Oak Park continues to thrive in track and field with a fresh batch of stars
Oak Park – Consistency has been the hallmark of the track program at Oak Park in recent years. As it is with any successful program, this consistency begins with the coaching staff.
Robert Lynch is in his fourth season as head coach of the boys team. Brandon Jiles, who helped Detroit Mumford, with Lynch as head coach, win that school’s first state (Class A) title in 1999, is the head coach of the girls team.
Both work with the Motor City Track Club during the summer with Lynch presiding as president.
The girls team at Oak Park won the Division 1 title in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Last season they placed second behind Ann Arbor Pioneer. Lynch won his first state title at Oak Park in 2016 as the Knights totaled 55 points to 37 for East Kentwood, the dominant boys program in the past 10 years. The Falcons have won six state titles since 2008 including last season.
Lynch’s title in 2016 was his fifth overall on the boys side. Just as he did at Mumford, Lynch is an assistant coach for the girls team at Oak Park.
“I lost four seniors (to graduation) and all four are competing at Division I schools,” Jiles said. “I have some seniors back who were injured last season to go with the ones coming back.”
Jiles carries 20 on his girls team and Lynch has 25-to-30 boys. This might seem like a low number, especially for a quality program like Oak Park but Jiles said the athletes Oak Park attracts are dedicated, not just there to participate.
“These are special kids,” Jiles said. “They’re not your normal kids.”
The athletes Jiles and Lynch coach are highly motivated, goal-oriented students who want to be their best by competing against the best.
Staying with the girls, last season Tamea McKelvy placed first in the 200-meter dash, was third in the 100 and ran on two winning (400 and 800) relay teams. She signed with Texas. Carlita Taylor, the valedictorian, placed fourth in the 100 hurdles and also ran on two winning (800 and 1,600) relay teams. She is attending Columbia University in New York City and competes in track.
Let’s go to the boys side. Last season Cameron Cooper recorded the second-fastest indoor time in the country in the 800-meter run. He signed with Louisiana State. Cooper won this event at the state meet in his junior and senior seasons. Last season he placed second in the 800 and ran on the winning 1,600 and 3,200 relay teams. Bryce Pickett, the salutatorian, was 16th in the 200 and ran on the winning 1,600 relay team. He signed with Michigan.
This season Dorriann Coleman and Miyah Brooks are two of the top seniors. Coleman won the 800 as a sophomore and though she qualified for the state meet last season, she did not compete well due to an injury. Jiles said Coleman is running well this season and she’s signed with North Carolina.
“She’s one of the most focused athletes I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Jiles said.
Brooks was sixth in the 400 last season and ran on the winning 1,600 relay. She signed with Howard.
“She’s a late bloomer,” Jiles said. “She’s finding her groove. She has a lot of ability.”
The top sophomore is Aasia Laurencin. Laurencin ran on the winning 400 and 800 relay teams, and also qualified for the 100 dash. This season she has the second-fastest time in the 100 hurdles and has the fastest time in the 200. Her best time this season is 24.81. Her personal best is 24.34.
The star of the boys team is Donnie James. Last season he placed eighth at the state meet in the 400 with a time of 49.49 but has improved immensely since. He placed fifth (48.02) at the New Balance Nationals in New York this past winter and is undefeated so far this season.
Jiles said Ohio State and Tennessee are James’ top two schools at this point.
Two football players, quarterback Dwan Mathis and cornerback Enzo Jennings, have also contributed. Both are sprinters. Mathis has been offered a scholarship by Michigan State, among others, and Jennings has been offered a scholarship by Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia.
The regionals for track and field will be held May 18 and 19. The state finals are June 2 with the Division I finals held at East Kentwood.