By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Oxford Hills Country Club hosted the 1980 Lower Peninsula Class B Cross Country Finals on what had to be a chilly day, considering the heavy coats and winter gloves worn by spectators in the photos above and below taken during the races that day.
A little cool in the air isn’t unusual for this annual championship event. But there was a little change in the air as well on this day, as it was the first MHSAA Finals ran at the current race length of five kilometers (3.1 miles).
Brighton’s Pat Hamparian ran the fastest girls time of the 1980 Finals, 17:54.2 – which remained the fourth-fastest 5K time in LP Class A Finals history when those records were retired with the move from classes to divisions in 2000. Mount Clemens’ Bill Brady ran the fastest boys time of 15:07, also in Class A. His time remained the third-fastest 5K time in LP Class A Finals history when the records were retired.
There were plenty of differences too from the meets that will take place this season Oct. 24 in the Upper Peninsula and Nov. 7 in the Lower Peninsula.
From 1961-96 for the boys and 1979-96 for the girls (girls cross country at the MHSAA tournament level began with just one open class Final in 1978), MHSAA individual championships were awarded separately to the first-place finishers among both team and individual qualifiers. Also, while all three 1980 Upper Peninsula Finals were run at Gladstone, the four Lower Peninsula Finals were run at multiple sites, one class at each.
Flint Kearsley, Caro, Concord, Kingsley, Marquette, Ishpeming Westwood and Norway won MHSAA boys team championships in 1980. Brighton, Livonia Ladywood, Williamston, Ann Arbor Greenhills, Marquette and Ishpeming won girls titles (there was one fewer girls race, with Class C-D U.P. teams in one class rather than two for that sport).
PHOTOS: (Top) Livonia Ladywood’s Kelly Champagne crosses the finish line to finish first among team racers at the LP Class B Final in 1980; her time was 18:37.1. (Middle) Cadillac’s Mark Smith finished first among team racers in the boys race with a time of 15:25.5.
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.)