BROOKLYN, Mich. — Wire to wire.
Benzie Central backed up the No. 1 cross country state ranking it held all season with a Division 3 boys state championship Saturday.
“It made us realize that we were a target,” said junior Kyle Bailey, who led the Huskies with a 14th-place finish to earn all-state honors. “So we had to keep doing our best and keep trying. I think it really helped us out.”
Benzie also took second in girls.
“It’s just a whole community effort,” said Benzie coach Traci Kelly, who guides the team along with her husband, Asa. “Everybody gets the paper Sunday morning each week to see how the kids are doing. We’re constantly getting emails and texts and Facebook messages. It was an amazing day all around.”
Four area runners placed in the top 10, including runner-up Amber Way of Charlevoix in the girls race with a time of 18:04.2.
Kingsley junior Jake Keena took sixth in the boys race with a 16:10.9 time. Manistee’s Annie Fuller and Ashley Lindeman were fourth and seventh, respectively, in 18:51.4 and 18:56.6.
The Benzie boys were led by Bailey (16:39.4) in 14th, Brayden Huddleston (16:41.5) in 17th, Max Graft (16:48.1) in 19th, Ismael Halaweh (17:07.9) in 30th and Jake Williams (17:08.3) in 31st.
Both Bailey and Huddleston earned all-state honors, while Gaft was one spot off all-state. He had missed three days of school this week with a virus.
“If he wouldn’t have been sick, he’d have been a lock (for all-state),” Asa Kelly said.
Huddleston was the fastest freshman in Divisions 2-4.
The conditions were a big factor.
After a rainy week, the course was wet and muddy. Coincidentally, those are the exact same conditions the Huskies have run in the last two weekends.
“I think it helped a lot, just knowing that this wasn’t a course for time,” Bailey said. “It was more for place. The footing was similar. We just kind of knew what we were looking at going into the race.”