MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP – It will be interesting to see what Reeths-Puffer’s Klay Grant accomplishes in track this spring, in his final season as a high school distance runner.
It’s hard not to wonder, after the unprecedented day he had last year.
Grant turned a lot of heads as a junior at the GMAA City Track and Field Meet, taking the championship in the 800-meter, 1600-meter and 3200-meter run and joining his teammates to win the 4×800 relay.
No distance runner had ever won titles in four events in the 65-year history of the city meet.
“It was an honor,” said Grant about that historic day. “I stood on the shoulders of giants like Mike Smith, who was an incredible runner at Reeths-Puffer. I think I looked to guys like him and saw how much success they had and drove off of that. I valued so much of what they had done before me and it gave me the motivation.”
Grant is obviously an incredibly self-motivated young athlete. He has a pattern of making his mark at the local level, pushing himself and improving, and finally breaking through and going nose-to-nose with the best in the state.
In cross country, for instance, Grant made his breakthrough as a sophomore by winning the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Meet title in 2020 as a junior.
He repeated that feat the next year as a junior, but wasn’t quite ready to compete with the best runners in the state either year. He finished 108th in the Division 1 state finals as a sophomore and 54th as a junior.
But last fall, as a senior, he won the city title for a third time, then leaped into the elite category at the state finals, finishing eighth and earning All-State honors.
Now we’re about to see how far he can leap-frog in track.
“I had a great breakthrough in cross country due to coaching and a positive atmosphere around me,” he said. “It was the culmination of the work I put in finally clicking. I’m putting good weeks in now and it gives me hope for what can happen this season. I’d love to qualify for the state meet and perform well there.”
Grant’s self-motivation obviously extends to the classroom as well.
He was recently awarded the Michigan High School Athletic Association/Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete award. Grant was one of 32 award winners who had a grade point average of 3.5 or better and previously lettered in at least one sport.
The award will give Grant $2,000 to use when he begins at his collegiate career at Colorado Christian University in the fall.
“It was very exciting,” Grant about being presented with the award last weekend at the MHSAA boys state basketball finals at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University. “I was honestly just honored to be among such great student-athletes in the state.
“I wouldn’t think of myself as one of those top dual scholar-athletes. But it was exciting and I was super happy to celebrate with my family. My parents have supported me so much and I credit so much of my success to them.”
While Grant gets most of his notoriety for individual accomplishments, those around him know that he takes a great deal of pride in being a good teammate and a leader for other R-P athletes.
That came through in the essay he wrote as part of the scholarship award competition.
“I think being a leader and sportsmanship in general isn’t about huge moments,” he wrote. “I don’t think it’s about headlines for newspaper articles. It’s the humility to show up every day and not exalt myself over my teammates. It’s to support them, honor them and count them as valuable as anyone else.”
That leadership is something R-P Coach Donald Ketner is counting on this year for his track team.
“He’s a standout kid,” Ketner said about Grant. “He’s a hard-working leader and he embodies a servant attitude. He just wants to make everyone around him better. He’s always helping his teammates get better, and he’ll lead by example sometimes, but also give encouragement.”
That being said, Grant admits he is eyeing a few extra individual goals this spring, like breaking a few area records set by great athletes from the past.
Nobody will be surprised if he accomplishes that goal.
“I’ve been looking into area records,” he said. “I’ve been looking to see what’s within reach. I hope to contribute as much as possible for my team, too.”