Feature Photo Information

(L to R  Coach Tatro, Caleb Bitely, Josef Bromley, Max Stitt, Wyatt Dean, Easton VanderZwaag, Seth Ackley, Clayton Ackley, Momma coach (Tatro) 

By Craig Beilfuss

BROOKLYN–The Hart boys cross country team captured the Division 3 state title on Saturday morning at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

It was the first-ever state boys’ championship title in any sport at Hart High School.

Meanwhile, the Hart girls’ cross country team saw their string of five consecutive state titles come to end with a fourth-place finish.

In the boys’ division, Hart finished with 116 points. They were followed by Traverse City St. Francis with 147  and St. Louis with 161.

The Pirates had three runners finish in the top 12 spots. Senior Clayton Ackley led the way with a runner-up finish with a time of 15:52.14. Senior Wyatt Dean finished in eighth place with a time of 16:20.05 and senior Seth Ackley crossed the finish line 12th in a time of 16:27.51.

Senior Caleb Bitely finished in 44th place and senior Easton Vander Zwaag came in 116th place.

“When we were running during the summer and throughout the year, the boys always were talking about the state finals and winning a state championship, ” veteran cross country coach Terry Tatro said. “That was their focus the whole year and sure enough they pulled it off! Given the weather conditions they all ran really well.”

Tatro knew if his team could avoid injuries, there was a chance.

“I knew if we could get them to the starting line healthy, they could pull this off,” Tatro said. “In my 24 years of coaching, these guys were the tightest and most focused team I’ve had. They had everything going for them. It still hasn’t sunk in yet … getting lots of phone calls and emails … still trying to digest it all!”

Kent City junior Samuel Martini  in the middle (Photo courtesy of Mary Wilson)

Other top local runners included Kent City junior Samuel Martini, who had a sixth-place finish in a time of 16:17.36, Montague senior Owen Fairchild finished in 51st place, Manistee junior Jack O’Donnell came in 68th place, North Muskegon’s Meldrum-Roy Jude finished in 70th place, Western Michigan Christian sophomore Matthias Morse finished in 133rd place, White Cloud sophomore Coleson Cruzan came in 149th and junior Jaren Vogel finished in 155th place,

In the girls’ division, Traverse City St. Francis took the title with 134 points. They were followed by Pewamo-Westphalia with 142 and Lansing Catholic with 165.

Hart finished with 171 points while Western Michigan Christian came in 14th place with 363 points and Kent City finished in 19th place with 431 points.

Hart sophomore Jessica Jazwinski took the top spot at the Division 3 state finals on Saturday morning (Photo courtesy of Jake Szetela)

Hart sophomore sensation Jessica Jazwinski didn’t disappoint those in attendance as she took home the title for individual runners with a time of 17:36.70. She finished the season as the No. 1 ranked runner in Division 3. Hart junior Alyson Enns was fourth with a time of 18:30.52.

“It was a great year for Jessica,” Tatro said. “Jessica had a fantastic race despite the weather we had. She is the most dominant female in the game today and she showed that throughout the whole year.

“Alyson ran very well today,” Tatro said. “She is still on her comeback. She took the whole summer off and did a lot of cross-training to stay fit. She finished about where I thought she would.”

Other top Hart runners included sophomore Lexie Beth Nienhuis (68th), senior Abigail Pretty (88th) and freshman Kenai Kohx (90th).

“We knew that going in it was going to be a tough race to come out with another state championship,” said Tatro. “We knew it just was going to be a tough road. The girls all ran well. As disappointing as it was to the girls not to win another championship, I am so proud of them.”

Kent City sophomore Lila Volkers (center) and Hart junior Alyson Enns (far right). Photo/Mary Wilson

Sophomore Lila Volkers led the Kent City Eagles with a fifth-place finish in 18:30.76. Other top Kent City runners included junior Gracie Houtman (82nd), junior Isabella Max (169th), sophomore Alisha Esquivel (191) and freshman Lydia Howard (196th).

WMC sophomore Grace VanderKooi (2nd from the right)

Sophomore Grace VanderKooi led Western Michigan Christian with a 15th-place finish with a time of 19:22.81. Other top WMC runners included junior Grace Folkema (75th), junior Eleanor Kingshott (148th), senior Brianna Zuidema (153rd) and freshman Alia Zuidema (156th).

Other local top runners included Shelby senior Emma Soelberg (30th), Manistee junior Cecilia Postma (44th) and North Muskegon senior Carolyn Bennett (122nd).

“We’ll have a good boys and girls team next year and I anticipate sending two teams back to the state finals,” Tatro said. “I am really blessed. Our kids are some of the best students in school. They are great kids and we have good teams both on the field and in the classroom.”