KENT CITY – After winning the 300-meter hurdles by a mile at the Division 3 state track and field meet Saturday, Olivet freshman Emily Peters summed up her extraordinary talent with a touch of humility, but also an understanding that she’s got a gift.
“I’m just grateful. I don’t do anything different than the rest of these girls. I’ve just been blessed with good legs,” she said.
Her Olivet teammates aren’t too bad, either. The Eagles came close to a state title Saturday in Kent City, finishing 7.5 points behind Hart at the D-3 meet. Until Hart took first and third place in the 3200 late in the meet, it looked like Olivet might have a chance win the whole thing.
Hart finished with 64 points, just ahead of the Eagles (56.5). Lansing Catholic finished third (with 46 points) among the 57 teams on hand.
Among those propelling Olivet to the brink of a state title: Peters, senior Payton Otto, who won the shot put title with a throw of 39-04.5 (feet), and the Eagles’ state champion 400-meter and 1600-meter relay teams, featuring eight different runners. Seniors McKenzie Speer, Megan Neitzel, Alyssa Kennedy, and freshman anchor Celina Sinclair won the 400 relay in 50.33 seconds. Peters, sophomore Sophia Pell, junior Olivet Gessner and sophomore Cassie Coleman won the 1600 relay in 4:06.68 to close the meet.
Pell gave them separation on the second 400-meter leg and Coleman finished the job with a gutsy and exhausting final trip around the track, which left her doubled over, having given everything she had. Coleman knew Lansing Catholic senior Hannah Pricco wasn’t far behind during that last lap.
“I felt her,” Coleman said while resting on her knees and elbows, trying to recover, as some intrusive reporter wouldn't let her catch her breath. “I listened to the crowd and her (and knew she was close).”
“I had a pretty good idea when we were in front and Cassie got the baton we were going to be OK,” Olivet coach Brian Lincoln said.
Lincoln had gone through a number of scenarios for how his team could win the meet Saturday.
“I thought we had an outside chance,” he said. “I had scored it (in my head) a million different ways.”
Olivet wasn't alone among area teams and athletes producing big-time performances. Lansing Catholic’s Pricco anchored the Cougars’ winning 3200-relay team, following junior Tessa Roe, freshman Frances Melinn and senior CC Jones, crossing the finishing line in 9:23.82. That same foursome finished second, behind Olivet, in the 1600 relay. Pricco also came in second in the 400. And Roe took third in the 1600.
Bath sophomore Destiny McDaniels had a stellar day, winning the 100-meter hurdles in 15.28, almost a full second better than her regional time to knock off favorite Mazie Robison of Saugatuck. McDaniels also finished third in the long jump.
Pewamo-Westphalia’s 3200 relay team (freshman Victoria Hengesbach, freshman Allison Nurenberg, senior Abby Arens and senior Lorelei George) also recorded a top-three finish Saturday.
Pewamo-Westphalia boys finish second at D-3 state meet
The Pewamo-Westphalia boys had a strong day overall, as well, finishing with 44 points, in second place behind Benzie Central’s 51.
Junior Gavin Nurenberg and sophomore Trevor Smith were the Pirates' top performers. Nurenberg won the shot put with a personal-best throw of 57-09.5 (feet) and finished second in the discus with another PR (165-03).
Nurenberg was beaming after twice breaking the school record Saturday — on his fifth and six throws — after talking all season about wanting to set a new mark.
His sixth throw went for 57-09.5 (feet), which secured the state title and throttled the old school record of 56-5.
“My preparation for this has been excellent. Just peaking at the right time,” Nurenberg said. “This means so much. Like, last year, I had a terrible day that (at the state meet). That was my focus since last year — this day. Peak at the right time.”
Nurenberg’s teammate, Smith, took second in the 100-meter dash with a personal-best time of 10.89, which seemed to blow even him away.
“As soon as I got out of the box, I knew it,” said Smith, who credited the conditions — the soft track and wind — for his first 100 meters he’s ever run under 11 seconds.
One of the more dramatic competitions Saturday came in the pole vault between Ovid-Elsie senior Tryce Tokar and Laingsburg junior Jack Borgman, who battled at the regional meet and then again at the Honor Roll meet, with Tokar winning at regionals and Borgman winning last week at the Honor Roll.
Saturday, Tokar won the battle, repeating as Division 3 state champion, with a vault of 15-00. Borgman’s top height was 14-09 Saturday.
This title, Tokar said, felt better than last year because he had to go get it. Tokar credited his parents for helping him recover from shin splints and for all their help "all the time."
“It felt pretty good (to win), because (Borgman) got 15-feet at the Honor Roll,” Tokar said. “So I kind of felt like the underdog.”
Several other area athletes also had top-three finishes. Ithaca senior Ethan Hull took third in the long jump. Bath senior DeVondre Chandler finished third in the high jump. And Olivet’s 3200-meter relay team of junior Tayven Feldpausch, junior Conner Fountain, freshman Dawson Feldpausch and junior Lucas Hopkins took third, as well.
Contact Graham Couch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Graham_Couch.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Olivet, Lansing Catholic girls, P-W boys star at D-3 MHSAA state track