The race begins

COMING AROUND THE BEND: Big Rapids’ Brent Heberling comes down to the finish during Tuesday’s Chippewa Hills cross country invitational. (Pioneer photo/Bob Allan)

REMUS — Chippewa Hills’ Megan O’Neil knew the competition was going to be good heading into the first cross country invitational of the season.

That is why the junior focused on the first mile of the race.

O’Neil went out hard, leading the pace of 15 teams.

By the time the first mile came around, she was in a pack of three or four runners.

Though she placed third overall in a time of 19:01, O’Neil was pleased with her first meet of the year at the Chippewa Hills Invitational.

“I was thinking, focus on the first mile because that’s where I fall apart,” O’Neil said after guiding the Warriors to a third place showing. “Now, I have to work on the rest of the race.”

The Warriors placed third overall in the Blue Division with 71 points, with Cedar Springs leading the way with 25 points. Big Rapids and Reed City did not field a complete girls team. Pine River placed fifth in the Red Division of the girls meet.

The Red Hawks also took the top spot in the Blue Division boys race with 26 points. The Cardinals were fourth overall with 116 points, while Chippewa Hills placed sixth with 157 points. In the Red Division, Pine River was fourth with 84 points, trailing Clare, which won the division with 59 points.

Morley Stanwood did not field a complete team in either race.

It was the competition that really excited O’Neil the most. Cedar Springs’ Kenzie Weiler won the race in 18:45, while Ashley Montgomery of Mount Pleasant was second in 18:56.

Weiler was second overall a year ago in the Division 2 state final at Michigan International Speedway, while sister, Katie was sixth.

“It is really good to have someone to chase and beside you than running by yourself and nobody pushing you,” O’Neil said. “Now, I have to focus on all of the races and all of the workouts and try to get a couple of seconds faster. If I do that every race, I’ll be great at the end of the year.”

Chippewa Hills cross country coach Alex VanderVeen said running against good competition, even for the first meet of the year, is good for the team. That is why he liked what he heard from O’Neil and knows she and both the boys and girls team will be in good shape for the rest of the season.

“It’s true in track, cross country and all sports, (competition) makes you better,” he said. “You reset what you think good is — we saw that in the Olympics. If kids think they are good, they are settling, so they have to be beat every once in awhile.”

Big Rapids coach Chase Gibson used the invitational more as a training meet than a competitive meet. He sat out a couple of runners, had a couple missing due to injury and was focusing his attention to Saturday’s meet at Benzie Central.

That meet Saturday is where the Cardinals will run for the regional at the end of the year.

That doesn’t mean Tuesday’s meet didn’t serve a purpose for Gibson and Big Rapids.

“This race is always good to see where we are in terms of fitness,” he said. “It gives us a good outlook for the rest of the season.”

Visit the photo gallery to see more photos from the invitational.

Boys results

Blue Division

1. Cedar Springs 26; 2. Freeland 43; 3. Farwell 96; 4. Big Rapids 116; 5. Greenville 123; 6. Chippewa Hills 157; 7. Central Montcalm 174; 8. Gladwin 217.

Big Rapids: 10. Brent Heberling 18:26; 18. Ben Schaffer 19:55; 25. Hunter Jacobs 20:30; 26. Ethan Goodman 20:34; 37. Noah Stauffer 22:10; 51. Brice Johanson 27:49; 52. Aiden Johanson 28:27.

Chippewa Hills:13. Chris Oates 18:42; 31. Charles Piatt 21:17; 32. Nick Mathis 21:17; 40. David Troup 22:42; 41. Logan St. John 22:44; 43. Matt Mathis 22:54; 45. Tyler Parker 23:12.

Reed City: Chad Zagacki 17:57; Matt McGahey 21:36; Drake Walker 21:48; Kris Kellogg 22:05.


Red Division

1. Clare 59; 2. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 60; 3. Beal City 74; 4. Pine River 84; 5. Beaverton 114; 6. Montabella 119; 7. McBain 158; 8. Vestaburg 217.

Pine River: 3. Trevor Holmes, 17:49; 12. Greg Schaefer 19:06; 14. Ben Rigling 19:26; 25. Elliot VanDrummel 20:44; 30. George Ronan 21:06; 38. Nick Woodman 21:58; 42. Derek Hartline 22:39.

Morley Stanwood: Caydon Weeks 20:36; Dillon Peacock 24:14; Tristin Chaffee 30:30.


Girls results

Blue Division

1. Cedar Springs 25; 2. Mount Pleasant 53; 3. Chippewa Hills 71; 4. Freeland 111; 5. Greenville 121; 6. Central Montcalm 190.

Chippewa Hills:3. Megan O’Neil 19:01; 6. Emily Starck 20:50; 14. Kiley Schafer 23:16; 23. Erin Drouillard 24:30; 25. Larissa Umbleby 25:18; 27. Courtney Dennis 25:34; 29. Emonee Anderson 25:48.

Big Rapids: Chloe Kinnally 21:46; Kayla Chamberlain 25:55; Katie King 27:28; Maddie Zadvinskis 28:48

Reed City: McKenzie Cornelius 25:24; Marie Kinsey 33:23; Mariah Cowsert 42:22.


Red Division

1. Beal City 47; 2. Clare 53; 3. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 56; 4. Montabella 90; 5. Pine River 122; 6. McBain 131.

Pine River: 11. Devyn Powell 22:42; 26. Jasmine Blackrick 26:32; 27. Julia Lucas 26:40; 28. Alysaa Geer 26:54; 30. Zyporia Orange-Moored 27:44; 34. Jessica Stonto 29:09; 35. Rachel Hartline 29:54.

Morley Stanwood: Kristen Cranney 25:17; Eliza McGowan-Stinski 30:19;

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