By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half
BROOKLYN — Keenan Rebera ticked off each item on his individual checklist.
Only the team championship eluded his grasp.
Rebera, a senior at Lansing Catholic, repeated as the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 cross country champion Saturday with a time of 15:30.2 at Michigan International Speedway.
His team finished second with 141 points, well behind Benzie Central's winning total of 87.
Before he even knew the team results, he was proud of the effort put in by his teammates throughout the season.
"No matter what the outcome is, I know these guys have put in the work and they will reap the rewards," Rebera said. "It's really good to have the atmosphere we have on the team. We have an expectation of putting in everything you have, everything you can give. We're all in, we're all very serious about it and we all love it."
As for his own race, Rebera had three goals in mind.
"Win, beat my time from last year and not have my shoes untied," he said.
At that, it was natural to glance down at Rebera's spikes — the laces were still tied.
Even without anyone to push him in the final mile, Rebera eclipsed last year's winning time of 15:31.0. Zac Benham of Scottville Mason County Central was second by 14.4 seconds.
"The conditions today were way worse than last year with the wind," Rebera said. "That's what makes it fun. That last mile was pretty lonely; that's the nature of this sport."
The Cougars couldn't topple the depth of the dynasty that has been built at Benzie Central.
Benzie repeated as the Division 3 champion, winning its eighth overall title. Benzie has been in the top four the last four years.
Benzie had three runners crack the top-30 all-state threshold, with sophomore Brayden Huddleston taking ninth in 16:09.0, senior Kyle Bailey 19th in 16:30.7 and junior Jake Williams 25th in 16:33.0. Also scoring for the Huskies were junior Noah Robotham (16:42.4) and sophomore Jeffery Crouch (17:09.8).
Benzie squeezed in four runners before Lansing Catholic crossed its No. 2 runner, sophomore Ethan Markey, who was 35th in 16:42.9.
PHOTOS: (Top) Lansing Catholic’s Keenan Rebera pushes toward the finish in repeating as Lower Peninsula Division 3 champion at Michigan International Speedway. (Middle) Burton Bendle’s Timothy Kimball (708) leads a pack that includes Benzie Central’s Kyle Bailey (534), who ran second for the eventual team winner. (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.)