Second Half reports
BROOKLYN – As Anna Petr charged toward the finish line at Michigan International Speedway, trying to overtake the reigning champion, her mind began to think of all the people who helped her get to this position.
One special memory was that of her mother, Angela, who died from breast cancer Jan. 4, 2018.
“She was my coach until then,” said Petr, a senior at East Grand Rapids. “It was just really cool. I could just kind of feel her with me. I knew this was more than just about me. It was about my team and my family.”
Petr’s years of hard work came together in a duel with Lansing Catholic senior Jaden Theis in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 championship Saturday. Petr ran down Theis to win in 17:59.6. Theis, who won last year and finished sixth at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships, was second in 18:02.7.
Petr moved to Michigan from North Carolina, where she was 38th in the state meet as a sophomore. In her first year at East Grand Rapids, she placed 20th in the Division 2 meet in 19:02.8, finishing behind 15 runners who returned this weekend.
“I wrote out all my goals at the beginning of the season and the steps I was going to take to get there,” Petr said. “It’s a little bit of a weird thing, but I found it really helps. I wrote like ‘top five.’ So, even that was a stretch. My coach looked at it and was like, ‘OK.’ I really wanted to make it happen.”
Petr first saw herself as a potential Finals champion eight days earlier when she beat Theis in the Regional at Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns. Petr posted a time of 17:52.5 that day to edge Theis by 3.4 seconds.
On Saturday, she didn’t believe she actually had a chance to win until about midway through the race.
“I got to the front of the pack I was running with,” she said. “I saw one and two not that far off. I was like, ‘OK, I have to go win now.’”
Even though she was the winner in 2018, Theis wasn’t disappointed in her finish this time. She has battled hip injuries since track & field season, greatly limiting her running. Taking that into account, she was content with her performance.
“I’ve run like five times in the past month, so not my best training ever,” Theis said. “But I’m really happy with the result from this, because I’ve been doing so little running.”
Petr led another dominant performance by East Grand Rapids, which repeated as Division 2 champion by scoring 36 points. Petoskey was second with 91.
The Pioneers put all five of their scoring runners in the top 13 in the team race. Hannah Bodine was seventh overall in 18:32.0, Katie Hessler was eighth in 18:32.9, Abigail Petr was 14th in 18:52.0 and Margaret Coney was 38th in 19:19.6.
“It’s such a cool experience to have my best friends racing and training with me all the time,” Anna Petr said. “It’s truly unique, so I’m very thankful for it.”
PHOTOS: (Top) East Grand Rapids’ Anna Petr (1351) pulls away from Lansing Catholic’s Jaden Theis (2052) and Plainwell’s Makenna Veen during the final stretch at MIS. (Middle) The Pioneers’ Katie Hessler (1349) and Hannah Bodine pace each other to top-10 finishes. (Photos by Matt Yacoub/RunMichigan.com.)