High 5s: 5/15/12

May 15, 2012

This week's honorees include arguably Michigan's top distance runner, top lacrosse player, and a baseball team looking to assert itself at the top while representing the state's largest city.

Lauren Hooker
East Grand Rapids senior

(Updated May 19) Hooker, who plays attack, led the Pioneers to a 20-0 start. She's scored 101 goals -- already third-most for a single season in the MHSAA record book, and more than 25 percent of her team's total. Add in her 33 assists, and her 134 total points are fifth in MHSAA history for one season. East Grand Rapids is ranked No. 1 both in Division 2 and regardless of division based on the computer rankings supplied by LaxPower.com. Hooker also was the low scorer on the Pioneers golf team that finished eighth at the fall's Division 3 Final, and she missed the individual top 10 by only two strokes. She's signed to play lacrosse at Marquette University next season.

Scoring touch: "I don't try and dodge all the time. I don't like to work my way through people to score. I just try to find an opening."

Up next: "I'm not exactly sure yet (what I'll study), probably something in the sciences. Maybe something like criminology. I always wanted to be an FBI agent when I was growing up."

I learned the most about lacrosse from: "Two of my best friends play for the University of Oregon (Jana and Jess Drummond). And Coach (Jeff) Oates has spent a lot of time with me, talking to me, helping me during the offseason."

Different strokes: "I love the intensity (of lacrosse). I love the team aspect. It's competitive, but fun at the same time. Everyone on our team loves it together. ... In golf, I like how you're still part of the team, but an individual. To help the team, it's on you. It's a good contrast to lacrosse." 

Garret Zuk

White Lake Lakeland senior

Track and Field

Zuk, the reigning MHSAA Division 1 cross country champion, ran career bests of 9:09.2 in the 3,200 meters and 4:16.92 in the 1,600 to take first in the former and second by two hundredths of a second in the latter at Saturday's Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship meet at Pinckney. But his best moment might've come when he finished second on purpose -- to Walled Lake Northern's Devin Kimberlin in the 3,200 last Tuesday after pacing the sophomore through the race to a career-best time, and then letting him win at the end. (Click to read more). Zuk was an MHSAA Scholar-Athlete Award winner this winter and is the co-salutatorian of his class with a 4.22 grade-point average. He will run this fall at Michigan State University.

"I've done it for kids on my own team. Normally, I'm in a position where things are still hanging in the balance and we need the points to win. But the way this meet was ... there was no way we could win. I saw the kind of effort Devin was trying to put in, and there was no reason not to help out."

Up next: Zuk will run both cross country and track at MSU, as is the norm at the college level. He's planning to study mechanical engineering, with an eye on the aerospace field -- think NASA, Boeing, etc. Not surprisingly, math is his best subject.

I learned the most about running from: Retired longtime Lakeland coach Randy Wilkins and current cross country coach Joe Verellen. "The combination of those two (taught me) a lot of what I know and what I practice in my running.

I look up to: "Every American distance runner has to look up to Steve Prefontaine at one time or another. What Pre stood for, the way he went about running; it's inspiring to everyone."

Detroit Western International baseball

The Cowboys are 22-4 and winners of 11 straight heading into Friday afternoon's Detroit Public School League Tournament semifinal. They are the top seed after finishing the league regular season undefeated, and have their sights set on a trip to Battle Creek this month after coming within an out of the MHSAA Semifinals a year ago. Of 16 players on this spring's team, 14 were on last year's as well. Click to read more.

This spring's previous honorees

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.)