BROOKLYN — Hart junior Jessica Jazwinski has been so dominant in cross country that she needs to mentally conjure up competition to keep pushing herself.
“I try to think there’s a girl right behind me,” she said. “So, I’m always practicing, ‘OK, there’s a girl right behind me. If I don’t push myself as hard as I can, she’s going to beat me.’
“That’s kind of what I do.”
That mental game pushed Jazwinski to a record-breaking performance Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, because there certainly weren’t any real opponents breathing down her neck.
Jazwinski’s time of 17:08.8 broke the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals record of 17:12.5 set by Abby Vanderkooi of Muskegon Western Michigan Christian in 2020.
She won by a whopping 40.7 seconds ahead of Jackson Lumen Christi senior Madison Osterberg, whose 17:49.5 performance is the 11th-fastest ever by a Division 3 girl.
“I just wanted to crush it as hard as I could today,” Jazwinski said. “I was really happy with the outcome. I knew I wanted to push myself as hard as I could. I knew there were some really tough girls in this race. I didn’t know how they would go out and if anyone was going to try to run with me. I think all the girls helped push me to run as fast as I did today.”
After placing third as a freshman, Jazwinski has won the last two Division 3 championships.
She has won 13 races in a row since placing second to Division 1 star Rachel Forsyth of Ann Arbor Pioneer in the season-opening Peter Moss Invite at Benzie Central. Even though Forsyth has won all of her races this season, Jazwinski didn’t use that fact as any source of comfort.
“I was really disappointed, because I really wanted to try to win that race,” Jazwinski said. “She’s an amazing competitor. I’m excited to race her after the season, too. It lit a fire under my butt, because I didn’t want to lose again. It kind of was motivation, because I didn’t want to lose. I learned a lot from that race.”
Osterberg isn’t someone who is used to losing races, but she was thrilled with her runner-up performance, particularly after placing 50th last year.
“This is a dream come true,” Osterberg said. “Last year, I was in the top 10 and I fell apart and got 50th. I’ve been thinking about this meet for a year to try to help my team. I’m so blessed that I finished on both feet.”
Osterberg did indeed help her team, leading Lumen Christi to its 10th Finals championship and first since 2012. The second-ranked Titans scored 140 points to defeat top-ranked Traverse City St. Francis by 37.
Freshman Samantha Schroeder was 13th, sophomore Macy Fazekas was 43rd, senior Sydney Fazekas was 50th and junior Layla Lopez was 82nd for Lumen Christi.
PHOTOS (Top) Hart’s Jessica Jazwinski closes in on a repeat Division 3 championship Saturday at MIS. (Middle) Jackson Lumen Christi’s Madison Osterberg finishes runner-up in leading the Titans to the team title. (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.)