By John Leerar
Special to Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS - Almost all track athletes enjoy running on their home track, in front of cheering fans and on a familiar surface.
Zeeland West did not get that opportunity this year. West’s home track, Zeeland Stadium, was closed for the season for improvements, so they did not host a meet.
The Dux, however, made Houseman Field their home at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals on Saturday, winning the title with 50 points after finishing fourth the year before. Second place went to Auburn Hills Avondale, which finished with 38 points.
Zeeland West finished first in only one event as a team, but consistently placed among the top three to build its winning points total.
“I feel satisfied with our performance today,” said coach Phil Hoover. “I’m happy for the athletes and really proud of our coaching staff. We had a lot of consistency in our races, and the points kept adding up. JT (Jason Tran) got a win for us in the 300 hurdles, and we got second in a few other events to win the title.”
Tran, a senior, won the 300-meter hurdles by almost a full second, finishing in 38.79.
“I’m feeling really happy about my performance today,” he said. “I’ve worked hard over the past four years for this, and I thought I finished my career well.”
The senior contributed to his team in other ways as well. He placed second in the 110 hurdles and was the second leg of the 400 relay that took second as well. He also was on the 1,600 relay, which took 10th place.
Many other athletes also scored points for the Dux. Junior Sam Plaska, junior Ryan Lowing, senior Grant Postma, and senior Connor DeWeerd placed second in the 3,200. Senior Danny Bauder took sixth in the 100 dash and second in the 200. Plaska also took fourth place in the 800 run.
This MHSAA title is the first for the Dux.
Zeeland West excelled on the track, but it was junior Logan Targgart of Coldwater who stole the show on the field. After a shaky regular season, Targgart found his form when it mattered most. He finished first in the discus with a throw of 168 feet, 7 inches, and second in the shot put with a throw of 54-5¼ .
“It feels really amazing to be a state champion,” said Targgart of his discus performance. “I had kind of a bad season before this, but everything clicked and it went really well. My PR (Personal Record) was 157-1, which I set at this meet last year, and it felt really good to beat that. It was a good day for me.”
Targgart finished sixth in the discus last year.
Senior Colby Clark of Stevensville Lakeshore took first in the 400 dash, finishing in a PR of 48.67 seconds.
“This is my third time back (to the Finals), so I knew what to expect. I have a lot of great guys to race with, and I’m glad I had a great race.”
When asked how his race went, Clark was remarkably candid: “I didn’t have time to think about the race while I was running. I was surprised when I came to the final stretch, and by that time I was dogging it anyway. It was nice weather, I was well-rested, I was mentally prepared for my race, and that lead to my good performance today.”
Clark also talked about how track athletes dealt with the weather early in the season. “It got to the point during the season where I thought that the weather was always going to be this bad. I think we had two days of sun the whole spring,” he said. “But you have to deal with it and make the best of the weather you are given. And we got good weather when it counted, at this state meet.”
Senior John Sattler won the 800 and came in second in the 1,600, leading Byron Center to third place.
“I’m very happy with my day today,” Sattler said. “I was kind of disappointed with my finish in the mile, but I was determined to win the 800 and that’s what I did. It’s my first state championship, so I am really excited about that.”
Other individual champions in the field included Mitchell Mueller of Algonac in the pole vault, Aaron Curtis of Coopersville in the shot put and Anthony Fitzgerald of Melvindale in the high jump and long jump. In races, winners included Fred Boyd of Dearborn Divine Child in the 110 hurdles, Joshuwa Holloman of Auburn Hills Avondale in the 100 and 200 dashes, Austin Sargent of Cedar Spring in the 1,600 run and Nathan Mylenek of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in the 3,200.
PHOTO: Zeeland West athletes hoist their championship trophy Saturday at Grand Rapids' Houseman Stadium. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)