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Jackson Prep & Early College runner Daniel Casey earned all-state honors at the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 4 state cross country finals at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday.  Photo by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.

By Jeff Steers
JTV Sports

Jackson Prep & Early College runner Daniel Casey proclaimed himself as the king of the first mile at local cross country meets.

Unfortunately for the JPEC runner, there are 3.1 miles in a standard high school cross country event.

A little coaching taught him the value of pace.

That paid off on Saturday as Casey finished 23rd at the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 4 state cross country finals at Michigan International Speedway.

He finished the 5K course in 17 minutes, 33 seconds, becoming the school’s first all-state athlete.

The top 30 runners in each division earn all-state honors.

A year ago, Casey finished 65th at the state meet. He ran nearly 30 seconds faster on Saturday during a warm and breezy day at MIS.

“We came up with a strategy to start out slow and catch runners in the end,” Casey said. “If you ran smart today, you could take advantage of that (temperatures in the 70s).”

Casey said he tended to burn out in races due to poor race strategies. He changed that on Saturday with a smart race.

“The first three years I always went out fast in the first mile and burned myself out,” Casey admitted. “I wish I would have listened to my coaches a little more.

“I remedied that today.”

Becoming the school’s first all-state athlete is an honor for Casey.

“It means the world to me … it is an honor to be the first to earn all-state honors,” Casey said.

Casey said he spent the whole race concentrating on strategy. This is the fourth consecutive year he has competed at the state meet.

“I still get nervous at the start line because it is intimidating to run against all of these runners with great times,” Casey said. “I had to turn off my brain and think about my race strategy.”

He would like to continue to run in college. His high school coach – Serafin Llerena – also coaches at Jackson College.

“It would be nice to compete in cross country at a college,” Casey said.

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