Brighton boys, Ann Arbor Pioneer girls win

BROOKLYN, Michigan – Abby VanderKooi of Muskegon Western Michigan Christian has garnered many individual cross-country championships over the years. She now has four – making it only the eighth girl in state history – after taking victory in the Division 4 race with 18 minutes and 6.58 seconds at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday.

But VanderKooi won something she didn’t have – a team championship too. The Warriors, who didn’t even qualify as a team for the 2020 meeting, had the low score of 98, well ahead of Kalamazoo Christian and Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest (157 each).

“Our school, the students come from all over the place – and we’re about 12 from Fremont, girls I take home every day – I said, ‘Hey guys, you should start cross-country training'” she said, “and … you said, ‘Okay, sure, we’ll try.'”

That’s it? Just need a sales pitch?

After Grace Vanderkooi of Muskegon West Michigan Christian finishes the 5-kilometer race in the Division 4 cross-country final on November 6, 2021, she is supported by her older sister Abby.  Both Vanderkoois ended up in the top 10.

“Pretty much – they said ‘Sure,'” said VanderKooi. “It’s much more difficult to get people to play tracks because that’s when football takes place.”

VanderKooi’s freshman sister Grace helped tremendously by finishing eighth on Saturday, and the Warriors were well on their way.

“Grace is really brave. She adds a lot to our team, ”said Abby. “She’s a hard worker and she felt really bad for her when she was out and about with a fatigue fracture. But that she comes back and is eighth here, I’m really proud that she does that to me, and the fact that we can share this sport and a championship together is great. “

Grace is the youngest of six VanderKooi. It will be up to her to live up to Abby’s legacy of aiming for a high level. And while she achieved something so rare, Abby said she didn’t have her best race on Saturday.

“I felt OK; not great, but decent, ”she said. “I couldn’t breathe properly, it was because of the cold. I hadn’t driven in the cold in a long time. It was kind of in the middle (of my four MIS races) I think – I’m not running really great here. “

Even so, Abby did not find it difficult to beat back hopefuls who wanted to end their World Cup streak and took the lead in the first 600 meters.

“I like to come out hard,” she said. “Sometimes there is someone you can run with, but I knew there wasn’t, so I said, ‘I’ll just go.'”

Although VanderKooi and her teammates made things look simple on Saturday, she admitted they didn’t.

“We’ve been through so much. We had a truckload of teammates who were in a car accident, that was horrible. Some people were injured, not that bad, but a girl had to be stitched. My sister was traveling with a fatigue fracture. We had a girl, her iron was really broken, it was down to 6, and I was struggling with Achilles tendon pain, ankle stuff.

“That was frustrating, but when we all show up on the phone it’s fun to be all together,” she said. “God has really blessed us. It was very good, even if this is the toughest season I’ve ever had. God was good to me and the team. “

Given the doubles championships, is VanderKooi the way to go out as a senior?

“No,” she said. “Not nearly.”

Ann Arbor Pioneer student Rachel Forsyth sprints to the finish and wins the Division 1 Girls' Individual Championship on November 6, 2021. She finished the 5K race in 17: 09.32, the fastest time of the day among four divisions, and helped the Pioneers defend their team title.

Division 1 girls

Ann Arbor Pioneer once again shaped the state finals with individual winner Rachel Forsyth, two other finishers in the top 12 and a low score of 68. Holland West Ottawa (100) and Traverse City Central (183) were next.

“It was really special. I’ve seen my sisters run here and it’s just so exciting to do it myself, ”Forsyth said seeing how it took me away. I like to lead, so there was no change or anything. “

Forsyth won in 17: 09.32, but she wasn’t the only pioneer at the top. Elder sister Sarah finished eighth (18: 02.86) while Cookie Baugh finished 12th (18: 16.55).

“My teammates are really fast and they definitely push me in training,” said Rachel Forsyth. “We all work together and I love them all.”

Division 2 girls

Grand Rapids Christian’s Madalyn Frens was the first to cross the finish line with the biggest I-can’t-believe-what-is-looking expression on her face.

“It was so hard because I was actually injured for six weeks into the season and I didn’t even know if I could go to the state meeting,” she said. “But my teammates encouraged me, my coaches encouraged me and my physiotherapists and so on. They just helped me get through so I owe it to them. “

Frens outlasted the Frankenmuth student Mary Richmond, 5:52:30 p.m. to 5:56 p.m. Her time came as another surprise to Frens.

“This course wasn’t exactly the best for me,” she said. “My sophomore year I actually passed out at the finish line and the junior year was hot so I didn’t do as well as I could have, but this year was just perfect conditions, it was nice and sunny, so it was like that. “a good day for that.”

Frens’ squad scored 99 points, finishing second from East Grand Rapids (66), who finished second in 2020. The Pioneers had four places in the top 15: Drew Muller (fifth), Ainsley Workman (ninth), Sadey Seyferth (12th) and Sophia Lado (15th).

Hart's duo Jessica Jazwinski and Alyson Enns finished third and second, respectively, on November 6, 2021 at Michigan International Speedway during the State Cross-Country Championship.  They helped the Pirates win their fifth straight team title in Division 3, which joins the longest run in the state's history under the Lower Peninsula championships.

Division 3 girls

Driven by a 2-3-4 finish from Alyson Enns, Jessica Jazwinski and Audrianna Enns, Hart scored 143 points ahead of Kent City (179) and Traverse City St. Francis (182) to take the state crown.

“We’re definitely getting nervous about this meeting, but we’re trying to think of it as just another race and we’re going out and running hard,” said Alyson. “We needed everyone and everyone did it really well.”

It looks like the streak could continue – Alyson Enns is sophomore and Jazwinski is a freshman.

“I watched them win year after year in middle school and it’s amazing to finally be a part of it,” she said. “I just wanted to try to drive as hard as possible for my team and help us win another state title.”

Individually, Ithaca’s Lani Bloom won comfortably in 17: 29.69, which was half a minute ahead of Alyson Enns.

Division 1 boys

While Hartlands Riley Hough won his second individual title in a row, the team hardware went to league rivals Brighton for the second time in three years.

The Bulldogs had 141 points, better than Caledonia (175), White Lake Lakeland (194) and Northville (204) among the 27 teams.

“We definitely hadn’t locked that up this year, we knew that, to be honest, we had to freak out. We did just that and it’s the best day of our whole life, ”said Quinn Cullen, who was sixth on Brighton. “Our team is not very talented, but we have a lot of hard workers.”

Division 2 guys

Caleb Jarema doesn’t have to look far to find inspiration – he just has to go to school.

“We have this wall, it’s the all-state wall. It’s in the sports hall and I walk along there every day and see the champions, the national champions of the teams, ”said the senior from Pinckney. “There are even some who came here today. It’s a really close community and I just want to be who it was and I hope I represent it well. “

Jarema can join them on the wall after winning the Division 2 race – the closest of the day – in 15 minutes and 22.22 seconds at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday.

“I didn’t really expect it to be that competitive,” he said. “We got the mile and the pack was pretty big so I just had fun. Definitely fun to play against these guys. Shortly after the mile, I started moving and then I started driving away. When I went to the stadium I thought I had it, so I just cruised and recorded everything, it was a super good experience. “

Otsego won his first state title, but it was close. The Bulldogs had 135 points, just ahead of Chelsea (147), St. Johns (150) and Grand Rapids Christian (160).

Benzonia Benzie Central's Hunter Jones takes control of Turn 1 at Michigan International Speedway on November 6, 2021, and is on his way to winning his third straight single state title in Division 3 cross-country.

Division 3 guys

For the third year in a row, the Division 3 race was the Hunter Jones Show. The Benzie Central runner won his third individual title in a row and his winning time of 15: 08.39 was the fastest of the three.

“Today was definitely the toughest, physically and mentally, but I just decided to go for it,” he said. “My goal was to get into the 14s today, but it was a bit muddy, but I always have next year.”

With several under-15 races, Jones was a strong favorite for three-pits.

“I was pretty much focused on myself and my time. I wasn’t focusing on anyone, ”said Jones. “The second man in the state (Mantons Noah Morrow), I beat him by 42 seconds in the Regionals so it was pretty much myself and how fast I could run.”

It was a similar deficit on Saturday when Jones won by 41 seconds.

The team champion St. Louis was also a repeat winner. The Sharks successfully defended their title with 104 points ahead of runner-up Hart (146) and Lansing Catholic (194). St. Louis’ Nate March, Ben March and Aaron Bowerman were all-state for the top 30 singles.

Wyoming Potter House Christian's Lezawe Osterink gets all the attention at Michigan International Speedway on November 6, 2021 after winning the Division 4 state cross-country title in 15: 50.60 minutes.

Division 4 guys

It’s safe to say that this year’s state meeting was a better experience for Lezawe Osterink than last year.

“Last year it was pretty tough because I broke my collarbone and was hoping to go to the States and watch my teammates, but I couldn’t even do that because I got COVID,” said the Wyoming Potter’s House Christian Junior.

On Saturday, Osterink went from one extreme to the other by not only performing this year, but also winning the Division 4 race in 15: 50.60 minutes.

“I’ve worked pretty hard over the winter and the track, trained with my teammates who helped me and it was pretty cool just to come here and win it,” he said.

Hillsdale Academy was the surprise team winner with 154 points. It was the Colts’s first ever MHSAA title.

“It was the pack, the group,” said coach Michael Nikkila. “My two to seven feed really well on each other and when it came down to it at the end of the race a couple of them took the step and the rest did their best to keep up with them. It was a strong group run and robust finishes. “

Your subscription makes this work possible. Get exclusive subscriber content and more here.

Comments are closed.