Injuries affect three of the four team and individual awards up for grabs during Saturday’s Greater Lansing Cross Country Championships.
With the return of Carson City-Crystal and the addition of Owosso and Corunna, a record 41 of the 42 mid-Michigan high schools that field cross country teams will be competing. (Ithaca is the absent team.) The boys race will start at 10 a.m., and the girls race will follow at about 10:30 at Ledge Meadows Golf Course, located west of M-100 and Grand Ledge on M-43.
East Lansing’s Zoe Morse has run the fastest 3.1-mile time of the fall, 18:09 while taking fourth place in Michigan State’s Spartan Invitational elite race. But the freshman hadn’t raced for two weeks prior to running an 18:44 to win a dual meet with Grand Ledge on Tuesday.
“She broke both bones just below the wrist falling backwards in soccer practice,” East Lansing girls coach Bob Brown said. “She had the arm in a sling for a week or two, and now she’s wearing a short hard brace that’s padded up for races.
“But she’s got to get back into racing mode.”
Defending Greater Lansing meet champion Meg Darmofal lowered her personal-best time to 18:19 in a dual meet last week.
“She expects a very hard race, because the last time the two went head-to-head was in the middle school honor roll meet,” said Mason coach Charles Miller, referring to the 3,200-meter run at the 2011 Greater Lansing Junior Honor Roll track and field meet where Morse ran 11:06.24 to Darmofal’s 11:09.11.
Other top Greater Lansing meet female runners who have broken 19 minutes for 5K this fall include St. Louis senior Raquel Serna (18:25), DeWitt sophomore Shelby Waterson (18:34), Charlotte freshman Lindsey Carlson (18:34), Ionia junior Araceli Leon (18:41), East Lansing sophomore Sarah Goble (18:44) and junior Mado Glew (18:51), and Lansing Catholic senior Emma Frost (18:54).
Waterson hasn’t raced the past 14 days due to shin splints.
“When she races, she’ll be tough out there,” DeWitt coach Ron Womboldt said. “We’ll try to keep her fitness level up riding the bike, and have her stay off her feet as much as possible.”
Defending champion and Division 2 No. 10 DeWitt will be a factor with Waterson running, but the coaches favor Division 1 honorable mention East Lansing. The Trojans topped 2011 Greater Lansing meet runner-up Grand Ledge 23-34 in a dual meet on Tuesday with a record three runners under 19 minutes and seven under 20.
“East Lansing will be tough competition, and Bob Brown usually toward the end of the season gets his girls where he wants them,” Wombolt said. “But we’re going to go after them, and we have as good a chance as anybody.”
Division 2 No. 9 Ionia as well as Division 3 No. 4 Lansing Catholic, Grand Ledge and Okemos also are expected to compete for top spots.
The Comets have been hampered by injuries.
“Some of them have been smaller, but I think finally everyone is feeling healthy,” Grand Ledge girls coach Fred Hutchinson said.
Mason would have been a prohibitive favorite, but the defending Division 2 state champions have competed all season without junior Jacob Hanson — who will not run on Saturday.
“Unfortunately what we thought was a minor injury ended up being soft tissue damage on the bottom of his foot,” Miller said. “The kid has been working out two-three hours a day so aerobically he’s fine. But we’ll have to see if his running legs will or can come back around quickly.
“Our top guys can only climb up the ladder so far, so it will come down to our fourth and fifth men.”
The coaches pick Division 2 sixth-ranked Ionia and Division 4 second-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia to finish ahead of Mason on Saturday.
“We have two returning top kids, but the next four are all first-year varsity runners,” Ionia’s 36th-year coach Chris Young said. “No matter what we do on Saturday, I’m happy. We’ve had a great year.”
For P-W to win, its pack likely would have to do something similar to what Lansing Eastern achieved to win in 2002 without a true frontrunner. The Quakers’ five runners that year each knocked about 30 seconds off previous personal best times so that nearly every runner finished faster than 17 minutes.
Defending champion Tanner Hinkle is a heavy favorite. His fastest time of 15:05 is 30 seconds faster than any Greater Lansing meet competitor going into the race.
“If the weather is right, he is definitely going after it,” Miller said of the 15-minute barrier cracked only by Wisconsin All-American Maverick Darling when he won the Greater Lansing meet in 14:58 as a senior at Ovid-Elsie. “Tanner’s (Jackson) Lumen Christi time shows he’s definitely got it in him.”
Other Greater Lansing meet runners who have broken 15 minutes this fall include Lansing Catholic sophomore Keenan Rebera (15:35), Ionia senior Brandon Winter (15:49), Mason junior Mason VanDyke (15:53), Williamston senior Aaron Baumgarten (15:57), Eaton Rapids senior Kenny Wherry (15:58) and Ionia senior Brice Brown (15:58).
4. Grand Ledge
7. Lansing Catholic
10. St. Johns
1. East Lansing
2. Grand Ledge
5. Lansing Catholic
8. St. Louis