Boys and girls cross country teams from around the state competed at their respective regional meets Saturday with the goal of qualifying for the Michigan High School Athletic Association state finals in mind.
The top three teams and 15 individuals from each regional meet qualified for the Nov. 4 state meet at Michigan International Speedway.
From St. Joseph County, many made that happen.
At Red Bud in Buchanan
In the girls race Saturday at Buchanan’s Red Bud, Three Rivers churned out a sixth-place effort with a score of 195, and Sturgis was 10th with 212. Holland Christian won the regional crown with 75, while Zeeland West was second with 106. Holland Christian’s Kayla Windemuller was the individual winner in 18 minutes, 27.4 seconds.
Sturgis junior Meg Scheske ran to a fourth-place finish individually in 19:54.6. Freshman teammate Meah Yunker also earned an all-region and state-qualifying spot with a seventh-place run of 20:19.1.
Three Rivers’ Carissa Kelley, a senior, also earned a state finals berth with a 14th-place time of 20:47.1. The Wildcats may not have qualified for the state championship as a team, but they made significant improvement. They were ranked 11th out of the 15 teams in the field and finished sixth.
“Looking back, I can’t find a record of a Three Rivers team finishing higher than seventh at a regional race before,” Three Rivers girls coach Josh Bell said. “Throughout the season we lost to Sturgis, Edwardsburg, Niles, Coldwater and Stevensville Lakeshore in invitationals, but we beat them all today. Most of the girls on our team improved their place ranking so that helped our score tremendously.
“Additionally, I couldn’t be prouder of Carissa Kelley for her effort to race well enough to qualify for the MHSAA state finals next weekend. She came in ranked 27th and needed to have the race of her life to qualify. She was so determined today and I know she gave all she had. Coach is a happy man today.”
In the boys race, Sturgis placed 11th overall with 242 points, while Three Rivers was 14th with 367. There were no individual state qualifiers from either team.
Sturgis’ Jake Bundy (18:57.4), Noah Franks (18:58.2) and Lane Kimes (19:04.6) occupied the 32nd-34th spots as the top local finishers. Three Rivers’ Cole Appolini was 50th in 19:37.4.
At Red Bud in Buchanan
In the Division 3 regional at Buchanan’s Red Bud, Constantine’s boys team finished fourth with a score of 99, while the Lady Falcons were eighth with 193.
Cracking the top 15 for a state-qualifying spot was senior Quinten Prieur, who was eighth overall in 18:07.8. Teammate Sam Warren, a senior, missed out by one spot in 16th place (18:29.2). Joe Shoup was 20th (18:57.4), Jack Jones was 22nd (19:05.2) and Logan Hofmeister placed 34th (19:33.2). Also making it into the top 50 was Jacob Derda, who was 45th in 20:18.8, and Kameron Nusbaum, who was 46th in 20:18.8.
In the girls race, freshman Allyson Schrock took 26th in her first regional race (23:28.2), and classmate Grace Hofmeister was 34th (24:14.4)
At Portage West Middle School
For the 14th straight year, the Mendon boys cross country team qualified for the state finals. Leading the charge were Keaton Crotser (third) and Charlie Newburry (14th), who both earned all-region honors.
The Hornets scored 81 points as runner-up behind champion Battle Creek St. Philip Catholic Central (34). White Pigeon placed sixth (170) and Centreville was seventh (179).
Crotser ran a time of 17 minutes, 18.8 seconds and was able to keep winner Kenny Wojcik (St. Philip, 17:04.4) and second-place finisher Terrence Young (Eau Claire, 17:05.3) in sight. Not far behind was fellow state qualifier Justus Chupp of Centreville. Chupp took seventh overall in 17:51.3. Newburry clocked in at 18:23.3.
Mendon coach Art Stephenson pointed out that the impressive streak of state qualifying performances began when his 14-year-old freshmen on the team were born.
“The kids ran a great race today,” Stephenson said. “We knew that St. Phil was out there and we placed behind Gobles last week by a significant margin. This makes this all the sweeter by beating a team that just outran us a week ago. We started out with the best start we have had all season with everyone under 6 minutes for the first mile. And after that it was about holding the other teams off.”
Newburry, Dakota Ames (17th, 18:48.5) and Jacob Dudley (19th, 18:52.6) all ran personal records for Mendon.
“I am so proud of how they all ran, it was what Mendon Cross Country is at its best,” Stephenson said.
White Pigeon’s Cole Shafter placed 20th in 18:54.7, Mendon’s Wyatt Cupp was 28th (19:10.2), Mendon’s Colin Steinberger was 30th (19:19.8), fellow Hornet Connor Henckel placed 31st (19:25.8), White Pigeon’s Stone Kemp finished 34th (19:32.2) and Centreville’s Ross Hunter was 35th (19:33.5).
Evan Atherton produced a 36th-place effort for White Pigeon (19:33.5), teammate Nate Weber was 37th (19:33.8), Centreville’s Dustin Schwenk placed 38th (19:37.5), Colon’s Austin Stoll was 43rd (19:50.0), White Pigeon’s Kobe Yoder was 45th (20:02.7), and Colon’s Isaiah Fellers placed 46th (20:05.9).
Centreville’s girls team also qualified after a fine performance in Portage. The Bulldogs scored 72 points in second place behind Kalamazoo Hackett (61).
Freshmen Abagail Schlabach and Gabriella Schlabach were not intimidated in their first regional appearance. Abagail was fifth overall with a time of 21:06.6 and Gabriella was sixth in 21:08.3 for all-region honors.
Morgan Walton crossed the line in 20th (23:05.0) and Alexa Jackson was 21st in 23:07.1 for the Bulldogs. Not far behind was Paige Walton, who finished 23rd (23:18.9). Colon’s Jenna Breneman placed 24th in 23:19.4 before two more Centreville runners, Cayla Ferrier (24:23.4) and Asia Pratel (24:37.9) finished in 31st and 32nd, respectively.
White Pigeon’s Claycee West recorded a time of 25:12.8 for 40th place.