Beginning Another Tourney Journey

August 8, 2016

Below is the introductory commentary to the MHSAA's spring issue of benchmarks. Histories of MHSAA tournaments published in that issue have been appearing on Second Half every Tuesday and Friday. 

By Jack Roberts
MHSAA Executive Director

Concussions and cutbacks. Participation fees and part-time employment. Student safety and specialization. International students and interstate travel. Transfers and trials.

Through a myriad of issues which periodically cloud our mission, the foundation on which the MHSAA was built still shines brightest three times each year: Tournament Time!

It can be daunting and overwhelming to make a living at this business of interscholastic athletics these days, not to mention a tad confusing. Do we need legal degrees? Medical degrees? Business degrees? Marketing degrees? There seems to be no escape from threat of legislative mandates which continually change the landscape of our product and how it’s delivered. Demands pile up, resources dwindle.   

Add the daily challenges of scheduling issues, inclement weather and pleasing teenagers and their parents on a daily basis, and it’s easy to lose focus of the primary missions for the MHSAA and its member schools.

And then, scenes like this happen:

• Holly Bullough, a senior cross country runner from Traverse City St. Francis takes her second straight Division 3 championship, winning by 36.4 seconds ... with a stress fracture in her left foot.

• Detroit Martin Luther King QB Armani Posey directs a game-winning drive to give his school the Division 2 football championship ... a drive which started on his own 3-yard line with 37 seconds left and ended with a 40-yard heave to receiver Donnie Corley on the final play of the game.

• Leland sweeps the Class D volleyball title match 3-0 over Battle Creek St. Philip ... ending a string of nine straight titles for St. Phil, the 10th longest national streak in history.

• Davison’s Taylor Davis becomes only the fourth person in MHSAA Girls Bowling history to roll a 300 game in the Singles portion of the tournament ... and the first ever in the championship match.

• The Upper Peninsula’s Hancock HS wins the Division 3 ice hockey title in its first trip to the Final since 2000 ... a trip funded in part from a “Go Fund Me” web page that raised $6,620 from 99 donors in two days.

• Junior Kierra Fletcher of Warren Cousino carries her team to the Class A girls basketball championship with 27 points in the Final ... after scoring 37 of her team’s 60 points in the Semifinals and totaling 198 during eight tournament games.

That’s just a sampling of the magic from last fall and winter.

These moments shine through the current challenges and the unseen future that awaits us as they always have. The uniforms and faces are different, but the tournaments have always yielded the fruits of our labors, and the memories for our mental scrapbooks.

PHOTO: Leland's volleyball team hoists its Class D championship trophy last fall at Kellogg Arena. 

Hackett Catholic Prep's Baldwin Carrying Hopes from Home to Paris

By Pam Shebest
Special for

July 12, 2024

KALAMAZOO — Heath Baldwin studied Spanish at Hackett Catholic Prep, but he will need to brush up on some French as he heads to Paris to compete in the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The recent Michigan State University grad, who earned a master’s degree in marketing and research analytics, will compete in the decathlon, a two-day event Aug. 2-3 at the Stade de France.

While the Olympics will be televised in the United States, because of the time difference, Baldwin’s events will take place locally during the early morning hours.

Wishing him a Bon Voyage, more than 200 former classmates, friends, family and well-wishers plus six television crews congregated Thursday for an impressive sendoff, starting with the Hackett “Summer Ensemble” playing the school fight song.

A 2019 Hackett grad, Baldwin led the track & field team to three Regional championships, two MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 titles, was an individual five-time Finals champion, holds four school records and was named track & field Athlete of the Year for all divisions his senior season by the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association.

“I went through a lot at Hackett, obviously, with my dad (Roger)  passing away (in 2016) and I always had a great support system of people who took care of my family and made sure we were doing good,” Baldwin said. “They’ve stuck with me through college, too, following me in all my events and to this point, so it’s cool that I’m doing well now and they’re along for the ride.”

Hackett clears a hurdle during the 2019 MHSAA Finals.The ride will begin Tuesday when Baldwin travels to Germany to train before heading to Paris.

“Everything’s starting to feel more real,” he said. “I think once I get to Germany and start to train with other people, we’ll be able to get a little competitive. I think it will be fun training in Paris.”

Facing a huge crowd in Paris should not be a problem, he said.

“The more people will only help me. I’m a big adrenalin guy. I feel like I get more nervous talking at an event like this than I do for the Olympic Games.

“Once I get out on the track, everything just feels natural to me.”

Naturally a no-brainer

Baldwin’s Finals championships for Hackett had come in high jump, long jump and both hurdles races. Tackling the grueling decathlon was a no-brainer.

“I was good at the hurdles, high jump, long jump, which are three very technical events in the decathlon, so if you’re good at those three, you usually can pick up the other ones pretty easily is what they say,” he said.

“Also, I played baseball as a pitcher, so that correlated with the javelin. A lot of college coaches recruited me off that, I think.”

Baldwin said knew 2024 was an Olympic year, “so I thought it was something I maybe could do. After last year, when I scored above 8,000 points (in the decathlon) for the first time and came in sixth at the USAs, it became a little more realistic for me.”

The personable athlete not only qualified for the Olympics at this year’s U.S. Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., but won the decathlon with a personal best 8,625 points.

He finished first in the shot put (54 feet, 2½ inches), high jump (6-11¾), 110 hurdles (13.77 seconds) and javelin throw (218-9). 

MHSAA trophies Baldwin helped win decorated the stage for his sendoff.Other decathlon events are the 100 dash, long jump, 400 run, discus, pole vault and 1,500 run.

Baldwin earned Great Lakes Region Indoor and Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year honors and was named first team Academic All-American with a 3.8 GPA.

"We were awestruck at his athletic achievements (at Hackett),” said Judge Paul Bridenstine, the “Voice of the Irish.” 

“While he continued to play football, basketball, baseball exceptionally at Hackett, his athletic life was transformed when he was introduced to (former HCP track & field coach Simon Cholometes).”

Cholometes said Baldwin’s success is something that didn’t come out of nowhere.

“Heath put the wheels in motion a long time ago and worked harder than most people can even fathom,” he said. “I can remember 5:40 in the morning, Heath running sprints up that hill over there,” he said, pointing. “A foot of snow, running sprints up that tall hill.

“In college, he’s a Big 10 champ, three-time All-American, Great Lakes Region Indoor and Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year, MSU’s Athlete of the Year twice, holds five school records plus Big 10 records in heptathlon and decathlon.”

Family won't be far

Baldwin plans to be in Paris for the opening ceremonies and will be cheered on by his mom Suzann, sister Hope and brothers Aiden and Gowan.

The Olympian also will have a remembrance of his late father with him. He has a tattoo of his dad’s signature on the inside of his upper left arm.

A hurdle that was gifted to Baldwin on Thursday.Losing his father “was a big part of my life and obviously changed my perspective in the way I train and the way I live in a way he’d be proud of,” Baldwin said.

“We set some big goals going into this year and it’s been a dream. I love representing the Kalamazoo community and Michigan, Hackett and Michigan State.

“I like to remember everybody I compete for, and I think that gives you a bigger purpose when you go out there. That’s definitely something I’ll be doing at the Olympics in Paris. I’m excited to represent there and hopefully go for a medal.”

PHOTOS (Top) Health Baldwin, seated, signs a hat during his sendoff Thursday at Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep. (2) Baldwin clears a hurdle during the 2019 MHSAA Finals. (3) A hurdle was gifted to Baldwin on Thursday. (4) MHSAA trophies Baldwin helped win decorated the stage for his sendoff. (Sendoff photo by Pam Shebest.)