Second Half Reports
BROOKLYN – Moving down a division helped, but there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work.
So, even though Cass City junior CarLee Stimpfel was racing runners from smaller schools, it was still his personal improvement that put him in a position to win the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 cross country championship Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.
Stimpfel finished the 3.1-mile course in 16:02.7, beating Harbor Springs sophomore Jeremy Kloss by 9.8 seconds.
A year ago, Stimpfel missed all-state in Division 3 by three places, taking 33rd in 16:48.1. As a freshman, he was 72nd in Division 3 in 17:20.3.
“I was kind of bummed, getting three places away from all-state,” Stimpfel said. “I knew I had to train. I trained all summer. We got moved down to D4. I guess it was to my advantage.”
Saturday’s time was his fastest by far at MIS, but nowhere near his personal best. He ran 15:39.4 on Oct. 1 at the Wagener Park Invitational. Even though he ran in the first race of the day, the course was already muddy down the final stretch from rain earlier in the week.
“Honestly, I was hoping to go for Tec Adams’ state record,” Stimpfel said. “It wasn’t going to happen today.”
Adams set the Division 4 record for the MIS course with a time of 15:22.4 in 2008.
Stimpfel hit the mile mark in 5:00 and the two-mile in 10:16, holding a four-second lead at both splits. He wasn’t sure if that lead would hold up as he made his way down the interminably long final stretch at MIS.
“I was a little nervous,” he said. “I looked back a couple times. I didn’t know how far I had on him. I was hoping I would finish strong and get across. It’s not every day you can be state champion; that’s pretty sweet.”
In the team race, top-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia won its first MHSAA boys cross country championship since Pewamo High School was the Class C-D champion in 1959 by a 131-144 margin over Harbor Springs. Bear Lake/Onekama was third at 181.
As was the case for Stimpfel, Pewamo-Westphalia moved down to Division 4 from Division 3. The Pirates were sixth in Division 4 in 2013 before taking 18th in both 2014 and 2015 in Division 3.
Senior Bryce Thelen is the lone holdover from that sixth-place team. He was the team’s leading runner and fifth in the team race with a time of 16:43.2.
Pewamo-Westphalia won on the strength of a strong pack behind Thelen, with only six team-race places and 9.9 seconds separating the Pirates’ No. 2 and No. 5 runners.
Sophomore Mitch Nurenberg was 29th (17:18.6), senior Brock Simon was 30th (17:19.4), sophomore Kyle Hengesbach was 32nd (17:21.3) and junior Trent Barker was 35th (17:28.5).
Harbor Springs had three runners cross before the Pirates’ No. 2 runner, but had to score a 41st and a 66th place.
Bear Lake/Onekama had two runners in the top 10 of the team race, but scored three runners in the 50s.
The MHSAA Cross Country Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.
PHOTOS: (Top) Cass City’s CarLee Stimpfel drives the final stretch on the way to the Division 4 individual title Saturday. (Middle) Bryce Thelen leads the P-W pack on its team championship run. (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.)