BROOKLYN — Whitmore Lake freshman Kaylie Livingston is the next great thing in MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 4 cross country, but those ranks still belong to Buckley senior Aiden Harrand.
Harrand parlayed her Michigan International Speedway racing experience and veteran savvy into a second straight individual championship Saturday, as well as a Division 4 course record.
Harrand and Livingston ran together most of the race before Harrand pulled away slightly down the stretch to win in 17:38.9. Livingston was second in 17:44.7, also eclipsing the previous Division 4 mark set by four-time champion Kirsten Olling of Breckenridge in 2013.
“It was a little nerve racking, because she’s a good athlete, but I have — I don’t want to say seniority — but I’ve been here longer. I have experience being here,” Harrand said. “I was freaking out, but I knew in the end I could probably hold my own.”
It was the fourth top-five finish for Harrand, who was fifth in 2020 and second in 2021 before winning the last two years.
Understanding the unique characteristics of the MIS course may have given her an edge against a runner who appears primed to take the next three Division 4 crowns.
“Definitely the finish, because I know the finish is longer than a normal finish,” Harrand said. “I feel like I had a little bit of an advantage in that aspect of when to kick it in and when to keep holding it.”
Livingston had a phenomenal freshman season, winning 10 of 13 races heading into MIS. Her three second-place finishes were to runners who placed high in Division 3.
“Running this course was great,” Livingston said. “I’ve been coming here since I was really little, watching everyone run. It was nice to run here for the first time and run against Aiden.”
Although the individual victory eluded her grasp, Livingston got a championship as the top runner for a Whitmore Lake team that scored 78 points to win the team title by 34 points over Johannesburg-Lewiston.
The Trojans put five runners in the top 49, with sophomore Carina Burchi taking sixth, sophomore Sofia Robertson 20th, senior Natalie Meadows 30th and sophomore Elodie Weaver 49th.
Ranked third in Division 4 before the meet, Whitmore Lake won its first team championship since 1996. The Trojans have won four MHSAA titles.
“It was great,” Livingston said. “We worked really hard all season. All the girls put in all the work. I’m just happy to see it pay off.”
PHOTOS (Top) Buckley’s Aiden Harrand approaches the finish Saturday on the way to her second-straight Division 4 championship. (Middle) Whitmore Lake’s Kaylie Livingston led her team’s title win with an individual runner-up finish. (Photos by 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.)