BROOKLYN — When Caleb Jarema crossed the finish line at Michigan International Speedway a year ago, a bull’s eye was painted on his back.
Having placed second in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 cross country race behind Fremont senior Nathan Walker, Jarema automatically became the man to beat in 2021 as the only non-senior in the top four.
Jarema fulfilled the promise he showed at MIS as a junior, winning the Division 2 race Saturday with a time of 15:22.22.
He won by 6.63 seconds over Fremont’s latest senior standout, Conor Somers.
“I feel like I’ve had somewhat of a target on my back,” Jarema said. “I was more worried about the team. Obviously, I think a little bit about, ‘I want to be individual champion,’ but my focus this year is just trying to get the team to win.”
Pinckney, it turned out, finished fifth for the second year in a row.
The Pirates have a rich cross country tradition, having won three consecutive Division 1 championships from 2005-07. During that time, David Emery (2006) and Brian Hankins (2007) led Pinckney by winning individual championships.
Now Jarema has added his name to that legacy.
“We have this wall at Pinckney of people who have been all-state,” Jarema said. “It’s in our athletic hall, so every day I walk by and see Brian Hankins and David Emery, who were state champs. It’s a little thing that reminds me every day what I’m working for.”
Pinckney was still in Division 1 during Jarema’s first two years of high school. He didn’t qualify for the state meet as a freshman, placing 38th at Regionals in 17:18.2. As a sophomore, while also playing varsity soccer, Jarema qualified for the Division 1 Final by taking 11th at Regionals. He showed potential by taking 38th in the MHSAA Final in 16:12.8.
Like former Grand Blanc star Grant Fisher, he gave up soccer his junior year, in Jarema’s case because of the toll playing both sports was taking on his body.
“I definitely miss soccer,” Jarema said. “(Cross country) has kind of just become my home. I love the people.”
After five top-five finishes in Division 2 over the last six seasons, Otsego won its first MHSAA team championship by a 135-147 score over Chelsea.
Senior Nick Cockerel was ninth in 15:53.86, senior Tristin Canales was 15th in 15:59.58, senior Mason Kolhoff was 17th in 16:01.35, senior Chase Brown was 36th in 16:29.17 and junior Colin Wesseldyk was 95th in 17:05.04 for Otsego.
Chelsea could be primed to be crowned champion next season, as the Bulldogs were led by sophomore standout Connell Alford’s fourth-place time of 15:42.64 and had three juniors take places two through four in their lineup.
PHOTOS (Top) Pinckney’s Caleb Jarema closes in on his first MHSAA Finals championship Saturday afternoon. (Middle) Otsego’s Nick Cockerel (1284) and Grand Rapids Christian’s Tinsae Nelson (1234) and Ben Zwart (1238) make their push toward the finish. (Click for 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.)