Larson, 2nd, Sets School Record, Leads Saline at State XC Meet

 11/08/2015 - 02:34

Saline sophomore Jessi Larson races to a second place finish at the state cross country meet and the fastest time in school history.

Sophomore Jessi Larson shattered the school record as she placed second at the state cross country meet at Michigan International Speedway Saturday. Larson finished the 5K race in 17:30.9, more than 10 seconds faster than the 17:41 posted 10 years ago by Eileen Creutz.

Larson’s stunning race came on a day when six seniors, including past all-state runners Hannah Cummings and Gillian Walter, ran their final cross country race as a Lady Hornet. As a team, Saline was sixth with 186 points, capping a season during which the team won its 14th straight regional and 20th straight conference title.

Larson ran with the top pack the entire race. She entered the final turn with Grandville’s Madison Troy and Farmington’s Maddy Trevisan.

“When I started I wanted to get in the top pack, run with them and see how it would go,” Larson said. “I was able to stay with them, mostly staying behind them so they could block the wind for me. That helped a lot.”

She was slipped to third place but then battled back to overtake Trevisan in the final 40 yards.

“I just wanted to stick with it and kick ahead of them and go as fast I could,” she said.

Larson entered the race with high hopes, but admits she exceeded expectations.

“I just wanted to stick with it and kick ahead of them and go as fast I could,” she said.

Coach Mike Smith was impressed but not completely surprised by the showing of this sophomore. After a strong month of practices and her victory in tough conditions at the regional, Smith believed she could finish in the top five with a time in the mid 17s.

“The last month she has hit some new gear. A great thing occurred there and she was running way better than she had ever before. Her confidence has shot up and she was ready to go,” said Smith, the longtime Hornet coach.

Smith explained the combination that makes Larson such a strong runner.

“You’ve got to have athletic parents. There are some genes in there working. But along with that, she does not like to lose. You could see it if you watched the rest of the race. She’s a real competitor,” Smith said. “You put those things together and you get a superb athlete, which is what she is.”

Larson was the only underclassmen running in the Saline seven. Hannah Cummings (32nd, 18:41), Regan Smith (48th, 18:52), Gillian Walter (57th, 18:57), Holly Treber (116th, 19:38), Danielle Fillmore (165th, 20:01) and Alexa Reyst (174th, 20:12) ran their final cross country race as a Lady Hornet. Cummings and Walter are both former all-state runners. They were impressed by the performance of their younger teammate.

“She’s a phenomenal runner. She’s an all-around athlete. She’s a swimmer. She works hard. She’s serious about nutrition. She’s going to be one of the best. She’s going to dominate. I’m so proud of her,” Cummings said.

Walter said Larson will have a great future in the sport.

“She’s in love with running,” Walter said. “The great thing about Jessi is that when she wins, she doesn’t let it get blown out of proportion. She’s got a very humble demeanor. She deserves it. She’s worked so hard the last two years and she will continue to do amazing things in the future.”

Cummings, a four-time state meet runner, finished just short of her third straight all-state finish. She was 44th as she hit the final curve.

“I tried to hunt as many girls as I could. It was tough (not getting all-state), but I’m happy with how I ran. It’s bittersweet,” Cummings said.

Walter’s final Saline cross country race was her best of the season.

“I was really happy with how I ran. The course was good and I felt strong,” said the four-time state meet participant who was all-state in sophomore year.

Both seniors reflected on their cross country careers in Saline.

“The friendships and relationships I’ve made here are so important to me. And the coaches taught me more than just how to run. They taught me how to be a leader, how to take losses, how to take wins and be humble, and that hard work pays off in the end,” Walter said. “It’s been everything to me.”

Cummings and her twin sister Haleigh ran as freshmen with their big sister, Alyssa, who was a senior. In some ways, her story came full circle. As seniors, Hannah and Haleigh ran with their little sister, Emma, a freshman.

“I hope I had the same impact that Alyssa had on me. Alyssa really opened it up for me. I made a lot of new friends with her help. She provided guidance and she was someone I really looked up to,” Hannah said. “I hope I did that for my little sister. My freshman year was an amazing experience and hope hers was like mine.”

When you have a program as successful as Smith’s, there are never years when you aren’t saying goodbye to seniors who’ve contributed a lot to the program. With six seniors in the race Saturday, this year’s varsity team leaned heavily on its experienced runners.

“There are groups that come and go all the time. But in this particular group, three of those girls have been varsity runners since they were freshman. They’ve been the core for what we’ve done for all four years,” Smith said.

That includes four conference titles, four regionals, and four top-five finishes at the state meet.

“The girls coming into take their spots have a lot to live up to. That’s a good thing,” Smith said.

They’ll be led by the fastest girl in the history of the most successful cross country program in the state.

 

Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore founded The Saline Post on Aug. 15, 2012. Follow him on Twitter at @tranlongmoore. Follow The Saline Post @thesalinepost. Follow The Saline Post on Facebook by clicking here.