by RANDY GREGORY
In what has almost become a yearly right of passage, the girls track team from Rockford took home the top spot in the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association (MITCA) Division I State Championships held at Jenison High School on Saturday, May 26. The Rams totaled 731 points to top the runners-up from East Kentwood, who had 685 as a team.
“We always strive to score the most points of any OK Red team regardless of the event,” said Rockford Coach Randy VanderVeen. “We did that, but as a whole our times and places were not where I thought they should have been. In a meet like this one, a 50-point lead can evaporate in a heartbeat. Our relay teams were a bright spot and I think three or all four of them ran their best times of the season. But as a whole, we were a little disappointed and I think we still need to develop a little better depth.”
Rockford won five of the 17 events, but only two of them were by an individual. Taylor Manett won the 1,600 meters with a time of 4:54.09, and Rachel Raab took the shot put with a toss of 38′ 10″.
The relay events were an entirely different story for Rockford, however. The only team that didn’t win was the 4×100 relay team that still ran a credible time of 49.30 seconds to finish second. The 4×200 relay team blew away the field with a time of 1:41.82 to top the field by nearly two seconds. The 4×400 crew (4:00.11) won by nearly seven seconds and the 4×800 quartet (9:17.88) bettered that by winning by over eight seconds. The members of the teams were: 4×100, Courtney Klaweiter, Sammy Cuneo, Allison Kelley and Elise Schierbeek; 4×200, Katie DeHaan, Klaweiter, Cuneo and Schierbeek; 4×400, Olivia Gilbert, Kelley, Klaweiter and DeHaan; 4×800, Jane Hawks, Morgan Harney, Kerianne Schoff and Manett.
Where the Rams distanced themselves from the field was in the plethora of second- and third-place showings they were able to capture. Probably the biggest surprise was by Bri Malstrom, who just began competing in the long jump in the last few weeks. Malstrom had a second-place showing in the long jump with a leap of 16′ .50″. Maddi Trimble placed third in the high jump at five feet even, Raab grabbed third in the discus, Manett took second in the 3,200 meters, Hawks took second in the 800 and finished third in the 1,600 meters, DeHaan was third in the 400, Cuneo was nosed out by .01 seconds for first in the 200, and Klaweiter placed third in the 100.
Rockford will spend the next several days readying themselves for the state meet at East Kentwood on Saturday, June 2. The Rams will have participants in 12 of the 17 events, and a good share of those occupies seeded spots. Grosse Pointe South, Ann Arbor Huron, Saline, East Kentwood and Rockford comprise probably the top five in the field, although anything can happen in a highly charged emotional atmosphere.
“I really like where we are at and I expect us to be in the top four,” said VanderVeen. “The one thing that separates us from the other schools is that they are dominant in either distances, sprints or field events, while we have solid representation across the board. Anything can happen if we have a really good day and I know the girls will give it their all on Saturday.”