By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
ROCKFORD — Grant Fisher wasn't going to get snuck up on again.
As a sophomore last year, Fisher came down the final stretch with the lead in the 1,600-meter run at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Track and Field Final, only to be caught from behind by Lake Orion's T.J. Carey and lose by sixth-thousandths of a second.
The Grand Blanc distance star made up for it later in the day by winning the 3,200, then went on to win the MHSAA Division 1 and Foot Locker national cross country championships in the fall.
The one title he still lacked was the MHSAA 1,600 crown, which he took care of Saturday by jumping out to the lead and never looking back.
Fisher won in 4:10.82, having built a sizable cushion over fast-finishing Traverse City Central sophomore Anthony Berry, who took second in 4:12.64.
"Last year in the last 100 meters I got caught by T.J.," Fisher said. "That was a really disappointing one, because I was so close. This year, I wanted to get a victory this time and I didn't want to leave it too close to call. Usually, I sit and kick, but today it's about winning. I'll do what it takes to win."
With a 1,600 victory under his belt, Fisher took a different approach a couple hours later in the 3,200. He sat behind Royal Oak's Ben Hill until 200 meters remained, then won a sprint to the finish with a time of 9:07.11, covering the final lap in 59 seconds. Hill took second in 9:09.34.
Fisher became only the second boy in the last 12 years to sweep the distance events in LP Division 1, the last being Monroe's Justin Heck in 2008. Of seven runners who have swept the 1,600 and 3,200 in LP Class A or Division 1, only future Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein of Rockford had a faster combined time. Ritzenhein posted times of 4:08.08 and 9:00.63 in 2000.
"My plan going into the race was with 150 (meters) to go to make a move," Fisher said. "That's what I did. I had to wait like that, because I was pretty tired from the mile. That was a huge goal of mine to win the mile and two mile."
Fisher wasn't the only boy to turn in elite-level performances.
Junior Donavan Brazier of Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills set an MHSAA all-Finals record in the 800 with a time of 1:50.24. He broke the mark of 1:50.63 set by Rick Gledhill of Mt. Clemens Chippewa Valley in the 1988 LP Class A meet. Brazier was pushed down the stretch by Waterford Mott's Brennan Munley (second in 1:51.79) and Milford's Brian Kettle (third in 1:52.39).
"A 1:50 was pretty surprising," Brazier said. "I was hoping for a (personal record) from 1:52. I just hung on until the last 200 and gave it all I've got."
Saline's 3,200 relay team of John Davis, Ryan Gauche, Ryan Wilkie and Logan Wetzel set an all-Finals record with a time of 7:40.54, breaking Saline's mark of 7:41.27 set in 2004. Victory wasn’t even a given until Wetzel overtook Okemos on the final lap after the Hornets were in third place for much of the race. Wetzel ran a 1:50 closing leg.
"It's really hard to press in that last 200, 300 meters when you're all alone," Wetzel said. "Definitely having a guy to battle with made all the difference."
Oak Park senior Maurice Allen had the stamina to complete a difficult double, winning the 400 in 48.13 seconds and coming back three events later to take the 200 in 21.36. Earlier, he ran on a second-place 800 relay team.
"You're tired, but the thing is to get out in the lead in the first part of the race," Allen said. "If you can start, you can finish."
The only other athlete to win two individual events was Swartz Creek senior thrower Kevin Weiler. Weiler won the discus at 176 feet, 5 inches and the shot put at 60 feet, 4.5 inches.
East Kentwood won its fifth team championship in six years, scoring 71 points to beat Oak Park by 21. Saline was third with 37 points.
"It's one of those things where we're not necessarily winning everything, but we're taking seconds and thirds and scoring twice in events," East Kentwood coach Dave Emeott said. "It's a very special group of kids who worked crazy hard."
Antoine Lloyd, Kevin Smith and Devin McKinney each scored in four events for the Falcons. Lloyd had a hand in 27 points, winning the 110 high hurdles, taking second in the 300 hurdles, taking fourth in the high jump and running on a fifth-place 1,600 relay team. McKinney scored 25 points, taking third in the 110 hurdles; running on the winning 800 relay team with Smith, Ashley Bailey and Michael Catching; running on a sixth-place 400 relay team; and taking third in the 200. Smith had a hand in 23 points. He was on the winning 800 relay team.
PHOTO: Grand Blanc’s Grant Fisher leads a pack around a turn during the 1,600 at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final on Saturday at Rockford High School. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)