Between strong winds and steady rainfall, Blue Water Area track and field athletes still managed to put together some impressive performances at the Division 2, Region 19 championship at North Branch High School Friday night.
Many said the boys 4x800-meter relay might’ve been the highlight, although the girls race could’ve been just as exciting.
Prior to Friday, neither the Armada nor the Croswell-Lexington girls relays had run faster than 10 minutes. In fact, the Tigers led with a best of 10:15. But as the girls toed the line with a chance to run at the State Finals at stake, that all changed.
Goodrich won in 9:48.29, but Cros-Lex’s Eva Thompson and Armada’s Brooklyn Khon battled down the straightaway, both hitting qualifying times of 9:53.93 and 9:54.06 to secure their teams’ spots at the Finals.
Joining Thompson in representing the Pioneers are Morgan Newton, Abby Barkley, and Brynn Hurley. Khon will be joined by Ava Baltierra, Samantha Cook, and Darrah Mackenzie.
And while the boys relay might not have come down to the final few steps, it was just as exciting as the Yale Bulldogs snagged the title and a school record with a winning time of 7:59.63.
“It feels amazing. That was not planned at all. We joked about [setting the record] as a team but never really put forth the effort to think about actually doing something like that,” Lukas Kriesch said. “I’m speechless thinking about it. Everyone had a prefect day. It couldn’t have worked out better for any of us.
Kriesch, the lone senior on the relay along with three juniors – Giovanni Pardo-Keegan, Acer Campbell, and Blake Ferguson – said their goal was to win the race, but after Campbell ran nine seconds faster than his personal best, he realized they could be on record-setting pace.
“When [Campbell] came across the line, I was like, ‘Holy crap, we’ve got a shot,’” Kriesch said. “Kudos to our first and second legs. Blake and I stuck it out at the end, but those guys at the front had a wonderful day.”
St. Clair’s relay of David Harris, Jack Howell, Vinny Schweihofer, and Carter Boullard, will join the Bulldogs at the State Finals after placing second in 8:08.14.
Falling in line with the boys 4x800 relay, the open 800 was another highly-anticipated event. Nearly 10 runners in the field hovered around the automatic qualifying time of 2:00.5, leading to an aggressive start of the race. But as the pack settled in, Boullard – who placed second in last year’s regional – remained patient.
“I felt like I was pretty relaxed going into it. It was a pretty tactical race, and then with 300 [meters] to go, I felt really good and just gave it a go,” Boullard said.
He worked his way toward the front and as he rounded the curve, he began to pull away from the pack, but not by much as the top six finishers all crossed the line within two seconds of one another. He would go on to win in 2:00.04. Armada senior Camden Khon, who was already the champion in the 1600 meter with a time of 4:23.42, would cross in 2:00.87 to take third.
“It was a super deep field. It just feels really good, like all the hard work paid off to get here,” Boullard said. “It’s a really good feeling [to win] knowing how much talent was in the field.”
In the sprints, two stars made their presence known. First up: Grace Clemens. The North Branch junior just missed qualifying for the State Finals last spring by less than three-tenths of a second in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. This year, however, she’d leave no room for questioning.
She swept the sprints with winning times of 13.07 and 27.08 seconds, nearly a half second ahead of the second-place finisher in both events. She was also on the regional champion 4x100-meter relay (53.10) along with Lilly Muxlow, Rowan Conley, and Sarah Munro. And, just to prove her all-around athleticism, she would place second in long jump, leaping 16 feet, 1.25 inches to punch her ticket to the State Finals.
The other sprint star was Marine City junior Parker Atkinson, who said he’s only attended a handful of track practices this spring due to his demanding baseball schedule. That’s right – he’s the starting center fielder on the 15-5 Mariners baseball team, which just so happened to win a league championship last Monday (more to come on that later this week).
As it turns out, Atkinson can run more than just 90 feet. He qualified for the State Finals by placing second in both the 100 and 200 (11.16 and 23.34, respectively), as well as winning the 4x100 and 4x200 relays, along with Zach Tetler, Bodie Ramsey, and Grant Westrick.
“As things went on and I was seeing my progress, I thought there might be a chance I could do pretty well, but definitely wasn’t expecting to do as well as we did,” Atkinson said.
Now he’ll have his pick of four events at the State Finals or playing for a baseball district title in two weeks.
In the field, Yale freshman Sadie Dykstra won long jump with a leap of 16-3, and while being a regional champion as freshman is impressive, Dykstra’s got her eyes set on even bigger goals.
“Long jump is definitely my favorite. It wasn’t going as well [on Friday], but it’s probably weather-related,” she said. “In general, I really enjoy long jump and I can’t wait to hopefully, in the next two weeks, break the school record of 18-2.”
And with a personal record of 17-10.5, she’s certainly got a shot. She’s also got a shot at earning all-state in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. She was the regional champion in both events with times of 15.84 and 48.25, and she currently ranks among the top 10 in Division 2.
“It feels really good. I knew we’d be competing today in some crappy weather, so I really had to bring my A-game and focus up on the hurdles,” Dykstra said, “but it feels really cool [to be a regional champion].”
Marysville junior Janae Hudson repeated as regional champion in both shot put and discus, throwing 41-4.5 and 125-5, respectively. And St. Clair senior Hunter Richardson, who didn’t qualify for the State Finals last season, saw major improvements this spring to claim both throws titles as well with marks of 48-7 and 150-0.
And as for Marine City high jumper Carly Frank, she improved on last year’s region-winning mark of 5-2 to win again this year, but this time with a personal best of 5-5. The senior now ranks second in Division 2.
Rounding out the regional champions from the Blue Water Area includes Kriesch in the 3200-meter (9:49.37), Yale senior Luke Kesckes in pole vault (12-8), and Armada's 4x400 relay of Alayna Nowik, Bree Feys, Ellen Sutton, and Brooklyn Khon (4:14.12).
The Division 2 State Finals will take place at Forest Hills Eastern in Ada, Michigan, on Saturday, June 3.
AREA DIVISION 2 STATE FINALS QUALIFIERS
(B) 4x800 - Yale (7:59.63) & St. Clair (8:08.14)
(G) 4x800 - Cros-Lex (9:53.93) & Armada (9:54.06)
(G) 100H - Sadie Dykstra, Yale (15.84)
(B) 100m - Parker Atkinson, MC (11.14)
(G) 100m - Grace Clemens, NB (13.07)
(B) 4x200 - Marine City (1:32.51) & Yale (1:33.86)
(B) 1600m - Camden Khon, ARM (4:23.42)
(G) 1600m - Eva Thompson, CL (5:16.65)
(B) 4x100 - Marine City (44.95)
(G) 4x100 - North Branch (53.10)
(B) 400m - Michael Ferguson, Yale (50.70)
(B) 300H - Kyle Coenen, ARM (41.85)
(G) 300H - Sadie Dykstra, Yale (48.25)
(B) 800m - Carter Boullard, SC (2:00.04)
(B) 200m - Parker Atkinson, MC (23.34)
(G) 200 - Grace Clemens, NB (27.08)
(B) 3200m - Lukas Kriesch, Yale (9:49.37)
(G) 3200m- Eva Thompson, CL (11:33.08)
(B) 4x400 - Armada (3:32.25)
(G) 4x400 - Armada (4:14.12)
(B) shot put - Hunter Richardson, SC (48-7) & Mason Knight, NB (47-3.5)
(G) shot put - Janae Hudson (41-4.5) & Alyssa Thomas (35-8.5) MV
(G) long jump - Sadie Dykstra, Yale (16-3) & Grace Clemens, NB (16-1.25)
(B) discus - Hunter Richardson, SC (150-0) & Tyler Simpson, MV (140-6)
(G) discus - Janae Hudson, MV (125-5) & Natasha Bickel (108-11)
(B) pole vault - Luke Kecskes, Yale (12-8) & Robert Loomis, CL (12-2)
(B) high jump - Trey Kolakovich, CL (6-2)
(G) high jump - Carly Frank, MC (5-5) & Keirra Taube, Yale (5-2)
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