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The Reflection

Gull Lake Cross Country competes at regionals, sends three athletes to state finals

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Gull Lake’s girls’ cross country team prepares to race. Varsity athletes pictured include Sarah Grimes, Kayla Eklund, Grace Foster, Maddie Salvato, Clara Sandell, Makenzie Wank and Abigail Bell. Photo by Annie Thorn.

Gull Lake’s cross country team competed at division one regionals on Saturday, October 28 at Portage West Middle School. After a cold snowflake scattered race, two of Gull Lake’s female runners, junior Makenzie Wank and sophomore Kayla Eklund, finished in the top 15, qualifying to run at the state meet that will be held on Saturday, November 4. The boys’ team that run an hour later will send freshman Koby Fraaza to the state meet as well.

Wank, who also qualified for states her freshman and sophomore year, crossed the finish line in 14th place. Eklund, who came in seconds after Wank, will run at states for the first time.

Eklund didn’t let the cold weather stop her from a strong finish. She achieved a new personal record and finished roughly 30 seconds faster than any previous race.

State qualifiers Makenzie Wank and Kayla Eklund speak with competitors and coaches Robin Blackburn and Randall Hunt after crossing the finish. Photo by Annie Thorn.

“It was extremely cold and my hands were numb, and it felt like I couldn’t breathe,” Eklund said. “But I feel really happy because I get to go to States.”

According to his brother Nolan Fraaza, Koby finished in 6th place, seconds away from a new personal record.

Cross country athletes have  put in hundreds of miles throughout the year to prepare to run at Regionals, coach Robin Blackburn said. However, workouts have been tapering as athletes approach the end of the season.

“We’ve been coming down in mileage this week,” Blackburn said. “We’ve been putting in some sprint workouts too, so they stay fresh.”

Gull Lake’s boys’ cross country team shares a group hug after their race. Photo by Annie Thorn.

Athletes have also participated in an activity  Blackburn calls “visualization,” during which runners think about how they are going to prepare for and run their race.

This was the team’s third meet of the season on the Portage West course, preceded by Portage’s Early Bird Invitational, which took place in August 18, and the Portage Invitational on October 7.

“The course actually changed back to normal for this race,” Blackburn said, referring to the altered course athletes ran on at the Portage Invite, due to a bee infestation. “It’s a little bit of a mix up.”

Gull Lake’s three State qualifiers will continue similar practices for another week until State finals.

The varsity boys team poses with their coach. Athletes pictured are Jake Herrera, Koby Frazaa, Skyler Flietstra, Joel Blackburn, Sam Christensen, Nathan Alpers, Oliver Harnden, and Zach Zahrt. Photo by Annie Thorn.

The rest of the team, however, will enjoy some well-deserved time off of cross country in the coming weeks.

For senior cross country runners Maddie Salvato, Sam Christensen, and Skyler Flietstra, regionals was their last cross country race in high school. According to Blackburn, running cross country makes athletes stronger individuals and gives them valuable life skills.

“I think cross country is a lot like life because it’s a journey, and it’s a journey when you’re running cross country,” Blackburn said. “There’s ups, there’s downs, sometimes things go well and sometimes they don’t–I think it makes them stronger individuals.”


Annie Thorn
About

This is my first year on staff at the Reflection. I enjoy running track and cross country. I also spend a lot of time volunteering at Gracespring and the Richland Community Library. After I graduate this year, I hope to go to college and pursue a career in public history.

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Address: Gull Lake High School, 7753 N. 34th Street, Richland, MI 49083

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