With nine athletes competing in this weekend's state track and field finals, it would be easy to say that the Alpena track team has had a successful season just by getting that far.
But simply getting to the state finals won't be enough for the Wildcats at the Division 1 finals today in East Kentwood. With as good a season as Alpena has had, it's made the Wildcats' expectations of themselves even higher and girls track coach Collin Riffert knows they won't be satisfied by just competing with the state's best.
"This has been a fantastic year. Doing well at the regional meet, the Big North meet and just to have eight girls qualify for the state meet is unbelievable. It's the most we've sent since I've been here and this is my 12th year coaching at Alpena, so I'm very proud of them," Riffert said. "They've come a long way and not only did they make it, but they want to go there and do some big things."
News Photo by James Andersen
Nine members of the Alpena track team will compete at the Division 1 state finals today in East Kentwood. Pictured, left to right are: front: Kelsey Lewis, Taylor Stepanski and Paige Stepanski; back: Amanda Dort, Emily McAnsh and Christina Kollien. Not pictured are Jared LaBarge, Emily Duncan and Emily Ferguson.
The girls track team will send eight girls to the finals: Taylor Stepanski, Emily McAnsh, Paige Stepanski, Amanda Dort, Emily Duncan, Emily Ferguson, Kelsey Lewis and Christina Kollien. Jared LaBarge is the lone male representative for Alpena.
McAnsh and Taylor Stepanski will have a busy schedule today as they each compete in four events.
Stepanski qualified for the fourth straight year in the 800 run and is hoping to earn another all-state honor after she did so as a sophomore. She will also run the 400 dash and is part of two relay teams.
Track and Field State Finals
Where: Division 1 at East Kentwood; Division 4 at Jenison
"I'm feeling pretty nervous still because the competition gets harder every year, but I'm pretty excited that I made it this far," Taylor said. "Hopefully I end up with all-state again like I did my sophomore year, that's really my goal this year."
McAnsh set a school record in the 400 dash at regionals and was also the regional champion in the 100 dash. While there are a number of veterans on this year's girls track team, McAnsh has been one of the shining stars. She was named the Female Athlete of the Alpena News Honor Roll Invitational on Tuesday and took four individual firsts at the Big North Championships.
She will join Taylor Stepanski in both relays and said she's better prepared for the finals after competing in the 400 dash last year.
"Last year it was different just because it was my first individual event, so I'm definitely glad I had that experience last year," McAnsh said. "This year I'm definitely more mentally prepared than I as last year."
Joining Taylor Stepanski and McAnsh in the 1,600 relay will be Emily Duncan and Paige Stepanski. Amanda Dort and Kelsey Lewis will join McAnsh and Taylor Stepanski in the 3,200 relay.
LaBarge broke a school record in the 800 run during regionals in Bay City and finished second in the event at 1:55.66 to qualify for the finals.
Lewis will join Taylor Stepanski in the 800 run and Paige Stepanski will run the 300 hurdles.
Paige Stepanski, who qualified for the finals as a sophomore in the 300 hurdles, said she plans to make the most of her last state finals appearance before she heads off to Saginaw Valley State to run track with Taylor in the fall.
"It's nerve-wracking," Paige said. "It's exciting and I know that I feel that my last time out on the track for states I'm going to give it all I got and leave it on the track and I think Taylor and Emily feel the same way."
Two Alpena athletes will make their first appearance in the state finals as Emily Ferguson will compete in the discus and Christina Kollien will compete in the 100 hurdles. Ferguson was the regional champion in the discus, while Kollien finished second in the 100 hurdles.
"I'm so pumped. I can't wait to get out there and run and see where I compete with all of them," Kollien said.
The Wildcats' girls team entered the season with the goal of getting as many members of the team to the state finals as possible and now that the goal has been reached, the senior members of the team leave behind quite a legacy for future teams to look up to.
"We've come a long way since our freshman year. To see all the girls that have stepped up this year it's really amazing because we never have that," Taylor said. "I think it's awesome that we can actually look at ourselves and be like, "This is Alpena and everybody else around us is scared of us.' It's pretty cool to have that back and I know these girls next year are not going to let anybody beat them."
A number of area athletes qualified for the Division 4 state finals which will take place today in Jenison.
Boys qualifiers include: Posen's David Kerr in the 100 dash; Alcona's 400 and 800 relay teams; Fairview's Josh Eising in the 100 hurdles and high jump and David Haskin in the 1600 run. For Hillman, Jacob Burger will compete in the 300 hurdles and Devon Dean will compete in the 100 hurdles. The Tigers also qualified their 1600 and 3200 relay teams. Mio's Grant Price qualified in both the discus and shot put, Bryce DeGrammont will compete in the 800 run and the Thunderbolts also qualified their 3200 relay team. Adam Bess will compete in the 100 dash, 200 dash and long jump for Onaway. Other qualifiers for the Cardinals are the 400 and 800 relay teams, Bryer McGinn in the 200 dash, Kyle Moreau in the 800 run and Joe O'Bradovich in the high jump.
For the girls, Posen's Korynn Hincka will compete in the 400 dash and high jump while teammate Valerie Mangei qualified in the 100 hurdles and long jump. Alcona's Megan Quick qualified in the 400 dash and both Quick and Karina Cole will compete in the 800 run. Alcona also will compete in the 3200 relay. Jaelynn Handrich qualified in the 400 dash for Fairview and the Eagles will also run in the 400 relay. Onaway's Emily Estep qualified in both the 100 dash and 200 dash and the Cardinals' 800 relay team also qualified.