The Fenton Boys Varsity Cross Country team ran like it had nothing to lose on Saturday at the Division 1 MHSAA Cross Country Finals at Michigan International Speedway, easily the deepest high school cross country race in the state. Seeded 25th coming in, and as the 26th largest school in the field, the Tiger Harriers punched above their weight, ultimately claiming 19th place in the state, their second-highest D1 finish in their school history.
The FXC boys had more than just other state-qualifying teams to contend with – their particular race saw an unprecedented three lightning-weather delays postpone the start of their race, originally slated for a 3:30 start. When the gun finally went off at 4:55, the team could have been forgiven for having lost focus or letting the continual cycle of warming up and sitting back down affect their race negatively. Instead, the Fenton team saw an impressive 3 PRs, and all 7 runners outperforming their seedings to break into the top 20 of the team results.
The Fenton squad was led by Sophomore Adam Jesse, as they had been all season long. Jesse ran a conservative first mile before turning on the jets to move up over 150 spots to ultimately finish 49th in the deepest field of the 2017 Michigan high school cross country season. His time of 16:14.9 was a startling 9 second PR in extraordinarily muddy and soft conditions at MIS, on a day where most runners trailed their personal bests by substantial margins.
Jesse was followed into the chute by Senior Sam Deardorff, who finished 99th in 16:34.9. Another Tiger PR in decidedly non-pr conditions, Deardorff ran a typically smart race, running an aggressive 2nd mile to move up within striking distance of the top 100 before securing his final spot using a strong kick in the famous last .1 of the long, nearly 1200 M long, grassy MIS infield. Deardorff’s final spot outdistanced his incoming seed by a whopping 57 spots, as he was ranked 156th of all competitors’ season bests coming in.
Another Senior leader, Mitch Chabot, was the 3rd Tiger harrier over the line at MIS. Chabot, seeded 163rd coming in, finished only 5 seconds off his personal best to claim 139th place in the field, running nearly even splits en route to his notable state-meet performance.
Junior Nolan Day also ran a strong race, picking up several runners with his trademark kick to finish as the Tigers’ 4th runner, and 4th under 17:00, as the 159th place in 16:58.6 It marked only the 3rd time in Fenton’s history they have had a 4th runner break the 17 barrier at the state meet, in any division. Day outperformed his seed by 10 spots, as his season record ranked him 169 of the incoming runners.
Day was followed by 3 Tigers harriers in quick succession, as has been their trademark all-season long. First across the line was Sophomore Logan Canada’s first time as a Fenton scoring runner, taking 173rd in a PR time of 17:05.6, outperforming his seed of 218th by a staggering 45 spots. He was followed closely by Senior Peter Kennings, himself only 4 seconds off his PR in 17:08.2, taking the 177th spot in the D1 proceedings, a 33 place improvement on his incoming ranking. Sophomore Ben Sheffield also finished within 5 seconds of his personal best clocking, taking 183rd in a time of 17:09.8, a 26 spot advantage of his projected placing coming in.
Besides finishing 19th in the field of the strongest teams in the state, Fenton had one of the most notable 7 man-packs in the field, as only 4 teams managed a 7th man across the line before Fenton’s 7th. Only 1 team in placings higher than Fenton managed a tighter 1-7 runner spread, as Sheffield crossed the line only 55 seconds after Jesse led the Tigers across the finish.
Fenton’s race marked only the 2nd time the team had competed as a team at the Division 1 state meet, but their 2nd time in 3 years. With 6 runners at 17:07 or under returning, the Tigers harriers will look to continue the trend of competing at the highest level that high school cross country offers.