By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Concord High School can no longer be referred to as just the place where boys go to become great cross country runners – it is now a place where young men go to become champions.
Eight months after winning the school’s seventh boys cross country state title, the Yellow Jackets hoisted the school’s first track and field championship trophy Saturday after edging Pewamo-Westphalia by three points in dramatic fashion at the Division 4 state meet at Zeeland.
Needing at least a third-place finish in the 1,600-meter relay to make history, the team of Ian Miller, Josh Saldana, Kyle Grimes and Kyle Stacks finished a close second to give Concord 52 points to Pewamo-Westphalia’s 49.
“It’s amazing. These guys have worked so hard for four years, especially the seniors,” Concord coach Joyce Grimes said. “It’s not just the distance runners. We have a few more guys who have put it together, a few more sprinters and some new guys who have come out and helped the team.”
The Yellow Jackets also earned their first three individual state titles since 1986.
Miller won the 400 with a second-half surge that helped him win in 49.49 seconds, and Stacks was victorious in the 1,600 in 4:19.44 after going from third to first on the final lap.
But it may have been Spencer Nousain’s improbable win in the 3,200 that ended up being the most important.
Nousain came into the meet after posting a time nearly 10 seconds slower than Stacks at regionals, but a little strategy went a long way Saturday.
Joyce Grimes said she noticed Nousain looked tired after running the 3,200 relay, so she decided to pull him from the 800 competition.
“I just thought, ‘You know what, there’s a shot he won’t even (place for points) in the 800 and if he concentrated on the 2-mile we could pick up the points we needed,’ ” Grimes said.
Nousain had no qualms about the decision, and after sitting back for most of the race he used his extra burst of energy on the final corner of the 3,200 to cross the line first in 9:39.09. Stacks placed sixth.
“I think not doing the 800 gave me that extra boost at the end,” Nousain said.
The Yellow Jackets won the championship despite not scoring in field events.
Nousain said having teammates who were encouraging each other all season led to this, and Grimes said her three assistant coaches made all the difference from 2009 to 2010.
Stacks said hard work was an important factor, but he’s learned it’s all right to have a little fun in the process.
“I think for a lot of teams that’s good to have … to come out good you have to have a good bond so you can use that bond to come together and keep pushing each other,” he said.