An 800-meter runner in track & field, Hope College’s Alexis Guttilla relished the challenge ahead of her down the stretch at the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championships Saturday.
The senior from St. Charles, Illinois (Westminster Christian) passed two teammates
late at Raisin Valley Golf Club to finish first and lead the 18th-ranked Flying Dutch
to a winning score of 20 points and a three-peat of league titles.
Guttilla clocked a winning 6K time of 21 minutes, 58.0 seconds. She edged teammate Emily Hamilton of Naperville, Illinois (North), who crossed the finish line at 21:59.9.
“I knew I had another speed. I thought ‘I can do this!’” Guttilla said. “I wanted to do the best I could for my team, and that meant going as fast as I could the last 800 meters.”
Hope easily finished ahead of runner-up Calvin College, who totaled 66 points.
The Flying Dutch matched the 1985-88 Hope teams’ feat of three consecutive MIAA championship.
“It shows you got a group of kids who are working hard together for a unified goal,” head coach Mark Northuis said. “They work together, they train together and they race together. It’s exciting to see them to really being able to set a goal and be able to work to accomplish it.”
Hope clocked four of the fastest five times and seven of the top 12 performances. All seven runners finished within 37 seconds of each other, with the top four scores just 12 seconds apart.
After Guttilla and Hamilton, senior Rachael Webb of Grandville, Michigan (Grandville) took fourth in 22:01.4.
Senior Alissa Frazee of Watervliet, Michigan (Home School) placed fifth at 22:10.4.
Junior Avery Lowe of North Muskegon, Michigan (North Muskegon) took eighth at 22:29.3.
Sophomore Chelsea Miskelley of Holland, Michigan (Black River) came in ninth at 22:31.0.
Sophomore Kelly Peregrine of Traverse City, Michigan (Central) was 12th at 22:35.2.
“Our depth came through,” Northuis said. “It really was a great team effort. That made the difference.”
Hamilton, named the MIAA’s Most Valuable Runner after the meet, was thrilled to see her team’s dedication pay off.
“We came thinking we could do it, but Calvin is really good competition,” Hamilton said. “I know this is exciting for the seniors to dot again. I think it shows how deep is that we’ve been able to do it three years in a row.”
Guttilla exemplified the Flying Dutch’s depth — coming out of nowhere late to win the race.
Guttilla and Hamilton both said their training regiment and support for each other elevated everyone.
“That was amazing. I’m really excited for her,” Hamilton said of Guttilla’s performance. “When we work out, we’re alway able to push each other. Sometimes it’s me up front. Sometimes it’s Rachael. Sometimes it’s Lexi. You don’t know what can happen in a race. Lexi was ready for the finish and went for it.”
Guttilla was pleased to contribute to this season’s championship after missing last year’s race because of illness.
Running as a pack all season made a significant difference on Saturday, Guttilla said.
“We’ve been pushing each other and encouraging each other — not leaving anyone behind,” Guttilla said. “It’s a great feeling and comfort to be able to run with your teammates in a race. That totally helped me today. One of my teammates came up to me in the middle of the race. I would not have had the finish I had had she not pushed me.”