Experienced Alpena High cross country team aiming to stand out in 2023

Courtesy Photo The Alpena High girls cross country team is pictured after a win at Ogemaw Heights earlier this season.

ALPENA — With more than a dozen returning runners on its roster, the Alpena High cross country hopes to stand out this season.

Returners for Alpena’s girls team include senior Emma Dickins, a two-time state qualifier who hopes to earn a third invite to Michigan International Speedway by the end of the season. Dickins has been Alpena’s top finisher in three races and currently is fifth (18:56) on Alpena’s all-time list.

“With 10 returning runners and some talented newcomers, the AHS women’s cross country team is looking to make a big move up in the regional and conference standings,” Alpena coach Joe Donajkowski said.

Another returning senior for the Alpena girls is Samantha Zolnierek who has finished right behind Dickins and is eager to end her Alpena career on a high note. Zolnierek missed all of last season due to injury, but came into the 2023 season in excellent condition, according to Donajkowski, and found other ways to be an effective leader for the Wildcats last year.

Alpena’s other returning seniors include Allison Borowski and Cailyn Burrone. Alpena’s junior class includes Elizabeth Barnhill, who has had a strong start to the year after a good summer of training, including a win in the women’s half marathon at Alpena’s annual Aliferis Memorial Races.

Courtesy Photo The Alpena High boys cross country team is pictured earlier this season.

Right behind her has been returning junior Amelia Roznowski and fellow juniors Claire Mitchell, Abigail Zaborney and Kylie Gagnon and Kaelyn Health, a 2021 state qualifier who has been among Alpena’s top finishers this season.

Sophomore Izzy Szymanski has also run well with several top-5 finishes. New additions include seniors Maddie Linton, who finished in the top seven during Alpena’s first race, and Reese Wisniewski, junior Zelia Hill and freshmen Madison Stephan, Ava Karsten, Cadence Polly and Lexi Gembel, who finished in Alpena’s varsity seven earlier this year at Ogemaw Heights, round out the team.

Alpena’s boys team includes five returners including a big junior class. The returning upperclassmen include juniors Kennan Knight, Hayden Bacchus, Austin Reinhart and Thurston Imhoff and Braeden Mathis, a sophomore, returns too.

“All (of them) ran track in the spring and have put in a good summer of training. This tight knit group is looking to do well this season,” Donajkowski said.

Senior John Kurowski has returned for Alpena as well after running his freshman year and will double duty this fall as a member of both Alpena’s cross country and football teams. After a standout track season as a distance specialist, Kurowski ended up as Alpena’s top finisher in the first meet of the year in Marquette, placing seventh.

Newcomers include freshman Milo Dahleen, Joel Kaiser, Logan Ruczynski, and Austin Lasagna.


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