High 5s: 5/22/12

May 22, 2012

None of this week's High 5s honorees knows much about losing. Ann Arbor Pioneer's Drake Johnson is unequaled in his best race, Decatur's Erika Southworth has averaged more than 25 wins pitching each season of high school, and the Remus Chippewa Hills girls track team hasn't lost during the regular season in nearly a decade.

Erika Southworth

Decatur senior


Southworth, a pitcher, is finishing her fourth varsity season after earning all-state honors after all of her previous three. She both won her 100th game and notched her 1,000th career strikeout last week, putting her in the MHSAA record book in both categories. Southworth is 24-3 this season with a 0.83 ERA and 199 strikeouts, and also leads her team with a .448 batting average and 35 RBI. She's signed to play next season at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and is considering a major in business. Decatur is ranked No. 7 in the state coaches Division 4 poll.

Celebrate good times: "My 100th win was at home, and they gave me a picture that said '100 wins.' It's really nice. ... My 1,000th strikeout was at Climax-Scotts, and my teammates were counting down in the dugout. I was batting one inning, and I could hear them whispering. After the strikeout, my catcher called timeout and came out and gave me a hug. Then the umpire (asked what had happened), called timeout, gave the ball to my coach and announced it to everyone on the field."

Commander-in-chief: Southworth is her class' president and has been part of the student council and National Honor Society. "I like being involved with my class. I've gotten to know a lot of people that I wouldn't usually talk to in a regular school day."

I learned the most about pitching from: One of my high school teammates from a couple of years ago (Kelsey Vliek), her dad (Jeff) got me into it. After that, I just played travel ball, and my coach would help. Then I just went to different pitching coaches." 

Competing with Cole: Southworth has a fun rivalry with little brother Cole, a freshman wrestler and baseball catcher. "We both take strength and conditioning at school, different hours but we do the same lifts. So we try to beat each other that way. ... This year is the first year I've ever pitched to him. I always told my mom it wasn't a good idea. I'd just aim for his face all the time."

The ball starts here: "I like that I start out every play. The pitcher kinda controls the game, controls the pace of the game. I like knowing where most of the balls are going to be hit. (And) I think it's more of a challenge. I always go for more of the challenging things."

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Drake Johnson

Ann Arbor Pioneer senior

Track and Field

Johnson, who has signed to play football this fall at the University of Michigan, is a two-time MHSAA Division 1 champion in the 110-meter hurdles, and won both that race (14.25) and the 300 hurdles (38.63) at Friday's Division 1 Regional at Saline. He also ran on the second-place and state-qualifying 1,600 relay and on the third-place 800 relay. Johnson owns the Pioneers' record in the 110 hurdles of 13.7 seconds. Last fall as a running back, he was tops in the state with 2,809 yards rushing, sixth in the MHSAA record book for one season. He also is interested in running track at U-M.

Loving both for different reasons: "I like the thrill of football. I love the games, the scoring, the hype around football. Track, it's just the competitiveness of one-on-one. It's your best effort against their best effort." 

I learned the most about running from: "I've always had my coaches at Pioneer, and my dad (Michael Johnson) has always been my hurdles coach. If I feel like I'm not running as well as I can, I can say, 'Hey dad,' and he'll say come to the track a couple times and we can fix it."

As a running back, I try to be like: "Not a single person, but a combination of Tyrone Wheatley and Eric Dickerson. Just watching videos with my dad, I got interested in seeing what (Dickerson) ran like. He really was amazing at what he did."

My favorite thing to do that isn't a sport is: "I love watching movies. Any movie I can find. I love the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movies, and I love the 'Oceans' (Eleven, Twelve, etc.) movies."

Up next: Johnson will major in philosophy and psychology, and eventually wants to be a psychiatrist. "Just knowing how people think. ... I always tried to see things from other people's points of view. I'm an open-minded person, and (I enjoy) the whole study of trying to see how people think."

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Remus Chippewa Hills girls track and field

Heading into last week, the Warriors were riding a 74-dual meet win streak, and edged Mount Pleasant by 1.5 points to win their Division 2 Regional on Friday. Chippewa Hills, competing in the Central State Activities Association tonight, also won its 10th-straight league championship meet Tuesday. Most of the Warriors are underclassmen -- the team has only one senior.

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This spring's previous honorees

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.)