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.)
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.)