Two years ago, Zeeland East coach Ralph Neal envisioned a group of underclassmen blossoming into a formidable contender for a state championship.
His imagination became a reality on Saturday.
Zeeland East took advantage of its home surface and rolled to the Division 2 state track and field championship on Saturday with a 29-point victory margin over second-place Coldwater.
Neal, whose team finished third last year and second in 2015, said his team was hungry after being so close in previous years.
“It was one of those days that doesn’t happen very often,” said Neal, who saw Orchard Lake St. Mary’s win the title the previous two years. “We were very appreciative of the fact that we were able to win it today.”
Zeeland East senior Jonathan Groendyk won the 800-meter dash (1:53.4) and was a leg on the 4x400 meter relay team with junior Dan Cramer, junior Corbin DeJonge and sophomore Gabe Taylor.
Senior Jonathan Berghorst won the shot put (56 feet, 1.5 inches).
Neal thought back to the team’s runner-up finish in 2015 — that’s when he pictured his freshman and sophomores becoming key cogs down the road. And it came into fruition on Saturday.
“We knew were going to have something special,” Neal said.
More Division 2
Ferndale senior John Adams won the 100 state title in 10.94 on Saturday when he edged Romulus junior Pierre Brown (11.08).
River Rouge senior Josh Nelson won the 200 (22.30) to slip by Harper Woods junior Anthony Hudson (22.59).
Dearborn Divine Child junior Luke Ciarelli won the high jump (6-6).
Division 3: Chesaning wins title
Sam Forsyth helped Chesaning’s title-winning efforts by taking first place in the long jump (21-6.5) and was a leg on the first-place 4x200 meter relay with Zach McFarlan, Brady Fraiser and Brandon Keys in the Division 3 meet at Comstock Park High School.
“It’s wonderful,” Chesaning coach Jason Hemgesberg said. “The breaks just went our way. It’s a special thing to win a state title.”
A fire-and-police escort was planned to greet the state champions on Saturday night in the 2,500-person town along the Shiawassee River.
Hemgesberg said he was looking forward to the blaring sirens — and cited the intimate effects of a small town.
“That’s our parade,” Hemgesberg said.
Division 4: Whittemore-Prescott prevails
Whittemore-Prescott won the team title with 36 points to edge second-place Manton (31).
Livingston Christian senior Paxton Titus won two titles — the shot put (55-9.5) and discus (169-10).
Bruce Mason is a freelance writer