Hersha Paces D4 Field for 3rd, Final Time

November 1, 2014

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

BROOKLYN — Jesse Hersha is the best small-school runner in Michigan, but he's got big-time talent.

Everybody else in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 cross country meet Saturday was running for second place, as exemplified by Santana Scott's reaction when he finished as runner-up to Hersha at Michigan International Speedway.

Spotting Evart teammate Josh Woods in the finish area, Scott thrust his arms in the air and ran in his direction. 

"Josh! I got second!" a delirious Scott screamed.

Hersha ran away with his third straight individual title, posting a time of 15:23.0 to narrowly miss the LP Division 4 record and win by 31.7 seconds over Scott. 

Scott shattered his personal best with a time of 15:54.7.

Asked if the field was racing for second place, Scott said: "That's what I was feeling like. I didn't think I'd be able to catch him." 

Hersha became only the third boy to win three championships since team and individual qualifiers began running in the same race in 1996, the first year for the LP Finals at MIS. Benzie Central's Jake Flynn won Class C from 1997-99 and Maverick Darling of Ovid-Elsie won Division 3 from 2005-07.

Four others who ran when there were separate team and individual races had the fastest time at the MHSAA Finals three times. 

"When I won it my sophomore year, the first thing I thought was, 'All right, I've got to go through and do it,'" Hersha said. "It really didn't feel real until now that I'm a three-time state champion."

Hersha would be a threat to win or place high in any division in the state.

He ran his personal best of 15:07 on Sept. 12 at the Spartan Invitational, taking second to Royal Oak's Ben Hill in an elite field stacked with some of the best Division 1 runners in Michigan. He finished ahead of Waterford Mott's Ryan Robinson, who was 21st in last year's Foot Locker national meet. 

"It's nice to be able to look at the state meet as low-pressure, because I feel I can win every time," said Hersha, whose next race will be the Foot Locker Midwest Regionals on Nov. 29 in Kenosha, Wis. "Obviously, if something goes wrong, I won't win. I'd honestly rather race the bigger guys, even if I don't win the race."

The only thing that didn't complete Hersha's final season at Concord was that the team didn't win its third championship in his four-year career, taking fourth with 123 points. 

Fourth-ranked Beal City pulled the upset, edging top-ranked Saugatuck by four points with 105.

Senior Nick Pung was third in 16:19.3 and junior Ethan Schafer seventh in 16:33.9 to lead Beal City, which was in the MHSAA Final for only the third time. Last year's seventh-place finish was the team's best showing in a Final before Saturday.

Click for full results. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Concord's Jesse Hersha kicks down the stretch on the way to winning his third LP Division 4 individual championship. (Below) Beal City senior Nick Pung finished third individually to lead the Aggies to their first MHSAA team cross country championship. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)

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/RunMichigan.com.)