By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI
---- — ACME — Cedar Springs was at the head of the pack at Saturday’s Division II cross country regional at Grand Traverse Resort.
The Redhawks had the individual winners from the boys and girls races as juniors Kenzie Weiler and Austin Sargent took top honors on a windy, cold and muddy day.
Weiler ran a time of 18:51 to capture the girls race by 16 seconds over Remus Chippewa Hills’ Megan O’Neil (19:07), while Sargent ran a 16:31 for a convincing win in the boys race. Whitehall’s Keaton Smith was second (17:08).
Both regional champions are making a return trip to the state finals. Weiler is trying to get over the hump after finishing as the Division II runner up the past two years. As a sophomore Sargent was 27th last year.
“I think it went really well. I finally felt like I ran the race I was capable of and my teammates really stepped it up,” said Weiler. “A lot of girls really stepped it up today, so that was pretty awesome.”
Weiler’s squad will join her at the finals after coming in second. Sparta was first with 65 points, followed by the Redhawks with 102 points and Whitehall with 125.
Cedar Springs didn’t have as much success in the boys race, finishing ninth. Whitehall won the meet with 60, Ludington was second (74) and Petoskey third (97).
“It feels really good,” Sargent said of winning the regional title. “You fight all season long to get to a point like this. It’s just good to finish strong and get a good start for the state meet. I just tried to stay strong in the beginning with the top pack and just fight to the edn, get a spot for state and have my name up there.”
Because of the conditions of the course, Weiler said it wasn’t nearly her best time of the season as she was close to a minute behind her personal best.
“I think it was more about place than time today,” she said. “I wasn’t overconfident, but I was trying to be confident in myself. I knew I was capable of (winning) it. I just had to be mentally strong.”
Petoskey’s top finisher in the boys race was Thomas VanSlembrouck, who took 11th in 17:55.95. Max Meyerson was 14th for the Northmen (17:59), with Mark Smith taking 17th (18:18), Jacob Kromm 25th (18:31.65) and Quentin Fettig 30th (18:36.95).
Other local individual qualifiers for the state meet for the boys included Gaylord’s Sterling McPherson (fifth, 17:39.76) and Josh Green (seventh, 17:49), and Cadillac’s Phillip Merrell (sixth, 17:44) and Trevor Thiebaut (10th, 17:55.95).
Other local individual qualifiers for the state meet for the girls included Petoskey’s Lily Cesario (sixth, 20:39.06), Gaylord’s Alexis Smith (ninth, 20:50) and Cheboygan’s Mandy Paull (10th, 20:56).