Boys Track Preview
4/22/2014 3:23 AM


BOYS PREVIEW: Lake Orion still tops around Oakland CountyWITH PHOTO GALLERY

  • OakCtyTrack-1.05242013 Joshuwa Holloman (center), Auburn Hills Avondale, took home first place honors in the boys 100-meter dash during the annual Oakland County Track and Field Championship at Holly High School Friday, May 24, 2013. (Special to The Oakland Press / LARRY McKEE)
  • RegionTrack-2.05172013 Joa Simmons, Walled Lake Western, took home first place honor in the boys 110-meter hurdles during regional final track action at Milford High School Friday, May 17, 2013. (Special to The Oakland Press / LARRY McKEE)

But challengers could close the gap on Dragons

Bad weather has resulted in slow starts for most area track and field teams, some of which have yet to compete in any kind of meet. But now, those squads are revving up for the rest of the season when tolerable weather hits as Oakland County teams jockey for position. While Lake Orion appears to be the area’s top teams, the Dragons can’t get too comfortable with a host of able challengers ready for the ambush. Here’s the lowdown.

1. LAKE ORION — Last year, injuries to key veterans restricted the Dragons, who were coming off a 2012 state championship season. Their depth, especially in the sprints, allowed them to remain competitive despite those losses, as evidenced by their Oakland County meet title, as well as their third-place finish at the state meet.

“Our first goal is to avoid the injuries that slowed down our sprint crew last season,” Lake Orion coach Stan Ford said.

This year, more than 100 athletes will be on the run as the Dragons seek to put themselves among the top teams in the state.

Sprinters Zach Arnold and Corey Ester, and middle distance aces David Diaz and Kirk Hansen, are team captains with all-state histories. They’ll figure in a good portion of the scoring duties.

Sophomores Andrew Lorant, Matt Arenz and Jacob Arenz, along with senior Jona Forystek, will help in the distance events, and Palmer Hatch and Jacob Maurer (pole vault) will lead the hurdling crew, while Jacob Hatcher (jumps) and Sheldon Drake, the Oakland County freshman meet 200 dash champ, will also help in the sprints.

Last year Lake Orion won the ninth grade Oakland County meet and Oakview Middle School (Lake Orion district) won the eighth grade Oakland County meet, which means the Dragons could be good for years to come.

2. WALLED LAKE NORTHERN — The Knights have been KLAA North Division champs the past three seasons and the Walled Lake city champions the past two seasons.

“We’re hoping to keep that streak going,” said Knights coach Jeff McNeil, whose squad was also KLAA Lakes Conference runnerup the past two seasons and won 13 straight dual meets before being nipped by a point last year by Walled Lake Western.

Expect much of the same from Northern, who could soar even higher this season.

Senior Jon Dade, ninth at state in the 300 hurdles last year, vaulter Austin Schafer and distance ace Devin Kimberlin (1,600, 3,200) all qualified for state last year. Kimberlin clocked 9:30 in the 3,200 in finishing 10th at state and Schafer had a best of 13-feet-9 indoors in the vault.

Add junior Chris Cliff (sprints) and sophomore Ben Washington, all with state sprint relay experience, and the Knights could be a force.

Senior Mitch Lafaive (distances), sophomore Ramon Rogers (jumps) and sophomore Mike Mulrooney, the Oakland County freshman meet champ last year, and the Knights have added depth.

“We are hoping to make the final step toward winning a major championship,” McNeil said. “We’ve been so close the past couple years that it would be nice to finally seal the deal. But wedefinitely know it’s not going to be easy with the other great teams in our area.”

3. OAK PARK — Oak Park coach Robert Lynch would like a few football players to join the track team, which would make the Knights even stronger. Nevertheless, he’ll work with what he’s got, which will be strong enough to compete at any level. To be sure, the Knights will use their sprint depth with a deep crew of speed merchants to pile up the points.

Veteran senior Maurice Allen is a threat from the 100 to 400 — he’s gone 48.4 in the latter indoors — while Keshawn Spears will help in the long jump. Junior Marvin White and senior transfer Eli Minor, from Ypsilanti, along with Drewe Jackson make the Knights tough to beat. Add freshman phenom Bryce Pickett, who has varsity-level speed, and the Knights could be cruising. “We have a good nucleus,” said Lynch, who coached 
Detroit Mumford to a number of state titles. “(but) we’re lacking in field events.”

Even so, expect the Knights to challenge for league and regional crowns.

4. WALLED LAKE CENTRAL — The Vikings are coming off one of their most successful seasons with their fourth-place finish at the state meet to go with KLAA Lakes Conference and regional titles.

Even with the loss of All-American Cullen Prena, the nation’s top high school discus thrower last season — he’s at Oregon now — the Vikings will be in the hunt with some 80 boys out to wreak havoc again.

The Vikings return virtually the entire team, less four throwers, but field events again will be their strong suit. Senior captain Exhildi Prekaj is the team’s top shot putter and Oakland county meet runnerup. Senior captain Austin Shamoun is a returning all-stater in the discus throw — he was sixth at state — and has added the shot put to his arsenal. “He is the strongest athlete I’ve ever coached,” Central coach Ned Stojkovic, now in his ninth season, said.

Indeed, Shamoun has bench pressed 335 pounds and squatted 585 pounds. Junior Cody Patterson has already thrown 53-2 in the shot put indoors and, at 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, has the potential to challenge Prekaj. And there are more throwers waiting in the wings.

Junior Parker Krupic, who placed 10th at state last year in the pole vault, is better and could threaten the school record of 14-feet, set by Connor Enciso, a few years ago. He also jumps and leads off in the sprint relays. Tim Ford and Billy West have each cleared 6-feet-3 in the high jump.

All the point producers from the running events return, including captains Robert Harris and Nick Krumm, both formidable 300 hurdles athletes. Zane Coplai and Jeff Dunagin will be a force in races from the 400-1,600, as well as relays. Senior captain Michael Hoef and junior Tristan Fackelman will handle the distance races, and sophomores Logan Manning, Ryan Harris and Chuckie Howard add depth to the sprints and relays as these capable athletes are sure to improve as the season continues.

5. BROTHER RICE — Three state football championships, which evolved into long seasons, may affect the Brother Rice track team. “We had so many kids hurt during football season and they don’t seem to be getting better,” said Warriors coach Bob Stark.

If they do, expect the Warriors to be a factor in the Catholic League. John Penington is one of the area’s top distance runners, Mike Carey can run hurdles and relays and Jack Grisan anchors a group of throwers. “And we have a host of young sprinters we hope will be good,” said Stark, who’ll have around 50 athletes on the squad, including sprinters Emanuel Price, Chiebuka Onwuzurike and Chris Clark. However, Rice, which won a regional title last year, could be in for a battle regardless. “Our league, overall, will be tougher than last year,” Stark said.

6. MILFORD — Milford coach Brian Salyers, after a one-year hiatus, is back in the saddle for the Mavs, who figure to be one of the KLAA’s top teams as well as in the area.

Nearly 90 athletes have chosen to contribute. “We have exceptionally large numbers (30) in the senior class and a strong contingent of freshmen,” said Salyers, who’ll count on senior Brian Kettle again. Kettle has had an outstanding career, with a state cross country title, a state 1,600 run title, and a national title in the 4 x 1-mile relay among his many awards. When the gun sounds, he’s ready to race.

Nicklas Ritchie will contribute in the hurdles and sprint relays, and Danny Wallace hopes to rebound from a football injury to produce in the throws. Last year he was at 48-feet-5 in the shot put and 151-feet-9 in the discus throw.

Kevin Black, another quality distance runner with a range from the 800 on up (4:20 in the 1,600 and 9:29.7 in the 3,200) ran with Kettle on the national championship 4 x 1-mile relay. Tyler Carrier will be the team’s top sprinter.

“We are still looking for younger athletes to rise up and fill the gaps we have,” Salyers said. “We recognize that 
Grand Blanc has been the leader of our division for the past couple of years (and) we take pride in being the only team to really challenge them.”

7. WEST BLOOMFIELD — How fast the Lakers will be has yet to be determined. But one thing for sure, West Bloomfield has plenty of speedsters. “Our boys team is sprinter heavy and very, very strong all the way through,” Lakers coach Rick Mickley said.

And with sprint coach Kyle Brown, a state 100 champ in 2003, teaching them the ropes, the benefits could amaze. Juniors Obbie Jackson and Michael King are fast, and sophomore Navon Mosley is a quality quarter-miler. Austin James (long jump) and Gervon Winn (hurdles) add depth to the sprint crew along with junior Marcellus Mitchell (sprints), who came on strong at the end of last year. Mike Evans, a three-sport athlete, will also help in the 400 and Brandon Burton and Justin Christopher-Moody will pace the distance runners.

Junior Eddie Wilson, who could eclipse 50-feet in the shot put, leads the throwers. Nevertheless, the Lakers are built for speed and look to bring fast times to West Bloomfield High.

8. SOUTHFIELD — Southfield’s sprinters will carry the bulk of the scoring load for the Bluejays, but that’s been the case for the last three or four decades.

“We’re going to bring it each dual meet and hopefully we can outscore you,” said Southfield coach Richard Crist, in hopes of compensating for the Bluejays’ weaker areas.

Senior Jordan Billingslea, a football standout, is back to pace the Bluejay speedsters with Travis Cole pitching in. Junior Devin McLeod will also contribute, along with junior Ray Buford and sophomore Matt Falcon, who’ll add depth. With some 80 athletes on the squad and some jumpers and throwers among the group, Crist is still determining starting spots, especially in the relays where the Bluejays should shine. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can help in in the (relays),” he said. “We’ll see who becomes more permanent. Our team is still young.”

9. WALLED LAKE WESTERN — The Warriors might be thin in some areas but not in the hurdles, where they expect to do much of their damage. Shane Moffo scored often in the 110 and 300 hurdles last season and has a track scholarship to Central Michigan. John Simmons, a regional champ in the 110 hurdles, will also help in the long jump, and John Witkowski could be among the area’s leading quarter milers as he zeroes in on a sub-50 400. All will see action in the sprint relays.

Mitchell Dennis and Austin Murray, who each ran on the all-state 4 x 800 relay last year, will anchor the distance races, and Dorian Favors, Kevin Dickey and Cary Katkin form a formidable group in the throws. Senior Steven Meister is the top vaulter as the Warriors, with 110 athletes on the squad, seek to get better. “We’ve got some young kids who’ll come along and be pretty good,” Western coach Mike Zdebski said.

10. NOVI — With lots of bodies and a few strong areas, the Wildcats will be competitive, as usual, by covering all facets of track and field. Brian Barnes leads a distance crew which includes Nate Hall and Thomas Collins, giving the Wildcats depth. But their real scoring potential comes in the sprints, where Jordan Love, a returning regional champ in the 100 and 200, and Ali Taha, who can jump out of the gym, lead the way. Taha has gone more than 23-feet in the long jump during his career, and can push Love in the long sprints. Add DeRon Turner (hurdles) and Parker Sutton (hurdles) and the Cats will put together decent sprint relays. If everything falls into place, they could also challenge for some big meet titles.

11. BIRMINGHAM SEAHOLM — With a good mix of speed, endurance and strength, the Maples look to be a force among area teams.

“We are well balanced team that has the potential to do very well in the big meets,” said Maples coach Dave Hamway.

Indeed, Karl Marback has already thrown more than 53-feet in the shot put and Peter Kessell leads a quality sprint crew which includes Aaron Ware, Austin Paritee (jumps) and Spencer Mink (jumps). They’ll spark the sprint relays while Matt Almeranti could be a surprise in the 800. Ross Bernard, Stephen Young, Alex Skender and Spencer Miller, members from the cross country team which placed ninth at state last year, add depth to a distance crew as the Maples look to contend in every outing.

12. CLARKSTON — Big numbers are apparent for Clarkston, which has nearly 120 athletes on the squad as coach John Bennick sifts through the masses for some diamonds in the rough.

“Hopefully we can find some guys who can fill in different areas,” said Bennick, who’ll have some reliables in that bunch.

Ian Eriksen, an all-state football player, is also an all-state sprinter and regional 200 dash champ who placed sixth in the 200 at last year’s state finals. Younger brother Nolan Eriksen, a sophomore, can also move. Add Caine Watlington, a regional long jump champ, and Merrick Canada, another quality jumper, and the Wolves will be tough to beat in those areas.

Senior hurdler Mitch McCord is in good shape and senior Andrew Swanson will contribute in the high jump. Joe Definis, who came from the soccer fields, ran on the school-record setting 1,600 relay last year while Grant Henley, Nate Heierman and Dan Billette form a capable distance crew. Nick Matich, a lineman on the state championship football team, will toss the shot and Ryan Feeley will see utility work in the sprints.

“In the past, it’s kinda been our distance and middle distance athletes,” Bennick said, “but lately, we’ve been getting some sprint athletes.”

The Rest of the Best

 Although Oxford hasn’t had much time on the track, coach Matt Johnson is encouraged with the potential.

“The boys ... (are) looking really solid and we’re really young, very few seniors,” said Johnson, who has all the areas covered.

Senior Jacob Schenten (captain) heads a distance group which includes Christian Corian, Logan Bruni and Gabe Hogan, the core of a cross country team which placed 10th at state last year.

Senior Mitch Tilley (captain) will pace a sprint corps which includes Glacier Wallington (captain), Dallas Pruitt (high jump) and Josh Johnson.

Connor Bandel is only a sophomore, but he’ll be able to throw with the big boys, while vaulters Kyle Reason (captain) and Noah Kinne complement a capable field event crew. Hurdlers Eric Vandecar and Anson Rowley also have scoring potential as the Wildcats, who number around 80 athletes, gear up for the season.

TROY — Another strong turnout of some 100 athletes guarantees the Colts will be contending in the OAA White.

“It’s a good competitive league with a good mix of speed, distance and skill events,” said Troy coach Scott Player, who has a blueprint for contending.

Danny Wunderlich is probably the best all-around athlete with ability in the sprints — he did 50.8 in the 400 last year — jumps and relays.

Andrew Ellicott could dip under two minutes in the 800 and Kunal Tangri , one of the area’s top distance runers, will also help. Adam Hoef, Kris Zuhl and Thisal Mudalige give the Colts depth in the distances, and hurdler Matt Chimielewski has improvedl. Alex Dello and Kyle Powell will anchor the throws as the Colts appear to be a solid squad.

“In my two seasons back as head coach, we’ve gone 5-0 and 2-3 in duals with all but two meets decided by five points or fewer,” said Player, who expects to be in the thick of things with his current squad. “We should be a very solid invitational team with good to very good athletes in almost every event area.”

AVONDALE — As an all-Big Ten hurdler with years of experience coaching AAU teams, Johnson is stepping in as head coach of the Jackets with tons of experience. Now, he has to translate his knowledge to his athletes, as they embark on another season. He’s already starting with an ace in his hand, and that’s junior Joshuwa Holloman, an Oakland County meet sprint champ last season who won the Division 1 state title in the 100-meter dash. Along with senior Myles Wright, an experienced relay sprinter and jumper, and Jonathan Thomas, and the Jackets could shine in the sprint relays. Alex Hodges and Chris Womack should be improved with Johnson’s presence, and Ben Zaremba, James Saylor, Owen Killewald and Josh Creech will anchor the distance events. Zach Purcilly could be among the area’s top throwers.

“We’re going to try and compete and keep these guys strong in their events,” Johnson said.

WATERFORD MOTT — With the craters, ruts and ridges all gone from the old track, the Corsairs have a bit more bounce in their step. “We’ve got a new track and it’s tough to keep ‘em off of it,” beamed Mott coach Ryan Robinson, who had around 75 runners come out. “We have a really nice turnout ... some really good numbers, and I attribute it to the fact that we have a place to run.”

The Corsairs will take advantage, too, with the core of the point-producers coming from their state runnerup cross country team. Ryan Robinson, Sam Albaugh, Kyler Bush and Luke Peterson will anchor the long distances while Tommy Osika, Simon Albaugh and Brennan Munley will be middle distance aces.

Munley, who placed 11th at the New Balance indoor nationals last month, has elevated his game, already snaring the state indoor 800-meter run title in February. “He’s turned himself into quite a middle distance runner,” Robinson said, “(and) his leadership as a senior is coming of age.

Mott, though, has some areas it’ll try to fill. “We’re trying to find people in the throws and in the sprints,” said Robinson, who could find some surprises. “We’ve got some new guys who’ve come out of the woodwork. They want to do track, they have worked themselves to death and they’re real competitive.”

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