East Kentwood — It took almost a full year, but the Oak Park girls track and field team finally earned some redemption.
Or revenge. Or satisfaction. Or whatever you want to call it.
Oak Park finally got a piece of it.
The Division 1 championship that eluded it last year came home to it Saturday in East Kentwood.
Oak Park (66 points) outlasted Rockford (59.5), East Kentwood (52), Lake Orion (48) and Northville (41) in a tightly-contested field.
“We really showed grit and toughness and that we can win, if we don’t have the perfect meet,” Oak Park coach Brandon Jiles said. “We made it tough in certain situations but we’re real pleased.”
Oak Park girls coach Brandon Jiles talks about his team’s redemption and state championship after finishing second last year. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
Oak Park had injuries during the day, and didn’t earn points in certain events they figured to score. But the perseverance his team showed, plus the ability to live up to the pressure of being the favored to win the championship, pleased Jiles.
“Losing by four points last year (to Ann Arbor Pioneer), so close, they had a little bit to prove,” Jiles said. “But they’re tough kids, they love to compete, they love the school, and they wanted it.
“It was a little bit of redemption. There’s always pressure when you’re the favorite. But you prepare for it and mentally, these girls are tough.”
Dorriann Coleman, a senior who anchored the winning 1600-meter relay which clinched the team title, felt last year’s inability to return home state champions stayed with Oak Park.
“In our minds we had to work for whatever we didn’t do last year,” Coleman said. “Even with the (injuries) that happened today, we worked through.
“We knew what we had to do today.”
Aasia Laurencin won the 200 meters (24.6 seconds) and Miyah Brooks won the 400 (55.12), and the relay team of Makayla Gates, Jayla Jones, Mariyah Archibald and Coleman won both the 1600 meters (3:51) and 3200-meter relay in 9:08.75.
The Knights earned points in various sprints and hurdles events to secure the overall win.
“We finally got the win that we’ve been looking for,” Laurencin said. “Last year we didn’t get it, but now it’s joyful tears.
“It was motivation through every single meet. We’ve progressed every single time. It was grind. We stayed focused, we practiced, we ran and ran and ran, never took no breaks.
“We didn’t let a thing get to us.”
Grace Stark of White Lake Lakeland talks about winning both the 100-meter hurdles and 100-meter dash. Ted Kulfan, Detroit News
One of the best individual events of the day was turned in by junior Grace Stark (White Lake Lakeland), who won both the 100-meter hurdles (13.16) and 100-meter dash (11.74).
The hurdles time of 13.16 ranks among the top five nationally this year.
And winning the sprinting event, which comes directly after the hurdles race, made it a sweet double.
“It’s harder mentally than physically,” Stark said of the back-to-back races. “I know I’m tired but with my coach yelling at me to make sure to take deep breaths, I made it work.
“I’m really hoping to dip into the 12s (in the hurdles) next year, that would be great. I just want to continue with my path.”
Locally, Clare McNamara (Northville) won the long jump (18 feet, 7 inches), Hannah Hood-Blaxill (Novi) won the high jump (5-6), Melissa Symons (Lake Orion) the 300-meter hurdles (43:02), Katie Osika (Waterford Mott) the 800 (2:08), and Jessica Mercier (Waterford Mott) captured the pole vault (12-10).
Detroit Renaissance won the 800-meter relay in 1:39 (Makylah Slappy, Mizan Thomas, Paige Chapman, Donae Adams) and 400-meter relay in 47.42 (Imani Jackson, Adams, Chapman, Thomas).
Zeeland East edged Holland Christian (64-62). Detroit Country Day was third (42 points), followed by Lansing Catholic Central (40) and Dearborn Divine Child (35.5).
In Comstock Park, St. Charles and Hart tied for the state championship with 46 points each. Onsted (36), Jackson Lumen Christi (30) and Boyne City (29) rounded out the top 5.
Fowler rolled to the title in Hudsonville, with 87 points. Pittsford (55.5), Southfield Christian (37) and Concord (30) followed.