Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep just keeps winning and winning.
This time the Irish took home their fourth title in the last five Lower Peninsula Division 4 Track & Field Finals, on Saturday at Hudsonville.
Hackett’s only individual title was taken by discus winner Nathan Buchmann, a senior, who was fine knowing he was the shortest in stature among all the sizable competitors.
“In the offseason after football I worked out every day, working towards this goal,” he said after getting his medal. “I would say this takes 80 percent technique and 20 percent strength to throw the discus. So, length can help but if you have good technique and are really strong, that will play into it.
“I think we are very balanced throughout the meet today,” he said about teammates that scored points in finishes other than first place. “We have 13 guys here today, and we have people in a lot of the races. But I do not run; I have too short of legs to be a fast runner,” he said with a chuckle.
Buchmann had to work through a hip injury to compete this spring.
“I think the setbacks are what make you strong,” he said. “You can either give up through the setbacks or push forward and become better.”
Coach Charissa Dean agreed.
“The kids have big hearts,” she said after all the points were totaled and the Irish were on top once again, with 53. “They worked hard. They had a lot of potential when we started the season. And we had a lot of drive to put in the work, and we are happy the results came out the way they did.”
Reading was runner-up at 47 points, followed by Wyoming Potter’s House Christian with 42, then Fowler and Flint Beecher each with 37 points.
Senior Lezawe “Moses” Osterink, of Potter’s House Christian, placed second in 1,600 but took the 3,200 title as defending champ of both. He dominated the latter by lapping the field with a final lap kick that resembled more of a superhero speedster.
“Nobody really took it out that hard at the start,” he said. “There was a freshman (Marek Butkiewicz of Hackett) that tried to get the pace going quick, but me and Dakota (Dykhuis of Montabella) just kind of sat back and gradually pulled him through.
“We took it gradually, and I was just relying that I could kick.”
Kick did he ever. The trio were neck and neck the majority of the race in a grouping ahead of the pack.
“With 400 to go I just tried to go all out,” Osterink said. “I had a lot more left than I thought and I was pleased with the win. Not really the time, but that doesn’t matter, especially this hot out.”
The overall meet was in the low 90s/high 80s heat and searing sun all day. So, race officials allowed the unique opportunity for coaches to spray the runners with water and give them water bottles.
“It was very weird because I’ve never taken water to drink while I’m running, so I didn’t know how that would feel,” Osterink said. “And they were spraying us and hitting us in the face. It was kind of fun.”
Junior Tyler Lenn of Marine City Cardinal Mooney defeated Osterink at his own game in the 1,600.
“I’m feeling great,” Lenn said after grabbing the medal. “I said to a newspaper after one of my races (during the season) I was right where I wanted to be. This has been a long rebuilding process for me since an injury back in the fall, and I set a pretty high goal the day the injury happened. I was telling myself I needed to fulfill what I said I would do at the beginning of last cross country season. And that is what I did today.”
Lenn suffered an ankle sprain from a misstep that turned worse because he kept running through the season on it.
“Coming back from that was pretty tough, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said. “Perseverance; I said from the beginning what I was going to do. I kept my eye on that target, and no matter the circumstances life threw at me, that I was going to make it happen and I am a man of my word.”
Jaylin Townsend, a senior from Flint Beecher, dominated the short races. He won the 100 dash (10.67) and 200 dash at 22 seconds flat. It was his third 100 win at a Finals.
“I put in a lot of work; I had to three-peat,” he said after the 100. “There’s a lot of great competition here, so I knew I had to come out and run my best.”
Concord in the 400 (43.72), Buckley in the 800 (1:30.76) and 1,600 (3:29.13) and Potter’s House in the 3,200 (8:14.18) were relay champs Saturday. Reading’s Tayshawn Bester won the 110 hurdles (15.13), and Athens’ Landen Bennett won the 300 (39.85). Caseville’s Nathan Feltner won the 400 (50.76), and Vestaburg’s Owen Patton claimed the 800 (1:55.11).
Fruitport Calvary Christian’s Bradley Richards won the high jump (6-10), and Peck’s Alex Affer won the long jump (23-4). McBain Northern Michigan Christian’s Isaac Bowden was first in pole vault (13-0), and Brown City’s Kyle Affer won shot put (49-2).
PHOTOS (Top) Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep celebrates its third-straight LPD4 title Saturday. (Middle) Cardinal Mooney's Tyler Lenn, far right, sets the pace in the 1,600. (Below) Flint Beecher's Jaylin Townsend, middle, crosses the finish first for one of his two sprint championships. (Photos by Ken Swart/RunMichigan.com.)
Bradley Richards believes that life is all about trying new things, setting bigger goals and pushing yourself to new heights – in his case, literally.
Richards, now a 6-foot-5, 190-pound junior basketball standout at tiny Fruitport Calvary Christian, played on the school’s fifth-grade team when he was in second grade.
He remembers staring longingly at the rim in those days and dreaming about dunking, before making that dream a reality by throwing one down in February of his seventh-grade year.
While his three older sisters - Taylor, Allyson and Kelsey - were leading the Calvary girls basketball program to new heights, he vowed he would do the same with the boys program someday.
Bradley and his teammates accomplished that goal last spring, winning the school’s first boys District basketball title despite a roster with no seniors.
This season, Calvary came flying out of the gate with a 5-0 start and is now 5-2 heading into Friday’s home game against Saugatuck.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Bradley, who averages 29 points and 14 rebounds per game. “Our school is so small that we’re more like a family. It’s not about me. I’m just so happy for our school and all of the guys on the team.”
The next goal is to repeat as District champions and try to win a Regional title, before setting his sights at clearing 7 feet in the high jump this spring.
“I’m going to try to get past that this year,” said Bradley in his typical humble, matter-of-fact fashion.
One thing his father and fourth-year Fruitport Calvary Christian boys basketball coach Brad Richards has learned is to not put anything past his only son, the youngest of his four children.
Bradley displayed an interest in music as a young boy and now sings in the school’s worship group and plays the saxophone, piano and guitar. Last fall, he played high school football for the first time as part of a cooperative agreement with Muskegon Catholic Central and wound up starting at wide receiver and defensive back for the state powerhouse program.
“He’s blessed and he’s gifted – yes,” said his father, who also coached all three of his girls during their Calvary Christian basketball careers. “But he works so hard.
“Bradley sets goals and works toward them. He’s always looking for the next thing to do.”
True to his school
One thing he doesn’t like to do is media interviews. Specifically, he doesn’t like calling attention to himself.
“He is pretty quiet and would rather have his teammates get the attention,” said his mother, Joy.
Fruitport Calvary Christian is one of the smallest schools on the entire Lakeshore with 51 students in grades 9-12, and just 17 boys in the high school.
The Eagles take great pride in their ability to compete against much larger schools. They made a huge statement during the first full week of December with three convincing victories over bigger schools.
That week started on Tuesday, Dec. 5, with Calvary’s first-ever boys basketball win over neighbor Fruitport, a Division 2 school that competes in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue. Bradley scored 35 points with 14 rebounds in that game, with clutch free throws by role player Eric Dubois Quayle sealing the win.
Two days later, Richards scored 36 points with 17 rebounds in a win over Grand Rapids Sacred Heart.
Calvary then capped the 3-0 week Friday with a victory over Kent City, another Division 2 school, as Bradley scored 36 points with 18 rebounds.
Calvary is led by the “big three” of juniors Richards and Quinn Swanson and senior Sam Zelenka. Swanson, the team’s second-leading scorer with 17 points plus six rebounds and three assists per game, injured his knee last week against Schoolcraft and his health will have a huge bearing on the team’s success going forward. Zelenka is the top defender and averages 11 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
The other starters are junior workhorse Zach McFarren, who owns the school’s shot put and discus records and has played all but six minutes over the team’s seven games, and senior Nolan Ghezzi.
Richards, already a two-time Associated Press all-state selection who even made the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan all-state team as an eighth grader, has seen every gimmick defense to try and shut him down, including box-and-twos and triple teams. He credits his experience in football and track with helping him deal with it.
“There is usually a quick guy in front of me and a big guy behind me,” said Bradley, who scored a career-high 47 points in a game last season. “Football has really helped me, because I’m not as scared of the contact. The high jumping has helped me to elevate and get my shot off.”
Jim McHugh is a high jump legend from Pentwater who went on to become a two-time national champion in the event at Hillsdale College, and he now coaches West Michigan athletes in the event.
The first time he worked with Bradley Richards, in April of last year, he knew he had something special on his hands.
“Bradley went up and literally hurdled the bar at 5-11,” said McHugh. “I was in shock. I said to myself: ‘This is gonna be a heck of a ride.’ The kid is a generational talent.”
The coaching of McHugh paid immediate dividends, as Bradley improved from a top jump of 6-1½ as a freshman to 6-6½ in last year’s Regional meet. Then came the Division 4 Finals at Hudsonville a few weeks later.
Bradley won the first track Finals championship for Fruitport Calvary with a leap of 6-10 – which was 3 inches higher than anyone else in any of the four Lower Peninsula divisions and entire Upper Peninsula that day – and caught the attention of college scouts from across the country.
The following week, he competed at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Philadelphia and placed second with a jump of 6-8.24.
McHugh shudders to think of how high his prodigy can soar. He has his sights set on the Division 4 Finals record of 6-10½ (Kurt Schneider, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, 2009), the Muskegon-area record of 7-0 (Steve Paulsen, Fremont, 1998) and the all-division/class Finals record of 7-1 (John Payment, Brimley, 1989).
“God has given him incredible talent, but he also has the desire it takes,” said McHugh, who is also working with another Division I college high jump prospect in Hart junior Addison Hovey. “I gave him a workout plan, and he has done every bit of it. He has cleaned up his diet, done the cold showers and the cold bathtubs, everything. I’m excited to see the results.”
Richards, whose first love was basketball, admits he is smitten with the high jump and seeing how high he can soar.
Now, when asked about his favorite athletes, he still mentions Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant, but he also includes Olympic gold medalist high jumper Mutaz Barshim of Qatar – who made news by not taking additional jumps at the 2020 Olympics in Japan, thereby sharing the gold medal with Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy.
“I just respect that so much, sharing the gold medal,” Bradley said.
Now the Bradley Richards recruiting saga has begun and, for him, it’s not just about choosing what school – it’s also about choosing what sport.
“I would like to do both, play basketball and high jump in college, if possible,” Bradley said.
That would certainly be a possibility if Bradley follows in his family’s footsteps at Cornerstone University. His father was a basketball standout at Cornerstone, which is where he met Joy, and all three of his sisters played for the Golden Eagles. (Kelsey is currently a student assistant for this year’s team.)
Playing both may not be possible if he pursues high jump at the Division I level, where Michigan and Illinois are among schools actively recruiting him.
“I know at some point I’m going to have to make a decision, but I don’t have to right now,” said the 17-year-old Bradley. “So it doesn’t do me any good to sit and stress about it all the time.”
Instead, he is focused on more immediate goals.
The first is figuring out a way for his basketball team to snap a two-game losing skid and get positioned for another postseason run.
Then it will be trying to clear the magical high jump number of 7-0, and beyond. And don’t forget football, where he would love to start off his senior year by helping Muskegon Catholic improve on its 6-5 record from a year ago and make a run at the school’s 13th state football championship.
Only after all of that will it be college decision time.
“It’s not an easy choice, and it will take a lot of prayer and discernment,” admitted Richards, who will look for help from his immediate family and his school family in making his choice. “I’ll figure it out. I usually do.”
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) Fruitport Calvary Christian’s Bradley Richards stands atop the podium after winning the high jump last spring at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals. (Middle) Richards lines up to shoot a free throw. (Below) Playing as part of a cooperative with Muskegon Catholic Central, Richards works to get away from a Traverse City St. Francis tackler. (Track photo courtesy of Joy Richards; basketball and football photos courtesy of Local Sports Journal.)