Howell Puts Heart Into Memorial Meet

August 29, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

An online tribute to Mackenzie Watts describes how she “made the people and world around her better.”

The Howell swimming and diving community continues to work so that her memory makes those who come after her safer as well.

Watts died in 2005 after suffering a cardiac arrhythmia. She was a 15-year-old sophomore and key cog on her high school team.

This past weekend, for the sixth straight season, the Highlanders hosted the Kenzie Classic, an invitational that served as a fundraiser for the Howell program and annual Mackenzie Watts scholarship – plus served to promote heart screenings by local National Diagnostic Services in their “HeartMobile” parked outside the pool.

NDS, which also has held screening events at Northville, Canton and Middleville Thornapple Kellogg schools among others, screened 20 students during this Kenzie Classic, said Wellness Director Heidi Enders. 

Tests are ultrasound-based and non-invasive, and include an EKG to examine the heart’s electrical system for arrhythmias and an echocardiogram to examine the heart’s structure in case there is a thickening of the muscle (known as hyperthrophic cardiomyopathy). Adults were charged $199 and students $75, with discounted rates for adults in groups and children.

Click to check out coverage of the event from the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus.

Records Revamp

While tracking down 660 football schedules (give or take a few) took up most of the summer, there still was time for a few additions to the MHSAA record book – with more to come.

Track and field fans will notice records from retired yardage events (pre-1982 or earlier depending on the MHSAA class) have been added to the online records here for boys and here for girls.

Cross country fans should check out our lists of top MHSAA Finals times for every division and every class, plus overall top 10 lists for both boys and girls since the race was set to five kilometers in 1980. Click here for girls and here for boys.

Also added or updated were team championship counts for both cross countries, volleyball and girls golf. Click to check out girls golf here and volleyball here.

Fond Football Memories

It has been 30 years since former Genesee all-state running back Don Robinson became the fourth player in Genesee County history to run for more than 300 yards in one game – which he did in gaining 317 on Sept. 23, 1983.

High school football and those memories remain close to his heart even after going on to play at Eastern Michigan University, a stint in the U.S. Navy and a move to Georgia.

He’s paid attention over the years as that “300 club” has grown to 22 players including current New Orleans Saints back Mark Ingram, Jr., and the University of Michigan’s Thomas Rawls.

He’s also a regular reader of Second Half, and asked to send along some words of wisdom to those who will be taking the field to begin the season this weekend:

“When you run out onto the field this season, do me a favor. At least once, pause.

“Look around you. Look at the lights in the sky. See the faces of those that have come to see you play. Listen to the band and the cheerleaders. Look into the eyes of your teammates ...

“Take it all in. When you’re older and miss this amazing game that you are playing, you’ll be glad you did.”

PHOTOS: (Top) A swimmer takes the lead during a race at Saturday's Kenzie Klassic at Howell High School. (Photo courtesy of Howell High School.) (Middle) Genesee graduate Don Robinson runs the ball during the 1983 season. (Photo courtesy of Don Robinson.)

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

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)