Mercy, U of D Jesuit find success at Catholic League track finals

University of Detroit-Jesuit senior Lawrence Gilliam crosses the line first in the 4x400 meter relay. Not only did the Cubs win that race, they won the entire meet for the first time since 2005. (Photos by Wright Wilson | Special to Detroit Catholic)

NOVI — Farmington Hills Mercy and University of Detroit-Jesuit have been perennial contenders for the Catholic League track championships, but neither had won the meet for a long time.

Until last Saturday. The Marlins and Cubs captured Bishop Division titles, and each made it look as easy as 1-2-3.

Mercy used a 1-2-3 sweep in high jump from senior Mary Shah (4’10”), sophomore Rachel Baja (4’8”) and senior Kathryn Kim (4’8”) to accumulate 24 points, establishing an early lead in unseating six-time defending champion Dearborn Divine Child.

University of Detroit-Jesuit, meanwhile, was buoyed by a 1-2-3 sweep in the 200-meter dash from sophomore Jaiden Reed (22.07 seconds), senior Lawrence Gilliam (22.34) and junior Devin Grantham (22.70) to pass Warren De La Salle and grab the lead for good.

Winning their first league championship in track since 2007, the Marlins amassed 178 points, finishing ahead of Divine Child (144), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook (87.5), Warren Regina (79), Birmingham Marian (64.5), Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard (40) and Macomb Lutheran North (28.5).

Farmington Hills Mercy senior Mackenzie Sullivan catches her breath after her fourth victory of the day, in the 200-meter dash. Sullivan, who also won the 400, 300 hurdles and was on the winning 4x800 relay, helped the Marlins take the team championship.

The boys’ championship was the Cubs’ first since a five-year string from 2001-05. U of D scored 124 points, finishing on top in a tight battle also involving De La Salle (97), Novi Detroit Catholic Central (92), Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (91.5), Divine Child (75), Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (74), Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard (32), Lutheran North (27.5) and Cranbrook (7).

Mercy won seven of the afternoon’s 16 events, and University of Pittsburgh recruit Mackenzie Sullivan had a hand in four of those. She anchored the winning 4x800 meter relay (9:54.35) before taking individual first places in three races during a four-event span: the 400 dash (1:00.36), the 300 hurdles (46.33) and the 200 (a personal-record 25.77).

“I was super happy with today,” she said. “This was definitely the most stacked my events have ever been, just because we had high goals for this meet, but I have been used to having my events kind of all over the place, so yes, today was a fun day.”

Besides Sullivan and Shah, Mercy’s other event winners were senior Kamerin Williams in shot put (33’6”) and junior Abby Fush in long jump (17’8”).

Mercy’s lead was never threatened as the Marlins ended a 14-season league championship drought.

Warren Regina junior Grace Zdankiewicz is all alone on the last lap of the 1600 meter run. She won that race, along with the 3200 meters.

“It’s been a long time,” Sullivan said. “We’re excited to bring that back home today. Everyone’s been working really, really hard this season; we had a lot of individual (personal records). Everybody was working really hard at training and performing on the track while they can, so I am proud of all of my teammates.”

Divine Child junior Lianna Shakoor won the 100 dash (12.91) and ran on the Falcons’ winning 4x200 and 4x400 relays (1:49.14 and 4:06.73, respectively). Regina junior Grace Zdankiewicz was also a double event winner, taking first in the 1600 and 3200 (5:20.77 and 11:46.95).

While Mercy led the girls’ competition from the outset, the boys’ meet had several different teams atop the standings until the Cubs locked themselves in with the sweep of the 200.

“We’ve got a great stable of 200 kids right now,” coach Carl Brock said. “My sophomore, Jaiden Reed, who won the 200, this is probably like his third 200 of the season. We train our kids to run the 200 and the 400, that’s why my 400-meter champion (Gilliam) came in second in the 200. That third place (from Gilliam) was a surprise, though; that young man just started running this season.”

With the finish line in sight, Macomb Lutheran North’s Joshua Cundy leads the pack down the home stretch of the 800 run. Cundy (1:59.92) was the only runner to break two minutes in the event.

Brock’s runners were able to take that 200 talent and stretch it out across similar events, as Reed also won the 100 (10.97), Gilliam won the 400 (48.54), and the Cubs took first in both the 4x200 and 4x400 relays (1:29.82 and 3:26.69). U of D scored points in every event except one throughout the afternoon.

“It was just important to get all our runners together — distance runners, sprinters — and get as many places as we could get,” said Gilliam, who plans to run at the University of Michigan next year. “We’ve been working hard, working all season, staying together, staying true to ourselves. We expected to do our best.”

The boys’ meet had three athletes who won two individual events apiece: Catholic Central senior Connor Dewan took first in the shot put (51’5.5”) and discus (141’4”); St. Mary’s senior Lance McClain won the high jump (6’2”) and long jump (20’5”); and Divine Child sophomore Michael Hegarty finished first in the 1600 and 3200 (4:28.98 and 9:52.85). Hegarty also ran a leg on the Falcons’ winning 4x800 relay (8:14.26).

The Cardinal Division championship, involving 14 schools, will be held on May 26, hosted by Lutheran North.