Second Half reports
BROOKLYN – It was a race that took a toll on the front-runners.
Caro sophomore Yami Albrecht appeared just fine after winning the MHSAA Division 3 boys cross country championship Saturday, until a fellow competitor congratulated him with a hug. Albrecht staggered back a bit and closed his eyes, trying to get his bearings.
The runner he outkicked for the title, Bridgman senior Brian Njuguna, was helped through the finishing chute area at Michigan International Speedway by two runners from other teams.
Sure, the fast runners can sometimes make it look easy – but it isn’t, not with hopes and dreams on the line.
“It’s probably the toughest race I ran all year,” Albrecht said. “In the race, I was hurting, but the person next to me was hurting just as bad. I had the advantage. I felt I was stronger. I was able to get it.”
Albrecht won the sprint to the finish with a time of 15:47.4. Njuguna was second in 15:50.4 and St. Louis senior Evan Goodell was third in 15:52.7.
“It was just like I imagined it,” Albrecht said. “The top four of us were the people I was thinking were going to be there.”
While the muddy conditions over the final 1,200 meters resulted in slower times for many of the top runners, the duel against Njuguna helped propel Albrecht to a personal-best time. His previous best was 15:49.1 in the Regional meet.
A year ago, he ran 16:03.8 as a freshman to place eighth in Division 3.
“Since then, I’ve been thinking about first place,” Albrecht said. “I was able to get that done. It feels good. I’m thankful for my coaches and my teammates.”
The three-way battle for first became a two-man duel as the finish line came into view. Njuguna took the lead as they hit the straightaway before Albrecht made a decisive move.
“Once we got on the straightaway, I felt pretty good,” Albrecht said. “I thought I had it. … I thought I could catch up to him. I was going to see what he was going to do and go off that once he got in front of me.”
Moving up to Division 3 didn’t impact Saugatuck, which won the team championship by a 61-137 margin over Lansing Catholic. Hanover-Horton was third with 182 points.
Saugatuck had always been a Division 4 school, winning MHSAA titles in that division in 2013 and 2015. This was the team’s fifth straight year in the top four of its Finals race.
Seniors Zachary Pettinga, Nick Butch and Orlando Carrion helped the Indians win three MHSAA championships and take second place in 2014 during their careers.
The team’s top runner was a sophomore, Corey Gorgas, who was fourth overall and second in the team race in 16:02.2. Pettinga was fifth overall and third in the team race in 16:06.6.
Completing Saugatuck’s scoring were Butch (10th in team race, 16:36.7), Carrion (18th, 16:44.2) and junior Keegan Seifert (28th, 17:00.5).
The Indians had three runners across the line before Lansing Catholic’s top runner crossed.
The MHSAA Cross Country Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.
PHOTOS: (Top) Caro’s Yami Albrecht (542) holds onto the lead ahead of Bridgman’s Brian Njuguna in the Division 3 Final. (Middle) Saugatuck’s Keegan Seifert (663) works to stay with a large pack in helping the Indians to the team title. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)
BROOKLYN — On the same day Rockford’s Dathan Ritzenhein set a course record at Michigan International Speedway that has never been approached, Kurtis Marlowe of Richland Gull Lake had a performance that was overshadowed.
But Marlowe’s winning time of 15:02.5 in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals in 2000 also stood the test of time.
Freeland junior TJ Hansen eclipsed the Division 2 record with his winning time of 14:52.8. Runner-up Solomon Kwartowitz of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood also nearly broke the previous record, finishing in 15:03.3.
Even though it was apparent from earlier races Saturday that perfect conditions made fast times possible, Hansen didn’t set out to break Marlowe’s record.
“No, my goal was to go out and win,” he said. “Play strategy from the front, let others do the work, then just push it. Whatever time I got, I was gonna get. I knew it was going to take a time like that to win it today.
“I usually run close to a (personal record) every year at this meet. It’s one of my favorite courses. It’s definitely unique here at the speedway, so I really like the course, I really like to run it.”
Hansen went through the mile mark tied for 11th in 4:54.3, but you could’ve thrown a blanket over the top 12 runners at that point.
It was a three-man race between Hansen, Kwartowitz and 2022 champion Connell Alford of Chelsea when they reached the two-mile mark in 9:46.
Hansen made sure there would be no drama coming down the stretch.
“I was just trying to stay calm, let them do the work, just sit back,” he said. “When I needed to go, I was gonna go. My goal was to stay relaxed.”
Kwartowitz had no complaints with his race.
“It felt really smooth,” he said. “It was great. I didn’t get a chance to race these guys a bunch this year. I did at Spartan (Invitational, in September). I was really hoping to end it with a victory.”
The boys Division 2 team championship was a toss-up between four teams for the second year in a row, with Ada Forest Hills Eastern coming out on top with 134 points. Pinckney was second with 156, East Grand Rapids third with 175 and Allendale fourth with 176.
Last year, 32 points separated the top four teams.
Junior Henry Dixon led Forest Hills Eastern, placing sixth in 15:16.0. Senior Liam Hinman was 29th, senior Brendan Hoving was 30th, senior Cooper Jacobsen was 38th and junior Tyler Endres was 82nd.
It was the first MHSAA championship for Forest Hills Eastern, which had a program-best finish of fourth in 2007.
PHOTOS (Top) Freeland's TJ Hansen approaches the finish of his record run Saturday at MIS. (Middle) Henry Dixon sets the pace for Forest Hills Eastern's first team championship. (Photos by Dave McCauley/RunMichigan.com.)