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Runners on top as head to county race



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Girls JV Cross Country runners Briana Crist, Kelley Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Patton, Amanda Wakefield, Helen Jeffers, Jill Harris and Hannah Hawkins celebrate their first place finish at the OAA Red Jamboree #2. Photo submitted (click for larger version)
October 05, 2011 - Senior Natalie Smith kept her pace through the wet and muddy terrain of Dehlia Park during the Hanson Invite on Saturday.

She finished in first and along with her teammates, won the varsity race for the Clarkston High School Girls Cross Country team.

"The girls did really good on Saturday," said Coach Kevin Breen. "I was happy with their performance mainly because of how crummy the weather was and how crummy the course was. It slowed them down considerably but they ran hard."

Finishing behind Smith in the first varsity win were Kylie Knavish in seventh; Erin Billette in eighth; Caitlyn Catania in 11th; Lynsie Gram in 15 for the top five for Clarkston. Mackenzie Proper finished in 24th and Colleen Napier placed 27.

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"Mackenzie and Colleen really pushed our top five runners up a little further," Breen added.

"It was nice to have a grouping like that and have our sixth and seventh runners close to the scorers. It pushes other teams back a little bit."

The Lady Wolves also won the second varsity race. Sage Beauregard led the pack during the run, finishing in second. Molly Jeffers placed in fourth; Hannah Hawkins in fifth; Kelley Fitzpatrick in 11th; Morgan Martin in 12th; Jill Harris in 14th and Mende Gleiss in 30.

"We ran away with both races," said Breen. "It was nice. The girls got to go home with plenty of prizes. If they were in the top 50, they received medals. If in the top 20, they went home with some T-shirts."

The JV race wasn't scored but the Lady Wolves would have won it if it was as they finished with six in the top eight places. Amanda Wakefield, Katie Sperry, Haleigh Orr, Helen Jeffers, Claire Zeder and Monica Wanat finished in the top eight.

"They went out there and didn't let the course get to them," Breen added. "They cranked away and shot for places instead of times. Typically we look at where we are at at the one mile or two mile mark, we look at our splits but we couldn't do that on a day like Saturday and the course conditions were sloppy and muddy. It slowed them down. They looked at places and went after people pretty well."

The JV team also finished in first in the OAA Red Jamboree on Sept. 27, scoring 37 points.

Hawkins led the team, finishing in first in 21:55.2. Harris took second; Fitzpatrick took third, Morgan finish in 14 and Jeffers rounded the top five in 17th place.

The varsity team finished fifth place, scoring 99, just 11 points away from the second place finisher, Oxford with 88 points.

"We are closing in on some of the teams that are in front of us," said Breen. "The girls are improving. There are good attitudes amongst everyone.We just have to keep plugging away."

Smith led the Lady Wolves, finishing in fifth place, 19:18. Billette finished in 18th; Knavish, 20th; Cantania, 26; and Gram, 30.

The boys varsity team finished in first at the OAA Red Jamboree, scoring 59 points, holding Lake Orion at 68 points.

Sam Tanielian led the pack, finishing in fourth place, 16:36. Austin Draving placed in 10th; Nick Moore, 12th; Adam Bruderick, 16th; Ian Brennan, 17th; Michael Culver, 18th and Jake Streng, 47.

Both teams head to the Oakland County Meet this Saturday at Kensington Park.

"I think we are going to move up a couple of spots," said Breen. "We were ranked around tenth place. I am hoping to move up. There are a lot of good teams out there. Our runners can be tough on the back end."

The practices leading up will also help with a hard week of training and making sure everyone stays healthy. He added all the runners will help as they continue to improve with every practice and every race.

"We just have to move up," he said. "It will make a huge difference. Our fifth runner is well above where other fifth runners are and the team runs pretty well as a pack. They are tightly grouped. If I can get them a little bit faster, a little bit tightly grouped to the other girls from the other teams we will be a team to watch out for."

The Lady Wolves already know the course from running other races at Kensington and have already experienced tough competition to get them ready for the upcoming weeks with MHSAA Regionals and the final OAA Red race approached. They have raced in the Spartan Invite.

"It makes us better," said Breen. "It is nice to go to a course and walk away with a trophy. It is a little pat on the back because sometimes when you go up against the tough teams it can sometimes shake your confidence a little bit when you are not the winning."

The race begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, 2240 West Buno Road, Milford.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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