Height has never been an issue for Sarah Birkmeier.
After all, the Michigan State University redshirt junior is one of the best pole vaulters in the country this season.
But the Rockford native – who set her career best last week with a leap of 13 feet, 7 1/4 inches – said she could be even better if she grew a few inches.
“I haven’t grown since I was in ninth grade. So I guess I’ve been disappointed for the last seven years,” she said with a laugh. “So the chance of me growing is zero.”
Birkmeier’s 5-foot-3 stature hasn’t seemed to be an issue. She was a three-time state champion in the pole vault at Rockford and holds the high school state record with a leap of 13-1.
Birkmeier topped her PR at MSU by a stunning two inches at the Spartan Invitational on April 5.
“I was extremely happy,” she said. “I had gotten to the point where I thought ‘maybe I’ve just peaked. Maybe 13-5 is just it. So getting this PR is just amazing. Two inches higher … there’s more to come. I’ve got a lot of confidence now.”
It was even more gratifying since she lost half the 2012 season to ankle surgery. Birkmeier had the ligaments repaired in her left ankle. It was something that had plagued her for years.
“The pain was so bad that I’d wake up in the middle of the night,” said Birkmeier, who also lost her freshman season to ankle surgery.
Birkmeier, who holds the MSU record, has the third-best leap in the nation this season. The top mark is by Mandissa Marshall of George Mason with a vault of 13-11 1/4.
This summer, she hopes to catch up on her reading list and compete in the annual Grand Haven Beach Vault, which is organized by her high school coach Kevin Patterson. Last year she missed the event because she was helping out with MSU’s track camp.
“It was kinda of cool because some of these kids had never pole vaulted,” she said. “Some of them said ‘my school only has one pole.’ Or ‘we don’t even have a coach.’ So it was neat because me and (MSU pole vaulter) Codi Mattix got to show them how to work on technique and stuff.”
Mitchel Patterson, Spring Arbor University: Patterson, a junior, had the biggest game of the season when he went 3-for-3 with two RBIs in a 6-2 win over Huntington in Game 1 of a doubleheader on April 5. For the season, Patterson (Byron Center) is hitting .348 in 13 games for the Cougars (13-9). On the mound, Patterson got the complete-game win in a 9-3 victory over Bethel on April 1. He is 1-0 with a 6.28 ERA.
Mick VanVossen, Michigan State University: The right-handed pitcher had perhaps the best game of his career in a 4-0 win over Siena on April 5. VanVossen (GR Forest Hills Central) pitched a complete-game with 10 strikeoutsto improve his record to 5-1 with a 2.38 ERA. He leads the team with 40 strikeouts in 53 innings. “Mick faced just two over the minimum in game one and really cruised the entire way,” MSU coach Jake Boss Jr. said.
Derek Dennis, Davenport University: The senior shortstop (GR Forest Hills Central) went 5-for 14 with four RBIs in a four-game series with Indiana Tech on April 5-6. He’s currently riding a seven-game hitting streak to raise his batting average to .329 after a slow start due to an injury.
Cam Cooper, Davenport University: The speedy outfielder had his best game of the season in a 12-4 win over Indiana Tech on April 6. In Game 1 of a doubleheader, Cooper (Sparta) went 3-for-5 with two RBIs, a double and a stolen base. He’s hitting .241 and is tied for second on the team with seven steals.
Jordan Zylstra, Davenport University: Zylstra, a senior infielder, has been on a tear since the calendar turned to April. After back-to-back two-hit games on April 6, Zylstra (Grand Rapids Christian) is hitting .454 (10-for-22) with four doubles in April to raise his overall batting average to .305. His 20 RBIs is tied for second on the team.
Jacob Murphy, Indiana Wesleyan University: Murphy, a junior first baseman, had a hand in both runs in a 2-1 win over Goshen on April 4. Murphy (Hudsonville) tripled and then scored on a Caleb Birkey RBI bunt single. The score remained 1-1 until the sixth inning when Kaleb DeFreese scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Murphy. He’s batting .198 but is tied for the team lead in triples with two and tied for fourth in RBIs with 10.
Aaron Schwark, Kalamazoo College: Schwark pitched a shutout in Game 2 of a double header in a 4-0 win over Alma on April 2. The freshman lefty (GR Forest Hills Central) scattered four hits while walking two. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the first and left runners stranded on second and third with one out in the fifth while retiring seven straight Alma hitters to end the game. He is 1-0 with a 3.14 ERA in five games for the Hornets (5-11).
Tony Dileo, Eastern Michigan University: The sophomore catcher went 1-for-3 with an RBI in a 5-3 loss to Michigan State on April 1. Dileo (Rockford) is batting .133 with four RBIs in 10 games.
Ian Mikowski, Adrian College: Mikowski, a reserve outfielder, was 1-for-1 with two runs scored in a 14-3 win over Hope College on April 4. The freshman (GR Northview) is batting .364 in 11 games for the Bulldogs (16-6).
Jeff Victor, Calvin College: Calvin’s closer came up with a big save. Victor (Holland Christian), who usually comes in relief, started on April 7 and went the first four innings of an 11-9 win over Kalamazoo College. He allowed just one unearned run while striking out five batters. Calvin’s starting pitching was thin after playing five games in four days. Victor (2-0) has had an outstanding season. He has yet to allow an earned run in 17 innings pitched. He has 17 strikeouts and two saves for the Knights (11-9).
Luke Brower, Hope College: Brower (Holland Christian), a sophomore first baseman, scored the winning run in a 2-1 victory over Adrian on April 5 in Game 2 of a doubleheader. Brower went 2-for-3 with two RBI singles and one run scored in a 4-3 Game 1 loss. He is batting .250 on the season and is second on the team with 13 RBIs for Hope (12-10, 8-4 MIAA).
Patrick Bobolts, Grand Valley State University: Bobolts (Middleville), a back-up catcher, had a nice game in Game 2 of a doubleheader with Saginaw Valley in the team’s home opener on April 9. He went 1-for-4 with two runs scored an an RBI in the 13-1 win.
Ariel Aracena-Sanchez, Grand Valley State University: The senior outfielder (Grand Rapids Christian) had an RBI single and went 2-for-3 in Game 1 of a doubleheader. GVSU topped Saginaw Valley 4-0. Aracena-Sanchez is hitting .325 and is tied for second on the team with three home runs.
Karli Myers, Davenport University: The junior outfielder had perhaps the biggest day of her career. Myers (Cedar Springs) had two home runs in a doubleheader with Division 1 Detroit Mercy on April 9. She hit a homer in each game as Davenport got a split with the Titans to improve to 22-9. Myers is tied for the team lead with four home runs and is batting .358, which is fourth on the team.
Kaley Waalkes, Oakland University: Waalkes (Grandville), a freshman pitcher, pitched a complete-game 8-3 win over Morehead State on April 2. She gave up three runs on five hits while striking out one to improve to 7-3 this year. “Kaley threw a nice game for us on the mound today,” Oakland coach Connie Miner said. “It was very nice see this team play like they are capable of.”
Heidi Walburg, Cornerstone University: The senior (Wayland) went 1-for-4 at the plate with a double in a 6-3 win over U-M Dearborn on April 2. But she was better in the pitcher’s circle. Walburg gave up two runs on six hits, striking out nine in a complete-game win. She’s second on the team with a .423 batting average and leads the team with six homers and 18 RBIs. Pitching, she leads the team with a 5-4 record and a 2.10 ERA.
Kelsey Pollock, Calvin College: The junior outfielder (Belding) went 2-for-3 with two RBIs in an 8-3 win over Finlandia on April 5. Pollock leads the team with a .422 batting average in 16 games for the Knights (12-5).
Bethany Dykstra, Dordt College: Dykstra (Covenant Christian) went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI in an 8-0 win over Mount Marty on April 2. Dykstra, a senior catcher, is hitting .250 with 12 runs scored, which is fourth on the team for Dordt (6-22).
MEN’S TRACK AND FIELD
Zach Waldron, Eastern Michigan University: Waldron (GR Northview), a sophomore, had a big meet at at the Spartan Invitational on March 5. He finished helped the Eagles win the 1,600 relay (3:26.27), was fourth in the 110 hurdles (16.23), and sixth in the javelin (125-5 / 38.24m).
Ricco Hall, University of Nebraska: Hall helped the Huskers win the 400 relay (39.95) at the Arkansas Spring Relay on April 5. The junior (East Kentwood) also finished 11th in the 200 (21.66), which was won by U.S. Olympian Wallace Spearmon in 20.54.
Melvin Harris, Central Michigan University: Harris, a redshirt freshman (East Kentwood) tied for fifth in the high jump (6-5 / 1.96 m) at the Spartan Invitational on March 5.
Andy Reidsma, Trinity Christian College: The junior (Grandville Calvin Christian) cruised to a win in the 1,500 (4:02.90) to win by three seconds in the Huntington Invitational on April 5. He also helped Trinity finish third in the 1,600 relay (3:26.22).
Simon Reidsma, Spring Arbor University: Riedsma had one of the best runs of his career in the 5,000 at the Raleigh Relays in North Carolina on March 29. “Simon Reidsma had a great race in the 5K”, said Cougars coach Dante Ottolini. Reidsma (Grandville Calvin Christian) ran 15:19, tying his personal best and moving him up to fifth on the Spring Arbor record list. Simon is the younger brother of Andy Reidsma, who runs for Trinity Christian.
Caleb Teachout, Aquinas College: Teachout (GR West Caholic) continues to dominate this track season. He won the 400 (49.01) at the Bellarmine Invitational held in Louisville, Ky., on April 5. The junior also finished sixth in the 800 (1:56.67) and helped the 1,600 relay finish seventh (3:21.89).
Alex Blehm, Davenport University: Blehm (Caledonia) finished second in the 400 (49.26) at the Bellarmine Invitational held in Louisville, Ky., on April 5.
Jake Overweg, Davenport University: Javelin isn’t the most common sport, but Overweg sure is good at it. The freshman (Hudsonville Unity Christian) won with a throw of 157-06 (48.01m) at the Bellarmine Invitational held in Louisville, Ky., on April 5.
Steffon Mayhue, Hope College: Mayhue was named the MIAA Men’s Field Athlete of the Week. The senior (Holland) took first place in the long jump with a leap of 21 feet, 6 inches and the triple jump with a jump of 42 feet, 5-1/4 inches in leading the Flying Dutchmen to a 93-60 dual meet victory over Calvin.
WOMEN’S TRACK AND FIELD
Janina Pollatz, Eastern Michigan University: Pollatz, a freshman (GR Christian / Hudsonville Freedom Christian), won the long jump with a personal best leap of 17-11 (5.46m) at the Spartan Invitational on April 5. She also finished 10th in the pole vault (10-11.75 / 3.35m). “I had a 19-foot jump that scratched so a little disappointed in the end,” she said. “But I’m excited I won my first college meet.” Pollatz was the Class B high school state champ in the long jump in 2013. She also won back-to-back state titles pole vault.
Kelly Morrissey, Central Michigan University:Morrissey, a senior, (GR West Catholic), finished tied for sixth in the pole vault (11-11.75 / 3.65m) at the Spartan Invitational on April 5.
Ali Wiersma, Michigan State University: The redshirt freshman (Allendale) finished third in the 1,500 (4:31.96) at the Spartan Invitational on April 5.
Taylor Swihart, Spring Arbor University: The senior (Rockford) finished third in the 400 hurdles (1:00.25) and fifth in the triple jump (11.37 m) at the Huntington Invitational on April 5.
Anna Bos, Trinity Christian College: Then junior (Rockford) dominated the 5,000 meter run at the Huntington Invitational on April 5. Bos finished in 17:31.87, which was almost 30 seconds better than second place.
Ashley Jourdan, Trinity Christian College: Jourdan took first in the 1,500 meter with a time of 4:48.83 at the Huntington Invitational on April 5. The freshman (Grandville Calvin Christian) also helped Trinity finish third in the 1,600 relay (4:13.88).
Danae Dracht, Spring Arbor University: Dracht (Hudsonville Freedom Christian), a senior, finished second in the 5,000 (18:09.15) at the Huntington Invitational on April 5.
Jessica Lee, Spring Arbor University: The senior (Hastings) helped the Cougars win the 400 relay (49.81) at the Huntington Invitational on April 5. Also on the team were Ellie Reynolds, Amanda Luurtsema and Jessica Czinder (Hastings). Lee also finished eighth in the 100 (13.04) and ninth in the 200 (2.41).
Rachel Jerrils, Davenport University: Jerrils, a senior, clocked in 58.03 in the 400 meters to break the 58.25 record she set at the WHAC Championships as a freshman. Jerrils (Rockford) went on to finish fourth in the race, at the Bellarmine Invitational held in Louisville, Ky., on April 5.
Kelsee VanderBaan, Davenport University:VanderBaan (Jenison), a senior, set a new program best in the 1,500 (4:51.13) at the Bellarmine Invitational held in Louisville, Ky., on April 5. Her mark shatters Stacey Baron’s 5:04.07 set at the Al Owens Classic in 2012. She also finished ninth in the 800 (2:23.19).
Nicole Michmerhuizen, Calvin College: The senior (Holland Christian) took second in the 5,000 at the Spartan Invitational on April 5 in a time of 17:06.66. Her time places her in the top six on the current outdoor national performance list.
Lindsey Karpowicz, Aquinas College: The senior (Grandville) hit the national automatic qualifier in the discus throw in her first action of the spring at the Bellarmine Invitational held in Louisville, Ky., on April 5. Karpowicz’s throw of 149-2 ranks her fifth nationally.
Tim Marco, Calvin College: Marco scored a majority of his team’s goals in a 17-9 loss to Baldwin-Wallace on April 5. The junior attacker (Grand Rapids Christian) scored six goals and had one assist. For his efforts, he was named MIAA Offensive Player of the Week. Marco leads the team with 17 goals and six assists this season for the Knights (2-7).
Karissa Reed, Calvin College: Reed (Greenville) had a team-high three goals in a 10-9 win over rival Hope College on April 2. Reed is second on the team with 14 goals.
Zoe Stiemann, Grand Valley State University: The junior attacker (East Grand Rapids) scored a career-high five goals in a 19-8 win over Findlay on April 4. The total is the fifth-most by a GVSU player in a single game. She then scored three goals in a 19-8 win over Lake Erie on April. 6. Stiemann is third on the team with 14 goals in 10 games for the Lakers (5-5).
John Hall, Spring Arbor University: The sophomore (Rockford) helped the Cougars beat St. Francis on April 5 as he won 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 singles and teammed with Aaron Laatsch to win 8-6 at No. 3 doubles. Hall improves to 5-11 in singles play and 4-3 in doubles.
Matt Hamilton, Western Michigan University:Hamilton (Grandville) won 6-2, 7-5 at No. 5 singles in a 4-3 loss to Buffalo on April 6. He played at No. 3 doubles, teaming with Michael Tries. They were leading 7-6 when the match was called. The freshman has an overall record of 20-15 in singles.
Kevin Slagh, Davenport University: Slagh, a freshman, won at No. 6 singles 6-0, 6-2 to help the Panthers beat Taylor University on April 5. He also teamed with Haja Denise to win at No. 3 doubles, 8-5. Slagh (Zeeland East) is 6-1 in singles this season and 8-3 in doubles.
Warren Grover, Davenport University: Grover (Grandville), a sophomore, finished tied for ninth place to help the Panthers win the Hanover Spring Invite in Indiana on April 5. He shot a 74-76-150. Then on April 9 at the NAIA Classic at Brickyard Crossings in Indianapolis, he finished tied for 23rd out of 80 golfers with a 79-75-154 to help Davenport finish fourth out of 16 teams.
Heather Marks, Western Michigan University: The senior (GR South Christian) was WMU’s low golfer at the Pinehurst #1 Challenge on March 16, finishing with a final-round 73 and a total score of 152 to tie for 11th. Marks opened the the tournament, which was held in North Carolina, with a score of 79.
Montana Leep, Hope College: Leep, a junior from Hastings (GR South Christian) led Hope by tying for 13th with an 18-hole round of 83 to help Hope finish eighth at the Cougar Spring Invitational on April 5 in Indiana.
Haley Elenbaas, Indiana Wesleyan University: Elenbaas (GR South Christian), a sophomore, shot a 90 to help IWU finished seventh out of 12 teams at the St. Francis Invitational on April 5 at Brookwood Country Club in Fort Wayne, Ind.
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