Theis, EGR Forge Championship Paths

November 3, 2018

Second Half reports

BROOKLYN — The crown is staying in the family.

One year after Lansing Catholic’s Olivia Theis ran the fastest time ever at the MHSAA Girls Cross Country Finals, her sister assumed her vacated Lower Peninsula Division 2 title Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.

Cougars junior Jaden Theis won with a time of 18:01.9, finishing 14.6 seconds ahead of Makenna Veen of Plainwell.

The first three finishers were juniors. There were no seniors in the top 11.

“I’ve got to keep the tradition going,” Theis said. “It just feels really good to keep the last name out there ruling D2.”

Last year, Olivia Theis set the Finals record with a time of 16:52.1, breaking a mark held by 2009 Foot Locker national champion Megan Goethals of Rochester. So, it helped that Jaden didn’t have to contend with her sister this year. It also helped being healthy.

“I was sixth last year,” she said. “My ankle was bothering me.”

Jaden had the benefit of getting sisterly advice from an MHSAA record holder.

The advice?

“Just stay calm, relax, have fun out there,” Jaden said. “I wasn’t too worried about time today, knowing the course conditions. I’m happy with it.”

Veen has finished in the top five three times at MIS, with one season remaining. She was fourth as a freshman, fifth as a sophomore and second this year.

“I honestly didn’t expect to place as well as I did,” Veen said. “But I race well in these nasty conditions.”

East Grand Rapids won the team championship in commanding fashion, scoring 51 points to win by 108 over runner-up DeWitt. The Pioneers had their five scoring runners across the line before DeWitt got its second finisher.

All five of East Grand Rapids’ scorers made all-state by placing in the top 30. Junior Margaret Coney was fifth in 18:38.2, freshman Ainsley Workman was 11th in 18:51.2, junior Katie Hessler was 15th in 18:56.6, junior Anna Petr was 20th in 19:02.8 and senior Audrey Whiteside was 21st in 19:04.4.

The Pioneers moved back to Division 2 after placing 13th in Division 1 last year. Their times Saturday would’ve made them competitive with Division 1 champion Clarkston. Clarkston’s first two runners were faster than East Grand Rapids’ by considerable margins, but the Pioneers had the advantage by close margins with their third, fourth and fifth runners. The teams would’ve tied, 147-147, if East Grand Rapids ran the same times in Division 1, with Clarkston winning the sixth-runner tie-breaker.

It was the sixth MHSAA Finals championship for East Grand Rapids, which last won in 2011.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lansing Catholic’s Jaden Theis comes around a bend during the Division 2 Final on Saturday at MIS. (Middle) East Grand Rapids’ Katie Hessler (1334), Anna Petr (1335) and Audrey Whiteside run as part of a pack early in the Division 2 Final. (Click for more from

Grand Rapids Speedsters Dominate Division 2 Girls Cross Country Final

November 4, 2023

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.

Natalie VanOtteren leads Grand Rapids Christian's team title run with a fifth-place finish.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.

Click for full results.

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/