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Boys cross country: Romeo bolts to first state championship

Eric Coughlin
The Detroit News

After several years of top-10 finishes, Romeo boys cross country raced to its program’s first title Saturday with a comfortable, 32-point victory over runner-up Caledonia at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

“It was awesome, incredible to finally get over the hump and break through,” Romeo coach Mike Buslepp said. “The group worked really hard and committed to the season. We’re elated to bring this home for the school and the community.”

Pacing Romeo was senior Zander Cobb (15:32.33), who finished fifth overall.

“Zander (Cobb) is one of those guys who used to think he wasn’t a runner,” Buslepp said. “He was J.V. as a freshman, and he worked his butt off to turn himself into one of the best runners the program’s ever had. He’s a great story that illustrates that it just takes hard work to get good at this.”

Buslepp, in his 12th season, didn’t panic when his team was in 10th place after one mile. Because divisions were split into two heats due to COVID-19, Buslepp knew there was plenty of room on the course for his team to weave its way through the pack.

“It totally worked to our advantage,” Buslepp said. “It made our guys really confident in the back half of the race because they were passing people the entire time.”

Rounding out Romeo’s scorers were junior Jack Kelke (15:41.94), senior Joseph Rinke (16:12.56), junior Owen Sharnas (16:18.55) and junior Jack Wallace (16:29.24).

Caledonia coach Ben Thompson was pleased with his team’s second-place effort.

“We were really happy,” Thompson said. “Romeo’s a great team, but I felt like my boys ran really well today. I had three all-staters today, and in my 18-year career I’ve only had two others.”

Caledonia’s top runner was senior Jamin Thompson (15:49.85), Ben Thompson’s son.

“It’s been a great senior year for him and I’ve really enjoyed coaching him. In middle school, he was just OK, but he’s worked really hard over these four years, and it’s been so fun to watch him progress,” Thompson said.

Second place is Caledonia’s highest finish since it won Division 2 in 1996.

On the individual side, Hartland’s Riley Hough won the title in 14:49.62. Ann Arbor Skyline’s Hobbs Kessler (14:51.79) was second, Plymouth’s Patrick Byrnes (15:26.66) third and Farmington’s Peter Baracco (15:30.8) fourth.

Division 2

Fremont dominated, winning the team competition with 61 points and placing senior Nathan Walker first overall (15:19.39), then putting four more runners in the top 27.

Pinckney’s Caleb Jarema (15:42.97) and Gavin White (15:50.05) finished second and third, with Otsego’s Colin Mulder (15:59.84) following in fourth.

St. John’s (126) was second and Otsego (187) was third.

Chelsea (200) was fourth, paced by Connell Alford (16:18.24), who was 11th overall.