Brimley senior – Cross Country
Plotkin finished an accomplishment Saturday that has been achieved in Michigan high school boys cross country only once before. By winning the Upper Peninsula Division 3 Final championship for the fourth time, Plotkin joined Central Lake legend Ryan Shay as the only other four-time boys champion (LP Class D 1993-96), earning the MHSAA “Performance of the Week.”
Plotkin’s time of 17:20.7 was nearly 11 seconds ahead of the field at Gentz’s Golf Course in Marquette and capped an undefeated season that included for the first time a championship as well at the Mackinaw City Invitational on Sept. 26. Plotkin entered this fall with a personal record (PR) of 16:50 and lowered it to 16:32. This season’s Finals winning time actually was just the third-fastest of his four, further backing up Brimley athletic director Hugh Clarke, who called Plotkin arguably the school’s most dominant athlete over the course of a four-year high school career. Plotkin also owns an Upper Peninsula Division 3 Finals track championship in the 3,200 from 2017 and will run that race plus the 800 and 1,600 in the spring. He holds all of his school’s cross country records and is part of two record-holding track relays. Plotkin also plans to play basketball this winter for the first time since freshman year.
Also worth applauding: After an admittedly disappointing freshman year academically, Plotkin has raised his grade-point average a full point over the last two years and is considering a number of options athletically and academically at the college level. He’s planning to study business administration and finance.
Coach Wilson Hester said: “When I first saw him as an eighth grader, I could tell right away he had ability, but he didn’t know pacing or how to run. He would just go out and run fast or slow with not a lot of pacing involved. Once we got him doing proper training and technique work, and he was learning how to pace, he flourished. … He’s brought lots of recognition to the school. He’s been leading the track and cross country teams for the past four years, and everybody in the region and Upper Peninsula knows who he is. … He’s just scratching the surface of what he can do. He has some tremendous potential. I think at the next level, with more mileage, more of a training season – our seasons are so short up here, it’s difficult to get them to where their absolute potential can be – I have no doubt (he’ll continue to improve).”
Performance Point: “In the last probably quarter mile of the race, I definitely thought back to what everyone had said to me when I won freshman year,” Plotkin recalled of Saturday. “They said, 'Oh my goodness, you have so much potential. You could probably do this four years.' And I remember I was scoffing, thinking no, there will be another up-and-comer, somebody who can beat me. And looking back I remember Mr. Clarke told me if I win four years in a row, as soon as possible I'll be in the Brimley Hall of Fame. And just one of the things that came to me in that quarter mile, I was just thinking, one, how wrong I was – I thought that I couldn't do it, and here I was doing it. And plus, also, I was just super-excited to have done it, because it was such a feat – only one other person has done it.”
No shot at putting: “Eighth grade track was my first time running. I actually wanted to do shot put because my summer job the summer before was moving split wood for my grandpa. And then my coach Justin Carrick asked me, he said ‘Hey, we've got nobody doing (the 3,200). You're scrawny. You can do it. We just need someone to run the 2-mile. I don't care what you get – you've just got to run it.’ In middle school it's the first event, and I won it. I ran like an 11:20 that day, which is really bad for eighth grade. He took me out of shot put and put me in the mile and 800, and I went undefeated all the way until the last two meets, which coincidentally were the only two meets we got medals for and Jimmy Storey from Pickford beat me in the 800 both of those meets. So I lost two races and by the end of the season I was down to 10:55 for my 2-mile time. … I fell in love with winning. Once I had a little bit of something to do it for really; now that I had a shoebox of medals, I was like yeah, I can do this. And then I got a text from my friend over the (eighth-grade summer) that was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you come do cross country? It’s like track in the woods.’”
Just getting started: “Coming into it as a freshman, I didn't know that I would have the potential to win. My coach told me first race, do top 20. And I won. From that point, there weren't too many races that I lost. And the ones I did, basically the meet that I lost consistently every year was the Mack(inaw) City Invitational where we ran against Harbor Springs, Petoskey and Gaylord St. Mary. And even at those meets I got second or third. And this year was my first year that I won it. … It came to me naturally as a freshman, and as the years went on I realized I had to do a lot more offseason work and I had to do a lot more in-season work not only to keep my speed, but to go faster. This was my first summer that I actually ran consistently all summer, so this season I came out and broke my PR first meet and then consistently stayed within the mid 16:30s.”
Bays on a run: “When I came in as a freshman, our cross country program was a club. Cross country was out of the picture for a lot of students, and a lot of people didn't want to participate. And track, the year that I was in eighth grade, high school track I think had 11 participants. So it's amazing to see not only how I, but how the entire cross country team has progressed. This season we had about 15 consistent runners for cross country, and last track season … I think by the end we had 25 participants, which is pretty impressive considering we had just 11 four years ago.”
Numbers games: “I think I want to run a business, or, I really like numbers; I’m in accounting right now, and I love balancing journals. So one thing I could do is be a financial officer at a bank, which is a pretty cool deal. … I definitely love in physics, when we have equations, just trying to figure out the mystery behind it and when you can’t make something add up.”
– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Oct. 17: Jack Spamer, Brighton cross country - Report
Oct. 10: Kaylee Maat, Hudsonville volleyball - Report
Oct. 3: Emily Paupore, Negaunee cross country - Report
Sept. 26: Josh Mason, South Lyon soccer - Report
Sept. 19: Ariel Chang, Utica Eisenhower golf - Report
Sept. 12: Jordyn Shipps, DeWitt swimming - Report
PHOTOS: (Top) Brimley's Austin Plotkin pushes toward the finish at Saturday's Upper Peninsula Division 3 Final. (Middle) Plotkin runs with a pack earlier in the race. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.)