Reeths-Puffers' Depies Rewrites Records

May 11, 2016

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

The Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Track Meet began in 1954, within days of Roger Bannister busting through the 4-minute mile barrier. So breaking a meet record is a big deal.

That perspective is necessary to truly appreciate what Muskegon Reeths-Puffer junior distance runner Maryssa Depies accomplished Friday at the 63rd annual meet at Holton High School.

Depies broke not one, not two, not three, but four meet records that evening – and since individuals are limited to competing in four events, it’s a performance which will never be surpassed. Depies powered the Rockets’ girls team to its 11th city championship over the past 12 years.

“I guess it proved to me what I can do when I’m mentally prepared,” said Depies, who ran the anchor leg of R-P’s winning 3,200-meter relay, then won three straight individual events – the 1,600, 800 and 3,200.

“It was a perfect night, perfect weather. The records just kind of built on each other – once I got one, I figured I should go after another one.”

Reeths-Puffer girls track coach Gary Niklasch knew his team was a safe bet to win the meet (R-P ended up 88 points ahead of second-place Whitehall), so he felt it was a good time to see how his standout junior could handle doing the four longest events in a single meet.

“It was first time we really turned her loose in all four events,” Niklasch said.

Her big day started by anchoring the Rockets’ wide victory in the 3,200 relay, where she joined with teammates Lilah Parker, Jayme Brantsen and Kendra Irvine to win in 9:36.23, breaking an 18-year-old record by a whopping 18 seconds.

The relay wins are the most special for Depies, because they are part of a team effort with her friends and the culmination of all the hard work they put in with Reeths-Puffer distance coach Dee Richardson, who is also the school’s cross country coach.

“He is like a second dad to me,” said Depies, the daughter of Grant and Laree Depies. “He plants the seed in all of us, letting us know all of the things we can accomplish. Then it’s up to us to go out and do it.”

Her first individual race that day was the 1,600, which she has never considered her best distance. But after posting one of the state’s best times this season (5:03.06), Depies and her coaches are starting to wonder whether the mile might be her ideal race for the upcoming Regional and MHSAA Finals meets.

Next came the 800 meters, where her time of 2:19.51 broke the oldest girls city meet record, the yard-converted time of 2:20.8 recorded by Amy Laswell of Mona Shores in 1977.

By the time the meet reached the 3,200-meter run, the second-to-last event, any drama surrounding the battle for the team title was long gone and the crowd was aware that individual history was about to be made.

Depies appreciated the cheers from spectators from all of the area schools, and really appreciated that the announcer knew how to say her last name correctly (pronounced Depp-pis).

Despite already winning three long events, and having a quick turnaround after the 800 meters, Depies dug deep and fed off the crowd to break the meet record she had set one year ago by more than 10 seconds, winning in 11:04.72.

“Maryssa only does things one way and that’s all-in,” said Niklasch. “She has made steady improvement since her freshman year. She has built up her strength, and that is why she was able to break all four records.”

Bigger challenges await the 17-year-old, starting Thursday with the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black meet at Reeths-Puffer. The featured race will be the 1,600, where Depies is expected to race her friend Madison Goen of Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills in a matchup of two of the state’s top milers.

Area track fans do not have to go far to watch Depies compete in any of her remaining big meets. Her Division 1 Regional is May 20 at Grand Haven, the Meijer West Michigan Invitational is May 25 at Reeths-Puffer and the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals are June 4 at Hudsonville.

Depies and her coaches are eager to see how she will match up against the top runners from around the state.

Depies is something of a late bloomer on the state distance-running scene. She first started running near the end of elementary school in the “Girls on the Run” program, and says it wasn’t until her sophomore year of cross country, when she first dipped under 19 minutes, that “a light bulb kind of switched on” and she realized she could be really good.

Niklasch hopes her record-setting performance at the city meet is another defining moment for Depies, and will propel her to new heights at the regional and state level.

Depies said she is just enjoying having fun and having success doing something she loves.

“Everyone has their escape in life, and for me, it’s running,” she said. “When I’m sitting in school all day, I’m like a big wad of energy just waiting to be released.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Muskegon Reeths-Puffer junior Maryssa Depies competes at the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Track Meet on Friday, May 6, at Holton High School. Depies won four events and set city meet records in all four - 800 meters, 1,600 meters, 3,200 meters and anchoring the winning 3,200-meter relay. (Middle) Depies (third from left) poses with teammates after winning four events. The Reeths-Puffer girls won the city title for the 11th time in the past 12 years. (Photos by Tim Reilly.)

Lake Linden-Hubbell, Stephenson Share in UPD3; Jokela Joins Elite Club

By Jason Juno
Special for

June 4, 2023

KINGSFORD – Lake Linden-Hubbell got to the top with first-place power. Stephenson won only two events. 

But there are multiple ways to win an MHSAA Finals championship in track & field. And the Lakes and Eagles tied for the Upper Peninsula Division 3 girls title Saturday. 

Norway's Taylor Adams wins the 800. Lake Linden-Hubbell got a little assist from two-time reigning champion Ontonagon in the final event, the 1,600 relay. The Lakes led in the standings by eight points, but they didn’t have a 1,600-meter relay team. Stephenson could have won the team title with a win in that event, but Ontonagon’s relay team proved solid again and forced the Eagles to settle for the runner-up spot in the race and the eight points that come with it.

The Lakes last won team Finals titles during a three-year run from 2017-19. For Stephenson, it had been since 1993 when the team competed in Class C. The Eagles were runners-up last year.

Lake Linden-Hubbell sophomore Emily Jokela entered with the fastest Regional times in all four of her events, and she won all four of them Saturday – the 100, 200, 400 and 300 hurdles. She became just the sixth female to win four individual events at an MHSAA Finals.

The only one she didn’t win a title in last year was the 100 dash; she has that now. The only school record she didn’t have going into Saturday was in the 200; she has that now as well. She broke it by one tenth of a second.

“It feels great,” Jokela said. “I was very worried about running today because it was so hot.”

Her 300 hurdles time of 45.63 seconds set a UPD3 Finals record. Ontonagon’s Lori Wardynski had the record before (47.27).

Stephenson's Jada Kuntze crosses the finish line first in the 3,200 relay.Teammate Abi Codere repeated in the 100 hurdles, and their 400 relay team (Codere, Rebecca Lyons, Isabella Tampas and Cleo Milkey) also won.

Stephenson’s wins came in the 3,200 relay (Faith Cappaert, Joelle Beaudo, Kayela Putnam and Jada Kuntze) and the long jump (Sarah Labs).

Ontonagon also won the 800 relay (Lilly McIntyre, Alli Bobula, Kylee Uotila and Makennah Uotila).

“I’m sad we didn’t get a title this year, but the past two back-to-back U.P. titles we had made my entire career,” senior Makennah Uotila said. “I’ve enjoyed it so much. The relays were a big part of our U.P.  titles, so to still have strong relays is very important.”

Newberry’s Kaylen Clark won the 1,600 and 3,200 runs. She was the runner-up at the UPD3 cross country meet in the fall and in both events at the UPD2 track meet last season. Taylor Adams of Norway won the 800.

In the field, Mariska Laurila of Carney-Nadeau was the champion in the discus, Rudyard’s Alicia Cheney won the high jump, Dollar Bay’s Nora Keranen won the pole vault after winning long jump in 2022, and Brimley’s Grace Hill repeated in the shot put.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Lake Linden-Hubbell's Emily Jokela, second from right, wins the 400 on Saturday. (Middle) Norway's Taylor Adams wins the 800. (Below) Stephenson's Jada Kuntze crosses the finish line first in the 3,200 relay. (Photos by Cara Kamps/