Preview: Historic Finish Guaranteed

October 18, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Only 16 runners in MHSAA boys cross country history have won three Finals championships. Only one – Central Lake’s Ryan Shay from 1993-96 – finished first four times during his high school career.

Brimley’s Austin Plotkin is part of that three-timers group. By the end of this weekend, he could join Shay is much smaller company.

Upper Peninsula Cross Country Finals races begin Saturday at Gentz’s Golf Course in Marquette with the Division 1 girls at 11 a.m. and finish with the Division 3 boys at 1:30 p.m. Check back Saturday evening for coverage, and see below for more teams and individuals to watch. (Click for race information and competitors.)

Division 1

Reigning champion: Sault Ste. Marie
2018 runner-up: Houghton
Top-ranked: 1. Marquette, 2. Sault Ste. Marie, 3. Houghton. 

The Division 1 race has seen plenty of variety lately with four schools winning at least one championship over the last five seasons. The rankings would indicate Marquette as the favorite to jump up from fourth last season and win its first Finals title since 2014. Four of the team’s seven runners from last year are back and all four finished among the top 30 overall, led by now-seniors Hogan Nemetz (13th) and Moses Waide (16th). But Sault Ste. Marie will be right there again with four of the top 14 finishers back – senior Kaaleb Ranta (fourth), junior Jaron Wyma (sixth), senior Zachary Wilcox (eighth) and sophomore Riley Eavou (14th). And reigning individual runner-up Joe Wood is back for his final high school race to lead the reigning team runner-up Houghton, which also has juniors Branden Peterson (11th) and Jake Sullivan (20th) back among others.   

Individuals: Gladstone graduated champion Adam Bruce and third-place Jake Strasler. But sophomore Giovanni Mathews could lead the way after finishing fifth a year ago. Total, six of last year’s top 10 are back for this weekend, and Menominee junior Hunter Shepeck is another likely contender after coming in 12th in 2018.

Division 2

Reigning champion: Ishpeming
2018 runner-up: Wakefield-Marenisco/Bessemer
Top-ranked: 1. Ishpeming, 2. Ironwood, 3. Wakefield-Marenisco/Bessemer.

Ishpeming is running for its second straight championship and fifth in six seasons – and finished runner-up in 2017 when Wakefield-Marenisco/Bessemer won the title. W-M/B was runner-up for the other three of the last four championships. Last year’s matchup between the two was decided by 15 points, and Ishpeming returns four top-13 finishers: senior Jonah Broberg (fourth), junior Jordan Longtine (fifth), junior Joseph King (12th) and junior Silas Broberg (13th). Ironwood is expected to maneuver into the second spot this time and brings back junior Blaze Hollenbeck (ninth) and senior David Collins (16th).

Individuals: Senior Adam Mazurek leads the way for Wakefield-Marenisco/Bessemer coming off a seventh place last season. Manistique senior Alex Misniakiewicz also is back after coming in sixth. Total five of the top 10 from last year will return, a number made smaller with Newberry running in Division 3 this fall.  

Division 3

Reigning champion: Chassell
2018 runner-up: Brimley
Top-ranked: 1. Chassell, Rock Mid Peninsula, 3. Brimley.

Similar to Ishpeming in Division 2, Chassell also is running for its second straight title and fifth in six seasons, and finished runner-up in 2017 when Brimley came in first. Chassell edged the Bays by 13 points last year and brings back sophomore Daba Holmes (eighth) and junior Kolson Kytta (12th) from a group of five top-13 finishers. Brimley should make a run at the title based on its star power at the top – Plotkin again is the reigning individual champion and junior Cameron Hoornstra finished third last season.

Individuals: Division 3 definitely features the strongest individual race, at least on paper. Cedarville senior Thomas Bohn finished second to Plotkin the last two seasons. Total seven of last year’s top 10 are back, including also Dollar Bay junior Davin Hill (fifth), Rudyard junior Hayden Mills (sixth) and Ewen-Trout Creek sophomore Nik Thomas (10th). Newberry junior Ephram Evans should join the pack after finishing eighth in Division 2 in 2018.

PHOTO: For the second straight Finals last fall, Brimley’s Austin Plotkin just outpaced Cedarville’s Thomas Bohn to win the Division 3 championship. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

Freeland's Hansen Smashes Longstanding Record, FHE Claims 1st Finals Victory

November 4, 2023

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.

Until Saturday.

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.

Henry Dixon sets the pace for Forest Hills Eastern's first team championship.“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.

Click for full results.

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/