Early season struggles make state title even sweeter for Finn

By: Mike Moore | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published November 14, 2012

 After winning last year’s state title, West Bloomfield senior Erin Finn did it again in 2012. She’s pictured here during the Nov. 3 Division 1 run at MIS.

After winning last year’s state title, West Bloomfield senior Erin Finn did it again in 2012. She’s pictured here during the Nov. 3 Division 1 run at MIS.

Photo provided by Erin Finn

WEST BLOOMFIELD — When you’ve run as much as she has, crossed the finish line time and time again before anyone else, there’s a certain understanding of exactly how things ought to be.

So when Erin Finn looked over some of her early season results, as she took into consideration how she felt physically and mentally after an event or jamboree, she knew something was very wrong.

“I had such a great summer and felt so strong and so ready for the season,” the West Bloomfield High senior said of the start to the cross country campaign. “Then, a few weeks in, my times weren’t good. In one big event, I was 30 seconds slower than last year. I felt tired and weak — things I’d never known before.”

For the defending Division 1 state champ, this was more than a rut to work out of.

“So, I finally went to the doctor, found out I had iron deficiency and started planning to get back to where I knew I could be,” Finn explained.

On Nov. 3, the culmination of that plan included a second straight individual state title.

“It’s so cool, such a special way to end my high school career,” Finn said of the run at the Michigan International Speedway. She won the D-1 event with a final time of 17 minutes, 7.9 seconds, nearly 30 seconds ahead of the next runner.

“When you get to (MIS), it’s like you get that overpowering feeling of awesomeness,” Finn continued. “It was an honor to be back there, and I feel so blessed to perform the way I did.”

“We talked to her about a plan, about not needing to lead early,” coach Nate Belill explained. “So when we heard she wasn’t winning over the first half-mile or mile or so, we felt it was a good sign. … We saw her about half way in, and she had a seven-second lead, and that’s when we knew. She looked strong and had a good stride. It was pretty cool to see.”

Belill was hardly surprised at Finn and her second state title.

In fact, he was more floored by the way the season began.

“It was pretty strange,” he said. “She ran well all summer, did a lot of mileage and had some great experiences at the camps she went to. Then, shortly into the year, she was trending like she had heavy legs and couldn’t do what she wanted. It was pretty bizarre.”

It may have also been a blessing in disguise.

Finn entered the year as the marked runner, the one teams and individuals would certainly take aim for. But starting so slowly, and not being able to perform the way she wanted to, released some of that pressure.

“My focus was centered on just getting back, running as well as I could, whatever that meant,” Finn explained. “I really think it took a lot of pressure off me. By the time the big runs came around, I was just trying to do the best I could.”

Finn said she started to really feel healthy around the Oakland Country championships, which she won.

Then she won the regional.

Her swan song came in Brooklyn.

“It’s been a special year for her and the way she dealt with everything,” Belill said simply. “She’s such a special kid.”

Finn earned a full scholarship to run at the University of Michigan next year.

She was cautiously optimistic when talking about future goals.

“We’ll see how it all goes, but I’d love to earn All-American as a freshman,” she said with a laugh. “Why not dream big? That’s what I always do.”