Balanced Divine Child Celebrates Again

June 1, 2013

By Greg Chrapek
Special to Second Half

ADA – Quality depth is a big key to success in high school track and field.

And over the past four years, no Lower Peninsula Division 2 girls track team has boasted the depth of Dearborn Divine Child.

That depth proved to be the key once again at Saturday’s MHSAA Final at Forest Hills Eastern. Scoring points in 10 of 15 events, the Falcons captured their third team title in the past four years.

Divine Child finished with 81 points while host Forest Hills Eastern finished second with 53.

“We are a team of one and we have demonstrated that throughout the year,” Divine Child coach Anthony Mifsud said. “This is our third title. We did it in 2010, we shared it last year and this year we won a third one. I’m just very happy for the girls. To score points in 10 of 15 events is extraordinary.”

Leading the way for the Falcons was a senior class small in number but big on production.

“Our seniors really came through,” Mifsud said. “Paige Patterson has been a 16-time all-stater during her four years. She was on the 2 by 200 and 4 by 400 relay teams that have been undefeated the past two years.”

“Mallory Myler also has been on the 4 by 200 and the 4 by 400 the last two years. Ashley O’Neill, our thrower, finished seventh in the shot. Those have been our three, main seniors.”

Host Forest Hills Eastern was fueled to its second-place finish by strong performances in the relays. The highlight of the day for the Hawks came in the 400-meter relay when the team of Alli Gutschow, Sam Reno, Camron Nelson and Jaclyn Goble turned in a Division 2 Finals record time of 48.4 that broke a 13-year old record set by Detroit Renaissance.

“We set our goals high at the beginning of the year,” Gutschow said. “We always had an eye on this. To win it on our home track and to set the state record on our home track, especially with the seniors on the team, is special. I feel privileged and lucky to be a part of this.”       

Reno also was one of three seniors on the winning relay team.

“It just feels awesome,” Reno said. “It feels real great, especially to win it and set the record at home.”  

Detroit Country Day shared last year’s team title with Divine Child, and the Yellowjackets were again a major factor.

Saturday marked the end to one of the most successful high school careers in Michigan history, and Country Day senior Kendall Baisden closed it out in a big way.

Baisden won the 400-meter dash for the fourth time and won the 200-meter dash for a third straight year.

“It feels pretty good,” Baisden said. “To win the 400 all four years and the 200 my last three years shows that throughout my high school career I was pretty consistent. I just wanted to stay focused today.”

Baisden will continue her track career at UCLA next season. The journey to become one of the finest sprinters in state history began in the fourth grade.

“I started running track back in the fourth grade at Saint Regina in the CYO league,” Baisden said. “Today was kind of bittersweet. I have loved coming to the state meet. It’s my favorite meet of the year along with the (Oakland) county meet. It was real special coming here for the last time.”

Remus Chippewa Hills junior Megan O’Neil was one of the busiest athletes at Saturday’s meet. By the end of the day, few athletes were as tired as O’Neil – but all of her work resulted in a pair of championships.

After beginning the day by running a leg in the 3,200 relay, O’Neil then won the 1,600-meter run in a time of 4:52.21.

“I just wanted to go as hard as I could go in the final 800 meters,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil then her sights on the 800-meter run. After winning her second race of the day, O’Neil ended her day running the 3,200.

“I think I finished in last in the 3,200 meter,” O’Neil said. “By the two mile, I was pretty much dead. I do like the order of the races. In the 4 by 800 you run pretty clean and you are running for your team. In the 1,600 it’s more of a tactical run, but then you sprint at the end. The 800 is real fast. They should call it a dash and not a run.”

A standout on the Chippewa Hills cross country team, O’Neil will take some time to rest before gearing up for the cross country season.

“I think I will take it easy and take a little break before starting to build a base for the cross country season,” O’Neil said. “A lot of cross country runners don’t like running track, but I love running track and I love running cross country. I don’t put a label on what is my favorite race; I just set my mind to running and try to do the best I can in each event.”

Mason sophomore Meg Darmofal, another talented runner during the cross country season, also added a track title to her resume as she won the 3,200-meter run.

“It felt awesome,” Darmofal said. “It was everything that I was working for and it feels awesome. I took off with a lap left and it felt good. I had a good mentality. If you tell yourself you are going to win, you are going to do it.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) The Dearborn Divine Child girls track team poses with their third MHSAA championship trophy won over the last four seasons. (Middle) Detroit Country Day's Kendall Baisden sprints to the finish line on the way to winning the 400-meter dash. (Photos by Greg Chrapek.)

Finals Title Next Step for Versatile Swan Valley Record-Breaker Kuhn

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 22, 2024

Sydney Kuhn’s habit for smashing school records at Saginaw Swan Valley has forced the track & field program to start taking cost-cutting measures.

Bay & Thumb“We stopped changing out the records on our record board,” Swan Valley coach Dave Dawson said. “We just figured, she has another year and she’ll break it again, so we figured we’re going to save money this way.”

Kuhn, a junior, owns the school records in the 200, 400, 800 and 1,600 meters. She also has the program record in 60 meters, an indoor track event. She’s run the school’s second-fastest 300 hurdles time, and one of the top five 100-meter times. The 1,600-meter relay team she’s part of with Mackenzie Morgan, Grace Spear and Mackenzie Powell is close to setting a record, as well, and has qualified for the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals on June 1.

“Her ninth-grade year, everybody knew, depending on what happens and her attitude, they knew she could be something special. There was potential there,” Dawson said. “Lauren Huebner, she graduated in 2016 and went to SVSU and was a two-time Division II national champion, she had eight records on the board. Sydney feeds off that. Especially now that Lauren is helping coach, she’s definitely been pivotal in this.”

Kuhn qualified for the Finals in the three events she ran at last week’s Regional: the 200, 400 and 1,600 relay. She will be the No. 1 seed in the 400, and has run the fastest time in the state regardless of division, at 55.11 seconds. She’s the No. 2 seed in the 200, where her personal best of 24.89 is the fifth-fastest time in the state this year, regardless of division. She finished third and sixth, respectively, at the Finals in the events a year ago.

“I feel good,” Kuhn said. “I’m just getting ready. It’s been a good year, it’s been going smoothly. The 400 looks pretty good, and the 200 there will be some good competition. Freshman year, I got fifth, then third (as a sophomore) in the 400, so hopefully this year is first.”

She did not run the 800 at the Regional, as it was decided it was too close in the meet order to her other events. She’s run 2:12.75 in the event, the fourth-fastest time recorded in the state this season.

That could be where she has the most potential, however, as it’s a race she had never run competitively until her sophomore season. The first time she ran it in a varsity meet, she recorded a 2:21, setting the school record.

Kuhn anchors a relay during the Tri-Valley Conference Red meet May 8 at Frankenmuth.“(Coach) Andrew Wendler put a bug in her ear, ‘If you’re running this fast in the 400, think of what your 800 would be,’” Dawson said. “She says, ‘Yeah, I’ll try it.’ So, in one of our first conference meets, she ran against a girl that’s pretty good in the 800 and we just said to follow her – stick with her and see what you can do. With 200 meters left, she just took off and broke the school record the first time she ran it.”

A year later, they tried the same thing with the 1,600. And again, Kuhn responded by running 5:12.73 in her first try, setting the school record. She’s since run 5:06.45.

“The first time I ran the 800, I ran against Mary Richmond from Frankenmuth who is really fast, and I sort of paced behind her the first 400, then the last 300 I took off. Same thing with the 1,600. I felt like staying behind her, I wasn’t really racing, so I could just go, I thought.”

Richmond is a three-time all-state finisher in both the 1,600 and the 3,200, as well as a four-time all-state cross country runner. 

With Kuhn’s instant success in every race she’s tried, the logical next question is, what about the 3,200?

“My coach mentioned that,” Kuhn said with a laugh. “But I usually just shake my head. You never know.”

There is a real question, however, about what event, or events, Kuhn is best suited for moving forward. She said that she would like to shift some focus to the 800 for her senior year, and several college coaches who have been in contact with her have indicated that’s where she could land.

“The pattern typically is they would probably turn her into a half-miler or a miler,” Dawson said. “Some college coaches want her for the heptathlon with her hurdle experience, and she is not a stranger to the weight room. That’s the fun part about this, she tries something and it’s usually pretty fun. It’s usually a positive experience.”

Kuhn is ready for whatever is thrown at her.

“They’re mostly like 800, 1,500, those types of races,” she said. “Some of them just say whatever you like best. One coach mentioned the steeplechase – I don’t know about that. One coach did mention (heptathlon). I’d be open to whatever is best.”

While she’s taken some unofficial visits, she said she’s in no hurry to choose a college. Her focus remains on winning a Finals title at Swan Valley, and a series of times she’s set as goals for herself: 24.4, 54.9, 2:09.9, 4:59.9.

They’re all saved on her phone screen, where they’re easy to change as she reaches them. And at no cost.

“Every time I look at my phone, I see the times I want to get,” she said. “I’ve changed my screen saver a lot when I do break it.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Saginaw Swan Valley’s Sydney Kuhn runs toward the finish during the Korf/Schultz Saginaw County Invitational on May 10 at Hemlock. (Middle) Kuhn anchors a relay during the Tri-Valley Conference Red meet May 8 at Frankenmuth. (Photos by Eagle Eye Photography.)