Girls Finals: Burning up the record book

June 2, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Rain or shine and everything in between couldn't keep a strong class of MHSAA Track and Field athletes from once again shining in the final girls meets of the season Saturday.

A total of 19 Finals records either were tied or broken during the seven championships events featuring schools from throughout both peninsulas. Three records were new bests for all Finals, regardless of division. And two athletes won four individual titles – another feat rarely seen.

Here's our breakdown of the best from Saturday's meets. It's impossible to include every highlight, of course. But feel free to comment below and tell us what we missed.


Few have put together a Finals like Sami Michell’s in Division 3 – and no girl has done so in the Lower Peninsula since 1979. Adding to her three championships in 2011 and another in 2010, Michell won four events – long jump, 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and the 200 – and set three records in the process, including the all-Finals mark in the 300 erasing what had stood since 1984. She’s only a junior, and nearly pulled off the four-title feat last season but finished second in the 200. The last girl to win four events at one LP Finals was Mason County Eastern’s Maria Shoup, who did so at the 1979 Class D meet with victories in the 100 hurdles, 200 hurdles, 800 and long jump.

Record setters

All Finals and LP D3/300 hurdles – Sami Michell, Reed City – 42.23
(All Finals previous was 42.4, set by Benton Harbor’s Carolyn Ferguson in Class A in 1984; previous D3 was 43.84, also by Michell, set in 2011)

All Finals and LP D1/3,200 relay – Kelsie Schwartz, Ersula Farrow, Haley and Hannah Meier – 8:48.29
(previous was 9:05.47, set by Rochester in 2010)

All Finals and LP D1/1,600 run – Erin Finn, West Bloomfield – 10:17.86
(previous was 10:22.75, set by Rochester’s Megan Goethals in 2010)

LP D1/High jump – Keianna Ingram, Southfield-Lathrup – 5-9
(ties previous set by Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Ariel Roberts in 2008)

LP D1/Long jump – Cierra Pryor, Jackson – 19-0
(previous was 18-9, set by Saginaw Arthur Hill’s Monsherri Hall in 2007)

LP D2/100 dash –
Sydney Cureton, Detroit Country Day – 11.90
(previous was 11.92, also by Cureton, set in 2011)

LP D2/1,600 run –
Sara Barron, Pontiac Notre Dame – 4:51.67
(previous was 4:54.07, set by Corunna’s Jamie Kryzmiski in 2000)

LP D2/400 dash –
Kendall Baisden, Detroit Country Day – 54.58
(previous was 54.91, also by Baisden, set in 2010)

LP D2/3,200 run –
Ali Wiersma, Allendale – 10:40.22
(previous was 10:40.66, set by Monroe Jefferson’s Beka Smeltzer in 2004)

LP D3/Long jump –
Sami Michell, Reed City – 18-6.5
(previous was 18-1, set by Albion’s Juandretta Oliver in 2007)

LP D3/100 hurdles –
Sami Michell, Reed City – 13.84
(previous was 14.07, also by Michell, set in 2011)

LP D3/800 run –
Annie Fuller, Manistee – 2:13.03
(previous was 2:14.03, set by Albion’s Amelia Bannister in 2007)

UP D1/Long jump –
Adeline Grier-Welch, Houghton – 17-3.5
(previous was 17-0.75, also by Grier-Welch, set in 2011)

UP D1/100 dash –
Chelsea Jacques, Calumet – 12.55
(previous was 12.58, set by Escanaba’s Stephanie Ostrenga in 2005)

UP D2/Discus –
Hunter Perry, Rudyard – 122-10.25
(previous was 120-4.75 by Iron River West Iron County’s Desirae Rasmussen in 2010)

UP D2/High jump –
Nicole Vanderlin, Norway – 5-4
(ties previous record, also by Vanderlin, set in 2011)

UP D2/200 dash –
Dani Gagne, Norway – 26.42
(previous was 26.47, set by Chassell’s Jamie Dompier in 2009)

UP D3/Long jump –
Olivia Soumis, Ontonagon – 16-7.5
(previous was 16-5.5, also by Soumis, set in 2010)

UP D3/200 dash – Jamie Dompier, Chassell – 26.36
(previous was 26.65, set by Rapid River’s Stephanie Boyer in 2001)

Tales of the Trophy

LP D1: Grosse Pointe South continued its impressive two-year run with its second straight championship, this time by 13.5 points over Ann Arbor Huron. The same athletes who keyed the school’s cross country title in the fall did so again Saturday – distance runners Hannah and Haley Meier, Kelsie Schwartz and Ersula Farrow, plus sprinter Caitlin Moore.

LP D2: Detroit Country Day won six events and Dearborn Divine Child just two, but at the end of the afternoon they’d both scored 60 points to tie for the championship. Last season, Country Day was first and Divine Child second, while in 2009 those places were reversed. Country Day’s Brittany Mann repeated as champion in the shot put and discus, and Baisden won her third in the 400. Divine Child balanced the scoring with contributions from 10 entries.

LP D3: Frankenmuth won its third championship in four years and improved on last season’s runner-up finish by beating Benzie Central by 11. Relays were the key: the Eagles won both the 800 and 1,600 with Olivia Shelton, Emily Wee and Angela Ritter running on both, helped by Sydney Bronner on the 800 and Lauren Peterson on the 1,600.

LP D4: Fowler won its second straight after runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2009, edging Traverse City St. Francis by four points with a total of 54. Relays were the key for these Eagles as well. They won the 3,200 and 800 relays with seven athletes (Elizabeth Thelen was the only common runner between the two) to balance out wins by St. Francis’ Lauren Buckel in the 400 and 200.

UP D1: Marquette repeated and won its fourth in the last five seasons by edging Negaunee by seven points. Shayla Huebner and Jessica Fluette were half of the winning 1,600 relay and also won individual events. Fluette also was on the winning 3,200 relay.

UP D2: St. Ignace won its third straight and fourth in five seasons with 142 points – 46 more than runner-up Norway. The Saints won five events including a relay, with Sarah Cullip the star. She won the pole vault, 1,600 and 3,200.

UP D3: Brimley also repeated and won its fourth in five seasons, edging Eben Junction Superior Central by 12 points. Brimley won just four events, but got scoring from 12 entries.

So long, seniors

Cindy Ofili, Ann Arbor Huron – Won the 100, 200 and 100 hurdles and ran on the winning 800 relay at the LP Division 1 meet.

Kyra Jefferson, Detroit Cass Tech – Won the LP Division 1 200 championship for the third straight season, giving her four individual championships for her career.

Tori DeSira, DeWitt – Won the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles at the LP Division 2 Final, giving her five individual championships for her career.

Sara Barron, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep – As well as setting a LP Division 2 record in the 1,600 (see above), Barron repeated as champion in the 800.

Dani Gagne, Norway – In addition to setting the UP Division 2 record in the 200, she also won the long jump, 100 and 400, giving her 10 championships total during her career.

Megan Kangas, Norway – Joined her teammate as a repeat champion, winning the 100 hurdles to finish her career with four MHSAA championships total.

Lauren Spanger – Eben Junction Superior Central – Won the UP Division 3 400 title for the third straight season and the 800 for the second time in three seasons.

Click for links to all results.

PHOTO: Competitors race to advance to the 100-meter championship race during Saturday's Division 4 Final. (Photo courtesy of Click to see more.)

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.)