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Posted on Fri, May 31, 2013 : 9 a.m.

Saline runner forgoing track state finals to observe Sabbath

By Pete Cunningham

The majority of high school athletes never make it to their sport's state championships. So in one sense, the fact that Saline senior Gabe Becton isn’t running in this weekend’s boys track and field state finals isn’t that unique.

What is unique is that Becton has actually qualified for the MHSAA Division 1 boys track and field state championships and is not participating by choice.


Gabe Becton.

Courtney Sacco | file photo

Becton is a member of Saline’s state championship qualifying 800-meter relay team, but he’s also a member of Seventh-day Adventist Church, a Christian denomination that observes the Sabbath from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. Becton chooses not compete on Saturdays to conform with the Christian Bible’s fourth commandment which states, “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.”

“When you compete it’s not really a holy thing to do. It can be all fun and games, but the people you’re going against they become more your enemy than anything,” Becton said. “I’m not saying everything I do on the Sabbath is holy. I walk, walking isn’t exactly holy, but when you compete there’s that mindset that all you want is to win.

“Your focus is on you yourself and everything you can do to win instead of concentrating on keeping the day holy and your relationship with God,” Becton explained.

This has been no easy choice for Becton, and he said its one he still struggles with. This was especially so during the basketball season, when he - as a starter - had to miss nearly half the team’s games.

He skipped last year's state championships, but coach Allan Leslie said the team was deep enough where his alternate was not a step down. Leslie said this year's sprint relay would likely garner all-state honors with Becton, but likely won't without him.

“It was a really hard decision because I did want to go really bad and want to go with my team and want to help them real bad,” Becton said. “It still kind of sucks, but I’ve come to terms with it.

“It was my decision all along, but it’s been difficult.”

Becton said that never once have his parents or other church members demanded this strict observance of the Sabbath. He said this year his teammates have tried to convince him to put his beliefs on hold, and that it’s been tough to say no.

Ultimately, he said his teammates still respected him for his decision.

“The relationship with the team is they love him and we understand it. You respect a kid that in this day and age makes a tough choice based on his beliefs,” Leslie said. “He’s such a solid kid it’s hard to get mad at someone when they’re doing things for the right reason.”

Leslie said the situation wasn’t as friendly in 2009 when Becton’s cousin, Aarion Gross, made the same decision. As fast as Becton is - he holds Saline’s individual record in the 100-meter dash (11.03 seconds), and his regional meet preliminary heat times were under the state qualification standard - Gross was faster. Becton could boost Saline’s chances to place top-eight in the 800 relay, Gross would have been one of the favorites to win the 400. Gross holds the Saline High School record for fastest 400 (48.69).

“That team didn’t adjust very well. ” said Leslie. “It’s just been a known with Gabe, and you can’t really argue about those things. We’ve come to accept and respect it.”

Becton said he’s spoken with Gross about the decision before and both feel the same way. Part of them wishes they could run, but they believe they are better for not.

“I feel I’ve gained a stronger relationship I think with God and I always ask him to guide me in my decisions,” Becton said.

MHSAA Boys track and field state championships

Division 1
at East Kentwood High School

When: Saturday, June 1.
Who: Pioneer, Skyline, Saline, Lincoln, Dexter, Ypsilanti.
Outlook: The teams in the area don't really have the elite talent to match the third place finish of Saline last year, or runner-up finish of Ypsilanti the year before. As Saline coach Allan Leslie put it, "You really need a top-level stud like (Steven) Bastien was for us last year, or (Austin) Sanders for Ypsilanti. We just don't have that this year."

The area does, however, have several individuals who should be all-state and some favored to win individual titles. Washtenaw County had four event champions and two runners up in 2012.

Dexter's Noah Gary had the top qualifying pole vault of 15-feet-7. The second highest was 14-feet. Lincoln's Tyree Waller is the top seed in the long jump after finishing runner-up last year.

Thumbnail image for hovater-chelsea-pole-vault.jpg

Chelsea's Michael Hovater, above, is the top seed in the pole vault.

Division 2
at Forest Hills Eastern High School

When: Saturday, June 1.
Who: Chelsea, Milan.
Outlook: Chelsea could make some noise with the necessary elite level athletes, mixed with depth, but probably lack the strength in relays to contend for a title.

Berkley Edwards is the top-seed in the 100 and No. 2 in the 200. Michael Hovater is the top seed in the pole vault and teammates Travis Weiss and David St. Pierre could be on the medal stand with him as they are the No. 2 and 11 seeds respectively.

Milan's Kalif Kelsey is a one man team, but could fare better than most with several members as a No. 3 seed in the 100, No. 6 in he long jump and No. 11 in the 200.

Division 3
at Comstock Park High School

When: Saturday, June 1.
Who: Father Gabriel Richard, Manchester, Whitmore Lake.
Outlook: Gabriel Richard won a regional title, but it was one of the weaker regionals in Division 3. Michigan commit Blaise Stearns is the No. 6 seed in the 100.

Willow Run freshman Brandon Morgan has a bright future ahead of him, qualifying in both the 100 and 200, but the state meet will be a grown man's game.

Pete Cunningham covers sports for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 9:44 p.m.

I would be mad he's on a relay team way to leave your team hanging yes I understand his point of you but maybe then you should not be competing on the relay team and you should do your individual events


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 2:08 a.m.

While I certainly agree that the choice is his, I disagree personally for two basic reasons. 'It can be all fun and games, but the people you're going against they become more your enemy than anything,' This seems to be a problem that needs correction, rather than just side-stepping the issue on your Sabbath. Can you really not compete without it being about enemies? Can you just not want to be your best? Wanting to win a foot race should not in my book be in any way similar to having enemies and the feelings that the use of that word inspire. God gave him that talent, and he and his coaches worked hard to develop it. Maybe he should work on not making enemies out of people on other teams. That is the bigger 'sin' to me. The second problem I have is, why is he on any team that ever competes on his Sabbath? Is his religion about becoming a crucial part of a team, and then not being there when they need him? If he knows going into it that he cannot give 100% - as his teammates do - then he should choose an activity that does not require others to sacrifice for him. Or a team where everyone believes the same about Fri nights / Sat daytime and does not compete during that period. Or refuse to compete in any meet so your teammates don't depend on you. Again, there is freedom of religion in this country and he has every right to make the decision he did. And the schools certainly have to respect that. I just disagree. And he has every right to ignore me.


Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

Good for you Gabe! don't let anyone guilt-trip you into compromising your most cherished standards. Anyone who does this is NOT a friend.

Fat Bill

Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

How selfish to participate in a team sport but only as a part time player. If one's beliefs are that strongly held, one should step aside and allow others who are able to fully participate to take that spot.


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 12:38 a.m.

Completely agree!

Ron Miller

Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 4:14 a.m.

I support her action of not participating. Any organization that hold events on Sunday mornings I scold. The church is slowly being removed from our lives.


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 2:13 a.m.

You and he are on opposite sides of this issue. He is choosing to not participate in something; he is not telling others that they can't have a track meet on HIS Sabbath. You are apparently already not participating in Sunday morning events, and are telling others they should be honoring YOUR Sabbath.


Sat, Jun 1, 2013 : 3:29 a.m.

He should find a different sport. Many track meets are held on Saturday. Not fair to the rest of his relay team.


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 8:16 p.m.

May you continue to grow from strength to strength, Gabe.


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 7:11 p.m.

I got out of going to my aunts funeral because I had third row for Sabbath back in the late 70's. :)

Usual Suspect

Fri, May 31, 2013 : 6 p.m.

I think it's safe to assume this kid will not grow up to be a used car selesman.


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

Good to hear of someone with principles. Let us hope he keeps them, it is a hard path, but it can be done.


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

Very Sandy Koufax of him. Gotta credit him for putting his money where his mouth is. I don't happen to agree with his point of view, but that is really neither here nor there I suppose. Good for him for sticking to his guns anyway.

Usual Suspect

Fri, May 31, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

It seems to me using the body God gave you and the opportunities he has given you would be a holy thing. As would holding to the commitment you made to your team. But that's just me. I don't think God's point about the Sabbath is so black-and-white. The message is to take the out of your life to devote some to him. As for exactly what day and time that is, I don't think he has a horse in that race.

Dog Guy

Fri, May 31, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

"The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." Mark 2:27


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

You won't even remember this event in the years ahead, but your beliefs will sustain you for life. Good for you.


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

Too bad for him. I'm sure the next guy in line won't be upset.


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

Good for him. I don't share his faith but it is refreshing to see him consistently apply his beliefs even when it isn't convenient.


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

My thoughts exactly!