State Meet, June 2, 2012
There’s rarely perfect endings to seasons, or storied careers.
Track and field teams can usually hang their hat on this, or that — small achievements, moral victories, tangible improvement documented by sheered times and longer distances — but to close the book with a state championship, or two, or three is hardly routine.
Onekama capped one of those special years Saturday by boasting a trio of state titles consisting of six champions.
Seniors Jaylee Brown and Tyler Fogarty closed their prep careers in impressive fashion, each winning the pole vault at the Division 4 finals in Jenison.
Onekama’s 400-meter relay team of Meredith Hengy, Nisha Collins, Alyson Fink and Breanna Fink lived up to their No. 1 seeding and earned gold as well. The Portagers — boys or girls — haven’t had a state champion since Tony Thomas won the pole vault in 2003.
“Couldn’t ask for a better day,” said girls coach Bonnie Brown. “Every year, we try to take as many kids to have the experience, and usually want some of them to place. That’s a feat in itself, but to come home with five (girls) state champions is just a coach’s dream.”
Said boys coach Anthony Torres of Fogarty’s state title: “For somebody who’s worked hard all season, and especially in the second half, kept improving his height, it’s just a great accomplishment. The smile on his face was awesome, and it was well deserved. And the whole bus ride home, I had a smile on my face too.”
Fogarty Goes Out on Top
Onekama’s vaulters have qualified for the finals all four of their varsity careers. Brown consistently finished in the top eight for All-State honors while Fogarty placed seventh in his sophomore campaign.
As seniors, they made Saturday their most successful trip.
“We were all pretty happy,” Fogarty said. “It was fun for everybody; it’s really the only way I can describe it. Everyone was hugging and screaming — just a really happy feeling.”
Fogarty had a near-perfect day, clearing every height on first attempts until missing at 13-8. “He had a great day,” Torres said. “He didn’t miss any vaults the whole day, and that’s what it ended up boiling down to.”
Fogarty, Christopher Tom of Colon and Maxwell Ketterer of Pellston each cleared 13-5 but were unable to clear 13-8. Since Fogarty hadn’t missed all day, and the other two had, he earned the title.
Fogarty was also part of Onekama’s 400- and 800-meter relay teams that qualified for the finals, but Torres decided to use alternate Tyler Groenwald in his place so the senior could focus on the pole vault.
“We knew we were going to pull him out of the 800 relay, but he was vaulting pretty good when it was just him and a couple other guys, so we made the decision to pull him out of the 400 too. We wanted to keep him focused.”
Fogarty certainly wasn’t complaining. “I knew I wasn’t going to run the 800,” he explained, “but the 4X1 came up right when we moved up to 13-8, so I knew I probably shouln’t run that one either.”
The strategy worked, and both Fogarty and Torres were quick to thank assistant coach Jerry Brown, whose expertise in pole vault has paid dividends over the years.
“I have to really thank him,” Fogarty said of Brown. “He’s been with us every year for this, so he deserved it as much as we did.”
Jaylee Brown expressed the same thanks: “I know people had to be wondering ‘who is the coach of those guys. He must be doing something right.’ He was pretty excited, pretty proud.”
Onekama’s Alyson Fink (right) hands the baton to Breanna Fink en route to a state title in the 400-meter relay. (Bob Allan/Pioneer News Network)