Second Half reports
BROOKLYN — Of the thousands of girls who have run in the MHSAA Cross Country Finals at Michigan International Speedway, only one had ever broken the 17-minute barrier.
Winning the 2009 Lower Peninsula Division 1 meet in 16:54.8 just a month before winning the national Foot Locker championship made Rochester’s Megan Goethals a legend in the sport.
So, where does that put Olivia Theis?
Theis, a senior at Lansing Catholic, took down Goethals’ record by blistering a muddy MIS course in 16:52.1 to win the Division 2 title. Her performance also led the Cougars to the team championship.
“I didn’t expect it, especially coming in as a freshman,” Theis said. “I just had no idea how good I could be. I think my team has definitely pushed me to be the best I could be.”
It was the first individual title for Theis, who improved from 19th as a freshman to ninth as a sophomore to second as a junior when Lansing Catholic ran in Division 3.
Defending champion Kayla Windemuller of Holland Christian stayed with Theis until the second mile. A 5:29 second mile, followed by a 5:11 third mile, allowed Theis to break the record and win by a landslide.
“I didn’t know if she was going to come with me or not,” Theis said.
Mason junior Cecilia Stalzer was second in 17:35.9, Lansing Catholic junior Lauren Cleary was third in 17:43.7 and Windemuller was fourth in 17:50.8.
Lansing Catholic beat Grand Rapids Christian, 77-145, for the team title. DeWitt took third with 197 points.
Sophomore Jaden Theis was sixth (18:18.7), senior Grace Frost was 33rd (19:15.2) and sophomore Rachel Reid was 63rd (19:15.2) for the Cougars.
“We knew going in we were going to have to race really hard, and that’s just what we did,” Cleary said.
It was the first MHSAA championship for Lansing Catholic, which took second in Division 3 in 2000 and 2016.
Olivia Theis and Frost ran in all four meets as the Cougars progressed from sixth place in 2014 to fourth in 2015 to second last year.
PHOTOS: (Top) Lansing Catholic’s Olivia Theis charges by a mile marker en route to the fastest 5K time in MHSAA Finals history. (Middle) The Cougars’ Lauren Cleary (1395) leads Mason’s Cecilia Stalzer (1422) early in the Division 2 race; they’d finish third and second, respectively. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)
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.)