By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — ACME — John Lober could barely speak to his team after Saturday’s Division I boys cross country regional.
The longtime TC Central head coach was just too emotional after the Trojans captured the regional title on the course at Grand Traverse Resort and earned a trip to the state finals.
“When we won it just all came out on the surface,” said Lober, who was still wiping tears from his cheeks even after his team had left the post-meet huddle. “I get a little teary-eyed here or there, but it just all came out and I could hardly talk to them. I know all these kids and they’re such great kids.”
Behind the performance of regional champion Kyle Dotterrer, Central had three of the top six runners and scored 47 points. Rockford was second with 64 and Traverse City West was third with 80. All three teams punched their tickets to next week’s state meet at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
“I knew we had the kind of team that could do what they did today, but I knew it was going to be very difficult,” said Lober, who has guided the Trojans to eight regional crowns. “I’ve been on this course for three weeks and I knew it was going to be one son-of-a-gun going around this. It was getting tougher and tougher, muddier and muddier. We were the eighth race. You don’t know how a couple of kids were going to hold up. They all ran so good at the same time.”
It started with Dotterrer, one of only two seniors in the Trojans’ top five. He finished in 16:35 on a course that was wet and sloppy and with chilly temperatures made even more tough by huge gusts of wind.
“I wasn’t thinking of myself necessarily winning it,” said Dotterrer. “I knew where I wanted to be with a mile to go. I said, ‘if I’m there, it’s a guts race. We’ll see if we can pull it out.’ I knew where we’d be as a team and that we’d all just work together.”
Cam McAuliffe ended up third (16:48), Anthony Berry sixth (17:07), Jordan Query 16th (17:39) and Graham Bevier 21st (17:49) for Central.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” said Dotterrer. “We knew we were going to be up there with Rockford. We knew it was going to be tight. It all came together. It was one hell of a race.”
Isaac Harding led Rockford with a second-place time of 16:44, but the Rams didn’t have another finisher until Colin Reichebach came in 12th (17:27). Jacob Day was 15th (17:33) and then came a clump of three Rams, including scorers Grayson Harding (17th, 17:44) and Grant Gabriel (18th, 17:46).
All five of Traverse City West’s scorers were among the top 26 finishers, but the Titans and their coaches were still sweating out whether they had made the cut until the final results were tallied.
It turned out they were well ahead of Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills, which had 105 points.
“They were in good position at the two (mile mark), which is exactly what we wanted to do,” said West coach Ross Deye. “We figured if we were in the race at the two-mile mark, if they could just hang on, we’d get there. I’m proud of them. They worked hard all season, which is good. They’re in the best shape of the season. They deserve it.”
Nick Hirschenberger was the first Titan to cross the finish line, coming in fifth in 16:57. Jimmy Seekamp took 13th (17:31.27), Nick Amato was 14th (17:31.96), Joe Hughes took 22nd (17:50) and Paul Sullivan was 26th (18:07).
Deye said the Titans fifth runner will be key for next week’s state finals.
“That’s what we have one week to work on,” he said.
Dotterrer said the Trojans are ready to go back to work, a message echoed by Lober.
“Our goal is the state meet,” said Lober. “Today is just another step toward that.”