The first postseason events in Michigan High School Athletic Association history for students at the junior high/middle school level will be conducted in cross country this season at eight Regional sites during the second half of October.
The Junior High/Middle School Cross Country Regionals were approved by the MHSAA Representative Council during its Spring 2020 meeting, on recommendation of the MHSAA’s Junior High/Middle School Committee. Students from the nearly 650 MHSAA-member junior highs and middle schools may participate, with Regional meets not counting against the 10 events teams are allowed to compete in during the regular season.
“The MHSAA has, over the last decade, grown its investment in junior high and middle school athletics in hopes of providing memorable experiences earlier that will result in students wanting to continue playing sports longer instead of stopping before they even reach high school,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “Adding a postseason element to cross country may be just the start of how we can provide more opportunities for our younger students to compete in ways that will keep them excited to return next season.”
Each of eight host sites will conduct one girls and one boys race. Host sites determined the dates Regionals will be run. Teams may enter up to 20 participants in each race, dependent on the size of their school (as larger schools may enter more participants). The Regional races will be two miles in length, with girls and boys teams assigned to sites based on their regional “Zone” – see attached map.
► Zone 1 – Saturday, Oct. 16, hosted by Portage Central High School at Portage West Middle School
► Zone 2 – Saturday, Oct. 23, hosted by Hudson High School at Hudson High School
► Zone 3 – Saturday, Oct. 23, hosted by Macomb Dakota High School at Macomb Dakota High School
► Zone 4 – Saturday, Oct. 16, hosted by Midland High School at Northwood University
► Zone 5 – Saturday, Oct. 23, hosted by Carson City-Crystal High School at Carson City-Crystal High School
► Zone 6 – Friday, Oct. 29, hosted by Grand Rapids Public Schools at University Prep Academy
► Zone 7 – Saturday, Oct. 23, hosted by Gaylord High School at Michaywe Golf Course
Zone 8 – Friday, Oct. 22, hosted by Marquette High School at Gentz Homestead Golf Course
Team championship trophies will be awarded to the top-placing girls and boys teams at each Regional. Also, the top 20 individual finishers in each race will receive medals.
GRANDVILLE – Almost a year ago, Allie Arnsman didn’t know whether she would ever be able to run competitively again.
Over the last week, the Grandville senior was named Ms. Cross Country by the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association while also establishing a school record.
Arnsman suffered a broken right foot during last year’s cross country season that required surgery.
“They told me there was a small possibility of even being able to run again,” Arnsman said. “It was very scary going into the surgery thinking that there was a 90-percent chance that I wouldn’t be able to run, but I had the doctors and the physical therapists that were able to get me back.”
Arnsman sustained the injury during the third meet of her junior season when she stepped in a hole on the course.
Originally, doctors didn’t think the injury was serious.
“They kept telling us it was just a sprain, and after six weeks it would be healed,” said Arnsman, who wore a boot on her right foot.
Arnsman returned to run in the final three races of last year, and finished 17th overall in the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final.
However, she still felt uncertain that her foot was completely healed.
“It was really painful when I ran and I thought something was still wrong, but I wanted to finish out my junior year and I was grateful that I did,” Arnsman said. “Right after the state meet I had an MRI, and it revealed that it was broken.”
Arnsman missed the track & field season due to her recovery after surgery. She began running again in late spring and then returned in August for her senior year.
“It was a tough injury for her to overcome, but she came back and we started talking about goals for the season,” Grandville girls cross country coach Rachael Steil said. “I told her that I thought she had the potential to finish in the top five (at the Finals) and we joked about her winning.
“She had so much untapped potential, and she did so well on little mileage. She doesn’t realize how talented she is, but with the hard work she put in I felt like it was going to be a really good season.”
Arnsman ran well throughout the season and continued to drop her times.
At the Finals, she exceeded her own expectations by placing runner-up in Division 1 behind West Ottawa’s Helen Sachs.
Arnsman finished with a time of 17 minutes, 43 seconds at Michigan International Speedway.
“I was just trying to go out with the front pack, and I wanted to stick up close and then close in in the last mile,” she said. “It was tough to catch her because she went out very fast, and I wasn't used to that pace. The weather conditions weren't great, and I just couldn't get up there.”
Still, Arnsman was ecstatic about her finish.
“I was really excited,” she said. “Coming into the season I did not think I could even be top three and I was hoping for a top 15, so placing second was amazing. It was a dream.”
Arnsman got more good news after the race as she was the top senior in all divisions and was named Ms. Cross Country.
“When they pulled me aside in the room I had the biggest smile on my face,” Arnsman said. “I knew going in that it was a possibility, but of course I didn't know right away. I was so excited.”
A week later, Arnsman ran in the MITCA Meet of Champions and became the fastest girl in Grandville school history when she finished second with a time of 17 minutes flat.
The previous record of 17:20 was set by Madison Troy in 2015.
“She was drastically improving through the season, and I knew the possibilities were endless for her,” Steil said. “She has great form, and she’s strong from all the weight training she did. She put all the little pieces together, and they came together at the right time.”
Arnsman will run for Grand Valley State next year, but it’s been a journey that was somewhat unexpected after growing up as an accomplished soccer player.
She stopped playing soccer after her sophomore year to focus on running.
“I grew up in soccer, so it was scary going into a new sport and giving up something that I loved,” Arnsman said. “It was a different sport and a whole new environment that I wasn’t used to, but I’m grateful that I was able to have the success I did. ... I never thought about running in college. I thought I would be playing college soccer.”
Arnsman, who ended her cross country career as a three-time Finals qualifier, will run indoor track & field this winter before running outdoor in the spring with her team.
Dean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Grandville’s Allie Arnsman runs toward the finish at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Cross Country Final on Nov. 5. (Middle) Arnsman, bottom row center, takes her place on the medal stand next to Holland West Ottawa champion Helen Sachs, far right. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)