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Boys cross country: St. Louis outpaces Hart in Division 3 for school's third state title

Eric Coughlin
The Detroit News

Everything went as planned for St. Louis boys cross country coach Jay Puffpaff as his team raced to its third state title on Saturday, squeaking out a 13-point victory over runner-up Hart in Division 3 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

“The boys did what we asked them to do,” Puffpaff said. “They showed up and performed excellently. They’ve bought into our vision all season long and took advantage of the opportunity.”

COVID-19 led to an unusual cross country season. There were fewer meets, and especially fewer big meets. Each division at the state meet was broken into two heats.

“We had to just focus on the process, control what we could control,” Puffpaff said. “We talked all season long about showing up and watering the bamboo, through all the good things that were going to happen and all the bad, so that when it came down to it we were going to be ready. Across the board all our guys ran extremely well.”

St. Louis’ fastest finisher was junior Aaron Bowerman (16:26.66) at ninth overall, but then St. Louis placed three more runners in the top 23.

Senior Keegan Honig (16:35) came in 14th, junior Nate March (16:39.47) 17th, freshman Ben March (16:48.59) 23rd and senior Joe Erickson (17:35.34) 87th.

Honig’s path to a state championship was filled with adversity.

“Keegan (Honig) is a warrior,” Puffpaff said. “Freshman year he couldn’t run because of an injury, and then sophomore year he had surgery on his hip. He wasn’t even on varsity his junior season because he still had screws and plates in his hip, and then he finally had them taken out in the offseason. Through it all, he’s done everything he could to get himself in the position to be able to compete for his team today.”

While the championship is St. Louis’ third, it’s Puffpaff’s first. St. Louis won in Division 4 in 2005 under Steve Kelly and Class C in 1979 under Jerry Mayer.

Benzie Central sophomore Hunter Jones won the individual crown in a commanding 15:28.96.

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central finished 14th, paced by senior Andrew Wickenheiser (17:18.2).

Junior Jonah Cerone (17:03.14) of Royal Oak Shrine placed 37th.

Division 4

Carson City-Crystal won a close one, besting runner-up Breckenridge by five points and placing senior Coleman Clark first overall (15:58.55), then putting two more runners in the top 45.

Saugatuck’s Max Sharnas (16:06.51) was second, with Breckenridge’s Mason Sumner (16:31.27) following in third.

Concord (166) was third and Kalamazoo Christian (209) was fourth.

Birmingham Roeper (457) was 20th, paced by senior William Hoover (18:20.36), who was 67th overall.