CROSS COUNTRY: Oxford, Romeo run to titles
BY DAN STICKRADT
GOODELLS — Perhaps sometimes the stars do align perfectly. They sure did Saturday for Oxford out on the cross country course.
Oxford’s girls emerged from a heap of quality teams to win their first regional title as a Division I school, collecting 65 points at Goodells County Park.
“I thought if we could have everyone healthy on the same day and that we could all run well on the same day that it could be possible,” admitted first-year Oxford coach Matt Johnson. “We had a lot of girls PR and we had the best day of the season by far.”
The top three teams and the top 15 individuals all advance to the Lower Peninsula state finals Nov. 3 at Michigan Speedway near Brooklyn.
Clarkston finished second in the girls meet with 74 points and Rochester Adams grabbed the third qualifying spot with 93 points, sending retiring coach Budd Ciccarelli off with his girls team making the state cut for the 21st time in the last 23 seasons.
“I was worried that we might only have a couple of individuals,” said Ciccerelli. “We barely got though.”
Clarkston has resurfaced as one of the better teams in recent years after dominating with three state titles in the early 2000s.
“We are getting better,” said second-year coach Kevin Breen. “We wen t through a bunch of coaching changes and now we have a young team that is getting better and better. One of our goals was to make it back to the state meet and we accomplished that this season.”
Individually, Adams senior Gabrielle Thivierge was the regional champion, running a season-best 17:57.
“I wanted to break 18 minutes today and have a better showing that I did at the league meet,” admitted Thivierge, who is in her second year of cross country. “I haven’t run the type of race I wanted to all year until now. I ran really good here last year.”
Oxford’s Brook Kovacic was second (18:07), while Adams’ Jamie Morrissey (18:!3), Rochester’s Jessica Goethals (18:19) and Clarkston’s Nicole Hanson (18:44) were also in the top five.
Jenna Feeney (ninth), Hannah Long (12th), Sabrina Smith (17th) and Reilly Squarcia (25th) aided Oxford’s winning effort.
Lake Orion (134) and Rochester (162) took the next two slots, while Utica Eisenhower (173), Macomb Dakota (176), Romeo (181), Rochester Stoney Creek (224) and Utica (289) rounded out the top 10 in the girls meet.
Romeo’s boys emerged the victor from a deep field on the boys side with a dominating performance. The state-ranked Bulldogs landed four runners in the top 17, including finishers third through fifth.
Port Huron Northern was second with 94 points and Clarkston was a surprise third-place finisher with 93 points.
“I was really proud with the way we won,” said Romeo coach Mike Buslepp. “In past years (when we qualified) we ran okay but felt we could run better. This year we all ran really well.”
Jason Saliga (third, 1:50), Trevor Sharnas (fourth, 15:51), Andrew Nelson (15:52) and Alec Toreki (sixth, 15:54) led Romeo, while Jacob Domagalski (17th) aided the Bulldogs’ cause.
Lake Orion’s TJ Carey won his third straight regional with a blistering 15:`18 clocking, some 27 second ahead of runner-up Stephen Biebelhausen (15:45) of Adams.
Port Huron Northern was paced by top-10 finishers Tyler Delange (seventh) and Matt Thomas (ninth).Clarkston, which finally returned its top lineup after a season of injuries, was paced by Sam Tanielian (10th) and Daniel Billette (12th).
Adams was fourth in the boys meet with 125 points, while OAA Red Division winner Lake Orion, which was missing two of its top four runners, was fifth with 131 points. Macomb Dakota was sixth with 160 points, followed by Oxford (167), Rochester Stoney Creek (190), Rochester (196) and Utica (259) in the top 10.