BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Runners took the top third spot during the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Cross Country State Finals at Michigan International Speedway on Friday.
“It was a nice performance,” said Coach Kevin Breen, about the girls scoring 174 points for the finish. “There wasn’t a single person I wasn’t proud of on the team. It was an awesome job by all seven.”
He added the teams who had success this year were the ones able to manage the warm temperature and had good race plan.
“Traditionally the Clarkston teams we just run well in whatever conditions there are,” he said. “Whether it be a hilly course or it be sleet and snow going sideways, they just come out and run. They don’t let that get to them because they know everyone else is doing the same thing. It’s just part of being prepared and adaptable.”
He added the journey to state finals was impressive for the girls as they were unranked.
“We weren’t even an honorable mention to make it to states this year,” Breen said. “We just kept chipping away at the rest of the field. I am proud of all of them.”
Freshman Ava Tereau led the team, finishing in 24th place in the time of 18:57.8. Freshman Alexandra Brigham finished in 29th place, 19:01.33.
“The plan all along was to get this team aspect, partner running to help each other out – my two freshmen did that,” Breen said. “They are essentially two of the top fastest freshmen in the entire state because of it. It took all the way up to our final race of the season to partner someone with Alex. Ava did a nice job in the race. Alex has just been a grinder all season. She just gets out there and runs. It didn’t matter if she was by herself or in a group. She is able to push herself to incredible levels. She was super consistent as well.”
Senior Mattie Drennan finished in 60th place in the time of 19:37.41 in what Breen called her best race of the season.
Senior Maya Bergman finished in 70th place, 19:44.94.
“She had a solid performance and placed really well,” Breen said. “She was an alternate a couple of years ago for us. She probably had her best race last year at the state finals. She’s has the consistency of being able to get there and running hard.”
Senior Shannon Billette finished in 116th place, 20:22.33.
“She was awesome,” Breen said.
Freshman Kennedy Mareches finished in 124th place, 20:27.2, and sophomore Cate Cotter, 174th, 21:08.51.
“They were the fastest sixth and seventh runners on any team in the entire state,” Breen said.
He added a hard part of the state finals was not having the rest of the team there due to spectator restrictions because of COVID-19.
“It’s such a tight knit group,” he said. “They came together as a team. When they are sad, they lift each other up. When they are happy, they celebrate. It’s a joy to coach.”
The team loses Bergman, Billette, Drennan, Emma Olson, Kelsey Roth and Lori Wilson to graduation.
“It’s going to be hard to replace the leadership I had with Maya and Mattie. Those two especially have been a huge part of our cross country team the last four years,” Breen said. “Maya has been like a team mom. She is able to get everyone to the line and safely and get them there at the right time. Mattie’s experience, just the two of them did a great job leading the team.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Shannon,” he continued. “She’s had her ups and downs. She’s been a rock star all season. She came out and performed on the right day. She had a hiccup right before the county meet and we said ‘you will help us at the end of the season, let’s rest you.'”
He added the rest of the team stepped up, going with what he writes on their shoes after taping them up before a race “For the Team.”
“We are doing this for the team. Everybody understands that. We push and it was awesome,” Breen said.
The Clarkston Boys Cross Country team had one runner qualifier for the state race. Junior Andrew Sesti finished in 16th place in the time of 15:46.7.
Ann Arbor Pioneer won the girls state championship with 129 points. The top five teams also included Traverse City Central in second place, 168 points; and Holland West Ottawa, fourth, 214.