Clare track teams win state titles

May 31, 2018

Clare Boy’s Track team

Clare Boy’s Track team Photos by Shannon Zinser

By Ben Murphy
Sports Writer

Winning a state championship in high school sports is a pretty special accomplishment. Winning two in one day? That’s some pretty rare territory. It was all in a days’ work for the Clare boys and girls track and field teams on Saturday, as both Pioneer squads won their respective state titles in the MITCA State Championship meet at the home confines of the Brookwood Athletic Complex.

The boys team, which also won last year’s state title, had just enough to edge second place Berrien Springs, with the Pioneers getting 1487 points and Berrien

Clare Girl’s Track Team

Clare Girl’s Track Team

Springs getting 1427.5.

“Last year’s win was amazing for different reasons, this year’s win was amazing for different reasons,” head coach Adam Burhans said. “It may have been tougher with respects to sprints and throws, and we have a few stumbles in events where we needed to score major points. But that’s the beauty of this meet. The team state championship is all about team, a concept that is lost in the minds of individuals who still perceive track and field as an individual sport. We preach all the time that number ones can’t do it alone. Your number twos, threes and even fours have to give themselves permission to shine. And that’s exactly what happened. We picked up teammates who fell, and just stepped up across the board.”

The team finals meet differs from the MHSAA championship meet is that it awards points to each entrant.

“If you don’t have a deep lineup or a collective mindset that everyone matters, you might as well get on the bus and go home,” Burhans said. “You have to leave no stone unturned. So many things can go wrong in this format on a ridiculously hot day where athletes are dropping like flies. On top of that, it’s a hard sell to kids to stick around with Memorial Day weekend plans. Additionally, seniors sometimes schedule open houses at this time. People make plans months ahead to get away, and often times they forget where this championship falls. So for our athletes and parents to be mindful of this, that says a lot about the collective program goals every year. We truly look forward to this meet because it means so much. It has a way of telling the truth. It truly is about the best complete teams in the state coming together to battle it out for bragging rights. And it was a dog fight all day with Berrien Springs because you could feel that vibe on their end. They wanted that

 from left—Drew Schuster, Brenden Sersaw. 

from left—Drew Schuster, Brenden Sersaw.

honor as well. At the end of the day, our vibe to defend the title was just a little bit better.”

Top performances for the boys included Brenden Sersaw taking third in the 100 and 200 meter dashes. Xavier Martin won the 200 meter dash in a time of 22.66 and Justin Tickle was second in the 400. Kolt Lincoln was sixth in the 110 hurdles and eighth in the 300 hurdles. The 4×200 relay team of Kaleb Brewer, Aidan Hill, Tiernan Gallagher and Silas Bear picked up first place points and the 4×400 squad of Justin Roberts, Dylan Dickinson, Atreyu Franks and John Kronewitter finished second.

Zac Stickler was second in the shot put and Noah Nivison won the discus with a toss of 157-06. Stickler was also third in the discus. Shane Jenkins was eighth in the high jump, Joel Lingaur was fifth in the pole vault and Kaden Kelly was ninth in the long jump.

“Our points in the shot and discus, as well as high jump and vault, help set the tone for the rest of the day,” Burhans said. “When we lost points in the 100, hurdles, and long jump, we had kids like Jake Hawley and Myles Williamson step in and compete at a new level of toughness. We had kids that have been banged

Jenna Betts lands a long jump attempt.

Jenna Betts lands a long jump attempt.

up most of the season grit their way through injury for the team pursuit because they knew what this meant. Outside of our throws, our sprinting core has been our bread and butter most of the year as well, so when you have speed like Xavier Martin, Brenden Sersaw, Colt Smedley, Justin Tickle, and Drew Schuster, we were able to help widen the gap toward the end of the meet. We also have to give props to our distance core who pretty much ran in a furnace all day. Without them near the end, we finish second.”

The Lady Pioneers, who took fourth place last year after winning it all in 2016, finished with 1423 points while second place Adrian Madison tallied 1361.5
“This team was never ranked first throughout the season, but stepped up on the day of the meet, overcame obstacles, and found a way to emerge as champions,” girls head coach Kyle McKown said.

“From Coach Kasey Veenkant laying the foundation with the middle school program, to our awesome coaches on staff (Coach Doug Haggart, Jeania Canel, and TJ Staley), to our parents who are incredibly supportive of the entire program, and to our hard-working and dedicated athletes, this is a championship that everyone is a part of and can be proud of.”

Top finishers for the Lady Pioneers included Ellie Johnson taking seventh in the 400, Lainey Veenkant won the 1600 in a time of 5:18.32 and was second in both the 800 and 3200. Kayden Barber was sixth in the 100 hurdles and Lexi LaPoe was 10th in the 300 hurdles. Adding second place points was the 4×800 relay team of Katherine Haupt, Olivia Haring, Kameron Haag and Natalee Kunse.

Kunse was also second in the discus, Grace Ann Gomez was eighth in the pole vault and Abby Mellish was third in the long jump.

“We had kids that stepped up all day long,” McKown said. “A few minutes into the meet, Natalee Kunse and Kennedy Blackburn set new career personal best throws in the discus, Abby Mellish jumped 15’ for a new career best in long jump, and our 3200 meter relay finished second and ran really well. The early meet success really helped to set the tone for our day and we simply continued to build on it. Erin Weeks ran the best races of her life in the 100 meter dash and 200 meter dash, our sprint relays moved up, and our distance kids in the 800 meter (Lainey Veenkant, Katherine Haupt, and Olivia Haring) and in the 2 mile (Lainey Veenkant, Kameron Haag, and Olivia Haring) helped to bring it home at the end of the meet. There were really a lot of impressive performances throughout the day from everyone and though I highlighted a few of them, everyone mattered and everyone made the difference. I think that our kids simply accepted the challenge and they truly believed that they could do this. What made it even more special was being able to share the honor with the boys team. That is something that I don’t think that any of us will ever forget, but we are thankful and humbled by the entire experience.”

The MHSAA division three state finals are Saturday at Comstock Park.

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