Rochester's Cook, Dakota's Harberts Finding Fastest Strides at Championship Time

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

October 27, 2022

Peaking right before the biggest events is obviously something every athlete wants to do. But executing such a desire is way easier said than done.

Greater DetroitFortunately for cross country runners Jayden Harberts and Lucy Cook – top-10 finishers at last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final – that hasn’t been an issue.

With Regional meets this weekend and this season’s Finals at Michigan International Speedway the Saturday after that, Harberts and Cook reaching their top form right now might be bad news for other runners around the state.

Harberts, a junior at Macomb Dakota, earlier this month won her third consecutive Macomb County championship in a time of 18:25 at Stony Creek Metropark.

But Dakota coach Tom Zarzycki said that’s not all she’s done.

“She’s run three of her four fastest times within the last month,” Zarzycki said. “She’s definitely on the upswing.”

The same can be said for Cook, a sophomore at Rochester.

Cook won her second-straight Oakland County championship at Kensington Metropark in a time of 18:45.5.

Despite being slowed by an illness earlier in the year, Cook appears to be at full strength at the right time.

“She’s got a tremendous amount of passion and she is 110 percent into everything she is doing,” said Rochester coach Amy Oppat. “She’s easy to coach from that aspect. She’s hard on herself because she cares.”

For Harberts, she hopes to better her seventh-place Finals finish from last year.

She ran a personal record of 17:31 on Oct. 22 at the Macomb Area Conference championships, and she credits enhanced mental strength for her performances this fall.

“For me this year, it’s been a lot of mental growth,” Harberts said. “Last year, I didn’t (personal record) in cross country, so I’ve been waiting a while. I think physically I’ve gotten a lot stronger too. But it’s a lot of mental strength for me.”

Cook, who finished sixth at the LPD1 Final in 2021, followed up her Oakland County title by winning the OAA White championship Oct. 20 in a time of 18:34.1.

The comfort and confidence she gained doing so well at the Final last year has obviously showed this fall, and Oppat said Cook is ahead of where she was at this time last season.

“It was my first big meet,” Cook said of running at MIS in 2021. “I was just going to see how it went and try my best. It was a pretty big personal record.”

Both Harberts and Cook also shined during track season this past spring.

At the LPD1 Track & Field Finals on June 4, Harberts placed third in 3,200 meter run with a time of 10:26.16 and 11th in 1,600 meter run in a time of 4:57.87, while Cook was second in the 3,200 run in a time of 10:23.24.

Cook said distance running is “better for me than sprinting,” while Harberts echoed that sentiment that distance races have long been a better fit for her.

“I like to build my race up,” Harberts said. “It’s not like a sprint where I have to be fast the whole time. It’s more strategic.”

Harberts and Dakota will run Saturday in a Regional at Goodells Park in Wales Township, while Cook and Rochester will run at Hess-Hathaway Park in Waterford.

Given what each has achieved lately, it’s a good bet they’ll still be peaking after the weekend, with all eyes then toward the Finals race.

“I just have to remember to keep running my own race,” Harberts said. “Hopefully I can continue to do that again this year.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at keithdunlap78@gmail.com with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS Rochester’s Lucy Cook, left, and Macomb Dakota’s Jayden Harberts finished sixth and seventh, respectively, at last season’s LPD1 Final at Michigan International Speedway. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)

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

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

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 dream100@comcast.net 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.)