Sturgis cross country coach Emerson Green challenged his squads to run a smart first mile on their home course before attacking the final 2.1. Adhering to the plan paid off for the Trojans boys Tuesday in the form of a Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division jamboree championship.
Scoring 35 points, Sturgis bested Gull Lake (63), Lakeview (69), Marshall (98), Coldwater (122), Harper Creek (148) and Loy Norrix (175).
Senior Grant Brown, who finished fifth in the previous divisional race, won in a time of 16 minutes, 38 seconds. It wasn’t his fastest performance of the year, but he said it was perhaps the best-executed race of his career. Fellow senior Peyton Boughton won her second East Division title in 19:51. Her effort helped the girls place fifth Tuesday. Gull Lake won with 40 points.
“That’s how you run cross country,” Green said. “Our boys team just absolutely crushed our course tonight. “We are finally humming on all cylinders and we ran cross country like you really need to run cross country.”
Shawn Bell (17:06) was sixth — nine places higher than the first jamboree. Terry Stahl (17:15) improved two spots to eighth place Tuesday, Trever Sprowls (17:17) gained 10 spots and finished ninth and Daniel Steele, who set a program freshman record last season but has been dealing with injuries this year, crossed the line in 11th. He didn’t compete in the first East jamboree.
In the process, the Trojans bumped off Gull Lake, one of the top Division 2 teams in the state and a squad in Sturgis’ regional.
“They weren’t 100 percent today; they ran a little flatter than normal,” Green said of Gull Lake. “But they ran a decent race today. We had to really, really work to do what we did against them today. [It was] a really good measuring stick on the guys’ side to take out Gull Lake.”
Top four boys for Sturgis made the all-division team.
“The coaches have been talking to us about strategy for a while,” said Brown, who edged four other competitors that posted sub-17-minute times. “It was awesome. We had three or four season-best times just in our varsity seven today, which was awesome. We had been taking our first mile too hard. My teammate Shawn and I were probably in sixth and seventh place at the time we went through the mile mark. We executed it pretty well.”
“We keep moving forward and good things are going to happen,” added Green.
The girls moved up another notch and passed Loy Norrix. Green said all the girls moved up in positions from last time (full results weren’t available at the time of publication).
“We’re seeing the same thing on the girls’ side; they’re just not as strong a team as the guys,” Green said. “But they all moved up and they all ran this course like they really should run it. Their goal was to move up and beat Loy Norrix, and they did that handily.”
Added Boughton: “Coach Green really went on about how proud he was of all the kids, and that really excited me. A lot of the girls got [personal records] today, which was definitely one of the bigger things that spoke to me today. … It was an awesome day.”