The best of the best

Local track and field athletes prepare to compete at state finals

REMUS — A trip to the track and field state finals can seem overwhelming to some of the best athletes in the state when surrounded by a sea of similarly talented athletes.

RISING UP TO THE CHALLENGE: (ABOVE) Morley Stanwood’s Travis McCuaig rises over a hurdle during the 28th annual Pioneer Track and Field Championships last Friday. McCuaig will be competing in four events at the Division 3 state finals Saturday at Comstock Park. (Pioneer file photo)

Chippewa Hills girls track and field coach Sally Schafer has done her best all season, however, to make sure her team is confident as it heads into Saturday’s Division 2 track and field state finals at Forest Hills Eastern.

Coming off a third place finish at the MITCA team state championship, Schafer said the Warriors already have been exposed to the “big meet” setting on numerous occasions.

“We went over what Friday night is going to be like and were going to check out the track and the facilities ahead of time,” she said. “We just want to go through everything so they feel like they have been there so it’s not overwhelming. The good thing is we just went to MITCA and some other big events, so it’s hopefully not too overwhelming.”

Luckily, Schafer said only two of her athletes will be making their first trip to the finals. Megan O’Neil will participate in four events at the state finals after claiming three regional titles in the 800, 1600 and 3200, while also qualifying as a member of the 3200 meter relay team along with Kazia Cooper, Kylie Schafer and Emily Starck.

Corey Robison will make a return trip to the finals in the shot put and discus, while Emonee Anderson will compete in the long jump after setting a school record at the regional finals. Anderson also placed second in the high jump to earn a bid to the state finals. Erin Drouillard also will compete in the pole vault after earning a regional title.

The goal for the Warriors will be to finish in the top eight in each of the events to earn all-state status, Schafer said, which could lead to a top-10 finish for Chippewa Hills as a team.

“If you look at the standings, we’re down to seven (girls) and they’re all sitting pretty good,” she said. “Right now, it’s all about resting and just a lot of little stuff. The jumpers and the girls in our field events are doing some shadowing and practicing. I’d like to see them all earn all-state.”

Chippewa Hills’ boys also will send a number of athletes to the state finals after capturing a team regional title two weeks ago.

Jared Emerson will compete in the 300 hurdles and 200 meters, but suffered a broken collarbone and concussion while practicing hurdles last week and will be out in an unfortunate turn of events, boys coach Casey Russell said.

Trent Karcher will compete in the 200 meters for Chippewa Hills, while John Wixon also qualified for the state finals in the 300 hurdles. The 400 meter relay team of Skyler Barnum, Latear Dukes, Karcher and Emerson will make the trip, as well.

Big Rapids’ Clark Ruiz will make his third consecutive trip to the state finals after claiming regional titles in the 1600 and 3200 meters, while the Cardinals’ Chloe Kinnally will compete in the 1600 meters on the girls side.

Division 3 finals at Comstock Park

In the Division 3 finals at Comstock Park all eyes will be on Reed City’s Sami Michell, who will look to provide an encore performance after becoming only the second athlete in state history to win four individual events at a state championship meet.

In her final season, Reed City coach Brent Michell said his daughter has high expectations once again, but isn’t solely focused on repeating history this weekend.

Michell will look to defend her four state titles in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 200 meter dash and long jump.

“I’m sure that’s what she’s ultimately thinking about, but there’s a reason that’s only happened twice in MHSAA history,” Brent Michell said of Sami Michell’s four state titles last season. “It would be dangerous for us to assume she’s just going to win them all. She needs to compete to the best of her ability. If she’s first, good, but if she isn’t, she knows there’s another event she needs to get ready for.”

Sami Michell has been devoting much of her preparation this week to the long jump, an event she’s only competed in four times this season after recovering from a torn ACL.

“That’s the only event she may be lacking confidence in, just because she hasn’t done it that much,” he said. “She’s at her best at the state finals, though. She won’t be overwhelmed, in fact, I’d say she probably has an advantage with other girls thinking she’ll be hard to beat.”

Reed City’s boys team also will send athletes to the finals this weekend, including Chad Zagacki, who took first in the 3200 meters at regionals, while Andre Jones will compete in the 200 meters. The Coyotes’ 400 relay team of Jon Green, Collin Hatfield, Eric Voelker and Jones and the 800 relay team of Voelker, Eric Bradford, Michael Bradford and Jesus Becerra also are set to compete.

Michell said a top eight finish is the goal for each of his athletes competing in the


“Our conversation with the guys is that if you’re good enough to be there, you’re good enough to medal,” Michell said. “They need to be confident in their abilities. If they do that, they’ll run well on Saturday.”

Joining Reed City at the Division 3 finals will be Morley Stanwood’s Travis McCuaig, who will participate in the the high jump, long jump, 110 meter hurdles and 300 meter hurdles after claiming four regional titles two weeks ago.

Pine River’s girls team will be represented by Michelle Kelsey in the high jump, Mary Ware in the discus and Devyn Powell in the 400 meters. Mariah Holmes, Valerie Holmes, Kelsey and Powell will compete in the 800 relay, while the Bucks’ 400 relay team of Jasmine Blackrick, Mariah Holmes, Powell and Kelsey also are set to compete.

On the boys side, Pine River’s Dustin Ecker will compete in the 400 meters.


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