NOVI – Sunny skies and warm weather on Saturday capped off what has been a terrific week of weather in Michigan. It also created an ideal setting for the annual Catholic League Bishop Division Athletics Championships at Detroit Catholic Central High School.
And it was just in time, too, as the school’s warning siren for impending bad weather began to sound just as the award shows began.
Farmington Hills Mercy were looking to repeat as Bishop champions for the first time since a hat-trick in 2005-07, while UD Jesuit were looking to repeat after winning their first title since 2005 a year ago.
The latter of these two titles came to fruition as the Jesuit defended his title convincingly. The Cubs (167.5 points) literally and figuratively overshot the field, leaving runner-up Catholic Central (103) and third-placed Dearborn Divine Child (96) in the dust.
On the girls side of the ledger, it looked like a neck and neck race between Mercy and Divine Child all day. This one-on-one tag team battle lived up to the billing, but Divine Child (172), who had won nine of the 10 Bishop Division titles before the pandemic, reclaimed her throne on Saturday by walking away late from runner-up Mercy (142.5). ). Warren Regina (115) rounded out the top three in the women’s final standings.
For Catholic Central, the second place comes after finishing third in the competition a season ago; they last won the Bishop Division title in 2011. But the Shamrocks put up a strong finish in numerous track events to pass Divine Child for second place.
“I knew today would be difficult with the Jesuits,” said CC coach Anthony Magni. “It’s (similar to) a regional meet and a state finals meet. I just told the guys to compete and see what we can do to go second. We knew it would be difficult, but they all got together.
Just as he did a season ago, the Jesuits used track events to propel themselves to victory. The Cubs earned points in 11 of 12 track events, where they put up 149 of their 167.5 team points, and took first place in nine of 16 events.
Catholic Central were the only team on Saturday – boys or girls – to earn points in every event, finishing fourth or better in 10 cases, but had no first-place winners.
The Shamrocks, however, had a trio of finalist artists, including in two of the four field events. Finnian McClenaghan (47-foot-6.5) finished second only to Divine Child’s Brady Ploucha (52-5) in the shot put. In the opposite throwing pit, McClenaghan finished sixth on the discus, which was also won by Ploucha (152-10).
Joshua Tipton earned second place in the long jump (20-11.5) behind only Birmingham Brother Rice’s Cole Lacanaria (21-3.75). Lacanaria teammate Romas Mitrius in the high jump (6-0) gave the Warriors their only other win on Saturday; Landon Hale (5-8) of the Shamrocks finished tied at five for third place.
Tipton also put his skills on the track for the 200 meters where he finished fourth (22.59) in a race won by Jesuit’s Jaiden Reed (21.35).
Reed also won the 100 meters (10.59), where Catholic Central’s John Alameda was fifth (11.35). The Shamrocks then saw Justin Dewan finish fifth in the 110 meter hurdles (16.52) and Drew Abbott finish sixth in the 300 hurdles (44.62), both won by Jesuit Elijah Dotson.
The Shamrocks finished third in several other events, including two relays: 4×200 and 4×800. They also finished fourth in the other two relays, the 4×100 and 4×400.
The Jesuit quartets won the three longest relays of the day; they also appeared to win the 400 relay, but were later disqualified for an apparent violation in one of the interchange areas. So that title went to Warren De La Salle for their only win on Saturday.
Gavin Filip earned a fifth-place finish in the 400m (53.33), an event won by Jesuit Cameron Hendrix (49.86). The Cubs also had an 800 winner in the form of Josiah Graddick (1:59); Jack Kelly for CC finished third overall (2:00).
And in the two longest individual races – both won by Michael Hegarty of Divine Child – Michael Ehresman (4:43) was seventh in the 1,600 while Ryan Illikman (10:00) was second to Hegarty, although more than 20 seconds back, in the 3200s. Shamrock teammate Brett Leidal (10:07) rounded out the top three there.
Much of the damage caused by Catholic Central on Saturday was largely caused by sophomores and juniors, which surely made Magni happy about the long-term future of his program. It also encouraged the Shamrocks coach to even head to regionals next week.
“The good thing is that maybe we only have four seniors in this squad,” Magni said. “A lot of our points come from juniors, sophomores. It will be a plus to have them with us next year, hopefully we can put it all together then.
On the girls’ side, Divine Child and Mercy earned 12 first-place finishes on Saturday, each earning six apiece. Despite a stellar performance from Taryn Henderson, who was herself responsible for three championships, the Marlins couldn’t seal the deal for back-to-back CHSL titles.
But Mercy head coach Mike Montijo was still very proud, pleased and encouraged by what his largely young squad accomplished on Saturday.
“I think the kids came out today and did their best,” Montijo said. “We still have real fierce competition with DC and still enjoy that with them. There were events where we could have done better, but we have a young team and I couldn’t be more proud of them.
“The goal is always to create depth in every event,” Montijo continued. “We will continue to strengthen this team to make us more agile and flexible. I’m excited about what they’re going to do.
Henderson didn’t admire anyone in the 100 (12.43), 200 (25.80) and 400 (58.68). The Marlins were also atop the final standings in the high jump and long jump – thanks to Milena Chevallier (4-11) and Abby Fush (16-4), respectively – and took the winning relay in the 4 ×100 (51.15).
The Marlins then finished third in the 4×200 (1:53) and fourth in the 4×400 (4:33) and 4×800 (10:50), all won by Divine Child.
Fush also competed in the 100 (16.36) and 300 (50.78) hurdles, both won by Ella Jenkins of Regina.
Anna Boesch ran in the two longest individual races for Mercy, finishing fourth in the 1600 (5:37) and third in the 3200 (12:32). Both of these events were also won by a Regina Saddlelite, this time by Grace Zdankiewicz.
The biggest splitter between Mercy and Divine Child in an event came in the discus throw. The Marlins amassed zero points there – one of only two events where they failed to do so; the other being the 800. The Falcons had 23 points in the discus throw, courtesy of placeholders in three of the top four, headlined by winner Grace Steffes, who also won in the shot put.
Grace Sneckenberger was the top Marlin in the shot put (29-3.75), good for fifth place.
Montijo works with a relatively young squad that expects to struggle steadily for years to come. He not only relishes the rivalry with the divine child in sports, but also enjoys this kind of championship-caliber high-level event as a focus for the state regions.
“You watch the Catholic League and that’s very important to us,” Montijo said. “We are going to have young people who, unfortunately, will not qualify for the regionals. And (Saturday) is a memory they can take away for a long time. But for kids who have a chance to qualify, it’s the perfect starter. And there’s no break, we go from that to counties and then to state championships. It is therefore one of the most critical encounters.
Regionals begin next week, spanning a three-day period from May 19-21. The 63rd Annual Oakland County Championships will be held May 27 in Clarkston before the state finals take place on June 4.