By: Nate Schneider
Milford cross country back for more
You know something special has happened when a documentary is made to put a limelight on your accomplishments.
Such is the case for the Milford girls cross country team, which claimed the program’s first-ever Division 1 state championship in 2016 after a couple previous runner-up finishes in 1984 and 2000 plus other close calls.
The documentary, which clocks in at over 26 minutes, is called “One to First” and shares the story of the Milford girls XC team from its infancy to now. It is produced by Rob Paulson and available to view on YouTube.
It provides a historical glimpse at how the first Mavericks girls runner, Jane Foote, truly was a maverick for the program as she was the only girls runner in 1975 and ran every day with the boys team.
The Milford girls program continued to pick up steam from that point on, culminating with the celebration of the 2016 state championship.
“It was a really cool documentary done by one of our alumni,” head coach Brian Salyers said. “We got in touch with [Foote], who competed against the boys before the school was sponsoring girls cross country. The journey from that one person getting this whole thing rolling to finally attaining a state championship is pretty incredible and rewarding.”
Salyers, in his 22nd year at the helm, had previously watched the Mavericks’ boys cross country team win six state titles since 2003. A girls state crown proved to be more elusive, but with that having been achieved the goals are not lessening for 2017 with the season in full swing.
“They know it’s a balance thing,” Salyers said. “In a perfect world, if everyone is at their best capabilities and we’re at the state finals – we could again be in the mix and that’s the dream goal. On the other hand, they’re humble enough to realize there are a lot of great teams out there and the state of Michigan is rich in talent. It’s a very difficult thing to accomplish.”
Mlford lost its top runner from the state finals last year as Mallory Barrett graduated, but even so the Mavericks return five of their top seven state finals runners from last year. Back in the fold as well are two other seniors who did not run at last year’s state finals but have experience running at the state finals from previous years.
Junior Victoria Heiligenthal leads Milford this season after running an 18:26.6 at the state finals a year ago, good enough for 10th place. Senior Nicole Grindling, junior Natalie Black, senior Regan Lobodzinski and junior Paige Saiz are all expected to be important pieces after placing at the D1 state finals in 2016.
Freshman Elaine Schwendenmann is also showing well in the early season and will continue to be a contributor for the Mavericks.
Heiligenthal finished second at the Averill Distance meet on September 9 with a time of 19:08.7 and will be one to watch the entirety of the season as she is the leader of the pack as Barrett was a year ago.
“We were ranked 10th going into last year and ended up winning the state championship,” Salyers added. “All of this has to play itself out and we’ll see where we shake out at the end of the season.”
The Milford boys squad placed sixth at the state finals last year and returns three of its top six runners – Evan White (29th at state finals, 16:29.1), Nick Martin (43rd, 16:39.7) and Nolan Bailey (84th, 17:03.1).
“It’s a fun group of boys and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with them and watch them get better,” Salyers added.
Milford will compete in D1 regionals at Hess Hathaway Park hosted by Waterford Mott on October 28.