Cross country program hoping to get boys, girls teams to finals

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki The 2018 Alpena High cross country team includes Maddy Boyd, Ben Carriveau, Jimmy Decker, Karlin Decker, Jaime Diaz, Molly Dickinson, Westen Domke, Clay Donajkowski, Emily MacArthur, Robert Fairchild, Tiffany Foster, Katie Foust, Jacob Foust, Matthew Guest, Emeline Hanna, Seth Haugerud, Isaac Kelley, Jacob Kochanski, Daniel Lowe, Blake Macdonald, Malley McGuire, Grace Mitchell, Ben Poli, Alexis Reynolds, Kaylee Rondeau, Eli Rondeau, Drew Seabase, Reed Sexton, Ava Shriner, Aden Smith, Josh Smith, Brendan Stepaniak, Madison Szymanski, Margret Thayer, Evan Thayer, Sam Tuscher, Grace Weaver, Anna Young, Veronica Zaborney and Zach Zaborney.

Alpena has produced a handful of exceptional runners over the past few years.

With several exceptional runners, the Wildcats understandably have high expectations for this season.

“Our boys are strong, probably the strongest I’ve ever seen. I know we’ve have some very talented runners in years past, but we only had a few really solid runners at that time, now we have bumped up a level and now have about six very good runners,” Alpena coach Joy Bullis said. “Our girls too, I think they have a shot at going to states as a team this year. We have strong girls and strong boys that really has me excited about this year with this special group of runners.”

Maddy Boyd is back and is looking to end her senior year in style. Boyd has her eyes set on putting together a strong senior campaign and also is being looked at by a number of colleges.

Freshman Madi Szymanski already made a quick impact in the team’s first competition of the year. Szymanski finished third at the Dwayne Rau Memorial Invitational with a time of 19:42.55. Szymanski’s time was the first time that a freshman ran under 20 minutes under Bullis and Szymanski’s time was the second fastest in Alpena history.

Anna Young will once again likely be among the top female runners for the Wildcats this season. Two years ago as a freshman, Young qualified for states. Molly Dickinson, Tiffany Foster, Kaylee Rondeau and Alexis Reynolds will also be among the top runners and the girls have depth with other skilled runners such as Malley McGuire, Maggie Thayer, Katie Foust, Grace Mitchell, Veronica Zaborney, Grace Weaver, Karlin Decker, Ava Shriner and Emeline Hanna.

For the boys team, Alpena returns senior twin brothers Aden and Josh Smith along with sophomore Drew Seabase.

Jacob Kochanski, Sam Tuscher and Clay Donajkowski will also be among the top runners for the Alpena guys this coming season.

The Alpena boys took first in the Ogemaw Invite in the first race of the season.

The Wildcats have several other talented runners on the boys side as Jimmy Decker, Zach Zaborney, Westen Domke, Isaac Kelley, Blake MacDonald and Eli Rondeau will provide solid depth.

“These kids are all very competitive amongst each other in a friendly sort of way. They’re all best friends and call each other family, but inside, they all have a desire to be better than one another. The competitive drive within all of them is what will keep them going and keep them running faster and better every race they run and they all have a drive,” Bullis said. “We try to help everyone relax and remind everyone before each event that we’re just going for a run with the team and that tends to help everyone, but as soon as that gun goes off, each of these kids have a switch that goes off in them and everyone’s so driven and it is such a good thing to have. We’re just going to keep pushing them each and every race.”

Both Alpena teams got a great start to the season as the boys took first and girls placed second at Ogemaw. With experience brimming on both sides, Alpena’s hoping both teams can make it to the state finals in November.

“I can honestly say that my goal is for both our boys and girls teams to make it to the state meet. I’ve been coaching here for 12 years, going on 13 and I’ve never had both teams qualify at the same time, but I think it’s possible,” Bullis said. “If we can keep everybody healthy, because injuries tend to happen throughout the season, but that’s my goal for them and I want to bring home a lot of trophies this year and I know this group is very capable. Some of the best athletes in the school are on this team and people need to be aware of that.”