Gladstone Ace Shaving Seconds, Stacking Wins in Building Memorable Run

By John Vrancic
Special for

October 7, 2021

GLADSTONE — Drew Hughes has been piling up victories throughout this cross country season.

The Gladstone High School junior won for the ninth time in as many races Tuesday, finishing first at the Gladstone Invitational at Richer's farmhouse. 

That victory came three days after earning top honors at the Sault Ste. Marie Elks Invitational by covering the 3.1-mile course in 16 minutes, 35 seconds. At Munising on Sept. 28, he ran a personal-best 16:22.4 in the El Harger Memorial Invitational at Pictured Rocks Golf & Country Club, shaving seven seconds off his previous best at the Holly Invitational on Sept. 18 at Davisburg.

What has made him so successful?

“It’s probably the training I did this summer,” said Hughes, who averages 20 miles a week. “I ran with a lot of my friends, and they pushed me a lot. Although, most days I was running by myself. After a meet when I get a good time, I just want to keep getting better.”

Hughes has finished under 17 minutes in his last five races, including the John Prokos Memorial Invitational in Escanaba where he was clocked at 16:47 on Sept. 25. He also ran a 16:47 on Tuesday.

After the Holly Invite, he was selected the Athlete of the Meet for Division 3-4-5 after becoming the first male runner from the Upper Peninsula to take top individual honors in the meet’s 53-year history.

“I thought that was real cool,” said Hughes, who ran a 5:10 split in his first mile. “After the first mile, I wanted to keep that pace. I also wanted to make sure I didn’t burn out. I slowed down slightly in the second mile, but not too much. Coach (Gary Whitmer) told me my two-mile split. At that point, I wanted to go for under 17.”

Gladstone placed third at Sault Ste. Marie with 84 points. South Lyon won at 27, followed by the host Blue Devils with 51.

“My teammates and coaches have been very helpful, and they’ve been helpful and respectful to other teams,” said Hughes. “We’re a real good small team.”

On race day, he enjoys the competition and camaraderie with other runners.

“Marquette is real solid and fun to race against,” he said. “Houghton is doing well, and Sault is fun to race against. They have a nice course up there.

“My girlfriend and whole family come to the meets when they can. They’re also very supportive even when they can’t make it to the meets.”

Hughes started running in third grade under former coach Dan Paul.

“I just loved running,” he said. “My brother Luke was among the best runners in middle school, and that really motivated me. He had a lot of speed and height. In second grade, I started getting interested in running by watching him. They had a lot of people there. That was awesome.

“Our coach would treat us to ice cream after some practices. He and my grandfather came with us and rode their bikes while we were running.”

Hughes hopes to retain his Great Northern Conference title at Menominee on Oct. 14 and Mid-Peninsula Conference crown in Ishpeming on Oct. 18.

The season ends with the Upper Peninsula Finals on Oct. 23 at Gentz Golf Course in Chocolay Township (near Marquette). Hughes finished 12th in the Division 1 race in 2020.

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTO Gladstone's Drew Hughes leads and wins the Dale Phillips Invitational on Sept. 3 at Presque Isle Park. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

Freeland's Hansen Smashes Longstanding Record, FHE Claims 1st Finals Victory

November 4, 2023

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.

Until Saturday.

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.

Henry Dixon sets the pace for Forest Hills Eastern's first team championship.“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.

Click for full results.

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/