CROSS-COUNTRY: Royal Oak Shrine sweeps regional titles
BY DAN STICKRADT
GOODELLS — Ben Kendell did not like finishing second at last year’s Division 4 regional. He remedied that situation this year.
The Royal Oak Shrine Catholic junior avenged that loss, winning the individual regional title with a season-best 16:20 to lead the Knights to the team crown. The opponent that defeated Kendell last season, Southfield Christian’s Evan Carter, was a distant second in 16:52.
“I think I ran much better this year,” said Kendell. “Then goal was to go out the first art of the race and stay with him, then pick it up in the last mile.”
The top three teams and the top 15 individuals in each regional advance to the Lower Peninsula state finals Nov. 3 at Michigan Speedway near Brooklyn.
Kendell led five Knights inside the top 30including three inside the top 10. Matt Arce (fourth), Connor Lockman (eighth), Mike Guirey (13th) and Kyle Pawloski (30th) aided Shrine’s cause.
“This is three in a row for both the boys and the girls,” noted veteran Shrine coach Wright Wilson. “I thought based on the teams here and the way we have been running that we would have a good chance or repeating. The kids stepped up and had a really good day.”
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, led by third-place finisher Ryan Sullivan, finished second in the boys meet with 57 points, while Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett was third with 90 points.
Ian New (11th) and Gabe Fenske (12th) aided Waterford Lakes back to the state meet.
“This is only our sixth season of cross country,” explained WOLL Coach Scott Lewis. “We’ve been very successful. In all but one season we’ve had an individual or team qualify for the state finals.”
Southfield Christian was fourth (134), while Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest finished fifth (135), Auburn Hills Oakland Christian sixth (137) and Birmingham Roeper eighth (170). Madison Heights Bishop Foley and Novi Franklin Road Christian did not have the required five finishers to record a team score.
Foley’s Craigen Oster (fifth), Northwest’s Cameron Santangelo (10th) and Oakland Christian’s Chris Krieg (14th) also qualified as individuals.
Shrine’s girls landed five finishers in the top 10 to win the regional title with 24 points. Liggett was a distant second with 82, the same total as Waterford Lakes.
Oakland Christian was left on the outside looking in by finishing fourth with 86 points. Southfield Christian placed fifth (120), Lutheran Northwest was seventh (141) and Roeper, Bishop Foley and Franklin Road Christian were amongst the seven schools that did not register a team score.
Morgan Button (second), Madelyne Luddy (fourth), Grace Nagle (sixth), Gabby Schmidt (seventh) and Clare Romano (10th) led Shrine.
“Winning here today shows that we just didn’t rely on one or two dominant girls the past few years. We’ve had a nice group come through in the past few years,” said Wilson. “This is five in a row for the girls. Before that, Southfield (Christian) won five in a row. I think that proves what a good group we’ve had her in the last five years. We’ve had several girls that have been part of that.”
WOLL freshman Tessa Fornari continued to impress by winning the individual title in 19:15. She finished 53 seconds ahead of Shrine’s Button.
“I feel amazing. To be able to do this at such a big meet is a great feeling,” admitted Fornari. “I’m looking forward to the state meet. I’m thinking that I might be able to finish in the top 10. I didn’t know what to expect at the beginning of the season.”
(Dan Stickradt is Senior Editor for Digital Daily www.northoaklandsports.com and The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine, as well as a freelance writer for multiple media outlets, including State Champs! High School Sports Show website. He is a 20-year veteran sports journalist based in Oakland County, Mich. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.)