Local runners ready for XC state finals

Courtesy Photo Alpena High School runners Josh Smith, Aden Smith, Maddy Boyd and Drew Seabase will compete in the Division 1 cross country state finals today at Michigan International Speedway.

Maddy Boyd watched last year’s state cross country finals with one goal in mind.

Next year she wanted to be there competing.

“I didn’t have the best cross country season last year. I got to watch a lot of races, a lot of state meets and I decided that my goal for next year was to run at all those meets instead of watching them,” Boyd said.

The Alpena High junior made good on that goal this season and will join three of her teammates and several other local runners today at the state finals at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

After a rebound season, Boyd booked her ticket to the finals with an 11th place finish in a crowded regional last weekend. She finished in 18:47.40 in a regional where the top 15 placers all finished in under 19 minutes.

“It was really scary because the top 15 girls were all under 19 minutes. I had already done that but it was nerve wracking because those girls are fast and it’s vicious out there,” Boyd said. “I know my last mile I ran like there was a bear chasing me. It was that intense.”

Boyd’s finish at regionals gave her a new personal record and she’s hoping for another today in a crowd of more than 200 Division 1 girls runners.

She’ll be joined at MIS by teammates Aden Smith, Josh Smith and Drew Seabase.

The Smith twins, both juniors, are no strangers to the finals. Both of them earned all-state honors at last year’s race with Aden finishing sixth and Josh finishing 22nd. Aden also qualified for the race as a freshman and has been on a roll lately, winning both Big North Conference and regional championships.

All-state honors are awarded to the top 30 runners in each race.

They’re aiming for repeat all-state performances today, but they’ll be racing without Mitchell Day, who graduated with three all-state finishes in four years. Even without him and Alpena’s other graduated seniors, the Smiths are relying on their previous experiences to carry them to the top of the field.

You just get a (better) feel for the course. You know what you’re going into and all the competition and the push,” Josh said. “It feels good to see everyone improving and getting the rewards too, not just us.”

Joining them and Boyd is Seabase who has impressed in his freshman season.

As the fastest runner coming out of Thunder Bay Junior High, Seabase learned from the Smiths and quickly found his place on the team. Aside from establishing himself as a key piece of Alpena’s varsity seven early in the season, Seabase has also impressed with his training, working at a fitness level usually reserved for upperclassmen.

Seabase has already set Alpena’s all-time freshman mark and finished in 16:21.40 at regionals.

“It’s (the season is) going actually pretty well. I had high hopes for the beginning of the season and my hopes got accomplished when I work hard for them,” Seabase said. “It was quite scary to be honest. I came from being the fastest runner in the entire junior high to being not that fast and I just had to settle in and realize my place on this team.”

That Alpena’s quartet qualified for the finals is no surprise to coach Joy Bullis, who had high expectations for them entering the season. While all of them are hoping to place today, they’ll gain valuable experience to use next season if they qualify again.

“I kind of expected it all along. I knew these four were shoo-ins. It’s exciting,” Bullis said. “I knew they would get there because they never stopped working.”

The Division 1 girls race begins at 2:10 p.m. and the Division 1 boys race begins at 3:30 p.m.

In the Division 4 races, several local runners will be vying for all-state honors and Rogers City is hoping to do it as a team.

The Hurons’ girls team of Morgan Baller, Jenna Kuznicki, Linnea Hentkowski, Cheyenne Bober, Kyley LaFleche, Madison Tulgestka and Brooklyn Bober will compete and Fairview’s Tylor Ross and Andrew Haeger will run in the boys race.

Baller and Ross won their respective regional races.

Oscoda’s Jonas Berenkowski will compete in the Division 3 boys race.

The Division 4 girls race begins at 9:30 a.m. and the Division 4 boys race begins at 10:50 a.m. The Division 3 boys race begins at 11:30 a.m.