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Cross-country looks to compete in league

Front row (left to right): Nick Hershman, David Staser, Mike Sovis, Leo Baldiga, Luke Powers and Kohli Johnson. Second row:Macalistar Wells, Gabe Hogan, Matt Scheer, Captain Noah Jenkins, Nino Bruse, Captain Jacob Schenten, Brad Vandecar and Tyler Kwapis. Third row: Coach Matt Johnson, Jacob Cutler, Dylon La Croix, Joey Ufolla, David Rodriguez, Ricky Dvorak, Reilly Feeney, Griffin Hahn, Rory Kaer and Coach Kieve Johnson. Fourth row: Jacob Alecander, Dan DeFrain, Captain Christian Corrian, Logan Bruni, Adam Kemp, Eddie Schlickenmeyer, JP Sutherland, Bobby Brouduer and Casey Conley. (click for larger version)
September 25, 2013 - Fifty-one runners makes this the largest cross country team in Oxford High School history, according to Head Coach Matt Johnson, who has 38 boys and 13 girls running this season.

"The kids were excited we had to take two buses to go somewhere, which is cool," Johnson noted.

Out of the 38 boys, Johnson said 20 of them are returnees and for the girls seven of the 13 are returnees.

In the girls we are thin but strong," he said. "Just like last year."

Front row (left to right): Keanna Daronio, Heather czarnecki, Stephanie Conflitti and Jenna Feeney. Second row: Hannah Long, Reilley Squarcia, Captian Kristen Godwin, Morgan Lavender, and Cristiana Bruce. Back row: Coach Matt Johnson, Hanna Wilson, Sabrina Smith, Julia Reynolds, Emileigh Meyer and Coach Kieve Johnson. (click for larger version)
Top seven runners for the boys include: Gabriel Hogan, Logan Bruni, Bradley Vadecar, Noah Jenkins, Christian Corrion, Adam Kemp, and Jacob Schenten. For the girls: Cristiana Bruce, Heather Czarnecki, Jenna Feeney, Kristen Godwin, Hannah Long, Sabrina Smith, Reilly Squarcia.

While the league overall looks to be very solid, Johnson said all the schools graduated some top athletes last year.

"We actually fit in the league very well. I would put us a hair behind Rochester," he said, which has always been a top contender. "It's going to be tough with Lake Orion, but as a whole it's going to be us and Rochester (in the league)."

Johnson noted that both Lake Orion and Rochester Adams has over 100 kids on their teams. "I wish I knew how they did it," he said. "It's impressive just to see their team and how they are a team."

However, Johnson said they may be a smaller team, but they have received many compliments from other teams and fans about how much "team unity" Oxford has.

"People all the time come up and talk to us about how much team unity they see," he said. "It's all centered on being (supportive of) each other, yelling at each other, encouraging each other and motivating each other. I think (that) helps us in our lesser number to be stronger as a unit."

Johnson also attributed the team unity to the great coaching staff around him, which includes his wife Kieve, Oxford grads and former track/cross country stars Donnie Richmond and Dylan Smith.

"We're able to do a lot of work with kids, a lot of coaching goes on in practice where we're not so spread out and thinned out," he said. "We've gone so far to make our own two mile course right here on the (school) property, which helps us keep focused and concentrated and we're able to coach a lot of more running skill than we've ever have because we're seeing a lot more."

As for goals, Johnson said they want to get to regionals and states.

"The boys have been training since last year to try and qualify for regionals," he said. "Even (to the point) where some of them chose not to do their spring sport, so they could commit to track running without me even saying anything to them. I was totally surprised."

Last year the boys placed fourth in the league and the girls placed third.

"We're going to take our position in the league, wherever it may fall, but other than that we're not going to compromise being a league champion and crashing for regionals," Johnson added. "We want to be strong all the way through regionals and that's our focus, our aim and that's what we're looking at."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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