By Chip Mundy
Special to Second Half
HUDSONVILLE – When Reading senior Michelle Davis looked over the girls track and field team prior to this year, she was a little surprised at what she discovered.
“I looked at the freshmen coming up and saw that we weren’t losing as much as I thought,” she said. “We knew it was there to win the state title, but we had to work hard, and we did.”
Reading, fresh off an unexpected runner-up finish in 2013, came into this season with some added confidence, and on Saturday it all came together in an MHSAA championship. Reading won its second Lower Peninsula Division 4 title and first since 2001 with a convincing performance at the Baldwin Street Middle School facility in Hudsonville.
Davis led the way and broke two LP Division 4 meet records in the process. She won the 100 hurdles in 15.05 seconds – an LP Division 4 record – and added the 400 with a record time of 57.33. She also was second in the 300 hurdles and ran a leg on the winning 1,600 relay team.
However, she said breaking the record in the 400 was the most thrilling for her.
“The 400 was the best for sure because my idol is Erin Dillon (former Reading track star who went on to star at Central Michigan University), and she had the record before me,” Davis said. “It’s just amazing – all the hard work.
“Every person on this team worked so hard.”
Reading tallied five first-place finishes in 17 events and totaled 81 points to easily outdistance runner-up Traverse City St. Francis by 25 points.
Coach Deb Price thought the runner-up finish from a year ago played a big part in this year’s championship.
“Last year was somewhat of a surprise,” she said. “I thought we’d be in the top five, but I didn’t think we’d be runner-up. We had a mission. Our goal was to try to get it, but I didn’t want to count on anything until it actually happened.
“I think confidence was a big factor. I think that was huge. I think that made them realize that maybe they could get something. We had an awesome year.”
Junior Jenny Davis, Michelle’s sister, enjoyed a great meet in the sprints. She ran a leg on two winning relay teams – the 400 and 800 – and was second in the 200 in 26 seconds and third in the 100 in 12.65.
“It’s awesome, she did so well,” Michelle said of her sister. “She does so well in sprinting. I used to do sprinting, but she’s got it covered now so I don’t need to.”
Little sister Jenny was impressed by the way Michelle made the transfer to the hurdles.
“We needed another hurdler this year, so she just took that over,” she said. “It’s really fun running with Michelle.
“She’s a great role model for me. We get to run in practice and push each other.”
Reading’s three winning relay teams included a variety of younger runners with at least two more years of eligibility.
In the 400 (51.60) and 800 (1:47.36) relays, Jenny Davis was joined by sophomores Teddi Zimmerman and Samantha Pfeffler and freshman Kaitlin Seager. In the 1,600 relay (4:10.96), Michelle Davis was joined by Pfeffler, Alyssa Kinney and Terasa Eidenier – all sophomores.
Eidenier also took fourth in the 1,600 in 5:13.47 and fifth in the 800 in 2:23.75.
“We have a lot coming back,” Price said.
Runner-up Traverse City St. Francis has an exciting future as well with sophomore Holly Bullough, who won the 800 in 2:15.52 and the 1,600 in 5:01.34. She also was second in the 400 in 58.4 and ran on the third-place 3,200 relay team.
“This year was a little different because I did the open 400 instead of the two-mile,” Bullough said, “but going into this meet, I felt a little more ready because I worked out all over winter and last year I hadn’t done that.
“I felt a lot more in shape coming into this and a little more confident.”
Bullough has a lot to live up to with her bloodlines. The Bullough family has a long history of success in football at Michigan State University, starting with her brother Max, her father Shane and her grandfather Hank.
She said the name does not put a lot of added pressure on her.
“It seems like it would give a lot of pressure, but actually it doesn’t,” she said. “I’m not trying to beat out my brothers or anything. I’m just trying to make them proud. I just want to represent them, so I just go out and do my best.”
She did admit that the thought of playing football has crossed her mind – at least the fantasy of it.
“I always joke and say I’m going to go out for running back next year, but I have cross country,” she said. “I just think it would be funny if I tried.”
Another two-time winner was Ottawa Lake Whiteford senior Miranda Johnson, who repeated as champion in the long jump and broke her own LP Division 4 record with a leap of 18 feet, 6.5 inches. She added a victory in the 200 in 25.15 seconds.
Jade Madison of New Buffalo swept the throws. She won the discus with a toss of 123-0 and broke the LP Division 4 record in the shot put with a winning effort of 43-8.25. In the other field events, Bethany Kuenzer of Pittsford cleared 11-3 to win the pole vault, while Jessica Tea-Hui of Evart won the high jump at 5-4.
Freshman Jordan Goodman of Mason County Eastern won the 100 in 12.55 seconds, while Savanah Feldpausch of Fowler took the 300 hurdles in 45.42 and Kirsten Olling of Breckenridge finished first in the 3,200 in 11:17.24. Olling won the 3,200 all four years of high school.
The lone relay that was not won by Reading was the 3,200, which was won by Beal City.
Price, the Reading coach, also coached the Rangers in 2001 when they won the MHSAA title for the first time.
“It’s a lot like 2001 – nothing feels as good as a state championship,” she said. “I can’t describe it to anybody until it happens.”
At the same time, Concord – from the same Big 8 Conference as Reading – was celebrating the boys title.
“Two teams from the Big 8 Conference win state championships,” she said. “How cool is that?”
PHOTO: Reading’s Michelle Davis clears a hurdle Saturday en route to setting Lower Peninsula Division 4 Finals records in both hurdles races. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)