Senior Natalie Stone’s love of running started back in elementary school when she decided she wanted to be a runner just like her dad.
“My dad has always been a runner and when I was in second grade I decided I wanted
to start running with him. So he would take me on short little runs with him and my love of running started from there,” says Stone.
Stone joined track in seventh grade, competing for Three Fires Middle School. Stone began to compete in the high jump, 400 meter dash, 1600 meter relay (4×4).
From middle school she went to high school and made varsity her freshman year. Making the varsity track team was a huge accomplishment, and Stone worked hard to become a better athlete.
“Klapper (track coach) was my high jump coach these past years. He is the reason I have done so well in the high jump. I ran with Breezy Preiser who ran the 400 meter dash with me in every meet last year, and she gave me the best pep talks before we raced,” says Stone.
Last year Stone was part of the 1600 meter relay team which qualified for states, shattering the old school record at the same time. Entering her senior year, Stone has goals for her team to reach along with personal goals.
“My goal is to make it back to states in our 1600 meter relay and to break the school record that we set from last year and also to qualify for states in high jump,” comments Stone.
With new coaches this year Stone isn’t sure what to expect this season.
“We got all new coaches this year and we gained a lot of new freshmen, so really, the season could go a lot of different ways,” says Stone.
With track season approaching Stone adds, “I like to start thinking about all of my goals for the season ahead of time so I know what I need to do going into the season, and I try to go on runs at least a few times a week to keep my legs in shape.”
Along with running Stone also swims for the Howell’s girls varsity swim team. She was a state qualifier her sophomore, junior and senior years. She also set the varsity record in the 100 yard butterfly and the 200 freestyle relay.
With being a multisport athlete, Stone always has time for school work. The senior maintains usually a 3.9 while taking multiple AP courses to get her ready for college. Stone plans to either attend MSU or Oakland to earn a medical degree and become a pediatrician.
With track season beginning, Stone is looking forward to a successful last season. Her past four years have taught her a lot of lessons, and she looks to become a leader and a key runner for Highlanders this season.
“I’ve definitely learned to take some responsibility. I used to do everything in my power to get out of racing the 400 because it’s a hard event and it hurts, but last year I finally accepted that sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to do for the good of the team.”
The track and field season is finally hitting the final stretch of the season. Things are heating up with the temperatures outside rising and only the regional and state meet remaining.
The Howell girls finished 2-3 respectively in the KLAA west division. They also placed ninth at the KLAA Lakes conference meet with 36 points, edging out division foe Pinckney who took eleventh.
“Overall, I have been happy with our performance this season. We’re in a tough division with a lot of talented teams,” Coach Samantha Smith said.
Senior Breezy Preiser has been satisfied with the season as well.
“The girls have really worked hard and it has shown in our meets. Personally, I feel I have run well this season and our 4 x 400 relay team has a great chance to make states.”
The girls have several strong underclassmen runners, in both sprints and distance that should only get better with experience.
“We have a young team that competed well in the division this year. We keep improving and should be very strong in seasons to come,” Smith said.
The Lady Highlanders want to finish the season on a high note.
“We want to have a good day at regionals and hopefully qualify some girls to the state meet,” Smith said.
For the boys, the season has been both productive and tough.
While the Highlanders went winless in their division (0-5), it wasn’t indicative of their actual performance.
“I’m obviously not excited about our record this season, but I’m happy with the way we competed. We got better every meet and had several strong individual showings,” Coach Jeff Klapper said.
The Highlanders had to battle teams in the KLAA west division, arguably the best division in the state, providing them with excellent competition.
“We were really challenged every meet and I hope we can take this experience into regionals,” Klapper said.
The boys’ team had a solid showing at the conference meet, placing sixth out of twelve teams with 51.5 points. They beat two fellow division rivals Hartland and Brighton, who took ninth and eleventh.
Senior Eric Monte likes the way his teammates have competed this season.
“We have several strong runners who had some excellent performances this year, but we did not do as well as a team. However, we keep learning and have had some major improvements over the course of the season.”
The Howell boys have a strong core of underclassmen for next season, but they are going to lose a handful of talented seniors.
“We are very excited about our underclassmen for speed and distance. They have really done well this season and it definitely gives us a bright spot heading into future seasons. However, we have some quality seniors that will be tough to replace,” Klapper said.
Boys and girls track and field kicked off their season this spring in hopes to go further than any Howell team has previously gone.
“We are much improved,” varsity track and field coach Jeffery Klapper said. “Last year our strengths were very limited. This year we have gained some assets in distance and throwing that give us more of an advantage for the coming season.”
Last year, Howell had record-breaking performances by certain individuals, but ended up short and not qualifying for the state tournament as a team. Last season, Josh Gardner led his team in the 100 meter dash and broke school records in the process. Gardner finished fourth in the state and looks to pursue a higher ranking this season. Alongside Gardner, athletes Mark Coughanour, Anthony Patritto, and Austin Pederson, busted past the competition in the four by one and came in fifth place during the state tournament. Even though Howell had their individual strengths last season, they are much better-rounded and already have started better than last season.
“We lost [earlier], but it was close,” Klapper said. “Last season we only placed three times in the 800. This season, senior Eric Monte, placed second and is only seconds away from a state-qualifying time. Also, we were missing some pivotal athletes where we would’ve earned us points.”
Already, senior Gardner ran an 11.2 for the 100-meter dash and earned first place for Howell, picking up where he left off last season.
“We’re looking stronger than we ever have since I’ve ran for Howell,” senior Monte says. “If there’s any year we could go far, this year we certainly have the potential.” With such faith in the team coming from the athletes, the Highlanders are already on their way to achieving team goals.
Like many college freshmen, Howell High School teacher Jeff Klapper had no idea what he wanted to do for a career. After two years at Michigan State, a college counselor told him, “Dude, you gotta’ choose something.”
So Mr. Klapper had to make a decision. He knew he liked working with people, specifically kids, so he said teacher. Then the counselor asked him what kind of teacher he wanted to be. He said he was good at math.
So that is what he became: a math teacher. He started his first teaching job in Ionia, Michigan. It was a small rural area between Grand Rapids and Plymouth. He got the job here at Howell High School in 2004 to make it more convenient for him and his wife. His wife is also a teacher, teaching in Plymouth. Mr. Klapper currently teaches Functions, Statistics and Trigonometry, and Geometry.
Mr. Klapper is a native of Michigan, growing up in Saline. Mr. Klapper and his wife were one of those “high school couples” who dated through high school. They’ve known each other for 14 years and got married six years ago. He and his wife have two children. Noah is three and a half, and Mackenzie is one and a half.
Outside of school, Mr. Klapper enjoys running. He ran in a few races like Muddy Buddy, where he and a partner each race half of a marathon and then finish together running and crawling through dirt and mud.
He also participated in the Dances with Dirt Race, which involves running through swampy and muddy puddles that reach up to your waist.
Other than running, Mr. Klapper says he likes to do “anything athletic.” One of his favorite sports would have to be Ultimate Frisbee. He played on a team all the way through college for MSU.
This year, Mr. Klapper is the head coach of the track team. He was the assistant coach last year, but now he’s the big dog. Mr. Klapper was also an adviser for the ping-pong club at Parker High a few years back.
Mr. Klapper loves a good science fiction or fantasy book to read, something along the lines of Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings. Although he is a big Star Wars fan, he says he’s not a big Star Trek fan, nor is he a gamer.
As Mr. Klapper holds a meter stick beside him he warns, jokingly, that the meter stick is his light saber. He smirks and goes on to say that he would love to meet the real Yoda, just because he’s lived 900 years and has mastered the force. Mr. Klapper claims he can only use the force on the doors as you walk into Meijer.
Mr. Klapper has achieved a lot in his life, everything from being a father to hearing a student say, “Oh, I get it now!”
What he most enjoys about his teaching he says is, “I like seeing people grow, and interacting with kids.”
Outlook: Howell’s boys track and field team will be battling with some youth and inexperience this season. However, they are still expecting to place high in the conference and division. The Highlanders’ strength this season will be their sprinting core, while their distance core will be continuing to develop.
Key players: Josh Gardner (junior, 100 and 200), Drake Packard (junior, two mile), Pete Cender (sophomore, shot put and discus), Mark Coughanour (senior, long jump and 200), Austin Pederson (unior, 200 and 400)
Player’s Comment: “Our team has greatly improved since last season. Even though there are many underclassmen on the team, we should remain competitive in every meet.”
- Drake Packard (junior, two mile)
Coach’s Comment: “We have a really young team this year. However, we have a lot of talent and hope to build off of every experience.”
- Coach Klapper