By Chip Mundy
Special for Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS – There was little question that Saugatuck junior Blake Dunn was the individual star of the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 track & field meet Saturday afternoon at Houseman Field.
Dunn swept the 110 and 300-meter hurdles, both in meet-record times, to lead Saugatuck to the championship just one year after the Indians shared first place with Concord. Saugatuck finished withpoints to easily outdistance runner-up Evart’s 32. Cassopolis was third with 30.
It was Saugatuck’s third MHSAA championship in the past four years, and the Indians were runners-up in 2014.
“The distance guys let me know that we would have won the meet without Blake,” Saugatuck coach Rick Bauer said. “They get tired of my harping at them and asking why they don’t score as much as Blake. We used to be a distance program that ran track, and now we’re a pretty complete team.”
Dunn dominated the 110 hurdles as he set an LP Division 4 Finals record by winning in 14.33 seconds. He won by more than a second while running into a headwind.
“There was nothing I could do about the wind, so I just did the best I could,” he said. “I’m just really glad that I was able to run a good race.”
Dunn’s double came in the 300 hurdles, which he won in 38.31 seconds, another meet record. That victory was by nearly two seconds, and it was his second consecutive MHSAA title in that event.
“Basically, I try to get out as hard as I can and make those guys try to catch me and see what happens from there,” Dunn said. “I just have to hit the hurdles and keep pushing.”
Dunn is one of the top all-around athletes in the state. He was quarterback on the football team, played basketball and already has decided to play baseball at Western Michigan University. In fact, he had to leave his baseball team, which played in the District tournament Saturday, to compete in the track meet.
“It was a hard choice, but I had faith in my baseball guys that they could come out with a couple of wins,” he said. “It’s awesome that the coaches let me play both sports.
“I’ve been playing football, basketball, baseball and track my whole life, and I think it has helped me keep fresh for every season,” he added. ‘They announced a stat that there are fewer injuries for people who play multiple sports, and I think it keeps my muscles relaxed and loose.”
Bauer was thankful that Dunn was able to be on hand at Houseman.
“That’s a kid who throws 90 miles per hour and probably is going to be in the majors someday; that’s great. Thanks,” he said.
Dunn also ran a leg on Saugatuck’s fourth-place 400 relay, joining teammates Jordan Mitchell, Cole Hartman and Jeff Kohlmeyer.
“The 4 by 100 was kind of a surprise,” Bauer said. “We came in fourth, but we beat our school record by a half a second. That’s the sort of thing you hope happens.”
Saugatuck also was second in the 3,200 as Keegan Siefert, Nick Butch, Orlando Carrion and Zachary Pettinga finished in 8:17.84.
While Dunn had the only individual championships for Saugatuck, the team was loaded with plenty of excellent finishes. Perhaps the most inspiring was the second-place finish in high jump by senior Mervyn Auffret, an exchange student from France.
“We didn’t expect him to score at all, and he ended up in second place,” Bauer said. “I didn’t expect that to happen. He had never tried track until this year, and he didn’t know anything about high jump. He also qualified in the hurdles, so he was a great addition to our team.”
Auffret certainly will return to France with some stories to tell.
“I have told all my friends about the high jump and that I’m good at it, but it was really hard at first,’ he said. “I didn’t know much about it. Really, I didn’t know anything.”
Saugatuck had other strong finishes. In the 3,200, freshman Corey Gorgas was second and junior Pettinga was third. Evan Hotary was fourth in the pole vault (12-9), and Xavier Cardona took fourth in the shot put.
The only other individual double-winner at the meet was Santana Scott of Evart. Scott won the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 22.89 seconds and took the 3,200 in 9:42.83.
Other individual champions in the running events were Billy Wojnowski of Big Rapids Crossroads, who edged Montez Brewer of Concord 11.15 to 11.16 in the 100. Freshman Alec Muck of Sand Creek won the 200 in 22.50, Deion Gaston of Cassopolis took the 400 (50.20) and Daniel Mikovits of Concord captured the 800 in 1:58.50.
In the field events, Jacob Kulhanek of Merrill repeated as champion in the pole vault by clearing 13 feet, 9 inches. Southfield Christian sophomore Blake Washington won the high jump at 6-5, just 1 inch higher than Auffret.
Delvon Hines of Melvindale Academy of Business & Technology won the long jump (20-9.25), Paxton Titus of Brighton Livingston Christian took the discus (162-11), and Jacob Lechner of Harbor Springs won the shot put (13-9).
Relay winners included Melvindale ABT in the 400 (43.75), Muskegon Catholic Central in the 800 (1:31.30), Centreville in the 1,600 (3:28.28) and Hillsdale Academy in the 3,200 (8:13.34).
PHOTO: Saugatuck's Blake Dunn clears a hurdle on the way to an individual title while helping his team to the overall championship at Houseman Field. (Photo by Angie Graham/RunMichigan.com.)