By Jason Schmitt
Special for Second Half
BROOKLYN – When Carson City-Crystal’s Coleman Clark crossed the finish line Saturday, he raised his arms over his head and belted out a loud scream.
He had plenty of reasons to celebrate.
The senior captured the Division 4 individual title at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Boys Cross Country Finals, beating out a loaded field in the second of two races in the division. He broke 16 minutes, finishing in 15:58.55.
And his Eagles also captured the school’s first boys cross country team title since 1994.
“My goal was to come in here and win it,” said Clark, who finished runner-up to Breckenridge’s Mason Sumner a year ago. “And to have my team win as well, this is awesome.”
Clark said his strategy was to take an early lead and keep it. That’s what he did.
“Throughout the race, it could have been anybody’s. But once I got to the stretch, I knew I was going to win it,” he said. “This is the strongest front pack we’ve had in a long time. There were a lot of top runners up there. I’m friends with a lot of them. I race them all the time.
And to break 16. It feels great, amazing.”
Saugatuck junior Max Sharnas finished runner-up in a time of 16:06.51. Sumner finished third (16:31.27), while Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart senior Matthew Nowak finished fourth and Petoskey St. Michael Academy junior Samuel Paga fifth overall.
As a team, Carson City-Crystal was solid one through five. Junior Ashton Keiffer finished 25th overall, earning all-state honors after running a time of 17:38.74. Also scoring for the Eagles were sophomore Brayden Clark and seniors Jared Shepler and Calvin Clark.
“In past years, we haven’t had a super, great team,” Clark said. “This year, we’ve got the most amazing, talented group of guys I’ve ever raced with. I knew that we could pull off a state title if we worked hard.”
Head coach Grant Woodman knew a championship would not come easy. But when he learned his team had accomplished the feat, he was more than fired up.
“It’s pretty freaking awesome,” the coach said, still somewhat in disbelief. “Our history at the school is pretty steeped with tradition, so to bring a state title back is pretty cool.
“We knew it was going to be a fight from the beginning. Saugatuck, Breckenridge and Webberville, we’ve been fighting back and forth with those teams all season. Breckenridge is in our league, and we’ve been keeping an eye on Saugatuck on the other side of the state. They are a powerhouse every year.
Carson City-Crystal’s last Finals team title came back in 1994, the same year the school last produced an individual state champion (Justin Curry).
Breckenridge finished runner-up, led by Sumner’s third place. Also earning all-state honors for the Huskies were junior Trent Carter (8th place) and Colttion Vine (20th place).
Concord was third overall, followed by Kalamazoo Christian and Saugatuck in the top five.
PHOTOS: (Top) Carson City-Crystal’s Coleman Clark digs for the final paces of his Division 3 Finals heat with Saugatuck’s Max Sharnas just behind. (Middle) Ashton Keiffer was the second Eagles runner to cross Saturday. (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.)