2016-10-06 / Sports

Lady Eagles fly past competition at Veronica Valley Park

Grant shatters record
By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

ST. MARY junior Andrew Tondreau strides through a section of the cross country course set up at Veronica Valley Park on Saturday. 
Photo: Paula Korson ST. MARY junior Andrew Tondreau strides through a section of the cross country course set up at Veronica Valley Park on Saturday. Photo: Paula Korson Hanna Grant and her St. Mary teammates took full advantage of home-course advantage last weekend while hosting a cross country race at a former Leelanau County golf course.

Grant paced the pack with a program-record time of 19:56 on Saturday as the Lady Eagles won the first-ever St. Mary Invitational held at Veronica Valley Park in Lake Leelanau.

“It’s a perfect place to run a cross country meet,” said coach Nick Papes, who designed the course. “Veronica Valley has a rich tradition. It was handcrafted by some of the great people that live in this community and a lot of people don’t understand what’s there.”

Forty-two of 57 athletes from Grand Traverse Academy, Leland, North Trails, St. Mary and Suttons Bay splashed their way to season records or personal records.

Grant, who broke her cousin’s record last week at the Central Lake Invitational, was no exception. The first-year cross country runner added to an already impressive junior campaign by trimming more than 49 seconds off her previous mark, becoming the first county runner to win an event this fall.

“I came in thinking I’d be getting in shape for basketball,” Grant said. “I ended up being pretty good I guess.

“I’m surprising myself.”

Three team scores were recorded on the girls side. The Lady Eagles finished with 29 points, besting Grand Traverse Academy (44) and Suttons Bay (52).

St. Mary junior Lexi Schaub hit a PR and finished fourth (21:53) behind Grant and a pair of Grand Traverse Academy runners in a field of 22.

The next five to cross were Leelanau County girls: Suttons Bay senior Shantel Francis (22:27), Suttons Bay senior Kelsey Pease (22:35), St. Mary freshman Mary MacDonald (23:35), St. Mary junior Nicole Wittman (24:10.2) and St. Mary sophomore Grace McKillip (24:10.6). Wittman’s mark was good enough for a PR.

“There was such a great turnout,” Papes said. “Everyone on the team just about PRd or ran a season record.

“There was just a different kind of energy here, similar to the first race of the season or regionals.”

North Trails finished first on the boys side with 31 points, outpacing Grand Traverse Academy (39), St. Mary (63) and Suttons Bay (99).

The top three boys finishers hit PRs, including the runner-up from St. Mary, junior Avery Kohler. St. Mary senior Ryan Popp (19:23) and freshman Nathan Smith (19:34) also hit PRs in a field of 35, crossing seventh and 12th.

Leland sophomore Zach Fortuna was next to cross among county runners, finishing 15th (19:55). Suttons Bay sophomore Jayce Konopka was on Fortuna’s heels, hitting a PR and finishing 17th (19:58). Leland junior Cormac Rasey rounded out the list of Leelanau’s top-20 finishers in 19th place (20:14).

“It was really fun to run close to home. The course was a nice one,” Leland coach Kat Murphy said. “Times for my kids were a little slow, I think because the wet weather made it a little soft. I was happy to see Zach medal in 15th place. Overall, we were pretty consistent. I was really excited about the performance from (Leland’s middle school girls). I can’t wait to work with those eighth graders.”

Elementary and middle school runners took center stage after the varsity athletes got things started at 9 a.m.

Suttons Bay coach Jeremy Fenske said the weather “started out perfect, overcast around 55-60 degrees,” before rain started to fall later in the day.

Papes said it was “an exceptional day” for cross country and expects to see more teams participate in the future.

“It really embodies the culture of Leelanau County,” he said. “Leelanau County is one of the healthiest counties in Michigan and I can’t think of a better place than the heart of Leelanau to celebrate what we do here.”

Glen Lake will join Leland, St. Mary and Suttons Bay runners today at the Mesick Invitational.

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