By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Ann Arbor Pioneer this week mourned longtime girls track & field and cross country coach Bryan Westfield, who died Sunday at the age of 72 and led Pioneers teams to a combined 19 MHSAA team championships over a career spanning more than three decades.
The Pioneers won their first girls track & field title under Westfield in 1985, edging Detroit Cass Tech 56-50 in Lower Peninsula Class A at Flint’s Houston Stadium. Pioneer went on to win the next six LP Class A titles, then strung together four more straight wins from 1996-99. His track & field teams won five more titles during the first decade of the 2000s, most recently in 2008, and the program holds the record for Lower Peninsula Finals championships with 16, six more than Detroit Renaissance.
Westfield’s girls cross country teams won back-to-back LP Class A titles in 1987 and 1988, and then won again in 1997.
Westfield graduated from Ann Arbor High School – the predecessor to Pioneer – in 1960 having lettered in football and track & field. He competed in both at Cornell University and eventually returned to Pioneer as a teacher. He also had a brief stint with the New York Giants’ developmental squad and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1964.
He began coaching Pioneer’s girls track & field and cross country teams in 1978 and coached both during the 2014-15 school year. He was inducted into the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014, among a number of accolades earned over the years.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. The school’s track was dedicated in 2012 to Westfield and former boys track & field coach Don Sleeman.
PHOTO: Coach Bryan Westfield stands with his 1990 team after it won the Lower Peninsula Class A track & field championship.
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.)