and Orchard Lake St. Mary's Preparatory will both be sending cross country runners to the Michigan High School Athletic Association lower peninsula state finals at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn Nov. 5.
Lakers junior Erin Finn placed first at the MHSAA Division 1 regional finals Saturday with a course record time of 17 minutes, 59.2 seconds, which head coach Nate Belill said is 14 seconds faster than last year's first place finish time, at Hess-Hathaway Park in Waterford.
Finn was dominant Saturday in winning her 11th-straight race of the season by a time 1 minute, 47.7 seconds faster than second place. Belill gave the star runner credit for not falling behind after being well out in front for the majority of the race.
"It takes a lot of strength and focus to go out there and do as well as she did, when you’re out there by yourself without anyone pushing you," Belill said. "It goes to show she’s learned how to push herself, which is not easy to do."
Finn was the lone qualifier for the Lakers girls team, which finished ninth out of 12 with 247 points, despite an improved score from the Sept. 30 race at Hess-Hathaway Park by Leah Desposato (79th), Sarah Poronto (75th), and Megan Eiswerth (44th). The team did not qualify.
The average time was 22:55.54, the split time was 8:31.
Belill said that Finn will face tougher competition than she's used to on Saturday, but is running her best of the season. As a sophomore last season, Finn ran first in every race until the state finals, when she finished fourth with a time of 17:31 at Brooklyn. Belill is confident that Finn will perform among the best.
"(Hess-Hathaway Park is) a difficult, hilly course and she still ran very well. (Michigan International Speedway) is a very flat course and this will be her second time running. She has experience running at the state meet, which is key," Belill said. "But, they don’t give out championships on paper."
Boys race to an exciting finish
Orchard Lake St. Mary's senior Stephen Zorc was the lone qualifier on the Eaglets to reach the state finals with a time of 17:17 in the Division 2 regional finals at Goodells County Park, good for 13th overall. The Eaglets overall finished 10th out of 14, with a score of 217. Their average time was 18:19 and their split time was 1:38.
Two of the Lakers boys, Bjorn Kempf (12th) and Ben Griessmann (14th) finished in dramatic fashion with times of 17:03.7 and 17:07.2 respectively. The top 15 times qualify for states; the 16th-place finisher clocked in just 6.5 seconds behind Griessmann.
"(Kempf and Griessmann) knew it was going to be a dogfight and there was no room for error. The last 100 meters, were basically a dead sprint and (Griessmann) was neck and neck for those last couple spots. It was very exciting," Belill said.
The Lakers boys finished seventh with a score of 173, which did not qualify for states. The average time was 17:59.34 and the split time was 2:40.
However, Belill said that he was proud of the effort, especially from departing seniors, and looking forward to improvements from underclassmen.
"The vast majority ran their best race at (Hess-Hathaway Park), and that's all that we ask them to do, so we're proud of their effort this weekend and throughout the season," he said. "We’re going to take everyone back we can and try to keep getting new faces out there as well."