Evart wins Highland Conference title

LEROY — Their top runner was battling an illness but the Evart Wildcats were able to come through in winning fashion to take the third and final jamboree of the Highland Conference at Pine River on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Logan Hammer took first place in 17:10.6 in Tuesday’s jamboree and his Evart teammates scored 39 points to finish ahead of Lake City with 52 and win the Wildcats’ third straight league crown.

“I felt that was probably my best run of the year,” Hammer said. “I gave all that I have. Hard work and determination pays off.”

Max Hodges was third in 17:24.9 for Evart while David Zinger usually the top runner in the conference, was sixth in 18:03.8. Zinger was struggling with illnesses and breathing hard toward the end of the race. He had to be helped around the area moments after he finished.

“We have to do this for our teammates,” Hammer said, in reference to Zinger’s setback. “We have to pick it up when you’re in need. I’ve got his back like he’s had mine. I love him like a brother. There’s no one else out there like him.”

Also for Evart, Antonio Millitello was ninth in 18:38, Alex Newton 20th in 19:18, Ryan Tuttle 23rd in 19:25 and Brian Flachs 26th in 19:41.

“It’s important, but it’s not everything,” Hammer said of the conference title. “I’m looking forward to regionals and state. I did very well at regional and state last year because of an injury. This year, I’m hoping to go full throttle.”

Pine River took third with 72 points in the six-team race. Trevor Holmes was second in 17:15, Caleb Elkins eighth in 18:27, Greg Schaefer 12th in 18:56. Mitchell Kelsey 21st in 19:23, Ben Rigling 29th in 20:02, Robert Ragatski 37th in 22:03 and Aaron Benton 39th in 22:04.

“I felt I ran good, I broke into the 17s on a hard course,” Holmes said. “I want to place top five at regionals (next week).”

“I was very happy to see our top three finishing places, even our fourth guy, Greg Schaefer had his best finish so far in the Highland Conference,” said Pine River coach Ross Vrieze. “He passed a couple of guys we didn’t expect to see. That was a good thing to see. Trevor ran a great race. He was finishing third or fourth. Everyone stepped up a notch.

Katelyne VanMourik of Evart won the girls race in 20:53.1.

“I ran well for this type of course,” VanMourik said. “It’s hilly, especially the last hill at the end. Sometimes in practice on Thursday, we run some hills, but not that much.”

Beal City won the race with 56, followed by Manton with 76, McBain 78, Evart 96, McBain Northern Michigan Christian 106, Marion 127, Pine River 146 and Lake City 169.

VanMourik’s best time has been 20:06.

“I was hoping my time would be in the 19s by now,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll get it at state. But I know I can get into the 19s by the end of the year.”

Also for Evart, Grace Hamilton was 18th in 23:49, Brianna Conner 22nd in 24:18, Taylor McLachlen 23rd in 24:22, Kaitlyn Parsons 32nd in 25:04, Bridget Moore 56th in 27:26 and Franzieska Kroenke 58th in 28:34.

“My times have been going up and down,” VanMourik said. “It depends on the course.”

For Pine River, Devyn Powell was fifth in 21:35, Gabie Gilbert 31st in 24:587, Jessica Stonto 34th in 25:19, Erica Loop 38th in 25:29, Rachel Hartline 42nd in 25:44, Jasmine Hubeck 43rd in 25:47 and Angela Nicholson 50th in 26:16.

“I’m not happy with it,” said Powell. “Normally, I can run closer to a 21 flat, and I have been the last few races. Today, I don’t even know.”

Powell has been battling various ailments recently.

“I’m going back to the doctor because I’ve taken all my medicine and I’ve been sick probably over a month now,” she said. “It was a really bad cold, and whatever it is has given me a cough and makes breathing real hard.”

“Devin has had a hard time breathing,” Vrieze said. “The girls have been fighting injuries and were farther back than we’d like to see.”