A total of 17 top-10 individual finishers from last season’s Upper Peninsula Boys Cross Country Finals graduated this spring – resulting in a possible new look to at least one championship race Saturday at Gentz’s Homestead Golf Course in Marquette.
While Marquette remains an annual favorite in Division 1 and Dollar Bay looks like the team to chase again in Division 3, Division 2 might be a little less predictable for the first time in a while as always-speedy Ishpeming is among those bringing a mostly-new crew. Similarly, only one 2020 individual champion will return this weekend, and from a Division 3 also welcoming a number of new contenders.
Saturday’s races begin with the Division 1 girls at 11 a.m. and conclude 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.)
Reigning champion: Marquette
2020 runner-up: Sault Ste. Marie
Top-ranked: 1. Marquette, 2. Houghton, 3. Calumet.
Marquette is seeking its third-straight Division 1 title after edging Sault Ste. Marie by nine points last season and six in 2019. Five of last season’s top seven runners will race again this weekend, including juniors Carson and Colin Vanderschaaf (who placed third and fifth, respectively, in 2020) and senior Luke Janofski (sixth) as all five Marquette returnees finished among the top 19 individuals overall. Senior Eric Weiss was the individual runner-up last season to lead Houghton’s third-place team finish, and he’s one of three back from that lineup. Sault Ste. Marie should figure in significantly again with four runners back from last season’s lineup (including three who placed among the top 19 overall), led by junior Cody Aldridge (eighth) and senior Riley Eavou (ninth).
Individuals: Total, 10 from last season’s top 20 will be back this weekend. Gladstone junior Drew Hughes is another to watch after finishing 12th a year ago and fifth as a freshman.
Reigning champion: Ishpeming
2020 runner-up: Painesdale Jeffers
Top ranked: 1. Painesdale Jeffers, 2. Ironwood, 3. St. Ignace.
Ishpeming has won the last three Division 2 titles and six of the last seven, but graduated its top five runners from last season’s team and returns this weekend with five sophomores and a freshman. Painesdale Jeffers graduated four of its five runners from last season’s runner-up team, with junior Tavin Larson hoping to lead the next five to the front after taking fourth individually in 2020. Ironwood returns four runners from its fourth-place team finish, led by junior Tyler Smith (14th).
Individuals: Half of last season’s top 20 individual finishers graduated, and total seven runners will return this weekend from that remaining group. Larson is the highest-returning placer, followed by West Iron County sophomore John Swenski (eighth) and Ishpeming sophomore Parker Gauthier (10th).
Reigning champion: Dollar Bay
2020 runner-up: Rudyard
Top ranked: 1. Dollar Bay, 2. Brimley, 3. Brimley Ojibwe Charter.
Dollar Bay went from runner-up in 2019 to winning its first championship in 2020, and four of its top six from last year will run this weekend with junior Cooper Stout returning after finishing sixth individually. Big things are expected from Brimley with four of its top five back after finishing fifth last season, and Ojibwe Charter brings back two of three individual qualifiers from a year ago as it seeks a high team finish. Stephenson is an interesting possibility with its top six runners back from last year’s team that finished fourth, including junior Griffin Brown (ninth individually) and senior Corey Buckley (11th).
Individuals: Half of the Division 3 top 20 from last season also graduated, but nine of the remaining 10 will be back Saturday. Ewen-Trout Creek senior Jonah Nordine is the reigning champ after clearing the field last season by nearly 25 seconds. Engadine junior Conrad Spieles also returns from the top 10 after placing ninth last fall.
PHOTO Marquette's Luke Janofski (866) and Colin Vanderschaaf (870), Houghton's Eric Weiss (778), and Marquette's Brady Ketzenberger (867) run at the Queen City Invitational this season. (Photo 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.)