Mendon aims for fast finish in Division 4 cross country finals

BROOKLYN — Two area teams, along with four individuals, will compete for titles in Saturday’s Michigan High School Athletic Association state championships at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn.
In Division 4, Mendon qualified its boys’ team, while the Marcellus’ also advanced its entire girls’ team.
Howardsville Christian School sophomore Justin Jergens, Centreville senior Justus Chupp and Mendon’s senior Mary Leighton will compete individually in their respective races as well.
Constantine senior Tim Kinney will compete in the Division 3 boys’ race.
The Mendon boys’ team makes its 13th consecutive appearance in the state finals.
Art Stephenson and his Hornets are attempting to better last year’s sixth-place finish at state.
Mendon, Jergens and Chupp are all scheduled to run in the day’s first race at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
Leighton and the Marcellus girls will compete in the Division 4 race at 11:30 a.m.
Kinney, a three-time state qualifier, competes in the Division 3 boys’ race at 11 a.m.
Mendon finished second to Battle Creek St. Philip in last week’s regional meet at Portage West Middle School with 80 points. St. Philip took first with 59.
The Hornets are led by juniors Keaton Crotser, Nik Andaverde, Connor Henckel and Wyatt Cupp along with seniors Jacob Hagenbuch, Alex Heckman and Garrett Russell.
“We’re going to be shooting to run with St. Philip again at the state meet. Right now we’re ranked No. 8 in the state. I think there are a couple schools we can pick off. We just have to go out and see what we can do,” Stephenson said.
Jergens, who won his second consecutive individual regional title, is shooting for an all-state medal and status. He finished in 37th place at the 2015 finals.
“This year I want to go out and get an all-state place. I just try to go out and do my best in every race,” Jergens said.
Jergens’ all-time personal-best time is 16:52 last year as a freshman in the Portage Invitational.
The top 30 runners in each race in all four boys’ and girls’ divisions earn All-State distinction.
Chupp makes his second appearance at the state finals. He made it to state his sophomore year with Centreville’s team.
Chupp finished sixth at last week’s regional meet.
“I’m looking forward to state. My goal is run a personal best and beat the guys that beat me at the regional,” Chupp said.
Chupp’s personal best is 17:31.
Leighton competes in the finals for a fourth consecutive year, but this is the first year she has advanced as an individual. She was part of the Lady Hornets’ state-qualifying teams the past three years.
“It’s going to be different being there without my team running. I’m going out to try and be all-state and run one of my best times,” Leighton said.
Leighton’s all-time personal best time is 20:30 which she ran her freshman season.
“Mary has been quite the competitor through the years. We are very proud of her,” Stephenson said.
Marcellus’ girls’ team under long-time head coach Dave DeCou qualified after earning third in the regional.
The Lady Wildcats are led by sophomore Emma Pachay who finished fourth in the regional at 20:10.5.
Pachay finished 65th at state her freshman year.
Also competing in Saturday’s meet for Marcellus are Lexi Bainbridge, Amy Steinkraus, Joanna Jager, Lotta Hiltunen, Morgan Hartline and Melissa Steinkraus.
Kinney finished 11th at the Division 3 regional at RedBud Motocross Park in Buchanan last weekend with a time of 17:55.1. He finished 148th at last year’s state meet.
Scott Hassinger can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 25 or sports@threeriversnews.com.

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