A back-and-forth battle between the Hanover-Horton and Lumen Christi high school girls cross country teams will come to a head Saturday at the Division 3 state finals at Michigan International Speedway.
The teams split their meetings at large meets this season, with Hanover-Horton edging runner-up Lumen Christi for the Division 3 regional crown Saturday at Ella Sharp Park. On Oct. 8, Lumen Christi finished second and Hanover-Horton third at the competitive Portage Invitational.
The Comets, the two-time defending state champions, are third in this week’s MichiganCrossCountry.com Lower Peninsula poll. The Titans are fourth.
Hanover-Horton, Lumen Christi and Stockbridge will compete in the Division 3 state meet at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at MIS.
“They’re such a solid program,” Hanover-Horton coach Dean Blackledge said of Lumen Christi. “(Lumen Christi coach) Mike (Woolsey) does such a good job over there. If you beat them, it’s a solid moment for your team.”
Hanover-Horton has three top runners in senior Lindsey Burdette, junior Megan Hubbard and sophomore Shannon Richardson, but Blackledge said the Comets’ chances likely rest on the shoulders of Sierra Melling and Alexis Dielman, the team’s fourth and fifth runners.
“At the state meet, the fourth and fifth runners can hurt you,” Blackledge said. “Our top three may score 15 points, but the next two may score 50 or more. If their fourth and fifth runners improve 30 seconds, they can shave off 30 to 40 points. The strength of the meet is in the fifth runner.”
Lumen Christi has one clear frontrunner in senior Mickey Ludlow, and two pairs of runners who have similar times in Caitlin Clark and Aubrey Penn, and Anna Berkemeier and Natalie Miller.
While Blackledge said the final two runners are the difference makers, Woolsey said Hanover-Horton’s front three hold the key.
“Hanover-Horton has the experience,” Woolsey said. “They’ve won the last two years. That’s an advantage for them. It’s hard to repeat. I’ve been in that situation before.
“Sometimes, it’s easier to go in with it like it’s a new thing, so there’s not a lot of pressure.”