Second Half reports
BROOKLYN – When everyone packed up and left Michigan International Speedway last year, cross country gurus inclined to predict the 2016 MHSAA Division 1 girls cross country race had no shortage of candidates for the individual championship.
It’s safe to say nobody dug deep enough into the results to pull out Maggie Farrell’s name as a leading contender.
Farrell had just completed her second straight middle-of-the-pack showing, taking 97th in 19:29.9 after placing 92nd in 19:28.8 as a sophomore. She certainly had consistency going for her.
But she wanted to accomplish so much more, so she put in the hard work to make her dreams come true.
“I changed my schedule a little bit and worked with a trainer,” Farrell said. “My goal this year was top 15; I thought that would be tough.”
Her goals were revised as she got into the season and won almost everything in sight. She claimed the ultimate prize Saturday by winning the Division 1 title with a time of 17:25.6.
Ann Arbor Pioneer junior Anne Forsyth was second in 17:35.0. Farrell made a move at the two-mile mark, but could never feel comfortable until she experienced the relief of hitting the finish line.
“I’ve just got to go,” were Farrell’s thoughts during the final stretch. “I know the girl behind me wants it as much as I do.”
Farrell won 13 of her 14 races this season. The only time she lost was when she took third place at the Portage Invitational on Oct. 8. Forsyth was first in that race, followed by Traverse City Central junior Sielle Kearney. Kearney was seventh in 18:16.5 on Saturday.
“In that race, I ran the same way,” Forsyth said. “I just run from the front. I tried to pull ahead, and I felt good. Today, she kind of did the same thing to me.
“I’m happy. I haven’t been running as well in the big meets in the past, so I’m happy I ran well today.”
In the team race, Milford pulled off an upset by winning its first MHSAA girls cross country championship. The Mavericks, ranked 10th in the state, scored 150 points to beat Pioneer by 22.
Northville finished in the top eight for the sixth straight year, placing third with 178 points. Top-ranked Birmingham Seaholm, winner of three of the last four MHSAA titles, was fourth with 188.
Senior Mallory Barrett led Milford by placing ninth overall and sixth among team runners in 18:16.5. Sophomore Victoria Heiligenthal was 14th overall and 10th in the team race in 18:26.6.
Also scoring for Milford were junior Nicole Grindling (33rd, 19:21.3), sophomore Natalie Black (43rd, 19:32.1) and junior Regan Lobodzinski (58th, 19:47.5).
Milford’s previous best finishes were second-place showings in 1984 and 2000. The Mavericks were third last year.
The MHSAA Cross Country Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard.
PHOTOS: (Top) Battle Creek Lakeview’s Maggie Farrell (right) stays just a few paces ahead of Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Anne Forsyth. (Middle) Milford’s Natalie Black (1049) pushes toward the finish with Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern’s Emily Fredette (1200). (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.)