Sleeman, Houghton Earn 1st Finals Wins

By John Vrancic
Special for

October 25, 2020

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.”

Click for full results.

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.)

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/