Second Half reports
BROOKLYN – Rylee Tolson got her rookie mistakes out of the way last year.
Running for the first time in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 cross country championship, Tolson was too wired, burning up needed energy before she ever started the race.
“It was a rough experience, but it was definitely a learning experience,” the Stockbridge sophomore said. “Last year, I was really, really nervous. I got myself all pumped up. I was running all over the place before. I learned I have to relax, stay calm and focus on the job that is in front of me.”
That approach served Tolson well when she approached the track Saturday at Michigan International Speedway in a six-way battle for the championship.
She took the lead at the 2.5-mile mark of the 3.1-mile race and focused on her pre-race plan to maintain her lead over a hard-charging pack. She finished in 18:31.4, winning by 7.6 seconds over Maddy Bean of Richmond.
“Our plan was every 100 meters I’ve got to think, ‘I’ve got to pick this up. I’ve got to push harder, harder, harder every 100 meters,’” she said.
As a freshman, Tolson finished 20th in the Division 3 meet in 19:48.7 after winning the Regional. She maintained her composure Saturday even though she had a momentary freak-out moment leading the race coming down the long straightaway.
“It was scary,” she said. “I thought she was right behind me. I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ I said, ‘Let’s not focus on what’s behind me; let’s focus on what’s in front of me. Let’s do my best to be the best that I can be.’”
For Bean, taking second place was a huge accomplishment after placing 40th in Division 3 as a sophomore and 78th in Division 2 as a junior.
“Once we got on the track, we spread out,” Bean said. “I knew it was now or never. She was cooking. It’s nerve racking, because you never know. But it’s awesome at the same time, because the spectators help. It’s just surreal being here.”
Hart won its third straight team championship by a 77-133 margin over Shepherd. Grandville Calvin Christian was third with 136 points.
Hart put three runners in the top nine in the team race. Savannah Ackley was fourth overall and second among team runners in 18:49.0, followed by Audrianna Enns in fifth overall and third in the team race in 18:56.2.
Lynae Ackley was 14th overall and ninth in the team race in 19:26.2. Completing Hart’s scoring were MacKenzie Stitt (42nd in 20:11.6) and Brenna Aerts (77th in 20:20.4).
PHOTOS: (Top) Stockbridge’s Rylee Tolson pushes toward the finish of the Division 3 Final at Michigan International Speedway. (Middle) Hart’s Savannah Ackley (1583) paces the lead pack, including Tolson, earlier in the race. (Photos by Dave McCauley/RunMichigan.com.)