Reed City cross country coaches elated with teams’ performances

Reed City senior Brandon Wirth was an all-state cross country runner this season. (Pioneer photo’John Raffel)

REED CITY — Rich Saladin and his wife Susan have just finished their third season coaching Reed City’s cross country team.

It was an extremely successful season with the Coyotes boys and girls both taking fourth in the CSAA Gold division and Division 3 regional.

“We had a very successful season as a team,” Rich Saladin said. “By comparison, when we took over the program in 2016, we didn’t have enough runners on either boys or girls team to score in conference meets or the regional meet. This year, both teams finished in the top half of the conference as well as an outstanding performance at the D3 regional, placing fourth out of 14 teams. We saw constant improvement throughout the season.

“We ran at Chip Hills three on three different occasions and saw better times each outing. We ran at Benzie Central on Aug. 25 and again at the regional on Oct. 27. Everyone improved on their time from Aug. 25 and runners earned personal records and season records across the board. That’s what we strive for – improvement from Day 1 to Day 91.”

Expectations were exceeded, as far as Saladin was concerned.

“We ran multiple invitationals and both teams brought home some hardware and lots of individual medals,” Saladin said. “The boys took first at Pine River, second at Benzie, Ferris, Evart, and Manistee. The girls took second place at Ferris, Evart, and Pine River. As a group, the kids earned over 80 individual medals.

“The top three teams from the regional advance to the state championship. It was bittersweet for both teams finishing fourth. We also had some individual injuries for some of our top runners throughout the season. It’s hard for them to sit when their team is counting on them but they came back strong.”

There were some outstanding individual efforts.

“Brandon Wirth has been our top boys runner for four years and he led them again this year,” Saladin said. “He consistently broke 17 minutes and won multiple races. He was also CSAA first team all-conference and finished 10th overall while earning All-State recognition.

“Calvin Rohde was a strong No. 2 runner and earned CSAA honorable mention and also finished eighth at the regional before finishing 31st at the state meet. Noah Blythe, Jared Karns and Ryan Simmons rounded out a very strong top five for us with Noah finishing 22nd at the regional with a PR of 17:18.”

For the girls, “sophomore Abbigail Kiaunis was our lead runner for the second year in a row. She also earned first-team all-conference, finished 9th at the regional, and 38th at the state meet. She’s been to the state championship both of her years which is quite an achievement. Taylor Harrison overcame some early season injuries to earn honorable mention all-conference. She also finished 21st at the regional and has a great opportunity in 2019. Paige Lofquist was our leading freshman girl. She finished 23rd at the regional. She learned a lot this year.

“We lose two seniors from the boys team – Brandon Wirth and Ryan Simmons. Both were top five runners and will be a big loss. It’ll be hard to replace that outstanding senior leadership and work ethic. Calvin Rohde, Noah Blythe, and Jared Karns will all be seniors next year. They will all be pushing each other to finish their career on a strong note. The whole girls team comes back next year led by Abbigail Kiaunis, Taylor Harrison, Paige Lofquist, Leigha Johnson, Brooke Miller, and Abbie Johnson.

Saladin likes the future prospects.

For the boys, “it will be tough to replace Brandon Wirth but we have a couple eighth graders coming up,” Saladin said. “The boys will be competitive, and I expect some great individual accomplishments from the top three. The girls bring back everyone along with some strong eighth graders coming up. They should compete in conference and at the regional. Reed City has never sent a girls team to the state championship and that will be our goal.”

There were other honors.

“This year was a rewarding experience as a coach,” Saladin said. “We have some outstanding student athletes. Brandon Wirth and Calvin Rhode both earned Academic All-State honors. We have a great team family and the kids support each. They’ve represented Reed City with class and dignity. Our community should be extra proud of this group.”

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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