Reed City's Michell steps away after 3 decades

Former Reed City track and field coach Brent Michell works with McBain\'s Jesse Sikkema during a recent pole vault camp event at Cadillac High School.

Brent Michell would've been more likely to have built a pole vault pit than know how to use it 30 years ago.

That's when Michell thought his future involved buildings and construction.

That lasted all of one term, though, at Ferris State University.

Michell soon changed his major to education and, needless to say, it's worked out pretty well for the Reed City resident.

Michell is retiring after 30 years as a math teacher on Tuesday, June 18 and recently wrapped up a 29-year career as Reed City's track and field coach.

"I was attracted to sports and to coaching…my whole family was involved in it," Michell said. "I really loved my math class, though, and I thought more and more about teaching.

"It's been a great way to raise a family and it's been a great 30 years."

He's had a number of well-wishers and others reach out to him to say thanks, plus the call here and there to remind him why he got into education in the first place.

"As all teachers do, kids call me up and thank me," Michell said. "I had a kid not that long ago call me up and how he remembered me putting up with him in the eighth grade. Now that he's a dad, he understood what I was doing, really appreciated it and wanted to thank me."

Michell has memories galore from track and field, as well. Some are personal like his daughter, Sami, winning a number of MHSAA state titles and his son, Brian, turning into a standout pole vaulter.

Others include connecting with kids for nearly three decades from the fastest to the not-so-fast.

Michell's passion in track is the pole vault and it's something he continues to share around the area. He started as the girls' assistant track coach at Reed City and a lack of knowledge about the event drove Michell to learn all he could.

"I just said that event is far too dangerous not to learn about it," he said. "I dedicated a lot of time to it, going to camps and talking to people. I think it's like anything you put a lot of time into…it becomes a favorite of yours.

"I've said many times that I wish I knew then what I know now. We'd probably have more 15- or 16-foot vaulters. We've had some good athletes but the knowledge we had then isn't what it is now."

His first teacher was Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Jim Gardner, who used a wheelchair, but knew the event inside and out.

"He's the best pole vault coach I've ever met," Michell said. "In getting help, I really learned from him."

When Brian came along, Michell had him vaulting at age 6 — much to the chagrin of his wife, Vikki.

"We were working on vaulting with Brian and Vikki saw us," Brent Michell laughed. "Vikki came running across the field and asked me what was going on?

"I told her he's vaulting."

Needless to say, Brian Michell got pretty good at the event and still holds the Cadillac News Meet record of 16-feet, 0.25-inches, set in 2011. His best at the MHSAA Division 3 State Finals came that same year when he went 15-9 and took second.

"I tell kids about my son and the only difference between him and them is about 10,000 jumps," Michell said. "Brian was a good athlete but he pole vaulted so many times that he just got really good.

"He was faster on the runway with a pole than he was on the track without one."

Brian Michell is continuing in dad's footsteps, too. He's a science teacher at Port Huron Northern and works with the school's vaulters and hurdlers in track and field.

While Brent Michell may not be in school any longer, he's not far from track and field.

He's running a twice-a-week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) two-month camp in Cadillac for area vaulters looking to get better.

Michell has been doing that for a number of years.

"It started really to help my kids (at Reed City) get better," he said. "You can't get better in March or April because of the weather and then May is loaded with meets.

"The only time you can improve is in the summer or winter. Then it went to inviting other kids and schools because there's a desperate need for help with the pole vault in this area."

Michell and Cadillac vault coach Brandon Oberhaus work with athletes for two hours on drills, sprinting and technique. The camp runs through July 25, excluding the week of the Fourth of July for the MHSAA-mandated dead period.

When that wraps up, he'll have a little time to move into his next adventure — working with Don Passenger and Michiana Timing.

He'll work track and field meets, cross country meets, road races, bike races, triathlons, etc., as they're available through Passenger.

"I am excited to try some different things," Michell said. "After working for 30 years where you carry your job home with you, I am looking forward to not having to do that any longer.

"I read somewhere that the average teacher answers 2,000 questions per day. It's just crazy. I really look forward to not having that."

Cadillac News