By CHRIS CRUICKSHANK The Rockford High Men’s Cross Country team split their squad to compete in both Friday’s Spartan Invitational and Saturday’s Sparta Invitational. The weather at both events was awesome and so were the Rams! In the Spartan Invitational Elite Division, the Rams squared off against the best teams in the State and came away with a very respectable third place finish. Four Rams finished the 5 K course under the 17:00 mark, led by Austin Benoit, who recorded a personal record time of 16:05. Benoit finished in 19th place, followed by Drew Woznick in 20th place, Grant Amon and Chris Coles. Other Rams supporting the team effort were Isaac Harding, Tyler Amon and Mark Cruickshank. At the Sparta Invitational the remainder of the Rams won the Blue Division Varsity and Reserve Races. In the varsity race, Rockford was led by Caleb Cuneo who finished in third place with a time of 17:21. Cuneo was followed by Mitch Switzer in 6th place, Grant Gabriel in 14th place and Grayson Harding in18th place. The Rams dominated the JV race, taking the top four places. The Rams were led by Brad Fischer with a time of 18:21, followed by Spenser Keating in 2nd, Matt Albano in 3rd, and Ben Parcell in 4th. Also competing well were fellow Rams Paul Burke, Kirk Dickson, Jack Wyatt and Jacob Day. This Tuesday the Rams will run at Johnson Park, and on Saturday Rockford will compete at the Cougar-Falcon Invitational to be held at Calvin College’s Gainey Complex.
by RANDY GREGORY The girls track team from Rockford stayed firmly atop the OK Red standings with a pair of dominant wins last week. The Rams began the week by topping Grandville 89-48 on Tuesday, April 24, and followed that up by trouncing Hudsonville 99-38 on Thursday, April 26. They then ventured to East Lansing on Friday, April 27, to take part in the Spartan Classic at Michigan State University. The defending state champs from Grosse Pointe South were there and it gave Rockford a chance to see how they matched up with them this year. Grosse Pointe South captured the title, but the Rams were fairly close behind and knew it could have been much closer save for one thing. “We left some points out there where we knew we should have scored,” said Rockford Coach Randy VanderVeen. “Grosse Pointe South has a lot of the team back from last year and added a couple of talented transfers. They will definitely be the favorites again, but I think we were able to see the things we need to improve on and some of their weaknesses that may enable us to keep it in the ball park the next time around.” Courtney Klaweiter won the 100-meter dash for the Rams and also ran a leg of both the 4×100- and 4×200-meter relays that took first place. Rachel Raab was a double individual winner for Rockford as she took the shot put at 38’11” and the discus at 112′. Sammy Cuneo, Elise Schierbeek and Allison Kelley were the other three members of the winning 4×100 and 4×200 relay teams. Katie DeHaan was second in the pole vault at 10’6″. The 4×800 relay team of Jane Hawks, Morgan Harney, Taylor Manett and Kerianne Schoff placed second as well as the 4×400 quartet of Maria Anel, Olivia Gilbert, DeHaan and Klaweiter. Manett was second in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. Anel was also second in the open 400-meter race. “Things are shaping up pretty nicely for us as a team so far,” said VanderVeen. “The girls are a little tired after all of the races we ran last week, but that happens occasionally when you have to cram so many conference meets into such a short window. […]
In a regional championship that featured three ranked teams in the state in addition to an honorable mention team, a close competition was brewing this close to Halloween, especially with state final qualification implications on the line. With the sixth-ranked Grand Haven Bucs, seventh-ranked Rockford Rams, eighth-ranked Hudsonville Eagles and Honorable Mention Grandville Bulldogs pushing it to the limits over the Allendale 3.1-mile course, when the dust settled a mere three-point gap remained between the top three, each of which qualified for the state championships. Hudsonville edged out a victory with 57 points to Rockford’s 59 and Grand Haven’s 60. Grandville closed in a distant fourth with 105. “This race was a lot of fun to be a part of. It was super competitive and close and our girls ran great. You never enjoy losing, but being a part of it was unforgettable,” stated Rockford Coach Ben Watson. Leading the Rams out front was senior Taylor Manett, who claimed the individual regional championship in posting a course record time of 17:29.7, the second best time of her life and season. Finishing second for the Lady Rams in seventh place and racing a season best time of nearly 30 seconds in 18:48 was senior Jane Hawks. The next three Lady Rams, each of whom is an underclassman, had phenomenal days in running lifetime bests. Sophomore Morgan Harney claimed 16th with freshmen Kerianne Schoff and Natalie Napolillo in 17th and 18th, in times of 19:34, 19:37 and 19:39 respectively. “These five girls really got the job done for us today. In recent weeks Hawks, Harney, Schoff and Napolillo have come on like gangbusters and each have watched their best times drop substantially. Where we had been losing badly to these other teams, because of these girls’ hard work and therefore improvement, now we know we can race right with them and even beat them,” said Coach Watson. Finishing up the team performance for the Lady Rams was sophomore Lauren Brasure with a time of 20:17 and Maegan Roach in a time of 20:36. The Lady Rams will compete this coming Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Division I racing is in the afternoon with the Lady Rams racing at 2:00 p.m.
In what is best categorized as improbable, the women’s cross-country team of Rockford won the OK Red conference championship race by defeating previously unbeaten Hudsonville and outdistancing second-place Grand Haven by 18 points. The Rams finished with 44 points to Grand Haven’s 62 and Hudsonville’s 72. The Rams, who went into the championship race in third place due to defeats at the hands of both the Bucs and Eagles, finished in a three-way tie for the overall conference championship by defeating both in the championship race. “We certainly were not the favorites to win today,” said the Rams’ Head Coach Ben Watson. “But that is why you run the race.” Senior Taylor Manett claimed the individual conference crown by easily outpacing the second-place finisher by 43 seconds. Her winning time of 18:20 was the only finisher under 19:00. Fellow senior Jane Hawks claimed fourth place overall with a time of 19:35. Joining the two seniors in earning All Conference honors was sophomore Morgan Harney with a ninth-place finish with a time of 20:00. Finishing the scoring for the Rams were freshman Kerianne Schoff and Natalie Napolillo in 13th and 17th place respectively in times of 20:11 and 20:31. Those places earned the freshman Honorable Mention All Conference honors. “Our top five all had great races. This is our third time racing at Johnson Park, and each one of them ran their fastest on this course today. It is very rewarding to see the girls enjoy such a great team accomplishment after putting in so much hard work,” said Coach Watson. Concluding the varsity race for the Lady Rams was Maegan Roach and Lauren Brasure in 27th and 35th with times of 21:06 and 21:36. This victory for the Rams will put a target on their backs heading into next weekend’s regional championship, where Rockford will once again face Grand Haven and Hudsonville. “We certainly surprised some teams today by racing so well, but that won’t be the case next time around. We will have to bring our best again in order to win the regional,” said Coach Watson.
The Lady Rams of Rockford claimed the regional championship in cross country this past weekend for the second year in a row. Currently ranked number two in the state, the Lady Rams took home the victory over number-three-ranked Traverse City Central (TCC) and number-one-ranked Grand Haven in addition to the other 12 teams in the field. The Rams posted a score of 44 to outdistance the TCC Trojans, who scored 55, and the Grand Haven Buccaneers, who scored 63. “We ran really well today,” stated Rockford’s Coach Ben Watson. “We have lost to Grand Haven four times this year, but the girls remained confident in their training and their talents and it paid off today. This victory is really gratifying.” The Lady Rams were powered by a third-fourth-fifth finish from Taylor Manett, Catie Rietsema and Jane Hawks, who posted times of 19:00, 19:09 and 19:21 respectively. Sawyer Rocheleau claimed All Regional honors along with the top three by claiming 14th place in a time of 20:01. Jordan Vickery rounded out the scoring in placing 18th with a 20:16, as Anna Bos (20th) and Allison Hazy (24th) finished the team effort in 20:20 and 20:32 respectively. “It was certainly a team victory. We lost by two points a week ago to Grand Haven and talked about how if any girl could have just passed one more opponent we could get ahead of them. Each of our seven took it upon themselves to get the job done, and it showed today by them earning the victory,” stated Watson. The Rams placed well in the open race, where Morgan Harney claimed top honors in racing a 20:20 while Sam Anderson claimed sixth in 21:11. The Rams will compete for the state championship Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Michigan International Speedway with the race time being 3:00 p.m. Rockford has placed no worse than sixth over the past 12 years with five state championships and two state runner-up finishes, including last season’s.