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.

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

Not Even Sky Seems Limit as Richards Keeps Calvary Sports Soaring

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

January 4, 2024

Bradley Richards believes that life is all about trying new things, setting bigger goals and pushing yourself to new heights – in his case, literally.

West MichiganRichards, 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.

Richards lines up to shoot a free throw. 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.”

Great heights

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.

Playing as part of a cooperative with Muskegon Catholic Central, Richards works to get away from a Traverse City St. Francis tackler. 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.

Decision time

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 KendraTom 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.)