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Grass Lake High School runner Kailee Sandoval won her second consecutive Cascades Conference cross country individual title by winning the meet on Monday at Ella Sharp Park.  Photo by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.

By Jeff Steers
JTV Sports

COVID-19 nearly claimed another victim during the Cascades Conference cross country finals at Ella Sharp Park on Monday.

But just about everyone went home happy due to the results.

Hanover-Horton, Manchester and Grass Lake were named tri-champs at the conference meet after the teams reversed the regular season dual results.

Grass Lake finished undefeated in dual meets, Manchester lost to the Warriors, and Hanover-Horton finished third in the dual season after losing two dual meets for the first time in 23 years.

Monday morning Grass Lake had a positive COVID-19 test, meaning three runners from the Warriors were told to quarantine – not allowed to run at the conference meet.

Hanover-Horton won the conference final with 36 points on Monday, Manchester was second at 46, and Grass Lake finished third with 80 – a reversal of fortune for the dual meets.

Longtime H-H Coach Dean Blackledge told his young team to keep preparing for an opportunity.

“I feel bad for the Grass Lake team,” Blackledge said. “We have a pretty young team who have come on later in the season.

“We just couldn’t give up.”

Grass Lake runner Kailee Sandoval repeated as conference champion with a time of 20 minutes, 1 second.

“I was just grateful for the opportunity to run today,” Sandoval said. “I was running for my three teammates today.”

Hanover-Horton freshman Sophia Reynolds finished second (20:50), Kendal Morris of Addison finished third (21:05), McKenna Marsh was right behind her (21:06), MHS teammate Allie Koch was fifth (21:34), Alexis Flint of H-H finished sixth (21:34), Isabel Spencer of Grass Lake placed seventh (21:35), Manchester runner Jessie Phillips was eighth (21:35), Clara Rector of H-H placed ninth (21:35), and Kathryn Childs of H-H finished 10th (21:37).

The top 10 all earn first-team all-conference honors.

Lizzie Williams of Michigan Center finished 14th (22:17), Napoleon runner Madelyn Norman was 15th (22:27), Brynn Mericle of East Jackson finished 28th (24:04), and Kylie Baldwin of Vandercook was 31st (25:29).

The boys’ 5K event was not as drama filled. Hanover-Horton won the event with 31 points, Manchester was second with 44, Napoleon finished third at 83, and Grass Lake finished fourth at 121.

The Comets’ took the top three spots as Dean Reynolds took first place in 16:28, Rogan Melling was second with 16:42, and Logan Shepherd finished third in 16:48.

Alex Darnell of Napoleon broke the H-H string by finishing fourth (17:23), Manchester took the next three spots as Nathan Kippnick was fifth (17:27), Bobby Romberger placed sixth (17:32), and Devin Mackenzie finished seventh (17:34), Hugo Gamez of Napoleon took eighth place (17:46), Joey Reynolds was ninth (17:51), and Mathew Rankin of Grass Lake finished 10th (17:51).

Michigan Center runner Trysten Kolk placed 11th (18:03), Robbie Michalowski of Addison claimed honorable mention honors with an 18th-place finish (18:21), and Donovan Cook of East Jackson placed 23rd (19:05).

H-H Coach Blackledge believes the Comets are a top-5 team in Division 3.

“I think we can win a dual meet against any team in the state,” Blackledge said. “Our fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh-place runners are coming on.”

Complete results of the Cascades Conference cross country are available at www.athletic.net/CrossCountry/Results/Meet.aspx?Meet=173157&show=all.

Dean Reynolds of Hanover-Horton High School leads teammates Rogan Melling and Logan Shepherd during the Cascades Conference cross country finals Monday at Ella Sharp Park. Photo by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.

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