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Cross country team biggest in LO history

September 15, 2010 - Running in 70-degree weather is nicer than in 90-degree weather, decided Coach Stan Ford's boys' cross country team.

Last weekend's cool breezes must have been at the runners' backs when the boys took fourth place at the West Bloomfield Invitational.

T.J. Carey, left, ran with the lead pack at Saturday’s meet. (click for larger version)
T.J. Carey (second), Jake Lauka (17th), Brad Cross (27th) and Ryan Singles (29) were all individual medalists.

As a team, this year's is the biggest that Lake Orion has ever seen and at 86 runners it's one of the biggest teams in the league, says the coach.

"They raised the pay-to-play so more kids decided to spend mom's money," joked Ford of his enormous crew, then said, "The middle schools do a nice job of getting kids into it and we just try to follow-through with that."

The coach says the team's sheer size makes them unique and presents a new set of challenges.

Ford said, "I started with 12 boys 29 years ago and they went 0-9 – didn't win a meet. It's nice having that big number in some respects. But when I had 12, 15, 20 boys running, I knew where they were and could keep track of everyone. Now it's like, who are we missing? I can't count 86 quickly."

And, he says when his team runs down the road, he tells them to run single file or two-by-two instead of in a pack.

"They block the whole road," said Ford.

Last year, the team graduated three of its top five runners: Sean Bone, Nathan Ziolko and Jeff Slavik.

"Up front, we're a little weaker," said Ford, noting he's got a strong group of runners this year chomping at the bit to do their part.

Returning will be sophomore Carey, who went all-state last year, and placed third at this year's first meet, the Grizzly Invitational. Senior Lauka finished 11th at the invitational. Singles, newcomer to varsity, is part of a solid group of runners who will help support the team and fill in for those who graduated last year. He finished 15th at the Grizzly Invite. Senior Cross and juniors Justin Prawdzik, Aaron Kaufman and George Modrak fill out the rest of the group.

"They're a tight group which is really good for scoring," said their coach.

Ford says his team is young, but so is the league, so it won't be as tough as in the past.

"We should be in the thick of things for the OAA (Oakland Activities Association) title," he said.

The team should be good enough to qualify for the state meet as a team, predicts Ford, adding that they'll should through the league championship, place in the top three in regionals and make it to the top 15 in states.

"The key to this team's success is to get grouped together. If I can get those top five, six, seven guys finishing in a tight pack, that's going to be huge. Our goal is to get guys in the top 20 or 30. You can get by with that, you don't need to have that guy up front," Ford said.

Captains this year are Lauka, Cross, Austin Bland, August Lile, Tom Reilly, Larry Dunn and Jake Gleason.

"There's a lot of them, which is good with a team this big," said Ford, noting that he'll rely heavily on them to communicate effectively with the entire team.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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