By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BROOKLYN — When Nick Raymond found himself leading the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 cross country race Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, he didn’t freak out.
He was right where he expected to be.
The Erie Mason senior shot to the lead with a blistering 4:39 opening mile and never looked back, winning with a personal-best time of 15:05.1 that ranks second on the Division 3/Class C all-time list for the MHSAA meet.
Only Maverick Darling, who runs for the University of Wisconsin, had a faster time in that division with his 14:52.8 performance in 2007.
It wasn’t the first time Raymond found himself in the lead in an MHSAA Final. It is the first time he felt he belonged up front, however.
“Last year I went out and was leading the race,” Raymond said. “I was a little confused, because I wasn’t expecting to do so. I kind of died and fell back. This time I was prepared to go out to the lead and just take it.”
Raymond faded to fourth last year in 15:59.0, 10.8 seconds behind winner Zachary Zingsheim of Lansing Catholic. One of the runners who beat Raymond last year was Chase Barnett of Mason County Central, the runner-up in 2011 who placed third Saturday in 15:28.7.
Raymond was undefeated this season, but said the competition at MIS helped push him to his personal best, though his goal was to break 15 minutes. Senior Bryce Stroede of Hanover-Horton was second in 15:22.4.
“I haven’t had any competition this season, except here, which I liked,” Raymond said. “It was great. I got a really fast time. I was happy with it.”
Raymond’s plan was to reach the mile mark in 4:45. Getting there six seconds faster didn’t concern him that he might’ve gone out too hard.
“The pace was a little fast,” he said. “I decided to just use it and keep going hard. In the second mile, I just surged.”
Jackson Lumen Christi won its first boys cross country team title since taking Class B in 1979, scoring 129 points to beat runner-up Marlette by eight. Defending champion Grandville Calvin Christian was third with 147.
Marlette and Calvin Christian both put two runners in the top 10 among team qualifiers, something Lumen Christi didn’t do. The Titans, however, won with superior depth.
Junior Karl Berkemeier was 12th among team qualifiers in 16:16.4, senior Charlie Ludlow was 13th in 16:17.7, sophomore Ryan Gibson was 20th in 16:24.1, junior Patrick Soltis was 30th in 16:50.7 and junior Canyon Raburn was 54th in 17:10.4.
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PHOTO: Erie Mason's Nick Raymond (544) holds the lead 800 meters into Saturday's Division 3 Final, and kept it through the finish line. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)