By Jason Goorman
HUDSONVILLE — A promise made, is a promise kept.
That was the fulfillment for the Western Michigan Christian girls track team and its school’s first-ever girls track state championship at Saturday’s Division 4 state finals.
The Warriors’ roster has boasted senior running phenom, Abby VanderKooi, since her freshman season. VanderKooi won her third-straight 3200 meter individual state title with a Division-4 record setting run (10:49.25).
The four-time cross-country individual state champ and All-American also took second in the 1600 (4:57.95) and fourth in the 800 (2:23.01). She also contributed on the 3200 relay team’s second-place finish (10:02.45).
In all, VanderKooi helped contribute 31 points to WMC’s 52 total points to edge out second-place Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart’s 48 points.
But winning a team state title in track is rarely done alone and Saturday’s outcome was no different.
If the Warriors and VanderKooi wanted an opportunity to win the school’s first-ever girls track state title, they had to have some fresh faces step up.
Enter senior twin sisters Kyla and Maddie Wiersema.
“Abby had been asking us to run track since our freshman year together,” said Maddie Wiersema who, with her sister Kyla, became friends with VanderKooi in second grade Gems at church in Fremont. “We promised her we’d go out for track our senior year and we had to follow through on that promise.”
Followed through is an understatement.
The twin athletic standouts helped lead the Warriors’ volleyball team to a state semifinal appearance this past fall. The two also led WMC’s girls basketball team to an exciting district championship win in March.
But the Wiersema twins had never participated in track before. Thinking they’d make an impact like helping deliver a track state title seemed a bit of a stretch.
“I knew how athletic they (Kyla and Maddie) were before the season started,” said WMC Coach Greg Gould who coached the Warriors’ girls cross-country team to the school’s first ever girls Division 4 state title this past fall. “Kyla was All-State in volleyball and basketball and Maddie was not far behind her, if not equal in skill. But I really did not anticipate what they were capable of until we got into our season and they started to stand out.”
Their performances for the Warriors definitely stood out on Saturday.
Kyla Wiersema took fifth place in both the 100 hurdles (17.04) and discus (109-02) events. She also finished sixth in the shot-put (35-04), earning 11 points for WMC.
Maddie Wiersema took third place in the shot-put (36-02) event and seventh in the 100 hurdles (17.10), good enough for eight total points for the Warriors.
“I knew they’d be good in track and field and why I kept asking them year after year,” said the Grand Valley State University bound VanderKooi. “This year they came through and they found out what they were capable of and what we could do together. It’s a dream come true for me being on a state title team like this.”
While the three blossomed as good friends through their elementary years at Fremont Christian and high school years at WMC, the family element and Fremont roots also propelled WMC to its landmark title.
Abby VanderKooi’s younger sister, freshman Grace VanderKooi, also contributed to the Warriors’ win. Grace came through with a seventh-place finish in the 3200 meter run, adding two more key points in the state championship. Grace also ran the first leg of the 3200 relay team.
The Fremont connection goes beyond The VanderKooi’s and Wiersema’s too.
Grace Folkema ran the third leg of the 3200 relay team’s second-place finish. Folkema is also from Fremont.
The only runner on the team that contributed points to the win not from Fremont was Nora Anderson who ran the second leg on the 3200 relay team.
Check out more photos from WMC’s big day at Hudsonville High School, shot by Jason Goorman.