The future appears to be sooner than later for the Northville girls cross country program.
The defending MHSAA Division 1 champion Mustangs, paced by five underclassmen, capped their 2014 season Saturday at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn with a strong third-place showing.
Birmingham Seaholm, led by the one-two finish of Audrey Belf and Rachel DaDamio, captured its second state title in three years with 88 points, while Traverse City Central was runner-up with 115.
Northville, getting three All-State (top 30) performances, took third with 135, while Milford (169) and Saline (230) rounded out the top five.
“I was thrilled with the results today and each one of the girls and stepped up to the best of their ability,” Northville coach Nancy Smith said. “We were hoping to be in the top five after winning the title last year. And only bringing back three from last year’s state team, we exceeded our expectations.”
Belf defended her state title with a 5,000-meter time of 17:19.0, while DaDamio was runner-up in 17:29.4.
Northville’s All-State trio included sophomore Cayla Eckenroth (11th, 18:08.7); junior Lexa Barrott (15th, 18:18.1); and junior Hailey Harris (27th, 18:32.2).
All three ran career personal bests.
“Cayla continued to excel in her second All-State showing and improved again this year running a career P.R. by around nine seconds,” Smith said. “She has stepped up each race this year to lead the team. And Lexa came right back after being sidelined the last month and showed what an incredible athlete she is and how determined she was to get back on the podium and be an important part of the team.”
Meanwhile, junior Emma Herrman just missed All-State honors in 33rd with a career-best 18:46.2, while sophomore Emma Smith placed 72nd in the team total and 106th overall with a season-best 19:45.4. Both bettered their previous times by 11 seconds each.
“Our top four were solid just like they had been all year long,” the Northville coach said. “The biggest surprise was from Hailey Harris. All year long she has been getting better and yesterday she told me she was ready. She ran a smart race and exploded at the end running a 30-second P.R. and earned All-State honors by over 1:13 from last year.”
The Mustangs’ lone senior, Mirai Kobayashi, took 193rd (20:048.8), while freshman Rachel Zimmer was 198th (20:53.7).
“I couldn’t have asked for anymore from them,” said Smith, who guided the Mustangs to a fifth-place showing in 2012. “I told them to just run their race as the bulls-eye was not on us this year, and they did just that. We are looking ahead to next year as we only lose one from today’s lineup and there are several waiting to take the challenge and go after bringing home another state title next year.”
On the heels of her fifth place finish at the regional to earn an individual state qualifying spot, Novi senior Hannah Lonergan turned in her best showing of her career by earning All-State honors with a 21st-place finish in 18:21.8.