While he's been a top runner for Alpena High School in the last few seasons, Ethan Crowell has run in the shadow of other top runners such as Travis LaCross and Jared LaBarge and hasn't considered himself to be "The Guy."
Now as a senior, Crowell made it a goal this season to not only be a strong leader on Alpena's cross country team as "The Guy," but to qualify for the state finals.
Consider both goals accomplished.
After finishing 10th at the regional with his second-best time of the season, Crowell became the first Alpena High School boys qualifier in the cross country state finals since 1999.
He'll head to the Division 1 state finals today at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn along with several other local qualifiers. Alcona's Megan Quick will run in the Division 4 girls race, Onaway's Joe Traynham will run in the Division 4 boys race as will Rogers City's team of Alex Andrzejewski, Warren Beach, Blake Fessler, Colton Fessler, Daniel Pflug, Jacob Sobeck and Paul Wilbert.
Though he sits just 25 seconds short of a school record for the fastest boys cross country time, Crowell said he's just going to go out and give it his all.
"I'm just hoping to get a PR. A record would be great, but it's a course I've never been (to) before, so I don't really know what to expect from it," Crowell said. "I'm going to go all out because it's definitely going to be my last race, so I don't want to leave anything out there."
The Hurons finished third in their regional to qualify as a team for the third year in a row. Last year, the Hurons finished 18th out of 27 teams and they finished 26th in 2010.
With five runners returning from last season's state finals team, Rogers City coach Rob Kortman said he was confident his team could get to Brooklyn again if it could avoid injuries.
Kortman said because the Hurons have been there before, it could give them an advantage because they know the routine.
"It definitely gives them a heads up on knowing what to expect. The first time they're like a deer in the headlights. Lining up at a line with 300 people and looking up into the stands at MIS is awe-inspiring," Kortman said. "But if you've been there, you know what you're getting into."
The Hurons will have runners returning next season and could qualify for a fourth straight year if things go well.
Quick is one of only three runners on Alcona's cross country team this year after the Tigers started the sport, thanks in part to urging from her.
Though she ran in just two races this season, Quick's times were good enough to send her to regionals, where she finished eighth out of 100 runners with a time of 21:06 to qualify for the state finals.
For Quick, who is a star on Alcona's track team, qualifying for states wasn't much of a surprise, but that hasn't stopped her from setting a big goal of beating her season-best time of 20:49.
"I was really excited, but not really surprised," Quick said. "I'm a little nervous heading into states. I have a goal for 19 minutes, but I hope to place (finish in) less than 20 minutes.
The Division 4 boys race begins today at 10 a.m. The Division 4 girls race starts at 11 a.m. and the Division 1 boys race begins at 2 p.m.