Preview: Watch These Stars Shine Again

June 3, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

With so many athletes competing at each of the five sites of Saturday's MHSAA Track & Field Finals, it's easy to lose track of who is competing where until they reach the starting blocks. 

But fans will want to be sure to focus on a number of familiar standouts who could dominate girls meets this weekend. 

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, and check out MHSAA.TV for live streaming of running events from both peninsulas, available with subscription.

LP Division 1 at Hudsonville Baldwin Middle School

Top Regional scores: Grosse Pointe South 195½, East Kentwood 176, Ann Arbor Pioneer 164½.

East Kentwood: The Falcons have never won an MHSAA title in girls track & field, but did finish second last season to Oak Park. East Kentwood could trim the margin significantly if not eliminate it this time. Senior Sekayi Bracey is the reigning champion in the long jump, 100 and 200 and total has won eight individual titles over her first three seasons; she’s seeded third in long jump (17-9¾) second in the 100 (12.0) and sixth in the 200 (24.84) plus runs on the third-seeded 400 relay (48.47). She’ll have help especially in the field events from sophomore Corrinne Jemison, who is third in discus (133-6) and also will toss shot put, and junior Gabriela Leon is second-seeded in pole vault (12-6).

Oak Park: The two-time reigning champion will say good-bye to one of Michigan’s top talents of this decade with senior Anna Jefferson running her last high school races and looking to add to two individual and four relay championships. She’s seeded second in the 100 hurdles (14.10) and 400 (55.15). Junior Tamea McKelvy is seeded first in the 100 and 200 dashes (11.89 and 23.97), and another outstanding senior, Brianna Holloway, is third in the 100 hurdles (14.37) and first in the 300 (43.84) after winning the latter last season. The 400 relay (47.15) also is seeded first, and sophomore Dorriann Coleman is seeded third in the 800 (2:15.53).

Ann Arbor Pioneer: The Pioneers have the kind of star power necessary to win this meet, led by sophomore Britten Bowen. She’s seeded first in the 100 hurdles (14.02) and second in the 300 (44.56) and runs on the second-seeded 400 relay (47.87) and top-seeded 800 relay (1:39.99). Another sophomore, Anne Forsyth, is seeded first in the 1,600 (4:56.30) and second in the 3,200 (10:43.94), and junior teammate Alice Hill is seeded first in the 800 (2:10.45); both also run on the top-seeded 3,200 relay (9:03.86). Senior Torisa Johnson has top-four seeds in the 100 and 200 and also will be key.

Grosse Pointe South’s Kayli Johnson: After taking fifth in shot put as a junior, she enters as the fourth seed in that event (39-9) but top seed in the discus (136-8) and also runs on the 400 relay.

Farmington’s Maddy Trevisan: She took fifth in the 3,200 last season as a junior and has the top seed (10:38.62) by more than five seconds this time, as well as the sixth seed in the 1,600 (5:01.82). 

LP Division 2 at Zeeland

Top Regional scores: Dearborn Divine Child 182½, Ada Forest Hills Eastern 146½, Detroit Country Day 124½.

Flint Powers Catholic: Only 36 points won this meet a year ago, which makes someone like reigning shot put champion Nikole Sargent even more valuable; she’s seeded first in the shot put (47-7¼) and discus (137-4). Senior Tyra Hunter could score as the sixth seed in the 100 hurdles (15.3), as could junior Lyndsey Braman coming in as the fourth seed in the 800 (2:19.52) and junior Julia Vanitvelt running the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and being seeded seventh in the 1,600 (5:14.41). She and Braman run on a 3,200 relay seeded third (9:32.77).

Lansing Waverly: The Warriors tied for ninth last season and would get a huge boost by justifying their top seeds in the 400 (49.38) and 800 (1:45.31) relays. Sophomore Tra’chele Roberts runs on both and also is seeded third in the 100 (12.44) and 14th in the 200 (26.42). Junior Teaghan Thomas runs on both relays as well and is tied for sixth in high jump (5-2). Sophomore Malin Smith also could contribute big points in field events, entering seeded third in shot put (43-1½) and seventh in discus (121-3).

Detroit Country Day: The Yellowjackets are seeking their first title since sharing in 2012. Junior Michaiah Thomas is the reigning champ in the 100 hurdles and seeded first in that race (14.42), second in the 300 (45.23), seventh in the 100 dash (12.68) and fourth in the 200 (25.80). She alone could put Country Day into contention.

Battle Creek Harper Creek’s Charley Andrews: The reigning high jump champ is seeded first in that event (5-8) and also will run on the 3,200 relay after helping it to an eighth-place finish a year ago as a sophomore.

Carleton Airport’s Zoe Eby: She took first in the 200 and third in the 400 in 2015 as a sophomore, and this season is seeded first in the 200 (25.02), second in the 100 (12.25) and also will long jump.

Saginaw Swan Valley’s Lauren Huebner: After winning the 300 hurdles as a junior, Huebner is seeded fourth in that race (45.65) and third in the 100 hurdles (15.0) and also will run on the fifth-seeded 800 and sixth-seeded 1,600 relays.

Spring Lake’s Gabriella LeRoux: She won pole vault as a sophomore and is seeded first by four inches at 12-3; she’ll also run the 100 and on the 400 relay.

Ada Forest Hills Eastern’s Camron Nelson: The reigning 100 champion is seeded 11th in that race (12.76) and 15th in the 200, and also will run on the second-seeded 400 relay (49.78).

Grand Rapids South Christian’s Abbie Porter: She’s the fourth seed as a senior in the 400 (58.32) after winning the race last season and also runs on the top-seeded 1,600 relay (4:01.46). 

LP Division 3 at Comstock Park

Top Regional scores: Hopkins 154, Pewamo-Westphalia 153, Ithaca 150.  

Ithaca: The Yellowjackets have never won an MHSAA title in this sport but were fourth last season and on relays alone should be in the mix. The 400 relay is seeded third (51.26), the 800 fourth (1:48.31), the 1,600 also fourth (4:10.32) and the 3,200 relay second (9:34.12). Senior Erica Sheahan is perhaps most valuable among individual contributors; she’s the top seed in long jump (17-11¾) after winning last season, ninth in the 100 and second in the 200 (25.99). Junior Emily Foster comes in sixth-seeded in the 300 hurdles, and junior Courtney Allen enters third in the 800 (2:19.14) and also will run the 1,600.

Pewamo-Westphalia: The reigning champion Pirates are seeking their third title in four seasons and finished runner-up the off year. The talent is spread across a number of events; all four relays qualified for Saturday, with the 400 relay top-seeded (50.83), the 800 relay seeded seventh and the 3,200 relay seeded fourth. Senior Emma Schafer is seeded first in the 100 hurdles (15.53) and fourth in the 300 (47.11), and junior Emma Wirth has top-11 seeds in the 200 and 400 after taking fourth in the 100, second in the 400 and third in the 200 in 2015. Schafer also should help on the field event side, entering with the second-seeded shot put (38-1), while sophomore Claudia Heckman is seeded ninth in long jump.

Traverse City St. Francis: While the Gladiators don’t have a qualifier in field events, they do have senior Holly Bullough, a two-time runner-up last season who is seeded first in the 800 (2:17.36) and 1,600 (4:56.61) and also runs on  the top-seeded 1,600 (4:06.43) and 3,200 (9:31.18) relays. Junior Emmalyne Tarsa also could provide a boost; she’s seeded eighth in the 100 hurdles (16.23) and fourth in the 400 (1:00.03).

Manistee’s Emma Burns: The reigning high jump champion went 5-3 to win last season and is among a large group that cleared 5 feet at Regionals.

Byron’s Jessica Marvin: She won discus last season and is third-seeded in that event (123-4) and top-seeded in the shot put (38-5).

Adrian Madison’s Megan Rosales: She’s seeded third in the 300 hurdles (47.07) and runs on the eighth-seeded 800 relay and third-seeded 1,600 relay (4:09.89) after winning the 400 and coming in second in the 300 last season.

Sanford Meridian’s Hailey Stockford: The reigning champion in the 100 and 200 will look to cap her career with a couple repeats entering second-seeded in the 100 (12.54) and tops in the 200 (25.83). 

LP Division 4 at Grand Rapids Houseman Stadium

Top Regional scores: Saugatuck 242, Fowler 187½, Deckerville 152½.

Saugatuck: The Indians finished 14th a year ago and have never won an MHSAA title in this sport, but have a chance to make history with strong relays leading the way. All four qualified, with the 1,600 seeded third, the 400 and 3,200 fifth and the 800 relay seeded sixth. Sophomore Paisley Sipes could add points seeded second in the 3,200 (11:42.34), sixth in the 1,600 (5:21.93) and tied for 11th in the pole vault. A strong group of freshmen including Thea Johnson (800) and Lily Francis (300 hurdles) also could factor in.

Fowler: Last season’s runner-up would love to add a third title in six seasons and first since 2012. Their relays are ranked even higher than Saugatuck’s as a group, with the 800 (1:48.75) seeded first, the 1,600 second, 400 third and 3,200 seeded fourth. Seniors Julie Thelen (800) and Madison Koenigsknecht (400) in races and freshman Alyssa Vandegriff (high jump) and sophomore Ciera Weber (pole vault) in field events are among a large group of others who could contribute.

Reading: The Rangers were fourth last season and return with all four relays and competitors in nine individual events. The 800 relay is seeded third and the 3,200 second (9:51.73), and senior Teddi Zimmerman has top-six seeds in both hurdles races among a number of individuals on the cusp of scoring territory based on their Regional performances.

Lawrence’s Mara Carter: The reigning shot put champion enters seeded second in that event (40-9) and fourth in the discus (115-0).

Pittsford’s Maddie Clark: She won discus last season and is seeded second in that event (126-4) this time.

Waterford Our Lady’s Tessa Fornari: She’ll be looking for a repeat in the 1,600 and 3,200 while seeded seventh (5:22.31) and third (11:48.73), respectively, in those races.

Custer Mason County Eastern’s Jordan Goodman: Last year’s winner in the 100 finished sixth or higher in four events and this time will compete in the long jump (16-4), where she’s seeded third and came in sixth in 2015.

Petersburg-Summerfield’s Ashley Herrmann: The reigning high jump champion is seeded first in that event (5-4) as a senior but also third in the 100 hurdles (16.19) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (48.07).

Concord’s Lindsey Lehman: One of the fastest sprinters last season winning the 200 and coming in second in the 100, she’ll try to finish her career with four more titles seeded fourth in the 100 (12.45), first in the 200 (26.57) and running on the seventh-seeded 400 and sixth-seeded 1,600 relays.

Mesick’s Sierra King: She nearly swept the hurdles in 2015, winning the 100 and finishing second in the 300, and she enters second-seeded in the 100 hurdles (15.49), third in the 300 (48.01) and also will compete in long jump. 

UP Division 1 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Marquette 85, Houghton 53½, Negaunee 53.

Marquette: The Redettes doubled up the field last season in winning their sixth straight Division 1 championship. This will be the last high school run for stellar seniors Lindsey Rudden and Holly Blowers; Rudden is seeded first in the 1,600 (4:56.80) and 800 (2:14.58), runs on the top-seeded 1,600 (4:12.22) and 3,200 (10:15.88) relays and owns seven individual Finals championships in track. Blowers is seeded second in the 1,600 (5:16.66) and 800 (2:22.34), runs on the same relays and owns three previous individual titles. Junior Amber Huebner won the 3,200 last season and is seeded first in that race (12:00.28), third in the 1,600 and also runs those relays. Junior Hannah Detmers is the reigning 300 hurdles champion and is seeded fourth in that race, but also runs on the 1,600 relay and the second-seeded 800 relay.

Escanaba’s Jenny Brandt: Last season’s discus champion enters with the second-longest throw from the Regionals (99-2).

Escanaba’s Sunny Martineau: She’s seeded second in the 100 hurdles (16.38) and third in the 300 (48.51) after winning the 100 and finishing second in the 300 in 2015.

Houghton’s Kendra Monette: The reigning shot put champion also finished sixth in the 100 last season as a freshman; she’s seeded first in shot put (37-2), fifth in the 100 (13.47) and runs on the top-seeded 800 relay (1:50.78) and second-seeded 400 relay.

Calumet’s Hailey Wickstrom: The high jump champion last year at 4-10 is the top seed as a junior at 5-3¼. 

UP Division 2 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Ishpeming 78, Hancock 73, St. Ignace 58½.

Ishpeming: The Hematites will go for a repeat with three top-seeded relays, strong field events and a title winner leading the way. Junior Khora Swanson is the reigning champion in the 800 and runner-up in the 1,600, and she’s seeded first in the 1,600 (5:54.26) and 800 (2:28.85), fourth in the 3,200 and runs on the top-seeded 3,200 relay (10:54.66). The 800 (1:56.01) and 400 (54.71) relays are both also seeded first, as are senior Libbie Doney in the pole vault (9-0) and junior Marissa Maino in the shot put (35-10). Maino won shot put and discus last season and is second-seeded in the discus this time.

Hancock: The Bulldogs own one MHSAA title in this sport, from 1983, but could move up from fifth a year ago. Distance running and hurdles are definitely the team’s strengths; senior Mary Jarvis is seeded first in the 100 hurdles (16.52) and 300 hurdles (48.45) and third in the 100 dash, and senior Julie Heinonen is seeded second in the 100 hurdles (17.29) and runs on two relays. Jarvis won both hurdles races last season.

St. Ignace's Linnie Gustafson: She won high jump last season in Division 3 at 5-1 and is top-seeded in the event at 5-2 while also running two relays.

Ironwood’s Rachel Hudaceck: The reigning high jump champ in this division at 5-0 is seeded second at 4-9 and also will run on two relays.

Iron River West Iron County’s Emmy Kinner: As a sophomore Kinner won the 100, 200 and 400; as a junior, she seeded first in all three races (13.27/27.22/1:02.30) and tied for second in long jump as well (15-6½).

UP Division 3 at Kingsford

Top Regional scores: Munising 78, Lake Linden-Hubbell 65, Stephenson 57.

Munising: The Mustangs are seeking their first championship since 2009 after finishing fifth but only 19 points back a year ago. They have competitors in 13 events and two top seeds: Madeleine Peramaki is seeded first in the 800 (2:28.31) while also doing long jump and running on the 1,600 relay, and junior Michaela Peramaki is seeded first in the pole vault (8-6, tied) while also running the 100 and on the 400 relay.

Newberry: The reigning champion returns its one-two punch from last season’s Final, where Taylor Bryant won the 100 and was fourth in the 300 hurdles, and Natalie Beaulieu won the 800 and 1,600. Bryant is seeded first in the 100 hurdles (17.14) and 300 hurdles (49.34) and also will run the 100 and on the second-seeded 400 relay. Beaulieu has top-five seeds in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and will run on the 3,200 relay.

Ontonagon’s Paige Blake: The reigning long jump and 400 champion placed in four events total last season, and she’s seeded first in the 400 (1:03.04), third in the 200 (28.64), second in the long jump (14-9) and also will run the 100.

Cedarville’s Emma Bohn: She’s the top seed in the 1,600 (5:25.24), second in the 3,200 (12:18.84) and also will run the 800 and on the top-seeded 3,200 relay (10:44.74) after winning the 3,200 last season.

Brimley’s Alyssa Hyvarinen: She won discus and shot put in leading Brimley to a runner-up finish in 2015, and this time she’s top-seeded in the discus (103-10) and second in the shot put (35-3).

PHOTO: Ishpeming's Khora Swanson is among many standouts returning to MHSAA Finals on Saturday. (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.)