BROOKLYN – Jackson Lumen Christi’s boys coach David Miller laughed as a reporter asks him how many state titles he and his powerful boys have won now, during the Division 3 awards ceremony at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Finals Saturday at MIS. It’s clear he’s been asked that a lot.
“It’s my first!” he said. “The thing is, the last one the boys won was in 1979 (the old Class B).” He goes on to explain that he and Lumen Christi girls’ coach Mike Woolsley, and their respective accomplishments, are often confused. Woolsley came into the day with eight titles at the school, most recently 2006 and 2007.
Everyone in the program shares one thing in common now, though, the honor of being 2012 state champions. First, the D3 #2 Titan girls prevailed by four points, nipping #1 Grandville-Calvin Christian, 167-171, with Caro (201) and defending champ Benzie Central (204) rounding out a very tight top four. Then Miller’s #4 boys came out and scored 129 to upend #1 Marlette (137) and – again – Grandville-Calvin Christian (GCC), which came in as two-time defending champs and ranked #2.
The initial confusion took nothing away from Miller’s unbridled joy. As it turns out, Lumen Christi’s boys have had lots of top-ten finishes at state, with a best of second in 1997. But this was their first time to top the podium in the 18 years the mentor has been at the helm.
“I can’t describe the feeling,” Miller said, noting he figured they were going to be top three at best after they finished. “The entire group stepped up. Everyone improved their times.”
Lumen Christi didn’t quite have the front-running power of Marlette and GCC, but junior Karl Berkmeier and senior Charlie Ludlow still were a strong first two, scoring 12th and 13th in 16:16.4 and 16:17.7. They were followed by soph Ryan Gibson (20th in 16:24.1), and juniors Patrick Solis (30th) and Canyon Raburn (54th). They overcame Marlette with the fifth man, gaining 23 points, and GCC with their third and fourth.
“Everyone wanted to go out there and do their best and go out there and go get it,” Berkemeier told Eric Hammis at mlive.com. “It’s going to take a while to come to grip that we actually did this.”
With only one senior in their top seven lineup, the Titans might find themselves favored next year.
The Lumen Christi girls may have had a strong history to build on, but none of the current team members had been on a team that finished higher than fourth. Neither the champs or runner-up GCC had front-running power, but rather it was a back-and-forth battle with Lumen Christi gaining a critical advantage from #2 soph Aubrey Penn (scoring 19th in 19:10.8) and #4 Leanne Leuthard (scoring 40th in 19:54.7).
“This is what we’ve been working for and I’m just so proud of the whole team,” Coach Woolsey told mlive.com. “Even outside of running, these girls are a family and that’s what it’s about.”
It was tough on GCC coach Laurens Tenkate, who heads up both programs and saw his two-time defending champ boys and #1 girls get edged out. “A lot of kids ran well; we had several PRs,” he said. “We knew we’d be in a real fight in both races.”
While GCC had tough graduation losses from their 2011 crew, which had been used to dominating, this level was new for Tenkate’s girls. “They had a great year. You can imagine, the girls saw how hard the boys worked, and what they achieved, and they wanted it, too.”
Individually, Erie Mason senior Nick Raymond rocked a stunning 15:05.1, the second fastest time in D3 meet history behind Maverick Darling’s 14:52.8 in 2007. In fact, Raymond’s time is also superior to anything run during the Class C days of 5k racing from 1980-1999.
“We went out faster than I thought we would, 4:39, so I thought I might as well use it,” said Raymond, who admitted he was “going for the 14s.
He added that he pretty much took the lead from the onset, and started to pull away in the middle of the race. “The second mile I tried to surge a little bit.” Last year, he said, he also went out hard and found himself in the lead. “But last year I was confused ... this year, I was ready.”
Raymond, who was 4th last year in D3, said it was last year during track (4:21 1,600/9:44 3,200 bests) that he began to feel he could win a state title this fall. “Then I did a lot of mileage and a lot of speed work over the summer.” He was unbeaten during the fall coming in to the race Saturday.
Hanover-Horton senior Bryce Stroede was second in 15:22.4 and Mason County Central junior Chase Barnett – who was second last year behind now-graduated Zach Zingsheim – was third in 15:28.7.
There was no clear favorite in the girls’ individual race, but St. Louis senior Raquel Serna – second in 2011 – tried to take control of the race with a 5:31 first mile. Macomb Lutheran North soph Gina Patterson was a second back at that point, though the margin was larger at a few other junctures. But by the 2-mile, Patterson had taken over the lead and she powered away in the final mile to hit the tape at 17:43.4, with Serna still getting under 18 at 17:59.8.
“I was surprised,” said Patterson, who was sixth as a freshman in 2011. “I didn’t really have a plan coming in.”