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Weathering the storm

Duncan MacLean • May 20, 2017 at 12:26 AM

KALAMAZOO — With just one shot to qualify for the big dance, track and field teams all over Michigan have been looking forward to Regional weekend all season.

When they wanted sunshine, they got rain, but that didn’t stop some all-star performances for the Grand Haven track and field teams.

The boys put together enough points for fifth place overall at Kalamazoo Lorix High School, while the girls team snuck into second place with a strong effort from their top runners.

East Kentwood took top honors in the boys meet, followed by Hudsonville, Reeths-Puffer, Portage Central and Grand Haven to round out the top five.

The Falcons also took the crown on the girls’ side of the event, followed by the Bucs in second, Hudsonville, Jenison and West Ottawa.

Relentless rain and low temperatures plagued the meet once it began, as a timing system malfunction delayed the start for two hours, putting all the athletes on ice.

“It has been a challenging day with the rain and the computer problem, those things happen,” Grand Haven girls coach John Tarr. “They fought through it for the most part.”

Highlighting Grand Haven’s trip to Kalamazoo was senior Gabby Hentemann, who took individual Regional Championships in the one-mile and 800-meter runs.

“The kids we expected to qualify did,” Tarr said. “Kids like Gabby, those kinds of kids step up and do what they are supposed to do.”

Hentemann was not alone in taking an automatic qualification for the girls team. She led the one-mile relay team to a second-place finish along with Jenny Ryan, Cam Constant and McKenna Keefe.

Henteman also anchored the Regional Champion two-mile relay team of Abby Buitenhuis, Andrea Strainer and Haylee Ray.

Jenny Ryan grabbed an individual qualification with a second-place finish in the 400-meter dash.

“The thing you lose with this weather is some of the kids who are on the bubble of the time standards, and that is a bit of a downer,” Tarr said.

On the boys’ side, the Bucs struggled to break into those top-two automatic-qualifying spots, but did sneak a few through to the state meet.

“When you can do something really good on a day like today, it feels pretty cool,” Grand Haven boys coach Joe Nelson said. “You just keep telling them, ‘focus on what you can control. You can’t control weather or wind or rain, but you can control your warm up and your run.’”

Jack Nicholson highlighted the Bucs’ day with a Regional Championship performance in the two-mile run.

Charlie Young joined Nicholson as the only other individual top-two qualifier with a runner-up finish in the 400-meter dash.

Two relay teams fell just short of automatic qualification, the two-mile relay team of Quentin Couvelaire, Dominic Hentemann, Dominic Weatherwax and Nicholson; and the one-mile relay team of Collin Takas, Aaron Hughes, Timmy Kleyla and Young finished in third place overall.

“It’s the little things today,” Nelson said. “I feel good about little wins, as long as we keep competing, I will be happy with these guys.”

The track stars who qualified for the big dance will continue to train through the meet, with a break for the West Michigan All-Star Meet on May 24. The state meet will take place at East Kentwood High School on June 3.

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