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Christian Petre of Sanford-Meridian left to choose between track finals and baseball district

By: Bill Khan, May 28, 2016, 10:40 am


Sanford – Not much could spoil Christian Petre’s day, as he won the state championship in the 100 meters and made All-State in all four of his events at last year’s Division 3 track and field meet at Comstock Park.

But news from a baseball diamond in Clare soured an otherwise outstanding day for Petre.

While Petre’s outstanding performance helped Sanford-Meridian finish fourth in the state track and field meet, the school’s second-ranked baseball team was upset, 13-8, by Beaverton in a district semifinal. The baseball team’s loss meant Petre’s junior year of spring sports would end at the track finals and not continue into the baseball regionals, as it had the year before.

Petre is not only one of the best runners in the state, but he’s been responsible for much of Meridian’s success on the baseball field the past four years.

"I was really hoping to come back after states and play with my team," Petre said. "It did kind of put a little downer on the day, but it was what it was."

Petre made a different decision the previous year, opting to play in the baseball districts rather than run in the track and field finals. He helped the Mustangs win the district championship before they lost in a regional semifinal, 3-2 to Cass City. The track and field team, meanwhile, won the Division 3 title.

"It was tough, because at that point I was still new to track," Petre said. "I didn’t really know what was going on. Back then, I always said baseball would be first; that’s what I decided on that day."

The Mustangs are once again ranked second in Division 3 in baseball, boasting a 28-2 record. But if they advance to Saturday’s district semifinal they won’t have one of their best players in the lineup.

Should Meridian defeat host Harrison on Tuesday in a pre-district game, it will set up a showdown between top-five teams in a district semifinal at noon on Saturday. Clare, ranked No. 5, awaits the Meridian-Harrison winner.

Meridian will have to make do without a four-year starter who has compiled a .541 batting average, because Petre will be defending his 100-meter title and looking for more championship hardware at the track and field finals Saturday at Comstock Park.

Petre had four first-place finishes in the regional at Clare on May 20, winning the 100 in 11.06 seconds, the 200 in 22.40, and helping the 400 and 800 relay teams run to victory. For the state meet, Petre is seeded second in the 100 behind Parchment’s Donovan Hodgson (10.93) and first in the 200 by 0.01 seconds over Pigeon-Laker’s Felix Biewald. Meridian’s 400 relay team is seeded first with a time of 43.79 seconds. The Mustangs are seeded third in the 800 at 1:31.67.

Petre couldn’t have imagined giving up an important baseball tournament to run a track and field meet when he entered high school. He never ran in middle school, coming out for the track and field team reluctantly at the urging of his older brother.

"He saw me run during my football games and aid he really wanted me to run track," said Petre, a four-year varsity starter at quarterback. "He put some pressure on me. At first, I wasn’t really sure, because the only thing I knew was baseball back then. I wasn’t really sure about track. I didn’t think it was a good idea. I told him ‘no,’ at first. Eventually, I changed my mind. I said, ‘I might as well try it. I don’t know where this could lead.’"

Petre doesn’t find it difficult to pull off a two-sport double during the spring.

"The coaches are pretty understandable and communicate well with each other on what day I’d be doing what," Petre said. "It’s not that difficult for me, really. I put a lot of work in over the offseason. I try to get ahead of the game before the season actually starts, so when the season comes around I can just go about it normally and not have to stress about going back and forth with each sport."

Running in his first state track and field meet, Petre cracked the top four in all four of his events to help Meridian place fourth as a team. He won the 100 in come-from-behind fashion with a time of 11.13 seconds. He anchored the fourth-place 800 relay team and third-place 400 relay team before finishing third (22.72) in the 200.

Petre is convinced that the competition he’s experienced in other sports helped him cope with the pressure of track and field finals.

"Especially since I was on varsity as a freshman in football and baseball," he said. "Just playing on a bigger stage at only 14 years old really helped me. I was really nervous at state last year. I had a lot of adrenaline pumping. I didn’t know what to expect. I feel like the past experience really did help. I wasn’t as nervous as I could have been."

Running at a high level all day may have caught up with Petre in the 200, his final event. He had the fastest time in the preliminaries (22.44) before taking third.

"I don’t want to make any excuses," he said. "I had a long day with prelims and relays. I guess I didn’t train my body as well as I could have last year, so I got a little fatigued and came up a little bit short. I didn’t run the race I expected in the 200."

Petre’s speed was also put to good use as Meridian’s starting quarterback. Petre led Meridian to a school-record 10 victories last fall. The Mustangs won their first 10 games before losing to eventual Division 6 champion Ithaca in a district final. He had a 30-10 record as Meridian’s quarterback, having been promoted from the junior varsity early in his freshman year.

"I was the head JV coach," said Mike Bilina, Meridian’s varsity football and boys’ track and field coach. "He was taken from me in week two. We knew he was a special athlete early on. He was just faster than everyone as a freshman. He was forced into a position where he had to go up a little bit quicker. He handled it very well. He’s the winningest quarterback in Meridian history. He’s received a lot of individual and team honors. He’s in the history books here at Meridian, that’s for sure."

Petre, a centerfielder and pitcher, isn’t sure which sport he’ll play in college.

"I have a preferred walk-on to Northwood for football," he said. "Davenport has offered me for track. Saginaw Valley is still talking to me for track. I’m going to see how the summer plays out for baseball."