Tanner Hinkle was in the lead or fighting for it for most of the Division 2 boys state final on Saturday.
But Cedar Springs senior Connor Mara surged in the last mile and finished five seconds ahead of the senior from Mason.
“We went out a little slower the first mile than I wanted, but he’s a really good runner,” Hinkle said. “(Not getting first) is always going to bug me, but I ran well and so did he.”
Hinkle (15:09), junior Mason VanDyke (15:33) and senior Alex Whitmer (15:35) finished 2-4-7, but the defending champion and fourth-ranked Bulldogs ended up in fifth place.
“The question’s always going to be what if we had Jacob,” said Hinkle of junior Jacob Hanson, who missed all season with an injured foot. “But that was my second-fastest time, and everybody set a PR (personal record) in the top five except me. Fifth place — since our goal was top five — was what we were looking to do.”
The trio from Mason were among the 11 mid-Michigan area boys who ran faster than 16 minutes. The others were Eaton Rapids senior Kenny Wherry (15:33 for fifth in D2), Ionia senior Brandon Winter (15:40 for 11th in D2), Lansing Catholic sophomore Keenan Rebera (15:42 for fifth in D3), Grand Ledge senior Nathan Megge (15:43 for 23rd in D1), Williamston senior Aaron Baumgarten (15:44 for 13th in D2), Ionia senior Brice Brown (15:52 for 17th in D2), St. Johns sophomore Codey Cook (15:53 for 21st in D2) and St. Johns junior Andrew Hyatt (15:59, 31st in D2).
Hyatt was the only one of the 11 to not earn all-state, missing by just one place.
The No. 2-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia boys earned the highest team finish of the day among area high schools with a third place in Division 4. Junior Tanner Droste ran a career-best 16:21, third fastest ever at his school.
“I came out a little conservative for the first two miles,” Droste said. “Once we got in the stadium, the adrenaline was going, and I was able to pass four or five guys the last mile and two Concord guys at the end but it wasn’t enough.
“I heard Concord was probably the best Division 4 team they’ve ever had.”
Among other area boys teams, No. 8 Ithaca took sixth place in D2, No. 6 Stockbridge and No. 7 Lansing Catholic ninth and 10th in D3, and the No. 5 Ionia boys 10th in D2.
The No. 4 Lansing Catholic girls finished fifth in D3, while No. 8 Bath took eighth. The Cougars were led by senior and repeat all-stater Emma Frost’s 19th-place finish in 19:00.
“I was pretty happy about it, because I was injured earlier in the season,” Frost said. “Our team is a little disappointed, but we know we gave it our all.”
Eight area girls broke 19 minutes: Greater Lansing meet champion and St. Louis senior Raquel Serna (17:59 for second in D3), Mason sophomore Meg Darmofal (18:15 for eighth in D2), Charlotte freshman Lindsey Carlson (18:19 for 10th in D2), St. Johns sophomore Karrigan Smith (18:30 for 17th in D2), East Lansing sophomore Sarah Goble (18:33 for 34th in D1), DeWitt sophomore Shelby Waterson (18:38 for 25th in D2), Grand Ledge junior Krista Magness (18:57 for 59th in D1) and St. Johns senior Kayla Kraft (18:58 for 35th in D2).
Darmofal moved up 14 spots from 22nd a year ago, and ran a personal-record time three weeks after dropping out of the Greater Lansing meet due to illness.
“I wanted to redeem myself, and today I was feeling it,” she said. “I took the first mile a little easier, and the last two miles I gradually picked it up. I was 13th going into the stadium at three-quarters of a mile left and went as hard as I could.”
Smith’s time was only seven seconds off her 18:23 from a year ago that tied Serna for fastest in the area at the 2011 state meet. She achieved the feat despite struggles with tendinitis and asthma issues this fall.
“My season wasn’t how I wanted it to be, but I wanted to go out with a bang,” Smith said. “I was very happy, because I left it all out on the course and was able to push past the nerves.”
The fastest area time in Division 4 was 19:16 by Potterville junior Moriah Hill-Green, who repeated as an all-stater while improving from 17th a year ago to seventh.
“I wanted to get 19:03, my PR,” she said. “I started in 13th and moved my way up, and that was the plan. But I wished our team could have made it.”
The top three teams in each regional qualify for the state meet. The Vikings took fourth.