Local teams prepare for regional at Manistee National Invite

Harriers from Manistee, Brethren and Bear Lake start Saturday’s boys varsity race at the annual Manistee National Invitational. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

Harriers from Manistee, Brethren and Bear Lake start Saturday’s boys varsity race at the annual Manistee National Invitational. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Not only one of the area’s largest annual cross country events, the Manistee National Invitational serves as a perfect warmup for high school teams heading into regional competition.

On Saturday, harriers from Manistee, Bear Lake and Brethren braved the wet, windy and cold conditions to complete their final races before the postseason begins this upcoming Saturday.

The Bear Lake boys placed third of six teams in the invite’s “small school” division, scoring 89 points, short of winner Grandville Calvin Christian (17) and runner-up Lake Leelanau St. Mary (74). Leroy Pine River was fourth with 94, followed by Maple City Glen Lake (120) and Suttons Bay (163).

“We were really happy with how it went, because over the course of the season we had kind of plateaued,” said Bear Lake coach Tony Shrum. “Our times haven’t really dropped a whole lot since the early part of the season, so the last two weeks the focus has been on trying to get those down.

“We changed up our workout routine just a little bit, did some different things just to shake it up, and it paid off pretty well this weekend. … We had PRs and season bests almost across the board.”

The Lakers were led by Hunter Bentley with a 13th-place finish in the time of 18:16.3 as teammates Jarrett Buckner (15th, 18:24.4), Luca Leffew (17th, 18:47.9), Sam Corey (23rd, 19:04.1) and Jake Griffis (31st, 19:43.4) rounded out scoring.

Trevor Eisenlohr (36th, 20:10.2) Tai Babinec (37th, 20:15.0), Bren Lopez (38th, 20:16.9) and Riccardo Girlanda (20:44.7) also finished for Bear Lake.

Bear Lake was represented by a pair of harriers in the girls race, as Hayley May finished 21st in 23:51.0 and Kalissa Swanson placed 30th in 26:37.9.

The Manistee boys placed fifth of five teams in the invite’s “large school” division, securing 116 points as Hart topped the field with 30, followed by Sparta (41), Benzie (73) and Mason County Central (111).

The Chippewa boys were led by Declan McCann who finished 12th overall in the time of 17:22.6, as teammates Caiden Cudney (20th, 17:44.2), Oscar Sachs (24th, 18:00.1), Jordan Fink (36th, 19:31.3) and Thomas Veine (37th, 19:32.0) rounded out the scoring. Manistee’s Bishop Davis (38th, 19:34.8) and Samuel Mosher (40th, 19:51.5) also finished.

Manistee’s varsity girls placed fifth of six teams on Saturday, totaling 142 points, as Hart won with 15, Benzie (49) placed second, Ludington (89) third, Sparta (98) fourth, and Mason County Central (152) sixth.

Noelle Fink paced the Chippewas with a 16th-place finish in 20:53.0 while Allie Thomas (26th, 21:47.4), Erin Dorn (34th, 22:12.7), Olivia Holtgren (36th, 22:17.8) and Kendahl Wright (40th, 23:11.5) rounded out the scoring. Olivia Smith (41st, 23:27.4) also finished.

“This is the fastest top-five boys times that this team has seen in six years,” said Manistee coach Andy Anderson. “Both the boys and girls, despite the girls not running with a full squad, showed a lot of promise. At this point in the season, they are really running fast and obviously peeking at the right time. We’re looking forward to see how far we can take it in regionals.”

While Brethren’s team isn’t large enough to post a team score, the Bobcats put in some strong individual performances in the “small school” division on Saturday. For the boys, Justin Kissling led the way with a 16th-place finish in 18:41.7 while Andrea Scarfone placed 28th in 19:25.8, Eric Grismore 35th in 20:00.1 and Eduardo Almeida de Paula 50th in 24:07.9.

Brethren’s Alexis Tracy placed 11th overall in the girls race in the time of 21:26.2.

“We were really excited with how well we ran,” said Kyle Griffin.  I was not expecting that to be a PR (personal record) sort of course. It’s a little hilly, usually a little slow, and the weather was not cooperating at all.

“But, (Kissling) broke 19 (minutes) for the first time in his career, which was awesome,” he said. “His shot at qualifying for the state finals looks a whole lot more legitimate now. … And on the girls side, Alexis is right back down to where she was at regionals last year. So, she’s hoping to take a little more off on Saturday (at the regional).”

All three teams — Manistee, Bear Lake and Brethren — will compete in their respective division’s regional meet on Saturday in Benzie.

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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