Troy’s girls cross country team captured its second Division 1 state title Saturday with a slim, five point victory over runner-up Northville at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Five Troy runners finished in the top 35 of the 3.1-mile race, led by Megan Worrel (18 minutes, 7.8 seconds) placing 10th. Hannah Palomino (18:42.5) was 26th, Paige Anderson (18:44.5) 29th, Meghan Monaghan (18:44.8) 30th and Katie Scoles (18:46.2) 32nd.
“This is unreal,” Troy coach Matt Richardson said.
Troy stuck by its strategy of starting fast and trying not to pay attention to the place of runners on other teams.
“We had a start-fast strategy. We wanted to put five in the top 50,” Richardson said. “It’s too chaotic to run based on where other teams are, so we just ran our own race.”
Worrel and Palomino only started running cross country as sophomores.
“They’re still learning the sport,” Richardson said. “They’re both 800-(meter) girls trying to learn a new thing. I’m super impressed by them.”
The championship comes just 13 days after the a teammate on the boys team took his own life.
“We lost one of our teammates two weekends ago, and many on the team were good friends with him, so it was really hard to go through that,” Richardson said. “But they came every day and brought it. I haven’t had anybody miss a workout since September.”
The top area runner was Waterford Mott’s Rylee Robinson. She shaved 23 seconds off her personal record to finish in 17:34.8, third behind Rockford’s Ericka VanderLende (17:16.8) and Traverse City Central’s Sielle Kearney (17:30.2).
“The last couple years she sat back to see how the race would unfold,” Mott coach Amy McNeil said of Robinson. “This year she wanted to establish herself right away. All this year she went out a little faster in the first mile to get ready.”
Robinson is a junior, and hopes are high for her senior season.
“Next year she’s going to hopefully be in the position to win every race she’s in,” McNeil said.
Lansing Catholic won the team title with 77 points and five runners in the top five, including overall winner Olivia Theis (16:52.1). Lauren Cleary (17:43.7) was third and Jaden Theis (18:18.7) was fifth.
Grand Rapids Christian finished second with 145 points, DeWitt third with 197 points, Otsego fourth with 218, and Dearborn Divine Child finished fifth with 241 points. Divine Child’s top runner, Audrey Renaud (18:53.5), finished 16th.
Cecilia Stalzer (17:35.9), of Mason, finished second, and Kayla Windemuller (17:50.8), of Holland Christian, finished fourth.
Four Ackleys finished in the top 20 and their team, Hart, dominated with 55 points to win the championship. Adelyn Ackley was the overall winner in 17:49.4, Savannah Ackley was fifth in 18:57.7, Alayna Ackley was sixth in 18:52, and Lynae Ackley was 16th in 19:23.7.
Benzie Central was second with 124 points.
Amber Gall (18:16.2), of Shepherd, was second, and Lauren Freeland (18:44.2), of Kent City, was third.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart won the team title convincingly with 39 points and five runners in the top 20. Bailley McConnell (18:44.1) was the overall champion, Scout Nelson (18:46.6) was second, Desiree McConnell (19:21) seventh, Lauren MacDonald (19:56.3) 13th and Rowan Fitzpatrick (20:01.8) 16th.
Ubly was second with 138 points. Its top runner, Haili Gusa (19:15.6), came in sixth.
Mary Ankenbauer (18:57.2), of Kalamazoo Hackett, came in third, and Madison Volz helped Lansing Christian to third place with her time of 19:02.5 to finish fourth overall.
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.