MUNISING — Hattie Cota was the lone runner on the Munising girls cross country team last year.
She became part of an Upper Peninsula championship team here Saturday as the Mustangs earned the Division 3 title with 54 points.
“We’re just so happy,” said Cota, who was individual runner-up on this partly sunny and chilly afternoon at Pictured Rocks Golf & Country Club. “I’m not used to being on a team, especially a good team.”
This marked the first title in seven years for the Mustangs, who were followed by three-time reigning champion Chassell with 73 points and Stephenson with 106.
“I’m just so excited,” said Munising coach Mark Kinnunen. “I thought it’d be many, many years before I’d have a championship team. We came in blind, not knowing who’d come out on top. We didn’t really know what to expect from Chassell. We told the girls to ‘run like you want to win.’ The only reason why we had a full team is because Hattie went out and recruited some girls.”
Rock Mid Peninsula senior Daisy Englund won the individual title for the first time since her freshman year by covering the 3.1-mile course in 21 minutes, 16.4 seconds. Cota, who led much of the third mile, was clocked at 21:27. They were followed by Ewen-Trout Creek senior Elise Besonen (21:41).
"That was so scary,” said Englund, who ran a 6:17 split for her first mile. “I could hear Hattie after the second mile, and I kind of lost my focus for a little while. I knew everybody was going to be targeting me today and told myself I had to hang on. I finished strong, but I don’t know where that came from. I didn’t feel strong the whole race. I was cruising for sure in the first mile. This was my last high school cross country race. I just wanted to win so bad.”
Englund was trailing until the last turn when she used a strong surge to regain the lead.
“I was behind a bunch of girls.” said Cota. “I didn’t think I’d be able to catch her. Daisy ran a great race herself. Once she started pulling away (after the last turn), I knew I couldn’t catch her. I just didn’t have enough left.”
Mid Pen junior and last year’s champion Landry Koski took fourth this time at 21:46.7, and Stephenson senior Kylee Kuntze was fifth (21:47.5).
“This was one of my better races,” said Koski. “I actually felt pretty strong until the last mile. This was also the last race of the year. I had to leave it all on the course.
“I’m just so happy for Daisy. I’m also happy with the weather. This was better than I was expecting. The course was a little wet, but I just went through the puddles. I was going to get wet anyway.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Munising's Monique Brisson (143) and Hattie Cota (144) run in the Upper Peninsula Division 3 Final held at Pictured Rocks Golf Course in Munising. (Middle) Rock Mid Peninsula's Daisy Englund approaches the finish line on the way to winning the individual title. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.)