High school boys cross country: Brighton wins first state title in 24 years

By Eric Coughlin, Special to The Detroit News

Redemption was the theme on Saturday at the boys MHSAA state cross country championships in Brooklyn at Michigan International Speedway.

After a disappointing finish to the 2018 season, Brighton broke through in 2019 for its third state title and first since 1995.

Brighton's 136 points were made possible by a cadre of seniors, five of its top seven, including Jack Spamer, who finished third (15:17), and Zachary Stewart, who finished fourth (15:30).

"Those five guys have been extremely dedicated," Brighton coach Chris Elsey said. "They bought into the program and bought into each other. Last season we were ranked No. 1 for a large chunk of the season and finished 10th at states, just had a bad day. We knew we were better that that. We didn't have the same edge with our top guys being juniors, but this year the senior leadership made the difference. It wasn't 'We hope.' It was 'We will.' We knew that another team would have to make a major breakthrough to beat us, and they didn't."

This was Elsey's fourth year at the helm and his first state title. He credited the overall strength of the team with pushing his top seven runners to championship heights.

"There are seven guys that you take to states, but really, for us, it's the whole team," Elsey said. "We've got 15-20 guys that put in all the work over the summer and winter, and that competition is why we're so successful."

Brighton senior Scott Spaanstra (16:05) finished 21st, sophomore Evan Ross (16:18) 32nd and senior Andrew Hanna (16:46) 76th.

On the individual side, Plymouth's Carter Solomon (15:01) won by five seconds. A year ago, it was Solomon who finished five seconds behind the winner. The title caps an impressive high school career for Solomon, who finished in fifth place as a sophomore.

In his last meet as Dexter coach, Drew Collette steered his team to a second-place finish with 154 points.

Collette moved to Kalamazoo over a year ago and has been commuting to Dexter ever since. When this season started, he knew it would be his last at Dexter.

"I talked to my seniors about commuting or helping them find a new coach, and they unanimously wanted me to come back," Collette said. "I wanted to go out on top, but the time with them is over."

Dexter put five runners in the top 60, with Owen Huard (16:04) coming in 18th, Nathan Larson (16:05) 19th, William Buller (16:14) 27th, Seth Read (16:22) 38th and Conor Kolka (16:34) 52nd.

Saline finished 3rd with 188 points.

Clarkston finished fourth, paced by senior Brendan Favazza (15:06) who came in second.

Division 2

Evan Bishop of East Grand Rapids won the overall title in 15:13, and his team finished seventh with 265 points.

Fremont scored 68 points to win the team championship, placing two runners in the top-10. Nathan Walker (15:24) was fourth and Conor Somers (16:02) was sixth.

Otsego (176) was second, Haslett (191) was third and Chelsea (218) was fourth.

Dearborn Divine Child (226) was fifth with Anthony Hancock (15:18) coming in second and Michael Hancock (15:24) coming in third.

Division 3

Hanover-Horton (146 points) won the team championship with Garrett Melling (16:21) finishing fifth.

Grandville Calvin Christian (183) came in second, and Charlevoix (184) was third.

The top area team was Madison Heights Bishop Foley in 21st, paced by Jack Decker (17:24), who finished 40th.

The individual title was claimed by Benzie Central's Hunter Jones (15:45).

Division 4

Breckenridge (72 points) won the team championship with Mason Sumber (16:08) finishing first overall and Colttion Vine (16:57) finishing 10th.

Carson City-Crystal's Coleman Clark finished second in 16:16.8.

Webberville's Nathan Lott (16:17.4) was third.

Allen Park Cabrini (442) was the top Detroit-area team, finishing 19th.