BROOKLYN — All that stood between Grand Haven’s Seth Norder and his cross country dreams last year were 1.63 lousy seconds.
That was the margin when Norder took second place in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final to then-senior Benne Anderson of Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills.
Looking back, Norder believed his mistake was allowing that race to come down to a sprint to the finish line.
He wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice.
When Norder looked over his shoulder down the stretch, he didn’t see a serious threat as he put the finishing touches on an individual Division 1 championship Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. Norder finished in 14:54.3.
Norder was part of a three-runner lead pack at the mile mark, closely pursued by about a dozen other hopefuls. By the two-mile mark, Norder opened up a 4.7-second lead over New Baltimore Anchor Bay senior Thomas Westphal, who would go on to finish second by 3.6 seconds.
“Last year, I lost on a sprint-off with like 200 (meters) to go,” Norder said. “I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I believed I had the strength to pull away from the field. I guess I had the strength and ended up holding it down that stretch. That felt like forever.”
Norder finally has a championship on his resume after placing second both of the last two years. As a sophomore, he finished 23.5 seconds behind Hartland senior Riley Hough, who went on to win the Eastbay National Cross Country Championship.
“It feels so good,” Norder said. “Sophomore year — I lost to Riley, OK. Junior year, I wanted to win. I lost by a second. I decided I wasn’t going to lose again. If I was going to lose, it was not going to be a sprint-off. It was going to be the toughest man.”
Norder did have one MHSAA championship going into Saturday, having won the 3,200-meter run in 9:04.68 on the track last spring.
The team championship came down to a clash between Kensington Lakes Activities Association rivals Northville and Brighton, who split four meetings during the regular season.
Northville emerged with a second straight championship, scoring 128 points to edge Brighton by 13. Norder’s Grand Haven team was third with 187 points.
Northville had three all-staters, with senior Brendan Herger placing third in 15:05.6, junior Ethan Powell 13th in 15:28.0 and sophomore Benjamin Hartigan 24th in 15:37.7. Rounding out the Mustangs’ team score were junior Nick Barretto in 16:05.1 and senior Nicholas Yaquinto in 16:14.8.
PHOTOS (Top) Grand Haven's Seth Norder closes the MHSAA Finals with a Division 1 win Saturday. (Middle) Northville's Benjamin Hartigan (318) leads a pack down the stretch. (Photos by Dave McCauley/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.)