By James Gensterblum / Daily News Correspondent
The Hillsdale Hornets boys Cross Country team has made quite a reputation for themselves over the last several years at the MHSAA Division 3 state finals.
The Hornets, led by stellar individual runners and strong team efforts, have made a regular home on Division 3’s top ten list of teams.
This Saturday was no different, as excellent performances from two seniors helped Hillsdale to take home third place in an extremely competitive race.
Sebastian Reisch took home seventh place overall with a time of 16:17 and Lyle Kafer finished just behind him in eighth (16:24), to lead the way for the Hornets.
“It was a very solid day overall for our team,” said Hillsdale coach Pat Pastula. “All of our kids left it all out there on the course, and it was great to see our two seniors turn in excellent performances in their final meets. Sebastian has never gotten an all-state honor in cross country before this year and to see him finally get rewarded for his effort is a great thing. Lyle’s improvement over the course of the year was great to watch as well. Overall, I’m happy.”
Kafer was 20th a year ago and Reisch was 51st overall, and their improvement helped Hillsdale hold off a furious challenge from Kent City for the number three position. Benzie Central won the meet and Calvin Christian was second.
“Everyone on this team is aware of the accomplishments of the runners that came before us,” Reisch said. “It’s the accomplishments of guys like Josh Perrin, R.P. White, and Joe McAvoy that drive us all to compete. No one wants to be the team where that tradition ends.”
“All of those great runners have taught us a lot of lessons,” Kafer added. “The most important one is just to be yourself as a runner. I’m not Josh Perrin or R.P. White, I have to be myself when I go out there. That’s helped to ease some of the pressure that you have on you as an athlete.”
Mike Borton (89th, 17:35), Elijah Batchelor (99th 17:39), and Brian Terry (101st 17:40) rounded out the scoring runners for Hillsdale.
On the girls side, Hillsdale High managed an 18th place finish as a team. Leading the way for the Hornets was Hilary Kast, who overcame a nagging injury to finish 38th overall (20:16). Freshmen Kasey Caulkins (126th, 21:40) and Courtney Hinkley (147th, 22:11) also had strong performances for Hillsdale.
In the Division 4 race, area team qualifier Hillsdale Academy was undone by illness.
Despite qualifying as a team in both the girls and the boys race, the Colts placed in neither as they were missing too many runners to score as a team.
“We were hit extremely hard by the flu bug,” said Hillsdale Academy A.D. Mike Roberts when asked to comment. “Many of our runners were too ill to even get out of bed to come here, and a couple that did run weren’t completely healthy either. It’s a shame that after a very good season of work put in by Coach (Katy) Caspar and our runners that they didn’t get to end it at the state meet, but we have to think of their health too.
Andrew Alvarez led the Colts on the boys side with an 18:24, finishing in 104th place, and Emily Brady finished 147th on the girls’ side (23:05).
Hudson’s boys team, on the other, hand did well in the Division 4 race, placing 11th overall. They were led by senior Steve Tennis, who finished 10th (16:47).
Individually the area had several strong finishes but no all-staters. The closest was Pittsford’s Brent Smith, who finished another solid season just two spots out of medaling in 32nd place (17:20).
Next to cross the line were a pair of Reading runners, Damien Davenport (40th, 17:28) and Austin Wigent (46th 17:37). Both ran in the state meet last season and significantly improved their final place this season.
Senior Blake Fix also finished his stellar Cross Country career at Waldron just outside of all-state honors, coming in 84th place overall (18:12).
On the girls side it was two Pittsford runners that led the way for the county. Morgan McFaul finished 62nd overall (21:29) and senior Elainee Poling took 112th (22:30) to finish as the top Hillsdale County runners in D4.
Waldron also had a decent showing, with runners Taylor Price (131st, 22:51) and Jennifer Doriot (144th 23:03) finishing in strong fashion.
Jonesville runner Rachel Mayhew was the only individual runner from Hillsdale County to finish in the girls race, taking 96th (21:10).