By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
MHSAA Lower Peninsula Finals race day in 1997 looks a little gray as the Class B participants are taking their first strides above.
But it turned out to carry plenty of significance in the four-decade history of Michigan girls cross country.
The LP Class B race at Michigan International Speedway was memorable for Fremont, which claimed its first and still only title by edging runner-up Whitehall 111-118. Harmony Dykhuis claimed the individual title for Fremont in 19:41.
The Class A race included a few more significant details. Rochester Adams freshman Katie Boyles won the race in 19:07, by more than four seconds, claiming her first of what would be four individual MHSAA cross country championships. She remains the only girl in MHSAA history to win four Finals titles in Lower Peninsula Class A or Division 1, and one of seven total to win four Finals in any division or class. Her string of four titles beginning in 1997 also was significant because that season was the first that the MHSAA awarded only one individual champion per class/division, rather than an individual champion from the team qualifiers and an individual champion from those who weren't running as part of a team finalist.
Ann Arbor Pioneer was an easy champion in the Class A team competition with 68 points, 46 fewer than runner-up Rockford with Emily Magner leading the way with an eighth-place individual finish. The team was coached by the legendary Bryan Westfield, who previously had led his 1987 and 1988 teams to LP Class A titles and also eventually guided the Pioneers' girls track & field program to 16 MHSAA Finals championships with the most recent coming in 2008. He died after a fight with cancer in 2015.
Kalamazoo Hackett won the Class C team title, its first in the sport, and Mendon also was a first-time winner in Class D before repeating as champ a year later. Saginaw Valley Lutheran's Bethany Brewster claimed the Class C individual title in 18:46 after also winning the individual race championship in 1996, and Mendon's Kasey Culp was the 1997 individual champion after finishing first in the team race the year prior.