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Both Hanover-Horton High School cross country teams were happy after winning Division 3 regional cross country titles Friday at Ella Sharp Park in Jackson.  Photo by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.

By Jeff Steers
JTV Sports

Normally top-end runners have a chance to race against others with similar times once or twice a season.

Lumen Christi Catholic High School cross country runner Faith Smith gets the opportunity to face top-notch competition every day in practice.

Smith and teammate Renae Kutcha finished first and second respectively at the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 regional on Friday afternoon at Ella Sharp Park in Jackson.

The top finishes helped the Titans earn a trip to the MHSAA finals next Saturday at Michigan International Speedway with a second-place finish in the girls’ event.

The day belonged to Hanover-Horton High School who easily won the boys’ competition and edged LCCHS in the girls’ D-3 team event.

The Comets scored 40 points in the boys’ race, Jonesville finished second at 102, and Napoleon third with 122. All three teams advance to the state finals.

The top 15 runners in each race also earn medals and a trip to the state finals.

Smith finished the girls’ 5K race with a time of 19 minutes, 21 seconds. Both Kutcha and Smith pulled away from Grass Lake runner Kailee Sandoval after the two-mile mark.

“Renae is such a good running partner as we run well together,” Smith said after the win. “Mile three seems to be my best one.”

Smith, a sophomore, ran at the state meet last year at MIS.

“I think I am more prepared for the state meet because I know what is coming,” Smith said.

Kutcha finished second at 19:36, Sandoval was third with a time of 19:46, Hope Wilkes of Columbia Central finished fourth in 20:35, and Onsted runner Kara Terakedis was fifth at 20:42.

Reagan Fazekas of Hanover-Horton was the Comets’ top finisher with a sixth-place finish in 20:50. The Comets packed all five runners in the top 25 at the regional meet.

Other local state qualifiers included Lizzie Williams of Michigan Center with an 11th-place finish in 21:12; Columbia Central’s Hannah Hinkle was 12th in 21:32; and Brooklyn Slate of East Jackson grabbed the 15th and final individual qualifying spot in 21:39.

In the team competition, Hanover-Horton finished with 87 points, Lumen Christi was second at 95, and Bronson claimed the third team qualifying spot with 112. Onsted was fourth (144), Jonesville was fifth (150), Grass Lake took sixth place (159), Michigan Center placed seventh (173), Homer took eighth (196), Hillsdale finished ninth (200), Columbia Central was 10th (206), Napoleon finished 12th (257), and Springport claimed 13th place (294).

Vandercook Lake runner Andrew Frohm claimed a regional title with a comeback win against Carson Laney of Jonesville. Frohm finished the 5K course in 16:04.

“I stayed mentally strong the whole race and knew I could catch him if I was within 20 yards of him,” Frohm said. “I used the downhill at the 1K mark to catch up.

“That is something we worked on in practice this week.”

Hanover-Horton dominated the race scoring 40 points and putting all five top runners in the top 15.

Junior Dean Reynolds finished fourth over in 16:23 for the Comets. Hanover-Horton is the No. 1 ranked team in Division 3.

“Being ranked No. 1 is nice, but we have done that before,” Reynolds said.

The Comets would like to be No. 1 after the state finals next Saturday.

“We have run in rainy weather and cold weather so we know how to run in both situations,” Reynolds said. “We have trained very hard this season to see what we are capable of.”

Other Hanover-Horton runners included Garrett Melling finishing fifth (16:32), Rogan Melling was ninth (16:54), Shane Sauber placed 13th (17:06), and Andy Swihart finished 15th (17:16).

Other local qualifiers were Ivan Westgate of Onsted who finished seventh (16:46); Gene Hendrickson of Lumen Christi was right behind him (16:48); Alex Darnell of Napoleon finished 11th (16:59); and Adam Smith of Onsted was 14th (17:12).

Homer tied Napoleon for third place with 122 points, but lost the tie-breaker based on each of the school’s sixth-place finishers.

Lumen Christi finished sixth (172), Grass Lake placed seventh (183), Onsted finished ninth (199), Hillsdale finished in 10th place (282), Springport ended up 11th (306), Michigan Center was 12th (308), Columbia Central was 13th (318), and East Jackson earned 14th place (354).

The girls’ Division 3 state finals is scheduled Nov. 2 at 10:10 a.m. and the boys’ race at 11:30 a.m. at MIS. The top 30 finishers in each race earn all-state medals.

Lumen Christi Catholic High School runners Faith Smith (106) and Renae Kutcha (102) battle Kailee Sandoval of Grass Lake during the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 cross country regional Friday afternoon at Ella Sharp Park in Jackson. Photo by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.
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