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Gazelle Sports / Adidas Elite Mile

Blistering Miles Promise a Great Season

by Jeff Hollobaugh

For the latest Michigan HS track news

Allendale, MI -- Yesterday (Jan. 31), the big track at Grand Valley featured a January match-up that was worthy of national championship—and the combatants were all Michigan kids. Grant Fisher, the nation’s top distance runner, took on Donavan Brazier, the nation’s top half miler. Throw in the talented Logan Wetzel, rapidly improving after a year and a half of healthy training following a devastating knee injury and surgery, and you have the makings of a historic race.

Originally scheduled for mid-January but postponed because of a snowstorm, the Gazelle Sports/Adidas Elite mile took place in between college meets on the Allendale track. The MSU-UM dual warmed up the facility in the morning. Michigan’s men won by nine points, while MSU grabbed the women’s win by a mere point over the Wolverines. Highlights included a 69-4 weight throw by Antonio James (Romulus HS/MSU), as well as the Spartan women’s distance crew. Leah O’Connor (Croswell Lexington HS/MSU) won a 2:07.08/4:34.28 double, and Rachele Schulist blistered 9:07.58 for 3000m.


Then the high schoolers took to the track. First up came the girls mile. Audrey Belf, the top seed, left little to the imagination as she immediately took to the lead. The move had not been planned in advance: “I just felt really good so I went for it. I don't usually like to lead in the mile right from the start, so I usually go out just calm and relaxed,” she admitted.


Belf passed the quarter in 72.3 (all of the splits mentioned are 440y splits, not the 400m numbers that were shouted to the runners). She had plenty of company, though teammate Rachel DaDamio was trapped in the pack. The second quarter slowed a bit to 77.2 (2:29.5), as it appeared that Belf tapped the brakes to give DaDamio a chance to break out of the pack and join her. That she did, and Belf then led her through the next quarter in 75.8.


On the final lap, the Georgetown recruit showed what kind of wheels she now has, clicking off a 69.2 as she and DaDamio stretched away from the field. Belf finished in 4:54.51, and her longtime friend in 4:55.06. DaDamio still has not decided on a college, but one would think that after a runner-up finish in cross country at MIS and this breakthrough, she will be getting even more phone calls.


Sarah Kettel chased bravely on the last lap, but Karrigan Smith put down a storming final stretch to grab third, 4:57.14 to 4:57.71.


Said Belf, who is gunning to break 10:00 for two miles this season, “I was just very happy when I got to that last lap. I saw just how much more I had left in me and how much I have left to uncover this indoor season.”


That race, with six girls under five, only stoked the excitement for the boys’ event. Eighteen stood at the crowded start, a staggered double waterfall, including the rabbit, from Ann Arbor Pioneer. The longest of the introductions focused on Fisher, out for his first race of the season—a “rustbuster” as his coach says.


Lining up alongside the Grand Blanc senior, an assembly of the state’s top talent included two shining prospects. Donavan Brazier captured the national title in the 800m last June in a state record 1:48.61. He boosted his distance credentials by finishing sixth in the D1 race at MIS last fall in 15:26, and that on about 40 miles a week of running. Logan Wetzel, the senior from Saline, lost a whole year of running to knee injury after a sparkling freshman campaign. He showed his potential at last spring’s outdoor state finals, placing third in the 1600 in 4:13.23 after running a 1:50.5 anchor for the 4 x 8.


Fisher took the early lead when the gun sounded, and the rabbit caught up and finally passed him at 100m. They cruised through the quarter in 61.9 (Fisher’s split) before the rabbit dropped at 700m. Wetzel stuck close to Fisher, while Brazier had to work his way up from the pack before joining them. The next quarter took Fisher 64.3 (2:06.2). The two challengers stayed close enough to him to make things interesting for the fans, as the gap steadily grew between them and the rest of the field.


Fisher covered the next quarter in 63.7, a couple strides ahead of Wetzel. Brazier moved into second just after the bell sounded. With 200 left, Fisher launched into a decisive sprint. Brazier chased well, but at the line the favorite had built a two-second gap, thanks to a 57.4 last quarter and a 2:01.1 last half. Fisher’s clocking of 4:07.29 is clearly superior to his own state record of 4:09.46, but because the GVSU track is 300m, is ineligible for a record. He knew that going in: “I didn’t come here to run a record.”


Brazier crushed his mile best down to 4:09.32, a huge improvement from his 4:15.3 for 1600m last year (figuring conversions, he cut off 7.42 seconds). Wetzel clocked 4:09.81. Not since the classic Steve Elliott-Jeff Randolph match-up in the 1975 Class A State Finals (4:08.2-4:09.2) have we seen two Michigan boys break 4:10 in the same race. Suddenly, we have three.


Said Fisher of his race plan, “Going in we wanted to make the first 1000m hard, and the last 200 hard. We were hoping to get a little more separation after the K, but the separation didn't come. We just didn't get out hard enough, I think. So I just had to keep pushing. It ended up turning into more of an even race, with a hard lap at the end. I knew they were there. They were close enough that I knew. If we would have gone out closer to 2:02-2:01, then I think we would've been able to execute that plan, but [laughs] you can't go into a race with a plan and be surprised when it doesn't work out. It was just racing. It was good.”


Brazier still thinks his favorite race is the 800, though he was very pleased with his performance. “That was only the third mile race I’ve ever run,” he said. Bound for national powerhouse Texas A&M next fall, the Kenowa Hills senior said, “They recruited me as a 400/800 guy, but maybe if I run a few more good miles, that might change.”


Wetzel, for his part, came looking for a time. “My coach and I just talked about getting down a solid time, not a place. So we were looking to go out in 2:04 or 2:05, which happened. That went well. And then just really pressing that third quarter of the race. Definitely making a big move, and not really relaxing at any point.”


Was the Villanova-bound talent chasing the rabbit or Fisher? “I wasn’t really too focused on either. I just wanted to go in and run my own race because you can't be too dependent on other people.


“This pushes the timeline that we had forward a little. I was expecting 4:12 or 4:13. That was the goal. Running 4:09 puts me ahead of where I thought it was going to be. So that's cool. It definitely sets up some more opportunities.” Next week Wetzel will be running at the Armory in the New Balance Grand Prix.


Concluded Fisher, “We have a lot of guys in Michigan who have a good range, guys who can do cross as Donovan showed, and also the 800. The mile might be a sweet spot for a lot of us. It's going to be an exciting senior year.”

Licensed to Grand Valley State University                 HY-TEK's Meet Manager
                    Gazelle Sports/Adidas Open - 1/31/2015                     
                                 MITS Meet #2                                  
                 Grand Valley State University- Allendale, MI                  
Girls 1 Mile Run
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals 
  1 Belf, Audrey                 Bloomfield, MI         4:54.51  
  2 DaDamio, Rachel              Bloomfield Villa       4:55.06  
  3 Smith, Karrigan              St. Johns, MI          4:57.14  
  4 Kettel, Sarah                Brighton, MI           4:57.71  
  5 Bonner, Rachel               Port Huron, MI         4:58.05  
  6 Weiler, Kenzie               Cedar Springs, M       4:58.73  
  7 Barrot, Lexa                 Northville, MI         5:00.60  
  8 Jackson, Kelli               Hudsonville, MI        5:08.28  
  9 Forsyth, Anne                Ann Arbor, MI          5:14.45  
 10 Fornari, Tessa               Clarkston, MI          5:18.73  
 11 Studebaker, Lainey           Centerville, OH        5:19.61  
 -- Doorn, Emma                  Grandville, MI             SCR  
Boys 1 Mile Run
    Name                    Year Team                    Finals 
  1 Fisher, Grant                Grand Blanc, MI        4:07.29  
  2 Brazier, Donovan             Grand Rapids,MI        4:09.32  
  3 Wetzel, Logan                Saline, MI             4:09.81  
  4 Berry, Anthony               Traverse City, M       4:17.66  
  5 Anderson, Luke               Palms, MI              4:18.06  
  6 Arrivo, Lucas                Ann Arbor, MI          4:22.18  
  7 Ferrante, Jason              Novi, MI               4:23.57  
  8 Naughton, Conor              Northville, MI         4:25.28  
  9 Gauthier, Drake              Grand Blanc, MI        4:25.31  
 10 Jones, Keenan                Livonia, MI            4:25.77  
 11 Mallory, Bradly              Port Huron, MI         4:26.02  
 12 Mylenek, Nathan              Clarkston, MI          4:26.29  
 13 Rebera, Keenan               Lansing, MI            4:27.14  
 14 Eisengruber, Parker          Saginaw, MI            4:28.65  
 15 Benham, Zac                  Twin Laker, MI         4:29.20  
 16 Yagiela, Ben                 Essexville, MI         4:34.50  
 17 Briseno, Benny               Grand Rapids,MI        4:37.95