By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BROOKLYN — Cedar Springs junior Austin Sargent knew what it took to become an MHSAA champion before he ever earned the title.
He trained every day last season with Connor Mora, who ran to the Division 2 championship a year ago.
When Mora graduated, he passed the torch to Sargent.
"He gave me a lot of tapes and told me to keep my form in check and to believe you can do it," Sargent said.
Sargent kept the individual championship in Cedar Springs, outdueling Mason senior Mason VanDyke to win with a time of 15:42.7. VanDyke was second in 15:48.5.
Sargent has made considerable improvement every year he's run for Cedar Springs. He was the top freshman in the 2011 meet, placing 52nd in 16:40.5 as his team's No. 3 runner. He moved into all-state range last year, placing 27th in 15:59.0. He was Cedar Springs' No. 2 runner behind Mora.
"Without Connor being here, I felt I had to take my turn as the top runner," Sargent said. "At the beginning of the year, I thought this was my year to work hard and prove I'm one of the best runners in the state."
Sargent ran with a four-man pack until about a half-mile to go. That's when he made a move, taking a lead that he wouldn't relinquish. He ran slowly in the final 100 yards, but didn't have to worry about being caught.
"There was nothing left," he said.
Sargent was an individual qualifier this year after Cedar Springs qualified as a team his first two years.
St. Clair, which hadn't won an MHSAA title until last year, made it two in a row by a 106-127 margin over St. Joseph despite having only three runners back from last year's MHSAA Finals.
St. Clair put three in the top 13 among team runners, with its top six all being seniors. Cody Smith was sixth overall and fourth among team runners in 16:06.6 to lead the Saints. Also scoring for St. Clair were Trevor Holowaty (eighth in team race, 16:12.4), Adam Gizowski (13th, 16:19.3), Paul Schneider (16:38.6) and Austin Kromroy (52nd, 17:00.6).
St. Joseph had five runners finish before St. Clair did, but didn't have the Saints' strength at the front of the field. St. Joseph has made the top three the last three years.
Grand Rapids Christian was third with 180 points.
PHOTO: Cedar Springs' Austin Sargent (red uniform) leads a pack into the mid stages of the LP Division 2 Final on Saturday at MIS. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)