Marlette Racer Heats Up with Cold Weather

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

October 23, 2019

Temperatures near the Lake Huron shore will hover around 40 degrees Saturday morning when the girls Division 4 Regional cross country meet begins at Wagener Park. 

Riley Ford wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m more of a summer person, but in regard to running, I like the cooler weather,” the Marlette senior said. “I perform a lot better in the cold. I don’t get as overheated. I love the cold – when your legs are almost numb because it’s so cold – I love that feeling.”

Ford will compete for a second straight Regional championship, the next step toward what could be a third straight all-state honor. More importantly, however, she wants to get back down to the times she was running a year ago, and the cold weather could play a major role in that. Not just because of her preference, but because of her health.

During the 2019 track season, Ford was diagnosed with asthma, which was brought on by a tree pollen allergy – something that flares up during the warmer months. While she’s dealt with it admirably, setting school records in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters in track, and winning five of her 10 cross country races this season, she knows she hasn’t been at her best.

“I’ve tried to stay positive,” Ford said. “I went on a college visit and was talking to one of the girls who also had asthma, and she said, ‘It’s OK. Sometimes you’re not going to be able to finish every workout.’ I’ve been realizing that some of it is beyond my control. It’s been very frustrating. Super, super frustrating. But I keep going back every Monday after a race and trying to get better.”

Initially, Ford thought she was dealing with a cold, but it wouldn’t go away. She began audibly wheezing during races, something Marlette coach Chris Titus – who is also Ford’s uncle – noticed as strange, as his star runner was known for her incredible endurance.

She ran her best 1,600 (5 minutes, 16.59 seconds) and 3,200 (11:28.77) times in early May. She qualified for the MHSAA Finals in both events, as well as in the 800, and finished eighth in the 1,600. But her times in the longer distances weren’t challenging her own personal bests.

“She had set the school record in the mile, two mile and half mile, and everything was going really good,” Titus said. “We got to late May, and we started to notice this wheezing problem. By the time we got to June, she was in trouble.”

Ford also was very aware that something was off.

“I kind of noticed that my lungs were starting to feel heavy,” she said. “I knew I was in good shape in the track season, because it was the first year I had upped my training. I knew it was something else. It was not really an out-of-shape feeling.”

She cut back some of her training during the summer as she dealt with her new condition, and now runs with an inhaler. 

Despite all of that, her season-best time of 19:03.3 ranks fourth in Division 4. She finished fifth in the division a year ago at the MHSAA Finals, and was 22nd in Division 3 as a sophomore.

Ford, who has a personal best of 18:49 and broke the 19-minute mark three times as a junior, knows there are better times ahead of her, and she’s hoping to start posting them Saturday.

“I’m not really just looking to win,” she said. “I’m hoping to run under 19 – I did it last year. Not only do I want to win it and get points for my team, but I want to drop my time to go into states with some momentum.”

Her season goal is very much the same, as she said she hopes to finish strong and giver herself some confidence and momentum heading into the preparation for her senior track season and beyond. Ford plans to run collegiately and has narrowed her choices to two schools: Huntington University in Indiana and Dalton State College in Georgia.

No matter how things finish, Ford already has taken her place as the top female distance runner in Marlette history, as not only does she hold the three track records, but also has the school’s best cross country time.

“She’s had a great career,” Titus said. “Every single year, she has excelled and improved. I’ve had some very good girls runners, and she’s darn close to a minute faster than anybody I’ve ever had. A lot of those (records) are going to be there for a while. She’s drove them down to the point that she’s likely going to keep those for a while.”

That praise isn’t lost on Ford.

“It makes me feel really good knowing how much time, effort, blood, sweat and tears I put into this,” she said. “It means a lot to me. There are tons of runners that he’s coached. To stack up with (the best) is just insane.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at paulcostanzo3@gmail.com with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTO: Marlette’s Riley Ford charges ahead during a race this fall. (Photo courtesy of the Marlette girls cross country program.)

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.)