FLAT ROCK — There was a feeling the race for the Upper Peninsula Division 1 girls championship would be a close one here Saturday.
That’s exactly how it played out as Marquette edged two-time reigning champion Houghton 35-37. Third-place Sault Ste. Marie scored 104 points.
“The girls did fantastic,” said Marquette coach Derek Marr. “I’m impressed with the way they came through. We were down slightly after two miles, then they really picked it up. I applaud the Houghton girls for their effort. They really went after it.”
Houghton freshman Tessa Rautiola won the 3.1-mile race in 20 minutes, 11 hundredths of a second. She was followed by Sault senior Cassandra Gallagher (20:07.7) and Marquette freshman Ella Fure (20:13.69).
“I just wanted to enjoy the last race of the season,” said Rautiola. “I’m happy with how everything went. We’re pretty happy with our performance. I think this will just make us work harder next year.”
Gallagher achieved a personal record by one second.
“I’m very happy with that,” she said. “I’m also happy with how our team did. I didn’t want to go out too hard today. I was in 10th place at the mile mark. This was my last high school cross country race and I really wanted to give it my all. I tried to catch Tessa, but she ran a real good race. We had nice weather. There were a lot of hills out there, but I liked the course.”
Fure said this was a learning experience for her.
“I learned to work with our team and trust in myself,” she added. “I tried to spread out my energy, which takes a lot of practice. My pacing didn’t go as well in the past. We had been running on flatter courses the last couple weeks to save it for the Finals. We had a few hills out there today, and I had to get used to that all over again. I appreciate all the support I received from our team and coaches.”
Marquette placed the third, fourth, seventh, 10th and 13th placers to edge Houghton, which had finishers in first, fifth, eighth, 11th and 14th. Sophomore Monet Argeropoulos followed Fure in fourth, with junior Abby Harma crossing the line seventh for Marquette. Sophomore Lily Ross was fifth for Houghton, and junior Ayla Miller was eighth.
Hancock repeated as Division 2 champion with 23 points, followed by Ishpeming with 40 and Powers North Central at 68.
Ishpeming junior Lola Korpi retained her individual title in 20:18.81, followed by Manistique freshman Maya Carlson (21:26.38) and Bessemer (Gogebic) senior Natalie Stone (21:31.6).
“That’s awesome,” said Korpi, who had been battling a chest cold. “I was going for time. I’m still battling a chest cold and struggled a little with my breathing.
“We had a full team for the first time this year. I’m so happy the girls decided to run. Hancock was tough to beat. There was a little more pressure trying to defend my title, but it’s really nice to bring something back to our school.”
Carlson was also happy with the way everything fell into place.
“We had only four runners today, but still did good as a team,” she said. “I thought I had a chance to win it, but then I just wanted to stay in second place and finish with her (Stone). I think this was my best race of the year. I got stronger as the race went on. I did some races during the summer, and that helped a lot.”
Hancock surged on the strength of four top-10 individual placers – sophomore Ella Keranen in fifth, senior Maylie Kilpela in sixth, sophomore Rayna Towles in seventh and senior Liana Berg in ninth.
Munising captured its third consecutive title with 26 points, followed by Eben Junction Superior Central at 71 and Stephenson with 97.
“We knew what we wanted to do this season and came out of here with a huge win,” said Munising coach Mark Kinnunen. “This just shows what hard work and leadership can do for you, and our senior leadership was as strong as it ever was.
“Competing with Superior Central is awesome. It’s fun having the two schools do so well. We went from having just one runner to earning three straight U.P. titles. I ran for Fran (former coach DesArmo) and learned a lot from him. It’s an exciting time to be coaching this team.”
Newberry freshman Samantha Taylor earned the top individual honor in 20:06.34, and junior teammate and 2021 champion Kaylen Clark was runner-up in a season-best 20:18.09.
“I’m obviously disappointed I didn’t win, but happy for Sam. She had an amazing season,” said Clark. I’m happy with the progress I made this year. We should be able to compete as a team next year, which will make it more fun. I gave it everything I had. I plan on training real hard. This just makes me hungrier for it.”
Munising senior Monique Brisson placed third (21:36.09), followed by classmate Hattie Cota (21:54.33).
“I think it’s pretty cool the two Alger County schools finished on top,” Brisson said. “We know each other pretty well. I’m proud of our team and definitely happy for them. It’s a pretty hard course, but I’m obviously capable of better. I’m happy for Hattie. She finished strong.”
PHOTOS (Top) Houghton's freshman Tessa Rautiola (47) and sophomore teammate Lily Ross (48), and Marquette freshman Ella Fure (83) and sophomore Monet Argeropoulos (81) run together during the Division 1 race. (2) Ishpeming's Lola Korpi smiles after she finishes the Division 2 Final. (3) Hancock's Ella Keranen (138), Rayna Towles (143), and Maylie Kilpela (140) run together during the Division 2 Final. (4) Competitors break away from the start during the Division 3 Final. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.)