Helen Sachs ♦ Holland West Ottawa
Cross Country ♦ Sophomore
Sachs ran what was the second-fastest time in the state this season, 17:15.8, to win the Elite race at the Spartan Invitational on Sept. 16 at Michigan State University's Forest Akers East. On Tuesday, she took over the top spot on fastest times list with a 17:01.6 personal record at the first Ottawa-Kent Conference Red jamboree. She's won three of four races this season, finishing second only to teammate Arianna Olson at the season-opening Under the Lights Invitational on Aug. 26 at Grand Rapids South Christian. Olson's 17:11.30 in that race was the only time faster than Sachs' best before this week.
An immediate standout last season, Sachs went on to finish fifth at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final as Olson placed third and West Ottawa as a team was runner-up. At this past spring's LPD1 Track & Field Finals, Sachs finished fourth in the 3,200 (10:26.59), sixth in the 1,600 (4:52.38) and ran on the runner-up 3,200 relay (9:04.06) as West Ottawa finished fourth as a team. Her 17:01 earlier this week was nearly 25 seconds faster than her season-best cross country time a year ago. West Ottawa finished second as a team in the Spartan Invitational Elite race, to Ohio championship contender Hilliard Davidson.
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Sept. 15: Nina Horning, Lake Orion volleyball - Report
Sept 8: Arturo Romero, Muskegon Oakridge soccer - Report
Sept. 1: Austin King, Midland Dow tennis - Report
Aug. 25: Olivia Hemmila, Troy Athens golf - Report
(Photos courtesy of Helen Sachs.)
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.)