Upper Peninsula's Speediest Contenders Becoming Fast Friends As Well

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

September 23, 2021

CALUMET — They’re becoming close friends off the trails, but they’re fierce competitors on the cross country course.

Houghton senior Ingrid Seagren and Ishpeming sophomore Lola Korpi have emerged as the Upper Peninsula’s top two runners at this point in the season.

Seagren has won 2-of-3 meetings this year, but it was Korpi’s turn to win Monday at the Calumet Invitational.

Korpi covered the hilly 3.1-mile course in 21 minutes, 18.3 seconds at the Swedetown Trails on a hot, sunny and breezy day. Seagren was clocked at 21:39.3.

“I think it all depends on who’s feeling better on that day and the course,” said Korpi. “Ingrid is a very good downhill runner, and I wanted to make sure I pushed myself on those. I think the uphills worked to my advantage, and I was glad to see that last one before the finish.

“There was a pack of us for a while. It was pretty hot out there and I couldn’t feel the wind in the woods.”

Seagren won the Queen City Invitational (Aug. 27) and Dale Phillips Invite (Sept. 3), both at Presque Isle Park in Marquette. Korpi was runner-up both times.

“She’s definitely good competition, and I enjoy running against her,” said Seagren. “It’s hard to take her on the uphills. I didn’t feel the best today (Monday). I’ve had kind of a cold, but did the best I could. Lola ran a great race. I’m happy for her. It just wasn’t my day. That was a tough course and the heat was a factor for everybody. I didn’t feel the breeze, although I think it helped. There were quite (a few) of us up there (near the front) in the beginning.”

They were followed by Gogebic (Bessemer) junior Natalie Stone (22:08.8), and Negaunee junior Endla Harris (22:12.7) and freshman Marlee Plaxco (22:30.55).

Houghton cross country“I was pleased with my time because it’s a harder course,” said Korpi. “Ingrid and I are becoming good friends, and I think I’m getting closer with her and other girls. I’ve been dealing with some calf issues, but it seems to be getting better.”

Korpi and Seagren will meet at least four more times this season, but won’t be running in the same race at the Upper Peninsula Finals.

Ishpeming is entered in Division 2, and Houghton will try to repeat in Division 1.

“I’m expecting a tough race in the D1 Finals,” said Seagren. “I think we just need to keep pushing each other in practice. We would like to do it again. Paige (Sleeman) and I are seniors this year. We’re a real close team.”

The U.P. Finals take place Oct. 23 at Gentz’s Golf Course in Chocolay Township (near Marquette).

Sleeman is reigning U.P. Division 1 champion, and Seagren placed third at Gentz’s a year ago. Sleeman, who was feeling under the weather, didn’t run at Calumet on Monday.

Korpi was Division 2 runner-up to Ironwood’s Aundrea Stengard on a snowy course at the George Young Golf Course at Gaastra (near Crystal Falls) last year.

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTOS: (Top) Ishpeming's Lola Korpi (823) and Houghton's Ingrid Seagren (785) lead the Queen City Invitational. (Middle) Seagren and Paige Sleeman (787) race through the opening stretch with their teammates at the start of the Queen City race. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)

Back from Broken Foot, Grandville's Arnsman Finishes as State's Top Senior

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

November 18, 2022

GRANDVILLE – Almost a year ago, Allie Arnsman didn’t know whether she would ever be able to run competitively again. 

West MichiganOver the last week, the Grandville senior was named Ms. Cross Country by the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association while also establishing a school record. 

Arnsman suffered a broken right foot during last year’s cross country season that required surgery.

“They told me there was a small possibility of even being able to run again,” Arnsman said. “It was very scary going into the surgery thinking that there was a 90-percent chance that I wouldn’t be able to run, but I had the doctors and the physical therapists that were able to get me back.”

Arnsman sustained the injury during the third meet of her junior season when she stepped in a hole on the course.

Originally, doctors didn’t think the injury was serious.

“They kept telling us it was just a sprain, and after six weeks it would be healed,” said Arnsman, who wore a boot on her right foot.

Arnsman returned to run in the final three races of last year, and finished 17th overall in the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final.

However, she still felt uncertain that her foot was completely healed.

“It was really painful when I ran and I thought something was still wrong, but I wanted to finish out my junior year and I was grateful that I did,” Arnsman said. “Right after the state meet I had an MRI, and it revealed that it was broken.”

Arnsman missed the track & field season due to her recovery after surgery. She began running again in late spring and then returned in August for her senior year.

Arnsman, bottom row center, takes her place on the medal stand next to Holland West Ottawa champion Helen Sachs, far right. “It was a tough injury for her to overcome, but she came back and we started talking about goals for the season,” Grandville girls cross country coach Rachael Steil said. “I told her that I thought she had the potential to finish in the top five (at the Finals) and we joked about her winning.

“She had so much untapped potential, and she did so well on little mileage. She doesn’t realize how talented she is, but with the hard work she put in I felt like it was going to be a really good season.”

Arnsman ran well throughout the season and continued to drop her times.

At the Finals, she exceeded her own expectations by placing runner-up in Division 1 behind West Ottawa’s Helen Sachs. 

Arnsman finished with a time of 17 minutes, 43 seconds at Michigan International Speedway.

“I was just trying to go out with the front pack, and I wanted to stick up close and then close in in the last mile,” she said. “It was tough to catch her because she went out very fast, and I wasn't used to that pace. The weather conditions weren't great, and I just couldn't get up there.”

Still, Arnsman was ecstatic about her finish.

“I was really excited,” she said. “Coming into the season I did not think I could even be top three and I was hoping for a top 15, so placing second was amazing. It was a dream.”

Arnsman got more good news after the race as she was the top senior in all divisions and was named Ms. Cross Country.

“When they pulled me aside in the room I had the biggest smile on my face,” Arnsman said. “I knew going in that it was a possibility, but of course I didn't know right away. I was so excited.”

A week later, Arnsman ran in the MITCA Meet of Champions and became the fastest girl in Grandville school history when she finished second with a time of 17 minutes flat.

The previous record of 17:20 was set by Madison Troy in 2015.

“She was drastically improving through the season, and I knew the possibilities were endless for her,” Steil said. “She has great form, and she’s strong from all the weight training she did. She put all the little pieces together, and they came together at the right time.”

Arnsman will run for Grand Valley State next year, but it’s been a journey that was somewhat unexpected after growing up as an accomplished soccer player.

She stopped playing soccer after her sophomore year to focus on running.

“I grew up in soccer, so it was scary going into a new sport and giving up something that I loved,” Arnsman said. “It was a different sport and a whole new environment that I wasn’t used to, but I’m grateful that I was able to have the success I did. ... I never thought about running in college. I thought I would be playing college soccer.”

Arnsman, who ended her cross country career as a three-time Finals qualifier, will run indoor track & field this winter before running outdoor in the spring with her team.

Dean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at dream100@comcast.net with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTOS (Top) Grandville’s Allie Arnsman runs toward the finish at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Cross Country Final on Nov. 5. (Middle) Arnsman, bottom row center, takes her place on the medal stand next to Holland West Ottawa champion Helen Sachs, far right. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)