Pewamo-Westphalia Returns to Podium

May 30, 2015

By Chip Mundy
Special for Second Half

COMSTOCK PARK – Pewamo-Westphalia girls track coach Scott Werner has a saying he believes applies to his track program: “Tradition doesn’t graduate.”

On Saturday, a team mixed with youth and experience won the Lower Peninsula Division 3 track and field championship for the second time in three years, but the crown was not clinched until the final event of the meet.

The Pirates totaled 63 points, while runner-up Manistee had 57 and defending champion Frankenmuth was third with 51.5.

Pewamo-Westphalia needed to finish at least sixth in the 1,600 relay to win the championship, but the runners on the relay did not know that. All they knew was the outcome was still in doubt.

Anchor runner Emily Kramer was not sure of the outcome after she crossed the finish line in fifth place.

“I didn’t know if I got it for my team, but I had a little bit of confidence that my teammates didn’t look too upset when I crossed the finish line, so I had somewhat of a good feeling,” Kramer said. “Considering that I don’t normally run this event, and I don’t always go last, there was a lot of pressure. I felt a lot of stress before the race.”

Although Pewamo-Westphalia did not have any individual first-place finishes, it did have two relays win MHSAA championships.

Senior Sarah Barrett, freshman Claudia Heckman and seniors Gabbie Hummel and Marissa Wirth made it two titles in a row for the Pirates in the 400 relay, although only Hummel ran on it last year. Sophomore Brenna Wirth, junior Kelly Thelen and Hummel and Marissa Wirth ran on the winning 800 team.

Brenna Wirth also had a pair of individual second-place finishes in both the 200 and 400.

While the team championship was sweet for everyone, it might have been a little sweeter for Barrett, who missed all of last season with stress fractures in both of her legs.

“It’s really a big thing to me to come back after being injured,” she said. “It felt really good. I’m so proud of my team. I knew we would do great. We’ve all been working together since our freshman year, and I knew what to expect.”

Several of the Pirates spoke of the extra motivation from finishing second at the meet a year ago.

“We definitely were disappointed last year, but we took it in stride to help us this year,” Hummel said. “Our expectation is always set to get to first place, and last year we learned that we still had to improve, even though we had done well.”

While Pewamo-Westphalia ran off with the MHSAA team title, several other athletes starred on an individual level.

Manistee senior Annie Fuller capped her stellar career by repeating as champion in the 800 and 1,600, and she broke her own meet record in the 800 in 2:09.61. She made it four MHSAA titles in a row by winning the 800, and she took the 1,600 for the third consecutive year after finishing second as a freshman.

“I definitely felt the pressure coming in, but I tend to do well under pressure,” Fuller said. “I really wanted it, and I am really blessed to be able to win it four years in a row.”

Fuller had a new opponent in Holly Bullough of Traverse City St. Francis. Bullough won the Division 4 Final titles in the 800 and 1,600 last season, but had to settle for second in both against Fuller in Division 3. After the 800, Fuller and Bullough had a nice chat as they walked across the infield.

“We became pretty close this year running together at all the meets and warming up together,” Fuller said. “I just knew she would be there because I’ve raced her a few times.”

Another individual double-winner was Sanford-Meridian junior Hailey Stockford, who swept the sprints. She won the 100 in 12.07 seconds and took the 200 in 25.11.

Frankenmuth senior Stephanie Lambeth broke the LP Division 3 Final record in the pole vault by clearing 12 feet, 3 inches, topping the previous record of 12-0 set in 2005 by Katie Shaw of Lakeview. The other champions in the field events were Manistee junior Emma Burns in the high jump, Ithaca junior Erica Shehan in the long jump, Watervliet senior Cali McLean in the shot put and Byron sophomore Jessica Marvin in the discus.

The other individual champions in the running events were Manistee senior Jessica Gustad in the 100 and Frankenmuth senior Sydney Bronner in the 300 hurdles, Adrian Madison sophomore Megan Rosales in the 400 and East Jordan senior Kayla Keane in the 3,200.

Adrian Madison took the 1,600 relay, and Shepherd won the 3,200 relay with three sophomores and a senior.  

“It’s very sweet to come back and get the win after we scored 72 points and took runner-up last year,” P-W’s Werner said. “We had a very motivated group of kids. They worked very hard in the off-season.

“They wanted to get back on the podium.”

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Pewamo-Westphalia won the 400 and 800 relays Saturday en route to the LP Division 3 team championship. (Click to see more from Photo by Jamie Geysbeek.)

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

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

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.)