By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BROOKLYN — When it was time to make a move, Connor Mora had no idea how it would play out.
All he knew was he wanted to finish his last high school cross country race with no regrets.
The Cedar Springs senior passed Mason’s Tanner Hinkle with three-quarters of a mile to go and kept surging toward the finish line, winning the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 championship with a time of 15:04.2 on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.
Hinkle, who ran a stride ahead of Mora most of the race, finished second in 15:09.8.
“He’s a great competitor,” Mora said of Hinkle. “There wasn’t a point where I felt I had him until I finished the race. I guess I gave it all I had. If he had a better day than me, then that’s what it was, but I gave it all I can.”
Hinkle set a fast early pace, reaching the mile in 4:48. Mora was content to let Hinkle do the work for at least the first two miles.
“I went in ready to adjust my strategy with whatever the race threw at me,” Mora said. “When Hinkle took it out hard, I decided to just sit back and wait until the two mile to see where he would take it. He had me up until the two mile. That’s the point where I felt confident enough to go to the finish.”
Mora didn’t feel he performed well in past MHSAA Finals, though four top-15 finishes is a rare accomplishment in the larger-school divisions. He was 15th in 2009 (16:23.4), fifth in 2010 (15:39.0) and third in 2011 (15:33.2). Hinkle was one place behind him last year in 15:41.3.
Mora’s time was the fastest of the day in all four divisions. Erie Mason’s Nick Raymond won Division 3 in 15:05.1, while Milford’s Brian Kettle won Division 1 in 15:07.3.
“I haven’t always had great state meets these past years,” Mora said. “I guess I just usually have an average race.”
St. Clair edged Linden by a 114-128 margin for the team championship. Linden had three all-state runners (top 30 overall), but St. Clair had its five scoring runners in the top 47, while Linden’s fifth runner didn’t cross until 93rd place.
It was the first team title for the Saints, who had six top-10 finishes in the previous 12 years.
Senior Brennan Shafer led St. Clair, placing seventh among team runners in 15:39.6. Junior Cody Smith was 10th in 15:51.4, junior Trevor Holowaty 28th in 16:09.3, senior Dakota Hazel 34th in 16:17.9 and senior Andrew Snider 35th in 16:18.6.
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PHOTO: Mason's Tanner Hinkle (right) and Cedar Springs' Connor Mora ran together most of the Division 2 Final before Mora pushed ahead for his first championship. (Click to see more from RunMichigan.com.)