High expectations for Belding girls track

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 10:08 am on Friday, May 16, 2014

Belding’s Rachel Warner competes in the 3,200 relay during the O-K Blue Conference meet at home this month.

BELDING — The Belding Redskins girls track team is in the midst of an incredibly successful two-year run.

The Redskins followed up last year’s perfect O-K Blue season and conference championship with a second consecutive perfect dual season and track championship, the only two girls track titles in school history.

“It is pretty amazing to go through the regular season and conference undefeated two years in a row,” Belding coach John Carlson said. “The girls have worked very hard all year. Weight lifting, offseason running and playing three sports are all things that make them better.”

Carlson credits his coaching staff for helping to turn around the program.

“I realized a long time ago when I was coaching at Newberry (state champions 2001) that I couldn’t coach all 17 events,” Carlson said. “I have been very luck to recruit some great assistant coaches.”

Assistant coaches include Joel Madsen, Tom Morse, John Large, David Ross, Chris Kmiecik, Chris Shindorf and Jory Tripp.

Along with an experienced coaching staff, the Redskins boast a talented, young and still improving team. All of that has helped to raise expectations for this postseason, which begins today at the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Division 2 regional meet at Houseman Field in Grand Rapids.

“We hope to qualify as many people as possible for the MHSAA state meet. The only way to qualify for the MHSAA finals is for individuals to place in the top two in their event at regionals or to achieve a qualifying mark at regionals,” Carlson said. “With this in mind, we are allowing athletes to focus on one or two events so they might achieve at their highest level.”

A year ago, the Redskins qualified for the state finals in the 800- and 3,200-meter relays. Individually, Greta Wilker qualified in the discus and shot put, Monica Baylis in the 800 and MacKenzie Rode in the long jump.

“Forest Hills Eastern looks to be very strong individually, especially in a 16-team field,” Carlson said of their competition. “Their superstar power will be very difficult to challenge. East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills Northern and Grand Rapids Christian are very solid.”

Eastern was the Division 2 runner-up in 2013 and the regular season and conference meet champions in the O-K Bronze this season.

Carlson said their relay teams and field throwing events will be the key to success. All four relay teams are ranked regionally in the top 5.

“We are trying to qualify all four relay teams and I think they all have a great shot at qualifying,” he said, “We could go up or down several places with just a few tenths of a second. Also, the throws could score us a boat load of points.”

Wilker is ranked No. 1 in the region in the shot put, while Gabby Holyfield is ranked No. 1 in the discus.

In addition to Wilker and Holyfield, McKenzie Breimayer (100), Baylis (800), Myles (3,200), Alex Parker (hurdles), Danielle Rode (pole vault) and MacKenzie Rode (long jump) are all hoping to qualify for the state finals.

The Redskins have already qualified for the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association (MITCA) team state finals. Belding is ranked third in the state behind CSAA champion Chippewa Hills and defending MHSAA Division 2 state champion Dearborn Divine Child.

The Division 2 MITCA state meet will take place on May 24 at Linden High School. The Division 2 MHSAA state meet will take place May 31 at Houseman Field.

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