By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BROOKLYN — Julia Bos of Grand Rapids Christian seems to answer more questions about the style of her running, rather than the substance.
Bos runs with her mouth wide open, something she has done ever since becoming a competitive runner.
“Have you ever swallowed a fly?” was a question posed to her Saturday at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 meet at Michigan International Speedway.
“Once I caught a bumble bee this summer; it wasn’t very fun,” she said. “It stung me on the tongue. I spit it out right away. It was all fuzzy. I’m just thankful I’m not allergic to bees.”
Bos has a ready response to inquiries about her signature facial expression.
“People ask me why and I say, ‘Optimum oxygen absorption,’” she said. “I don’t really think about it consciously. I’m just going, ‘If I look silly, oh well, it works.’”
Indeed it does.
Bos repeated as the Division 2 champion with a time of 17:20.4, the second-fastest of the day in all four divisions. West Bloomfield’s Erin Finn won Division 1 in 17:07.9.
Bos, who was undefeated as a senior, bolted to the lead and was never threatened, winning by 28.7 seconds over Cedar Springs sophomore Kenzie Weiler. Bos reached the mile in 5:20, about five seconds faster than usual, as she wanted to dictate the terms of the race.
“I was aggressive early on in the race,” Bos said. “Last year, the first mile was really slow. Everybody in the front was trying to be tactical. We went out in 5:40 something. That was really slow for a state meet. This year, I tried not to think of the people by me and go at my own pace.”
Bos almost quit cross country before ever realizing her potential as a back-to-back MHSAA champion who will have her choice of major college programs at which to further her career. She said the pressure to succeed became too much until two years ago when she took fourth at MIS and led Grand Rapids Christian to the team title.
“I had kind of a revelation during my sophomore year,” she said. “I was basically trying to put all the pressure on myself and run for myself and be, ‘Oh, my word, I just always have to win,’” she said. “I would get so nervous during the school day if we had a meet after school; I could hardly take it. I almost quit the team, actually.”
Her coach and parents talked her out of it.
“I realized it’s so much more fulfilling to run for God and not for myself and not for other people’s expectations,” Bos continued. “I know that He will be happy with whatever I do, whether it’s a (personal record) or a slower day, as long as I do my best.”
Ada Forest Hills Eastern romped to the team championship by a 93-150 margin over Spring Lake. Grand Rapids Christian was third with 182 points, as Grand Rapids-area schools took five of the top six places.
Senior Ciara Cullen was fourth among team runners and sixth overall in 18:10.6 to lead Forest Hills Eastern, which had five runners cross before Spring Lake’s No. 4 runner.
Junior Mary Kostielney was 15th among team runners in 18:42.8, freshman Lauren Allard was 20th in 18:58.9, sophomore Abigail Bowman was 24th in 19:11.2 and senior Angela Ottenwess was 30th in 19:20.1 for Forest Hills Eastern.
PHOTO: Grand Rapids Christian senior Julia Bos puts the finishing strides on her second straight MHSAA Division 2 championship. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)
BROOKLYN — Emily Tomes of Grand Rapids Catholic Central might be the first MHSAA cross country champion to go all season without winning a meet until it mattered the most.
There are two good reasons for that.
First, she runs in the Grand Rapids area, which is a hotbed for high school cross country. Her biggest league rival, Selma Anderson of Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills, was the runner-up in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final on Saturday.
Second, she was adjusting all season to a significant change in her training volume.
As a result, she had five second-place finishes in nine races and didn’t run faster than 18:25.5 until her conference and Regional meets.
“I ramped up my miles, so my legs felt tired for a lot of my races,” Tomes said. “So, that’s why I recently started running sub-18. My legs started to get used to the mileage. I was just trying to wait until this meet. This is when I was going to try to run my best.”
Tomes was the Division 2 champion, running a time of 17:31.4 on a Michigan International Speedway course that yielded fast times all day.
She won a kick down the stretch against St. Joseph senior Gail Vaikutis, who took second in 17:33.6.
“I feel like I do rely on my kick quite a bit, but I just knew it could help me pass those girls and it gives me a lot of confidence moving forward, ” Tomes said. “I have a couple postseason meets, so I’m really looking forward to those.”
It was anyone’s race when a pack of five runners reached the two-mile mark within one second of one another. It was a two-runner race coming down the straightaway, with Tomes passing Vaikutis in the final tenth of a mile.
“I don’t normally run in packs,” Tomes said. “This season kind of started off slower for me, so I wasn’t used to racing with these girls. I know they know how to run really fast. If I could just let them carry me along, it would help me out.”
Grand Rapids Christian won the team championship with a score of 112 points. Last season’s champion Otsego was second with 131.
The Eagles won their seventh MHSAA championship and first since 2014.
Senior Natalie VanOtteren, who defeated Tomes by 17 seconds at Regionals, led Grand Rapids Christian by placing fifth in 17:58.2. Sophomore Lilah Poel was 20th, sophomore Ellie Scholma 30th, senior Payton Holtz 31st and senior Naomi Nelson 65th for the Eagles.
PHOTOS (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Emily Tomes, left, breaks away from St. Joseph's Gail Vaikutis during the closing stretch of the Division 2 Final. (Middle) Natalie VanOtteren leads Grand Rapids Christian's team title run with a fifth-place finish. (Photos by Dave McCauley/RunMichigan.com.)