Rachel Bonner is used to having a target on her back.
She has been a dominant runner throughout her four years at Port Huron High School. In addition, Bonner will surely draw even more attention after recently announcing her intention to run cross country at Division 1 Syracuse.
Bonner will have a big spotlight on her at Saturday’s Division 1 regional event at Anchor Bay High School. Port Huron and Port Huron Northern hope to finish in the top three as a team, which would qualify the Big Reds and Huskies for the state championships.
The top 15 runners also qualify for the state finals.
“I am definitely feeling confident knowing all of the base training I’ve done,” Bonner said. “My goal was to peak in November. The state meet is not the end of my season. I want to go onto the Nike and Foot Locker Nationals.
“My big goal isn’t to win regionals. It would be great, though.”
Bonner might not set out to win regionals, because like she said, she has far bigger fish to fry. But she will still likely find herself in position if she has her best race.
“Going to regionals now is a big change from where I was as a freshman,” Bonner said. “As a freshman, I barely squeaked in for state qualifying. It’s rewarding to know how much work I have put in. Being at the top of the state is humbling.
“It could be anyone’s day. Going to the regional championships, you want to have a good race and set yourself up for the state meet. But you don’t want to expend all of your energy. You want to save some for states.”
While Bonner hopes to pace herself to conserve energy for a state title run, other teams are also gearing up for the stretch run.
The St. Clair High School boys cross country team will be in the competition for a regional title at the Division 2 meet in Algonac on Friday. But the Saints also hope to achieve a special milestone for coach Jon Davidson.
“Everything has come together for us,” coach Davidson said. “We have had a lot of guys show up. Right now, we have seven guys under 17 minutes and we have another at 17 minutes and 16 seconds. It keeps pushing everyone and you don’t know who will be on varsity or not.
“A lot of things are coming together. It’s a big year for us. When I first came here, the team (Sandusky coach) Wayne Roberts had was phenominal. He had qualified for states 16 years in a row. I have told the guys over the years that’s a goal I’m chasing. This year will be 16.”
Aside from the special milestone, the Saints know they have the depth necessary to have a special season. But there are challenges in the way, namely Blue Water Area Conference powers Croswell-Lexington and Yale.
“The big thing is getting the right amount of base miles over the summer and build on that over the course of the season,” Davidson said. “We cut three races off the schedule that we raced in previously and that gave us some more time to train. We have been doing speed work and coming together and doing a little bit of fine tuning.
“We don’t back down at all for any race. We run hard all of the way through. But we backed down a little bit last week and this week. The guys really like racing at Alognac. It’s a very fast course. It gets the guys really excited.”
Yale shares in that excitement, as well. The Bulldogs have battled the Pioneers throughout the season and are starting to peak at the right time.
“The boys are ready,” Yale coach Greg Whitcan said. “We have had a couple great weeks of training and we are coming off a big win last Saturday at Caro. The guys are peaking at the right time. We hope to make it out of regionals and move on as a team. To say the guys are excited is an understatement.”
Contact Joseph Hayes at (810) 989-6268 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @jhayes1136.
Regional Cross Country
Division 1 at Anchor Bay
Port Huron, Port Huron Northern
Division 2 and Division 3 at Algonac
Algonac, Armada, Croswell-Lexington, Marine City, Marysville, Richmond, St Clair, Yale
Capac, Memphis, Marlette
Division 4 at Deckerville
Brown City, Cardinal Mooney, Deckerville, Landmark Academy, Sandusky