The Sturgis cross country team hosted a double dual with Elkhart Christian and Niles Tuesday on a crunchy and dusty course in sweltering conditions. The Trojans boys beat Elkhart Christian 18-37 and Niles 15-48. The girls edged Niles 27-29 and fell to the Eagles 24-32.
Even without Daniel Steele, a sophomore who has bounce back and forth between the No. 3 and 4 spots for his team, Sturgis managed to secure the top four spots on the home route. Sophomore Shawn Bell pushed hard, crossing the line with the last few wobbly strides he could muster before collapsing on the finish line for a winning time of 17:55.70.
Senior Grant Brown (18:40.40) and juniors Terry Stahl (18:42.30) and Trever Sprowls (18:46.30) followed in a pack. Senior Peyton Boughton clocked in at 20:55.40 for second place in the girls race — 14 seconds behind Elkhart Christian’s Kayla Casaletto.
“I just wanted to get all I could out of it,” Bell said of a meet that was treated more like a workout by the Trojans. “I was feeling pretty good until the end. I felt it. I was trying to lean back and just got off balance. When I tried to stop I just dropped.
“I wasn’t trying to go all out today. We were just going as a tempo workout run. It was mostly mental. After the first mile I was just all by myself. I like running out in front; I’ve done it for the last few races.”
Bell routinely manned the third spot as a freshman in 2011. He won the underclassmen race at the Centreville Invite Saturday and is battling Brown for the lead role. Steele missed the competition due to a sprained ankle, but he’ll be needed in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference action and come postseason time.
“We need to be healthy in the top five if these teams are going to reach our goals,” Sturgis coach Emerson Green said.
Especially on the girls’ side, which was without No. 2 and 4 runners Elle Bowman and Sarah Miller. Bowman, Green said, sat out as a preventative measure, and Miller has a muscle strain.
Boughton says it wasn’t her finest race in terms of decision-making. After letting too much distance between her and the lead pack within the first quarter mile, the veteran racer went against her better judgment and pressed too hard over the course of the second half of the first mile.
“It’s all in the strategy,” she said to herself as the competition started to pull away early, thinking she’d be able to make up ground gradually. “Then I figured I needed to close the gap somehow. It was a stupid decision to sprint about a half mile — and I’m not a sprinter. Sprinting and hills are not my thing. I was going all out; I was being too cocky. I thought I would be fully recovered.”
Boughton, who prefers rain and cold weather, said it was a learning experience to take with her the rest of the season, one where the conditions will start to change in her favor.