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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)
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.)