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MHSAA Michigan State Championships

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

 Megan Goethals
Goethals leads a race for the ages

Story by SteveU

Photos by Pat Davey

As great as the competition was for the girls D1 divisional crown, with the top four and 19 of the top 24 runners returning and almost all running well, there were still three almost certain things fans could expect to see:  Grand Blanc soph Gabrielle Anzalone pushing the pace from the gun, Waterford Mott soph Shannon Osika working her way into a battle for the lead by mid-race, and Rochester jr Megan Goethals testing everyone with her mid-late race intensity. 

The wild card, in a sense, was Grand Haven sr Rebecca Addison, the undisputed queen of the middle distances who was also unbeaten this fall.  She had used a variety of race tactics during the season and whether she would shadow, lead, or follow was hard to know.

Anzalone indeed took the field out like gangbusters, leading big through 800 and passing the mile in 5:26.  By then, Osika – they have one the great girls state rivalries – was shadowing her, but no one else wanted the pace quite that rich.  Goethals was at 5:30, followed closely by Rochester Adams sr Cally Macumber and her teammate jr Lindsay Hilton, Addison, Livonia Churchill jr Sara Kroll, Livonia Stevenson sr Courtney Calka, Midland Dow jr Allison White.  You could not ask for a better field.

Goethals slowly, inevitably, made up ground on the two leaders in the somewhat tougher next mile.  No one was going to hold that pace and it really settled down.  Anzalone started to suffer and some of the others crept closer.   At the deuce, it was Goethals and Osika

Shannon Osika and Becca Addison were 2nd and 3rd
together at 11:18, Anzalone at 11:21, Addison at 11:24, and several others close behind her.

D2 winner Jordan Tomecek had been 11:20 at 2M, just two seconds slower, and had finished solidly in 17:40.  The D1 field looked set for a winner hopefully in the 17:30s.

But looks were deceiving.

Using her long strides, deep reserve of energy, and iron will, Goethals gradually turned up the pace to a level faster than Anzalone had started it with.  It was nothing dramatic, but the gap began to grow as Osika and the rest pressed to hang on.  By the time they got on the track, the dawning realization was that a sub-17:20 was possible. 

Goethals does not have a great kick, but she was hardly flagging, either.  She was just too far ahead for anyone to catch.  When her 3M of 16:38 was announced, it was time to get giddy.  When she crossed in 17:11, it was time to get out the record books.  The superb 17:18 from Katie Boyles of Rochester Adams had finally gone down.  In 30 years of girls state meets, no one in any class had ever gone faster.

It was tough for Osika to surrender her crown, but her 17:18 tied for 2nd best ever in the state.  Addison clocked 17:29 in passing Anzalone and holding on to third.  In the final stretch, Utica sr Audrey Huth was rewarded for a more conservative start and passed Anzalone as the two clocked 17:36 and 17:37 for 4th and 5th.  Four more ran between 17:51 and 18:00.  It was simply the greatest girls XC race ever in Michigan.

It was also a race where it paid to be patient and to have the strongest last mile.  “I’m not a fast sprinter, so the coaches work with me to run even splits,” said the champion.  “That was the plan.”

Audrey Huth outkicks Gabrielle
Anzalone for 4th

Even though Goethals stayed off the lead, she was close enough to have been affected by the magnetic pull of Anzalone’s fast pace.  “Yes, (the first mile) was a little too fast, and I stayed behind … but at two miles I decided I had to go.  It was about 2-1/2 miles when I really got ahead and then I just pushed as hard as I could to the finish.”

The biggest factor in Goethals rise to the top this year has been staying healthy this past summer and all fall.  “I was able to do a lot more training and at a higher intensity.”  And there was the Spartan Invitational victory in a stunning 17:39 early in the year that give her the confidence.  “It helped a lot because I knew I could compete at a higher level.”

Osika, who was soundly beaten by Goethals at the Oakland County meet, certainly did everything she could to try and retain her title, and was rewarded with a big PR.  “I tried to stay closer for longer,” she said.  “I felt really good the first two miles.  Then she picked it up and I tried as hard as I could.  I’m still happy I got a PR.”

Addison, like a lot of the championship hopefuls, was torn between pushing early to keep up, or sitting back and knowing it would still take a huge effort late to catch back up.  She was also coming off a cold and had not faced Osika or Goethals during an unbeaten campaign.  “I stayed a little behind, then I tried to move up in the second mile.” 

She was able to maintain, but not really make up ground.  In the final mile, she picked it up, but not as much as those ahead of her.  “I couldn’t do it and just tried to keep third,” she said, then adding with a rueful grin, “I didn’t have a kick today.”

Still, she PR’d by 22 seconds, a fact that she was still pleased with.  She also finished 13 spots ahead of last year.

PRs or at least very good times would have to do for all of those behind Goethals – and the race indeed became the fastest and deepest in Michigan history.  A record nine girls broke 18:00. 

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