By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BROOKLYN — Jesse Hersha has already done something his running role models never accomplished, but that doesn’t lessen the sense of awe he has for past Concord state champions Kyle Stacks and Spencer Nousain.
Hersha became Concord’s third individual MHSAA champion in the last four years, but the first to do so as a sophomore, as he cruised alone up front to take the Lower Peninsula Division 4 championship Saturday at Michigan International Speedway with a personal-best time of 15:32.3. His performance led Concord to a second consecutive team title.
Stacks won the 2009 championship in 15:54.8, followed by Nousain two years later in 15:55.8. Both were seniors when they won.
“I’m always fighting to beat Spencer’s times and Kyle’s times,” said Hersha, who was a teammate of Nousain’s on last season’s championship team. “Today I was three seconds or so off Kyle’s best time.
“They are definitely a push for me. They inspire me. Even if I beat their times, I’ll never think of myself as more than them. They’ll always be a role model to me.”
Hersha ran alone up front, winning by 20.5 seconds over David Zinger of Evart. Sean Kelly of Saugatuck was third in 15:58.9.
Hersha placed 19th at last year's Final, ninth among non-seniors. It was during the summer road race season that he began to get the confidence that he could become an MHSAA champion.
“I ran a road race without much training in 17:04 or something,” Hersha said. “My coach came to me after that and told me when Spencer won his senior year, he ran like 16:50 something at that race. When Kyle won his senior year, he ran 16:50 something.”
Nousain was the only senior in Concord’s Finals lineup last year, so the Yellow Jackets were favored to repeat. They did so handily by a 61-100 margin over Evart.
Freshman Josiah Ottolini was 11th in 16:23.0, senior Parker Saenz 14th in 16:27.0, senior Tyler Neu 18th in 16:29.7 and senior Sam Comden 47th in 17:05.4 to complete Concord’s scoring.
PHOTO: Concord's Jesse Hersha became the third MHSAA individual champion from Concord. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)