They had been running to this meeting for months, and now it is finally on the horizon.
Hundreds of the best trail runners from across the state of Michigan will rally at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn on Saturday to take part in the state’s MHSAA cross country finals.
This annual end-of-season meeting kicks off in the morning at 9.30am with the Division 4 Boys Race and continues in the late afternoon for a total of eight races.
Mid-Michigan is well represented in the season finale as 13 teams gained automatic berths thanks to places in the top three in the region.
The plot of the M-46 is noteworthy as Alma, St. Louis and Breckenridge will send both their boys and girls teams. Moreover, there are teams such as the girls from Farwell that will face the team final for the first time in the history of the show.
There is some of this and that, and some in between.
Here’s a look at who’s going and what they’re going to do.
Alma Panthers – Boys and girls
Longtime coach Gene Lebron built the power of his cross-country and track and field program during his stay in Ithaca over the past decade, winning several state titles along the way while releasing dozens of athletes from various states.
Now, in his first year as Alma’s cyclocross coach, he has done it again with the Panthers.
Last weekend the girls from Alma won their first regional cross-country title since 1988, winning the Regional Division 2 in Shepherd. Panthers also won the conference title and the All-TVC title in 2022 and entered the last week of the season, ranking 9th on the D2 rankings. Last season they competed in the D2 team finals and finished 23rd. Expect a better show on Saturday, and maybe even a much better one.
On the boys’ side, the Panthers came second in the region, which was a show that no one saw.
“It was a big surprise,” Lebron said. “Our young boys really sped up.”
The boys’ core consists of four first graders, one second and two juniors who achieved success this fall. Most of this group received the best 5,000 in their career. times also in regional regions.
During the regular season the boys from Alma took third place on TVC.
Beal City Aggies – boys and girls
Both Beal City shows made their way to the D4 state finals with a third-place show in the Chippewa Hills region.
The Aggie Girls will have their fourth straight journey to the finals after finishing 10th last year, 2nd in 2020 and 17th in 2019. This show has been good for a long time and there could be another strong show for you.
With two-time All-State Kaylee Locke at the helm, the Aggies have a legitimate favorite. However, the season also had its ups and downs as Beal City had to deal with several persistent injuries that are only now healing.
“We would be pleased with the Top 15 (finish),” said Beal City coach Griffin Bohannon, “and I would like the Top 10 to finish the season.”
On the boys’ side, the Aggies return to the finals for the first time in three years. However, it’s not that they are new to it, as in 2010 they had six or seven places in the top 13 in a row.
Elder Owen Gross is a leader and should strive to earn accolades in all states by placing in the top 30. As Bohannon said, a top 20 performance would be great.
Breckenridge Husky – boys and girls
The Breckenridge girls’ cross-country skiing program had one of the best seasons in the program’s history in 2022, a testament to its rich history.
Remember four-time state champion Kirsten Olling? Anyone?
As it was, Lady Huskies won their first conference title in 2022, sweeping all three meetings of the Mid-State Activities Association on their way to it. Mt.Pleasant Sacred Heart has almost dominated MSAC in cross country running since 2014, but that trend ended this season with Husky taking first place.
Last week in the regional league at Chippewa Hills, the Breckenridge girls took their third regional title in program history, finishing with 48 points and beating runner-up Farwell by nine. For the first time since 2018, they will perform as a team in the finals.
In the region, all five scoring runners placed in the top 22.
Now the Huskies want to run to the top ten show and if all goes well it could happen.
Breckenridge finished second in the regional competition with 67 points. The Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary was the first of 58.
As of 2018, the Huskie boys were phenomenal as they placed fourth in the state D4 final last year after finishing second in 2020.
In 2019, Kurt Gulick and company also won the D4 title. In short, the Breckenridge boys have been very good for a while.
Going into last week, Gulick said his side was riddled with injuries, but was still looking forward to the final. A place in the top ten probably won’t happen, but in the top twenty maybe.
Chippewa Hills Warriors – Girls
A year ago, the Warriors stunned the state as they reached the D2 State Finals. They were predicted to finish seventh in the region in 2021 but made it through a top-three finish.
From there, they placed 13th in D2 at the state finals.
This year, the Warriors descended into Division 3. Last week, they placed third in their home region to move on.
The Chippewa Hills trip is a very young team with only one senior. So Saturday’s final will be a huge experience for Warriors, as if they were still better, they could be a team to reckon with in the near future.
As for head coach Zach Hatfield, that would be great.
“We’ll do our best and see what happens,” said Hatfield. “We’re going to go down there and let the fun go.”
Clare Pioneers – Boys
A year ago, Pioneers moved to Division 2 from Division 3 and did not make it to the final for the first time in seven or eight years.
Before that, however, they were a mainstay in the D3 Finals, consistently placing in the Top 10 or Top 20 every year. Now, in 2022, Pioneers are returning to D3 and returning to the finals.
On paper, Adam Burhans and Co. finished second in the East Jordan region last week, finishing with 63 points. Traverse City St. Francis won it with 31.
All five of Pioneer’s shooters made it into the top 28, led by regional champion Brad White (16: 01.8). Moreover, six of Clare’s seven runners were in the PR and considering that there is no senior on the team, that bodes well for both now and for the future.
“We’re starting to find our rhythm,” said Burhans, whose team finished second in the Jack Pine Conference behind Gladwin himself. “It was about making them believe, and the last two weeks have been proof of that. We have a chance to be in the top ten ”.
Farwell Eagles – Girls
The Farwell Girls’ Trail Program made history in 2022, earning its first-ever automatic entry to the State Finals with a runner-up in last week’s D4 regional run by Chippewa Hills.
Just like Farwell finished with 57 points, finishing second behind Breckenridge who finished with 48.
“Excited, excited and proud,” longtime coach Farwell Andy Frisch said about his team’s reaction to reaching the season finale.
Sophomore Isabelle Eppert finished second in the region, while older twins Remi and Raini Sponseller came ninth and tenth in the regional. Second year’s Julia Silva and Addyson Thormeier completed the scoring in 16th and 25th places.
A place is waiting for the Eagles to finish their first ever team finals. They are in the 14th place.
Ithaca yellow jackets – boys and girls
Both Ithaca cross-country programs have been unique in recent years, with the boys program finishing in the top 12 in division 3 three of the last four years.
The Ithaca boys team landed fifth in D3 in 2021, seventh in 2020 and twelfth in 2018.
The jackets won the regional D3 DeWitt last weekend, finishing with 38 points, about 21 better than runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia. Senior Parks Allen was in the lead when the two-time All-Stater finished first in the region with a record time of 15: 37.4.
Going to the finals, Jackets are ninth in D3 and if all goes well they could end up in the top ten.
On the girls side, Jackets were ninth in 2021, second in 2020, sixth in 2019 and 14th in 2018.
They placed third in the regional competition to advance.
Liliana Lehnst, Karisa Deacons and Hayden Whitmore all have experience in the state finals and will be watched to chart the way. Lehnst was 50 last year and 57 as sophomore. She could run for the All-State Honors this Saturday.
St. Louis – boys and girls
The boys of St. Louis took their fourth consecutive D3 regional title last week, practically dominating the race as the Sharks finished the race with 28 points, about 41 better than Sanford-Meridian runner-up.
Moreover, this squad has also won state titles in Division 3 and is entering the week in fifth place.
With two-time All-Stater Ben March at the helm, Sharks, who has four first graders and one second in the top seven, has a legal leader. Senior colleague Dylan Marr and sophomore Landon Pestrue and Colin Kuhn also have final experience and have performed well regionally.
“Our team is working extremely hard and is hungry,” said St. Louis, Jay Puffpaff, whose Sharks also won a second-tier crown at a conference in 2022. “We want to start in our best race of the season. You never know what’s going to happen, so our goal is to do our best and see where that puts us. “
On the girls’ side, Lady Sharks came second in the region behind Caro.
They have also had the opportunity to drive dynamite in recent years as they finished 10th in the state’s D3 Final in 2018, 9th in 2019, 4th in 2020 and 6th last year. Jaiden Dickman, Monika Borie, Jenna Abell and Payton Kuhn were all in the final and also showed well, so the Sharks have some experience.
In regional regions, six out of seven St. Louis has been running a PR, so they seem to be peaking at the right time. In terms of numbers, a show in the top 15 would be great, while a show in the top 20 would be more realistic.
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