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Men's and Women's cross country By katrina melvin

A typical cross country season would look like meets with dozens of teams, hundreds of runners, and a handful of different races along with as many spectators as you’d like. Last year, there were huge invitational meets with thousands of people, food vendors, like Bearclaw, and businesses, like Ann Arbor Running Co. or Running Fit, selling and showing off gear.

The meet would last all day and you would have the opportunity to cheer on your team in all the races. The team would take lots of pictures together to post on social media, and they would occasionally go out to eat afterwards or go hang out at one of their teammate’s houses. Bigger meets would have award ceremonies and the whole team would get to celebrate together.

At each meet the teams all had a tent as a general meeting area for their team. Outside of having meets, the team would have long run breakfasts. Every Saturday, the team would meet at someone’s house and have a long run - anywhere from 5 to 13.1 miles depending on where they are in the season and how much a runner is capable of doing. After the run, everyone would sit together and eat breakfast, anything from donuts to waffles, and of course chocolate milk.

“I miss the big invitationals with all the people, tents, snacks and t-shirts that were always selling,” Junior Hannah McComas said. “I think those are some of the best races and it was sad that they weren’t able to happen.”

Another big thing the team did was dress up days. The day of a meet, or the day before if the meet is on a Saturday, the team will participate in a different themed dress up day. Some fun theme days included cut off day, where you cut up your clothes, conspiracy theory, rain, thrift store, saran wrap, dress like a dad, dress like a different sport, and cowgirl day.

Thanks to 2020, this season looked a lot different.

Meets generally had only two teams, and each runner could only have one or two spectators present. Some races didn’t allow any spectators. It eventually got to the point where the team was able to race more than one team, but there was a limit on how many people could be in a race. Meets with more than two teams had a varsity and a JV race.

For every race, social distancing was always enforced at the starting line which meant that fewer people could be in front, and for the races where there was no split between JV and varsity; this meant that there would be several rows of people at the start line instead of the usual two or three. For the JV pre-regionals race, there was a special staggered start where waves of people ordered by speed started at different times to reduce the amount of people lined up at the starting line at the same time.

“It was super strange having to drive individually to every meet because the team is always a ton of fun on the bus ride to meets just relaxing and listening to whatever random music the guy with the speaker has,” junior Zach Sawin said. “The difference that I felt more heavily, however, was that spectator limit. Usually the start and finish are lined with spectators with other people all over the course, but with all the regulations, that wasn't able to happen this season. I'm just glad that all the teams cooperated with the regulations so that we could have a full season through all of the craziness.”

There were no vendors or businesses at any meets. Tents were not allowed unless it was raining due to the fact of them being a common congregation place which was viewed as a COVID risk. Generally meets only lasted a few hours, and there was only one invitational meet, but it was small.

Most of the time a runner would not get the opportunity to cheer on another race. Once your race was done, you had to leave. Many runners said it takes a lot of the fun out of meets, but it was essential to keeping people safe and securing the rest of the season. Following meets, there were also no award ceremonies. There were not many pictures taken either. If pictures were taken, it was most likely with a mask on.

At practice, masks had to be worn at all times before and after running. Fortunately for the athletes, runners did not have to race with masks on. Masks did have to be worn during any other exercise, like core and hip strengthening and band work.

“Cross country was honestly the only thing in my life this year that stayed normal,” Sophomore Chloe Sprague said. “Yes, the masks and social distancing were a big change, but we were still able to make lots of new friends, and our team was able to become one big family. Through all of the hardships we faced this year, we always faced them as a team, and came out stronger and closer than before.”

The team was unable to have any traditional long run breakfasts this year. However, they did manage to have some pasta dinners, all of which occurred outside allowing for everyone to be spaced out while eating, and with parents serving the food.

Dress up days also disappeared in 2020 due to the fact of everything being online. Another thing that was unable to happen this year was the boys team’s annual Thanksgiving dinner in the cafeteria. During school, the boys who had the same lunch would all bring a different part of a typical Thanksgiving dinner and they would have a thanksgiving feast.

After a drastic change to the boys varsity team, with losing five seniors to graduation last year, the team looked a little different. The boys varsity team was considered an underdog for 2020, but they still gave it their all and had an amazing season.

“So, this season was really amazing,” Junior Josh Lamb said. “I achieved a ton this season from PRing by over a minute to placing on the team at states. I finally got to where I wanted to be after my season was cut short last year after I got my stress fracture. I'm really thrilled with how the season went and I'm glad we found success this year as a team. After losing five runners last year, we knew it would be a long road to make it back to MIS this year but we all knew we could do it and we all worked so hard to get back to MIS. I'm just so proud of everyone on this team and everything we accomplished.”

The girls varsity team also had some changes. The biggest was gaining Amanda McGill, a junior who moved to Dexter from Colorado. McGill quickly became the top runner on the team and helped lead them to some wins.

“This past season was more than I could have ever hoped of it being,” McGill said. “Coming from knowing no one here in Michigan, the team quickly welcomed me and introduced me to everyone. And in regards to the act of running itself, they are so supportive of every person's goals and achievements. Their support really made this season a good one, and I can’t wait for next year.”

The captains this year on girls team were Allison Berkholz, Abby Fox and Faith Jones. The captains on the boys team were Sam Melvin, Nathan Gariepy and Conor Kolka.

“I feel like it was a little more difficult to be a captain this year,” Senior Allison Berkholz said. “We still wanted the team to have fun and be able to bond, but we also had to be conscious of the restrictions and gathering in a big group.”
“This season has definitely been interesting for a variety of reasons, but being a captain was a great experience because I felt closer to the team more than ever,” Senior Abby Fox said.
“I would say being a captain this year was probably about the same as any other year because no matter what’s happening, the team still needs great leaders and captains to be successful,” Senior Faith Jones said.
“Being able to lead this team was one of the best parts of high school for me,” Senior Sam Melvin said. “Seeing everyone come out to practice every day and have fun while getting better at running shows how great it is to be a part of this team.”
“Being a captain this year was a little more difficult than it would have been any other year because of everything that came with the coronavirus,” Senior Nathan Gariepy said. “My season went much better than I thought it would since I was recovering from a stress fracture during most of training.”
“This season has been full of ups and downs but this year was different for being a captain,” Senior Conor Kolka said. “I truly had to show that hard work paid off and to lead by example even with the guidelines and how we had to work together to keep our season.

SEC championship meet

The SEC championship meet was held at Dexter’s home course, the Hudson Mills North course. The boys varsity team took home second place with 57 points. Seniors Conor Kolka, Nathan Gariepy and Sam Melvin finished in 5th, 6th and 7th place. Junior Josh Lamb finished 17th, junior Zach Sawin was in 22nd, sophomore Owen Ackerman finished 31st while junior Adam Hauser came in 36th.

The boys JV team finished in first place with 31 points with freshman Brandon Anderson taking 1st place.

The girls varsity team took 4th place with 80 points. Junior Amanda McGill finished in 4th place while sophomore Chloe Sprague, junior Hannah McComas, and sophomore Quinn Hilla all finished in the top 20 by coming in 15th, 16th, and 20th, respectively. Senior Faith Jones finished 25th, junior Annissa Sisson was 27th, and junior Ashley Mitchell in 33rd.

“Overall as a team this year, the girls did really well and beat all of the teams in our SEC in dual/tri meets except for one,” Senior Faith Jones said. “Unfortunately, once SEC championships came we had quite a few injuries on the team so we didn’t perform to our full potential, but we still had really good individual efforts and placed 4th overall.”
Of the 14 runners, 7 of them got an All-SEC award by finishing in the top 18.

Pre-Regionals & Regionals

To qualify for regionals, you had to be one of the top 4 teams, or be in the top 7 individually not from those teams, in the pre-regional meet. The boys team finished 2nd at pre-regionals but the girls team finished 6th. However, they had three girls individually qualify for regionals: Amanda McGill, Chloe Sprague and Quinn Hilla.

The regional meet is what determines who goes to the state meet. You have to be one of the top 3 teams or the top 7 individually. The regional meet took place at Willow Metropark in New Boston, Michigan. This course is considered to be a fast one, with minimal hills and lots of flat straightaways. The boys varsity team took 2nd place overall which secured them a spot at the state meet.

Conor Kolka finished in 4th with a time of 15:53.9, Nathan Gariepy finished in 8th with a time of 16:12.3, Sam Melvin finished in 14th with a time 16:27.3, Josh Lamb finished in 28th with a time of 17:04.0, Brandon Anderson finished in 33rd with a time of 17:18.4, Zach Sawin finished in 37th place with a time of 17:22.9 and Owen Ackerman finished in 43rd place with a time of 17:33.9. All of the boys got a personal record at this meet.

Amanda McGill finished in 9th with a time of 19:44.2, Chloe Sprague finished in 23rd with a personal record of 20:37.0, and Quinn Hilla finished in 39th with a time of 21:26.7. Amanda McGill individually qualified for States along with getting the All-Region award for being in the top 15.

“Regionals was one of the best meets of the year,” Sam Melvin said. “After so many races with just one other team, regionals felt normal since we were able to run against eight other teams, and we were able to have spectators at the meet cheering us on the whole race. It was exciting when the team finished second in the meet because we would be advancing to the state meet.”
Sam Melvin, Nathan Gariepy and Conor Kolka all got All-Region awards for finishing in the top 15.

State Championships

Every year, states in the Lower Peninsula are held at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. In previous years this has been a very large event with thousands of spectators and hundreds of runners. It would always be on a Saturday and all four divisions would race on the same day, with eight races total with men’s and women’s teams from each division.

Last year, many people from the team came to support the eight Dexter runners at states. They made signs for all the runners and supported them through their race. This year was much different. The state meet was divided into two days. Friday was division one and two. Instead of four races total, there were four races per division. The first race was 3rd place teams from regionals as well as the individual qualifiers. The second race was 1st and 2nd place teams. Between Friday and Saturday, there were 16 races in total.

The boys team finished 15th in the state, after coming in projected 20th, with 380 points. The race was won by Romeo who got 124 points. Conor Kolka finished in 37th place with a time of 16:12.5, Sam Melvin finished in 68th with a time of 16:27.4, Nathan Gariepy finished in 102nd, with a time of 16:38.7, Brandon Anderson finished in 143rd place with a personal record of 17:01.5, Josh Lamb finished in 195th place with a time of 17:28.0, Zach Sawin finished in 203rd with a time of 17:33.1, and Owen Ackerman finished in 224th place with a time of 17:46.6.

“Being a sophomore on varsity was a big honor for me,” Owen Ackerman said. “I really looked up to the guys on last year's varsity team and they were my examples of hard work and success in cross country so to be able to begin to do some of the things they had done made this season extra special. After I realized how great the sport of cross country is, it became a goal of mine to get to represent the school in important events such as the regional and state meets and run within the ranks of the fastest people in the state, and to accomplish it after only two seasons was awesome. The varsity experience is one I will never forget, and I'm very thankful for my time with the team.”

Amanda McGill finished in 151st place with a time of 20:45.3. The boys team also earned team Academic All-state honors. Sam Melvin and Nathan Gariepy earned individual Academic All-State as well - a great accomplishment for a student-athlete.

Michigan Meet of Champions

Michigan Meet of Champions, a final race for the elite runners in the state. This year it was held in Freeland, Michigan, at their cross country course. To qualify for this meet, you had to run a time of 17:30 to individually enter and 16:30 to be drafted onto a team that was sponsored by a company. Or you can sign up for the open race where there was no standard you had to meet. Four runners from the boys team decided to go to the meet: Conor Kolka, Josh Lamb, Zach Sawin, and Owen Ackerman.

Conor Kolka raced in the Elite Team Race and finished 39th with a time of 16:08.1. His team was sponsored by ADDIX. Josh Lamb and Zach Sawin ran in the Elite Open Tier 2 race. Josh placed 6th with a time of 17:03.5 and Zach placed 36th with a time of 17:31.4. Owen Ackerman raced in the Team Trials Open Section 1. He placed 2nd with a time of 17:31.1

“This was a cross country season for the ages,” Head men's coach Nathan Lamb said. “It really started on March 16th, the Monday after the physical school buildings were closed for the school year. While these student-athletes continued to train for a track season that wasn't meant to be, we knew (hoped) that we'd be able to showcase our effort in the fall and we did just that! They trained alone, then in pairs, then were finally able to get back together with masks and social distance being a priority. With over five months gone by with no competition we were finally able to run again. We continued to build strength as the season progressed while overcoming injuries and other obstacles.” “I am fortunate to work with such amazing student-athletes,” Lamb continued. “They trust the training and trust each other. I preached that we were building to something special and we consistently exceeded the expectations. We were projected to be fifth place at the Regional Meet but earned a second place finish. We were not expected to qualify for the State Meet but we earned our way. We were projected to finish in 20th place yet earned a place among the top 15 teams in the state. I truly feel that our greatest accomplishment was earning Academic All-State Honors demonstrating a commitment to the balance of academic and athletic achievement. “I'm also thrilled that our boys and girls teams are able to train together with one of our team mantras being #StrongerTogether. It was exciting to see so many standout performances including Quinn Hilla and Chloe Sprague qualifying for the Regional Meets as well as Amanda McGill qualifying for the State Meet.”

Boa shorts leaving a mark on the team

Boa shorts are a huge part of this team. They are American made, high quality, and extremely fashionable. From the iconic jorts that the boys team loves and most of the girls team despises, to the flamingo shorts that both teams love, there’s a pair of shorts for everyone. There are many more options including donuts, chili peppers, crabs, toucans, and many more that the team loves to wear.

“Boa is just such a fun thing we have as a team,” Quinn Hilla said. “We love collecting all the shorts and it’s really fun to see the looks we get when we wear them at practice or meets.”

Each year, the guys and girls who attend team camp get a pair of shorts. This year the boys team got the crab shorts and the girls got the blue flamingo shorts. The varsity team at regionals got featured on Boa’s Instagram account. Boa Headquarters reached out to sophomore Quinn Hilla through Instagram after regionals to ask if we would like to take more pictures of our team in boa shorts to be featured in future posts.

Photo taken and sent in to Boa to feature the team.

Cross country team camp

Team camp is a yearly tradition for DXC. It used to be only the boys team, but this year the girls team got the opportunity to go. Team camp is located at Rayburn Lodge in Grayling, Michigan, and the boys have been going to this lodge for years. It sits right on the Au Sable River and can fit the whole team comfortably. The girls and boys do not stay at the same time; the girls went for two nights and the guys stayed for three nights.

There was an afternoon of overlap when the guys got there and the girls left. This afternoon was filled with having a pasta dinner together, playing games, and just hanging out and having fun. On the way up to team camp, the team stops at Higgins Lake for a long run on the trails, swimming, eating lunch, and playing lots of games, like Euchre and UNO, along with different water games like sharks and minnows and Marco Polo.

Time spent at the cabin was a lot of fun, but the team also had to remember how to be safe. Every morning there were temperature checks and everyone had to fill out a google form to show that they do not have any symptoms of the Coronavirus.

Some favorite activities at camp include tubing down the Au Sable River, creating a hammock city in the trees, having euchre tournaments, and a fan favorite, Detty ball. This game was introduced to the team by senior Quentin Hurdle. It is competitive and can get slightly dangerous at times, but it is everyone's favorite game. Some people played it for hours at a time. Another fun activity at team camp is GBU games. GBU stands for Good Bad Ugly. Each of the three captains picks a team and they compete against each other in different games and activities to try and get the most points by the end of camp and the end of the season. Some favorites include lightning, trivia, ping pong toss, Detty ball, balloon stomp, and table dare, which is where your group mixes table condiments and one person has to eat it. The last one who hasn’t dropped out wins. Only the boys team did this challenge this year.

“The best moment of my season would be team camp since it’s something super fun every year and I'm glad it was able to happen and especially able to do the ski hills and get ice cream afterwards," Said Conor Kolka.

One workout that happens every year at camp is the Hanson Hills workout. This workout is considered one of the hardest hill workouts in Michigan. Hanson Hills is a set of four incredibly steep, long, and sandy ski hills. The workout has individuals run up and down each hill once per circuit. People generally do two circuits but can do as many as four circuits which is 8 to 16 times up and down the hills. No hill has proven to be as difficult as the ones at Hanson.

The team will encourage each other on any hills they have run since then by saying, “It’s not as bad as Hanson hills,” and “It can’t be worse than Hanson hills.” Those hills were hard, but they made the team stronger.

“Cross country was such a great experience, “Junior Annissa Sisson said. “All the girls made every bonding event so much better. I am so glad we had the opportunity this year to participate in races and team camp. Team camp was so great, it helped everyone improve their running and brought the whole team closer together. This whole season was so amazing and I definitely wouldn’t change it.”
(Left) Hammock City by the boys. (Right) Girls preparing to run Hanson Hills.

Mohawk tradition lives on

Mohawks are a yearly tradition for the boys cross country team. Every year they would go to Great Clips and everyone would get a mohawk before regionals. Unfortunately, Great Clips was unable to do that this year due to COVID-19. But they found another way.

Senior captain Nathan Gariepy decided to host Mohawks at his house instead. They did it in his garage so everyone could be socially distanced and the Gariepys kept the door open so that there was plenty of air circulating. The parents volunteered to cut the Mohawks and they made sure to be safe and sanitary to keep everyone healthy.

Social bubble of safety

It is important to note that all throughout the season everyone took the proper precautions to keep themselves and their teammates and family safe. Temperatures were taken every day at practice, everyone filled out the google form about symptoms, and everyone wore masks at practice and stayed socially distanced when necessary.

Throughout many months of training, team camp, meets, and more, everyone stayed safe and no one on the team got diagnosed with COVID-19. This team became a bubble of its own and everyone felt very safe around each other. The team knew the importance of wearing a mask because they all wanted to keep their friends, family, and teammates safe.

“From the day we found out we were able to practice as a team we made following proper Covid procedures a top priority,” Women’s head coach Seana Larson said. “The kids were so grateful to be able to train as a group. They knew their actions at practice and outside of practice would directly affect the season. We talked about it every single day. There was such a sense of gratitude about just being able to get out and run. We are lucky that our sport takes place 100% outside and we can socially distance easily. The kids took nothing for granted because we had no idea how long the season would last. Our AD Mike Bavineau did a great job of communicating changes to us and supporting the team in any way he could. We were beyond fortunate that we were able to complete our season at the State Championships.”
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Katrina Melvin
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