Wirth Shows Worth Again for D3 Power

June 2, 2016

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

WESTPHALIA – This past March, fewer than 2 minutes remained in Pewamo-Westphalia's Class C Regional Semifinal basketball loss to Ypsilanti Arbor Prep when junior Brenna Wirth heard a pop in her right ankle.

She fell to the floor in pain, unaware if her upcoming track and field season would be in jeopardy.

“That was one of my main concerns when it happened because I didn’t know how bad it was at first,” Wirth said. “It hurt a lot, and I heard a pop when it happened. I think I came down on a girl’s ankle and I was pretty worried.”

Wirth’s anxiety was eased by the good news that awaited her after the game. It turned out to be only a badly sprained ankle. Nothing worse.

“I got lucky I guess,” Wirth said. “But it has motivated me to push myself a little harder to get back to where I want to be.”

Wirth, one of the elite sprinters in Lower Peninsula Division 3, has fully recovered from the injury and is expected to compete in Saturday’s MHSAA Track & Field Finals at Comstock Park High School.

The Pirates have won two MHSAA girls track and field championships over the past three years and will look to go back-to-back Saturday.

Wirth will be an important component in their quest.

“We have a lot of depth, and she is part of that,” P-W track and field coach Scott Werner said. “One of the first pieces we look at is where we can utilize Brenna, and then we build around her to maximize our team points.”

She is thankful the ankle injury didn’t set her back longer than a few weeks.

“It healed a lot faster than I thought it would,” Wirth said. “I slowly began walking on it again, and I went from there. I’m excited for this weekend, and I think our team has a good shot this year again.”

Werner said Wirth has made the necessary strides to make a speedy comeback. 

“I consider her healthy now,” he said. “She has been building up and feeling as good as she has the whole year. Things are starting to come together, and we hope we can peak this Saturday and finish things off right.”

Wirth will take part in the 200 and 400, as well as join her teammates as a member of the top-ranked 400 and 800 relay teams. 

She won both individual events at last week’s Regional and is considered among the favorites to take home an individual title Saturday.

Wirth has plenty of motivation, especially in the 400, which is her signature event. She placed runner-up at the Finals as a freshman and sophomore. 

“I’ve gotten so close in the 400 these past few years, so I’m hoping this is the year,” Wirth said. “I just want to give it my best effort. I’ve worked hard all season to get to this point, so I’m just hoping to run fast for the team. My team is the end goal, everything for them.”

Wirth’s work ethic separates her from other athletes, and it has helped propel her to success on the track and in other sports.

She also competes on the cross country team and delivered a new personal record at the Finals last fall.

“She is just a real athletic kid, and every sport that she is part of she is very good at,” Werner said. “She is such a hard worker, and where she excels at the most the past few years is the 400. That’s a type of race that you have to grind through, and she’s really strong mentally. She can go in and fight through and do her thing.”

Wirth will run Saturday without her older sister, Marissa, by her side. The two shared the track and past two seasons before Marissa graduated.

They drove each other to compete at the highest level.

“We ran on the same relays, and at times I had to run against her,” Wirth said. “It’s a lot different this year, and I really do miss her. She really pushed me, and I think I helped push her a lot. We kept each other going.”

Wirth made her presence known early on in her high school career, emerging as one of the top sprinters on a team chock-full of talented runners.

“She immediately came in and was among our best sprinters of what I would consider a pretty strong sprint program the past few years,” Werner said. “She was an instant-impact-type kid. She has a real positive attitude and sets a really great tone. She’s a good leader, and she’s a part of the strong culture that we have here.”

PHOTO: Pewamo-Westphalia's Brenna Wirth (left) crosses just before Hart's Jennie Gottardo to finish second in the 400 at last season's Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final. (Photo by Jamie Geysbeek/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.)