The Fenton Boys Cross Country team earned another first for their program on Saturday – they qualified for back-to-back state finals at the Division 1 level. The harriers finished 3rd at an unusually top-heavy MHSAA Regional championship at Hess Hathaway Park in Waterford, booking the 3rd and final qualifying spot. What usually would be a dominating performance – all 5 runners in the top 19 led by a 3rd place “low stick” that led to a D1 program record 62 points at a regional was only good for 3rd on the day, as Walled Lake Central and Milford nipped the Tigers with 49 and 60 points, respectively. The Fenton Harriers did earn the final qualifying spot by quite a large margin, however, as 4th place White Lake Lakeland finished 58 points behind with 120.
The Tigers were led by Junior Adam Jesse, as they have been all year. Jesse made it two straight years of running a season best at the challenging, undulating course at Hess Hathaway, where runners climb an average of 75 feet a mile and combat the deceptively named “Beautiful Lady” hill of steep proportions twice over the first 1.6 miles of the course. Jesse’s time of 16:16.1 earned him 3rd place in the championships, an improvement of 1 place over his 4th place performance in the same meet the year prior. His placing minimized the damage from Milford’s own top runner, Evan White, who finished at 15:56 but only a spot ahead of Jesse, and actually opened a scoring gap on Walled Lake Central’s top runner, who would come in 3 spots later at 6th.
Sophomore Sam Cox continued his strong campaign – he claimed 10th in a personal record time of 16:38.4. Junior Logan Canada was not far behind, taking 15th in his own personal record of 16:50.2. The duo completed 3 Fenton runners in the individual automatic qualifying positions (top 15), a first for the Tigers since 2015 when the trio of Jacob Lee, Dominic Dimambro, and Andrew Bond went 2-3-4 at their own Regional.
But Fenton’s impressive day did not conclude there – Senior Nolan Day and Sophomore Gage Bond ran together for most of the race and claimed 18th and 19th place in 17:07.1 and 17:08.2, respectively. Putting all 5 scorers in the top 20 positions usually is a good omen towards competing for the overall win, especially at the traditionally deep Hess-Hathaway Regional, but an unusual year where the top 3 teams dominated with 14 of the top 19 positions saw the Tigers just miss out on the overall plaudits.
Junior Micah Dekraker helped ensure a solid 3rd place margin by stopping the clock at 17:25.2, good for 31st place on the day. Sophomore Remington Stapp completed the varsity seven at 48th place in 18:02.2. Both runners were within 2 seconds of season bests, despite the tough course that does not see many personal records, relatively speaking, and the scattered showers that slowed up footing.
After qualifying for the State Meet for the first time at the D1 level in 2015, and then missing out in 2016, the 2018 Fenton Harriers earned the distinction of booking the program’s first ever back-to-back trips to the big dance at the D1 level. It’s also the first back-to-back qualification on any level since the Tigers qualified in Division 2 from 2002-2008, a streak that ended with the Tigers missing out upon their move up to Division 1 in 2009.
The Fenton Harriers look to improve on their 19th place showing from 2017’s state meet when they return to Michigan International Speedway this Saturday, November 3rd. They are currently seeded 26th of 27th based on season prs, but more accurately seeded 21st of 27th if they run their season bests at MIS on Saturday.