Petr's Kick Highlights EGR D2 Dominance

November 2, 2019

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.”

Click for full results.

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/

Grand Rapids Speedsters Dominate Division 2 Girls Cross Country Final

November 4, 2023

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.

Natalie VanOtteren leads Grand Rapids Christian's team title run with a fifth-place finish.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.

Click for full results.

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/