Sargent Takes Charge as Elite Thrower

April 22, 2016

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

FLINT — If Nikole Sargent decided early on to specialize in her favorite sport, she never would've discovered her best sport.

Track and field, actually, ranked no higher than third on her list when she began competing in high school. She made the varsity volleyball team as a freshman at Linden in the fall of 2012, then made the Eagles' varsity basketball team in the winter.

"Basketball was the sport I thought I was going to go to in college," Sargent said. "Volleyball took over in my mind my sophomore year. I was going to play really high-level volleyball, so I gave up basketball and focused on track and volleyball."

Oh, yeah, track.

It's a good thing she kept that option open, because that's where she's really made a name for herself in high school and where she'll compete as a thrower for Michigan State University.

"My sophomore year, I got letters from schools about track," Sargent said. "I'm like, 'Oh, I never thought about this.'"

Sargent hit the radar of college track and field recruiters when she placed third as a freshman in the shot put in the 2013 MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 meet for Linden with a toss of 41 feet, 1.5 inches. After transferring the following school year to her parents' alma mater, Flint Powers Catholic, she took second in the shot put (41-3) and 10th in the discus (109-4) in Division 3.

When Powers moved up to Division 2 her junior year, Sargent was unaffected by the increase in competition. She won the MHSAA championship in the shot put, throwing 45-4.75.

It was a performance that mirrored that of her father, Mike, who won the shot put and discus for Powers in 1984 after the Chargers moved up from Class B to Class A. He was third in both events in Class B as a junior in 1983.

Nikole was already involved in three sports by her middle school years when her father, a tight end on MSU's 1988 Rose Bowl team, introduced her to shot put.

At first, she was underwhelmed.

"When I first threw the shot put in seventh grade," Sargent said, "I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, this is not for me. This is hard. I am not going to be good at this.' Then I went to my first meet and I ended up beating everyone by like 10 or 15 feet. I was like, 'OK, I guess I'll give it a shot.' That's when he really started working with me and said, 'You could be good at this.'

"It was something completely different than anything I'd ever done. I was a basketball player, a volleyball player, a soccer player. I was not a thrower, in my mind. Not until eighth grade did I think of myself as a thrower."

Sargent threw the six-pound shot 43-6 as an eighth grader. Her outdoor season bests throwing the 8.8-pound shot in high school have been 43-7.5 as a freshman, 42-6.5 as a sophomore, 45-6.25 as a junior and a school-record 47-0.75 as a senior.

In the Michigan Indoor Track Series state meet on Feb. 27, Sargent won the championship with a throw of 45-9. She topped a field that included defending MHSAA LP Division 1 champion Emily Meier of Canton and two other top-five finishers from last year's Division 1 meet.

While she already has an MHSAA shot put title on her resume, Sargent is determined to atone for a subpar performance in the discus last season. She was the second seed in the discus last spring with a toss of 132-11, but wound up 12th at 111-3 at the MHSAA meet.

"I threw really bad, so I'm kind of out for redemption this year," Sargent said. "I know I can throw a lot better, and I'm hoping to take a state title in that, as well. My practices have already been 10 times better than last year. Disc is all form. Pretty much throughout this last summer and the beginning of this season, I've just been working on form. I work on my form for 10, 20, even 30 minutes before I start throwing.

"I came in seeded second. When you end up taking (12th), it's not really something good, but you learn from every experience. I try to be a stronger person. I don't let pride get in the way or anything. It just makes you want to work harder."

Sargent has developed consistency in the discus early this season, clearing 130 feet in all three of her competitions. She did so only twice in 2015, both throws coming late in the season.

Sargent not only has the benefit of her father's throwing knowledge, but she's coached by Mike Stuart, one of the most successful throwing coaches in Michigan. Flint Carman-Ainsworth had the premier throwing program in the state when Stuart was an assistant coach with the Cavaliers.

"It helps a lot," Sargent said. "Obviously, he's had so much success. Working with him has brought this whole new world of throwing to me that I never imagined. He has a way of putting things that makes so much sense to me."

Stuart began working with Sargent before her junior year.

"She needed a lot of help," Stuart said. "I had to reteach her the discus the first summer that I met her. Her shot put technique was basically good; we just had to work on using the circle better. She has a 45-foot standing throw, which is off the charts. I've never even heard of that in high school. It's from having basic good throwing technique, and she's awfully strong for a girl; she bench-presses 210 pounds."

If Sargent needs advice on how to deal with the ups and downs of an athletic career, she doesn't have to look beyond the family dinner table.

In addition to her father's athletic background, twin brother Noah was the starting quarterback on Powers' MHSAA Division 5 runner-up football team in the fall and older sister Jordan is a defender on Oakland University's soccer team.

"My mom (Tracy) played sports, as well," Sargent said. "We grew up working out together. We were always watching a football game. Sports has always been a big part of my life. My twin brother and I have always competed against each other, even though we do different sports. We've always been that rival with each other. 'I'll shoot baskets with you if you'll toss the volleyball.'"

An accomplished athlete in her own right, Nikole relished taking on the role of cheerleader when her brother led Powers to Ford Field.

"I was the leader of our student section," she said. "I started all the cheers. I was always in the front row. That was an amazing memory."

Bill Khan served as a sportswriter at The Flint Journal from 1981-2011 and currently contributes to the State Champs! Sports Network. 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) Flint Powers' Nikole Sargent unloads the shot during a meet last season. (Middle) Sargent tosses the discus during the Earlybird meet at Flint Kearsley on April 13. (Photos courtesy of the Sargent family and Flint Powers athletic department.)

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

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)