By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half
BROOKLYN — Zachary Pettinga of Saugatuck lost the race, but didn't lose his sense of humor.
Scott was rocking a look that made him look more like a senior citizen than a high school senior, with the top of his head shaved completely while keeping the hair on the sides and back.
The things high school kids will do in the name of team bonding.
"It's a team thing," Scott said. "We do it every year. I was a senior, so I got to decide, me and a couple other seniors. We thought this would look cool."
Despite the crazy look, Scott was all business when the gun went off.
He separated himself from Pettinga in the second mile to win in 16:05.7 in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 championship race Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. Pettinga's second-place finish in 16:22.2 led Saugatuck to the team championship by a 51-92 margin over Bear Lake/Onekama. Harbor Springs was third with 179 points.
Scott became only the second MHSAA cross country champion for Evart, the first coming in 1952 when Gaylord Denslow was the Class C-D champion with a two-mile time of 11:02.1. Scott has talked with Denslow, who still lives in Evart.
"He's pretty cool," Scott said. "He gives me lots of running advice. He says just be one with your team and run for your team, not for yourself. That made a big impact this year."
Scott moved up the ranks each year at the MHSAA Finals, placing 36th (16:54.1) in 2012, 20th (17:02.2) in 2013 and second (15:54.7) last year. He was ecstatic with his second-place finish last season, realizing that nobody was going to catch three-time champion Jesse Hersha of Concord.
"Last year I just ran my heart out," Scott said. "Today it was to win. I didn't get the time I wanted, but races happen. I think it's actually windier than last year."
Saugatuck will probably be favored to repeat after winning Division 4 for the second time in three years. The Indians had five juniors, a sophomore and a freshman in a lineup that put five runners in the top 15. Pettinga and fellow juniors Nick Butch and Orlando Carrion were on Saugatuck's 2013 championship team and 2014 runner-up squad.
The addition of freshman Corey Gorgas helped put Saugatuck back on top. He was the Indians' No. 2 runner, placing 11th in 16:41.4. The rest of Saugatuck's pack included Butch (13th, 16:46.1), Carrion (14th, 16:49.7) and sophomore Keegan Seifert (15th, 16:51.8).
Bear Lake/Onekama had three runners across before Saugatuck, but didn't have the Indians' strength at the No. 4 and No. 5 spots. Bear Lake/Onekama has been creeping closer to the top, placing ninth in 2012, fourth in 2013, third in 2014 and second in 2015.
PHOTOS: (Top) Saugatuck’s Orlando Carrion (919) pushes toward the finish with teammate Keegan Seifert following close behind; they finished 14th and 15th for the team champion. (Middle) Evart’s Santana Scott improved from runner-up in 2014 to claim the individual title. (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.)