State title chances await at D4 finals

Portagers sending 16; Bobcats have Cullar

Posted June 1
by Dylan Savela
Manistee News Advocate

There’s a constant competition in track and field that has nothing to do with chasing or trailing anybody.

Athletes will admit the biggest battle lies within.

For 16 Portagers and one Bobcat, Saturday’s Division 4 state finals in Jenison is the last chance of the season to give their absolute best.

“You’re always trying to make those short little gains every time out,” said Brethren boys track coach Travis Walker, whose lone representative from the team will be senior John Cullar in the long jump. “(Cullar) just blew that away in the regional and I think that just shows how focused and committed he is to doing well.

“If he has a good day, he’s got a great shot at placing well.”

A good day — one with a personal-best time, toss, vault or jump — is hoped to be had by all.

The Onekama girls team, which placed second collectively in its regional, is sending 11 state qualifiers to compete in 12 events with high hopes of vying for some state titles.

Portager senior Jaylee Brown leads the charge in her fourth straight trip to the finals.

Despite a nagging back injury her sophomore and junior campaigns, Brown still managed to be an All-State vaulter all three of her previous prep seasons. She’s seeded second in the event heading into Saturday after winning her second straight regional with a vault of 9-foot-6. Her personal best and Onekama school record, however, is 10-6.

“If she has a good day like the day she jumped 10-6, she could be state champ,” Onekama girls coach Bonnie Brown said. “But I think it’ll be an honor for her, like it will for any of these girls, to stand up on the podium. If you do that, you know it’s against the cream of the crop — the best of the best.”

Jaylee Brown will have a busy day aside from the pole vault, as she’ll compete in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles as well as the 1,600-meter relay with teammates Taylor Anderson, Alycia Peterson and Danielle Ward.

Onekama will be represented in all four relays, including the top-seeded 400-meter team of Alyson Fink, Breanna Fink, Meredith Hengy and Nisha Collins; Hengy, Collins, Breanna Fink and Peterson in the 800; and Anderson, Kelly Babcock, Faith Moerdyk and Keena Gilbert in the 3,200.

Gilbert will run the individual 3,200 fresh off a regional crown while Collins will compete in the long jump, Moerdyk in the high jump, Breanna Fink in the 100-meter dash and Peterson in the 200.

The Onekama boys have five representatives competing in three events.

Like Jaylee Brown, senior pole vaulter Tyler Fogarty will make his fourth trip to the finals in the event. He has placed as high as seventh in three previous appearances, but is seeded second heading into Saturday with his regional-winning and personal best vault of 13-6.

“As far as Tyler goes, I think he’s a contender to take the whole thing,” Onekama boys coach Anthony Torres said. “If he has another good day like he has been lately, he’s looking at a possible state championship.”

Fogarty is also part of the pair of relay teams the Portagers will race in the finals. He joins Justin Solis, Quinn Matthews and Drew Slevin in the 400, and Slevin, Solis and Reilly Merrill in the 800. Torres, however, said he and Fogarty agreed that the priority for the senior on Saturday will be pole vault. And with the luxury of having solid alternates to fill in for Fogarty, Torres said that might be the way to go.

“If we’ve got to make a move and pull him out of one to focus on winning the pole vault, I’m all for that.

“I’m very excited for these kids. I guess my expectation for the whole group is to hopefully go out and set some PRs.”

Brethren’s Cullar is the first Bobcat from the boys team to make the trip to the finals in several seasons. He’s seeded fourth in the long jump after an astounding day at the regional two weeks ago. He finished just a half inch short of first with a leap that was more than a foot and a half longer than his previous personal best.

“You definitely don’t see that a lot,” Walker said. “To go from 19-2 to 20-9 — to PR by a foot and a half in just one day — that’s something that just doesn’t happen a lot in track.

“But the last couple weeks of the season, John was saying ‘coach I’m going to make it to state. I’m going to qualify.’ I knew he had the ability. He’s a very athletic kid. He probably could have taken points in eight different events for us this year.

“I definitely think he has high hopes for Saturday.”

 
Onekama girls
  • Jaylee Brown: pole vault (second, 9-6), 100 hurdles (18th, 16.80), 300 hurdles (17th, 50.10)
  • Keena Gilbert: 3,200 (13th, 12.20.10)
  • Nisha Collins: long jump (9th, 16-3)
  • Breanna Fink: 100 (23rd, 13.20)
  • Alycia Peterson: 200 (19th, 27.70)
  • Moerdyk high jump (26th, 4-9)
  • Alyson Fink, Breanna Fink, Meredith Hengy, Collins: 400 relay (first, 51.20)
  • Hengy, Collins, Breanna Fink, Peterson: 800 relay (6th, 1:50.60)
  • Taylor Anderson, Brown, Peterson, Danielle Ward: 1,600 (17th, 4:24.50)
  • Anderson, Kelly Babcock, Faith Moerdyk, Keena Gilbert: 3,200 (23rd, 10:37.30)
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Onekama boys
  • Tyler Fogarty: pole vault (second, 13-6)
  • Fogarty, Justin Solis, Quinn Matthews, Drew Slevin: 400 relay (16th, 45.60)
  • Fogarty, Slevin, Reilly Merrill, Solis: 800 relay (22nd, 1:36.00)

Brethren boys

  • Cullar: long jump (fourth, 20-9)
 
     

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