Evart’s Zinger, Cards’ Ruiz have big days at cross country state final

BROOKLYN – Evart celebrated a second-place team finish and also the No. 2 runner in the state to highlight area accomplishments at the state cross country finals on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. David Zinger took second place for the Wildcats, while in Division 2, Clark Ruiz of Big Rapids was third for the boys and Megan O’Neil of Chippewa Hills was seventh for the girls. Here’s a team-by-team review of local participants. EVART Zinger fired in at second place individually in 15:52.8 as his team took second with 100 points behind Concord, which had 61. It was his last race as a senior and Zinger was happy with his performance. “It’s a pretty good way to go out,” Zinger said. “We thought we’d get top four. We had no idea.” It was almost an hour after the race, when all the points were totaled that Evart realized it had taken second place, ahead of Pewamo-Westphalia, which had 117. “This is the best we’ve ever done,” said Evart coach Andy Eichelberger, in his 13th year of coaching. “They tied for first place at team track (state finals) last year. Now it’s runner-up for cross country.” For team scoring, Max Hodges was seventh in 16:21.1, Logan Hammer 12th in 16:30.5, Santana Scott 22nd in 16:54.1, Zach Douglas 57th in 17:41.9 Ryan Tuttle was 77th in 18:07.3 and Akira Inoue 149th in 19:30.1 With all runners combined, Zinger was second while Hodges was ninth, Hammer 19th, Scott 36th and Douglas 97th. Eichelberger saluted his No. 4 and 5 runners for helping the Wildcats get the necessary points for a high finish. “They were probably the most improved,” he said. “They ran smart.” “We have a good cross country program,” Hodges, a junior said. “We lose David and Logan. Hopefully, we’ll get some new runners.” Grace Hamilton ran for the Evart girls and was 54th in 20:47.6 for her first year at state. “I went out fast, like I should of,” she said. “I passed people the whole race.” A strong start was a key in her race, Hamilton said. “I went out faster than I have been so I didn’t get boxed in,” Hamilton said. “The weather was beautiful. It was a little cold. “I had a great season,” she said. “I had a lot of fun with my team.”
BIG RAPIDS
Clark Ruiz was an all-stater for the fourth year in a row with a time of 15:32.1 for third place in Division 2 boys. Connor Mora of Cedar Springs was first in 15:04.2 and Tanner Hinkle of Mason second in 15:09.8. “His main goal was top three at state and he got it,” said Big Rapids coach Chase Gibson. “He had dropped down but the last 400 meters he got back to third.” Ruiz said he worked hard to get in a position to finish well at the state meet. “I’m pretty happy with it, looking back,” Ruiz said. “It was a rough season and I got to where I wanted to be. I did all I could do.” Ben Shaffer was 34th in 16:02.4 for the Cards while Brent Heberling was 122nd in 16:52.5. Chloe Kinnally was 80th in the girls race in 19:46.8. CHIPPEWA HILLS O’Neil led Chippewa Hills with a time of 18:14.2 for seventh place. She also had two teammates in the race with Emily Starck who was all-state by taking 23rd in 18:37.7 and Kylie Schafer who was 87th in 19:50.6. O’Neil and her teammates noted that the start of the race was rather fast and furious. “It was just crazy out there,” O’Neil said. “I thought I ran OK,” Starck said. “You have to get out fast.” “I was happy to be here,” Schafer said. “It was exciting. It’s my first year and it was a good experience.” OTHERS Trevor Holmes of Pine River got the last spot for Division 3 all-state by placing 30th in 16:29.3. “It was a good race, about 30 seconds faster than last year,” Holmes said. “It was determination and pushing through that third mile.” Temperatures were cool, but pleasant, Holmes noted, and the muddy conditions didn’t really slow him down, he said. Chad Zagacki of Reed City was 85th in 17:11.3.