Hundreds of cross country fans lined the finishing stretch at the Fish Creek Sportsman Club last Saturday afternoon, Oct. 31. Standing shoulder to shoulder, all witnessed an outstanding performance by the Rockford boys team at the Division I regional championship. Winning the regional would assure the Rams a trip for their entire varsity team to the state championship to be held this Saturday, Nov. 7, at Michigan International Speedway.
As the defending regional champion, Rockford was not going to surprise anyone on this day by sneaking onto the award stand. In fact, Rockford let it be known in the first 1,000 meters of this 5K race that they were the team to beat. Rockford totaled 41 points on the surprisingly dry Fish Creek course, outdistancing second-place Okemos by 38 points. Okemos and the third-place team, Kenowa Hills, will join Rockford at the state championships in Brooklyn, Mich. next week.
Leading Rockford’s contingent from the start was senior Grant Gunneson. He was not alone near the front of the race, as the Rams ran one of their tightest packs of the season. Gunneson finished fifth overall with the next four Rockford runners all close behind, finishing in the top 12. Senior Drake Veitenheimer was seventh, senior Nick Shear was eighth, junior Spencer Gerber was ninth, and junior Steven Ek was 12th.
“This was a big day for both of us,” said Rockford boys coach Andy Martin, of the Rams’ two regional championships. “The girls were astounding today, and the boys took some of that energy and ran with it.”
Rockford was so strong on the day that their sixth-place runner, Devon Liu, also ran his way on to the All Regional team. Although not scoring for the team—only the top five runners for each school count toward the team score—Liu ran a personal record 16:53, which secured 15th place and the last individual medal awarded.
Martin commented, “It is not very often that a sixth-place runner for a team can make an All Regional team. I am really proud of all of our guys.”
Noting their performance as a team, Martin stated, “We had a one-through-seven time spread of 40 seconds. The one-through-five scoring squad was a mere 15-second spread. That’s what wins meets.”
Grant Gunneson—fifth, 16:30.7; All Regional
Drake Veitenheimer—seventh, 16:37.5; All Regional
Nick Shear—eighth, 16:38.9; All Regional
Spencer Gerber—ninth, 16:39.8; All Regional
Steven Ek—12th, 16:45.9; All Regional
Devon Liu—15th, 16:53.6; All Regional
Drew Woznik—22nd, 17:11.7