For the past three years, the East Kentwood boys track team has been running away from its competition, giving coach Dave Emeott a problem that most coaches would love to have.
“I don’t have a person on my team that has lost a track meet, so its tough to motivate 15 and 16 year old kids when they are so use to winning,” Emeott said. “Luckily, they have tradition and internal drive.”
The tradition has been built by the Falcons winning the last three Division 1 state championships. And East Kentwood finished runner-up the previous two seasons, making it five straight seasons the Falcons have been a force in the state.
The internal drive comes a group of athletes that has come through East Kentwood that expect nothing less than first, including Kevin Jackson, Jon Henry, Isaac Cox and Ricco Hall. And those traits have been passed on to new groups that have set high bars for the program.
Junior Houston Glass, who was a three-time all stater last year, is one of the leaders of this year’s team. He knows that the Falcons have a target on their back, but says that no team out there will outwork East Kentwood.
“No, we are not feeling pressure – all we are doing is making sure we work hard,” Glass said, “We have a good team, and need to make sure we work hard.”
Last year Glass finished second in the long jump and was a member of the state championship 800-meter relay and runner-up 400-meter relay teams.
Speed has been a big reason for the Falcons’ success. Although Emeott acknowledges that his team may not be as deep in speed events this year, he’s excited about what other parts of the team can do this year.
“I don’t think we are down, I like our kids,” Emeott said. “We have a freshman that has jumped 6-3 in the high jump and two others at 6-2, so that’s three over 6-2. And I have a kid that has thrown 53-7 in shot put, and and we haven’t scored in shot put in like forever, like 15 years. So that’s five field events alone we can score a ton of points.
“I don’t think we are a down team, but we will have a different look from the past,” he added. “But with proper planning, we have put ourselves in a good position. I think we will have a great season.”
Glass is also excited about the new look of the 2012 Falcons, which will include sophomore hurdler Devin McKinney and freshman sprinter Kevin Smith.
“We have a lot of new talent, but we graduated a lot, too,” Glass said. “We do have some holes to fill, but we are pretty sure we have found some people to fill it.
“This year will be an opportunity for growth and to develop into a better team,” he added. “We are young, we do have a couple people that scored at last year’s state meet coming back, but we are young.”
One of the talented runners the Falcons lost to graduation was sprinter Ricco Hall. Hall was a four-time state champion and Mr. Michigan in track. He now runs for the University of Nebraska, but comes home to help his alma mater.
“Last week Ricco came back on his spring break and worked out with us and he is one of the best freshman sprinters in the country,” Emeott said. “And (Oklahoma national champion shot putter and EK alum) Tia Books comes back and works out with us, too. So there is always support.”
That’s what Glass loves.
“It’s good having that tradition,” Glass said. “We know we have big shoes to fill. With the last two years alone, that team breaking so many records, we have big shoes to fill.
“This year I’m going to try and be the leader,” he added. “And even though I may be looked at as a leader, I’m still going to listen to our seniors because they have the know-how. But I want to be a leader on the team.”
Emeott doesn’t know if this year’s team will bring East Kentwood its fourth straight state championship. He knows teams like Saline, Detroit Cass Tech and OK Red Conference rivals Rockford and East Kentwood will be a threat to stop the streak.
But he’s ready to see what his current team of 125 athletes can do.
We have a lot of nice talented kids, and I know our strengths on the team are located in different places then they have in the past,” Emeott said. “We are looking really strong in the field this year, and hope that is where the points will come from this year.
“I know the day will come when we lose a track meet, but that will be OK,” he added. “As long as we are teaching them hard work and character, that’s what we want.”
EAST KENTWOOD BOYS TRACK
State Champions: 2009, 2010, 2011
State runner-ups: 2007 and 2008
Returning all staters:
Houston Glass: long jump (2nd), 800 relay (1st), 400 relay (2nd)
Justin Williams: pole vault (4th)
Jalen Stovall: 800 relay (1st), 400 relay (2nd)
Branden Vandentoorn: 400 relay (2nd)
courtesy of Jeff Chaney at mlive.com