By Chip Mundy
Special to Second Half
HUDSONVILLE – Concord distance runner Jesse Hersha imagined the Yellow Jackets would win the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 track and field championship as far back as last summer.
Or just about the time he heard that Nolen Bright-Mitchell was coming to Concord from Albion High School, which had closed its doors because of budget issues.
“Last spring, we were already thinking we were going to be really good and we had a shot to win the state title,” Hersha said. “Later that summer, I heard a rumor that Nolen was coming, but they were trying to keep it on the down low.
“I asked my dad - he’s the coach - and he just said, ‘He is.’ I was like, ‘Yea, we’re going to win the state title.’ ”
Concord did it convincingly, too. The Yellow Jackets finished with 78 points, far ahead of the 46 registered by defending champion and runner-up Saugatuck.
Bright-Mitchell was as good Saturday as Hersha was with his premonition last summer. After winning the 200 last year for Albion, Bright-Mitchell swept the 100 and 200 and ran on Concord’s winning relay teams in the 800 and 1,600. He set LP Division 4 records in the 100 (10.7 seconds) and 200 (21.62), and the 1,600 relay also set an LP Division 4 record in 3 minutes, 24.19 seconds.
Bright-Mitchell, wearing a blue shoe on his left foot and an orange one on his right, will attend Grand Valley State University in the fall. But he hasn’t forgotten his Albion roots.
“I wore my Albion warm-ups in every meet we had,” he said. “But I love Concord. It’s a great community with great teachers and a great school.”
It was the second MHSAA championship in five years for Concord, which won the 2010 title.
“It’s been a really good year, and we accomplished a lot,” Concord coach Mark Hersha said. “We had a vision for it at the beginning of the year, and it’s really good to see the guys put it all together.”
Coach Hersha also received a bonus as he watched his son Jesse win his first individual track title as he took the 3,200 in 9:38.54.
“That was kind of nice, too,” Mark Hersha said. “It was a fast 1,600, so it was disappointing he was third. He cooled down a little bit, and it was courageous to go back out there and run again in the 3,200.”
Jesse Hersha, just a sophomore, already is a two-time individual champion in cross country.
“My whole high school career has kind of been like an only-distance track team, but now we’ve had a lot more people to come out from the baseball team and everything,” he said, “and a couple of Albion guys, especially Nolen.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Nolen for winning four events.”
Bright-Mitchell had some help on the relays as was joined on the winning 1,600 relay team by Lonelle Langston, Chase Hinkle and Zach Hudson, another Albion transfer.
The winning 800 relay team also included Brett Lehman, Langston and Chevy Burk. Langston also was seventh in the high jump, Lehman was eighth in the 100 and Burk was 11th in the long jump.
Concord also placed fourth in the 400 as Lehman, Hinkle, Treyvon Miller and Langston finished in 44.77 seconds.
Another Albion connection is on the coaching staff as former Albion coach Mike Jurasek and his assistant Dan Davis serve as volunteer coaches. Jurasek is a Concord graduate, and Coach Hersha welcomed him to the staff.
“From a distance, we’ve all seen the success he’s had at Albion and stuff like that,” Hersha said. “It’s kind of almost a miracle to see the things he does with kids – his personality, the way he prepares himself to prepare them – again, there’s a reason why he’s successful.
“Everything about him is a model of excellence, and it’s been a blessing all year long to have him. He doesn’t only help with the guys but with the girls, too.”
Saugatuck had only one individual champion, but it came with some flash. Freshman Blake Dunn won the 300 hurdles in 40.22 seconds, while David Dykstra of White Cloud took the 110 hurdles.
There were two LP Division 4 state records broken in the field events. Curtis Bell cleared 15 feet, 1 inch to set a record and win the pole vault, while Tyrell Hall of Marion soared 12-11.75 to win the long jump.
Other winners in the field events were Tucker Scharf of Unionville-Sebewaing in the discus (148-6), Tyler Crenshaw of Brown City in the shot put (51-8), and Hunter Weeks of Homer in the high jump (6-7).
In the running events, Austin Sandusky of Morenci won the 400 in 50.48, Bryce DeGrammont of Mio took the 800 in 1:58.09, and Luke Anderson of Harbor Beach captured the 1,600 in 4:17.49. The 400 relay went to Southfield Christian, and Muskegon Western Michigan Christian took the 3,200 relay.
PHOTO: Concord’s Nolen Bright-Mitchell (4) set LP Division 4 Finals records in both the 100 and 200 Saturday in Hudsonville. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)