Finals Preview: Last Chance to Catch These Stars

May 31, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

More good stories emerge from MHSAA Track and Field Finals day than perhaps any other during our school year.

And arguably the most significant this entire spring will be final good-byes to some of the top female athletes ever to compete in this sport.

Grosse Pointe South twins Hannah and Haley Meier, Detroit Country Day’s Kendall Baisden, West Bloomfield's Erin Finn and Reed City’s Sami Michell are among standouts who will compete in an MHSAA event for the last time Saturday.

Read more about them below in our breakdown of the team favorites and key individuals at all seven MHSAA girls championship meets. Of course, we can’t mention everyone here who may do big things this weekend – but we’ll have coverage of every meet as well on Second Half beginning late Saturday night.

Click for meet information including all qualifiers and also Saturday night for results as they come in. And check out for live streaming coverage of running events from both peninsulas. (NOTE: "Top ranked" aren't listed for U.P. divisions because the coaches association does not produce U.P. rankings for this sport.)

LP DIVISION 1 at East Kentwood

Top ranked: No. 1 Grosse Pointe South, No. 2 East Kentwood, No. 3 Rockford.

Grosse Pointe South: The two-time reigning champion can continue building on an impressive run with perhaps its most dominant team of the last three seasons. The Blue Devils have six qualifiers in field events, 10 in individual races, and all four relays come in with top-eight qualifying times – including the national record holders in the 3,200 relay (Kelsie Schwartz, Ersula Farrow, Haley Meier and Hannah Meier), who ran an 8:48.29 last season. Hannah Meier owns two more LP Division 1 Finals records (more below).

East Kentwood: Senior Mariah Davis is one of the state’s top throwers and has two of the team’s eight field event qualifying berths. The team also will compete in three relays, but only three individual races – although freshman Sekayi Bracey has the top qualifying time in the 100 and 200 (more below).

Rockford: Distance running remains the name of the game for the Rams, who have seven individual race berths and also will run all four relays – with three posting qualifying times among the top eight in Division 1. Rockford also qualified five times for field events.

Southfield-Lathrup’s Keianna Ingram: The senior high jumper set the meet record of 5-9 last season and qualified at Regionals this spring at 5-8.

Jackson’s Cierra Pryor: She too set a meet record last season as a junior with a long jump of 19-0, and jumped 18-9 at her Regional. Pryor also tied for the second-fastest qualifying time in the 100, 11.9 seconds.

East Kentwood’s Sekayi Bracey: Just a freshman, Bracey has the fastest qualifying times in the 100 (11.7) and 200 (24.2), and both would be Finals records in Divisions 2-4. She’ll need to cut just a few tenths of a second to break Shayla Mahan’s all-Finals record of 11.5 in the 100, set in 2006, but about half a second to catch Mahan’s all-Finals 200 record of 23.74. Bracey also qualified third in long jump at 18-2.75.

Grosse Pointe South’s Hannah and Haley Meier: The much-celebrated twins should add a few more accolades in their final MHSAA Final. Hannah, set the all-Finals record in the 800 of 2:07.37 in 2011 and also set the all-Finals record of 4:42.6 in the 1,600 that spring. She has the third-best qualifying time in the latter this weekend, and Haley has the second-fastest.

West Bloomfield’s Erin Finn: This senior also has established herself as one of the nation’s top high school distance runners, and enters her last MHSAA Final with the fastest qualifying times in the 1,600 (4:49.3) and 3,200 (10:25.4). She set the all-Finals record in the latter last season with a time of 10:17.86.

Other returning individual champions: Jae’vyn Wortham, Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse (discus, qualified this spring number one in discus and tied for 16th in shot put).

LP DIVISION 2 at Ada Forest Hills Eastern

Top ranked: No. 1 Ada Forest Hills Eastern, No. 2 Dearborn Divine Child, No. 3 Williamston.

Ada Forest Hills Eastern: The Hawks have a solid collection of qualifiers with three in field events and nine in individual races. But they’ll make their points in the relays – all four enter with qualifying times among the top five in their respective races, keyed by the top-qualifying 400 relay. FHE’s 400 team ran a 48.8 at its Regional, the best of any Division 2 team by nearly a second and only 11 hundredths off Detroit Renaissance’s Division 2 Final record of 48.69 set in 2000.

Dearborn Divine Child: A large group of frontrunners makes the Falcons the possible favorite again – they tied for first last season, won outright in 2010 and finished runners-up in 2011. All four relays qualified among the top eight overall in the division, with the 800 and 1,600 relays running the fastest Regional times. Paige Patterson (more below), Mallory Myler and Kayla Gandy enter Saturday with a combined four top qualifying times in their respective events – among 10 individual race qualifications total for the team.

Williamston: This is one of the younger Hornets teams of late, but they could improve on last season’s sixth-place finish with five qualifications in field events plus three relay berths. All three relays ran qualifying times 10th or better in the division.

Kendall Baisden, Detroit Country Day: The Yellowjackets’ senior is one of the most decorated champions in MHSAA history. She won the 400 last season in a meet-record 54.58 seconds to go with two individual championships as a freshman and three more won as a sophomore. She posted the third-best 200 Regional time in Division 2 at 25.6 and the 10th-best in the 400, 59.8.

Paige Patterson, Dearborn Divine Child: Also a senior, Patterson is favored to finish with two more MHSAA championships after winning the 200 last season in 24.91. She tied for the top Regional time in that race, 25.1, and also enters with the best 400 Regional time of 57.6 after finishing third in that race at last season’s MHSAA Final.

Janina Pollatz, Grand Rapids Christian: The senior is the reigning pole vault champion, going 11-3 last season. She tied for the second-best Regional vault at 11-2 and also leaped the second-best long jump of 17-2.

Kathryn Mills, Eaton Rapids: The Greyhounds junior is hoping to win the high jump for a third straight season and tied for the best Regional jump of 5-4. She also tied for the 15th-best Regional time in the 100 hurdles, 15.9.

LP DIVISION 3 at Comstock Park

Top ranked: No. 1 Frankenmuth, No. 2 Benzonia Benzie Central, No. 3 Hopkins.

Frankenmuth: The reigning champion won by nine points last season and again is loaded with scoring potential. Eight qualifiers are ranked among the top 12 in their respective events based on Regional performances – thrower Ashley Frahm, hurdler Sydney Bronner and sprinter Angie Ritter all are expected to contend in multiple events. The 800 relay ran the fastest Regional time in the division, 1:47.2, and all four relays ran times that ranked among the top 12 in those races.

Benzie Central: Last season’s runner-up should score big with its relays – all four posted Regional times among the top 10 in the division, and three of four posted times among the top five division-wide. Benzie Central also has seven individual race qualifiers and three in the field events.

Hopkins: After tying for 10th last season, Hopkins too could make a big jump thanks to relays. All four enter this weekend with Regional times that ranked among the top six for the entire division. Hopkins also has six individual race qualifiers and three in field events.

Sami Michell, Reed City: A senior, Michell last season became just the second girl and fourth athlete boys or girls to win four MHSAA individual titles in a single Finals meet. The University of Michigan recruit suffered a knee injury during volleyball season but should threaten her Division 3 record in the 100 hurdles of 13.84 (she ran a 13.9 at the Regional) going for her fourth title in that race; Michell also ran a division-best 45.2 in the 300 hurdles at the Regional and owns the all-Finals record in that race of 42.23. She also had the second-fastest 200 time in the division and will attempt to defend her two long jump Finals titles.

Brianna Dinneen, Buchanan: The Bucks senior should make a run at finishing her career as the elite sprinter in Division 3 history. She ran an 11.9 in her 100 Regional, better than the MHSAA Final record of 12.09 by Keyria Calloway of Detroit Crockett set in a 2006 semifinal. Dinneen’s 200 Regional time of 24.9 is just off the Division 3 Final record of 24.82 set by Laingsburg’s Julie Johnson in 2002. Dinneen also qualified in the long jump and 400.

Amber Way, Charlevoix: The sophomore’s 10:51.8 in the Regional 3,200 would best the Division 3 Final record in the race of 10:57.16 set by Nicole Bush of Wyoming Kelloggsville in 2004. Way also should contend in the 1,600 after running that race in 5:10.4 at the Regional.

Raquel Serna, St. Louis: The Sharks senior is a solid favorite in the 1,600 with the division’s best Regional time of 4:58.6, and she too ran a Regional time in the 3,200 that would break the MHSAA Division 3 Final record – 10:53.6. She also should score in the 800.

Other returning individual champions:  Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port’s Kayla Deering (shot put, qualified this spring number one in that event and 18th in discus), Schoolcraft’s Kara Craig (high jump, qualified this spring tied for 10th), Leroy Pine River’s Devyn Powell (400, qualified this spring second), Manistee’s Annie Fuller (800, qualified this spring second, sixth in the 1,600 and fourth in the 3,200).

LP DIVISION 4 at Hudsonville Baldwin Street Middle School

Top ranked: No. 1 Beal City, No. 2 Sand Creek, No. 3 Traverse City St. Francis.

Beal City: Reigning high jump champion Addie Schumacher should again play a big role as Beal City works to move up from third last season. She tied for the second-best high jump at Regionals and tossed the sixth-best shot put. Only two relays qualified – but both with the third-fastest Regional times in the division – and the team also boasts four more field events qualifications and nine in individual races.

Sand Creek: These Aggies have fewer qualifiers than Beal City, but more expected to score big points. Senior Elizabeth Herriman is the defending shot put champ and had the best toss at Regionals both in that event and discus. Senior Natalie Perry ran top-five division-wide Regional times in both the 1,600 and 3,200, and the 400 and 800 relays turned in times that ranked second in the division.

Traverse City St. Francis: A pair of top individuals and strong relays could push last year’s runner-up to the top. Reigning 400 champ Lauren Buckel posted the fastest Regional time in that race and the second-fastest in the 200, and freshman Holly Bullough ran the second-fastest 800, fastest 1,600 and second-fastest 3,200 in the division. The 800 relay was Division 4’s fastest, and the 1,600 and 3,200 relays were among the top four.

Miranda Johnson, Ottawa Lake Whiteford: The junior has a shot at breaking at least two division records – her 18-3.25 long jump at the Regional would beat the current record by 3.5 inches, and her 12.2 100 would beat the current record by two tenths of a second. She also had the fastest Regional time (25.8) in the division in the 200.

Chantel Davenport, Athens: A senior, she’ll go after the 100 hurdles record of 15.14 set in 2009 – Davenport ran 15.1 at the Regional. She’s also the favorite in the high jump and posted the second-best long jump behind Johnson last weekend.

Ashley White, Detroit Edison Academy: Five sprinters should make a run at that 100 record, but White joins Johnson among those who bested that 12.4 time at Regionals. White, a junior, ran a 12.3 and also posted the third-fastest time in the 200.

Kirsten Olling, Breckenridge: The reigning 3,200 champion has the top Regional time (11:19.4) coming in and the second-fastest in the 1,600 (5:17.9).

Other returning individual champions: Hillsdale Academy’s Shaley Albaugh (800, qualified first this spring).

UP DIVISION 1 at Kingsford

Marquette: The Redettes are loaded for a third-straight MHSAA team title and fifth in six seasons. They have the top qualifying time in the division in all four relays plus the top qualifier in one field event and five individual races. Freshman Lindsey Rudden comes in as the favorite in the 800 (2:21.86), 1,600 (5:15.2) and 3,200 (11:53.21). That 800 time would approach this meet’s record, and the 1,600 time would break it easily. Sophomore Shayla Huebner won the 400 last season and enters with the best Regional time in that event and the second-fastest in the 800.

Negaunee: The reigning runner-up fell seven points shy last season but is led again by senior Ashley Veale, the 2012 champion in both the 100 and 300 hurdles who also will run the 100 and 200. Her 100 hurdles Regional time (16.54) was the best in the division.

Chelsea Jacques, Calumet: Last season as a freshman she set the meet record in the 100 (12.55), and she ran a 12.59 at this spring’s Regional. She also ran the second-best Regional time in the 200, 27.08, after winning the Finals championship in that race as well in 2012.

Jessica Young, Gladstone: The senior is expected to defend her discus title with the top Regional throw (107-3) by more than a foot, and she’s also a contender in the shot put.

UP DIVISION 2 at Kingsford

Iron River West Iron County: The Wykons bring a deep team coming off a third-place finish last season and a Regional title this month. They have at least one qualifier in every event, with Megan Miatech the favorite in both the discus and shot put and Cassilyn Pellizzer the top 300 hurdler at Regionals in the division.

Manistique: The Emeralds finished eighth in Division 1 last season but won their Regional in Division 2 and have the top relay in three races based on Regional times. Freshman Holly Blowers is one to follow – she enters with the best 800 (2:32.04), 1,600 (5:32.3) and second-best 3,200 (11:31.76) times from Regionals.

Hannah Palmeter, Ironwood: The senior is the reigning champion in the 800 and ran the second-fastest Regional time in the division, 2:37.13, ranking behind only Blowers.

UP DIVISION 3 at Kingsford

St. Ignace: The winner of the last three Division 2 championships is running in Division 3 this season. Senior Sarah Cullip won three individual titles last season and owns four overall; she ran the fastest Regional time in the division in the 800 (2:30), 1,600 (5:36) and 3,200 (12:30), and will also pole vault. Another big scorer could be junior Rachel Hetherington, whose times in the 100, 200 and 400 all ranked among the top five from the division’s Regionals.

Brimley: Despite finishing 37 points behind St. Ignace at their Regional, Brimley has to be considered a contender again after winning this Final the last two seasons. Junior Tabitha Graham likely will be the biggest contributor Saturday. She is the reigning high jump champ, has the second-fastest Regional time in the 400 and also is a contender in the long jump. Sophomore Emily Chartrand is the reigning champion in the 3,200 and had the second-fastest Regional time in the division.

Jamie Dompier, Chassell: The senior already holds a meet record in the 200 of 26.36 and ran a 26.21 at the Regional. Her Regional time in the 100 of 12.45 would break the Final record of 12.5 set in 2003. She also had the division’s fastest Regional time in the 400 (102:33).

Engadine’s Aspen Hood: She should approach a meet record as a freshman – her 47.94 in the Regional 300 hurdles would’ve broken this Final’s record of 48.07 from 2009. She also ran the fastest Regional time in the 100 hurdles (16.3) and the second-fastest in the 200 (26.29). She won the 300 hurdles last season as an eighth grader.

Rudyard’s Savannah Dugan: The junior won the Division 2 discus and shot put last season, setting a meet record in the former of 122-10.25. She had the best Regional throws this spring in both events in Division 3.

Other returning individual champions: Rapid River’s Neena Brockway (discus, qualified eighth in that event and shot put this season), Lake Linden-Hubbell’s Sarah Audette (pole vault, qualified tied for second in that event and 11th in high jump this season.)

PHOTO: Ottawa Lake Whiteford’s Miranda Johnson uncoils on a long jump on the way to winning the Lower Peninsula Division 4 championship last season. (Click to see more at 

Hastings Relays Reigns as State's Oldest Continuous Track & Field Meet

By Steve Vedder
Special for

April 10, 2024

Bob Branch remembers dabbling in other sports, but his first love was always running.

Mid-MichiganThe Hastings High School graduate admits he could never hit a baseball, football didn't especially appeal to him and basketball was just another way to spend time with friends. But for Branch, now 93, there was always track. That's the sport where his fondest and sharpest memories remain. And if you're talking track, many of his favorite memories come from participation in the state's oldest continuous track meet, the Hastings Relays.

Always held in early April, the meet dates back to 1937 – a bygone time that saw the first hostilities of World War II, gas at 20 cents a gallon and a loaf of bread selling for a dime.

And at a dusty old track surrounding the county fairgrounds in Hastings, a small relay event that included a scattering of participants from a dozen high schools was taking its first tentative steps.

Branch recalls a time when kids would run home after track practice because there were no buses, inexperienced young coaches had little actual knowledge of running fundamentals, and athletes looked at the sport as an afterthought after spending most of their high school days playing football and basketball.

The author wrote on the 50th anniversary of the Relays for the Hastings Banner nearly 40 years ago.For Branch, the relays were the ideal way to ease into the track season.

"I just liked to run," said Branch. "I remember I anchored a relay with my brother, and it always seemed cold when we had that meet. I remember teams would come from all over and you saw a lot of good athletes. Everybody seemed to have someone who was really good. Track wasn't very popular at that time, but I have a lot of good memories from running."

The Hastings Relays, which has changed formats and even names during its nearly nine-decade history, would traditionally kick off the track season. The meet was originally held at a makeshift quarter-mile track which surrounded the town's fairgrounds and was part of the city's annual Hastings Carnival – the track would become the midway during fair time.

The meet eventually moved to Johnson Field when the football field was dedicated in 1949 and ballooned to as many as 50 teams at its peak in 1957. For more than seven decades it was known as the Hastings Relays and then the Hastings Co-Ed relays before becoming the current Hastings Invitational, with the latest edition scheduled for Friday.

Johnson Field had a cinder track before it became an all-weather surface in the 1980s. During a time long before computers would be used to organize meet heats in mere minutes, Hastings coaches of all sports – defined as "volunteers" by the athletic department – would meet on the Friday before competition to hash out events.

People associated with the meet still recall the camaraderie built on those long Friday nights, followed by working what would often become 10-hour meets. Steve Hoke has been involved since watching his father, Jack, who coached teams at 15 of the meets beginning in 1951 and also had run in the first Hastings Relays. Steve Hoke later competed in the Relays as well during the early 1970s before becoming an assistant track coach, later the Hastings athletic director and now a volunteer worker.

"It was always a huge deal," said Hoke, who said the meet began as a pure relay event before transitioning to its current team format in the 1990s. "I remember we'd line the track the night before, and all the coaches would come to the house to organize everything. There was a brotherhood.”

Past athlete, coach and athletic director Steve Hoke shows some of the Relays awards from the 1930s.If you quiz many of the fleet of volunteers who've worked the relays over the years, each has a different memory from the meet. While Hoke describes the brotherhood and Branch the outstanding competition, others remember weather and the time a thunderstorm wiped out the line markings on the cinder track, or waking up to find three inches of snow that caused a rare cancellation of the meet. Others recall the shock of moving from the cinder to all-weather track or using the meet as an early measuring stick of what it would take to qualify for the state meet. The real old-timers remember the meet disappearing for three years during World War II.

Hastings native and Western Michigan grad Tom Duits was the state’s second collegian to break the four-minute mile when he ran a 3:59.2 at a meet in Philadelphia in 1978. Duits, who ran in three Hastings Relays, was in line to join the U.S. Olympic team in 1980 before the United States pulled out of the games due to tension with Russia.

Duits has his own memories of the meet and the competition he faced there.

"I remember sunshine and being excited to be competing again. There were all these athletes swarming around; it was an awesome display of talent," he said. "It was always one of the best meets we'd be in. You could pretty much see the level of runners who would be at state, which made it a big deal. It was always early, but you could tell where you stood. It was great exposure."

Hastings track star Wayne Oom competed in four Hastings Relays from 1984-87. One of his sharpest memories was the difference between running on a raw cinder track versus the far more comfortable all-weather surface.

"Those cinders would grind into your skin," said Oom, part of the Hastings school record in the two-mile relay. "But I think it helped us because when we'd go to other tracks, it seemed we would run faster. I remember how competitive it was, especially in the distances. There were some great runners."

While participants have their unique memories, so do coaches. Former Saxons coach Paul Fulmer remembers 2008 when his team finished first on the boys side of the meet while his wife, Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer, saw her girls team win the championship.

Tom Duits was one of the state’s biggest track stars of the 1970s and ran in three Hastings Relays."I knew we were one of the favorites to win because we were usually near the top of our conference and Regional," he said. "But then Katie's team was pretty good, and it was cool for them to win too."

Fulmer, who coached Hastings from 1978-81 and then 1985-2010, said at least part of the meet's popularity was derived from a unique way of scoring. Instead of individuals earning points solo, participants worked in pairs. For instance, two athletes would combine their shot put or long jump scores. New events such as the 1,500 relay and sprint medley were added.

"We had a tradition of being the state's oldest meet, and that was a big deal," Fulmer said. "And we ran a good relay; that attracted teams too. We took a lot of pride in that.

"And we'd get quite a lot of people to come to the meet. We'd set up until like 9 or 10 p.m., and then we'd have a party with all the coaches on Friday night."

While the meet has stretched 87 years, Branch said early participants and current runners have one thing in common: a drive to win. Branch ran in an era when the popularity of high school track was in its infancy. Today some of the best all-around athletes at a school are involved in the track program. The relays span the nearly nine decades in between.

"The quality of teams has gotten better and better," said Branch, the 1947 Lower Peninsula Class B Finals champ in the 220. "And this has made for a better meet. We would get guys who played football or baseball kind of drift into track, and that made the sport better. I think people began to appreciate track because we'd get teams from all over.

"We went from not really knowing what we were doing to track being a good sport. Even then, I'm not sure we appreciated what we had. We really liked the Hastings Relays and always wanted to do well there. It became popular and quite an honor to do well. Those are the kind of things I remember."

PHOTOS (Top) Racers run at the Hastings Relays, with several more awaiting their turns to compete at the longtime meet. (2) The author wrote on the 50th anniversary of the Relays for the Hastings Banner nearly 40 years ago. (3) Past athlete, coach and athletic director Steve Hoke shows some of the Relays awards from the 1930s. (4) Tom Duits was one of the state’s biggest track stars of the 1970s and ran in three Hastings Relays. (Top photo by Dan Goggins, Hoke photo provided by Steve Hoke and Duits photos provided by Tom Duits.)