One day, when a Hackett Catholic Prep track championship team reunion is in order, it won’t require much effort rounding everyone up. With only six young men representing the Irish Saturday at the Division 4 Michigan High School Athletic Association state finals at Hudsonville, head coach Simon Cholometes’ squad scored 51 points to win it all — the program’s first championship since 1930, when it was part of predecessor St. Augustine High School before boys began attending the newly-built Hackett High School in 1964.
Sand Creek finished second with 36 and Breckenridge rounded out the top three with 33.
All six Irish athletes made the all-state team, with junior Heath Baldwin leading the way with a pair of individual titles in the 110-meter hurdles (14.83 seconds) and the long jump (personal best 22 feet, 2.50 inches).
After winning the hurdles, Baldwin paced around the infield with very little emotion.
“I kind of tried to come in with a cool and calm mindset,” he said. “I knew what I was capable of in the long jump and knew what I had to do for the 110s to win it. I’m just trying to stay relaxed. I know when I get too tight, good things are not going to happen.
“I came out and didn’t jump the way I wanted to. On my third jump, I really got my hips up and got the height I wanted.”
Teammate Gus Magnell, a sophomore, was third in the 110 hurdles (15.14), and he ran a leg on the fifth-place 4×200 relay along with Christian Bartholomew, Eric Smith and Wade Poling. The quartet ran a time of 1:33.89. Bartholomew, Smith, Eric Wenzel and Magnell also placed fifth in the 4×100 (44.71).
Baldwin then nabbed a fourth-place time of 40.75 in the 300 hurdles, and Magnell secured the final all-state spot in eighth with a time of 41.20.
Magnell credited Cholometes for a drastic improvement in technique and the motivation to put in the extra work, and Baldwin for being, well, Baldwin.
“I would not be anywhere without my coach,” Magnell said. “To have a state champion you’re racing against every race, it really pushes you to keep getting better and better.”
“Those guys have a great relationship and they really feed off each other,” Cholometes added. “It’s very healthy competition with those guys and they want to see each other do well.”
In the discus, Hackett sophomore Henry Zimmerman recorded a third-place toss of 145-10, and he made it a double all-state day with a sixth-place distance of 46-03 in the shot put.
Cholometes is in just his second year at Hackett after serving as an assistant coach at Sturgis, where he oversaw a sprint group that set several school records.
“It has been a quick turnaround for us,” Cholometes said of the culture shift for the program. “I did think it was possible. I knew we had to go out and perform to our potential, and we did that. These guys put a lot of work in last summer and this winter leading up to the season. It was all that work coming together today.
“Heath is a pretty big-time performer and he showed that today. Our sprint relays did well, as did Henry, scoring in both the throws. To win by [15 points] at a state meet, I was really pleased with that. Typically, it is pretty close.”
Photos by Wes Morgan
Others from around St. Joseph and Kalamazoo Counties had big-time performances as well, landing on the all-state (top eight) list in their respective events.
Mendon’s Sam Cleveland turned in a time of 11.41 in the 100 meters for third place, teammate Arjun Vorster placed fourth overall in the discus (143-03), and Centreville’s Tyler Overholt was seventh in the same event at 138-03. Kalamazoo Christian’s Josh Hoogenboom had a personal-best in the shot put with a fifth-place distance of 46-07.25.
Centreville’s 3200-relay team of Ross Hunter, Jacob Larrison, Justus Chupp and Jared Rank just missed the all-state podium in 10th place with a time of 8:35.10, while Rank, Matt Weber, Larrison and Hunter took 12th in the 800 relay in 1:35.37. Mendon’s 400 relay team of Cleveland, Forster, A.J. Voordie and Jackson Crotser tied for 10th in 45.57.
In girls competition, White Pigeon’s Claycee West ran to fifth place in the 400 with a time of 1:00.12, Hackett’s Mary Ankenbauer was runner-up to three-time state champion Samantha Saenz (Concord) in the 1600. Ankenbauer’s time of 5:08.31 was only eight seconds off the winning pace. She also finished second to Saenz in the 3200 in a race that came down to the final kick. Saenz ran an 11:15.51 and Ankenbauer crossed the line in 11:17.28.
Hackett’s Jenny Masztak, Sofia Klemmer, Madeleine Coffman and Sydney Preston combined for a sixth-place effort in the 400 relay (52.78) and Centreville grabbed the final all-state spot after Brittany Morris, Kalee Schrock, Carly Todd and Kayla Jepson recorded an eighth-place time of 52.87. Masztak, Klemmer, Coffman and Preston would also take seventh place in the 800 relay (1:50.78). Centreville’s Samara Schlabach earned sixth in the high jump at 5-0. She was one of eight competitors to clear at least 5 feet.