By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BROOKLYN — Cedar Springs junior Austin Sargent knew what it took to become an MHSAA champion before he ever earned the title.
He trained every day last season with Connor Mora, who ran to the Division 2 championship a year ago.
When Mora graduated, he passed the torch to Sargent.
"He gave me a lot of tapes and told me to keep my form in check and to believe you can do it," Sargent said.
Sargent kept the individual championship in Cedar Springs, outdueling Mason senior Mason VanDyke to win with a time of 15:42.7. VanDyke was second in 15:48.5.
Sargent has made considerable improvement every year he's run for Cedar Springs. He was the top freshman in the 2011 meet, placing 52nd in 16:40.5 as his team's No. 3 runner. He moved into all-state range last year, placing 27th in 15:59.0. He was Cedar Springs' No. 2 runner behind Mora.
"Without Connor being here, I felt I had to take my turn as the top runner," Sargent said. "At the beginning of the year, I thought this was my year to work hard and prove I'm one of the best runners in the state."
Sargent ran with a four-man pack until about a half-mile to go. That's when he made a move, taking a lead that he wouldn't relinquish. He ran slowly in the final 100 yards, but didn't have to worry about being caught.
"There was nothing left," he said.
Sargent was an individual qualifier this year after Cedar Springs qualified as a team his first two years.
St. Clair, which hadn't won an MHSAA title until last year, made it two in a row by a 106-127 margin over St. Joseph despite having only three runners back from last year's MHSAA Finals.
St. Clair put three in the top 13 among team runners, with its top six all being seniors. Cody Smith was sixth overall and fourth among team runners in 16:06.6 to lead the Saints. Also scoring for St. Clair were Trevor Holowaty (eighth in team race, 16:12.4), Adam Gizowski (13th, 16:19.3), Paul Schneider (16:38.6) and Austin Kromroy (52nd, 17:00.6).
St. Joseph had five runners finish before St. Clair did, but didn't have the Saints' strength at the front of the field. St. Joseph has made the top three the last three years.
Grand Rapids Christian was third with 180 points.
PHOTO: Cedar Springs' Austin Sargent (red uniform) leads a pack into the mid stages of the LP Division 2 Final on Saturday at MIS. (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.)