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Nike Spartan Invitational

MW#5 Pinckney boys, MW#10 Rockford girls state their case with big wins

Friday, Sept. 15, 2006 Forest Akers Golf Course, Michigan State U., East Lansing MI

By Stephen Underwood

Results by GaultRaceManagement.com  -  Boys Varsity - Girls Varsity


Brenden Marcum leads the way for Pinckney in the boys D1 race, while Marissa Treece of Maple City
Glen Lake successfully moves up in classes to take the girls D1 race. Photos by Davey, RunMichigan.com

EAST LANSING – Friday’s Nike Spartan Invitational, the first of two mega-meets on one of the sport’s biggest weekends in Michigan, supplied some at least temporary answers to a handful of questions regarding where its best teams and runners rank regionally:

  • D1 boys state defender and new MW#5 Pinckney, which crushed the field with 27 points in the biggest, deepest race (D1), is very good and deep and may deserve recognition on a par with MW#2 Dexter.
  • Okemos, the D1 girls runner-up from 2005 with everyone back, is not a MW#5 team right now; they were just 8th of 41 teams in D1. But Rockford’s girls, with perhaps it’s best top three since its glory years early in the decade, won with 109 and may merit a few spots better than its MW#10.
  • Maple City Glen Lake’s Marissa Treece, the D4 defending champ, can roll with most, if not all, of the best in D1. Her team moved up two classes and she handled the field easily in 18:28. She should be considered right up there with Monroe Jefferson’s Rebekah Smeltzer as a potential girls Foot Locker Finalist.

In all, there were six races for preps in three classes, plus college, JV, and middle school races, during about five hours of action at Forest Akers Golf Course on the campus of Michigan State University. After more than a week of mostly cool, cloudy, rainy weather, the sun came out in force, driving temperatures up to the upper 70s and, when combined with the soft, sometimes spongy turf, making for kind of slow times.

The best show of the day belonged to Pinckney, perennially a major player out of the axis of power that resides in the bedroom communities west of Detroit and generally around Ann Arbor. In October, there should be at least one race (maybe two) between Pinckney and D2 Dexter, generally consider the two best teams in Michigan this year. But this weekend is a chance for each team to flex its muscles separately, with Dexter entered in Saturday’s Nike Holly Invitational.

And flex is what the Pirates did.

Running conservatively early, and strong at the end, Pinckney started with individual winner Brenden Marcum (16:11) and 5th-place finisher David Emory (16:29). Then, making jaws drop for any observer who had perhaps run to the finish line from the race’s midpoint, they closed the case by taking 6th, 7th, and 8th in one mind-boggling blast. Mike Katsefaras, Jake Hohl, and Brian Hankins were all given 16:35.

No one from the school was in the top ten at the mile and only Marcum was near the top five at the 2M. They finished that strongly.

Their 27-point total would have been great in a 10-team field. There were 42 here (no that’s not a typo) and the Pirates topped runner-up Novi by 94, with 3rd-place Fremont another 89 back. You know there were a lot of schools because 10 scored more than 800 points.

“I was happy to say the least,” said winning coach Tom Carney with a laugh of someone who’s seen plenty of greatness, but was still slightly amazed at his team’s prowess. “I was surprised because we really haven’t done a lot of hard work yet. It’s definitely a nice way to start off.

“We talked about running together,” he added. “I wanted Brenden to try and break away if he could, but otherwise I wanted them to stay together as much as possible. We just talked about running our own race.”

Said Marcum, “We run as a pack. We don’t care who’s number one; we switch all the time.”

Marcum was 5:05 at the mile, with the leaders at 4:54. He said he was about 35th. Said leaders included Williamston duo Matt Lutzke and Dan Nix, plus James Lanciaux of Fremont and Jasen Turnbull of Northville. By the deuce, he was about 5th in the low 10:20s, with leader Lanciaux crossing in 10:13.

At the end, behind Marcum, Lanciaux held on for runner up in 16:14, then Kalkaska’s Paul Grieve came up for 3rd in 16:21, and Lutzke held 4th in 16:28.

“The race isn’t won in the first mile,” said Marcum.

Treece, on the other hand, controlled the girls D1 race. She held a lead of a few seconds with her 5:45 opening mile. The margin stayed about the same until she began a gradual acceleration at about 1.75M. At 2M, she was 11:47 with eight seconds back to the next four, which included Okemos’s Danielle Dakroub, Grand Ledge’s Emily Langenberg, Milford’s Carlie Green, and Rochester Adams’ Rachel Patterson.

At the end, the spike-haired sprite cross the line 14 ticks up on runner-up Green (18:42). Langenberg was 3rd in 18:46, followed by Katie Haines (18:58) and Brittany Dixon (19:01) of Rockford.

“I was hoping for a time a little faster, but more than anything else, I was going for place,” said Treece, a senior. “I was going a little slower than my normal race pace in the first mile because I knew I’d have to have a strong finish. I really started pushing at about a mile and three-quarters.”

In the team battle, Okemos’s Dakroub battled with Treece’s trailers for the first two miles, but faded to 9th in 19:23. More significantly, the Chieftains had just one other runner in the top 60. But then, the team race had played out.

In the early 2000s, Kalin Toedebusch, Emily Blakeslee, and Linsey Blaisdell were an imposing top three for the Rockford Rams. Now, with Haines carrying over strong form from last year, Rachel Wittum looking pretty healthy, and Dixon having made a determined push to join them, the team looks powerful again.

As previously mentioned, Haines took 5th and Dixon 6th. And Wittum – restricted to the JV race of a meet a week earlier, as she came back from injury – is probably still not quite at full strength, but was still 8th in 19:16.

“We were kind of focusing on this race,” said first-year coach Benjamin Watson, “and our training led up to this. The next big meet we’re going to really focus on is Portage (Oct. 7).”

He added that Dixon had been 31st in the state last year, “the first person not to get all-state. She’s worked very hard and been motivated to close the gap between herself and her teammates.”

The Rams’ scoring was completed with Emma Crosby (28th/20:06) and Ashley Stebbins (64th/20:52). It’s not as deep a Rockford team as the best editions, but that could improve and it could be enough.

More results, pix coming on this and other races at the Nike Spartan Invitational.

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