St Ignace Girls Take Back Top Spot

By John Vrancic
Special for

October 25, 2020

The St. Ignace girls won for the first time in three years, squeezing past two-time reigning champion Hancock 53-54.

The Saints had finished runners-up to Hancock the last two seasons, finishing 22 points back in 2019 and 36 in 2018. 

St. Ignace’s five runners all crossed among the top 16 individuals. Hancock crossed three of the top eight.

Third-place Ironwood had 73 points. Ironwood junior Aundrea Stengard gained top individual honors at 23:28.1, followed by Ishpeming freshman Lola Korpi (23:42.9), Hancock sophomore Maylie Kilpela (25:10.5), St. Ignace freshman Wisteria Brady (25:13.7) and Hancock junior Sierrah Driscoll (25:25.8).

"I just wanted to stay with her and then maybe get a lead at the end, which is kind've what I did," Stengard said of running with Korpi. "For the first two miles I ran with her, and then the third mile I managed to get a little lead. 

"Some spots were slippery, so I struggled a little with that. But otherwise it went pretty well."

She added that running in the snow definitely made for a more difficult race, and the times showed it. But sun or snow, the opportunity to compete was worth it.

"It was just so different from normal years, with all the corona(virus) stuff and everything, and the snow, it was just really different," Stengard said. "But I'm glad we got to have a season overall." 

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PHOTOS: Ironwood’s Aundrea Stengard takes the final paces of her championship-winning race Saturday at George Young Recreational Complex. (Below) St. Ignace claimed its first Finals championship since 2017. (Photos by Theresa Proudfit.)

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.

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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/