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.) 

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

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)