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The Bulloughs' newest star athlete favored to repeat as Division 3 individual champion on Saturday

Cross Country   | Scott Burnstein

State Champs! Sports Network

Traverse City – Holly Bullough prepares and competes as a cross country runner as if it were a contact sport. If you are familiar the Bullough family, her approach isn’t shocking. Neither is her college choice.

The Traverse City St. Francis senior and Michigan State-commit is the defending Division 3 state champion and the favorite to repeat entering this weekend’s state finals at Brooklyn’s Michigan International Speedway.

The Bullough clan is Traverse City’s unofficial first family of the gridiron. Bullough’s father (Shane), uncle (Chuck), grandfather (Hank) and three of her brothers (Max, Byron and Riley) either played or are playing football for MSU.

“Holly is an aggressive runner and aggressive in her preparation and dedication to her sport,” St. Francis cross country coach Ben LaBelle said. “I’ve never seen a runner train, condition and push herself like she does. That’s the kind of family she comes from. Look at her brothers and her dad and you go right down the line from there. She’s really every coach’s dream, humble, smart, focused, a true leader, always displaying a positive attitude, always setting the example for her teammates. In terms of a competitive runner, a competitive athlete, there aren’t any better in the whole state in my opinion.”

Last Saturday Bullough won the regional at Gaylord’s Michaywe Pines Golf Course and dominated. Her time of 17:15.40 was over a minute faster than the second-place finisher and is the state’s fastest time yet recorded this year. Bullough has won state titles in track and field, too (800- and 1600-meter runs).

“I just want to get better every day, set goals and work to achieve them,” she said. “I set a pace for myself and I get into my head and don’t think about anything else, but what I’m striving for, that single goal on that day. The rest is just preparing the right way to put yourself in the spot where you’re able to go after what you want to accomplish.”

Bullough set five course records this fall and will graduate from St. Francis holding every school record in cross country. As a freshman in 2012, she placed second in Division 4. As a sophomore Bullough finished third. The state title she captured last year in Division 3 came in thrilling fashion. Bullough edged her future college teammate Amber Way (Charlevoix) by a step in a photo finish (17:51.3 to 17.51.5), rallying from 20 meters behind in the final seconds. 

“The manner in which Holly won that state championship was the most amazing thing ever, she found another gear in that last moment and showed why she’s such a closer,” LaBelle said.

LaBelle partially credits her incredible endurance to the passionate commitment she makes in the weight room.

“She prepares like a football player, she must of got that from her big brothers,” said LaBelle with a laugh. “Sometimes I’ve got to kick her out of the weight room, she always wants to be doing something to improve herself.”

St. Francis concluded the regular season ranked No. 1 in the state and, like its star runner, snagged first place in the regionals.