Indiana high school track: Paquette MVP as Penn, Saint Joseph star at 79th Goshen Relays

·10 min read

SOUTH BEND — Mike Paquette was worried that Penn's track and field team was starting to have a reputation of underperforming at the Goshen Relays.

But that has changed over the past couple of years. The Kingsmen won their second consecutive Class A championship (104.16 points), clearing second-place Carroll by more than 30 points.

It was a dominant performance that Paquette and coach Chad Wetzel referred to as a culture change.

"Part of it started last year," said Wetzel, who is in his first year as head coach. "Something just felt different. We went in with a lot of confidence and won it by a half of a point last year. A lot of those guys that were part of that last year, were part of it again this year."

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Paquette took home the discus championship, while Penn also won the 4x100 relay and sprint medley relay. Blake Barker won the high jump with a personal best (6-3).

Defending champ South Bend Saint Joseph also had a great meet, winning five Class B events. But it wasn't enough to take home first place, losing by six points to NorthWood.

“I think we performed extremely well with a really young team," Saint Joseph coach Mike McCarthy said. "We won it last year with a senior dominated team. I didn't expect this going in."

Paquette sets personal record in winning Class A MVP

Paquette had a career performance at the Goshen Relays, winning Class A discus (172 feet) and coming in second in Class A shot put (48-1.5 feet).

"I went in there, was confident, and ended up having a pretty easy day," he said. "A lot of work to do, but I was definitely pleased with that performance."

Paquette never thought he could win the Class A meet MVP. In the past (this is his third Goshen Relays) a runner had always won that honor. But this year, Paquette broke the mold.

Mike Paquette won Class A MVP at this year's Goshen Relays
Mike Paquette won Class A MVP at this year's Goshen Relays

"(Runners) always do great out there," Paquette said. "I just wasn’t expecting to win that award. Definitely awesome to get that."

Paquette earned 18 points for Penn, which Wetzel said was crucial to the Kingsmen winning the Class A title.

"If you are going to win championships you have to have solid field events," Wetzel said. "We had some really great field events this year, which really carried us."

Before Saturday's meet, Paquette had never thrown farther than 170 feet in discus. He did it twice at Goshen, throwing 171 in his third preliminary throw, and then a personal best 172 on his third throw in finals, having already found out he clinched first place in the event.

"Being able to do that twice felt awesome," Paquette said. "I had some great competition pushing me to be able to do that. I knew I was capable of it and it just felt amazing to actually do that in a meet."

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Paquette now sits only 2 feet behind his older brother, Caden's, school record discus throw (174 feet), which he admits to be chasing this year. He also hopes to reach his second state meet.

Last year, he finished first at sectional (153-1) in discus and 10th at state (161-2). He hopes Saturday's performances can propel him to something better this year.

"It gave me a decent amount of confidence," Paquette said. "Every meet is a little different, but definitely gave me the confidence to know what I can do. I have faith in myself I can perform again later on this season."

Goshen Relays a family affair for Saint Joseph

When McCarthy was setting up Saint Joe's relay teams, he saw an opportunity for a special moment: Not to just put brothers, Ollie and Luke Kaufhold in the same relay teams, but also have them handing the baton off to each other.

"I wanted them to have that opportunity to run as teammates," McCarthy said. "In our regular season meets they are not teammates very often and that is one of the fun things about high school track relays is you can have those combinations which is really fun."

Luke Kaufhold was the second-ranked high hurdler during this year's indoor track season
Luke Kaufhold was the second-ranked high hurdler during this year's indoor track season

Ollie Kaufhold, a senior, and his younger brother, Luke, a sophomore, were on the Indians' winning 4x100 team (Alex Ortiz, Hayden Miller, 45.17) and the winning 4x200 relay (Gavin Sparke, Bill Imanene, 1:33.79), with Luke running the first leg and Ollie the second in each event.

“The whole situation, I was going in thinking to be grateful to be able to do this," Luke said of the experience. "He is a senior and will be graduating this year, I was super glad I could have that opportunity to give him that handoff."

Ollie was also on Saint Joe's winning sprint medley team (Miller, Imanene, Daniel Pries, 1:39.81).

"It's all coming to a close, so I am just very thankful for the opportunity to run in those meets and have the opportunity to go out and do that," Ollie said.

The duo, both in their second years of high school track, had never competed in the same event before.

Luke, one of the top underclassmen hurdlers in the state, had never even competed in a high school relay. So, there was some pressure to make sure his handoff to his brother was smooth.

They practiced the exchange all day Friday after hearing McCarthy's surprise. And sure enough in Saturday's race, it went exactly how they wanted.

"Even after the handoff I stayed in my lane, yelled at him and cheered for him as he was going down," Luke said. "It was great, exciting and I loved every second of it."

Luke, in his second Goshen Relays, also competed in the 110-meter hurdles where he finished second (15.97, an improvement from fourth place last year) behind Lakeland's Dominic Lawrence (15.60).

McCarthy said the younger Kaufhold began to emerge this time last season, as it was a spring board to the rest of the year. He went on to win the city championship in hurdles (defending his title in this Thursday's city meet) and was the only freshman hurdler at regional.

Ollie Kaufhold is a senior leader on Saint Joseph's track team
Ollie Kaufhold is a senior leader on Saint Joseph's track team

“His appetite for track and field really just grew and blossomed since then," McCarthy said. "Him and his brother just eat, drink and sleep track and field."

Watching his older brother, Luke said he's learned how to be more committed by playing less video games, sleeping more and putting in as much work as possible even in tough conditions, as Ollie did during the winter, or by doing pushups in their room when a track wasn't available.

“The work ethic he has is just incredible," Luke said of his brother. "I like to think one day I might be close to that.”

This year, he hopes to make his first state appearance. So does Ollie, who didn't compete at state last year due to a stress fracture in his foot.

Ollie said he's been trying to be a leader for Saint Joe's team this year, pushing his teammates around him to qualify for a relay if he isn't able to do it in an individual event.

So as great as Saturday's moment was winning with his brother, it would be even more surreal to do it on a larger stage.

"Maybe on a relay together at state," Ollie said. "That would be nice"

Jake Balis has track career off to hot start

In his first Goshen Relays, Balis, the son of Notre Dame football strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis, was part of Penn's winning 4x100 team (DJ White, Skjold Aallman, Jayden Williams, 44.55)

"It was almost surreal," Balis said. "Seeing Jaylen Williams cross the finish line, I was the third leg so I passed it off to him, told him to go and when he crossed the finish line I was so happy. I ran over to him and gave him a hug."

A year ago Balis, a sophomore, never pictured himself competing in track. He played football and lacrosse for the Kingsmen. But once he had Wetzel as a teacher for health class everything changed.

Jake Balis was on Penn's winning 4x100 team at this weekend's Goshen Relays
Jake Balis was on Penn's winning 4x100 team at this weekend's Goshen Relays

Wetzel knew Balis was fast, so he starting attending the team's Thursday morning speed sessions. Balis started falling in love with the sport enough that he tried to make both lacrosse and track work by alternating which practice he went to every other day.

He found out that wasn't going to work. Now, he is fully committed to running.

"I couldn't say enough great things about this sport," Balis said. "I love it and enjoy every moment I am out here."

Balis' performance in Saturday's relays, running the third leg, opened Wetzel's eyes to how good his young runner could get in such a short timeframe.

“It was a really big day for him," Wetzel said. "His growth process is going to be huge for us these next few years."

Along with the 4x100, Balis also competes in the 100-meter dash where he has a goal of to finish around 11.3 seconds before the end of the season. He also aspires to lead Penn's relay team to the state meet.

“I think that would be so awesome of a moment for our school and our team," he said. "Everything that we represent.”

Other area winners

79th Goshen Relays

Saturday, April 23, 2022 at Goshen High School

Class A 4x100: Northridge (Landon Troyer, Eduardo Garcia, Ricky Lloyd, Jacob Wetzel) 44.84

Class A 4x400: Concord (Anthony Roberts, Armen Koltookian, DaeSean Emerson, Darien Decker) 3:33.93

Class A 4x800: Goshen (Tommy Claxton, Luis Loera, Cole Johnston, Drew Hogan) 8:04.87

Class A distance medley: Goshen (Drew Hogan, Tommy Claxton, Luis Loera, Cole Johnston) 10:50.48

Class A 1,600-meter: Drew Hogan, Goshen (4:27.64)

Class A 100-meter: Jaton Thomas, Concord (10.95)

Class A 110-meter hurdles: Mason Floria, Northridge (15.33)

Class A long jump: Tommie Hunt, South Bend Adams (20-06 ft)

Class B 4x800: NorthWood (Jordan Burden, Daniel Medina, Titus Stutsman, Brady Hunsberger) 8:24.93

Class B distance medley: NorthWood (Owen Allen, Cole Davie, Daniel Medina, Jordan Burden) 11:26.10

Class B shot put: Brevin Miller, NorthWood (52-02.5 ft)

Final Class A team scores:1. Penn 104.16, 2. Fort Wayne Carroll 71.6, 3. Elkhart 69.5, 4. (tie) Northridge 67.16 and Concord 67.16, 5. Columbia City 56.16

6. Goshen 49.5, 7. East Noble 46, 8. (tie) Angola 43.5 and Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger 43.5, 9. South Bend Adams 43.

10. Leo 35, 11. Fort Wayne Wayne 24, 12. South Bend Riley 22.16, 13. Plymouth 13, 14. Franklin Central 8, 15. South Bend Washington 6 points

Final Class B team scores: 1. NorthWood 97, 2. South Bend St. Joseph 91, 3. Lakeland 72, 4. Tippecanoe Valley 67.5, 5. Culver Academies 63.5.

6. Bremen 54, 7. (tie) West Noble 50 and Westview 50, 8. Prairie Heights 46, 9. Central Noble 44, 10. Wabash 39.

11. Fairfield 30, 12. Whitko 19, 13. Mishawaka Marian 18, 14. Wawasee 16, 15. South Bend Clay 12

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: South Bend Saint Joseph's Luke, Ollie Kaufhold shine at Goshen Relays