Oak Park Climbs Podium Again in LPD1

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

June 2, 2018

EAST KENTWOOD – Aasia Laurencin crossed the finish line at East Kentwood High School multiple times Saturday, but the sweetest crossing for the Oak Park sophomore came after a race in which she didn’t compete.

Laurencin was the first to greet teammate Dorriann Coleman following the 1,600-meter relay which clinched a Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship for the Knights, their fourth in five years.

“It’s been a long outdoor season, and we finally got the win we’ve been looking for,” Laurencin said. “Last year we didn’t get it, but now it’s all excitement, all joyful tears.”

Oak Park finished with 66 points to claim the title, with Rockford close behind at 59.5. East Kentwood was third with 52 points, followed by Lake Orion with 48 and Northville with 41.

The Knights thrived on the track, especially in the relays, despite losing a runner early in the meet and coming to East Kentwood with just 10. They won the 3,200 relay and 1,600 relay with the team of Coleman, Makayla Gates, Jayla Jones and Mariyah Archibald, and placed second in the 400 relay. Oak Park looked to be on its way to competing for first place in the 800 relay before Jada Roundtree suffered an injury on the anchor leg.

“We really, really showed some grit and toughness,” Oak Park coach Brandon Jiles said. “We really showed that we can win if we don’t have the perfect meet.”

Laurencin and Brooks were the lone Knights to win individual titles, as Laurencin won the 200 with a time of 24.64, and Brooks won the 400 in 55.12.

“I wanted to run faster, but it was OK,” said Laurencin, who was second in the 100 hurdles and a member of both sprint relays. “I’m satisfied. I’m really satisfied with today.”

Grace Stark of White Lake Lakeland denied Laurencin a title in the 100 hurdles, and she did it in record-breaking fashion. Stark finished in 13.12 seconds, a Finals record for all divisions. One event later, she doubled her title count, winning the 100 meters in 11.74 seconds.

“I really wanted it last year and I missed out, and I was really excited I got to do it here today,” said Stark, who was runner-up in both events a year ago. “I was just hoping to win it. Last year kind of hurt me, and I was upset, but I wanted redemption.”

While Stark and Laurencin had a duel early on, Rockford’s Ericka VanderLende and Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Anne Forsyth had their own in the distance events.

VanderLende won the 1,600 with a personal best time of 4:45.17, while Forsyth won the 3,200 with a time of 10:08.07, an all-division Finals record.

In each race, the other finished second, and in each race, it was VanderLende who took control of the pace. For the 1,600, it worked to perfection.

“I didn’t really want to pay attention to what other people around me were doing,” VanderLende said. “I just wanted to stick to the race plan I knew I was capable of. I normally even split or negative split, so I wasn’t really too surprised that if I took it out hard I could hold it.”

The middle distance events supplied equal drama, as a strong 800-meter field provided a strong race. Waterford Mott’s Katie Osika came out on top, winning in 2:08.88, using a late kick to defeat Hudsonville’s Melanie Helder, who was second at 2:09.28.

“Of course you’ve got that fast time on your mind,” Osika said. “I’m running in New Balance Nationals, so I want to get a good time, but I had to put winning first, like, ‘You have to win state champ first.’ It was definitely tough; it wasn’t easy. This was probably one of the most competitive races I’ve been in all year.”

Lake Orion’s Melissa Symons was used to competition, as Troy’s Lauren Felcher had been pushing her all year in the 300 hurdles. But on the final day of the season, it was Symons, who didn’t run the event a year ago because of injury, who came out on top. As she finished, Symons had a look of shock and excitement on her face, and immediately looked to Felcher, who finished second, and gave her a hug.

“She’s amazing, she’s been my biggest competitor this entire year, and so we were just pushing each other so well throughout this entire year,” Symons said. “I know she’s going to go out strong, so I can just stick with her and then it’s just a battle of the wills at the end to see who can go. I know how she runs, so I think it really does help.”

East Kentwood’s Corrine Jemison set a meet record in the shot put, winning the event with a throw of 49 feet, 11¾ inches. Lansing Waverly’s Malin Smith won the discus with an all-division Finals record throw of 163-9.

Waterford Kettering’s Jessica Mercier won the pole vault with a height of 12-10. Novi’s Hannah Hood-Blaxill won the high jump with a height of 5-6. Northville’s Clare McNamara won the long jump with a distance of 18-7½.

Detroit Renaissance (Makylah Slappy, Mizan Thomas, Paige Chapman and Donae Adams) won the 800 relay in 1:39.91. Adams, Chapman and Thomas joined Imani Jackson to win the 400 relay in 47.42.

Click for full results.

VIDEO: Waterford Mott's Katie Osika kicks to win the 800.

PHOTOS: (Top) Oak Park’s Aasia Laurencin, left, surges ahead of Lansing Waverly’s Priscilla Trainor and the rest of the championship heat in the 200 on Saturday. (Middle) Lakeland’s Grace Stark, middle, pulls away for the 100-meter championship. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)

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

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)