MARQUETTE — It was a day for making history for the Houghton girls here Saturday as they edged reigning champion Marquette 56-58 for their first Upper Peninsula Division 1 cross country title.
Houghton previously had finished Finals runner-up in 1989 and 2007.
Sault Ste. Marie squeezed past Ishpeming Westwood 82-83 for third place.
“All of the girls really stepped up today,” said Houghton assistant coach Erik Johnson. “Marquette and Sault are tough, and Westwood has a strong team. We worked our tails off.
“We were off for two weeks due to COVID-19, but the girls ran on the own and it paid off. This was a tough year with the virus and everything else. Our No. 1 goal was to get here and finish the season.”
Houghton junior Paige Sleeman was crowned champion for the first time, covering the 3.1-mile course at Presque Isle Park in 20 minutes, 55.2 seconds on this chilly and overcast day. She was followed by Westwood sophomore Heidi Meglathery (21:00.8) and classmate Ingrid Seagram (21:19.4).
“I just tried to stay with the top runners,” she said. “I like running in colder weather.
“I wanted to win and wanted our team to win. We were willing to do whatever it took. Marquette has tough runners. Ingrid had a real good race. I felt she held it together well. All the teams and girls ran well.”
Seagren, who has asthma, said she had some breathing issues.
"I’m trying to get it under control,” she added. “I’m still happy with the way I ran. I just had to keep preparing myself. Paige had a great race. I’m really proud of her.
“This is really a boost for our program. I’m super proud of our team and how we ran.”
Meglathery was fresh from earning her first Mid-Peninsula Conference title.
“I really, really wanted to win,” she said. “I just thought about the positives and helping the team. I think winning the M-PC gave me some momentum. It was tight the whole race. Ingrid was right behind me for a while, then she started trailing a little. There were a lot of hills on the course and it was super windy by the lake (Superior). I like running in the cold more than in the heat.”
Marquette senior Olivia Moffitt placed fourth (21:50.2), and Westwood senior Elizabeth Williams took fifth (21:53).
“Hats off to Houghton,” said Marquette coach Kyle Detmers. “They missed two weeks and their girls still came through. Their 1-2 punch is hard to beat. Olivia was battling a cold, but she came through for us. This is the only meet we lost all year, yet there’s nothing inside me that’s disappointed.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Houghton's Paige Sleeman (88) leads Ishpeming-Westwood's Heidi Meglathery (92), the eventual runner-up, on the way to winning the Division 1 Final at Presque Isle Park in Marquette. (Middle) Sleeman runs with Marquette's Olivia Moffitt (104) near the beginning of the race. Moffitt took fourth. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)
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.)