Second Half reports
BROOKLYN — It was a dream that formulated in the mind of a young runner before he ever put on a Fremont High School cross country singlet.
“It’s something I’ve been working for the last five, six years probably,” senior Nathan Walker said after winning the MHSAA Division 2 championship Friday at Michigan International Speedway.
“It’s a dream come true. I’ve come to state meets since when I was in middle school. I was like, ‘That would be pretty cool to do.’”
Even cooler — and of more importance to Walker — was winning a second straight team championship with longtime teammates. Fremont scored 61 points to outdistance runner-up St. Johns, which had 126.
Fremont has won four Division 2 championships and finished second five times over the last 20 years.
“Fremont pulled the back-to-back,” Walker said. “I put that above the individual title for me.”
Walker led the way, cruising to an emphatic individual victory with a time of 15 minutes, 19.39 seconds on a windy afternoon with temperatures in the low 70s.
He covered the 3.1-mile MIS course alone, leading by eight seconds after a 4:51.4 opening mile and 27 seconds after reaching the two-mile mark in 9:49.0.
“I was just trying to get out there in the first mile, get comfortable, get into a rhythm,” Walker said. “In the middle part of the race, stay smooth and relaxed, try to crank it in the last mile. That didn’t go completely to play. It is what it is.”
Pinckney junior Caleb Jarema was second in 15:42.97, establishing himself as the favorite for next year.
Walker was a four-time all-stater, placing 28th as a freshman, fifth as a sophomore and fourth as a junior.
“Honestly, I did not feel the greatest,” Walker said. “It heated up. The wind kind of ate me up a little bit. I was sticking tough in the second half of the race, but it probably wasn’t my greatest showing. It’s done now. I’m happy with the placing.”
Fremont’s top five runners all made all-state by placing among the top 30. Conor Somers was fifth in 16:02.55, Ben Paige was 18th in 16:31.55, Joshua Zerfas was 26th in 16:37.39 and Adam Ward was 27th in 16:38.57 to complete Fremont’s scoring.
“It’s been an honor racing with those guys, some of them the last six, seven years,” Walker said. “It’s definitely helpful to have that culture, along with the coaches that we have.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Fremont’s Nathan Walker approaches the finish line well ahead of the Division 2 field Friday at MIS. (Middle) Fremont’s Conor Summers and St. Johns’ Ryan Brown close in on top-10 finishes. (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.)