Mary Richmond is too busy to run slow.
The Frankenmuth sophomore is splitting time this fall between the cross country and volleyball teams, while also working one day per week at an Italian restaurant in town. When those seasons end in the next month, she doesn’t exactly take a break. During the winter, school and work get balanced with travel volleyball. In the spring, track joins the fray, and in the summer, she plays travel softball.
“Both (fall) coaches are really accommodating with my schedules, and even with work, my boss is really good working with my schedules,” Richmond said. “My whole entire life I’ve been busy – I’ve always been going non-stop, so this isn’t a new thing this year.”
Richmond is passionate about each sport and the bonds created with teammates with whom she competes, which is why she wasn’t willing to give up volleyball or softball while becoming one of the state’s top runners.
Entering Saturday’s cross country Regional at Shepherd, Richmond shares the fastest time of the season in Lower Peninsula Division 2 (17 minutes, 56 seconds) with Grand Rapids Christian’s Madelyn Frens. She won a Regional title and placed fourth at the Division 2 Cross Country Finals as a freshman, and was all-state in a pair of events (third in the 1,600 meters, fourth in the 3,200) at last spring’s LP Division 2 Track & Field Finals.
“Mary works extremely hard in practice, and has learned to run on her own in most of our meets this season,” Frankenmuth girls cross country coach Mike Snyder said. “When there is a lead Gator, we simply tell her to chase the Gator. She loves competition and enjoys meets where she can compete with girls that have faster times than her. She has the potential to be the Division 2 state champion, and has the work ethic and focus to go after that goal.”
While Richmond is very busy, she said her focus is currently on the Regional race, which will be in the same location she ran her previous best – a time that is nearly a full minute faster than her closest competition.
“It’s a really good course, and I really want to work on my time and the little stuff, like my form and stuff, so I can get prepared for states,” Richmond said. “States are going to be really tough, because there are four or five girls within seconds of each other.”
Richmond has won nine of the 13 meets she’s run in this season, but her 17:56 came while she finished fifth. While running after the motorized vehicle that’s showing the way has provided some extra motivation in a lot of those meets, it’s racing the best that motivates Richmond the most.
“When my dad bikes next to me while I’m training, I always have him bike in front of me,” Richmond said. “With the Gator, I’m trying to catch it. It’s a racer’s mentality. I’ve never finished in first place when I’ve run a personal record.”
Anticipating she’ll get that chance again at the Finals has Richmond excited. And on that day, she said she won’t be concerned about time, just racing.
“Finishing at the top at states with those girls and being able to have a good race – being able to come out of it and saying I gave all I could give is probably my goal,” she said. “As long as I have no regrets afterward, I’ll be happy.”
In between the Regional and Finals, which are Nov. 6 at Michigan International Speedway, Richmond will be joining her volleyball teammates in trying to win a District title. Richmond, who stands 5 feet, 11½ inches tall, plays middle and outside hitter for the Eagles. She plays a reserve role on the volleyball court, but she’s enjoying it all the same.
“I’ve always loved volleyball, and I wasn’t ready to give it up,” Richmond said. “I don’t get much playing time, but we have such an athletic team that just being on the team and being there for all the practices has been great. I think I use volleyball as a little bit of a stress reliever from cross country. When I get to volleyball, I get to have fun with some of my friends, and at the same time compete.”
Frankenmuth will play in the District at Chesaning, and has a bye into the semifinal. Richmond thinks the team has the potential to make a run, and extend her busy fall.
“I think if we play like we can, those girls are just amazing when they come together,” she said. “Volleyball is barely any of their main sport, but when they come together, the athleticism in that group is nuts.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Frankenmuth’s Mary Richmond crosses the finish line during last season’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Finals at Michigan International Speedway. (Middle) Richmond leads the pack during this season’s Tri-Valley Conference championship race. (Top photo by RunMichigan.com, middle courtesy of the Frankenmuth cross country program.)
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.)