BROOKLYN – People in Aiden Harrand’s support system saw potential in her before she saw it in herself.
She was having a strong start to her freshman year at Buckley two years ago, but Harrand had no idea how good she could become.
Other people around her could see the greatness within her, however.
“My freshman year, I had all the people around me kind of saying, ‘You could win the state meet your freshman year,’” Harrand said. “I didn’t really believe it. Well, I started looking at the rankings and stuff, and I really could. But I had a rough morning that year. It didn’t turn out like I wanted. It lit something inside me like, ‘I want to get this done. I want this to be my main goal.’”
It took two years, but Harrand has fulfilled the promise that her coaches and teammates forecasted for her. She won the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 championship Saturday with a time of 19:05.89 on a wind-swept Michigan International Speedway course.
Harrand was a contender her first two years, placing fifth as a freshman and second last year.
This year, everything came together.
“Both years, I was ranked 1 and 2 for both of them,” she said. “I didn’t quite get there. This year, I was able to do it.”
Getting her training plan and nutrition dialed in helped Harrand achieve her goal. So did showing up at MIS as the member of a qualifying team after racing her first two years as an individual qualifier.
“Mentally, it feels a lot better having a team, because you’re not only running for yourself, but you’re running for the people with you,” she said. “It just feels better.”
Harrand won 11 of her 12 races this year, finishing second at the Sparta Invitational to Kent City sophomore Lila Volkers, who was fifth in the Division 3 race.
Harrand won her Regional meet with a season-best time of 18:11, but MIS wasn’t going to yield personal records Saturday.
“I wish it went a little faster, but because of the wind and the weather, it was kind of hard to push through it,” she said. “It’s always crazy here.”
Johannesburg-Lewiston won its first team championship, scoring 118 points to beat last year’s program-best sixth-place finish. Hillsdale Academy was second with 151 and Whitmore Lake was third with 192.
Sophomore Allie Nowak was third in 19:20.80, freshman Yolanda Gascho was seventh in 20:04.18, junior Madalyn Agren was 49th in 21:17.05, senior Adelaida Gascho was 54th in 21:26.87 and junior Rosalinda Gascho was 58th in 21:32.23 for Johannesburg-Lewiston.
PHOTOS (Top) Buckley’s Aiden Harrand pushes toward the finish line at MIS on Saturday. (Middle) Allie Nowak runs third for Johannesburg-Lewiston in leading the first-time team champion’s placers. (Click for more from Dave McCauley/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.)