Second Half reports
BROOKLYN – As Anna Petr charged toward the finish line at Michigan International Speedway, trying to overtake the reigning champion, her mind began to think of all the people who helped her get to this position.
One special memory was that of her mother, Angela, who died from breast cancer Jan. 4, 2018.
“She was my coach until then,” said Petr, a senior at East Grand Rapids. “It was just really cool. I could just kind of feel her with me. I knew this was more than just about me. It was about my team and my family.”
Petr’s years of hard work came together in a duel with Lansing Catholic senior Jaden Theis in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 championship Saturday. Petr ran down Theis to win in 17:59.6. Theis, who won last year and finished sixth at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships, was second in 18:02.7.
Petr moved to Michigan from North Carolina, where she was 38th in the state meet as a sophomore. In her first year at East Grand Rapids, she placed 20th in the Division 2 meet in 19:02.8, finishing behind 15 runners who returned this weekend.
“I wrote out all my goals at the beginning of the season and the steps I was going to take to get there,” Petr said. “It’s a little bit of a weird thing, but I found it really helps. I wrote like ‘top five.’ So, even that was a stretch. My coach looked at it and was like, ‘OK.’ I really wanted to make it happen.”
Petr first saw herself as a potential Finals champion eight days earlier when she beat Theis in the Regional at Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns. Petr posted a time of 17:52.5 that day to edge Theis by 3.4 seconds.
On Saturday, she didn’t believe she actually had a chance to win until about midway through the race.
“I got to the front of the pack I was running with,” she said. “I saw one and two not that far off. I was like, ‘OK, I have to go win now.’”
Even though she was the winner in 2018, Theis wasn’t disappointed in her finish this time. She has battled hip injuries since track & field season, greatly limiting her running. Taking that into account, she was content with her performance.
“I’ve run like five times in the past month, so not my best training ever,” Theis said. “But I’m really happy with the result from this, because I’ve been doing so little running.”
Petr led another dominant performance by East Grand Rapids, which repeated as Division 2 champion by scoring 36 points. Petoskey was second with 91.
The Pioneers put all five of their scoring runners in the top 13 in the team race. Hannah Bodine was seventh overall in 18:32.0, Katie Hessler was eighth in 18:32.9, Abigail Petr was 14th in 18:52.0 and Margaret Coney was 38th in 19:19.6.
“It’s such a cool experience to have my best friends racing and training with me all the time,” Anna Petr said. “It’s truly unique, so I’m very thankful for it.”
PHOTOS: (Top) East Grand Rapids’ Anna Petr (1351) pulls away from Lansing Catholic’s Jaden Theis (2052) and Plainwell’s Makenna Veen during the final stretch at MIS. (Middle) The Pioneers’ Katie Hessler (1349) and Hannah Bodine pace each other to top-10 finishes. (Photos by Matt Yacoub/RunMichigan.com.)
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 email@example.com 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.)