added. “It’s always nice to run against somebody different.”

John VrancicJohn Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTOS (Top) Ribbons and medals are set out to be awarded during the first Jim LaBlonde Invitational at Ironwood. (Middle) The Ironwood teams take a photo together, at top, after sweeping the meets. Below, from left, LaBlonde’s brother-in-law Dave Lundin, sister Dena Lundin and parents Marlene and Jim LaBlonde attend the meet. (Photos provided by the Ironwood Red Devil Booster Club.)