MHSAA - Hanover-Horton edges out Caro to claim first cross country title (Div 3)

MHSAA - Hanover-Horton edges out Caro to claim first cross country title (Div 3)

Provided by MLive

By Tony Garcia [email protected]

BROOKLYN - It was less than 24 hours after the track and field season ended in June and the Melling brothers were back at it.

Landon, a senior, and Garrett, a sophomore, woke up at 6 a.m. for an off-season run and wanted to add a bit of difficulty. The brothers wore elevation masks, simulating what it's like to run with less oxygen at a much higher altitude, hoping it would pay off come November.

And that it did.

The Hanover-Horton boys cross country team won its first Division 3 state title on Saturday, holding off Caro, which was led by individual state champion Yami Albrecht, by just six points.

Hanover-Horton finished with 122 and Caro had 128 while Holland Black River (149), Erie-Mason (241) and Harbor Springs (257) rounded out the top five.

Hanover-Horton's Landing Melling (15:54.8) and Bo Shepherd (16:20.9) both finished in the top ten while Andy Swihart (16:57.7), Bradley Guenther (17:03.9) and Donovan Kennedy (17:15.4) rounded out the scoring for the Comets.

Garrett Melling (17:19.3) and Dean Reynolds (17:31.9) were the other two Comets to compete.

For the older Melling, it was the storybook ending he deserved.

The Oakland University commit had an illustrious high school career, winning multiple regional titles and Jensen Memorial titles - the largest race in the Jackson area - but had yet to finish on the biggest stage before Saturday.

Melling finished 48th individually as a freshman at the state finals before placing 38th as a sophomore. He made a major jump last year when he vaulted into the top five and he sustained that level this season, finishing third in his final race for the Comets.

He and his teams have always done well, too. The past three seasons the Comets finished in third, fifth and third but the championship had eluded them.

"My last three years we've been so close," Melling said just moments after crossing the finish line, even before the Comets found out they won the title. "But if this is like any sports movie that's ever happened, then we have to have won."

Shepherd, also a senior, hasn't decided where he will run next season, but has been in discussions with both Oakland University and Sagniaw Valley State and has considered walking on at Michigan.

And while they stand out, both having finished in the top 10, coach Dean Blackledge credited the finishes of his entire team for making the difference.

"This is as good as it gets," Blackledge said. "I think it's the way our guys finished (that made the difference). We probably made up 30 or 40 spots on the track (during the home stretch)."

Blackledge has coached boys cross country for 21 years at Hanover-Horton and has coached everything from football and basketball to girls cross country over the past 52 years. He says Saturday's championship ranks as high as any days he's had in his coaching career.

"Anybody who has ever run for us that's here is going to go up there and accept that trophy," Blackledge said. "We've all been working for this so long, and they're all a part of it."