by RANDY GREGORY
The weather wasn’t the only thing that was oppressively hot on Saturday, May 19, at Houseman Field in Grand Rapids. The girls track team from Rockford scored in every single one of the 17 events contested en route to amassing 170 points and claiming the title in the Division I regional meet. To emphasize the breadth of Rockford’s point discrepancy over the rest of the field, Grand Haven was the second-place finisher with 72 points.
“We qualified all four of our relay teams and had multiple place winners in seven individual events today,” said Rockford Coach Randy VanderVeen. “That is the kind of depth we talk about all of the time. The girls really stepped it up today in some very difficult conditions, especially for the distance runners. That is how you create dominating efforts like today, where we took first in nine different events. Success breeds success, and this year’s team took the pressure of our previous year’s efforts and rose to the occasion.”
Katie DeHaan led the way for Rockford as she qualified for the state meet in four different events. DeHaan took the top spot in the 400-meter dash with a time of 59.14 seconds. She was also part of the first-place quartets in the 4×200 (1:42.66) and 4×400 (4:01.04) relays as well as qualifying in the pole vault. The other members of the 4×200 relay team were Elise Schierbeek, Courtney Klaweiter and Sammy Cuneo. The remaining triumvirate of the 4×400 team consisted of Allison Kelley, Olivia Gilbert and Klaweiter.
Taylor Manett and Rachel Raab were also key components for the Rams’ charge to victory. Manett captured the 1,600 (4:58.98) and 3,200 (11:07.32) as well as being a quarter of the Rams’ first-place showing in the 4×800-meter relay team, which took first in 9:19.10. Morgan Harney, Jane Hawks and Kerianne Schoff were the other three members of the 4×800 squad. Raab recovered from a disappointing showing at the conference meet to capture first in both the shot put (38′ 2.50″) and discus (119′).
Cuneo rounded out the winners for Rockford with her title in the 200-meter dash with a time of 26.12 seconds.
While pleased with the efforts of his charges on the day, VanderVeen had a few disparaging words about the inequities of regionals being run on different days in different conditions.
“I really think the MHSAA [Michigan High School Athletic Association] needs to take a long, hard look at the way they let some teams compete in cooler conditions during the evening and making other teams compete in these sweltering conditions,” said VanderVeen. “I really feel we could have had some more qualifiers in the distance events if we had run last night, but that wasn’t going to happen today. The state shouldn’t hold all the competitors to minimum qualifying times when they are making them run in totally different circumstances. Everyone should be running their competitions at the same time.”
Next up for the Rams is the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association (MITCA) Division I team championships, which will be held Saturday, May 26 at Jenison High School.