DIVISION 4 CROSS COUNTRY STATE FINALS: Breckenridge’s Olling wins third straight crown
BY DAN STICKRADT
BROOKLYN, Mich. — As a two-time state champ, even Kirsten Olling was a bit worried about Saturday.
The Breckenridge junior had been fighting an illness in recent weeks and wasn’t sure she could keep up her normal pace.
Olling blazed a trail to her third straight state title, joining an elite group of Michigan prep runners that have won three or four individual state crowns.
“I was worried. I didn’t know if I could win today,” she admitted moments following a 17:59.6 clocking. “I haven’t been feeling all that well.”
Olling won by 32 seconds, as Traverse City St. Francis freshman Holly Bullough was second in 18:31.7 and Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes freshman Tessa Fornari claimed third (17:38.8.
Blanchard-Montabella’s Taylor Smith (18:54.7) and Deckerville’s Kendra Colesa was fifth (18:59.5), as only five runners broke 19 minutes.
“I know I have run faster, but I’m glad I was able to pull it out,” added Olling. “I just wanted to win. I knew I had it after a mile because I took the lead and nobody went with me.”
Health problems first sufaced in the summer, as her performances stalled out and her stamina faded.
“A lot of coaches thought I had (some type of an iron deficiency) at the beginning of the year, but nobody really said anything,” offered Olling said. “They just figured I was having some bad days. I knew something wasn’t right.”
“I was actually worried I was going to lose (the race),” added Olling.
Homer captured the state crown in the girls meet, collecting 118 points which was well ahead of runner-up Bear Lake (142). Harbor Springs was third with 157 points, followed by Beal City (160), Saugatuck (162), North Muskegon (206), Traverse City St. Francis (243), Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (253), Lutheran Westland (265) and Breckenridge (265).
In the boys D-4 race, Concord won the state title with 61 points, comfortably ahead of runner-up Evart’s 100 points. Pewamo-Westphalia was third with 117 points, while Saugatuck (140), Breckenridge (147), Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic (225), Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart (240), Mendon (263), Bear Lake (267) and Hesperia (307) rounded out the top 10.
Concord’s Jesse Hersha won the state title in 15:32.3, some 20 seconds ahead of Evart’s David Zinger (15:52.8).
“I felt great out there,” said Hersha, a sophomore. “I started to pull away and won by quite a bit. It feels great because I know my team all ran great.”
Concord had four of the top 11 finishers and had its top five runners all finish among the top 30 to earn All-State honors. Josiah Ottolini, a freshman, was ninth (16:23), Parker Saenz was 10th (16:27.0), Tyler Neu 11th (16:29.7) and Sam Comden 30th (17:05.4) aided Concord’s winning effort.
Saugatuck’s Sean Kelly was third (15:58.9), Fremont Providence Christian’s Nick Vanderkooi was fourth (16:06.2) and Kalamazoo Hackett’s Michael Myers fifth (16:08.5).
(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.)