Each week, Second Half gives "High 5s" to multiple athletes and a team that have performed exceptionally on the field or made a notable impact off of it.
Please offer your suggestions by e-mail to editor Geoff Kimmerly at [email protected]. Below are this week's honorees:
Battle Creek Lakeview junior
Girls Track and Field
For the second straight season, Dotson was named the Most Valuable Female Athlete at the Eldon Draime/Al Geisler Memorial All-City Meet held at Battle Creek Harper Creek (she shared the award in 2011). Dotson won the 100-meter dash (12.5 seconds), the 200 (25.5) and the long jump (16 feet, 3.5 inches) and was on the winning 800 relay (1:48.11) as Lakeview scored 250 points as a team to win the meet by 102.83. Dotson qualified for the MHSAA Division 1 Final last spring as a sophomore, but just missed making the championship races in the 100 and 200. She focuses solely on track, but was a cheerleader as both a freshman and a sophomore.
100 is my No. 1: "It's just so much fun. It's really exciting. You've got it or you don't. After a while, everyone is at the same level. Whoever is on her game that day, prepared the hardest, it's going to show in the 100 meters."
I learned the most about track from: Dotson said a number of coaches, and that her first youth coaches -- including Larry Caper -- could tell right away what she should be running. "Immediately, the first day of practice, one of them said, 'She's a sprinter.' I didn't know what a sprinter was."
A few words to run by: "I always start off with a prayer, or at least try, to remember why I do this and to get my mind straight. My pastor was my coach when I started in third grade, and the first thing he taught us to do when we get on the track is pray."
Favorite formula: Dotson's favorite school subject is chemistry -- and she is considering a career in cosmetic science with a focus on the engineering and creation of make-up.
Walled Lake Central junior
Boys Track and Field
Prena has blasted onto the throwing scene this spring and especially the last few weeks after twice throwing the discus more than 180 feet -- and according to an Oakland Press report, broke both school and Oakland County records that had each stood for at least 29 seasons. He threw the discus 187 feet, seven inches, to win the event at Saturday's Oxford Invitational, and he also won the shot put with a toss of 52-1. Prena's best discus throw last season was 159 feet -- and his toss Saturday would've won every MHSAA Final dating back to 2003. Prena finished fifth in discus at last season's Division 1 championship meet. He's not the only thrower in his family -- older sisters Kari (University of Michigan) and Kelsey (Michigan State) throw in the Big Ten.
I learned the most about throwing from: "Definitely Coach (Nebojsa Stojkovic). And it helps to have my sisters now in college. They can give me advice all the time."
Be like Ryan (Crouser): The University of Texas freshman owns the national high school discus record of 237-6, and "is definitely a model (for me). That's quite a mark."
My dream scenario: "... after this would be college, then to train for the Olympics after that, and win gold in the Olympics. Realistically, I don't know if that's out there or not. But it's a great place to aim."
Major decision: Prena hasn't picked his college or what he'll study some day, but "I'm thinking some kind of marketing or business, or something in the communications field. I do like working with people, and I also like talking. Potentially a sports broadcaster or a marketing engineer."
Muskegon Mona Shores boys golf
Mona Shores didn't finish first during either round of this weekend's Traverse City Central Invitational. But the Sailors, ranked No. 2 in the Division 1 state poll, finished second both at Spruce Run (309) and the Wolverine (297) for a combined score of 606 -- good for a one-stroke win over top-ranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central and two strokes ahead of then No. 5 Traverse City West. Three more teams from that field have since joined the Division 1 top 10.
Reed Hrynewich shot a 69 to finish second at the Wolverine and a 75 to finish fifth at Spruce Run, while teammate Andrew Van Aels finished eight overall at both courses. Those two, Joel Maire and Eric Kastelic also were among the team's top five when it finished fifth at last season's MHSAA Division 1 Final.
This spring's previous honorees
Bradley Richards believes that life is all about trying new things, setting bigger goals and pushing yourself to new heights – in his case, literally.
Richards, now a 6-foot-5, 190-pound junior basketball standout at tiny Fruitport Calvary Christian, played on the school’s fifth-grade team when he was in second grade.
He remembers staring longingly at the rim in those days and dreaming about dunking, before making that dream a reality by throwing one down in February of his seventh-grade year.
While his three older sisters - Taylor, Allyson and Kelsey - were leading the Calvary girls basketball program to new heights, he vowed he would do the same with the boys program someday.
Bradley and his teammates accomplished that goal last spring, winning the school’s first boys District basketball title despite a roster with no seniors.
This season, Calvary came flying out of the gate with a 5-0 start and is now 5-2 heading into Friday’s home game against Saugatuck.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Bradley, who averages 29 points and 14 rebounds per game. “Our school is so small that we’re more like a family. It’s not about me. I’m just so happy for our school and all of the guys on the team.”
The next goal is to repeat as District champions and try to win a Regional title, before setting his sights at clearing 7 feet in the high jump this spring.
“I’m going to try to get past that this year,” said Bradley in his typical humble, matter-of-fact fashion.
One thing his father and fourth-year Fruitport Calvary Christian boys basketball coach Brad Richards has learned is to not put anything past his only son, the youngest of his four children.
Bradley displayed an interest in music as a young boy and now sings in the school’s worship group and plays the saxophone, piano and guitar. Last fall, he played high school football for the first time as part of a cooperative agreement with Muskegon Catholic Central and wound up starting at wide receiver and defensive back for the state powerhouse program.
“He’s blessed and he’s gifted – yes,” said his father, who also coached all three of his girls during their Calvary Christian basketball careers. “But he works so hard.
“Bradley sets goals and works toward them. He’s always looking for the next thing to do.”
True to his school
One thing he doesn’t like to do is media interviews. Specifically, he doesn’t like calling attention to himself.
“He is pretty quiet and would rather have his teammates get the attention,” said his mother, Joy.
Fruitport Calvary Christian is one of the smallest schools on the entire Lakeshore with 51 students in grades 9-12, and just 17 boys in the high school.
The Eagles take great pride in their ability to compete against much larger schools. They made a huge statement during the first full week of December with three convincing victories over bigger schools.
That week started on Tuesday, Dec. 5, with Calvary’s first-ever boys basketball win over neighbor Fruitport, a Division 2 school that competes in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue. Bradley scored 35 points with 14 rebounds in that game, with clutch free throws by role player Eric Dubois Quayle sealing the win.
Two days later, Richards scored 36 points with 17 rebounds in a win over Grand Rapids Sacred Heart.
Calvary then capped the 3-0 week Friday with a victory over Kent City, another Division 2 school, as Bradley scored 36 points with 18 rebounds.
Calvary is led by the “big three” of juniors Richards and Quinn Swanson and senior Sam Zelenka. Swanson, the team’s second-leading scorer with 17 points plus six rebounds and three assists per game, injured his knee last week against Schoolcraft and his health will have a huge bearing on the team’s success going forward. Zelenka is the top defender and averages 11 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
The other starters are junior workhorse Zach McFarren, who owns the school’s shot put and discus records and has played all but six minutes over the team’s seven games, and senior Nolan Ghezzi.
Richards, already a two-time Associated Press all-state selection who even made the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan all-state team as an eighth grader, has seen every gimmick defense to try and shut him down, including box-and-twos and triple teams. He credits his experience in football and track with helping him deal with it.
“There is usually a quick guy in front of me and a big guy behind me,” said Bradley, who scored a career-high 47 points in a game last season. “Football has really helped me, because I’m not as scared of the contact. The high jumping has helped me to elevate and get my shot off.”
Jim McHugh is a high jump legend from Pentwater who went on to become a two-time national champion in the event at Hillsdale College, and he now coaches West Michigan athletes in the event.
The first time he worked with Bradley Richards, in April of last year, he knew he had something special on his hands.
“Bradley went up and literally hurdled the bar at 5-11,” said McHugh. “I was in shock. I said to myself: ‘This is gonna be a heck of a ride.’ The kid is a generational talent.”
The coaching of McHugh paid immediate dividends, as Bradley improved from a top jump of 6-1½ as a freshman to 6-6½ in last year’s Regional meet. Then came the Division 4 Finals at Hudsonville a few weeks later.
Bradley won the first track Finals championship for Fruitport Calvary with a leap of 6-10 – which was 3 inches higher than anyone else in any of the four Lower Peninsula divisions and entire Upper Peninsula that day – and caught the attention of college scouts from across the country.
The following week, he competed at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Philadelphia and placed second with a jump of 6-8.24.
McHugh shudders to think of how high his prodigy can soar. He has his sights set on the Division 4 Finals record of 6-10½ (Kurt Schneider, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, 2009), the Muskegon-area record of 7-0 (Steve Paulsen, Fremont, 1998) and the all-division/class Finals record of 7-1 (John Payment, Brimley, 1989).
“God has given him incredible talent, but he also has the desire it takes,” said McHugh, who is also working with another Division I college high jump prospect in Hart junior Addison Hovey. “I gave him a workout plan, and he has done every bit of it. He has cleaned up his diet, done the cold showers and the cold bathtubs, everything. I’m excited to see the results.”
Richards, whose first love was basketball, admits he is smitten with the high jump and seeing how high he can soar.
Now, when asked about his favorite athletes, he still mentions Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant, but he also includes Olympic gold medalist high jumper Mutaz Barshim of Qatar – who made news by not taking additional jumps at the 2020 Olympics in Japan, thereby sharing the gold medal with Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy.
“I just respect that so much, sharing the gold medal,” Bradley said.
Now the Bradley Richards recruiting saga has begun and, for him, it’s not just about choosing what school – it’s also about choosing what sport.
“I would like to do both, play basketball and high jump in college, if possible,” Bradley said.
That would certainly be a possibility if Bradley follows in his family’s footsteps at Cornerstone University. His father was a basketball standout at Cornerstone, which is where he met Joy, and all three of his sisters played for the Golden Eagles. (Kelsey is currently a student assistant for this year’s team.)
Playing both may not be possible if he pursues high jump at the Division I level, where Michigan and Illinois are among schools actively recruiting him.
“I know at some point I’m going to have to make a decision, but I don’t have to right now,” said the 17-year-old Bradley. “So it doesn’t do me any good to sit and stress about it all the time.”
Instead, he is focused on more immediate goals.
The first is figuring out a way for his basketball team to snap a two-game losing skid and get positioned for another postseason run.
Then it will be trying to clear the magical high jump number of 7-0, and beyond. And don’t forget football, where he would love to start off his senior year by helping Muskegon Catholic improve on its 6-5 record from a year ago and make a run at the school’s 13th state football championship.
Only after all of that will it be college decision time.
“It’s not an easy choice, and it will take a lot of prayer and discernment,” admitted Richards, who will look for help from his immediate family and his school family in making his choice. “I’ll figure it out. I usually do.”
Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Fruitport Calvary Christian’s Bradley Richards stands atop the podium after winning the high jump last spring at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals. (Middle) Richards lines up to shoot a free throw. (Below) Playing as part of a cooperative with Muskegon Catholic Central, Richards works to get away from a Traverse City St. Francis tackler. (Track photo courtesy of Joy Richards; basketball and football photos courtesy of Local Sports Journal.)