By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
HILLSDALE – The MHSAA Track & Field Finals are still a couple months, a few thunderstorms and maybe even some snow showers away.
But, there’s once again one thing you can most likely count on – the Hillsdale Hornets boys track & field team will be well represented June 2 at Comstock Park High School.
In Clay Schiman’s first season coaching the Hornets track team in 2013, Hillsdale scored three points at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals meet. In 2014, Hillsdale made the big jump to a fourth-place finish. In each of the three seasons since, Hillsdale has finished second. In each of the past two seasons, they finished five points out of first place; Chesaning won the championship in 2017 and Sanford Meridian in 2016.
Schiman says it’s much too early to tell if the Hornets will have the depth and points to finish that high again. But, no one is counting Hillsdale out.
“It takes so many points in so many different areas to win that state meet,” Schiman said. “We haven’t set our team goals yet. We try and get a few meets under our belt first, then take a realistic look. I’d say we have a chance to score some points and have a few all-state athletes.”
That translates into a team to watch come June.
“Our kids value hard work, whether that is in the weight room or the classroom or learning technique,” Schiman said. “The kids know if they are going to be an athlete here, they are going to work.”
Hillsdale had eight seniors qualify for the boys meet last year, either in an individual event or relay. They have 33 out for track this season, which is slightly down from the last couple of seasons but enough to give the Hornets some depth and options when it comes to dual meets, Lenawee County Athletic Association events and invitationals.
“For a Division 3 school, we have a lot of options for kids,” he said. “It’s just about getting them out and motivating them. We don’t focus on winning every meet or invitational. It’s all about progressions and improving from one meet to the next or one year to the next.”
A good example of how an athlete can improve from one year to the next is what Rees Nemeth did last year for the Hornets. The pole vaulter went from 11-foot-6 as a junior to winning the LPD3 championship last year.
“Track is unique in that way,” Schiman said. “You never know who else is out there or who is going to take that leap from one year to the next.”
At the top of this year’s list of Hornets is junior Spencer Eves, the Division 3 high jump champion last year. He has a good track pedigree. His older brother was an all-state distance runner who now races in college. Spencer went 6-7 last year at the Finals.
“He was on the MITCA team, representing Michigan in the high jump,” Schiman said. “For a Division 3 athlete, that is really impressive. We are excited about his prospects and potential this year.”
Sam Nash was on the Division 3 championship 1,600 relay team in 2016 and will be in multiple events this year, including the 400.
“In his first event of this season he was right where he left off in June,” Schiman said. “That doesn’t happen very often. It was a great start to the season.”
Hurdlers Noah LoPresto and Colby Nash have a ton of potential and Ryan Reiniche is one of those athletes that Schiman expects to make great strides. Reiniche is a discus thrower.
“He finished (last) season really strong,” the Hillsdale coach said.
Hillsdale began this spring like it has for the last several years – at the Charger Preview, hosted annually by Hillsdale College. Hillsdale High uses that meet as a barometer for the season. The school is on spring break next week, meaning the athletes will have a week of working out on their own before returning to action the first full week in April.
“It’s great for us,” he said. “It sets the tone for the whole year. Twenty teams were there competing, so you know, in every event, you are going to get some good competition. It’s good for all of the kids who go to that meet.”
Hillsdale made some strides, Schiman said. Now, its up to the athletes to keep working, improve each week and be prepared for the big stage come June, whether it’s raining, windy or 85 degrees and sunshine.
“We believe in our program and what we are doing,” Schiman said.
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTO: Hillsdale's Spencer Eves competes in the high jump last season.