By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BROOKLYN — It's been a year of "what-ifs" for Grand Blanc junior Grant Fisher.
What if the Bobcats' soccer team hadn't made the MHSAA Division 1 Final last season?
What if Fisher, a starting midfielder as a sophomore, hadn't chosen to play in the championship game instead of running in the MHSAA Cross Country Finals, which took place on the same day?
How would he have done against the best runners in the state?
"The soccer final didn't turn out the way we wanted," Fisher said. "We lost 1-0 to East Kentwood. There's always the thought that maybe I could've come here that day and not gone to the soccer game and maybe contended for state. I don't regret that decision, but it's definitely good to be back."
There will be no questions swirling in Fisher's head for the next year. He ran to the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship Saturday with a time of 15:13.7, beating Kensington Lakes Activities Association West rival and defending champion Brian Kettle of Milford by 18 seconds.
The soccer issue was settled when an unbeaten Grand Blanc team was upset 1-0 in the District Final by Clarkston on Oct. 19. Fisher had already determined that he would run in the cross country finals if the Bobcats reached the soccer final.
"We definitely had a good chance to make it in soccer," Fisher said. "We were ranked fourth going in. It was really too bad of a way to go out. It's allowed me to train for cross more and focus. It's definitely helped my cross country. I haven't won a state title in cross. That's something I really wanted to do."
Fisher already had an MHSAA championship on his resume, winning the 3,200-meter run in track and field last spring after taking second in the 1,600 by the narrowest of margins. In his only cross country final before Saturday, Fisher was 44th as a freshman in 16:14.3.
He had raced Kettle one other time this season, winning by 14.6 seconds in the KLAA Lakes Conference meet on Oct. 17. As was the case in that meet, Fisher and Kettle ran together through two miles before Fisher pulled away.
"I didn't want to leave it for too late, so I made my move at two miles," Fisher said. "Brian was with me for a good amount of time. He was right on my shoulder."
Fisher became the third Bobcat to win an MHSAA championship. Mark Mesler was the Class A team champion in 1977 and Chris Catton was the 2002 Division 1 winner.
Kettle didn't come away empty-handed, as he led Milford to a third straight team championship by placing in the top two for the third year in a row.
Milford edged KLAA Lakes rival Waterford Mott, 165-170, for the title. Mott had beaten Milford in both of the teams' meetings this year, winning 88-114 at the Oakland County Championships on Oct. 5 and 63-72 in the KLAA Lakes Conference meet on Oct. 17.
Milford put it together at the right time to win a fifth championship in the last 11 years.
The difference for the Mavericks was at the No. 4 spot, where senior Kevin Black had a 24-point advantage on Mott's No. 4 runner. Three positions were relatively even between the teams, while Mott had an 18-point advantage at No. 2.
Scoring for Milford were Kettle, senior Jeffery Field (28th in the team race, 16:24.0), junior Sean Noone (31st, 16:25.2), Black (34th, 16:26.6) and senior Clinton Caddell (70th, 16:48.5).
Mott had two runners in the top 10 in the team race, third-place Ryan Robinson (15:42.6) and 10th-place Sam Albaugh (15:55.5).
Traverse City Central also was in the title hunt, taking third with 180 points. The Trojans had three runners in the top 11 in the team race, but their No. 5 runner was 118th.
PHOTO: Grand Blanc's Grant Fisher (1023), Waterford Mott's Ryan Robinson (1175), Royal Oak's Ben Hill (1254) and Milford's Brian Kettle (1047) paced the field at Saturday's LP Division 1 Final. (Click to see 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.)