Preview: Stars Say Good-Bye, Others Just Getting Started

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 4, 2021

The Upper Peninsula track & field community will say good-bye to some memorable standouts during Saturday’s Finals at Kingsford High School – but also welcome the start of what should be some dynamite championship runs over the next four years.

Six past individual champions will be concluding their careers, including UPD1 Finals shot put record holder Emily McLean of Sault Ste. Marie. But many will be watching intently as well as freshman favorites like Lola Korpi of Ishpeming and Danica Shamion of West Iron County make their debuts.

Events begin at 10 a.m. (EDT) and tickets to attend can be purchased online only at GoFan. The meets also will be broadcast on and viewable with subscription.

Below is a glance at team contenders and individuals to watch in all three divisions.

Division 1

Top Regional scores: Houghton 69, Marquette 57, Sault Ste. Marie 51.

Team forecast: Marquette edged Sault Ste. Marie at their Regional and will be looking to add a second-straight Finals championship and 11th over the last 13 seasons. Houghton could be in for a historic finish as well as it has posted only one top-two Finals team placing, coming in as Class C runner-up in 1982. The story is similar for Sault Ste. Marie, which is seeking its first Finals title in this sport since 2001 and last finished among the top two in 2011. Marquette has the top seeds in seven events, but Menominee is right there with five top seeds and Sault Ste. Marie has the depth to match Marquette.

Emily McLean, Sault Ste. Marie: The senior thrower is seeded first both in the shot put (45-4) and discus (112-11) and set the UPD1 Finals record in the shot put of 39-2 as a sophomore. She also won that throw as a freshman in 2018.

Ingrid Seagren, Houghton: The Gremlins junior is seeded first in the 3,200 (12:28.29) by 16 seconds and second in the 1,600 after placing in both as a freshman in 2019. She finished third in UPD1 cross country in the fall (in a race won by teammate Paige Sleeman, who is seeded first this weekend in the 800 and third in the 1,600).

Baux Truckey, Marquette: She could be climbing the podium four times in her first Finals. The sophomore is seeded first in the 100 (13.4) and 200 (27.6) and is part of the top-seeded 400 and 800 relays detailed below.

Makenzie Wellner, Menominee: The Maroons’ senior standout also is lined up for four championships as the top seed in the 100 hurdles (16.5), 300 (47.3) and long jump (16-6) and as part of the top-seeded 1,600 relay (4:12.89). She won the 100 hurdles as both a freshman and sophomore.

Marquette 400 and 800 relays: Both could make a run at meet records. Truckey anchors a 400 relay with juniors Ava Jones and Maria Millado and sophomore Julia Ott that ran 51.48 at the Regional – and the UPD1 Finals record is 51.22. She anchors Jones, Millado and senior Clarissa Remillard on an 800 relay that ran 1:49.87 at the Regional – with the UPD1 Finals record in that race 1:46.34.

Division 2

Top Regional scores: West Iron County 81, Ishpeming 59½, St. Ignace 50.

Ishpeming trackTeam forecast: St. Ignace won the last three Division 2 championships before COVID-19 struck last spring, and the Saints this weekend also will be seeking their 10th title over the last 12 seasons (with the 2013 championship coming in UPD3). West Iron county was the champ in 2013 and runner-up in 2014 and 2015, and Ishpeming also is regularly in the mix with back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016 and the runner-up finish in 2019. The Wykons enter with top seeds in seven events; the Hematites have top seeds in five. The Saints don’t have a top seed but 16 individual entries and all four relays racing.

Lola Korpi, Ishepming: The Division 2 cross country runner-up in the fall as a freshman, Korpi heads into her first Track Finals as the top seed in the 800 (2:39.5), 1,600 (5:38.89), 3,200 (12:28.12) and as part of the top-seeded 3,200 relay (11:10.35).

Rebekah Loman, Ishepming: The Hematites senior won the discus in 2019 with a toss of 104-7 and is top-seeded in that throw this weekend at 106-9. She’s also the second seed in the shot put after finishing fifth in that event as a sophomore.

Ally Schultz, St. Ignace: Now a junior, Schultz is the reigning champion in the 200 and 400. She’s seeded second in the 100, third in the 200, fourth in the 400 and will run on the second-seeded 800 relay this weekend.

Jordan & Danica Shamion, West Iron County: The Shamion sisters could take this meet by storm. Jordan, now a senior, won the 100 hurdles in 2019 and is the top seed in that race (17.6), the 300 (50.7) and shot put (32-0¼) and will also run on the top-seeded 1,600 relay (4:38.58). Danica, a freshman, also will run that relay and is top-seeded in the 100 (14.1), 200 (28.3) and 400 (1:02.2).  

Division 3

Top Regional scores: Stephenson 95, Rapid River 64, Pickford 63.

Team forecast: Lake Linden-Hubbell won three straight championships prior to COVID, and Stephenson could be next up as it seeks its first team title since 1993. The Eagles have 25 individual entries and all four relays running, with sophomore Daisy Grinsteiner and senior Paige Cappaert top seeds in field events. Rapid River has fewer entries but three tops seeds and two second seeds.

Camaryn Crouch, Lake Linden-Hubbell: The pole vault champion as a freshman in 2019 is second-seeded in that event and also will run on the second-seeded 400 relay, and as part of the 800 relay.  

Daisy Englund, Rock Mid Peninsula: She was part of two relay champions in 2019 and earned the Division 3 cross country titles this past fall and in 2017. She’s seeded third in the 100 this weekend, first in the 800 (2:34.6), fifth in the long jump and will run on the second-seeded 800 relay.

Ashton Hord, Felch North Dickinson: The Mountaineers junior sprinter is the top seed in the 100 (13.9) and 200 (28.8), the fourth seed in the 400, and also will compete in the long jump.

Jaylyne Lindemann, Baraga: The shot put champion in 2019 as a sophomore will attempt to add another championship in that event and should contend in the discus as well.

Landry Koski, Rock Mid Peninsula: She’ll look to add to 1,600 and 3,200 championships won in 2019 as a sophomore, competing this weekend in the 400, 1,600 and as the third seed in the 3,200, and she’ll also run on the second-seeded 800 relay. She was third in Division 3 cross country in the fall.

PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette's Maria Millado hands off to Clarissa Remillard in the 800 relay during the Marquette County Meet this spring. (Middle) Ishpeming’s Lola Korpi runs the 3,200 at the Marquette meet. (Phots by Cara Kamps.)

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 first 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.)