Packer Boys go deep for the win; Girls capture 3rd
By Michael Paige
Photos by Cari Taylor
“How many hills?” “They have to run that twice?” “Rich Tompkins’ legacy.” All phrases overheard last night at Branstrom Park in Fremont, site of the first WMC Cross Country Jamboree of 2022. Fremont’s Branstrom Park is the team’s legendary home course featuring steep hills and lots of turns mostly on a narrow, wooded trail. Fremont is new to the WMC (West Michigan Conference), and this was the first time many of these runners, coaches and parents had experienced the course.
One might think Fremont would hold an advantage, as the runners practice on the course and run a fair complement of hills throughout the year as part of their training regimen. As the race played out, that appeared to be true.
Two Whitehall senior runners, Andre Richmond and Carter McIlroy, took the early lead and were never seriously challenged. They finished less than a second apart at 18:31.10 and 18:31.53, very respectable times on this course. Whitehall also captured the 9th (Stewart Waters), 17th (Andrew Boeringa) and 19th (Avery Jura) spots. Fremont junior Sean Pettis captured the third-place spot with a time of 18:52.07, an improvement of about 50 seconds over his time on the course at last year’s conference championship. Fremont coach, Cliff Somers stresses closing (time) splits, and that was on display as Fremont runners Sophomore Cole Lowery (19:43.12), Junior Johnny Christensen (19:54.11), Freshman Chase Lowery (19:59.81) and Senior Gary Springstead (20:16.76) captured the 10th through 13th places all within 36 seconds of each other.Muskegon Oakridge runner Peyton Ruel finished 4th with a time of 19:21.02.
Oakridge did not have enough runners to place as a team, so after the scoring, Fremont and Whitehall were tied with 45 points each. “Don’t discount the importance of the 6th and 7th runners” was another phrase overheard last night as the tiebreaker goes to the team with the next best finisher. That would be Fremont Freshman Isaac Romero who finished 15th overall with a time of 20:46.65. Fremont Sophomore Blake Taylor (21:01.46) placed 18th. Ludington (68 points), Manistee (104) and Montague (108) rounded out the team scoring for the boys.
On the girl’s side, Fremont Freshman Linnea Paige took 2nd at the team’s Hill and Bale Invitational on Saturday, 4 seconds ahead of Whitehall Sophomore Cami Kraai. Kraai must not have been happy about this as at Tuesday’s meet she opened up an early lead in the race and never looked back finishing 1st overall with a time of 22:10.65. Ludington’s Summer Brower (22:26.69), Manistee’s Cecilia Postma (22:41.84), Ludington’s Nadia Grierson (22:50.69) and Kraai’s teammate, Ariana Treat (22:51.13), rounded out the top five. Paige finished 6th with a time of 23:01.62. Her teammates Freshman Ariana Tanner (18th – 26:22.55), Freshman Joelle Patten (23rd – 27:02.51), Freshman Rocquel Richards (26th – 27:37.85) and Sophomore Rachel Maddox (28th – 27:50.96) rounded out Fremont’s top five.
Manistee’s top five runners finished 3rd, 20th, 24th, 25th and 29th for, you guessed it, a tie for 3rd overall. To decide the tie, the times for the 6th runner for each team were used and Fremont Junior Elise Pfeiffer’s time of 28:53.45 bettered Manistee Senior Abbie Robinson’s time of 29:32.08 giving Fremont 3rd place at the meet. Ludington (35 points) and Whitehall (44) took the top two spots.
The teams run again on Saturday at Ludington’s annual invitational at West Shore Community College. A few select Fremont runners were honored for running 500 miles over the summer and qualified for the Michigan State Invitational. Johnny Christensen, Sean Pettis, Henrik Quist and Carter Sherman will run Friday in East Lansing.