By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BROOKLYN — Brian Kettle came away with a couple of battle scars to go with his MHSAA championship medal Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.
The Milford junior was bleeding from both knees as he crossed the finish line in the Lower Peninsula Division 1 cross country race with a time of 15:07.3.
Midway through the race, Kettle took a tumble that scraped both of his knees. He got up quickly, but lost ground to a fast lead pack. He patiently took a half mile to catch back up, then made a decisive move with 300 meters remaining to beat runner-up T.J. Carey of Lake Orion by 2.1 seconds.
Kettle made sure he didn’t panic when the unexpected happened in the biggest race of the year.
“I knew I had to stay relaxed; things happen,” he said. “I didn’t let anyone else get too far ahead of me, so I took my time catching back up and tried to run even. It was just enough to scrape the ground and come back up. I was moving forward the whole time.”
Once Kettle regained contact with the lead group, it was time to determine when to make his move. The 2012 Division 1 1,600-meter champion in track and field launched his kick with 300 meters to go down the straightaway in front of the main grandstand at MIS.
“I’ve got a shot at it,” he recalled. “If I run a solid next 200, I’ve got it in the books.”
The top four runners, as well as seven of the top 10, were from Oakland County. That sense of familiarity was a plus for Kettle.
“A lot of these guys I see in earlier meets throughout the year,” he said. “It was great competing against them at that time, and it’s great coming here with all of them and finding out who’s the fastest.”
Making Kettle’s victory even sweeter was that it led Milford to the team championship. The Mavericks scored 83 points for a comfortable winning margin over Waterford Mott, which had 167. Rockford was third with 186.
All five of Milford’s scoring runners broke 16 minutes. Senior Cody Snavely was fourth in 15:16.7, senior Chris Housel 31st in 15:46.3, senior Matt Graves 33rd in 15:47.6 and junior Kevin Black 42nd in 15:54.9 to complete Milford’s scoring.
Kettle credited his teammates for helping him become an MHSAA champion, as some of his toughest races take place in practice.
“It’s a huge advantage having a good team,” Kettle said. “I love everyone we run with. We’re good friends, even out of the practices. Being able to push each other during races makes it all the better. We’ve got the best training partners in the world.”
PHOTO: Milford's Brian Kettle (70) runs amid a sizable pack during the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final. (Click to see 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.)