Chaz Bradshaw says it’s no secret why the Alma boys track team has been running by the competition this year.
“This is the hardest working team since I have been here,” the senior hurdler said. “We have a good group of athletes, but everybody on this team works so hard.”
That hard work is paying off, as the Panthers won their second straight Tri-Valley Central Conference championship this year. They also won their third Division 2 regional championship in the past five years at Chippewa Hills on May 19.
“We have been pretty strong in the past,” coach Chris Brown said. “I don’t know if we have as good a depth as in the past, but this team has great top-end kids. We have several high seeds at the MHSAA state meet and are hoping to score to make our mark there. In four different events, we have a legitimate shot to win a state title. That is way ahead of what we are used to, but that is the goal for the kids.”
That was proven at the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Division 2 team state finals May 26 at Jenison High School.
In a meet that awards team depth, Alma finished in 11th of 12 teams that ran that day, but it did have some great individual performances.
Bradshaw won the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.93 seconds and finished second in the 300-meter hurdles in 40.07. Teammate Adam Sanchez was second in the 800-meter run in 1:58.34, while the 3,200-meter relay team of Jake Morey, Tim DeJong, Broderick Bender, and Sanchez won with a time of 7:56.99.
All of those athletes played a big part in winning the regional title.
Bradshaw set a school record and won the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.11 seconds. He also won the 300-meter hurdles in 40.54.
In all, the Panthers had seven regional champions and broke three schools records in Remus. The team qualified for the MHSAA state finals in 10 events.
Other regional champions were Cole Woods in the discus, DeJong in the 400-meter dash, and Sanchez in the 800-meter run and the 1,600- and 3,200-meter relays.
Sanchez set a new school record in the 800 that day with a time of 1:55.74, while the 800-meter relay team broke the third school record at regionals, but finished in second place.
The 3,200-meter relay team set a new school record with its time at team state.
So this year, the Panthers head to Saturday’s MHSAA state finals at Houseman Field in Grand Rapids with some confidence and hope to win the school’s second state championship. The last was won in 1947.
“I don’t know if we can win this week’s state title,” Brown said. “My goal is if we could have a relay or kid win an individual state title. If we can finish in top 10 as a team, that would be tremendous for us.
“We are probably capable of scoring 20-plus points,” he added. “One of the big keys is to have experience at that meet, and we do this year. It is different than what they are used to.”
Bradshaw is one runner with experience, as he took third in 110-meter hurdles last year.
“[This week] we are planning on placing high,” Bradshaw said. “We have a lot of high seeds, and if we just run to our seeds, we should be all right.”
The Panthers’ top seeds this week are Bradshaw, No.1 in the 110 hurdles; Sanchez, no. 2 in the 800; the 1,600-meter relay team, No. 2; and the 3,200-meter relay team, No. 4.