by Calli Newberry
As the heart of cross country season approaches with the first BWAC jamboree next Tuesday, a couple of area teams decided to have some fun in Mayville at the Wildcat Relays on Wednesday. The North Branch and Almont cross country teams competed, taking the winning places in the girls and boys divisions, respectively.
This unique race wasn’t an official MHSAA-sponsored event, as teams were encouraged to treat this as a fun competition and even wear costumes if they wanted. Each team divided its runners into pairs in preparation for the 5K race, and each runner would complete 2.5 kilometers, or 1.6 miles. The top 15 duos in each division received medals, but the teams weren’t scored overall.
For North Branch, head coach Jason Castle said he considered it a fun and successful day.
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“I just took my top six runners and divided them up. I wanted to try to get as many people on my team medals as possible,” Castle said. “Out of the teams that I had, I had seven for the girls, five got medals. And then on the boys, I had four teams, and three got medals.”
On the girls side, it was a battle between North Branch and Kingston for the top five spots.
Haileight Bissett and Alyssa Bussure of North Branch captured first in 21:02.67. They were followed by Kingston’s Meeghan Flikkie and Lilah Kiley in 21:53.21 for second. The next two teams were pairs of Broncos: Grace Clemens and Isabelle Hunt in 21:59.17, and Karlie Schlaud and Rowan Conley in 22:05.39. And finishing fifth were Gracy Walker and Zoe Van Rijn of Kingston in 22:07.21.
“Depth makes a difference,” Castle said. “This is the biggest team I’ve ever had and it’s good because my number four, five, and six runners almost run the same time so it’s kind of nice if one of my runners is sick or has a bad day, I know one of my other runners can step up and run their time. That’s the thing about depth, you’ve got someone else who can step up and take their spot so you’re not really losing any points.”
The boys on the other hand had a large mix of schools among the top five.
A pair from Almont took the win, as Steve Butler and Dominic Pirrone led the way in 18:29.80. Teams from Memphis swept second and third, with Dylan Werrer and Reed Schuster finishing in 18:54.45, and Dylan Boughner and Donovan Schuster in 18:59.30. Taking fourth was a pair from Kingston, Brennan Boyl and Canton Tetil, who crossed the line in 19:02.42, and edging out the sixth-place team by a second, Mayville’s Joel Enos and Chris Gonzales came in fifth in 19:11.58.
Senior twins from North Branch, David and Daniel Hadden, fell in that sixth spot in 19:12.70.
“They’re both seniors and they’ve run all four years. I wanted them to be teammates and let them have fun with it,” Castle said. “They’re great kids, they work well with everybody. To me that’s important to have. When you have young guys, you need senior leaders to be a role model for these young guys and that’s why everybody gets along.”
North Branch will compete in the Bad Axe Hatchet Invitational this Saturday, while Almont and many other Blue Water Area schools will compete in the Algonac Classic, a great preview of the regional meet later this fall.