By Andrew Johnson
He had yet to win a title at the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Track Meet.
That’s a big deal to a lot of local athletes, because it’s their chance to prove themselves against their top opponents from neighboring schools.
Aerts may well have accomplished that goal in 2017, if a sudden illness hadn’t sidelined him on the day of the meet.
“I got dizzy,” Aerts said about his experience last spring. “After my preliminary race in hurdles, I couldn’t walk straight. I was yelled at to sit down, and eventually I passed out on the grass.
“I was throwing up and couldn’t walk straight. I think I had some kind of bug that was going around.
“I had quite a few tears. It was really sad. I was the favorite in four events to be city champion. But it made me hungrier for this year.”
His hunger was satisfied last Saturday, when Aerts won the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.57 and the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.71 at the GMAA city meet at Montague High School.
“It was really cool because it’s just really fun to win those events,” he said. “It gives you bragging rights around your friends in the city.
“It’s really special because there are so many teams in the area that you run against, and it gets really hard to win in events that you don’t specialize in.”
Aerts had one disappointment at the city meet, taking third in the 100-meter dash.
“I stumbled out of the blocks,” he said. “I knew coming up that I was behind, but I had to trust my speed and endu rance that I’d come back. I was pretty much in last coming out of the blocks, and then kind of made my way back up to finishing third.”
But less than a week later, Aerts added to his medal collection with a big victory in the 110-meter hurdles at Thursday’s O-K Black Conference meet. His time was 14.63, which broke the conference meet record of 14.96, which he set himself last year.
Aerts, who competes in the 60-, 100-, 200- and 400-meter dash events, as well as the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, has had plenty of success in his varsity track career, even before his recent victories.
In 2017, Aerts was a part of the Reeths-Puffer 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relay teams that finished fifth and third, respectively, in the Division 2 state finals. He was an individual All-Stater in 2017, finishing seventh in the 110-Meter Hurdles.
In 2016, Aerts was a sophomore, his 4 x 200 relay team finished fifth in the state.
While some athletes might be content with four All-State finishes, Aerts is eager for more. He very much wants to close the curtain on his prep career as a state champion in one of his events in the coming weeks.
“Honestly, I just get chills thinking about it,” he said. “It would be such a cool thing to win. I’ve seen people I know win them, and they can’t believe it in the moment.”
Even having a shot at a state title is a pretty good accomplishment for a kid who did not take track very seriously until his sophomore season.
“We all knew I was kind of fast, but sophomore year I thought if I put my heart and mind into it, I could compete at the Division 1 level in college,” said Aerts, who started running track in seventh grade, and also played varsity soccer for the Rockets.
It turns out he was correct. In November Aerts committed to run track for Central Michigan University next season.
“I really just clicked well with the team and the coach there,” he said. “In other places, it was kind of one or the other. But I really liked the coaches, and their new sprint coach (Andre English) has an amazing resume.
“After I left my visit, I called coach and asked when I could sign.”