Second Half reports
BROOKLYN — They were racing to beat each other and racing to beat the weather.
When thunder was heard with the runners about to head down the stretch in the MHSAA Division 2 boys cross country race, the leaders were oblivious to the ominous conditions.
“I was too focused on where I was and where I wanted to start picking it up,” Coldwater senior Shuaib Aljabaly said.
Aljabaly ran the fastest time of the day in any division, winning Division 2 with a time of 15:12.2. Nick Foster of Ann Arbor Pioneer won Division 1 in 15:16.1.
Otsego junior Alex Comerford was second in Division 2 in 15:24.7.
“I didn’t see (lightning) at the end,” Comerford said. “I definitely could tell it was going to come on. I don’t think anybody really noticed in the last half mile.”
Runners were urged to move quickly through the chutes following the Division 2 race. Two separate lightning sightings resulted in the final race of the day, the boys Division 1 race, to be delayed by an hour and 10 minutes.
The victory capped an undefeated season for Aljabaly, who won 12 races.
“My first year here was my sophomore year,” he said. “I surprised myself; I was eighth. Coming back, I knew there were a couple kids who were just super good. I just tried reaching for them; I ended up placing third. Both of them were seniors. I was like, ‘This is my year; let’s take it.’”
Aljabaly is the first Coldwater athlete to win an MHSAA boys title since Russ Hickey in 1991.
The key move was made on a downhill right after the two-mile mark.
“I’ve been training to get him in the last half mile,” Comerford said. “I just couldn’t do it. He’s such a good competitor. I run with him all the time. He’s the best guy you could possibly lose to.”
Chelsea, which has qualified for 16 straight MHSAA Finals, won its first championship by a 96-110 margin over defending champion Corunna.
Chelsea’s best finish before Saturday was fourth place in 2008.
The Bulldogs put their five scoring runners in the top 40 among those competing for teams. Senior Tom Oates was third in the team race in 15:39.0, junior Jensen Holm was eighth in 15:51.4, junior Carson Rabbitt was 17th in 16:12.4, senior Connor Gilbreath was 28th in 16:29.1 and junior Foster Thorburn was 40th in 16:41.5.
Corunna, led by third-place overall finisher Ben Jacobs (15:35.9), had four runners in the top 21 of the team race, but also counted a 52nd-place finish.
PHOTOS: (Top) Coldwater’s Shuaib Aljabaly (915) holds off familiar foe Alex Comerford of Otsego to win the Division 2 title. (Middle) Tom Oates charges toward the finish to lead Chelsea to its first team championship in boys cross country. (Click for 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.)