TRAVERSE CITY — Welcome back, Betsy Graney.
The Grosse Pointe native, who ran collegiately at William & Mary and Grand Valley State, made a triumphant return to the Cherry Festival on Saturday, winning the women's Fifth-Third Golden Mile.
Graney was timed in 4 minutes, 42.5 seconds.
"That was really fun," Graney said moments after the race. "My first race ever was the Cherry Festival 5K in 2003. I was going to be a freshman (in high school) that year. So it was just cool to be back here at a totally different level."
Graney, who returns to the area regularly for family reunions in Elk Rapids, took command in the second half of the race.
"I wasn't sure what to expect," she said. "I just wanted to feel it out through the half. When I got the lead, I knew they (pack) would be coming up fast (at the end). I made sure I gave it everything I had so I wouldn't be disappointed at the end."
Miami of Ohio's Kelley Miller was just over two seconds back at 4:44.9. Former Michigan State runner Sarah Boyle placed third in 4:47.8.
Notre Dame alum Daniel Clark captured the men's Golden Mile in 3:58.5. Like Graney, he made his move after runners made the turn from Union on to Front Street.
"I was fourth at the half," he said. "Some of the guys were going for the ($100 bonus) for leading at the half. I just tried to stay relaxed. I felt good at three quarters and managed to drop the pack."
Clark, who competed in the Olympic Trials in the 1,500 meters last month, took a glimpse back to make certain of his lead.
"I thought I gapped them, but I wanted to make sure," he said. "I know you're not supposed to do that in races, but I wanted to soak it up and enjoy it because running can be such a grind. I had the opportunity near the end to feed off the crowd. That was awesome."
Tony Filipek, who won the Firecracker Mile in Clawson on July 4, was second in 4:02.8.
"I put a little mantra on my head beforehand," Filipek, an assistant coach at Saginaw Valley State, said. "The two words were execute and push. And that's what i did. I executed the entire race and going into the three-quarter mark I started to push. I made a big move, but it just so happened at the same time Clark made his move and his was a little more dramatic than mine. But I stayed as close to him as I could and fought to the end."
Clark's 3:58 was a personal best road mile.
"I'm ecstatic I was able to break four minutes," he said. "After the Trials, I got a sinus infection. I was a little worried I might not be on my A game. But my legs responded when they needed to."
Graney, who competed in the Olympic Trials in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and Clark each received $1,000 for their wins.
"I need it to make up for the money I spent at the Trials (in Oregon)," Graney said.
Same for Clark, who will use it to pay off his expenses from the Trials, plus pay rent.
"I haven't gotten a paycheck since October so this is great," he said. "That (Trials) put a dent in the pocketbook."
Graney, who is in grad school, had to hold off a hard-charging Miller.
Miller, the Mid-American Conference champion in the 1,500, was fourth with 400 meters to go, trailing Graney, Boyle and Danielle Salisbury.
"We were all pretty connected until the half," Miller said. "Then they (top three) broke away in the third 400. I started reeling them in at the end. Betsy, though, just kind of went."
"She (Graney) was doing well," Boyle added. "It wasn't a big break (from the pack), more like a slow surge. She picked it up a little while the rest of us kept the same pace."
Salisbury was the leader at the half, earning the $100 bonus. She hit the half at 2:19.
Luke Pawlaczyk, a half-miler, was the leader at the half in the men's race in 1:57.
He tailed off and finished 11th.