South girls, North boys hoping for more track success

By: Thomas Franz | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 15, 2014

 Grosse Pointe South long distance runner Kelsey Schwartz runs with her team during a South practice on April 3.

Grosse Pointe South long distance runner Kelsey Schwartz runs with her team during a South practice on April 3.

Photo by Sean Work

GROSSE POINTES — The girls track and field team from Grosse Pointe South will be running for its fourth consecutive state championship this season.

The Blue Devils will be looking to fill the void left by Haley and Hannah Meier, both of whom graduated from South last year after illustrious high school careers.

South has one of its largest teams ever, with approximately 120 girls this spring. Depth has never been an issue, South coach Stephen Zaranek said, but replacing that top-flight talent could take some time.

“Talentwise, we have a lot of talent coming back from last year, but we did lose some of the best talent in the nation last year,” Zaranek said.

“That’s an interesting combination in that we’re going to be strong this year. Whether we’re as strong or not remains to be seen, but we are deep. We have all 17 events covered well, and we do have some excellent returning talent along with what we find out with our new kids, but that’s a process.”

Junior middle distance runner Ersula Farrow is one of the country’s top 800-meter runners, and she will be looked to score big points for South. Senior Jasmine Brathwaite, who finished third at the state championship meet last year in the 100-meter dash, returns to lead the sprinters.

“We have one of the best combinations of distance and sprints just with those two (Farrow and Brathwaite) at the top, and then we fill in, and we’ve been good with that over the years,” Zaranek said. “We’re always deep in distance, and with sprints, it’s harder to be deeper in because there’s so many good sprinters all over the place, but we have a core of sprinters that’s really solid.”

Senior Kelsie Schwartz, juniors Mary Spencer and Megan Sklarski, along with freshman Kamryn Leonard, will lead South’s distance squad. Those four were all on the Blue Devils’ cross country team that finished seventh in the state finals this past fall.

Repeating as state champions for the fourth consecutive season won’t be easy. Zaranek said that Oak Park, Saline and East Kentwood should all be very tough competitors, along with MAC Red opponent Macomb Dakota.

“I’m hoping that we can squeeze into the top-five, but how far up (remains to be seen). There’s 150 Division 1 teams, and to be up at the top five is a lofty goal, but it’s attainable for us. In the Red, we have Dakota, who was fifth in the state last year. They have a very good team returning,” Zaranek said.

South will open its dual meet schedule by hosting Romeo on April 17.

Norsemen boys look to maintain momentum
After a regional championship and MAC Red league meet title last year, Grosse Pointe North will be looking to build upon last season’s success.

North returns three quarters of its All-State, 400-meter relay team from a year ago with senior captains Kyle Moton and Tod Long, along with junior Tim Herd.

That relay team has already gotten off to a fast start, running a time of 44.1 seconds against Utica Eisenhower in a dual meet on April 3.

“As captains, we’re trying to take a leadership role over everything. Our goal is to make All-State and place higher at state,” Long said. “We’re working a lot and starting earlier this year than before.”

Senior Makai Polk has also already asserted himself as one of the best athletes in the region with a 50-feet-5-inch heave in the shot put against Eisenhower.

For the distance races, junior Joe Ciaravino and sophomore Connor Sickmiller, both state finalists in cross country this past fall, will lead North in the 1- and 2-mile events.

Senior Donovan Holmes will contribute in hurdles, and senior captains John Kusch and Alex Brady will run the middle distances.

With 80 boys on this year’s team, North coach Frank Tymrak will have athletes across the board, but he knows that the competition will be tough at the league and regional levels.

“From what I know of in the MAC Red, Dakota has a really nice team, Romeo will be up there, and then we’ll be very competitive,” Tymrak said.

“That’s the message we always give; we just want the guys to compete. What we always point towards is what, of course, is the biggest meet for us, the regional. But the regional is going to be tough this year with Warren De La Salle joining the region.”

North has won four out of six regional titles, and the Norsemen will be running in the Grosse Pointe South regional once again this year. North already claimed a MAC Red dual-meet victory by beating Eisenhower 88-49, and the Norsemen will continue their league schedule with a dual meet at Sterling Heights Stevenson on April 17.