by Calli Newberry
Before the sky turned dark and severe thunderstorms rolled in, the gun sounded to start the first BWAC Cross Country Jamboree of the season. Nearly 200 runners packed onto the course at Goodells County Park on Tuesday evening as the boys and girls teams competed together in an effort to finish the race before lighting strikes called it off.
Despite the uncommon and very humid circumstances, the Yale boys cross country team captured its first of three possible conference wins. The Bulldogs also had the overall individual winner, junior Lukas Kriesch, propelling them to victory.
Armada finished second to Yale with a score of 62 points. Last season, the Tigers fell second to Yale in each of the three jamborees by an average of 44 points. Tuesday’s 16-point gap shows progress in their developing team and makes them a stronger contender for the title.
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North Branch finished third as a team with 84 points, and Croswell-Lexington took fourth with 103, just ahead of Richmond with 105. Imlay City and Almont rounded out the pack with 146 and 150 points, respectively.
Yale head coach Greg Whitican credits his team’s leadership for helping his runners settle down and get focused for the quick change in start time, as the boys race was rescheduled to start 45 minutes sooner to run at the same time as the girls to get ahead of the storms.
“We went into that race with a pretty confident feeling. I actually sat my number three runner. That put a little bit more pressure on the five, six, and seven guys, and they just stepped up,” Whitican said. “I’ve got a couple good captains who, when I went to them at 4:15 and said, ‘You guys gotta get up and do your warm up, we’re running at 5,’ they got the guys together and went and did their warm up and were ready to go.”
Kriesch led the way with a finishing time of 16:40.99. He was chased by the junior from Armada, Camden Khon (16:59.22).
“As I’ve been kind of boasting about, this is Lukas’ third race this year and his third win. He won the Mike Jackson [Invitational], he won the Muskrat [Algonac Invitational], and now he’s won this one,” Whitican said. “He’s a tremendous runner with a lot of potential. He’s got big goals and we’re kind of picking away at them slowly. We’re going to Michigan State on Friday and that’ll be his first good test of having people to run with the whole race. I’m more than sure he’s ready to compete at that level.”
Croswell-Lexington and Yale battled for the next four spots, with Cros-Lex seniors James Elling and Ethan McCombs taking third and fifth, and Yale sophomores Giovanni Pardo-Keegan and Acer Campbell in fourth and sixth. Their times were as follows: 17:08.16, 17:43.77, 18:00.41, and 18:05.06.
“[Kriesh is] followed up by some pretty great guys too. It’s going to be exciting as these guys get more rested toward the end of October,” Whitican said. “Right now, a lot of these meets, we’re just training right through them.”
Rounding out the top 10 finishers, Armada junior Riley Andrews took seventh in 18:28.33, a pair of seniors from North Branch swept 8-9, Gabriel Hutchins (18:38.53) and David Hadden (18:44.34), and Armada’s Luke Nawrocki, a sophomore, finished 10th in 18:46.81.
The next BWAC Jamboree will take place Tuesday, Sept. 28 in Almont. This weekend, however, teams will be spreading out throughout the state in preparation for the next time they meet. Yale will compete at Michigan State University, Almont and Cros-Lex are heading to Stony Creek Metropark, North Branch, Richmond, and Armada are competing in Holly, and Imlay City is off to Columbus County Park. These bigger invitationals will provide great training grounds for future team trophies.
“The BWAC is one our checklist of goals for the season, to hopefully win it again,” Whitican said. “If we do, it’ll be the fifth year in a row. The guys take a lot of pride in that.”