DIVISION 2 CROSS COUNTRY STATE FINALS: Cedar Springs’ Mora makes mark as Mr. Cross-Country favorite
BY DAN STICKRADT
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Conor Mora entered the 2012 cross country season as a Mr. Cross Country finalist. The cedar Springs senior cemented that fact Saturday afternoon at Michigan Speedway.
Mora ran a blistering 15:04.2 to win not only the Lower Peninsula Division 3 state title, but capped an unbeaten season. He won four major invitationals this season, plus topped his league, regional and now state meet.
His effort Saturday made him a rare four-time All-State athlete, as he was 15th as a freshman, fifth as a sophomore, third as a junior and now state champ as a senior. He posted the fastest time of the four divisions at M.S., just a second ahead of Division 3 state champion Nick Raymond (15:05.1)
“In the past, I haven’t always had great races here,” admitted Mora. “I was All-State, but felt I could have ran better.”
Perhaps Mora could not have run any better on Saturday?
Mora staved off Mason’s Tanner Hinkle in the final mile after the two ran nearly only a stride apart during a chunk of the race. Hinkle faded down the stretch and clocked 15:09.8 to finish second.
“I decided to sit back just a little bit (and draft Hinkle) and then I made my move,” added Mora. “It feels great to win here as a senior. What a way to finish my last race here.”
Clark Ruiz of big Rapids was third (15:32.1), while Mason’s Mason VanDyke (15:33.4) and Eaton Rapids’ Kenny Wherry (15:33.7) were in the next tier of runners. The top 30 finishers in each race garnered All-State accolades.
St. Clair landed five in the top 35 and had three earn All-State inside the top 30 to lead the way to the boys state title. The Saints scored 114 points, ahead of runner-up Linden’s 128 points.
St. Joseph trailed in third with 153 points, followed by Cedar Springs (200), Mason (240), Chelsea (242), Richland Gull Lake (260), Grand Rapids Christian (271), Otsego (282) and Ionia (304) in the top 10.
Brennan Shafer (seventh), Cody Smith (10th), Trevor Holowaty (28th), Dakota Hazel (34th) and Andrew Snider (35th) were the point scorers for St. Clair.
Ada Forest Hills Eastern is less than a decade old. The school won its first-state title in girls cross country after finishing second in 2007.
The Hawks landed their top five runners all inside the top 30 en route to 93 points and a convincing win. Spring Lake was back in second with 150 points.
Forest Hills Eastern was paced by Clara Cullen’s fourth-place finish. Mary Kostielney (15th), Lauren Allard (20th), Abagail Bowman (24th) and Angela Ottenwess (30th) were part of the winning group.
Grand Rapids Christian was third with 182 points, while Middleville Thornapple-Kellogg (186), defending champion East Grand Rapids (231), Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (233), Richland Gull Lake (236), Cedar Springs (275), Warren Regina (275) and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood (332) also placed in the top 10 of the team standings.
Julia Bos of Grand Rapids Christian defended her title with a 17:20.4 showing, also cementing her named amongst the state’s elite group of the past decade.
“It’s an honor (to be part of the group of standout Michigan prep runners),” smiled Bos. “I feel very blessed.
“There was a little bit of pressure (to repeat),” added Box. “I was like, ‘boy, I better not screw up.’ I just wanted to go out and see what I could do.”
Cedar Springs’ Kenzie Weiler was some 30 seconds back in the runner-up slot in 17:49.1. Hamilton’s Molly Oren (18:03.3), Bloomfield Hills Lahser’s Elena Miller (18:07.7) and Hudsonville Unity Christian’s Kelli Nesky (18:09.2) were part of a group that had the entire top-3 All-State list break 18:50.
Dan Stickradt is Senior Editor for Digital Daily www.northoaklandsports.com and The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine, as well as a freelance writer for multiple media outlets, including State Champs! High School Sports Show website. He is a 20-year veteran sports journalist based in Oakland County, Mich. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.)