The 1977 DeWitt boys cross country team exemplified dominance in a state championship season with a loaded roster.
The Panthers team, which won every invitational they participated leading up to the state meet, is one of two teams along with 10 individuals who will be inducted into the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday
“Lets face it, cross country is a minor sport. You’re not going to have parades if you win a state championship in cross country, but this means that they finally get the recognition they deserve,” former DeWitt coach Tom Mauro said. “It was a great team. Most teams are lucky to have two outstanding runners. I had four runners that could have been the number one runner on any team in the state of Michigan.”
DeWitt was the Class C state runner-up in 1976 leading into the state championship season. The Panthers spent most of that season ranked No. 1 in Class C and were undefeated in their first year in the Capital Circuit.
The ’76 campaign included unseating a Howell program that had dominated the league before DeWitt’s entrance. DeWitt had never had a top-three finish in the state and entered the 1977 season with momentum.
The team once again went undefeated in the Capital Circuit and posted outstanding times throughout while racking up meet wins.
“I had four runners at Charlotte all run under 15 minutes in the three-mile,” Mauro said. “It was unheard of. All seven of my kids made all-league first or second team and there were only 14 positions on those teams.”
“We were all doing things in the summer together that helped us,” said team member Dave Wilson, who was one of three Panthers to place in the top five at the 1977 state meet and ran the lowest individual time with a 15:29.
“We all played basketball. I had to ride my bike three or four miles every time I visited (teammate) Ron Hensley. We were plugged into the football team and had friends on the team and we started lifting with them. We didn’t bulk up but started doing upper body stuff and legs and that gave us that explosion. We were all very athletic. Ron Hensley high jumped 6-foot-8, I long jumped 19-8. Those are the things that made us successful.”
Wilson and Hensley were joined by their brothers in the top four. Dave’s brother Mike regularly ran in the mid to low 15-minute range and the Hensley twins – Ron and Roland – were a pair of athletes that Mauro had heard about in junior high school before they reached DeWitt High School.
Wilson ran the 1976 regional with mononucleosis and finished ninth individually.
“We had won everything up to that point. We found out after the season but at the time he said ‘I’ve got to run. I can’t let the team down Mr. Mauro’,” Mauro said of Wilson. “That tells you how much of a competitor he was.”
Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame
What: 41st Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony
When/Where: Thursday at the Lansing Center; dinner is scheduled for 5:45 p.m., followed by the ceremony at 6:45.
Admission: $35 (Reserved seating only, no ticket sales at door). Go to lansingsportshalloffame.org or call Bob Every at 484-0677.
Sponsors: Magic Johnson Enterprises, Dean Transportation, Auto Owner Insurance, Applegate Home Comfort, Dan Henry Distributing and Two Men And A Truck.
Race fundraiser: The Run for Fame 5K/10K Run/Walk will be July 31 in Lansing. Entry details at playmakers.com.