Kyle Eberhard has enjoyed running for as long as he can remember.
He joined a mileage club in elementary school. He said his days on the playground weren’t spent playing soccer like some of his classmates, but running back and forth.
Back then, he was simply having fun and blissfully unaware of a Linden High School distance program that was among the best in the state.
Now in his senior year, that love of running helped turn him into the best distance runner the program has ever had.
“Kyle had another year of really solid mileage and had a fantastic track season (as a junior),” Linden boys cross country coach Trevor Hall said. “Coming into cross country season, he was brimming with confidence. Running consumes his thoughts. He’s always thinking about, ‘How can I be a better runner?’ He just does everything right.”
Eberhard recently set the school’s cross country record, completing the 5K course at the Shepherd Blue Jay Invite in 15 minutes, 20.9 seconds. It was nearly 30 seconds better than his previous personal best, and 14.4 seconds better than the previous record, set by Roger Phillips in 2012.
“It’s crazy because my goal was just to get on (the program’s top 10 list),” Eberhard said. “And that was starting last year – by the end of my senior year, the goal was to get on there. I never envisioned getting on the top. There was a senior when I was a freshman, Tyler Buchanan, he’s (third), and I was like, ‘I’ll never be as fast as him.’”
The record started to become a reality for Eberhard this past track season. He set the school record in the 1,600 meters at 4:18.01, was a Regional champion in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 and was all-state at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals in the 800 (fifth) and 1,600 (eighth).
Track season also showed Eberhard’s range as a runner, as he was unbeaten in six 400-meter races, including winning the Flint Metro League championship.
“I’ve been training over the winter since my freshman year,” Eberhard said. “But last winter, I went a lot harder. I raced a lot more. I really focused on racing almost every weekend, and focused on what workouts I was doing, stuff like that.”
Track didn’t just bring confidence to Eberhard, it also brought college interest. Scholarship offers have started rolling in, including from Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan. He’s also visited Michigan State and Oakland, among others, with more visits upcoming.
“In late spring, I was getting more attention from track, and it’s been consistent since then,” Eberhard said. “I’ve been narrowing it down since the start of the summer, going on unofficials and stuff. It’s fun, but it’s also annoying sometimes.”
The recruiting process hasn’t distracted Eberhard from having the best season of his career. He’s won six of Linden’s first eight races, including the Duane Raffin Festival of Races at Holly.
Not among those wins is the Shepherd race in which he broke the record. There, he finished third, behind Thomas Westphal of New Baltimore Anchor Bay and Trent McFarland of Utica, two of the top runners in Division 1.
“I was definitely really locked in that day, just because I knew that was one of two or three chances I had to really run fast this season,” Eberhard said. “I knew I would have more than one person to chase after.”
Eberhard knew he was moving fast throughout the race, and it really hit home when he crossed the 2-mile mark in 9:50, which would be a personal best for him on the track.
“I’m only the cross country coach, but I think that might be the most impressive record of all the distance records at Linden,” Hall said. “Just to have him not just break the record, but blow it out of the water in a program where we’ve had some state runners-up and top-five finishers. We had a plan going in, and he executed it perfectly. It was just a gutsy race. You could see the effort on his face at every step. It was just so cool to witness.”
Eberhard’s time tied for the second-fastest in Division 2 this season with Pinckney’s Evan Loughride. Only Chelsea’s Connell Alford has run faster in Division 2 this season, and he’s done so three times, with his best time 14:53.2.
Eberhard and Loughride will meet at the Regional on Oct. 29 in Waterford, but they won’t see Alford until the Division 2 Final on Nov. 5 at Michigan International Speedway.
“I definitely want to win Regionals, which is going to be a battle,” Eberhard said. “The big one is to try to win the state meet, which is going to be hard with Alford there. I know I can compete with the other guys, but anything can happen. Our coach always says, ‘You’re better than you think you are.’”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Linden’s Kyle Eberhard, left, runs with a pack during the Shepherd Blue Jay Invitational on Oct. 1. (Middle) Eberhard (1222) follows Anchor Bay’s Thomas Westphal, far right. (Photos courtesy of Kyle Eberhard.)
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.)