On a day that started out with a long, early morning bus ride in heavy fog, the Rockford boys cross country team made their own sunshine for Coach Andrew Martin, as they won their second consecutive invitational of the 2009 campaign on Saturday, Sept. 12. Traveling to Bath, near Lansing, the Rams joined 12 other schools in the large school division and came home with the championship trophy as they scored 55 points, outdistancing a very strong Saline team by 15 points.
Running without Nick Shear, one of the team’s captains and top runners, the Rams showed their overall team depth, placing all five of their scorers in the top 23 racers. Leading the way for Rockford was senior Grant Gunneson, followed closely by junior Spencer Gerber. Gunneson’s time of 16:34 was good enough for fifth place. Both running 16:41, Gerber nailed down sixth place while senior teammate Drake Veitenheimer edged in closely for eighth.
The story of the day may have been the next runner to score for the Rams, as junior Steven Ek ran a 16:57, which placed him 13th and definitely gave the Rams the step-up performance that was needed to win the meet.
Rounding out the scoring for Coach Martin’s squad was up-and-coming freshman Drew Woznick, who ran a very solid 17:22. The final two varsity runners for the Rams, and a further testament to the overall team depth, were 400-meter track-and-field convert Ryan Romain and Devon Liu, who ran 17:24 and 17:25 respectively in finishing 26th and 27th overall in the 91-runner field.
When asked to explain the winning performance of his team, Coach Martin said, “These boys deserved to bring home the trophy. On Thursday we ran the guys on their toughest hill workout of the season and some thought they might have some weary legs, but they showed that all their efforts in practice translated very well in the race results today.”
In the junior varsity race, the Rams triumphed once again, scoring an almost perfect 17 points (15 is perfect) while beating second-place Saline by 21 points. All five scorers for Rockford in the JV portion of the invitational broke the 18-minute barrier. First-place finisher Evan Bruin led the way, running a 17:40 for the 5K distance. Bruin was followed across the finish line by Taylor Swihart, Connor Jewell, Brett Johnson and Tim Newberger as the developing Rams ran first, second, third, fifth and sixth. The Rams’ JV squad had a wonderful day, posting personal best times for nearly all of the team’s 40 runners.
The Rams’ varsity team next races at the Spartan Invitational at Michigan State University on Friday, Sept. 18, at 1 p.m., while the rest of the squad competes at the Sparta Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 19, at Sparta beginning at 8 a.m.