VanderSchaaf Brothers Help Marquette Pull Away for UPD1 3-Peat

By Jason Juno
Special for

June 4, 2023

KINGSFORD – The Marquette boys had a little more breathing room Saturday than last year.

They defeated Kingsford at the Upper Peninsula Track & Field Finals by just one point a year ago, but were 20 points better than the Flivvers this time around to claim a third-straight Division 1 championship.

Marquette finished with 134 points, Kingsford had 114, third-place Sault Ste. Marie 90 and fourth-place Gladstone scored 51.

Like the team, Marquette’s Carson VanderSchaaf won an event for the third straight year – the 3,200-meter run. He finished in 9:55.25, edging Sault Ste. Marie freshman Gabe Litzner by less than a second.

Kingsford's Michael Floriano, second from right, edges Sault Ste. Marie's Carter Oshelski in the 100.“I ran a little bit quicker last year, but (in) a little more favorable conditions,” VanderSchaaf said. “It’s pretty hot out, and I’m not quite feeling the best today.”

He might have had two U.P. titles Saturday, but his brother Colin, also a senior, gave Carson a runner-up finish in the 1,600 by less than two seconds.

“My brother outkicked me in the 1,600,” Carson said. 

Colin won it in 2021, Carson in 2022 and now Colin in 2023. 

Colin also won the 800 for Marquette on Saturday, edging teammate Cullen Papin by six hundredths of a second.

Marquette also won the 400 and 1,600 relays. Nate Benninger, Adam DuVall, Wyatt Lakenen and Kyler Sager made up the 400 relay team with Kai Chouinard, Ben Rayhorn, Papin and Colin VanderSchaaf on the 1,600 relay.

Sault Ste. Marie’s Carter Oshelski won two U.P. titles, in the 200 and 400 dashes. He outpaced runner-up Colin VanderSchaaf in the 400.

Iron Mountain's Will Fairchild, left, and Gladstone's Luke Bracket are step for step with each other in the 300 hurdles.“In the 400, I just tried to stick with the top guy and try to beat him down the stretch,” Oshelski said. “And then the 200, I sprinted it all.”

Kingsford won the 800 relay (Cole Myllyla, Jack Olson, Conor Quick and Michael Floriano) and Sault Ste. Marie placed first in 3,200 relay (Caleb Klier, Logan Haskins, Cody Aldridge and Litzner).

Iron Mountain’s Will Fairchild was also a double winner, taking both of the hurdles races. Floriano took first in the 100 dash.

The Flivvers were strong in the field events. Noah Johnson won the discus, tying the U.P. Division 1 Finals record at 160 feet, 5 inches (with Terry Martin of Manistique). Cardel Morton won the long jump and Garrett Veale the shot put. Darrent Butler claimed the high jump for Menominee’s only event win on the day, and Sault Ste. Marie’s Rayce Rizzo took the pole vault. 

In the Division 1 adaptive events, Marquette’s Jim Bennett won the 100, 200 and 400 and Sault Ste. Marie’s Johnny Osborn took first in the shot put.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Marquette's Colin VanderSchaaf crosses the finish line first in the 1,600 relay Saturday. (Middle) Kingsford's Michael Floriano, second from right, edges Sault Ste. Marie's Carter Oshelski in the 100. (Below) Iron Mountain's Will Fairchild, left, and Gladstone's Luke Bracket are step for step with each other in the 300 hurdles. (Photos by Cara Kamps/

Hastings Relays Reigns as State's Oldest Continuous Track & Field Meet

By Steve Vedder
Special for

April 10, 2024

Bob Branch remembers dabbling in other sports, but his first love was always running.

Mid-MichiganThe Hastings High School graduate admits he could never hit a baseball, football didn't especially appeal to him and basketball was just another way to spend time with friends. But for Branch, now 93, there was always track. That's the sport where his fondest and sharpest memories remain. And if you're talking track, many of his favorite memories come from participation in the state's oldest continuous track meet, the Hastings Relays.

Always held in early April, the meet dates back to 1937 – a bygone time that saw the first hostilities of World War II, gas at 20 cents a gallon and a loaf of bread selling for a dime.

And at a dusty old track surrounding the county fairgrounds in Hastings, a small relay event that included a scattering of participants from a dozen high schools was taking its first tentative steps.

Branch recalls a time when kids would run home after track practice because there were no buses, inexperienced young coaches had little actual knowledge of running fundamentals, and athletes looked at the sport as an afterthought after spending most of their high school days playing football and basketball.

The author wrote on the 50th anniversary of the Relays for the Hastings Banner nearly 40 years ago.For Branch, the relays were the ideal way to ease into the track season.

"I just liked to run," said Branch. "I remember I anchored a relay with my brother, and it always seemed cold when we had that meet. I remember teams would come from all over and you saw a lot of good athletes. Everybody seemed to have someone who was really good. Track wasn't very popular at that time, but I have a lot of good memories from running."

The Hastings Relays, which has changed formats and even names during its nearly nine-decade history, would traditionally kick off the track season. The meet was originally held at a makeshift quarter-mile track which surrounded the town's fairgrounds and was part of the city's annual Hastings Carnival – the track would become the midway during fair time.

The meet eventually moved to Johnson Field when the football field was dedicated in 1949 and ballooned to as many as 50 teams at its peak in 1957. For more than seven decades it was known as the Hastings Relays and then the Hastings Co-Ed relays before becoming the current Hastings Invitational, with the latest edition scheduled for Friday.

Johnson Field had a cinder track before it became an all-weather surface in the 1980s. During a time long before computers would be used to organize meet heats in mere minutes, Hastings coaches of all sports – defined as "volunteers" by the athletic department – would meet on the Friday before competition to hash out events.

People associated with the meet still recall the camaraderie built on those long Friday nights, followed by working what would often become 10-hour meets. Steve Hoke has been involved since watching his father, Jack, who coached teams at 15 of the meets beginning in 1951 and also had run in the first Hastings Relays. Steve Hoke later competed in the Relays as well during the early 1970s before becoming an assistant track coach, later the Hastings athletic director and now a volunteer worker.

"It was always a huge deal," said Hoke, who said the meet began as a pure relay event before transitioning to its current team format in the 1990s. "I remember we'd line the track the night before, and all the coaches would come to the house to organize everything. There was a brotherhood.”

Past athlete, coach and athletic director Steve Hoke shows some of the Relays awards from the 1930s.If you quiz many of the fleet of volunteers who've worked the relays over the years, each has a different memory from the meet. While Hoke describes the brotherhood and Branch the outstanding competition, others remember weather and the time a thunderstorm wiped out the line markings on the cinder track, or waking up to find three inches of snow that caused a rare cancellation of the meet. Others recall the shock of moving from the cinder to all-weather track or using the meet as an early measuring stick of what it would take to qualify for the state meet. The real old-timers remember the meet disappearing for three years during World War II.

Hastings native and Western Michigan grad Tom Duits was the state’s second collegian to break the four-minute mile when he ran a 3:59.2 at a meet in Philadelphia in 1978. Duits, who ran in three Hastings Relays, was in line to join the U.S. Olympic team in 1980 before the United States pulled out of the games due to tension with Russia.

Duits has his own memories of the meet and the competition he faced there.

"I remember sunshine and being excited to be competing again. There were all these athletes swarming around; it was an awesome display of talent," he said. "It was always one of the best meets we'd be in. You could pretty much see the level of runners who would be at state, which made it a big deal. It was always early, but you could tell where you stood. It was great exposure."

Hastings track star Wayne Oom competed in four Hastings Relays from 1984-87. One of his sharpest memories was the difference between running on a raw cinder track versus the far more comfortable all-weather surface.

"Those cinders would grind into your skin," said Oom, part of the Hastings school record in the two-mile relay. "But I think it helped us because when we'd go to other tracks, it seemed we would run faster. I remember how competitive it was, especially in the distances. There were some great runners."

While participants have their unique memories, so do coaches. Former Saxons coach Paul Fulmer remembers 2008 when his team finished first on the boys side of the meet while his wife, Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer, saw her girls team win the championship.

Tom Duits was one of the state’s biggest track stars of the 1970s and ran in three Hastings Relays."I knew we were one of the favorites to win because we were usually near the top of our conference and Regional," he said. "But then Katie's team was pretty good, and it was cool for them to win too."

Fulmer, who coached Hastings from 1978-81 and then 1985-2010, said at least part of the meet's popularity was derived from a unique way of scoring. Instead of individuals earning points solo, participants worked in pairs. For instance, two athletes would combine their shot put or long jump scores. New events such as the 1,500 relay and sprint medley were added.

"We had a tradition of being the state's oldest meet, and that was a big deal," Fulmer said. "And we ran a good relay; that attracted teams too. We took a lot of pride in that.

"And we'd get quite a lot of people to come to the meet. We'd set up until like 9 or 10 p.m., and then we'd have a party with all the coaches on Friday night."

While the meet has stretched 87 years, Branch said early participants and current runners have one thing in common: a drive to win. Branch ran in an era when the popularity of high school track was in its infancy. Today some of the best all-around athletes at a school are involved in the track program. The relays span the nearly nine decades in between.

"The quality of teams has gotten better and better," said Branch, the 1947 Lower Peninsula Class B Finals champ in the 220. "And this has made for a better meet. We would get guys who played football or baseball kind of drift into track, and that made the sport better. I think people began to appreciate track because we'd get teams from all over.

"We went from not really knowing what we were doing to track being a good sport. Even then, I'm not sure we appreciated what we had. We really liked the Hastings Relays and always wanted to do well there. It became popular and quite an honor to do well. Those are the kind of things I remember."

PHOTOS (Top) Racers run at the Hastings Relays, with several more awaiting their turns to compete at the longtime meet. (2) The author wrote on the 50th anniversary of the Relays for the Hastings Banner nearly 40 years ago. (3) Past athlete, coach and athletic director Steve Hoke shows some of the Relays awards from the 1930s. (4) Tom Duits was one of the state’s biggest track stars of the 1970s and ran in three Hastings Relays. (Top photo by Dan Goggins, Hoke photo provided by Steve Hoke and Duits photos provided by Tom Duits.)