By Jason Wesseldyk
CONSTANTINE—Three days after winning a Division 3 regional championship, the Saugatuck boys track team was in search of another title at the SAC Championship Meet on Tuesday, May 24.
Securing the league crown would be no easy task, however.
“We had some guys a little banged up after the regional meet and we weren’t going to push them too hard with the state finals coming up,” Saugatuck coach Rick Bauer said. “Plus, there are some really good teams in the SAC. I think two or three teams besides us won a regional. So, for the first time in several years, I really wasn’t sure if we’d be able to pull it out or not.”
As it turned out, Bauer had nothing to worry about.
The Trailblazers won six events and had scoring performances in all but three events in amassing 103 points to beat out runner-up Constantine by 17 points. Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep placed third with 70 points.
Martin was sixth with 56.5 points and Fennville placed 11th with 19 points.
The Saugatuck girls finished third with 72 points, placing behind Schoolcraft (84) and Constantine (82).
The league championship was the eighth straight for the Saugatuck boys.
“I’m so proud of our guys for going out there and giving everything they had,” Bauer said. “We’re one of the only conferences that still has our league meet after regionals, which is kind of a weird time.
“Kids are either riding a high from qualifying for the state finals at regionals or they’re kind of disappointed because they didn’t qualify. Then they have to refocus three days later and that’s not always easy. But our guys did a great job of doing that.”
One of Saugatuck’s five event wins was particularly gratifying—and a bit surprising—for Bauer.
After not running a 4×800-meter relay team throughout the season, Bauer elected to give Tristan Ashley, Max Sharnas, Charlie Stormer and Adam Martinson a shot. And that quartet delivered in a big way, posting a winning time of 8:30.25.
“I know all of those guys are great runners, but it didn’t really line up earlier in the season based on the other events they were running and injuries we were dealing with,” Bauer said. “I was confident they would score some points for us, but having them go out and win the thing was awesome.”
Sharnas also won the 800, crossing the finish line in 2:04.57.
“Max ran a really smart race,” Bauer said. “He didn’t need to go out and put together a (personal-record) performance. He just needed to go out and do exactly what he did.”
In the high jump, Casey Mathieu won for Saugatuck with a 5-11. He was actually tied for the top spot and won in a jump-off.
“I’m so happy for Casey,” Bauer said. “He just missed qualifying for the state finals again this year, so it was nice to see him come back with the conference title.”
The other three event wins all came courtesy of Benny Diaz.
In addition to winning the 200 at 22.19, Diaz also took the top spot in the 110 hurdles (14.05) and the 300 hurdles (37.66). The time in the 300 hurdles represented a new personal record.
“Benny wasn’t 100 percent after regionals, so we held him out of the 100, just to be on the safe side,” Bauer said. “But I knew he’d give everything he had in the other events, and he was great like he usually is.”
Other top finishes for Saugatuck came from Adam Martinson in the 3,200 (second at 10:00.84) and the 1,600 (third at 4:33.58); Tristan Ashley in the 3,200 (fourth at 10:07.17); John Roberts in the high jump (fourth at 5-10); Kurtis Bronz in the 200 (23.31); and the 4×100 relay team of Roberts, Nicola Leoni, William Doucette and Bronz (third at 46.77).
Martin had four second-place finishes: Charley Martin in the 110 hurdles (16.78); JR Hildebrand in the 300 hurdles (43.55); Drake Buell in the pole vault (11-6) and the 4×400 relay team of James Blackburn, Sam Jager, Charley Martin and Taegan Harris (3:39.3).
John Gardea placed second in the shot put for Fennville at 44-3.75.
For the Saugatuck girls, Mazie Robison provided the two event wins as she won the 100 hurdles (16.69) and the 300 hurdles (50.83). She took third in the 100 at 13.43.
Other top-five finishes came from: Aerin Baker in the 100 hurdles (third at 17.79) and the long jump (fourth at 15-2.5); Samantha Sixberry in the 3,200 (14:35.03); the 4x 100 relay team of Baker, Robison, Catherine Pond and Gwen Njike Agokeng (second at 54.29); the 4×200 relay team of Alexis Warren, Pond, Baker and Njike Agokeng (third at 1:59.24); and the 4×800 relay team of Maya Veldt, Sixberry, Alayah Nieuwsma and Elliana Zolper (fourth at 11:24.73).
Fennville’s Carmen Tencate had a good day for the Blackhawks, winning the long jump (16-9.5), placing second in the 100 (13.25) and placing third in the 300 (26.95).