In Play with Tom Markowski

Taylor Dziatczak of Lutheran North to undergo heart surgery on Tuesday after winning long jump

Track and Field   | Tom Markowski

Taylor Dziatczak of Lutheran North to undergo heart surgery on Tuesday after winning long jump

Zeeland – Life’s hurdles come in many forms. For athletes they occur through competition. Sometimes they're confronted in everyday life.

Taylor Dziatczak wasn’t the fastest runner at the Division 2 track and field championships at Zeeland East on Saturday. She wasn’t even the best female athlete in the field events (Suenomi Norinh of Zeeland East placed first in the high jump and second in the long jump, and Liz Pyles of Cadillac placed first in both the discus and shot put).

But it’s quite possible she was the best athlete.

Let me explain. Athletes come in many sizes and shapes. Nowhere is this more evident than in track and field where you could have a 100-pound distance runner looking like a gazelle. Then you could have a 250-pound discus thrower who looks like a champion heavyweight wrestler.

Then you could have someone like Dziatczak. She’s a recent graduate of Macomb Lutheran North who will attend Ashland (OH) University on a track scholarship.

It’s not your typical scholarship. Dziatczak is not your typical athlete. She will compete in the heptathlon at Ashland. Athletes who compete in the heptathlon must master seven events. They are the 100 meter hurdles, 200 dash, 800 run, long jump, high jump, shot put and javelin.  

Dziatczak won her first individual title in the long jump on Saturday with a jump of 17 feet, 11½ inches. It’s not a personal-best but its close. That would be 18 feet, 2½ inches.

Her best is the javelin. Yes, the javelin. It’s not an event offered in high schools but it is an event offered at the AAU level. She’s a two-time AAU All-America in the event. She placed second in the javelin as a sophomore nationally in her age group and was third this year. Dziatczak, who is 17-years-old, pointed out she moved up to the 18-and-under age group this year.

She just started competing in the heptathlon two years ago.

“I was playing a lot of sports like softball and volleyball, which I still did play in high school, when I decided to get more involved with track,” she said. “My parents were really supportive.”

Her second favorite event is the 200 dash but Dziatczak hasn’t been able to compete in the 200 much this season. This past winter she was diagnosed with a hole in one of the chambers in her heart. It’s called a PFO, the acronym for patent foramen ovale. The hole normally closes shortly after birth. For Dziatczak it didn’t. On Tuesday she will have surgery to repair the PFO. She is expected to have the procedure done at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Macomb.

The good news is its not open heart. The surgeons will go through Dziatczak’s thigh.

“It’s quite common,” she said. “For most people you wouldn’t notice (PFO). But when you run, run a lot, it’s different.”

Dziatczak seemed to be quite calm when she talked about the surgery. Winning helps.

 

Repeat champion sets record

 

Alexandria LeRoux wasn’t at the finals but she was in spirit.

LeRoux is the older sister of Gabriella who won her third consecutive pole vault title with a division-record vault of 12 feet, 6 inches.

“This means the world to me,” said the senior from Spring Lake. “What drives me is my love and passion. My sister made me try it. I didn’t like it at first. It’s perseverance. It’s with anything. I stuck with it. (Alexandria) had a lot of influence on me. She’s one of my idols.”

Gabriella competed in gymnastics for 13 years before giving it up to concentrate on pole vault. She also competed in volleyball and dance in high school.

Oh yeah, and by the way, Gabriella’s 800 relay team set a school record with a time 1:45.14 and placed second.    

 

Team titles

Lansing Waverly won its second consecutive team title edging out host Zeeland East, 47-46. Holland Christian was third with 34.

Waverly won two relay events (400 and 800) and received a big lift from freshman Priscilla Trainor who placed third in the 200. Those are valuable points (6) when it’s this close.

Zeeland East won its first boys title with 71 points. Coldwater was second with 42 points and Waverly was third with 38.

East was 1-2 in the shot put as Jonathan Berghorst took first (56 feet, 1½ inches) and Brenden Knoll took second. Knoll was also second in the discus.

East also won the 1,600-meter relay.

 

Distance runners excel

 

Noah Jacobs of Corunna and Kayla Windemuller of Holland Christian put on phenomenal performances. For Jacobs it was his last high school meet. Windemuller is a junior.

Jacobs won the 1,600 run with a time of 4:14.03 and made a stirring comeback to win the 3,200 with a time of 9:11.63.

Jacobs, who will attend Wisconsin in the fall, suffered an injury to his left tibia in February and wasn’t sure then if he could recover in time to compete this spring.

“Mentally, I was a wreck,” he said. “My teammates and family kept me going.

“There was a point where I didn’t think I was going to be able to compete today. Early in my career it was about me. Now it’s about family. It’s about Corunna. I’m proud when people say, that kid from Corunna ran well in the distance (races).”

In the two mile, Jacobs led with 600 meters to go before Shuaib Aljabaly of Coldwater put forth a burst of speed to pass Jacobs by two meters.

“I knew that I had to draft (early in the race),” Jacobs said. “I’ve raced (Aljabaly) before. I didn’t worry about him running. I just had to attack the last half. I had to push and push and push.

“I had a couple of coaches with 100 meters to go screaming at me. When he took the lead I had to fight, fight. It’s happened before.”

Jacobs overtook Aljabaly with 50 meters left and won by .21 seconds.

Jacobs is the three-time champion in the two mile.

Windemuller anchored the winning 3,200 relay then won both distance races rather easily. She won the two mile, her best event, with a time of 10:49.9, over 11 seconds ahead of Christina Sawyer of Tecumseh. One of Windemuller’s best friends, Erika Freyhof (will attend Nebraska) of Hamilton was third with a time of 11:11.75.

“Running with Erika was bitter-sweet,” Windemuller said. “It’s her last (high school) race. It’ll be weird not to run against her next year. She helped me a lot today. She pushed me in those first five laps.

“My goal was to get under 10:40. That’s the Division 2 record (Ali Wiersma of Allendale has the record set in 2012 of 10:40.22). That’s OK. I got a PR in the mile (4:52.6).”