BY DAN STICKRADT
AUBURN HILLS — If there is any question about Nathan Chapman’s ability as a track athlete, it’s what he hasn’t done during his prep track career at Auburn Hills Avondale.
“I never tired the throws,” laughed Chapman at the recent OAA Blue Division championships.
Beyond the shot put, discus and the pole vault, an event which Avondale and the OAA doesn’t sponsor, Chapman has seemingly done it all for the Yellowjackets. With his prep track career coming to an end with the upcoming Division 2 state meet and Midwest Meet of Champions, Chapman is hoping to help Avondale sail away with a team state title this weekend, kind of the final chapter to one fine career.
Chapman, who recently signed with the University of Michigan, has been part of four straight league championship squads — the first time that has happened in school history for the sport of track and field — and two regional championship teams. His teams have finished in the top 10 at the Oakland County meet in 2010, 2011 and 2012, including third this season.
At the Division 2 state meet, Chapman and the Yellowjackets have finished in the top five each of the past two years, including fifth in 2010 and third in 2011. Avondale competed in Division 1 in 2009 but didn’t crack the scoring column. Chapman did not qualify for state as a freshman.
“It’s been a great time representing Avondale. We have accomplished a lot as a team,” said Chapman, often deflecting his own ability and athleticism. “But we still have some goals we want to accomplish.”
Last year Avondale suffered a huge blow when two of their best athletes, Kyle Redwine and Zac Miklja, were lost for the season for various reasons. With them, Avondale more than likely would have won the team state championship. Without them, the Yellowjackets tied for third and just 16 points out of first.
Chapman has already collected state meet gold medals twice during his track career. He ran on Avondale’s state champion 1,600 relay unit that clocked 3:23.19 in 2010. Last year he ran on the D-2 state-meet record setting 800 relay quartet that also won a state crown (1:28.11).
He has also won several league, regional and county titles both in an individual event and on relays and has finished in the top eight at the state finals three times in his career, including as a member of Avondale’s 3,200 relay which placed eighth in the state in 2010 (8:08.12).
He now owns school records in the 400, 800, 800 relay and 1,600 relay and hopes to lower all four of his marks at the D-2 state finals at Houseman Field in Grand Rapids.
When chapman entered high school in 2008-09, many saw his raw athletic ability ready to burst. He will unquestionably depart as one of the all-time best athletes in school history.
He has excelled in both in track and in soccer. In fact, Chapman was a four-year varsity performer in soccer and helped the Yellowjackets win the Division 2 state championship last November — the school’s first state title in any sport in a decade and only third all-time. He is a two-time all-state performer in soccer, earning honorable-mention all-state honors as a junior and first-team all-state accolades this past fall as a senior.
Chapman has also earned numerous all-district, all-league, all-area and all-region honors in soccer.
“What a great kid,” said Avondale boys track coach Wes Harden. “He will do anything in order for us to (contend). We have used him all over. We will miss him next year.”
In his career, Chapman at times has run on all four relays and has experimented with every open sprints and distance event from the 200 through the 3,200. He even long-jumped over 20 feet this season to add to his versatility.
At this year’s state meet, Chapman is seeded first in the 400 meters (48.5), 30th in the 800 meters (1:58.23), 11th in the 800 relay (1:30.9) and 10th in the 1,600 relay (3:27.7). At the regional, Chapman ran the 400 and 800 with only a short break between the two events.
“I had something like 14 minutes between the two at the regional — and that’s ridiculous,” said Chapman. “I will have close to an hour at the state meet with all of the heats (from both the boys and girls races). I know with a break I can contend in those races.”
Last Friday, Chapman won the 800 meters at the county meet, holding off Holly’s Luke Scherwin down the stretch to set the school record in 1:54.64. That is a faster time than any of the state finals seeds. He also ran a leg on the 800 relay that won the county championship in 1:28.03, which is faster than all but one of the state meet entrance times.
With four years of success behind him, Chapman said there is no secret of what the Yellowjackets want to accomplish Saturday.
“We want to do the best we can and hopefully win the state title,” he said. “We lost 4-5 really good guys from last year’s team, but I think we still have enough to contend if we all run well.”
With Chapman running around the grand oval, anything is possible.
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