Western Michigan Christian’s Abby VanderKooi pulled it off.
The freshman distance runner was nervous headed into the 3,200-meter run at the Michigan High School Athletic Association state track and field finals on Saturday. It was her first chance to test herself against the other top runners in the state, and she knew the competition would be tough.
She was particularly wary of Hart senior Adelyn Ackley, one of the top high school distance runners in Michigan who won the state title in the 3,200-meter run last year.
But as it turned out, VanderKooi up to the challenge. She won the event by more than three seconds to capture the first of what could be multiple state championships in her prep career.
VanderKooi finished with a personal record time of 10:33.39, while Ackley finished second with a time of 10:36.76.
VanderKooi was one of six local athletes who won individual championships at Saturday’s Division 1-4 track and field finals at sites throughout the state.
The Division 1 champions were Elizabeth Knoll of Mona Shores in high jump and Gabby Hentemann of Grand Haven in the 800-meter dash.
In Division 2, Fruitport’s Ethan Flores took home the 110-meter hurdles championship, and Fruitport finished third overall in the team standings.
In boys Division 3 action, Giovanni Weeks of Kent City won the 100-meter dash and long jump championship, helping the Kent City boys finish fifth overall. The Kent City 4×400 relay team (Taryn Preston, Carley Denhof, Kylie Brown, Lauren Freeland) was also victorious.
Jael Wood of Mason County Central won the girls pole vault title.
The Mason County Central girls team took fourth overall, the Kent City girls took sixth and the Hart girls finished eighth.
The following is a list of athletes who earned All-State honors by finishing in the top eight of their events at the state track finals.
Pole vault: Mason Mahacek, Grand Haven, fourth..
4×100 relay: Reeths-Puffer (Monyae Franklin, Rylee Bonjernoor, Drey Riley, Daven Fox), sixth..
200-meter: Jakobie Harris, Muskegon, fourth.
Shot put: Sarah Knoll, Grand Haven, second.
High jump: Elizabeth Knoll, Mona Shores, first.
800-meter: Gabby Hentemann, Grand Haven, first.
4×800 relay: Fruitport (Jon Wildey, Cameron Weaver, Dakota Mitchell, Brendan Deneen), fifth.
110-meter hurdles: Ethan Flores, Fruitport, first.
4×200 relay: Fruitport (Dakota Mitchell, Cameron Weaver, Ethan Flores, Zach Pray), second.
1600-meter: Ben Hylen, Spring Lake, fourth.
400-meter: Dakota Mitchell, Fruitport, eighth.
300-meter hurdles: Ethan Flores, Fruitport, second.
3,200-meter: Nathan Walker, Fremont, fourth; Andrew Hylen, Spring Lake, seventh.
4×400 relay: Fruitport (Ethan Flores, Cameron Weaver, Brendan Deneen, Dakota Mitchell), seventh.
400-meter: Emma Fountain, Ludington, sixth.
800-meter: Kendra Fowler, Fremont, sixth.
100-meter: Giovanni Weeks, Kent City, second.
200-meter: Giovanni Weeks, Kent City, first.
400-meter: Josh Cox, Ravenna, sixth.
3,200-meter: Cole Jensen, Montague, sixth.
4×100 relay: Kent City (Dolan Bair, Jayden Williams, Giovanni Weeks, Will Wright), fourth.
Pole vault: Calvin Schullo, Ravenna, seventh.
Long jump: Giovanni Weeks, Kent City, first.
100-meter: Maddie Meacham, Montague, seventh.
400-meter: Andee Kimes, Mason County Central, seventh.
800-meter: Lauren Freeland, Kent City, second; Audrianna Enns, Hart, seventh.
1,600-meter: Adelyn Ackley, Hart, second; Lauren Freeland, Kent City, third.
3,200-meter: Abby VanderKooi, Western Michigan Christian, first; Adelyn Ackley, Hart, second; Savannah Ackley, Hart sixth; Layla Martini, Kent City, seventh.
100m hurdles: Nyah Tyron, Mason County Central, fourth.
300m hurdles: Nyah Tyron, Mason County Central, third; Taryn Preston, Kent City, seventh.
4×400 relay: Kent City, (Taryn Preston, Carley Denhof, Kylie Brown, Lauren Freeland), first; Mason County Central, (Rachel Allen, Rachel Miller, Nyah Tyron, Andee Kimes), second.
4×800 relay: Hart, (Audrianna Enns, Lauren VanderLaan, Brenna Aerts, Adelyn Ackley), fourth.
High jump: Ally Hall, Montague, sixth.
Pole vault: Jael Wood, Mason County Central, first.
Long jump: Aaron Herron, Holton, fourth.
110m hurdles: Aaron Herron, Holton, third.
200-meters: Aaron Herron, Holton, eighth.
Long jump: Julia Hall, Pentwater, sixth.