Harbor Springs Finishes 1st Title Run

May 30, 2015

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half


HUDSONVILLE – Harbor Springs’ Emily Kloss has been coaching track and field for more than two decades.


Throughout her career, however, one accomplishment had eluded her.


That was until Saturday afternoon at Hudsonville’s Baldwin Middle School.


Harbor Springs claimed the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 Track and Field Final championship. It was the first in school history.


The Rams finished with 57 points, while Fowler placed runner-up with 53.5 points. Concord (50) and was third, and defending champion Reading (48) was fourth.


“I’m super excited because we brought 11 girls here and every single one of them placed and medaled,” said Kloss, who coaches with her husband, Mike. “This is my 25th year coaching, but the first state championship won for track.”


Harbor Springs’ cross country program has won two MHSAA Finals and placed runner-up twice, but the track and field crown has special meaning.


Kloss’ hometown is Fowler, and she and Fowler’s coach, Jill Feldpausch, were teammates in high school.


“We won state championships together so this is pretty special, especially for them to take second,” Kloss said.


Senior Charlotte Cullip, who placed runner-up in the 400 to teammate Salix Sampson, was thrilled to end her career with a victory in the Finals.


“I can’t believe it,” she said. “I’ve run forever in cross and track and this is my last year, so it’s amazing. Our coaches looked at the stats and thought we had a chance. I didn’t believe them until the 4 X 4, and then I thought we could do it.


“We had throwers, pole vaulters, distance runners, relays. We had everything, and I’m so glad it all came together this last year.”


Sampson clocked a 58.99 in the 400 and was the anchor on the victorious 1,600 relay (4:08.14).


“Our team has worked really hard at it, and our coach doesn’t say that we can do something if we can’t,” Sampson said. “We had a lot of good freshmen come through, and they really powered through. We couldn’t have done this without them, and the seniors have been there since the beginning.”


Kloss credited her seniors for helping propel the team to the top of the standings.


“My seniors have worked so hard, and we broke two school records today,” she said. “I’m pretty excited to finally do it with the great seniors that we have. Everyone worked really hard, and it is nice to end it this way.”


Sophomore Caylin Bonser took fifth in the discus and fifth in the shot put, while teammate Erika Lechner, a sophomore, was fourth in the shot put.


The weather Saturday changed dramatically, and the final portion of the meet was run in light rain, wind and cooler temperatures.


“We’re used to this crappy weather,” Kloss joked. “We had snow at our conference meet last week.”


Fowler senior Ashley Hufnagel led her team’s charge.


She won the 300 hurdles (47.38), placed runner-up in the high jump (5-2), and led off the 800 relay, which won with a time of 1:48.35.


Fowler also finished runner-up to Onekama in the 400 relay. Also contributing to the win were junior Madison Koenigsknecht and freshmen McKenzie Feldpausch and Sidney Horak.


Mason County Eastern sophomore Jordan Goodman won the 100 for the second year in a row, and in record time.


Goodman raced to a narrow win by clocking a 12.40, which tied the LP Division 4 Final record set by Pewamo-Westphalia’s Abbey Hengesbach in 2010.


“I was nervous at the beginning, but then I thought, ‘this is my favorite race’,” Goodman said. “I’m a sophomore, I need a scholarship and this is my race. I like being out there, and I feel strong in that event. I feel like I can run really fast.”


Goodman held off Concord’s Lindsey Lehman by two hundredths of a second.


“I felt a little bit of pressure, and I was worried because I know Lindsey and (Reading’s) Jennifer Davis were running some pretty good times,” Goodman said. “I just got in the right frame of mind. I ran a 12.1 this year, so I thought if I could do that again then I would be all right.”


Goodman also placed sixth in the 200 and sixth in the long jump.


Lehman recovered to edge Davis in a photo finish in the 200 by clocking a 25.92.

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Salix Sampson (middle) and teammate Charlotte Cullip race to the top two places in the 400 during Saturday's LP Division 4 Final. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com. Photo by Janina Pollatz.)

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

By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)