ACME — Just get to next weekend.
That was the goal for the Traverse City Central girls cross country team, which fell short of winning a regional title by seven points, but ended up finishing second to Rockford and thus qualified for the state meet for the 18th straight year at Saturday’s Division I regional at Grand Traverse Resort.
“We’re excited about next weekend,” said Central coach Lisa Taylor. “We told them it would be great fun to beat (Rockford). It would really give you confidence and see how good you really are, but the bottom line is we wanted to get to next weekend.”
Rockford came into the meet as the 15th-ranked team in the nation and were the team the Trojans were gunning for at Saturday’s meet.
The Rams showed their mettle by taking the top three places and four in the top 10. Rockford scored 27 points and Central had 34.
“I think Rockford is a really strong team,” said Taylor. “They’re a great group of girls. Their coaches are awesome to work with. They kind of remind me of my team.
“We kind of wanted to get our two top girls in between their first and second.
That was a big thing we talked about this week.
That didn’t work out, but our fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh runners ran stronger today — basically put their bodies between their sixth runner.”
Lauren Brasure led the Rams with a winning time of 18:16. Kerianne Schoff was second (19:23) and Morgan Harney was third (19:37). Morgan Benoit took seventh (19:46) and Natalie Napolillo was 14th (20:34).
Ashley Ko topped Central’s runners and led a trio of Trojan finishers, coming in fourth in 19:41. Molly Peregrine was fifth (19:42) and Graceanne Tarsa was sixth (19:45). Emmalyne Tarsa took eighth (19:50) and Jordan Mattarella was 11th (20:15).
“It was a really tough course because of the mud, but I loved running in my hometown and representing Traverse City,” said Ko. “I loved having my team here and everyone cheering for us. It just really helped. (Rockford) they’re a great team. We know they’re a really big competitor with us. We just want to do well at states and try to place well.”
A big key in Central’s ability to finish ahead of the Rams at the state meet is the spread between the first and fifth runners. While Central’s spread was only 34 seconds, Rockford’s was 2:18.
“That was the best split we’ve had all season,” said Taylor. “I’m really happy with the times, too, in the suction-cup quagmire. I think next week we’ll run some of our best times.”
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central was the third team to qualify for the state finals, scoring 101 points.
Individually, Traverse City West’s Jessica Gockley earned her way to the state meet after finishing ninth in a time of 19:58. The Titans were fifth as a team, scoring 145 points. Other West finishers included: Quinn Hall (26th, 21:20), Corinne Schrotenboer (36th, 21:45), Janese Gockley (38th, 21:51) and Emily O’Leary (40th, 22:00).