The Fenton Girls Cross Country team undertook the potentially daunting task of competing at the state’s deepest race on Saturday – the Division 1 state meet at Michigan International Speedway. The seed times for the Fenton harriers were humbling to ascertain – the Lady Tigers were mostly scattered through the bottom half of the list of season-best times of entrants – not altogether unsurprising given that the Tigers were the 26th largest school in terms of enrollment out of 27 qualifiers. Fenton’s projected finish of 25th place seemed about right, given the circumstances. The Fenton harriers were not satisfied with just a trip to the meet, however, as they used the muddy conditions to their advantage to outperform expectations and take 20th place in Division 1.
The Tigers were led by a second straight all-state performance from sophomore Alexa Keiser. Keiser moved up from a spot in the 70s at the one-kilometer mark to eventually claim 13th place. Her 2nd mile was the fifth-fastest on the day, and her 3rd mile was the third-quickest split in the field, which allowed her to move into the top half of the all-state positions at a rapid clip, over the muddiest and softest areas of the rain-sodden course. Keiser’s 18:07.5 performance was 4 places and 28 seconds quicker than her race last year, which capped a fine season of races at a level consistently improved from her already stellar freshman campaign. Keiser’s state meet effort was also the fastest from any sophomore in the field, a promising indicator of the Lady Tiger’s precociousness.
Keiser was joined in the top 36 places by Junior Cami Tiemann, who claimed the spot with a 18:40.4 clocking that was a whopping 30 second improvement on her season’s best time. Tiemann, running in her 3rd state meet at MIS after qualifying individually the last two years, continued to demonstrate her mastery of the course and mud – her splits of 6:03, 6:05, and 6:00 improved her position drastically over the proceedings and set her up well to use her notoriously blistering kick over the last .1 miles beyond the 3 mile mark to rocket her squarely into the top 40 runners of the race.
Another season best followed Tiemann – Freshman Kaitlin Bayer capped off her own impressive debut campaign with a personal record time of 20:06.7 on the sport’s biggest Michigan high school stage. Bayer’s effort was good for 177th on the day. Junior Abbey Lee was next through the chute for the Lady Tigers, running a 20:22.8 to claim 196th place. After a sophomore year in which Lee broke 20:30 for the first time in her final race of the season, the Junior captain completed a remarkably consistent 2017 campaign in which she broke the 20:30 mark in every single race, 11 times in total over sometimes drastically-differing conditions.
The Lady Tigers’ 5th and 6th runners were freshman twins Coral and Chloe Lefever, who ran 20:57.2 and 20:58.6 for 227th and 230th place, respectively. The Lefevers capped off their great freshmen seasons with another race below 21:00, in tough conditions. The sisters completed a whirlwind first year of racing in which Coral improved 3:35 on her initial race of the year, a 24:07 showing, and Chloe’s PR at the state meet bettered her own first PR of the year by 3:26.
Junior Hanna Chapin completed the first varsity squad to compete at D1 States – her time of 21:33 for 239th place was a mere 5 seconds off her season best in decidedly worse conditions, an impressive showing given it was Chapin’s second race back from a nagging injury, and all in her first year in the sport.
While one would assume the Fenton XC squad was happy to compete at their first ever Division 1 state meet, and to exceed expectations there, one would forgive them if they have already cast an eager eye to next year. The 2018 season sees the potential return of all 7 varsity runners that competed on Saturday, and a host of impressive runners that will compete for a spot on the squad as well. For now, the Lady Tigers can enjoy the accolades from the just-closed 2017 campaign, which brought multiple invitational titles, an outright league title, a podium spot at Regionals, and top 20 finish in the State.