By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BROOKLYN — When Nick Raymond found himself leading the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 cross country race Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, he didn’t freak out.
He was right where he expected to be.
The Erie Mason senior shot to the lead with a blistering 4:39 opening mile and never looked back, winning with a personal-best time of 15:05.1 that ranks second on the Division 3/Class C all-time list for the MHSAA meet.
Only Maverick Darling, who runs for the University of Wisconsin, had a faster time in that division with his 14:52.8 performance in 2007.
It wasn’t the first time Raymond found himself in the lead in an MHSAA Final. It is the first time he felt he belonged up front, however.
“Last year I went out and was leading the race,” Raymond said. “I was a little confused, because I wasn’t expecting to do so. I kind of died and fell back. This time I was prepared to go out to the lead and just take it.”
Raymond faded to fourth last year in 15:59.0, 10.8 seconds behind winner Zachary Zingsheim of Lansing Catholic. One of the runners who beat Raymond last year was Chase Barnett of Mason County Central, the runner-up in 2011 who placed third Saturday in 15:28.7.
Raymond was undefeated this season, but said the competition at MIS helped push him to his personal best, though his goal was to break 15 minutes. Senior Bryce Stroede of Hanover-Horton was second in 15:22.4.
“I haven’t had any competition this season, except here, which I liked,” Raymond said. “It was great. I got a really fast time. I was happy with it.”
Raymond’s plan was to reach the mile mark in 4:45. Getting there six seconds faster didn’t concern him that he might’ve gone out too hard.
“The pace was a little fast,” he said. “I decided to just use it and keep going hard. In the second mile, I just surged.”
Jackson Lumen Christi won its first boys cross country team title since taking Class B in 1979, scoring 129 points to beat runner-up Marlette by eight. Defending champion Grandville Calvin Christian was third with 147.
Marlette and Calvin Christian both put two runners in the top 10 among team qualifiers, something Lumen Christi didn’t do. The Titans, however, won with superior depth.
Junior Karl Berkemeier was 12th among team qualifiers in 16:16.4, senior Charlie Ludlow was 13th in 16:17.7, sophomore Ryan Gibson was 20th in 16:24.1, junior Patrick Soltis was 30th in 16:50.7 and junior Canyon Raburn was 54th in 17:10.4.
PHOTO: Erie Mason's Nick Raymond (544) holds the lead 800 meters into Saturday's Division 3 Final, and kept it through the finish line. (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.)