Second Half reports
BROOKLYN – Petoskey was outmatched last year and knew it.
“East Grand Rapids had an amazing year,” Petoskey senior Emma Squires said. “Last year, even at our best, we would have never beaten them.”
It was a different story this year. The Northmen returned all five of their scoring runners from a team that took second to East Grand Rapids by 56 points last year in the MHSAA Division 2 cross country championship race. East Grand Rapids was ranked No. 1, just ahead of Petoskey, coming into Friday’s MHSAA Finals at Michigan International Speedway, but had graduated individual champion Anna Petr.
The loss of Petr was just the opening Petoskey needed to break through and win its first MHSAA championship by a 68-79 margin over the Pioneers.
This year, it was Petoskey that had the individual champion. Squires ran the fastest time in the two Division 2 heats Friday in an MHSAA Final that was altered to reduce the size of fields.
Squires ran a time of 17 minutes, 54.56 seconds to finish ahead of Mason freshman Meghan Ford, who ran 18:18.08.
“I knew a freshman was my biggest competition,” Squires said. “Just having more experience, I knew I had to get out fast, kind of scare them a little bit. That’s what I did. I went out really strong. I was a little scared around the middle. I was so tired already.”
It was the fourth MHSAA Final for Squires, who was 36th in 19:19.9 as a freshman, seventh in 18:45.3 as a sophomore and fifth in 18:27.1 as a junior.
“It’s been a progression, but I’ve always died in the last mile,” Squires said. “I was really trying hard not to this year.”
Bringing the title home for Petoskey were Cambrie Smith in ninth place (19:01.69), Noel Vanderwall in 17th (19:14.65), Sarah Liederbach in 28th (19:39.73) and Caroline Farley in 36th (19:54.99).
“Our second girl, she moved here from Gaylord two years ago,” Squires said. “She’s kind of been my training partner. It’s been really exciting and helpful to have someone to pace with. We’ve all been working together. Our whole team has been trying to get to that state championship. We did this year.”
Petoskey, a 22-time Finals qualifier, previously placed second in 2002 and 2019.
PHOTOS: (Top) Petoskey’s Emma Squires sprints toward the finish at Friday’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final. (Middle) Caroline Farley, left, and Otsego’s Chelsea Glessner (320) push through the final stretch. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)
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.
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.
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/RunMichigan.com.)