Second Half reports
BROOKLYN — On top of the normal pressure of racing in the MHSAA Cross Country Finals, runners in the boys Division 1 meet Saturday had to wait through two weather delays before taking the course at Michigan International Speedway.
Every team and every runner had different ways of coping with the extra dose of stress.
What did Ann Arbor Pioneer do?
“We just act like it never happened,” Pioneer junior Nick Foster said. “Our team stayed loose and tried to act like it was a normal race, a normal start. We actually did start singing Bob Marley’s ‘Don’t Worry About a Thing’ to stay loose. It’s fun. We knew this was a good opportunity for our team. We wanted to execute.”
The Pioneers brushed aside the one-hour, 10-minute delay and swept the team and individual championships in Division 1.
Pioneer edged Plymouth by a slim 107-110 margin, while Foster unleashed a fierce kick to win a three-man battle for the individual title.
Rockford senior Cole Johnson was leading with the finish line in sight, but Foster stormed from behind to take the lead with about 20 yards remaining. Foster crossed the line in 15:16.1, Johnson was second in 15:18.2 and White Lake Lakeland junior Harrison Grzymkowski was third in 15:18.4.
“I realized it was coming down to the end,” Foster said. “I saw he was fading, so I tried to catch him. There was also someone right behind me. I just gave it everything I had at the end, just to see what happened. Cole’s such a good runner. I didn’t think it was possible.”
It was the sixth team championship for Pioneer, which last won in 2008.
“That’s more important to me than winning individually,” Foster said. “I just know if I get first, that’s the best I can do for the team. We have such a strong team this season with a lot of seniors. I wanted to do it for them.”
After Foster, the Pioneers’ next four runners finished within 16.8 seconds of each other. Senior Aldo Pando-Girard was 20th among team runners in 15:59.1, junior John Florence was 25th in 16:11.5, senior Jack Wallace was 26th in 16:12.0 and senior Philip Valtadoros was 35th in 16:15.9.
By coming in second, Plymouth had the best finish in school history, eclipsing third-place finishes in Class B in 1944 and 1947. The Wildcats hadn’t finished in the top 10 since taking 10th in Class A in 1961.
Led by sophomore Carter Solomon’s fifth-place overall finish in 15:24.2 and with only one senior in the top six, Plymouth might improve upon that showing next year.
Defending champion Lakeland took third with 130 points.
PHOTOS: (Top) Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Nick Foster crosses the finish line at Saturday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) Pioneer’s Aldo Pando-Girard (5) and New Baltimore Anchor Bay’s Michael Zedan (888) race through a stretch. (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.)