Ethan Crowell and Elaine Lowe have been important pieces to the Alpena High School cross country team for the last few seasons.
Now as seniors, they're trying to leave their mark.
Crowell and Lowe are each about 30 seconds off from setting school records for the fastest boys and girls cross country times respectively. Crowell, whose best time is 16:21, is trying to break the current boys record of 15:47 set in 1977. Lowe's best time is 19:12 and she's trying to break the girls mark of 18:36 set in 1999.
It's a daunting task for the two seniors, but it's a challenge that both of them hope to rise up to. They'll get the chance on Saturday when Alpena heads to a Division 1 regional at Delta College.
"(I'm) closing in on it. I've got to cut about 30 seconds off and I'll get it. That's the goal," Crowell said. "I've got one more race to do it and then hopefully I'll qualify for states too."
Crowell earned first team all-Big North honors this season after finishing third in the boys race at the conference championships in Gaylord Oct. 16. His time of 17:10 matched his time at last year's Big North race when he was second-team all conference and his time at regionals in 2010.
"(I'm) closing in on it. I've got to cut about 30 seconds off and I'll get it. That's the goal. I've got one more race to do it and then hopefully I'll qualify for states too."
- Alpena cross country runner Ethan Crowell on his quest to set a school record
Lowe also earned first team all-conference honors after finishing seventh at the Big North championships. She has consistently been one of Alpena's top finishers all season and said setting a school record would be a great accomplishment.
"I think I can do it," Lowe said. "I would enjoy that. It would make all my work worth it."
The leadership and abilities of both Crowell and Lowe have given the Wildcats two strong leaders this year and Alpena coach Joy Bullis has seen a new level of maturity from both of them between this season and last season.
"It's been awesome. Just to see the maturity difference between them as juniors and seniors has been huge," Bullis said. "Ethan's come a long way. He went from an immature, playing around junior to a hardcore, going after it senior and that's a big change you always see in these kids between their junior and senior years."
Along with Lowe and Crowell, Alpena's other seniors have helped keep the Wildcats competitive in Bullis' first year as head coach. Racheal McDonald and Kelsey Lewis were among Alpena's top finishers at the conference race and both earned second-team all-conference nods. Amanda Dort and Christine Burke also have been key contributors.
After a second-place finish in the Big North, the highest ever for an Alpena girls team, the Wildcat girls are focused on returning to the state finals as a team; something the girls haven't done since they were freshmen.
"We're bound and determined this is the year to get it done and finished what they started four years ago," Bullis said. "The girls, I think, have an awesome chance at qualifying for states, which hasn't happened since they were freshmen, so that would be huge."
The Alpena boys team hasn't had a qualifier since the late '90s and Bullis is looking to Crowell as well runners like Jacob Benson and JD Niergarth to change that trend.
Crowell plans to give it his all on Saturday and has been impressed with the way the boys team has improved throughout the season.
"I'm going to run it like it's my last race because it could be my last race. I've just got to go all out, can't leave anything and hopefully everything comes together," Crowell said. "As a team we improved a lot and gotten a lot better. As a team we finished fourth in the conference and we had a lot of guys show up through the middle of the year."
"I've actually improved a lot since the beginning of the year. I'm kind of just going into it having fun. That's what you have to do," Lowe said. "I think we do have a really good chance to make it to states as a team."
The boys regional race begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and the girls race will follow at 11:30.
Runners from Rogers City, Onaway and Fairview will run on Saturday in Central Lake.