Grand Haven track teams celebrate final home meet of the season

Josh VanDyke • May 5, 2017 at 5:00 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — In a sport built around speed and quickness, it’s sometimes difficult to stop and appreciate the journey to the finish line.

For the Grand Haven track and field program, Thursday’s O-K Red Conference dual meet with Hudsonville was the final lap at Gene Rothi Field on the campus of Grand Haven High School.

The Buccaneers couldn’t find the hidden points they needed to pull off the upset, as the boys team fell, 83-54, and the girls squad fell just short of the Eagles, 73.5-63.5.

Photos from Thursday’s meet

“We expected them to have really good sprinters, and they did,” said Grand Haven girls track coach John Tarr. “We knew we’d have a chance to split the relays with them, and that’s what we ended up doing. We took the 1- and 2-mile relays; and they took the 400 and 800 relays.

“A lot of things went according to plan, just not everything. We needed to have a couple of breaks, and we just didn’t get enough to beat a very talented Hudsonville team.”

Winning events for the Grand Haven girls were: Gabby Hentemann in the 800 (2:15.18) and 1-mile runs (5:22.71), Cam Constant in the 100 (16.97 seconds) and 300 hurdles (48.44), Jenny Ryan in the 400-meter run (1:00.03), the 1-mile relay team of McKenna Keefe, Abby Buitenhuis, Hentemann and senior Andrea Strainer and the 2-mile relay team of Buitenhuis, Strainer, Hentemann and senior Haylee Ray.

“Abby Buitenhuis ran a great race to beat an All-State kid for them,” added Tarr. “That was great to see. She is a really great kid to have on this team. We never knew what to expect out of her heading into the season, because she just ran cross country as a freshman and didn’t run track. She’s been a gift for us this year, and has really helped us out in a lot of areas.

“Cam Constant really ran great, tonight. She beat two really good sprinters from Hudsonville in that 300 (hurdles) and set a new personal best. That time is a top 10 mark in program history, too, so that’s pretty special. We put Jenny Ryan in the 100 to try and split up the points, and she ended up finishing second in that. Then, she came right back and ran a great time in the 200 and split up their sprinters again.

“Even though we didn’t win, I think this meet gave us a great competition level heading into the conference meet. That’s what we really needed at this stage of the season. We’ve either been blown out, or blown teams out so far this season, so to have a tight match like this is really beneficial for us, and I think the girls handled it well.”

Tarr couldn’t be more thankful for the leadership his seniors have displayed this spring.

“We have some great leadership from kids like Rylee Rutherford and Skyler (Boterenbrood),” he added. “They bring a lot of leadership, a positive attitude and enthusiasm. It’s a nice mix, because the junior leaders in our program are a little more low-key and leaders by example, so we’re going to miss all of these seniors’ leadership and talents next year.”

For senior Haylee Ray, it was a nice ending to her home career.

“It was a good way to end our last home meet here,” she said. “There were a lot of positives and it was a good, competitive environment.

“We were definitely motivated before the meet. It’s a good feeling, but it’s still bittersweet, because it’s the last one. We’re all family on this team, and we all get along really well. Everyone is always cheering each other on, there’s never any drama.”

Senior teammate Andrea Strainer, who joined the track team as a junior, seconded Ray’s feelings.

“This is only my second year on the track team, and this year’s team is probably my favorite sports team to be apart of,” she added. “There’s just such a good connection between all of us. It makes everything more enjoyable and fun.”


The Grand Haven boys squad knew they had to take concerted risks in order to knock off Hudsonville.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, the risks didn’t pay off enough.

“We knew we had to have a great meet in order to beat these guys, today,” said Grand Haven boys track coach Joe Nelson. “We knew we had the capability to do it, but we just came up a little short. I think we were just pressing a little too hard to get those extra points that we needed. We had to gamble a little bit, and it didn’t work out.

“We thought we could get them if we had a perfect meet. It wasn’t perfect, but we had a lot of personal bests and a lot of strong performances across the board, so it’s hard to complain about that.”

Junior Jack Nicholson took first in the 1-mile (4:36.40) and 2-mile (9:58.35) to lead the Bucs, while Charlie Young took first in the 400 dash (51.47).

Young also anchored the 800 (1:33.34) and 1-mile (3:33.58) relay teams that took top honors. Teammates Collin Takas and Aaron Hughes were members of both teams, while Adam Nelson joined the 1-mile team and Timmy Kleyla was on the 800 squad.

Mason Mahacek added a first-place finish in the high jump with a leap of 5-10.

“Charlie had a strong day, Jack Nicholson had a pair of strong runs in his events and Mason was big in the high jump, too,” Nelson continued. “Ross Koella set a new personal best in the high jump, too, so we hit a lot of high marks, today.”

Like Tarr, Nelson has been impressed with the strength of leadership within his program, and finds that to be a mark of a successful unit.

“I’m really proud of the leadership we have on this team,” he added. “The seniors, especially, have done a nice job of just understanding what we are trying to teach and what it takes to be successful. They are telling the younger kids how to do things, and that’s what you need to have a successful program.

“It’s really everybody on the team, though. It makes my job easier as the coach of all of these kids when we have some of the older kids stepping up like that.”

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