Second Half reports
BROOKLYN — CarLee Stimpfel of Cass City had to spend some extra time walking around in the chute area before he could collect his breath and talk with reporters Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.
There was a physical and mental toll in repeating as MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 individual boys cross country champion.
“It was definitely a lot tougher race than last year,” Stimpfel said. “I don’t know what it was. I think it was more mental this year.”
Stimpfel’s margin of victory was smaller this year. He emerged from a five-man pack to win in 16:07.1, beating Plymouth Christian Academy junior Luke Pohl by 6.1 seconds. Stimpfel’s time of 16:02.7 last year was 9.8 seconds faster than runner-up Jeremy Kloss, a Harbor Springs runner who took second in Division 3 on Saturday.
“Everybody’s always on your, ‘Are you gonna repeat this year? Are you gonna repeat this year?’” Stimpfel said. “’You’re not gonna let anybody beat you.’ It’s a lot of pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to repeat. I just finally got out there today and was able to pull it off. The time wasn’t the greatest. The quads kind of locked up on me from the get-go. I don’t know if it was a lack of stretching or mentally I let it get to me. I’m happy I was able to pull it off.”
Stimpfel knew one of the top competitors, Ubly senior Alex Grifka, as well as someone can know one of his or her rivals. They are from neighboring communities, racing against each other all year and sometimes training together.
The wild card was Pohl, who was running in his first MHSAA Final after being homeschooled his first two years of high school.
Pohl passed Grifka down the stretch to take second in 16:13.2. Grifka was third in 16:23.8.
“I haven’t been eligible to run at states,” Pohl said. “This is my first time. It was cool coming back into the stadium and running alongside the track; it’s crazy.”
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart won the team championship by a 126-185 margin over Potterville, giving the school a sweep of the Division 4 titles. The Irish girls won their third in a row earlier.
The Irish boys won without a star up front, getting their five scoring runners in the top 33 in the team race with a separation of only 40.3 seconds.
T.J. Moore was 25th overall in 17:03.6, Chase Nelson was 31st in 17:09.8, Josh Lynch was 40th in 17:29.1, Matthew Nowak was 46th in 17:33.3 and Noah Schafer was 54th in 17:43.9 for Sacred Heart.
It was the first MHSAA Finals championship for the Irish since they won the 1977 Class D title. They were ninth in 2015 and 10th in 2016 on their way to the top.
PHOTOS: (Top) Cass City’s CarLee Stimpfel leads the Division 4 race on the way to repeating as champion. (Middle) T.J. Moore (719) and Chase Nelson (720) lead a closely-packed group of Sacred Heart runners who earned the team’s first championship in 40 years. (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.)