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Waterford Mott boys, Seaholm girls capture Spartan titles WITH PHOTO GALLERY

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Royal Oak's Ben Hill, Seaholm's Belf win individual crowns

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EAST LANSING — Royal Oak’s Ben Hill was tearing down the final stretch like a madman. But with good reason. Right by his side was Concord’s Jesse Hersha, practically stride-for-stride in a dash for the finish line. Hill, though, was the man of the hour as he pulled away in the final strides to take the Elite Division race Friday at the Spartan Invitational at Forest Akers Golf Course.

Hill scorched the 5K course in 15:06, nipping Hersha by a second in one of the fastest races in meet history. More than 20 runners eclipsed 16 minutes over the course on a cool, overcast afternoon, where Oakland County athletes stood out among hundreds of runners competing.

Waterford Mott’s boys won their second straight Elite Division title, Novi’s boys won the Green Division title, and Birmingham Seaholm’s girls took in the Elite championship as area teams and individuals shined.

The Maples scored 58 points as Audrey Belf and Rachel DaDamio swept the first two places. Belf clocked 17:32 and DaDamio finished in 17:54. Seaholm had five in the top 21 and all seven finished in the top 36 places. Julia Demko (15th), Rachel McCardell (19th) and Audrey Ladd (21st) completed the scoring for the Maples, who finished ahead of Traverse City Central (139) and Northville (169), last year’s Division 1 state champion.

“It was the first time we have won at MSU,” said Maples coach Jeff Devantier. “There were many PRs today and some breakthrough performances. (And) Rachel ran a very nice race and broke 18 minutes for the first time.”

Belf won the title for the second straight year, much the same way as she did last year. She immediately went to the front and dared anybody to stay with her. Northville’s Cayla Eckenroth was close in the first 400, but may have paid the price as she placed 11th in 18:43. Still the Mustangs were among the top teams with Emma Herrmann (17th) and Hailey Harris (20th) among their top finishers.

Oak Park’s Ersula Farrow and Detroit Country Day’s Jackie Bredenberg battled to the finish line with Farrow getting fifth and Bredenberg sixth. Both clocked 18:19. Clarkston’s Nicole Hanson was sixth and teammate Lynsie Gram was 18th. Waterford Mott’s Alexis Munley was 16th.

On the boys side, Mott won its second straight title, scoring 118 points to finish ahead of Rockford (149) and Northville (153).

Former Mott athlete and Spartan Invite champ Nate Burnand, now at Michigan State, got a chance to hand out medals to some of his former teammates.

“Everybody showed up today, that’s for sure,” said Mott coach Ryan Robinson, marveling at the quality of the top finishers. “They ran faster than I thought they’d run (and) they had to run faster.

Ryan Robinson Jr. was third in 15:12 and Sam Albaugh was 24th in 15:59 for the Corsairs’ top two finishers. Kyler Bush (28th), Luke Peterson (32nd) and Blake Borkowski (37th) completed the scoring.

The pace was fast and furious and only a few could hold it. Hill prevailed at the end with sheer grit in a deep field of talented runners.

“Oh gosh, I knew coming into the last 100, I couldn’t lose,” said the senior, determined to break the tape. “They pushed me all the way.”

Troy’s Kunal Tangri placed fourth in 15:23 and Brother Rice’s John Penington was 17th in 15:50. Northville’s Conor Naughton led the Mustangs’ with his 16th place finish, also in 15:50, and teammate Nick Noles was 27th in 16:03.

In the boys Green Division race, Novi’s Joost Plaetinck, Holt’s Alberto Gomez and Kenowa Hills’ Donavan Brazier were three abreast much of the race until Brazier, last season’s Division 1 state champ in the 800-meter run, pulled away. He clocked 15:57. Still, Plaetinck couldn’t complain after running 16:10, a second behind Gomez.

“I really wanted to go under 16 (minutes),” he said, “but with the place I got, I’m happy.”

So was teammate Nate Hall, who placed fifth and was inspired by sound. “I really liked the music,” he said of the popular music from the loudspeakers. “First mile felt pretty good, it hit me the second mile and third mile, all mind over matter.”

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s placed third with 205 points as the Eaglets achieved one of their highest finishes at the meet. Joe Gallagher was 17th, Carson Eby was 31st and Colin Herrmann (44th), Harrison Coe (56th) and Scott Sawyer (57th) followed as the Eaglets’ top five finished within 40 seconds of each other.

Bloomfield Hills, led by Cooper Bellinson (16th) and Michael Tremonti (22nd), placed sixth with 255 points.

On the girls side, Novi placed seventh in the Green Division race as Hannah Lonergan clocked 19:09 to place 11th. Lake Orion’s Danielle Carr (40th) and Emily Fluent (60th) led the Dragons to 11th place. Walled Lake Northern’s Brianna Mulrooney finished eighth in 18:59 to lead the Knights to 15th place, and Christina Hickson finished 18th to lead Bloomfield Hills to 16th place.

Last Updated: 9/13/2014 11:01:03 AM EST

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