First-time champs St. Catherine, Bishop Foley take Cardinal Division track titles

Grosse Pointe Woods’ University-Liggett’s Olivia Thomas leads the way in the finals of the girls’ 100-meter dash. She won that race, along with the 200, and was on the Knights’ winning 4x400 relay. (Photos by Wright Wilson | Special to Detroit Catholic)

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Now that Wixom St. Catherine of Siena has won its first Catholic League track championship, it’s fashionable to be part of the group.

“We had matching coach uniforms. We did not have those before, and now we do. I think that’s what did it,” said senior Lily Kueber, with a laugh.

While the purple-and-gold Hawaiian shirts worn by head coach Jennifer Lemieux and assistants Bob Green, Norm Klawender, Talia Smerage, Marisa Coley and Megan Lemieux were distinctive, that wasn’t the only way the Stars’ mentors made an impact on their student-athletes.

“Our team’s really close,” Kueber said. “We do a lot of bonding, and I think it’s because of our coach. She’s very rooted in her faith, making it a big part of our team to pray and everything. I have done other sports, but none of them were as close as the track team.”

Madison Heights Bishop Foley 800-meter runners Mitchell Mandziuk and Max Mader round the final turn of the two-lap race. The duo finished first and second, as the Ventures claimed the Catholic League Cardinal Division championship.

“We run for the glory of God, we run with the strength and the unique gifts that He gives us,” Lemieux said. “We also recognize the gifts that He’s given us are individualized, and He loves us individually and uniquely. We recognize that in each other, and we help to support that in each other, and that’s very important.”

St. Catherine, which has only had its track program since 2016, finished atop the 13-school Catholic League Cardinal Division championship meet held Wednesday, May 26, at Lutheran North. The Stars had 146 points, comfortably ahead of Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett (100), Ann Arbor Greenhills (88), Royal Oak Shrine (83.5) and Allen Park Cabrini (60).

Lemieux’s squad had five first-place finishes, and Kueber figured in four of them, winning the high hurdles (17.78), low hurdles (52.94) and long jump (14’11”) while also anchoring the 4x100 relay (54.21). Sophomore Rosemary VanBerkum won the 800 run (2:37.38) for the Stars, which had seven additional athletes finish among the top three of their events.

Wixom St. Catherine sophomore Rosemary VanBerkum charges toward the finish line in first place during the 800-meter run. She helped the Stars capture their first Catholic League track title.

“They knew that they had to work together in order to succeed, and it wasn’t about the individual aspect,” Lemieux said. “We had strong wins, but it was also working together as a team. That’s what was stressed, and that’s what they did, so I was very proud of them.”

Finalist University-Liggett got victories from sophomore Olivia Thomas in the 100- and 200-meter dashes (13.10 and 26.38); she was also on the Knights’ first-place 4x400 relay (4:30.57). Cabrini freshman Ava Teed won the 1600 (5:35.44) and 3200 (12:13.41). Greenhills senior Makayla Harris won shot put (34’ 8.5”) and discus (102’ 0”).

Season of firsts for Bishop Foley

If you asked Madison Heights Bishop Foley coach Rick Bray to pick a defining moment of the meet, his answer might surprise you. 

“The 100 meters, because we performed very poorly in that,” said the Ventures’ first-year coach. “We were expecting to finish at least two in the top four, and I think we finished seventh. One of our athletes had a pounding headache and another was sick just before the start of the race.”

After that event, it became apparent to the rest of Bishop Foley’s 40-member squad that they had to step up, and that’s exactly what happened.

“Fortunately, we were able to score in all the relays — I think we did our best in all the relays that we’ve done all year,” Bray said. “We were first and second in the 800, and second, third and fourth in the 1600, but nobody won more than one event. We just had really good depth this year. We scored in every event and we didn’t get shut out, which was a good thing. That made the difference for us.”

Madison Heights Bishop Foley won its first boys’ track title in school history, with a five-point victory over Detroit Loyola.

Add it all up, and Bishop Foley scored 134 points to hold off Detroit Loyola (129). Clarkston Everest Collegiate (75), Riverview Gabriel Richard (64) and Cabrini (57) rounded out the top five. 

It’s been an historic season for the Ventures, who earned their first Catholic League track championship in school history, on the heels of their first regional title. They were also regular-season sectional champions.

“It means a lot to me as a senior, going out with those,” said team captain Mitchell Mandziuk, who won the 800 (2:11.69), just ahead of sophomore teammate Max Mader (2:12.46). “Normally we do pretty good distance-wise, but this year we got a few sprinters that have been top two, top three in every race we’ve been at. Those points really helped. In field events we have high jumpers and hurdlers this year, and a couple of good shot put throwers.” 

Junior Jay Maynard won the 3200 (10:38.27) for the Ventures, who also took victories in three of the four relays: the 4x100 (45.98), 4x200 (1:36.60) and 4x800 (8:44.55).

“I feel like with all the different points we got, we were a good team all together,” said senior Joey Kennedy, who ran on the two winning sprint relays. “The culture with the coaches is so good. It’s always a positive environment that’s going around; it attracts all of the athletes and the people who play different sports to want to run track. It’s a fun environment, and everybody wants to be here.”

Double-winners included Loyola senior Rahsuan Wells, who took the 200 and 400 dashes (23.49 and 52.15) and Gabriel Richard senior Asher Cousino in both hurdle races (16.34 and 40.60).