BY JAMES COOK email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — BROOKLYN, Mich. — Traverse City Central’s boys tied their best post-split cross country placing, taking third in Division 1 Saturday.
“They posted the results on the window,” Central coach John Lober said. “And I could hardly breathe up until that point. I really wasn’t sure how we were going to be. I knew we had three guys in there, but I was wondering where four and five really were in the place finish. So when they put the results on the window, I was thinking we were anywhere from 10th to hopefully first — and not knowing. ... Then I saw us third, and I said, ‘My gosh, 15 points out of winning the whole thing.’ It was just a great feeling that came over me that the kids ran their hearts out and they were that close to being the best team in Michigan in a very good, very competitive field.”
The Trojans’ only better finish was in 1996, when Central and West were still unified. That’s also the last time Traverse City’s boys had three all-staters in one season.
Senior Kyle Dotterrer closed out his high school cross country career with an effort that earned him his all-state honor. He placed fourth in 15:44.0.
“Finally, right?” Dotterer said. “It’s only a one-second P.R., but I’ll take it. It’s the best one of my life. I’m the most proud of it, that’s for sure.”
His time led the team in what he obviously knew would be his last as a Trojan.
“I tried not to get all sentimental beforehand, but that feeling was there and in the back of my mind the whole time,” Dotterrer said. “I had to give it all I’ve got.”
Central’s girls finished sixth in an incredibly tough division that featured loads of teams that will be included in the national rankings.
“I hope these girls realize what they just did,” Central girls coach Lisa Taylor said. “Against five national powerhouse teams and just six points out of third place. I hope we can communicate to them that it was pretty big. I think they’re all really happy, but I think it’ll take them a week or so to really realize what they really did. When the national rankings come out next week, I think we’ll probably pop into the top 20 nationally. Sixth doesn’t look great because you’ve got a lot going on locally, but it was big in Michigan.”
The Trojan girls were led by Ashley Ko’s 12th-place finish in 18:26.7, while Molly Peregrine was 23rd in 18:35.8. Both earned all-state honors.
“So satisfied with today’s results,” Taylor said. “We knew it would be a tough and fun race. All the girls are really content with a peak performance.
“Being just six points out of third in this year’s stellar Michigan girls competition, we couldn’t be more happy. The girls were passing the entire last 300 meters. Our team time and top five average of 18:51 was indicative of the quality of this team. And our depth shows in that our seventh runner Jordan Mattarella was the best seventh runner of all teams ahead of us.”
Graceanne Tarsa was 37th in 18:54.6, while Emmalyne Tarsa was 39th in 19:00.7 and Joy Reist took 59th in 19:18.2.
Northville took the girls crown with 107 points, followed by Saline (139), Hudsonville (164), Birmingham Seaholm (165), Rockford (169) and TC Central (170).
Milford won the boys Division 1 title with 165 points out of 27 qualifying teams. Waterford Mott was second at 170 and Central posted 180, safely in front of fourth-place Saline (196).
Anthony Berry was eighth in a time of 15:53.1, which was the top Division 1 sophomore time by 10 seconds.
Cam McAuliffe was 11th in 15:56.7 — giving the Trojans three all-staters for the first time since 1996.
“To finish third in Division 1 is a real plus for our program,” Lober said. “It’s a great day for Trojans cross country.”
And third is a big improvement from sixth, which is where the Trojans were in the final regular-season rankings.
“It’s great that we were much better than we were supposed to be,” McAuliffe said. “Everyone worked together. I just tried to stay with our top two runners, Anthony and Kyle. They really pushed me. That helped immensely.”
“We couldn’t be happier,” Dotterrer said. “We were ranked much lower than that. We try not to pay too much attention to the rankings, but there’s a little bit of weight on them. We broke out of that.”
Sophomore Jordan Query (16:30.3) was 39th and senior Graham Bevier (17:14.2) 117th. Central will also have its sixth and seventh runners — Tyler Sepanik and Keefer Edwards — returning next season.
“I think we can be as good as we are this year — if not better,” McAuliffe said. “Our coaches helped immensely. We couldn’t ask for better coaches.”
Dotterer will head to Mt. Pleasant next weekend for the Midwest Meet of Champions, featuring 40 of the state’s top seniors. The top 10 finishers will represent Michigan in the regional meet the following week in Dayton, Ohio.
Traverse City West finished 20th in the team competition.
The Titans were led by Nick Hirschenberger (16:26.0) in 33rd, Nick Amato (16:49.4) in 71st and Jimmy Seekamp (17:05.4) in 101st.
West’s Jessica Gockley qualified individually and placed 73rd in 19:17.4 — a time that was 13th among sophomores.
In Division 2, Gaylord’s Alexis Smith was ninth overall in 18:57.1, while Petoskey’s Lily Cesario was 28th in 19:26.7 and Cheboygan’s Mandy Paull was 38th in 19:39.8.
Petoskey’s boys were 20th as a team, led by Mark Smith’s 64th-place finish in 17:06.9. Junior Thomas VanSlembrouck was 67th in 17:07.5 and sophomore Max Meyerson 84th in 17:19.4.
Gaylord’s Sterling McPherson was 53rd in 16:50.3, just ahead of Cadillac’s Phillip Merrell, who was 54th in 16:50.9.