Ram runners not halted by ailments

Rockford’s state-ranked boys cross country team went into the Portage Invitational—one of the largest invitationals in the Midwest—with a group of varsity runners who were coping with a variety of physical ailments. Six of the top seven runners had either sustained injuries or were fighting off upper respiratory congestion but still toed the line in this much anticipated race. Even Coach Martin was suffering from illness.

When asked to assess his team’s chances, Coach Martin said, “We are pretty banged up so we will just have to see how we do today. Then we’ll try to get healthy.”

The Rams showed their determination, dedication and toughness as the team finished sixth out of 41 schools in Division I, besting all other Grand Rapids area teams. As individual medals are awarded to the top 50 runners, Rockford placed three of their top five in the top 50, and Rockford’s number four runner finished in 53rd place, just missing out on the medal stand.

Three senior co-captains led the charge for the Rams. Running first was Nick Shear who finished 27th overall with a time of 16:26. Second for the Rams was Drake Veitenheimer in 16:35, and rounding out the medalists was Grant Gunneson also in 16:35.

In the boys Division I junior varsity meet, Rockford’s top four ran in a very tight pack. The strategy appeared to pay dividends as they finished in 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th places in a very crowded field of 411 runners.

Finishing as the number-one JV runner for Rockford was senior Taylor Swihart with a time of 17:30, followed very rapidly by junior Jake Naessens also in 17:30. These two were followed closely by Kyle Alberta and Connor Jewell, both finishing in 17:34. Rounding out the scoring for Rockford was Evan Bruin with a time of 17:38, good enough for 22nd place overall. Also running well was freshman Austin Benoit who ran 17:38, finishing in 23rd place in the JV race. Bigger news for Benoit was that his 17:38 bested all of the other 112 freshman runners in the JV field.

Rockford is finally running at home this week Wednesday as they welcome Jenison and Hudsonville to Meadowridge Elementary School for the final home meet of the season. Rockford is trying to stay unbeaten in dual meets this season and clinching at least a share of the OK Red conference championship. Additionally, Rockford is honoring the senior runners Wednesday as it is the annual Senior Night race.

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