DIVISION 4 CROSS COUNTRY STATE FINALS: Breckenridge’s Olling joins elite company with fourth state title
BY DAN STICKRADT
BROOKLYN — Kirsten Olling has a streak going that few high school runners can match.
“I think I’ve run, consecutively, at least 1,500 days,” said the Breckenridge senior. “My track coach has run something like 20 years. I have a long way to go to equal that.”
While Olling has a long way to catch up with her mentor, she joined an elite class Saturday by becoming just the sixth runner to win four state championships in girls cross-country and third overall since the team run and individual run were combined two decades ago.
Olling clocked 17:44.9 to win the Division 4 state title going away, the D-4 course record. All runners fought through the chilly 45 degree temperatures and the muddy course conditions at Michigan Speedway near Brooklyn.
“I felt really good out there,” said Olling. “I just had to run at my pace.”
Olling beat her nearest competitor by some 57 seconds. Tessa Fornari of Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes-Clarkston Everest Collegiate Unified was a distant second in18:41.7.
Olling, who has numerous cross country and track and field records at her school.
“I started to run in the sixth grade and I’ve just kept working hard since then,” said Olling. “You have to train hard, run every day, even on the days when you don’t feel all that well. (In the streak) I’ve run at least a mile a day.”
Beal City won the D-4 girls team title with 120 points, fending off Breckenridge’s 136 points in the runner up slot. Bear Lake was third (158), while Pewamo-Westphalia (160) and Homer (165) followed suit in the top five.
Beal City Hannah Steffke (seventh), Hannah Neyer (14th), Emily Steffke (18th), Ariel Salter (37th) and Brenda Faber (44th) all finished in the top 50 in the team race to help the Aggies’ cause.
Traverse City St. Francis’ Holly Bullough was third (18:59.8), Deckerville’s Kendra Colesa fourth (19:12.4) and East Jordan’s Kayla Keane (19:18.1).
With Olling now departing, that leaves the door open for Lakes-Everest’s Fornari, who finished in the runner-up slot — by far the best in program history.
“I’ve been thinking about, next year,” said Fornari, who was fourth as a freshman. “I don’t know, well see what happens. It’s so unpredictable. It’s such a long period of time before next year, but I’m feeling pretty good about it.”
“It’s a really good feeling. I can’t really explain the feeling. It’s the first time for me finishing second in the state,” continued Fornari. “This is such a large race, such a great field to race against, it’s a really good atmosphere and overall I feel really good about my race.”
In the boys Division 4 race, Jesse Hersha clocked 15:49.2 to win by 44 seconds, easily defending his individual title.
“Last year I wasn’t sure but this year I had no doubt that I could win again,” said Hersha. “It wasn’t my best race but it is different (running alone). I could have jogged the last 100 meters or so but you have to keep pushing myself when no one else is pushing yourself.
The course was muddy and you slipped every step, especially in the last (half) mile. But everybody had to run on the same path,” added Hersha. “It didn’t get really bad until the final 1,200. You should see my shoes.”
The top 30 runners overall in each race earn All-State accolades.
Saugatuck captured the D-4 boys crown with 113 points, landing five runners in the top 40 in the team race. Jacob Pettinga (second point-wise), Clayton Springer (seventh), Nick Butch (26th), Zachary Pettinga (38th) and Joe Brown (40th) led Saugatuck.
Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart was eight points back in second with 121 points, while Concord (134), Bear Lake (149) and Evart (159) followed suit in the 27-team standings.
East Jordan’s Josh Wojan was second overall in the D-4 race, crossing the line 16:33.6, while Saugatuck’s Jacob Pettinga (16:36.9), Sacred Heart’s Cooper Terry (16:39.4) and Pewamo-Westphalia’s Tanner Droste (16:43.4) rounded out the top five.