The Division 1 girls run the 2014 Lower Peninsula Cross Country Championship on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014 at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
BROOKLYN, Mich. – When Santana Scott of Evart spotted teammate Josh Woods, who had just crossed the finish line, Scott bolted in his direction with his arms thrust in the air.
“Josh! I got second!” Scott screamed.
Saturday, that was the ultimate goal for everybody in Division 4 not named Jesse Hersha.
Hersha, a senior from Concord, won the Division 4 cross-country championship for the third straight time, blowing away the field with a time of 15:23.0 at Michigan International Speedway.
Scott was 31.7 seconds back after shattering his personal best with a 15:54.7.
“That’s what I was feeling like,” Scott said when asked whether everyone else was racing for second place. “I didn’t think I’d be able to catch him.”
Hersha became the third boy to win three championships since team and individual qualifiers began running in the same race in 1996, the inaugural year for the finals at MIS. Benzie Central’s Jake Flynn won Class C in 1997-99, and Maverick Darling of Ovid-Elsie won Division 3 in 2005-07. Four others who ran when there were separate team and individual races had the fastest time at the MHSAA finals three times.
Hersha narrowly missed breaking the Division 4 record of 15:22.4 set by Tec Adams of Harbor Springs in 2008.
“When I won it my sophomore year, the first thing I thought was, ‘All right, I’ve got to go through and do it,’ ” Hersha said. “It really didn’t feel real until now that I’m a three-time state champion.”
Hersha looks at himself as not just a fast Division 4 runner, but a fast runner — period. He ran his personal best of 15:07 on Sept. 12 at the Spartan Invitational, taking second to Royal Oak’s Ben Hill in an elite field stacked with some of the best Division 1 runners in the state.
“It’s nice to be able to look at the state meet as low pressure, because I feel I can win every time,” said Hersha, whose next race will be the Foot Locker Midwest Regionals on Nov. 29 in Kenosha, Wis. “Obviously, if something goes wrong, I won’t win. I’d honestly rather race the bigger guys, even if I don’t win the race.”
The only downer for Hersha was that Concord didn’t win its third state title in his four-year career, taking fourth with 123 points. Fourth-ranked Beal City won with 105, edging top-ranked Saugatuck by four.
Senior Nick Pung was third in 16:19.3 and junior Ethan Schafer seventh in 16:33.9 to lead Beal City, which was in the state meet for only the third time. Last year’s seventh-place finish was the team’s best showing in a state meet before Saturday.
Division 2: Algonac junior Morgan Beadlescomb won a duel down the stretch with defending champion Austin Sargent of Cedar Springs to become the Muskrats’ first state champion.
Beadlescomb crossed in 15:30.7, breaking away from Sargent with a tenth of a mile left. Sargent was second in 15:42.1.
“I thought I kicked too early,” Beadlescomb said. “Then I lost the feeling in my legs, so I just kept going and kept pushing as hard as I could. It was desperation. I remember when I passed him, it was the greatest feeling. I heard my name, and it gave me an extra kick when I heard I was in first.”
Beadlescomb finished 12th in the state meet last year in 16:13.8, 31.1 seconds behind Sargent.
“You have to have a lot of confidence in yourself,” Beadlescomb said. “The one thing is I practiced really hard, and that wore me down in a lot of meets. This year, I’m a lot stronger because I’m older, and I practiced a lot smarter.”
Grand Rapids Christian won its first state championship, scoring 83 points to beat Fremont by 21. Christian had five runners cross before Fremont’s No. 4 runner finished. Benny Briseno was eighth in 16:01.8 and Justin Varineau 13th in 16:11.3 to lead the Eagles.
Division 3: Benzie Central’s depth overcame the individual brilliance of Lansing Catholic senior Keenan Rebera in the battle for the team championship.
Benzie scored 87 points to repeat as state champion and win its eighth overall title, easily outdistancing second-place Lansing Catholic by 54 points.
Benzie had three runners crack the top-30 All-State threshold, with sophomore Brayden Huddleston taking ninth in 16:09.0, senior Kyle Bailey 19th in 16:30.7 and junior Jake Williams 25th in 16:33.0.
Rebera repeated as the individual champion in 15:30.2, beating Zac Benham of Scottville Mason County Central by 14.4 seconds.
“It was my last time here,” Rebera said. “I really wanted to make the most of it. I had three goals: Win, beat my time from last year (15:31.0) and not have my shoes come untied.
“The conditions today were way worse than last year with the wind; that’s what makes it fun. That last mile was pretty lonely, but that’s the nature of this sport.”