Boys cross country state finals: Lakeland finally claims title

Connor Muldowney
Special to The Detroit News

Brooklyn – White Lake Lakeland took home the team crown at the Division 1 boys cross country state finals at Michigan International Speedway Saturday with 125 points, capturing its first championship since 1997.

Lakeland came close to winning the state title in 2014, but finished second to Rockford. Head coach Joe Verellen didn’t forget about that.

“This is something we’ve been building this program to do,” Verellen said. “This is something the guys before (this year’s team) groomed these guys to do.”

Harrison Grzymkowski was the top finisher for Lakeland with a time of 15:51.4, placing third overall.

“I don’t think (Harrison) could have placed any better than he did,” Verellen said. “He made the smart move of sticking with a pack and he just happened to finish first in that pack.”

Ranked No. 4 in Division 1 for most of the year, Lakeland pulled off a minor upset in the finals. Verellen knew he had a team that could win entering the race, but his team raced better than he anticipated.

“Going in, we had aspirations of winning it all,” Verellen said. “We went out there, performed the way we did and we were ecstatic with the result.”

Saline finished second with 198 points and Birmingham Brother Rice placed third with 220. Rockford had won the last two Division 1 state titles.

Dearborn’s Riad Rababeh won the individual title, finishing in 15:24.8, and Mitchell Day of Alpena was second in 15:40.8.

“We have a solid group coming back next year,” Verellen said. “If they work as hard as this team did, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility (of back-to-back state titles).”

Division 2

Corunna took home the team championship with 92 points. Noah Jacobs of Corunna also won the individual title with a time of 15:28.0.

Fremont finished second with 99 points and Grand Rapids Christian was third with 139. St. Clair (eighth, 268), Grosse Ile (16th, 394), Dearborn Divine Child (17th, 414) and Macomb Lutheran North (27th, 612) were the local teams to qualify for the state finals.

Brendan Fraser (Pontiac Notre Dame Prep) finished second individually with a time of 15:40.0 and Shuaib Aljabaly (Coldwater) was third at 15:45.1.

Division 3

Saugatuck (61 points) won the team championship for the second straight year and third time in four seasons. Caro’s Yami Albrecht won the individual title with a time of 15:47.4.

Lansing Catholic finished second with 137 points and Hanover-Horton was third with 182. Almont (13th, 376) and Madison Heights Bishop Foley (26th, 636) also competed in the 27-team field.

Brian Njuguna (Bridgman) finished second individually with a time of 15:50.4 and Evan Goodell (St. Louis) was third with 15:52.7. The Saugatuck duo of Corey Gorgas (16:02.2) and Zachary Pettinga (16:06.6) finished third and fourth overall, respectively.

Division 4

Pewamo-Westphalia won the team championship with 131 points. CarLee Stimpfel of Cass City won the individual title in 16:02.7.

Harbor Springs finished second with 144 points and Bear Lake-Onekama was third with 181 points. Plymouth Christian Academy (19th, 421), Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (24th, 504) and Southfield Christian (25th, 527) also made the state finals field.

Jeremy Kloss (Harbor Springs) finished second in individual competition with a time of 16:12.5. Holton’s Jacob Tanner was third with a time of 16:19.2.