By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Jaylee Brown, a 2012 graduate of Onekama and current member of the Northern Michigan University cross country and track and field teams, recently received a Student-Athlete Sportsmanship Award from the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct.
Brown encountered a runner sitting on the course near the end of a 2013 race at the University of Minnesota. While others passed by, Brown hoisted the runner and helped her through the finish line.
Brown ran for the Bear Lake/Onekama co-op cross country team from 2008-11, placing among the top 57 at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final all four seasons including placing 24th as a sophomore and 27th as a freshman. She also was a four-time top-six placer in LP Division 4 in pole vault, winning the championship as a senior.
The following explanation of Brown’s selfless act is courtesy of the NCAA website:
While running in the Roy Griak Invitational hosted by Minnesota last Sept. 28, Brown reached the top of the final hill of the cross country race when she noticed a runner sitting on the course.
It was Lillie Koerner of Dordt College, who had fallen and appeared dazed. Many runners ran past Koerner on their way to the finish, but Brown stopped.
“It looked like she was in a lot of pain,” Brown said. “I kept looking at her and looking at the finish. As I got closer, (Koerner) looked like she was reaching out.”
Brown put Koerner’s arm around her shoulder and told her they would finish the race together. After they crossed the finish line, Brown escorted Koerner to the athletic training tent, where she could receive medical treatment.
“It was the right thing to do,” Brown said. “For her to come all that way and not be able to finish really would have broken my heart because I know how hard it is.”
“I felt like it was my job to help her,” Brown added. “I would hate for that to happen to me. I know I would want someone to help me.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Bear Lake/Onekama's Jaylee Brown heads toward the finish line during the 2011 MHSAA Cross Country Finals at Michigan International Speedway. (Middle) Brown, running for Northern Michigan University, helps Lillie Koerner of Dordt College toward the finish at University of Minnesota a year ago. (Top photo by RunMichigan.com; middle courtesy of NCAA.org.)
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.)