Maples Win First Title, Finn Wins Second

November 3, 2012

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

BROOKLYN — The level of competition made its first MHSAA cross country championship even sweeter for Birmingham Seaholm.

Seaholm, Grosse Pointe South and Saline took turns beating each other this season, setting up a three-way showdown for the Lower Peninsula Division 1 girls cross country title Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.

In the end, it wasn’t as close as expected. Even with a sub-par day by its No. 1 runner, top-ranked Seaholm won by a 69-88 margin over third-ranked Grosse Pointe South, the defending champion. No. 2-ranked Saline was third with 101.

Seaholm was fourth in Division 1 last year, its best finish before Saturday. The Maples had been in the top 10 only twice before posting top-nine finishes three of the last four years.

“It’s indescribable,” Seaholm coach Jeff Devantier said. “It’s fantastic. It’s just a lot of hard work that’s finally paid off.

“That’s what makes it even better, knowing the competition around you is as tough as it is. But that was our focus all year. We knew this team and this team — Saline and Grosse Pointe South — were the teams we had to compare ourselves to and had to continually improve to beat. It came together today.”

Seniors Aubrey and Tess Wilberding — two of three triplets — led Seaholm. Aubrey was fourth overall in 17:55.9, while Tess took 12th in 18:16.4.

Rounding out Seaholm’s scoring were freshman Marissa Dobry (15th, 18:23.9), sophomore Rachel Dadamio (20th, 18:27.9) and sophomore Audrey Belf (33rd, 18:32.8).

“The scary thing about this lineup is that we haven’t had the same girls finish in the same order all year,” Devantier said. “My top girl actually did not have the kind of day she wanted to. We wanted to have as many girls in the top 30 to 35 as we could.”

Individually, West Bloomfield senior Erin Finn repeated as champion with the fastest time in all four divisions, a personal-best 17:07.9. Grosse Pointe South senior Hannah Meier set a fast early pace before taking second in 17:34.5.

Finn’s time was the fourth-best ever in an MHSAA meet. She has three of the top 15 times ever run at MIS, more than any other runner.

“I’m definitely getting back there,” Finn said. “God has blessed me. I don’t think I ever prayed so much before a race.”

Less than a month ago, Finn wasn’t sure if she would be able to defend her championship, let alone run that fast.

She trained harder than ever over the summer, had a good race in the season opener, but then saw her times get slower and slower. Finn was eventually diagnosed with an iron deficiency, which she’s been able to correct primarily with supplements.

Once the problem was identified, Finn set her sights on being strong at the end of the season.

“I told myself the Spartan Invitational doesn’t matter, the Regional doesn’t matter as long as I qualify,” Finn said. “All that matters is state, regionals and nationals. Hey, I think I’m back for those. That’s all that counts.”

Meier, the MHSAA Finals record holder in the 800 and 1,600, held the lead until about one kilometer into the five-kilometer race.

“She just really bolted the first two miles,” Meier said of Finn. “I saw her slowing down the last mile. I wasn’t thinking about individually; I was thinking about team. I just wasn’t feeling it today. I think I could’ve done better but, oh, well.”

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PHOTO: Birmingham Seaholm senior Aubrey Wilberding crosses the finish line first for her team, in 17:55.9, as the Maples went on to win the Division 1 team championship at MIS. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).

Back from Broken Foot, Grandville's Arnsman Finishes as State's Top Senior

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

November 18, 2022

GRANDVILLE – Almost a year ago, Allie Arnsman didn’t know whether she would ever be able to run competitively again. 

West MichiganOver 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.

Arnsman, bottom row center, takes her place on the medal stand next to Holland West Ottawa champion Helen Sachs, far right. “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 dream100@comcast.net 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.)