PIGEON — Felix Biewald is only at Laker High School for a year, but he won’t soon be forgotten.
Not by his track and field teammates, not by his opponents, that have become all too familiar from with looking at him from behind. And not by future Laker students that will see his name plastered all over the school’s track and field leader board.
Biewald, an exchange student from Germany, has made a name for himself in Michigan’s Thumb. On Saturday, he hopes to cement his reputation on the state level at the track and field state finals.
“I had heard of him. I teach at the junior high, and (Biewald) being at the high school, I knew who he was in passing,” said Laker track and field coach Tyler Scharf. “We had a couple of exchange students, like we usually do, and someone told me he really loves track.”
Turns out he’s pretty good at the too.
Biewald has blazed his way to victory in sprint races all season long. The 17-year old phenom hasn’t lost a 200 or 400-meter dash race this year, and has ran, or been a part of, many school-record breaking performances.
“He has the current school record in the 100, 200 and 400, which he has set multiple times,” Scharf said. “And he’s been anchor of the 400 and 800 (meter) school record relays that have also been set multiple times this year.”
At the Division 3 regional meet, held Saturday, June 21 at Bad Axe, Biewald won the 100, 200 and 400 to qualify for Saturday’s Division 3 finals at Comstock Park High School in the Grand Rapids area. He also anchored the 800-relay team to a second-place, qualifying finish.
Track and field is not new to Biewald, he has been running for three years for a club team back in Germany. But his success here is more than he imagined.
“I knew that I was going to be like, not bad,” Biewald said. “But it didn’t know I’d improve that much, like in the 200.”
Biewald, who says the 200 is his favorite race, gave basketball a try in the winter. It didn’t work out, but his speed was noticeable.
“During the winter, his basketball coach (David Cook) said ‘if you have time, you should take (Biewald) for a run,'” Scharf said. “I could see he was pretty quick, but its hard to tell when you’re just in the school hallways.”
Scharf took Biewald to a few indoor track meets prior to the spring sports season and knew he had something special.
“Early on he struggled some in the 100, he wasn’t even the top runner on our team in the beginning of the season,” Scharf said. “He had never really done relays before and he never really ran the 100, he ran the 200 and 400. But he figured it out.
“The best part is that he hasn’t peaked.”
At the big meets, Scharf has entered Biewald in the 100, 200 and 400 dashes, as well as either the 400, 800 or 1600 meter relays (an athlete can compete in four total events). He is the No. 2 seed in the 200, No. 3 seed in the 400 and No. 8 seed in the 100 for the Division 3 state championship.
German high schools don’t offer sports like they do in the United States. Instead, their are club teams which focus on each athletic undertaking.
“In Germany, it’s a lot different,” Biewald said. “We don’t have school sports, so I’m in a club for like two and a half, three years now. And we practice all around the year.”
The training here also differs.
“He said training here isn’t like what he’s used to,” Scharf said. “Back home, he did a lot of volume training. I would compare it to like what our 800 (meter run) runners would do here. We focus on more strength and power, especially with his starts. I feel like that’s one of the big reasons he’s gotten faster and has been able to improve in the 100.”
Biewald is from Leipzig, a “big city in the east, but nobody knows it here” he said. His host parents are David and Stephanie Segroves. Stephanie Segroves is a Spanish instructor at Laker.
Biewald has an interest in air travel, and would like to pursue it as a career after he graduates high school in Leipzig in two years.
“I want to do something in aviation, maybe an air traffic controller, maybe a pilot,” he said. “Maybe a track star, you never know.”
The latter is a possibility, Biewald has two years of training ahead of him before he finishes secondary school. And if he does continue his track career beyond that, it could very well be in the United States.
“I’m actually hoping to come back for college, but it’s not planned out right now,” Biewald said “We’re not 100 percent right now but it would be nice because you can do track and field in college here.”
In the meantime, Biewald has his last two track and field meets as a member of the Laker program — the Thumb Meet of Champions (which was scheduled for Tuesday but results were not available at press time), and the state finals.
“I want to thank my coaches for all the support here, and we are very excited for the state championships,” Biewald said.