Waverly Paces 1st-Time Winners in D2

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 4, 2016

ZEELAND – Quite possibly the most diminutive athlete at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Track & Field Finals on Saturday, sophomore Kayla Windemuller of Holland Christian twice fell to the track at Zeeland Stadium and twice got back on her feet, kept her composure and finished the 3,200-meter run before anyone else.

About an hour earlier, Windemuller won her first individual MHSAA championship, in the 1,600 run.

Nikole Sargent of Flint Powers Catholic also was a double winner taking first in the shot put and the discus. Sargent won the shot put last season as a junior, but said going into this meet that the discus event was a priority. Sargent failed to place in the discus a year ago, fueling her motivation.

Although Tra’chele Roberts of Lansing Waverly took home only one individual first-place medal, her performances helped her team earn the school’s first MHSAA Finals team championship, as it edged second-place Powers, 42 points to 40. Romulus was third with 31 points, followed by Grand Rapids South Christian with 26 and Zeeland East with 24.

Roberts won the 100 dash (12.55) and ran anchor on the winning 400 and 800 relay teams. The 400 relay set a school record with a time of 48.7.

Warriors coach Rex Wilkes, a Waverly graduate, is in his second season running the program and said he kept Roberts, one of three sophomores on the relay teams, out of the 200 dash in an attempt to save her for the relays.

“We didn’t expect this,” Wilkes said. “I was hoping to come out with some fast times. We got some unexpected points in the shot put. Tra’chele can score points on her own. The others can score in the Regionals and run in the relays.”

The other three athletes on the relay teams were sophomores Jazlynn Wilcox and Maya Garrett, and junior Teaghan Thomas.

“It’s very exciting,” Thomas said. “I’ve been at states three times. We’ve been together since the seventh grade. The same girls ran on the relays, and in the same order.”

Thomas led off, followed by Wilcox, Garrett and Roberts.

Last season Waverly also took first in the 400 relay, but no individual placed among the top eight in the 100 dash.

To Wilkes’ point, another factor in the Warriors; breakthrough took place in the field events. Sophomore Malin Smith was sixth after the preliminaries, then moved up to second with a final put of 42 feet. Smith also took fifth in the discus, an event in which she was seeded seventh.

Windemuller was seeded first and third, respectively, in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs, so it’s not surprising she ran well Saturday. She did place seventh in the 3,200 and eighth in the 1,600 last season, so there was some valuable experience gained there.

No one could predict the events that took place and the circumstances that led to her taking first in both this time.

Windemuller, who said she’s 5-foot-1, won the 1,600 (4:58.9) in rather mundane fashion, at least in comparison to her 3,200 trip. She held off a late charge by junior Christina Sawyer of Tecumseh (5:00.2) in a tight race indeed – and Windemuller had to work for it.

“”It made me super nervous knowing she was close by,” Windemuller said. “I was very tired. I gave it everything I had.”

That was small potatoes compared to her extraordinary effort in the 3,200. With approximately two laps remaining Windemuller, Sawyer and junior Erika Freyhof of Hamilton were bunched together at the front. Suddenly, all three fell.

“I got up as quickly as I could,” Windemuller said. “I was still tired from running the (1,600). … I felt so bad. It was like dominos.”

The second spill took place with just over a lap remaining.

“I was in front,” Windemuller said. “When you go down you have to get yourself back up. It was a great learning experience.

“I’m small, but I’m feisty.”

Her time was 10:59.52.

Courageous athletes dotted the green artificial surface, home to both football teams at Zeeland East and Zeeland West. One competitor, in particular, is a multi-sport athlete who played four years of varsity basketball and was a two-sport athlete during the spring season.

Haley Hoogenraad of Zeeland West is one of the state’s top softball players. She will play for coach Carol Hutchins next year at University of Michigan. Hoogenraad competed in the 3,200 relay Saturday morning, then changed uniforms in a car as she was driven to Holland Christian to play in a Division 2 District Semifinal. West lost that noon game to Hudsonville Unity Christian, 12-4, allowing Hoogenraad to get back in a car to be driven back to Zeeland for the 800 run.

Hoogenraad was not just a qualifier in the event. She was seeded first, and as the race unfolded she moved up from fifth place to second with 200 meters left. Hoogenraad grew tired and placed fourth.

“I slid a few times and dove for a few balls,” Hoogenraad said of her time on the softball diamond. “I was dirty. I’m sad of the outcomes, but I tried. I tried to make my move (in the 800) and I said, oh, I can’t. I’m glad I had the opportunity to support my team.”

That would be teams.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lansing Waverly's Tra’chele Roberts runs a relay anchor leg for the Warriors, who went on to win the LP Division 2 championship. (Middle) Holland Christian's Kayla Windemuller. (Photos by Dave McCauley/RunMichigan.com.) 

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.)