Zeeland West Makes Home at Houseman

May 31, 2014

By John Leerar
Special to Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS - Almost all track athletes enjoy running on their home track, in front of cheering fans and on a familiar surface.

Zeeland West did not get that opportunity this year. West’s home track, Zeeland Stadium, was closed for the season for improvements, so they did not host a meet.

The Dux, however, made Houseman Field their home at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals on Saturday, winning the title with 50 points after finishing fourth the year before. Second place went to Auburn Hills Avondale, which finished with 38 points.

Zeeland West finished first in only one event as a team, but consistently placed among the top three to build its winning points total.

“I feel satisfied with our performance today,” said coach Phil Hoover. “I’m happy for the athletes and really proud of our coaching staff. We had a lot of consistency in our races, and the points kept adding up. JT (Jason Tran) got a win for us in the 300 hurdles, and we got second in a few other events to win the title.”

Tran, a senior, won the 300-meter hurdles by almost a full second, finishing in 38.79.

 “I’m feeling really happy about my performance today,” he said. “I’ve worked hard over the past four years for this, and I thought I finished my career well.”

The senior contributed to his team in other ways as well. He placed second in the 110 hurdles and was the second leg of the 400 relay that took second as well. He also was on the 1,600 relay, which took 10th place.

Many other athletes also scored points for the Dux. Junior Sam Plaska, junior Ryan Lowing, senior Grant Postma, and senior Connor DeWeerd placed second in the 3,200. Senior Danny Bauder took sixth in the 100 dash and second in the 200. Plaska also took fourth place in the 800 run.

This MHSAA title is the first for the Dux.

Zeeland West excelled on the track, but it was junior Logan Targgart of Coldwater who stole the show on the field. After a shaky regular season, Targgart found his form when it mattered most. He finished first in the discus with a throw of 168 feet, 7 inches, and second in the shot put with a throw of 54-5¼ .

“It feels really amazing to be a state champion,” said Targgart of his discus performance. “I had kind of a bad season before this, but everything clicked and it went really well. My PR (Personal Record) was 157-1, which I set at this meet last year, and it felt really good to beat that. It was a good day for me.”

Targgart finished sixth in the discus last year.

Senior Colby Clark of Stevensville Lakeshore took first in the 400 dash, finishing in a PR of 48.67 seconds.

“This is my third time back (to the Finals), so I knew what to expect. I have a lot of great guys to race with, and I’m glad I had a great race.”

When asked how his race went, Clark was remarkably candid: “I didn’t have time to think about the race while I was running. I was surprised when I came to the final stretch, and by that time I was dogging it anyway. It was nice weather, I was well-rested, I was mentally prepared for my race, and that lead to my good performance today.”

Clark also talked about how track athletes dealt with the weather early in the season. “It got to the point during the season where I thought that the weather was always going to be this bad. I think we had two days of sun the whole spring,” he said. “But you have to deal with it and make the best of the weather you are given. And we got good weather when it counted, at this state meet.”

Senior John Sattler won the 800 and came in second in the 1,600, leading Byron Center to third place.

“I’m very happy with my day today,” Sattler said. “I was kind of disappointed with my finish in the mile, but I was determined to win the 800 and that’s what I did. It’s my first state championship, so I am really excited about that.”

Other individual champions in the field included Mitchell Mueller of Algonac in the pole vault, Aaron Curtis of Coopersville in the shot put and Anthony Fitzgerald of Melvindale in the high jump and long jump. In races, winners included Fred Boyd of Dearborn Divine Child in the 110 hurdles, Joshuwa Holloman of Auburn Hills Avondale in the 100 and 200 dashes, Austin Sargent of Cedar Spring in the 1,600 run and Nathan Mylenek of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in the 3,200.

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Zeeland West athletes hoist their championship trophy Saturday at Grand Rapids' Houseman Stadium. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.) 

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.)