BENTON TOWNSHIP — Bridgman’s girls cross country team has not lost a meet all season, and that trend continued Saturday at the Berrien County Cross Country Invitational as the Bees captured their first-ever girls county title.
The meet, originally scheduled to be held at Riverview Park, was moved to Lake Michigan College’s Benton Harbor campus due to growing concerns over Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
Bridgman’s girls scored 54 to claim the county crown. Lakeshore and Berrien Springs each scored 79, with Lakeshore taking the tiebreaker based off its sixth runner’s finish. St. Joseph was fourth with 87, and Niles scored 95 for fifth.
Berrien Springs repeated as boys team champion, winning easily with 33 points to second-place St. Joseph’s 77. Watervliet was close behind with 79, and Lakeshore (116) and Bridgman (125) rounded out the top five.
Before Saturday, St. Joseph had won nine straight Berrien County girls cross country titles.
“You can never tell on a day like this what’s going to happen,” said Bees coach Spencer Carr. “The girls just came through today and ran a great race and were able to get first. We’re very fortunate to have this good group of girls that we have this year.
“Our first four ran well today. Arie Hackett, she’s a new girl out this year as a sophomore. Today she beat Karsyn (Stewart), who’s been our No. 1 (runner) for a while, which is good. Having two girls out front is really good for us. There will be a battle between those two for the rest of the year, and that will really help them both improve.”
2018 meet champion Kaylee Thompson of Niles defended her individual title, finishing in 20:02.0, ahead of second-place Riley Mullen (20:30.6) of St. Joseph and third-place Erin Moore (20:34.0) of Berrien Springs.
“I really wanted to defend my title,” Thompson said. “I didn’t want to go from being a junior and being county champ to being a senior and fall off. My strategy was just go out fast like I usually do. I just stay strong and try to keep my miles as consistent as possible.”
The boys side also saw a repeat individual champion. Berrien’s Ashton Sheline took the race in 16:50.5. Sheline and Lakeshore’s Race Bettich were stride-for-stride for the first 2 1/2 miles, but Sheline eventually pulled away, finishing just ahead of Bettich’s 16:55.5.
“I was really excited to come out here and race (Bettich),” Sheline said. “I knew that, since we had been racing each other a lot this season, that it would be really close out here to see who would come out on top. I’m really excited to come out and defend my title again.”
In the girls race, Bridgman’s Hackett (20:42.0) placed fourth overall, with Stewart coming in sixth at 20:51.2. Jane Kaspar (10th), Summer Fast (12th) and Mikaela Owen (26th) rounded out the Bees’ scoring.
Lakeshore and Berrien Springs tied with 79. Lakeshore claimed the tiebreaker with a higher overall finish from its sixth runner, Myah Frazier.
“I knew we’d have to have a perfect race to catch Bridgman, but I figured we could get second,” Lakeshore coach Beau Deja said. “We just pack up. We pack and attack. All the girls ran well. My sixth place is the heart and soul, so Myah Frazier, she’s the reason we got second. In a tiebreaker she’s the difference.”
Freshman Emily Peters was the Lancers’ front-runner, placing fifth in 20:43.0.
Moore led the Shamrocks with a third-place overall finish.
The Shamrocks’ normal No. 2 runner, Anna Constable, was out with an illness. Shamrocks coach Charles Richards said he was impressed with his girls team’s performance despite missing a key runner.
“We have first-year runners that are running in the 22s that have never run cross country ever,” Richards said. “To do that this early is awesome. I think the girls won (this race) in 2001. I don’t think we’ve finished higher than fifth in a while, so to do that with this group is remarkable. They have an unbelievably bright future.”
St. Joseph was led by top-10 finishes from Riley Mullen (second overall) and Olivia Ippel (seventh). Madison Scott claimed the 24th overall spot, with five Bears also taking places 29 through 33.
“We’re really solid with our first two,” St. Joseph coach Mike Mahler said. “We kind of struggle after that. We have a nice group of runners, but we need to be a minute ahead of where they’re at right now. We’re making progress, and we had some fast times today with the girls. I’m pleased with the way they competed, we’ve just got to get the whole group out a little bit harder at the start.”
Ericka Lopez of Eau Claire finished eighth overall in 21:56.0, with Niles’ Kayla Trueblood (21:57.1) placing ninth.
Berrien Springs dominated the boys race to claim a second straight county title, placing eight in the top 25 to post a low score of 33. Six of the Shamrocks’ top eight runners finished with season-best times.
“We had this circled on the calendar all season,” Richards said. “No matter where it is. I felt like the guys really stepped up. Our fifth was 18-flat. By the end of the year we’re going to need five under 17:30 probably in Division 2 to make some noise. I think we’re coming along. In these conditions, it was awesome.”
Sheline’s first-place finish led the Shamrocks, with James Burke (17:29.5) and Carter Sheline (17:31.5) coming in sixth and seventh, respectively. Burke’s time was a personal best, and Nathaniel Bittner (10th in 17:45.7) and Sam Markle (13th in 18:00.7) also ran personal-best times.
St. Joseph was led by a fourth-place finish by Andrew Moyer, who ran 17:25.1. Will Fiesbeck (18:09.0) and Drew Nisbet (18:10.0) placed 14th and 15th, with Michael Melvoin (21st) and Jacob Haunhorst (29th) rounding out the Bears’ scoring.
“We had some real nice performances, some good times for us,” said Mahler. “I thought we did well packing up and running, we just needed to get the group a little further up in the field to be able to contend with Berrien Springs. Berrien Springs is a solid team, and they did a great job winning today.”
The Bears barely edged Watervliet in team scoring. Gus Hinch (ninth), Ezra Troyer (11th) and Kody Edmonds (12th) led the Panthers.
Bridgman’s Luke Blesy led the Bees with an eighth-place finish and time of 17:38.9.
Lakeshore was led by Bettich’s second-place finish, followed by Denver Borst (28:35.3) in 19th.
Niles’ Adam Shepherd was third overall in 17:17.8. The Vikings did not post a team score with just four total runners.
Berrien County Invitational at Lake Michigan College
Team scores — 1. Bridgman 54, 2. (tie) Lakeshore 79, Berrien Springs 79 (tiebreaker Lakeshore), 4. St. Joseph 87, 5. Niles 95, 6. Coloma 111, 7. Brandywine 199, 8. Watervliet 238, 9. Buchanan 245. No team score: Eau Claire, New Buffalo, Lake Michigan Catholic, River Valley.
Top 30 — 1. Kaylee Thompson (Niles) 20:02.0, 2. Riley Mullen (St. Joseph) 20:30.6, 3. Erin Moore (Berrien Springs) 20:34.0, 4. Arie Hackett (Bridgman) 20:42.0, 5. Emily Peters (Lakeshore) 20:43.0, 6. Karsyn Stewart (Bridgman) 20:51.2, 7. Olivia Ippel (St. Joseph) 21:33.2, 8. Ericka Lopez (Eau Claire) 21:56.0, 9. Kayla Trueblood (Niles) 21:57.1, 10. Jane Kaspar (Bridgman) 22:07.9, 11. Shaylynn Reyes (Berrien Springs) 22:16.7, 12. Summer Fast (Bridgman) 22:25.3, 13. Abigail Winsman (Lakeshore) 22:49.1, 14. Emma Vandermolen (Coloma) 22:51.4, 15. Abby Vandermolen (Coloma) 23:00.4, 16. McKenzie Geralds (Berrien Springs) 23:01.9, 17. Jezra Reyes (Berrien Springs) 23:03.4, 18. Erin Thomas (Niles) 23:04.9, 19. Rachel Vroegop (Lakeshore) 23:11.1, 20. Haylee Woods (Lakeshore) 23:12.2, 21. Madison Franks (Brandywine) 23:16.4, 22. Ava Genovese (Coloma) 23:17.0, 23. Morgan Horvath (Brandywine) 23:19.9, 24. Madison Scott (St. Joseph) 23:27.6, 25. Grace Stockdale (Catholic) 23:33.7, 26. Mikaela Owen (Bridgman), 23:35.1, 27. Cait Obrien (Lakeshore) 23:41.1, 28. Myah Frazier (Lakeshore) 23:45.3, 29. Madelina Machado (St. Joseph) 23:48.9, 30. Francesca Melloso (St. Joseph) 23:50.5.
Team scores — 1. Berrien Springs 33, 2. St. Joseph 77, 3. Watervliet 79, 4. Lakeshore 116, 5. Bridgman 122, 6. Coloma 162, 7. Buchanan 212, 8. River Valley 242, 9. Eau Claire 255, 10. Lake Michigan Catholic 270, 11. Brandywine 288, 12. New Buffalo 307. No team score: Niles.
Top 30 — 1. Ashton Sheline (Berrien Springs) 16:50.5, 2. Race Bettich (Lakeshore) 16:55.5, 3. Adam Shepherd (Niles) 17:17.8, 4. Andrew Moyer (St. Joseph) 17:25.1, 5. Walker Barz (Buchanan) 17:28.0, 6. James Burke (Berrien Springs) 17:29.5, 7. Carter Sheline (Berrien Springs) 17:31.5, 8. Luke Blesy (Bridgman) 17:38.9, 9. Gus Hinch (Watervliet) 17:44.2, 10. Nathaniel Bittner (Berrien Springs) 17:45.7, 11. Ezra Troyer (Watervliet) 17:55.2, 12. Kody Edmonds (Watervliet) 17:59.7, 13. Sam Markle (Berrien Springs) 18:00.7, 14. Will Fiesbeck (St. Joseph) 18:09.0, 15. Drew Nisbet (St. Joseph) 18:10.0, 16. Chipper Steffey (Bridgman) 18:20.8, 17. German Casiano (Watervliet) 18:29.2, 18. Kelsey Brown (Buchanan) 18:29.7, 19. Denver Borst (Lakeshore) 18:35.3, 20. Rigoberto Andres (Eau Claire) 18:35.4, 21. Michael Melvoin (St. Joseph) 18:35.8, 22. Justin Johnson (Berrien Springs) 18:37.2, 23. Nick Swank (Berrien Springs) 18:41.7, 24. Jake Ickes (Coloma) 18:42.2, 25. Shammah Dosunmu (Berrien Springs) 18:42.3, 26. Ethan Vandermolen (Coloma) 18:42.5, 27. Grant Rose (Lakeshore) 18:46.3, 28. Michael Golden (Catholic) 18:57.1, 29. Jacob Haunhorst (St. Joseph) 19:00.3, 30. John Sanderson (Bridgman) 19:00.8.
Contact: bspencer@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSpencer