Ram harriers win own invitational

Coming in first at their own invitational was the Rockford boys cross country team of (l–r) Andrew Pitcher, Drew Woznick, Mark Cruikshank, Austin Benoit, Connor Jewell, Steven Ek, Spencer Gerber, Grant Gunneson, Drake Veitenheimer, Nick Shear, along with Coach Andrew Martin.

Coming in first at their own invitational was the Rockford boys cross country team of (l–r) Andrew Pitcher, Drew Woznick, Mark Cruikshank, Austin Benoit, Connor Jewell, Steven Ek, Spencer Gerber, Grant Gunneson, Drake Veitenheimer, Nick Shear, along with Coach Andrew Martin.

On an unseasonably cool and gray day, the Rockford boys cross-country team opened their 2009 season with a dominant performance in winning the Third Annual Rockford Cross Country Invitational. Although the team acted as gracious hosts to the seven schools attending the meet, on the scoreboard the Ram harriers were anything but kind, as Rockford won the meet with a score of 23 points. Second-place Forest Hills Central scored 67 points.

Scoring at the Rockford Invitational is unique to this meet. Five boys run in the 11/12 varsity upperclassman race and five boys run in the 9/10 varsity underclassman race, with the top three boys from each school scoring in each race. The final scores are determined by adding together the six scoring runners from each school. Rockford runners were second, third and fifth in the upperclassman race and first, third and ninth in the underclassman race.

Rockford established dominance from the opening gun in the upperclassman race as senior co-captain Grant Gunneson and junior Spencer Gerber pushed the pace. They were joined in the small lead pack by a single runner, Jeff Sattler of Byron Center. Senior co-captains Nick Shear and Drake Veitenheimer were in the trailing pack but close behind. Gunneson held the lead for most of the first two miles. However, on a long uphill with about 1,200 meters to go, Sattler made a bold move and captured the lead. Sattler did not relinquish the lead, as Gunneson finished second at 16:53 to Sattler’s 16:37. Gerber was third at 17:02, with Veitenheimer completing the scoring for the Rams in this race, finishing fifth in 17:10.

In the underclassman race, freshman Drew Woznick easily outdistanced the field, running 17:23, as he pulled away from a very determined Middleville runner at the two-mile mark. Rounding out the scoring in the underclassman race for the Rams was third-place finisher sophomore Connor Jewell at 18:15, followed by ninth-place freshman Austin Benoit, who ran 18:57.

The Rams later swarmed the field as 37 Ram runners lined up for the start of the junior varsity race. In the JV race, which wrapped up the competition, the Rams placed the most runners in the top 10 with the fastest time being turned in by second-place finisher, senior Ryan Romain.

Coach Andrew Martin, back for his sixth season at his alma mater, said, “We have great balance. We have a real solid group of upperclassmen, one outstanding freshman, and a host of newcomers looking to shine.”

Rockford is idle until Saturday, Sept. 12 when they travel to the Bath Invitational near Lansing.

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