Gielczyk: Brethren Boys on the Cusp of History

Brethren’s boys track team is on the doorstep of winning its first conference title in 54 years. The Bobcats last won a league title in 1963.

A long drought, to be sure.

The Bobcats finished second in the Western Michigan D League to Onekama/Bear Lake last year.

Now that Onekama/Bear Lake has bolted the WMD for the Northwest Conference, of which the Portagers were members years ago, it’s pretty much a two-horse race this year between the Bobcats and Walkerville.

It could be close. Nothing is guaranteed, of course. But if the Bobcats can win their final WMD Jamboree today at Mason County Eastern, and finish no worse than second in the championship finale which will be at Brethren, they will have done it.

Last week, the Bobcats put a stranglehold on the regular season lead with a 175-148 decision over the Wildcats. They also hope it sends a message that they’re more than ready to sit on the throne vacated by Onekama/Bear Lake.

Although the Bobcats had a good idea that they could supplant the Onekama/Bear Lake co-op team as the league favorite after the Portagers left the conference to return to the Northwest Conference, they still had to prove it on the track.

Well, they certainly have done that, even with their two biggest point getters from last year having graduated.

"The moment it came time for track season and we realized that Onekama would be competing in the Northwest (Conference) and not in ours, that (a league title) was the first thing our boys starting talking about," said first-year boys coach Kyle Griffin.

"Right now it’s between us and Walkerville. Everybody else just doesn’t have the numbers right now to compete. So we’re just kind of throwing everything we’ve got into it, and just seeing what sticks."

So far, Griffin has had a Midas touch. Whatever he turns his hand to in regards to the team turns to gold.

After finally convincing a couple of freshmen and a sophomore who had resisted coming out to join the team only a week ago Griffin was pleasantly surprised when they finished third and fourth in the 100 meters and second and third in the 200.

Just the week before, the Bobcats did not even place in the 100.

Call it beginner’s luck, if you want. But it’s working. Griffin gives all the credit to the kids, who he says have been a joy to coach.

The Bobcats solidified their hold on first place by defeating their nearest challenger to this year’s crown Walkerville, 175-148 in the next-to-last WMD jamboree of the season.

It’s becoming clear that it will be a two-team race down to the wire between the Bobcats and Wildcats when the league championships are held at Brethren, with the others fighting over the leftovers.

Should the Bobcats emerge at the top of the heap when the dust finally settles, they can point to the tremendous seasons they’re getting from a host of individuals who are performing as though they are on a mission.

Brethren’s only weaknesses are in the middle distances where the Wildcats currently hold an advantage over the Bobcats.

After that, though, the Bobcats reign supreme with Judah Rhodes and Nick Kemler in the 800 and 1,600 meters. Logan Tighe has shown great versatility competing in everything from the 1,600 meters down to the 100-meter dash, and been very productive.

Looking for even more points, Griffin attended a pole vaulting clinic at Kentwood this winter and brought what he’d learned back to share with Rhodes and Kemler, who are clearing between 7 feet and 7 feet 6 inches, combining to pick up 18 points by themselves as the only pole vaulters in the league.

Kameron Danks is leading the Bobcats in the shot put, but still needs another foot or foot and a half that would automatically qualify him for the MHSAA state finals. Noah Kemler, who struggled to place last year, has stepped up in the discus and taken second place in each of the last two meets.

"I think we have one kid on our team that hasn’t scored a point in some race," Griffin said. "Which is huge when you’re competing with one team. He’s not a slouch. He’s a freshman that hasn’t fallen into the right event.

"His best events are the 400 and 800, and that’s what where the teams that do have guys are stacked."

The guys who make up the Bobcats’ relay teams are picking up the majority of the team’s points this season.

Kemler not only leads in the shot put and pole vault, but helps lock down the 3,200-meter and 800-meter relay. The other members of the 3,200 relay are Logan Tighe, Dustin Cilman and Gustavo Pires. Joe Tighe teams with Jake Riggs, Danks and Troy Macurio in the 800 relay.

Two weeks ago the Bobcats were able to take first in all four relays, and every single one of the kids in those relays are hitting just about the same splits. It’s almost impossible for Griffin to single any one of them out.

Everyone is carrying the mail and contributing to the team’s success, which might just deliver a league title to the Bobcats. This could be just the beginning, too.

It’s looking very much like the Bobcats are building something that can be lasting, not merely a one-time fluke.

Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. 

Categories: Track & Field