BROOKLYN — All that stood between Grand Haven’s Seth Norder and his cross country dreams last year were 1.63 lousy seconds.
That was the margin when Norder took second place in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final to then-senior Benne Anderson of Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills.
Looking back, Norder believed his mistake was allowing that race to come down to a sprint to the finish line.
He wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice.
When Norder looked over his shoulder down the stretch, he didn’t see a serious threat as he put the finishing touches on an individual Division 1 championship Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. Norder finished in 14:54.3.
Norder was part of a three-runner lead pack at the mile mark, closely pursued by about a dozen other hopefuls. By the two-mile mark, Norder opened up a 4.7-second lead over New Baltimore Anchor Bay senior Thomas Westphal, who would go on to finish second by 3.6 seconds.
“Last year, I lost on a sprint-off with like 200 (meters) to go,” Norder said. “I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I believed I had the strength to pull away from the field. I guess I had the strength and ended up holding it down that stretch. That felt like forever.”
Norder finally has a championship on his resume after placing second both of the last two years. As a sophomore, he finished 23.5 seconds behind Hartland senior Riley Hough, who went on to win the Eastbay National Cross Country Championship.
“It feels so good,” Norder said. “Sophomore year — I lost to Riley, OK. Junior year, I wanted to win. I lost by a second. I decided I wasn’t going to lose again. If I was going to lose, it was not going to be a sprint-off. It was going to be the toughest man.”
Norder did have one MHSAA championship going into Saturday, having won the 3,200-meter run in 9:04.68 on the track last spring.
The team championship came down to a clash between Kensington Lakes Activities Association rivals Northville and Brighton, who split four meetings during the regular season.
Northville emerged with a second straight championship, scoring 128 points to edge Brighton by 13. Norder’s Grand Haven team was third with 187 points.
Northville had three all-staters, with senior Brendan Herger placing third in 15:05.6, junior Ethan Powell 13th in 15:28.0 and sophomore Benjamin Hartigan 24th in 15:37.7. Rounding out the Mustangs’ team score were junior Nick Barretto in 16:05.1 and senior Nicholas Yaquinto in 16:14.8.
PHOTOS (Top) Grand Haven's Seth Norder closes the MHSAA Finals with a Division 1 win Saturday. (Middle) Northville's Benjamin Hartigan (318) leads a pack down the stretch. (Photos by Dave McCauley/RunMichigan.com.)