Training for longer-distance running events can sometimes be a lonely activity.
But not so much when you’re on a team, as is the case with most of the city’s and area’s high school cross country student-athletes.
And especially not when you’ve got a loving sister who puts in just as many miles — in-season and off-season — as you do.
Which is exactly the case with the Reagle sisters of the Homer High girls’ cross country squad.
Senior Amanda Reagle and junior Jessica Reagle compete together and train together pretty much six days a week, pretty much all year round.
And on Saturday, they’re more than likely going to be the two Trojan girls closest to the front of the pack when Homer attempts to defend its MHSAA Division 4 state championship at the 2013 finals at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
The two Reagles — along with freshman Anna Willis, junior Bailey Manis, sophomore Kayla Kline, sophomore Kirsten King and junior Alta Gillham — helped head coach Rebecca Willis’ Homer unit make it back-to-back-to-back D-4 regional crowns last Saturday.
The Trojans’ most recent regional trophy came shortly after Homer won its third consecutive Big Eight conference title — with Amanda Reagle finishing first individually in the Big Eight Finals Meet, and with Jessica Reagle, Manis and Willis also earning all-conference medals.
The weather forecast for Saturday’s MHSAA championships at MIS is for temperatures in the mid-40s and rain. But according to Homer assistant cross country coach Greg Reagle — Amanda’s and Jessica’s dad — that shouldn’t be a problem.
“Actually, it really doesn’t matter what kind of weather this team runs in. We’re used to all kinds of weather … and Amanda and Jessica especially are used to running in all kinds of conditions,” Greg Reagle said.
“Amanda and Jessica run on (prep meet) courses, they run on our own property which is kind of out in the woods in Homer, we head out to Victory Park in Albion or the Fort Custer area (in Battle Creek) a lot … and aside from taking off maybe a week or two after the cross country season, they’re back at it during the winter, indoors and outdoors, in preparation for the spring track season. They just love to run, and they love to compete.”
Rebecca Willis, in her 12th season as Homer head coach, was also an elite runner herself during her prep years (she was All-State as a junior at Homer). And she noted that the Reagles, along with her niece Anna and the rest of this year’s Trojan team, have the talent and the dedication to make it two state titles in a row after Homer had finished sixth as a team in 2011.
“Both Amanda and Jessica have great natural ability as runners, and they’re also both very dedicated with their training,” Willis said. “And it’s also great to see how they kind of push each other to do better. Not in a negative way … but when they’re out there running, they’re always looking to see where the other one is, and they’re always competing against each other.
“As a coach, it’s a dream situation to have. It makes both girls better and helps both girls improve, and it helps the team keep striving to improve. And it also helps that we also have a lot of parents of kids on this team who really care and are supportive and are willing to drive their kids around all the time to get their training in.”
The taller and older Amanda Reagle — a 17-year-old who is being courted to run cross country and track at Hillsdale College, Bowling Green, Michigan State and Detroit Mercy — said training and competing all the time with her younger sister is pretty much a blessing.
“It’s a good thing, a really good thing, the way we are always pushing each other to run the best we can. It’s not painful to do what we do … it’s just dedication that we both have,” said Amanda, who has a personal-best meet (5K) time of 19-minutes, 20-seconds, which came at last week’s regionals. “We push each other, we talk to each other when we’re running … it’s a very helpful thing.”
Sister Jessica, who has a personal-best of 19:26, agreed.
“The way we push each other while also being great friends as sisters really helps us to get better and better,” the 16-year-old Jessica said. “And that’s kind of the way our whole team is. We all work hard, we all push each other to get better, we know we have a lot of talent … but the main thing is, we’re all very good friends. When we’re running, and when we’re not running. It’s a cool thing.”
Willis said she’s not predicting another state title for her Trojans this coming Saturday, but she said that’s her squad’s goal.
“Last year, we just kind of went in there and I was kind of expecting us to finish like third or around there. But we won, and it was kind of a surprise,” she said. “This year, you never know what’s going to happen … but we’d sure like to defend our title. All of the girls are really fired up … and we’d sure like to win it all again.”
NOTES: Homer is ranked No. 1 in the state in D-4 by michigancrosscountry.com, and is the only local team ranked. … This weekend marks Amanda Reagle’s fourth straight trip to the state finals, and in her previous three appearances, she was top-30 all-state individually each time. As a freshman, she qualified as an individual and placed 15th (19:36.6), as a sophomore she was 18th (19:46.6) and as junior she was 23rd (20:04.9). … Jessica Reagle has been all-state top-30 once. She was ninth overall last year (19:26.3), and 46th overall in 2011 (20:28.3). … Manis has also been top-30 all-state once, as she was 19th last year (19:59.6) and 40th overall as a freshman (20:23.3). … Kline was 45th last year at state, and King was 181st. … Both Anna Willis and Gillham are new to this year’s team. … Overall, there will be three full local girls’ teams (Homer, Gull Lake and Quincy) and eight individual girls competing at state this weekend, and eight individual local boys.