Preview: Watch for Falling Records

June 2, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

If there is one theme that can be drawn across all seven MHSAA Girls Track & Field Finals to be run Saturday, it’s probably this:

There are plenty of standouts who have climbed the medal stand before – and could knock down a number of records on their way back up.

Read on for some of the teams and individuals to watch at Saturday's girls meets. Click for meet information including all qualifiers and come back Saturday night for results as they come in. Check out MHSAA.TV for live streaming of running events from both peninsulas, available with subscription.

LP Division 1 at East Kentwood

Top Regional scores: 1. East Kentwood 193, 2. Ann Arbor Pioneer 174, 3. Rockford 169½.

Ann Arbor Pioneer: Last season’s runner-up could score major distance points with junior Anne Forsyth, whose 1,600 (4:47.74) and 3,200 (10:21.92) top times are the fastest in the division this season. Senior Alice Hill’s top 800 time ranks among the top four, and junior Britten Bowen’s top 100 dash and 100 hurdles times both rank second and she’s the reigning champion in the latter. The 3,200 relay has the fastest time (9:02.69) by 17 seconds, and the 400 relay has come in second fastest.

Oak Park: The three-time reigning champion could be in line for a fourth straight title paced again by speedy relays – the 400 (47.38), 800 (1:39.03) and 1,600 (3:53.01) have run the division’s fastest times in those events this spring, and the 3,200 (9:19.68) has the second-fastest time. Senior Tamea McKelvy has top-three times in both the 100 and 200, and senior Carlita Taylor has the second-fastest 300 hurdles time. Dorriann Coleman is the reigning 800 champion.

Rockford: The Rams also could make a move on the title powered by relays. All four have run times that rank among the top five in LP Division 1 this season; the 800 and 1,600 relays have run the second-fastest times this spring.

Anavia Battle, Wayne Memorial senior: Battle finished fifth in the 100 and second in the 200 last season, and her top 100 time this spring (11.53) would push the all-Finals record.

Landon Kemp, Greenville senior: The reigning pole vault champion already holds the all-Finals record of 13 feet, 4 inches, and the second highest vault this season of 12-9 – plus the best long jump by more than five inches at 18-11 after finishing second in that event last season.

Taylor Manson, East Lansing senior: After finishing fifth in the 200 and second in the 400 last season, Manson enters this weekend with the fastest times in the division this season in both races – 23.90 and 54.96, respectively.

Grace Stark, White Lake Lakeland sophomore: Stark has run top-10 times in LP Division 1 in the 100, 200 and 100 hurdles, and that hurdles time (13.54) is especially notable because it came a week ago and would break the all-Finals record set in 2003.

Quiara Wheeler, Grand Blanc senior: After winning the discus championship last season by five feet, she has the best throw in the division this season (153-4) by more than four feet.

LP Division 2 at Zeeland

Top Regional scores: 1. Dearborn Divine Child 210, Ada Forest Hills Eastern 144, Zeeland East 137.

Holland Christian: Junior Kayla Windemuller is the reigning champion in the 1,600 and 3,200 and has the fastest times in the division this season in both races, 4:55.82 and 10:38.49, respectively, and is part of the the fastest 3,200 relay time (9:28.19). That 10:38 would set a meet record.

Lansing Waverly: The Warriors are coming off their first MHSAA team title, and could add a second with the top 400 (50.04) and 800 (1:44.88) relay times in the division entering the weekend after winning both last year. Freshman Priscilla Trainor has the third-fastest times in both the 100 and 200, and junior Malin Smith has the longest shot put (45-9¼) and second-longest discus toss (140-5). 

Zeeland East: The Chix finished fifth last season and could make a move led by junior hurdler Suenomi Norinh, who has top-five times in both races in the division this spring. Sophomore Aliyah Boeve has top six throws in both, and Norinh has the top high jump (5-9¼) and second-best long jump (17-6¾) in LP Division 2. She won the high jump last season, and her best this season would break the meet record.

Jakarri Alven, Grand Rapids Catholic Central sophomore: The reigning champion in the 400 and runner-up in the 200 has run top eight times in the division this season in those races and the 100.

Ieisha Davis, Romulus senior: After placing third twice and runner-up in a third sprint last season, Davis is seeking her first title with the second-fastest times in the 100 and 200 and ninth-fastest time in the 400 this spring.

Zoe Eby, Carleton Airport senior: Eby has the fastest 100 (11.97) and 200 (24.35) times in the division this season, and the 200 would be a meet record while her best 100 would threaten the record in that race. She won the 200 and finished third in the 100 last season.

Casey Korte, Gaylord senior: Last season’s long jump champion (and fourth-place finisher in the high jump) has posted jumps among the top seven in the division this season in both events, although she is not doing high jump this weekend.

Gabriella LeRoux, Spring Lake senior: The reigning pole vault champion is tied for the top vault this season (12-0) and also will run on a top 800 relay.

LP Division 3 at Comstock Park

Top Regional scores: Clinton Township Clintondale 221, Pewamo-Westphalia 170, Saugatuck 168.

Adrian Madison: The Trojans finished second last season, 3½ points back, and have the firepower to take the next step. Senior Megan Rosales ran on two winning relays and was runner-up in the 300 hurdles last season, and she has the top times in the division this spring in that race (44.77) and the 400 (57.56).

Pewamo-Westphalia: The Pirates won in 2013 and 2015, making this their season again by that pattern. They should be able to back up that hope led by senior Brenna Wirth, whose fastest 200 time (25.74) is tops in the division this season while she also ranks among the fastest in the 100 and 400. Three relays also have posted times among the top four in the division.

Shepherd: Picking a third team to rise in this division is tough because the top performers are spread out over a number of possible contenders. But the Bluejays get the call because of the potential scoring of sophomore Amber Gall. She has the division’s top time in the 800 this season (2:14.83) and also ranks among the top performers in the 1600 and 3,200 and as part of 1,600 and 3,200 relays that have posted times among the top four in the division.

Adelyn Ackley, Hart sophomore: After winning the 3,200 last season as a freshman, Ackley could be in line for more. She has the division’s best time in that race (10:29.45), the second-fastest in the 1,600 (4:54.31) and also ranks as part of a top 3,200 relay. Her best 3,200 individual time would break the meet record by six seconds.

Hannah Hall, Millington junior: The reigning champion in the high jump has the division’s top jump this spring at 5-6, two inches higher than when she won a year ago. That jump Saturday would tie the meet record.

Brooklin Klopf, Montrose senior: As a junior, Klopf won the shot put and didn’t place in the discus, but she enters the weekend with the top throws in both this spring: 44-4½ and 143-6, respectively.   

Kasey Staley, Clare senior: Staley broke the meet record last season winning with a vault of 12-4, and she’s gone 12-6½ this spring.

Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic junior: Her top 3,200 time (10:31.03), while second to Ackley’s, also would break the meet record by four seconds. Theis also has the top time this season in the 1,600 (4:53.74).

LP Division 4 at Grand Rapids Houseman Field

Top Regional scores: 1. Fowler 208, 2. Manton 193, 3. Muskegon Western Michigan Christian 147.

Fowler: The Eagles are going for their second straight championship and fourth this decade. Fowler won last season with three relay titles but no individual wins; those relays are again strong, but sophomore Alyssa Vandegriff in particular has a chance to shine individually. She has the second-fastest time in the 100 hurdles and 10th-fastest in the 300, and the top high jump (5-3). The 1,600 relay (4:08.89) also has the fastest time for that event this spring.

Pittsford: The Wildcats’ lone top-two team finish in this sport was a runner-up in Class D in 1994, but they have the standouts to make a run. Most notably, the 400 relay (52.33) and 800 relay (1:49.72) have run the fastest times this season in those events, and senior Maddie Clark – runner-up in discus last season – has the top discus toss (138-3) by 16 feet and the second-farthest shot (36-11). Senior Katie Clement’s 11-0 top pole vault is a foot better than the field.

Southfield Christian: A pair of standouts will give the Eagles a chance to move all the way up from eighth last season. Junior Chika Amene has the top times in the 100 (12.58) and 200 (25.71) and second-fastest 400 (58.21) in the division this season. Junior Kaelin Ray has the fastest 300 hurdles (46.42) and third-fastest 100 hurdles times.

Baleigh Irelan, Reading junior: Irelan has posted only the eighth-best time in the division in the 300 hurdles – but her winning time last season would be the best.

Erika Lechner, Harbor Springs senior: Last season’s shot put champion has added nearly four feet to that title-winning throw with her best this spring being 45-10 – nine feet farther than the rest of the pack. She’s also a discuss contender.

Mary Leighton, Mendon senior: The reigning 100 hurdles champion also set the meet record last year at 14.93 seconds. She has the division’s best time this season (15.40) and the fourth-best in the 300 hurdles after finishing fourth a year ago in that race.

Samantha Saenz, Concord junior: Her division-best time in the 1,600 (5:05.69) is more than 10 seconds better than the rest, and she’s also among the top six in the 3,200 and 800 after winning the 1,600 and finishing third in the 3,200 last year.

Ava Strenge, Battle Creek St. Philip senior: Strenge will try to add at least one more title to a celebrated career. She finished first in the 3,200 last season, has the fastest time this season (11:02.79) by nine seconds and the second-fastest in the 1,600.

UP Division 1 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: 1. Marquette 75, 2. Sault Ste. Marie 49, 3. Houghton 47.

Marquette: The Redettes have won six straight U.P. Division 1 titles and remain favorites even after graduating some stars last spring. Marquette won all four relays at its Regional, and senior Izabelle Peterson was first in the 200 and second in the 100 after winning both races at last season’s Finals.

Sault Ste. Marie: The Blue Devils tied for second at the Finals last season and finished second to Marquette at this year’s Regional, but had the winner in three of eight running events in the latter. Senior Courtney Arbic was a relay standout at last year’s Finals, but enters this one with a first place in the 800 and second place in the 400 at the Regional.

Olivia Allen, Kingsford sophomore: The reigning 400 champ and 200 runner-up won both races and was second in the 100 at her Regional.

Jenny Brandt, Escanaba senior: She won the discus last season by eight feet, and won it at her Regional by 17 in addition to finishing third in shot put and high jump.

Clara Johnson, Negaunee junior: She won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at her Regional, setting herself up well to add to last season’s Finals title in the 3,200.

Sydney Mills, Gladstone junior: The reigning high jump champion won that event and was second in the long jump at her Regional.

Kendra Monette, Houghton junior: She’ll be favored to win the shot put again after doing so by nearly five feet a year ago and by more than five at her Regional; she also won the 100 at the latter.

UP Division 2 at Kingford

Top Regional scores: 1. Ishpeming 70, 2. St. Ignace 64, 3. Munising 50.

Ishpeming: The Hematites have won the last two championships and return two significant scorers for one last high school meet –reigning discus and shot put title winner Marissa Maino, and reigning 800, 1,600 and 3,200 winner Khora Swanson. Junior Katie Loman won both hurdles races at the Regional and could make another sizable contribution.

St. Ignace: The Saints are going for their fifth championship this decade and after finishing third a year ago. Junior Linnie Gustafson is the reigning high jump champ and has gone 5-3, three inches higher than at last year’s Finals. Sophomore Emily Coveyou also will be key to contention; she won the 200 and 400 at her Regional.

Taylor Bryant, Newberry senior: She won the 100 hurdles in Division 3 last season but is competing in Division 2 this time. So far, so good: she won the 100 and 300 hurdles at her Regional.

Emmy Kinner, Iron River West Iron County senior: She’s won seven individual Finals titles, including the 100, 200 and 400 two straight seasons. She won all three at her Regional, two races by significant margins.

UP Division 3 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: 1. Lake Linden-Hubbell 91½, 2. Stephenson 64, 3. Pickford 59.

Lake Linden-Hubbell: The Lakes should make a good run at their first Finals title since 1994. Junior Laura Lyons was the long jump champion by five inches last season and posted top-four finishes in the 400 and 200; she won all three and the 100 at the Regional, where the Lakes took first in four of five field events and three of four relays.

Stephenson: The Eagles are seeking their first title – and top-two finish – since 1993. Their highest placer last season was a third in the 200, but that could change with sophomore sprinter Amanda Starzynski riding the wave of Regional championships in the 100, 200 and 400.

Ashtyn Buss, Engadine junior: After winning the shot put and finishing runner-up in discus a year ago, Buss helped her team to a Regional title with wins in both events.

Camryn Croasdell, Rock Mid-Peninsula freshman: She’s a reigning champion despite being a freshman, having finished first in the 200 last year as an eighth grader. She took first at her Regional and also finished second in the 100.

PHOTO: Newberry’s Taylor Bryant charges over a hurdle during last season’s U.P. Division 3 Finals. (Photo 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 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.)