Grand Blanc's Zach Kughn places 18th, Fenton's Matt Gilbert 19th in state Division 1 cross country meet
Provided by Bill Khan | The Flint Journal
BROOKLYN, Michigan — Michigan International Speedway can be a cruel place for even the most fit high school cross country runner.
Nothing is guaranteed, no matter the runner's resume.
Not a time. Not a place. Not even finishing upright.
Even some of the best can have a rough experience at the state meet when pressure, adrenaline, oxygen debt and lactic acid form a toxic mixture.
Grand Blanc senior Zach Kughn stumbled down the stretch of the Division 1 race, but was still able to get an All-State berth by placing 18th in 15:55.7. The top 30 made All-State.
In the final stretch, Kughn nearly tripped over Saginaw Heritage senior Evan Chiplock, the pre-race favorite who led through two miles before falling twice before the finish line. Chiplock's legs buckled a yard from the finish, but he got up and staggered across in 38th place.
Flushing freshman Addie May said she felt like she was going to black out during the Division 1 girls' race. A regional champion, May finished 137th in 19:58.7.
Bloomfield Hills Lahser junior Alana O'Mara collapsed mere feet from the finish line in the Division 2 race, couldn't get back to her feet and rolled over the finish line before receiving assistance from race officials.
Stuff happens in a state meet.
"I just completely misgauged my kick, I guess," Kughn said after receiving assistance in the medical tent. "I came up a whole 100 meters short. The same thing happened with Evan Chiplock, I guess; he fell twice. I didn't fall, but I was stumbling. It was pathetic."
One of the runners who helped Kughn walk through the long finish-line chute after the race was Fenton senior Matt Gilbert, who was one place back in 19th place with a time of 15:56.2. Gilbert wasn't feeling well himself, getting sick the week of the season's biggest meet.
"It's the first time in a long time I've been healthy for an entire season," Gilbert said. "I get sick right before states. What can you do?"
Kughn appreciated the assistance from a rival he hasn't raced against since track and field season.
"He's a real nice guy," Kughn said. "I like this sport in our area. He feels the same way."
Kughn led Grand Blanc to a ninth-place finish. Grand Blanc's Grant Fisher, who also played junior varsity soccer this fall, was the fifth freshman in the meet, placing 44th overall in 16:14.3.
The only other Flint-area All-Stater was Linden junior Roger Phillips, who placed 19th in Division 2 with a time of 16:11.5, leading the Eagles to a ninth-place finish with 272 points.
"I really wanted to do it," Phillips said. "It was really good competition, faster than I thought they were going to run out, but I went out faster than usual."
An All-State berth was the goal of May to cap an outstanding freshman season, but she also got sick the week of the state meet.
May was in 10th place about 600 meters into the race, but her condition deteriorated with each mile.
"I just wasn't feeling great at all," she said. "I couldn't process anything. I was hurting pretty bad. I've been sick all week, but I was getting better. I don't know, it just hit me again."
Linden sophomore Sydney Elmer was the fastest Flint-area girl in any division, placing 36th in Division 2 with a time of 19:17.2.
In Division 3, Powers Catholic's girls finished seventh for the second straight year, scoring 228 points. It's the 11th time in the last 20 years that the Chargers have had a top-10 state finish.
Morgan McKerchie was the top Flint-area runner in Division 3, placing 44th in 19:54.8.
Sarah Waraniak was 54th in 20:04.3, Kaylie Milne 77th in 20:17.7, Kayelin Mazur 82nd in 20:23.1 and Lindsay Hall 88th in 20:27.6 to complete Powers' scoring.
Durand took 22nd out of 27 teams with 552 points. Junior Madi Atkinson led Durand, placing 74th in 20:14.4.