In late September, there are fewer and fewer beautiful days left for running. Racers from Alpena Public Schools and Alpena Community College experienced one of those days Saturday during a cross country alumni race at the new cross county track at the Woodward soccer fields.
Alpena High cross country coach Joy Bullis was very happy to see so many people show up to the race.
"It's amazing how many showed up," she said. "It's great to see that kind of support for the team. It's a good way for the kids to get together and have some fun. It's also a good chance for the junior high kids to get used to the longer track. They don't race on 3.1 mile or 5K tracks like this and this will give them a chance to experience that."
News Photos by Eric Benac
TOP: Runners take off during the start of the men’s cross country race Saturday at the new cross country course at the Woodward soccer fields. BOTTOM; Alpena Community College runner Sean Berryman runs during the men’s race with Alpena High School teacher Collin Riffert, left, close behind him.
Alpena High senior Ethan Crowell was the overall men's winner and will be recorded on the Alpena High cross country course champions list. ACC runner and Alpena alumnus Jared LaBarge took second and Alpena junior RJ Centala finished third.
Rounding out the top 10 were: Jacob Benson (Alpena), Eli Martin (Alpena), Travis LaCross (ACC), John Smith (Alpena), Isaac Cross (Thunder Bay Junior High), Kolin Ghidoni (Alpena) and Ryan Wirgau (Alpena).
Alpena High senior Elaine Lowe was the overall women's champion, beating out teammate Racheal McDonald and ACC's Janell Timm.
The rest of the women's top 10 were: Leah Centala (Alpena), Taylor Kunath (TBJH), Christine Burke (Alpena), Amanda Dort (Alpena), Alayna Nugent (TBJH), Hannah MacDonald (Alpena) and Lauren Heath (Alpena).
ACC cross country coach Mark Jacobs was also impressed with the turnout.
"It made my day to see the tremendous support of the community. To see the parking lot full did the heart good. The kids loved the support. It makes a huge difference when you have a large group from the community cheering you on." Jacobs said.
The men's race started first at 11 a.m. and the women's race followed at 11:45 a.m.
The new course loops around the soccer field and goes over a bridge and into the woods. One part of the course includes a loop that racers pass three times. Spectators stood on the side of the track at this loop and cheered on the runners each time they passed.
"We designed the course to be a spectator course," Bullis said. "I love spectator courses and that loop gives people a chance to follow the race more closely than just watching the start and finish.
After the men's race, Jacobs pointed out a few racers he thought did especially well.
"Ethan Crowell was an absolute beast today," he said. "Since this was an exhibition race, many of the kids had different goals. We wanted to make it a fun race that would get everything ready to go for the future."
Bullis and Jacobs have big future plans for their course.
"We've been talking about a huge invitational next fall," Jacobs said. "This would include junior high, high school and college races. ACC has never hosted a cross country race. We think it'll be a great way to introduce the course but to help showcase Alpena."