Preview: Seniors to Shine 1 More Time

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

October 18, 2019

We always can count on high school sports to be cyclical in the way athletes move through their four seasons and are replaced by the next wave.

But some groups certainly are more memorable than others. And Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Girls Cross Country Finals will provide an opportunity to wave good-bye to an accomplished group of seniors who have combined to win five MHSAA individual cross country championships.

Races begin Saturday at Gentz’s Golf Course in Marquette with the Division 1 girls at 11 a.m. and finish with the Division 3 boys at 1:30 p.m. Check back Saturday evening for coverage, and see below for more teams and individuals to watch. (Click for race information and competitors.)

Division 1

Reigning champion: Sault Ste. Marie
2018 runner-up: Marquette
Top-ranked: 1. Marquette, 2. Sault Ste. Marie, 3. Houghton. 

Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie have finished first or second together the last five seasons and alternated claiming the championship over the last four. The Blue Devils won last season despite their highest placer coming in eighth, and three of the top four from that lineup are back this weekend – junior Haleigh Knowles (eighth in 2018), sophomore Anna Hildebrand (10th) and senior Shelby Eavou (16th). Marquette senior Ericka Asmus has finished Division 1 runner-up the last two seasons after coming in 10th as a freshman, and she’s joined by three more of the team’s top five from the 2018 Final including senior Reegan Ketzenberger (13th).

Individuals: Negaunee senior Emily Paupore hopes to finish her high school cross country career with a third straight Division 1 championship and won last year’s Final by 32 seconds. She’s been surging not only against Upper Peninsula competition this fall but also against many of the best from downstate. Ishpeming Westwood senior Tessa Leece also should be in the mix again after finishing fourth last season coming off her Division 2 championship in 2017. Paupore teammate Talon Prusi also will run her final high school race after coming in seventh a year ago, and Houghton sophomore Ingrid Seagren could be on the way to becoming the favorite in 2020 after finishing sixth at her first Finals a year ago.

Division 2

Reigning champion: Hancock
2018 runner-up: St. Ignace
Top-ranked: 1. Ishpeming, 2. Ironwood, 3. Wakefield-Marenisco/Bessemer.

Ishpeming didn’t finish enough runners to place last season, but the Hematites are back to full strength. After winning three straight titles from 2014-16, they are expected to add another with their top three runners returning from last year’s Final: sophomore Abby Racine (fourth place), sophomore Taylor Longtine (seventh) and junior Chyanne Gardner (14th). Reigning champ Hancock isn’t ranked but is going to be in the mix. The Bulldogs had six of the top 12 finishers in winning that team title, and sophomores Jacie Anderson (eighth), Adia Keranen (11th) and Sierrah Driscoll (12th) all are back for a team that will run one senior and six underclassmen.

Individuals: The top three finishers from last season graduated, making Racine the highest-placing returnee. Joining her, Longtine and Anderson back from the top 10 is St. Ignace junior Hallie Marshall (10th), and West Iron County junior Avery Bociek (15th) also is a strong candidate to climb in the standings.

Division 3

Reigning champion: Chassell
2018 runner-up: Cedarville
Top-ranked: 1. Chassell, 2. Brimley, 3. Cedarville.

Chassell will be chasing its third straight championship and fifth in six seasons with four of last season’s top 20 individual placers leading the way. Sophomore Paige Sleeman (fifth), junior Gwen Kangas (seventh), sophomore Kamryn Sohlden (ninth) and freshman Trisha Pietila (20th) make the Panthers the team to beat again. Cedarville is an intriguing contender though with five of last year’s top seven back including freshman Lilianna Cason (eighth) sophomore Meredith Emigh (10th) and junior Cassidy Barr (14th). Rock Mid Peninsula isn’t ranked but brings back all six of last year’s runners who combined to finish third, led by senior Daisy Englund (second) and sophomore Landry Koski (fourth).

Individuals: Eben Junction Superior Central now-senior Danika Walters outpaced 2017 champion Englund by nearly 20 seconds to win last season’s title, and they should provide an excellent individual competition at the front. Total, eight of last year’s top 10 return – the others are mentioned above – and Pickford senior Natalie Miller (11th) and Ewen-Trout Creek junior Elise Besonen also bolster the returning field. Newberry sophomore Jorja Suriano finished 13th in Division 2 last season.

PHOTO: Eben Junction Superior Central’s Danika Walters broke away from the Division 3 field at last season’s Upper Peninsula Finals and will run for a repeat Saturday. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

Back from Broken Foot, Grandville's Arnsman Finishes as State's Top Senior

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

November 18, 2022

GRANDVILLE – Almost a year ago, Allie Arnsman didn’t know whether she would ever be able to run competitively again. 

West MichiganOver 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.

Arnsman, bottom row center, takes her place on the medal stand next to Holland West Ottawa champion Helen Sachs, far right. “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 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