Evart’s top runners key to strong second-place finish

EVART — Josh Woods came into this cross country season realizing he would have huge shoes to fill as Evart’s No. 1 runner.

So far, so good. In fact, his younger brother Nathan has taken over Josh’s No. 1 spot.

At the Division 4 regionals on Saturday, Woods was fifth (17;20.5) and led his team to a second-place finish. The entire team runs Saturday at the Division 4 state finals at Michigan International Speedway.

Josh Woods was the Wildcats’ No. 2 runner last season to Santana Scott, who is now running at the University of Detroit-Mercy.

“It’s been going pretty well,” he said midway during the season. “I had a rough start to the season but I think I’m getting back into it. I had some health issues. I’m 100 percent now.”

He was ecstatic after the Evart Invitational in late September when he ran a personal best on the Wildcats’ home course.

“I’m the only senior on the guys team,” Woods said. “Our team goal (has been) to win conference and win regionals. Then we’ll go to state and have fun. I hope to be in 16:30 at state.”

Evart finished second in the Highland Conference.

Woods’ best time as of mid season was 17:04. But he broke that with his PR on Oct. 4 of 16:51.6 at a Highland Conference jamboree.

“It will take a lot but we’ve been training hard,” Woods said. “I think I can do it.”

Shaving his 30 seconds “will have to be throughout the whole race,” the Evart senior said. “I know my body can. I just have to get it inside my mind I can.”

Woods came into this season convinced it would be his best one.

His brother, Nathan, a sophomore has been pushing him “quite a bit,” Josh said. “I can always see him in the first half of the race. That’s certainly motivation to not give up at that halfway point. My strong point is I start out at an even pace.”

Josh Woods has high hopes for the team.

“We’re looking good,” he said. “It’s a really young team. We know that next year, they’ll be as good as they have been. There’s lots of room for improvement and that will help as the year goes on.”

Nathan’s first varsity season was a memorable one.

“I ran a couple of pretty good times and was happy with how I did,” he said. “I ran with my brother Josh all summer. We ran about 300 miles.”

With that in mind, Nathan Woods entered the season in excellent running shape.

“I was a runner-up in the (first) conference (jamboree),” Woods said.

He was focusing through the season on getting his PR. It was 17:26 last season. His goal this year has been to break 17 minutes.

“I have to keep training hard and look to have better races,” Woods said. “I usually go out with my brother and try to have a strong second mile.”

His new PR came on Oct. 4, in a Highland Conference Jamboree at 17:11.7. At the regionals, Woods was 10th in 17:44.1.

Josh and Nathan Woods have usually been one-two for the Wildcats this season.

“He’s a little better with the short stuff and he’s a smarter runner,” Nathan Woods said of his brother.

As in past seasons, the Wildcats hope to be running their best this time of year and leave it all on the course on Nov. 5, in the state finals at Michigan International Speedway.