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Bullough shines once more under the spotlight

By: Bill Khan, November 7, 2015, 11:38 pm

BROOKLYN — It was two weeks before Holly Bullough had a state championship to defend, and she was worried.

No other girl in Division 3 could beat her, but the pain in her left foot could’ve become her Kryptonite.

I was like, "I need to get an X-ray,’" the Traverse City St. Francis senior said.

The X-ray revealed a stress fracture in the second metatarsal bone. Her only hope of running regionals and the state meet was to stop running and find another way to maintain her fitness. A spinning bike at a yoga center in Traverse City became her only form of cardiovascular exercise for two weeks, other than her two big races.

Bullough made it through cross country’s championship season without a disaster, not only repeating as the Division 3 individual champion, but leading St. Francis to its first team championship since 2003.

"I was more worried coming into regionals, because that’s when I had the longest break, but I was still nervous," Bullough said.

Of course, Bullough is familiar with the concept of playing with pain.

She hails from one of Michigan’s most famous football families, one which has provided a pipeline of talent to Michigan State since the 1950s.

Her grandfather, father and three brothers played for the Spartans, with Riley and Byron on the current roster. Hank Bullough, her grandfather, was a starting guard on MSU’s 1954 Rose Bowl championship team. Her father, Shane, was a linebacker at MSU. Brother Max is on the Houston Texans’ roster.

Asked if anyone in her family ever played on a stress fracture, she said she doubted it, "but they have other issues, so …"

During races, said the injured area is pretty numb.

"Usually after is when I feel it," she said. "I take Motrin and ice it."

She certainly didn’t look like a runner whose training has been limited the past two weeks. She bolted to the front as soon as the starter’s gun went off, building a 28-second lead by the two-mile mark.

Bullough crossed the line in 17:41.8, breaking her own Division 3 record of 17:51.3 set last year when she surged right before the finish to edge Charlevoix’s Amber Way by 0.2 seconds. She won by 36.4 seconds this time around, with Hart freshman Adelyn Ackley taking second in 18:18.2. There were seven freshmen in the top 10.

"I kind of felt (the lack of training) in the last mile at both regionals and states," said Bullough, who will run for Michigan State. "I spin as hard as I can, but it’s just different from running."

Winning the individual title was more meaningful for Bullough this time around, because it helped her team win a championship.

St. Francis scored 69 points to beat Benzie Central by 72 points.

The Gladiators didn’t even qualify for the finals last year, finishing sixth in their regional to miss out on a trip to MIS for only the second time in 14 years. Bullough is the only runner from that regional lineup that ran in the finals on Saturday.

"We got a few girls who transferred and some freshmen who stepped up," Bullough said. "It’s awesome. I love it. It’s so much better than being alone."

Also scoring for the Gladiators were freshman Katelyn Duffing (fourth, 18:35.2), junior Emmalyne Tarsa (fifth, 18:42.3), sophomore Joyana Tarsa (12th, 19:05.1) and sophomore Lauren Bramer (66th, 20:23.5).

Bullough’s father headed for the airport after the meet to catch his youngest sons playing for the Spartans at Nebraska. Was Holly interested in making the trip, as well?

"I’m going home," she said. "I’m a little too tired."

In Division 1, Birmingham Seaholm won for the third time in four years by a 90-136 margin over Brighton. Junior Audrey Ladd was 11th (18:06.3), sophomore Rachel McCardell 16th (18:21.6), senior Mary Sanders 18th (18:21.9), senior Patty Girardot 19th (18:23.0) and sophomore Emily Rooney 53rd (18:54.6) for the Maples.

Grandville sophomore Madison Troy took first in 17:28.2, pulling away from a three-way battle down the stretch. Saline’s Jessi Larson was second in 17:30.9.

In Division 2, Otsego won its first championship by a comfortable 97-180 margin over East Grand Rapids. Two-time defending champion Grand Rapids Christian was third with 199. Leading Otsego from near the front of the pack were juniors Megan Aalberts (fifth, 18:38.8) and Sophia Hirzel (sixth, 18:42.1). 

Hamilton junior Erika Freyhof coasted to victory in 18:00.7. Holland Christian sophomore Kayla Windemuller was second in 18:22.5.

In Division 4, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart had the greatest performance ever by a girls’ team in the smallest division.

The Irish set a Division 4 record with 52 points, breaking the record of 66 set by Harbor Springs in 2009. Sacred Heart also became the first Division 4 girls’ team to have five runners break the 20-minute mark at MIS.

Ann Arbor Greenhills had four runners break 20 minutes in 2005.

Junior Alexis McConnell was fourth in 18:55.6, sophomore Bailley McConnell was fifth in 19:11.4, freshman Scout Nelson was 10th in 19:19.4, freshman Cammie McConnell was 17th in 19:31.2 and freshman Lauren MacDonald was 26th in 19:59.2.

Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes senior Tessa Fornari won in 18:14.5, while defending champion Ava Strenge of Battle Creek St. Philip was second in 18:23.5.