Coaches happy with cross country successes

EVART — It was another banner Evart boys cross country season and an enjoyable one for new coach Kevin Mills.

The Wildcats won the Highland Conference and were fifth in the state in Division 2. Pine River boys were second in the Highland Conference and the girls were third.

“I was greatly blessed with a lot of talent,” said Mills. “That made it a fun year to be able to coach such talented runners. The parents were huge and very supportive.”

The runners at the state finals had to endure muddy conditions.

“I thought fifth place was great for the guys at state,” Mills said. “As the coach, I was excited for fifth. Third place would have been the best we could have done. We had two guys get personal bests (Andrew Bengry and Josh Woods) and one guy get seasonal best (Santana Scott).”

Evart graduates Max Hodges, Zach Douglas and Ryan Tuttle, the No. 1, 3 and 5 runners.

Grace Hamilton, an all-stater this season, will graduate from the girls team.

“She ran out of her shoes that day,” Mills said. “Next year will be a building year. We do have a freshman and sophomore that are very strong runners. My job between now and then will be to get the word out and get a lot of people thinking about cross

country.”

At Pine River, “our times didn’t seem to improve as much as they usually do,” said Pine River coach Ross Vrieze. “I think a lot of that is based on the hillier courses we ran this season.”

The girls team graduates seniors such as Jasmine Blackrick and Devyn Powell. Four of the top seven runners will be returning.

“We’re losing two crucial runners on the boys side,” Vrieze said. “They’ll be missed.”

Ben Rigling and Tony Moore are among the top Pine River boys runners that will be back.

About 60 percent of his runners also do track, Vrieze said.