Source: Sherman Publications

Optimism abounds for cross country teams

by Andrew Moser

September 07, 2011

According to varsity cross country head coach Ray Sutherland, the varsity girls team is going to be quite good this year.

“In terms of the girls, this is the best team we ever had during the history of the school,” Sutherland said. “We are really excited.”

He said he is so optimistic because there’s a strong, quality depth within the girls program, which has been building over the course of the last four or five years.

“We getting more and more athletes as our school gets bigger. We have more sports and more competition, but it is really nice having this depth and a very close, hard working team,” Sutherland said.

The programs depth is going to be on display this year. According to Sutherland, he already has a couple of freshmen, Sabrina Smith, Jenna Feeney and Jessica Murphy, that have the potential to make an immediate impact and crack the top 10 or top seven at certain events.

“We are getting some good experience for next year,” he said.

Sutherland chose senior sisters Chelsea and Brittany Johnson, along with junior Brooke Kovacic, to captain his girls squad.

Kovacic is a returning state qualifier and two-time all state nominee; Brittany Johnson holds one of the fastest times in the history of Oxford High School, which she set at the state meet last year, while Sutherland describes Chelsea Johnson as a “quality runner.”

Other runners that should consistently crack Oxford’s top 10, or compete for top 10, include junior Abby Wrobel, sophomores Samantha Medici, Kristen Godwin, Alora McCoy and Angela Savich and senior Jillian Walker.

Sutherland called his varsity boys squad a “real solid team that was starting to come on.”

Captaining the boys will be juniors Ross Chapman and Ryan Gillespie and senior Alec Smith.

In addition to his captains, runners Sutherland expects to do a “real, real good job” this season are freshman Logan Bruni and Jacob Cutler, sophomores Ricky Dvorak, Noah Jenkins, Joey Ufolla and Adam Kemp, juniors Aaron and James Pletta and seniors Kyle Feeney and Connor McGary.

“We have some competition in the boys too and we are pretty solid through 10,” Sutherland noted. “I say four through 10 could pretty much interdisperse...again, we’re in the same position.”

Oxford is going to need all that talent as they got bumped up to the Red division this season, the top division in the league.

“We wanted to be in the red the first year, but we decided to go four divisions,” Sutherland said. “The first and second divisions are real close, about the same ability. In fact, the best team in the league on the girls, (Rochester) Stoney Creek was in the second division.”

The Wildcats will be facing Lake Orion, Clarkston, Rochester Stoney Creek, Birmingham Seaholm, Rochester Adams, Troy.

However, Sutherland isn’t too concerned about the competition because “running is running.”

“I don’t worry about the other teams. I respect them. They are all good teams and you don’t get into the red unless you are good. But the thing is, in running, it’s not like football, basketball, volleyball where you scout and try and find their weaknesses,” Sutherland said.

“If you start worrying about how they run, then you can’t run. So I purposely avoid worrying about what they have. We run our way, and if you run someone else’s way, you will not run as well as you can,” he added.

In their first meet of the year at the Adams Invitational on Thursday, Sept. 1, both the boys and the girls came in the top three.

The boys finished third, while the girls finished second. Brighton High School won both events.

Medaling for the girls were Kovacic, who finished first with a time of 18:32, a junior record.

Also medaling were Brittany Johnson (6th, 20:40), Chelsea Johnson (7th, 20:42), Smith (14th, 21:45), Feeney (15th, 21:52), Wrobel (21st, 22:17), McCoy (22nd, 22:28) and Murphy (27, 22:42)

Medaling for the boys were Smith, who finished 10th with a time of 17:51, Gillespie (14th, 18:08), Ufolla (18th, 18:24), Jenkins (21st, 18:39), Dvorak (22nd, 18:41), Chapman (23rd, 18:42) and Kemp (35th, 18:49).