Vicksburg's Wright, Corunna Right On in Claiming LPD2 Championships

By Steve Vedder
Special for

June 3, 2023

ADA – If Michael Wright was a baseball player, he probably would've been called out on strikes a year ago. 

Instead, the Vicksburg senior can celebrate after winning the 200 at Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 2 Track & Field Finals at Forest Hills Eastern.

The road to the championship in the 200, via a time of 21.72, was anything but a straight line for Wright. An aspiring baseball player, he was cut from the Vicksburg squad as a freshman. His football career, by Wright's own admission, was "on and off." And then a year ago in his first track meet, Wright suffered a leg injury that virtually ended his season. He did return to finish fifth in the 200 at Finals while helping the 400 relay team to a 16th place.

So there is nothing to realistically explain how Wright found himself in the position Saturday at sweltering Forest Hills Eastern to win a championship. Except for returning this season to break the school record in the 200 four times in two months. Well, that and willpower and simple desire.

Corunna's Tarick Bower enjoys a moment after anchoring the winning 400 relay. "I knew I could finish high, maybe in the top five. But this is better," said Wright, who credits drinking large quantities of milk for his resurgence. "I looked to football because I didn't think I could bounce back for track. But I overcame the bumps, the obstacles."

While Wright was jump-starting his track career, Corunna won the team title with 41 points. Mason and Forest Hills Eastern tied for second with 35. Whitehall was fourth with 33 points, and Frankenmuth fifth with 29 points.

Corunna coach Jeff Sawyer, who had never won a Finals title in 37 years coaching at Owosso and three more at Corunna, said the championship came after little fanfare during the season. Virtually right up until the time Corunna hauled off its first-place trophy, Sawyer said it was never really on his team's mind. The title came after the team managed only a runner-up finish at the Regional.

"We kind of low-keyed it," he said. "We knew scoring 40 points was possible. We lost to Frankenmuth by one point at the Regional. … We were a little disappointed we didn't win, but we had some good times today. We knew it was possible.

"Every day we just come and do what we do. We talk about getting better every day with PRs (personal records). And we're still getting better because we have some tough guys. Just competitive, tough kids. But we were the underdogs."

Corunna had only two firsts on Saturday, in the 400 relay (42.63) and Wyatt Bower in the long jump (22-8½).

Among the individual highlights was Frankenmuth senior Dalton DeBeau, who successfully defended his Finals title in the discus (171-6). He was fifth in that event as a sophomore and after winning a year ago, was considered a good bet to repeat.

"I kind of expected it," said DeBeau, who will compete at Michigan State next spring. "There wasn't a lot of pressure. I knew what had to be done. I threw 160 feet on my first throw to get in the finals, and that helped right away. I knew I could go all out."

Mason's Tyler Baker, center, works to stay ahead in the 110 hurdles.Berrien Springs' Jake Machiniak won the 100 (10.54) while the team also captured the 800 relay (1:28.18). Machiniak said his season hasn't been without its share of difficulties. There was a time when he couldn't seem to come out of the starting blocks smoothly. But beginning with the conference meet where he ran school record 10:73, Machiniak felt himself back on course.

"There were ups and downs. I struggled in the middle of the season," he said. "But my teammates helped me through some difficulties. I came here to finish the job; I knew I could do something here."

Mason's Tyler Baker won the 100 hurdles (14.63) to complete a long journey that included finishing just ninth in last year's prelims. The success was as simple as putting in loads of offseason work.

"I practiced and did stuff about every day," he said. "I might not be the fastest, but I make up for that in form. It's a fine-tuning thing. Everyone wants to be faster."

Mason also got a championship from A.J. Mantel, who captured the 300 hurdles (38.90).

Among other highlights was Forest Hills Eastern senior Aiden Sullivan successfully defending a 2022 title on his own home turf. He won Saturday's 800 (1:53.92).

Adrian won the 3,200 relay (7:39.77), while Grand Rapids Christian took the 1,600 (3:24.49).

Alma had two individual winners in Michael Howey in the shot (55-08) and Jacob Dunlap in the high jump (6-7).

The other champs were Kyle Eberhard of Linden in the 1,600 (4:14.79), Whitehall's Trannon Ayler in the 400 (48.83), Freeland's T.J. Hansen in the 3,200 (9:11.56) and Sam Vesperman of Grosse Ile in the pole vault (15.01). Chelsea senior Jacob Nelson competed in the adaptive 100 (27.28), 200 (57.71) and shot put (6-6).

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Vicksburg's Michael Wright celebrates after winning the 200 on Saturday. (Middle) Corunna's Tarick Bower enjoys a moment after anchoring the winning 400 relay. (Below) Mason's Tyler Baker, center, works to stay ahead in the 110 hurdles. (Photos by Dave McCauley/

With 2nd Place in Final Race, Newberry Clinches 1st in Final Team Standings

By John Vrancic
Special for

June 2, 2024

KINGSFORD — The race for the Upper Peninsula Division 3 boys track & field championship came right down to the wire Saturday as Newberry edged St. Ignace 96-92 for top honors.

Third-place team finisher Lake Linden-Hubbell won the day’s final race, the 1,600-meter relay, in 3 minutes, 41.94 seconds, and Newberry hung on to edge St. Ignace by two steps for second place and its first title in eight years.

Newberry, which was runner-up to Munising last year, was clocked at 3:43.07 in the 1,600 relay on this sunny and mild late afternoon. The Saints finished nine hundredths of a second later.

“We knew we had to beat St. Ignace to win,” Newberry senior Kennedy Depew said after finishing the anchor leg. “This was my last race ever. I knew I had to give it my all. That’s also why I knew I had to scratch from the open 400. I would have been in four events. I think scratching from the 400 helped me save some energy. We weren’t satisfied with runner-up last year, which makes this year’s championship all the more satisfying.”

Classmate Gabe Luck provided Newberry with its lone individual first with a heave of 44 feet, 1¾ inches in shot put.

“We had a lot of injuries this year,” Newberry coach Drew Schultz said. “For all the obstacles we had, we wouldn’t have it any other way, having two of the best athletes decide it in the last race. I’m extremely proud of our guys. To win it that way is just insane. I’m proud of all our eastern-end kids.”

Chassell's Kalvin Kytta and Cedarville/DeTour's Ethan Snyder lead the pack of 1,600 runners. Depew also was runner-up in the 100-meter dash in 11.63 seconds.

Senior Jon Ingalls, who ran the last leg for the Saints, won the 110 hurdles (16.39) and 300s (42.89) and helped them place second in the 400 relay (45.94).

“Both hurdles were decent,” Ingalls said. “Those weren’t my best times, but it feels good to grind out a few more wins.”

Senior Owen Lester also provided the Saints with a victory in pole vault (12-6).

LL-H got firsts from senior Gabe Popko in discus at 153 feet, 4¼ inches, and classmate Matt Jokela in the 400 (51.09). Jokela also took third in the 100 (11.65).

“Real good hydration and confidence are keys,” Jokela said. “I think having confidence helps a little. I usually don’t go too hard out of the blocks. Then, I usually try to go as hard as I can in the last 200.”

Chassell junior Kalvin Kytta claimed three firsts, taking the 800 in a personal-best 2:03.62, 1,600 (4:39.58) and 3,200 (10:27.32).

“Three wins, I’m pretty happy with that,” he said. “The 800 went real well. Overall, I’m very happy with my performance today.”

Fourth-place Bessemer set UPD3 Finals records in the 400 relay (45.3) and 800 (1:34.64). Powers North Central previously set the record in the 400 (45.34) two years ago and Rock Mid Peninsula had held the 800 record since 2001 when it ran a 1:35.1.

“We shaved two seconds off in the 800 relay which feels good, and our handoffs in the 400 were good all year,” Bessemer senior Landon Peterson said. “Our school record in the 400 is 44.98, which is something we’ve done three times this year. Running on a rubber track gives you a much better grip, which helped us a lot today.”

Bessemer senior Tom Trudgeon became a four-event winner, also taking the 100 (11.46) and 200 (23.85).

Crystal Falls Forest Park freshman Vic Guiliani won high jump (6-0), and sophomore Michael Rexford went 19-9 in long jump, providing Escanaba Holy Name with its first U.P. Finals title since the school reopened in 2021.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Newberry runners celebrate taking second place in the 1,600 relay, allowing them to finish ahead of St. Ignace for the team title in Upper Peninsula Division 3. (Middle) Chassell's Kalvin Kytta and Cedarville/DeTour's Ethan Snyder lead the pack of 1,600 runners. (Click for more from Cara Kamps/