The state’s top ranked boys’ cross country teams met yet again in the SEC Jamboree at Willow Metropark Wednesday.
Once again, Pioneer, ranked first in the Michigancrosscountry.com prep rankings, defeated Saline, ranked second. Pioneer finished with 29 points to Saline’s 52. Skyline was third with 82.
The Pioneers were led by Nick Foster, who won the race in 15:13. Anthony DeKraker was the fastest Hornet, finishing third in 15:57.3 – a fraction of a second faster than junior Jevin Nishioka, who was fourth in 15:57.9.
Pioneer, with two jamboree victories, now has a stranglehold on the SEC title.
Pioneer won because after DeKraker and Nishioka, five of the next six runners to cross the finish line were Pioneers. Saline’s next runner, Joshua Cook, placed 12th. Simon Pfeiffer (16th, 16:42) and Aidan Delfuoco (19th, 16:59) also finished in the scoring. William Minnette, 24th, Evan Bleitz, 29th, Andrew Chen, 30th, Jack Toor, 38th, and Neil Garg, 42nd, also ran for varsity.
Coach Carl Spina said Saline was a bit too aggressive early in the race.
“They were out for the win and nothing else, and we were a little too reckless with the first mile. The boys got pulled into that very fast early race, and that cost us later on. When we should have been moving up over the last mile we were just kind of trying to survive. I take the blame for that. I told them to go after the position battle, and I should have known better how that first mile would go,” Spina said.
Still, Saline had some strong performances. Most notable was Nishioka.
“Breaking 16 minutes is a big deal. It confirms that he's an all-state contender. That also makes him one of the fastest juniors we've had. Jevin, Kevin Hall, and Logan Wetzel are all tied as our fifth fastest juniors ever in the program,” Spina said. “Those are some big names for him to be racing with. It's been a long year for him, after an injury last fall, and I'm impressed with how he's managed the struggle.”
Pioneer has a tight grip on the race for the SEC and simply winning the final jamboree wouldn’t be enough for the Hornets to take the conference title. Still, the Hornets are benefitting from these early-season battles between the state’s best teams.
“The boys get the bigger picture. They know that the conference championship is important, but they also know that anytime we race very good teams, it gets us closer to our own program goals,” Spina said. “Our conference offers some really good competition, and that's what we want. When you race against the best teams, you know exactly where you stand.”
Skyline won a competitive junior varsity race with 37 points – eight better than Saline. Pioneer was eight points back of Saline.
Derek Liemohn was Saline’s top runner, finishing fifth in 17:53. Also finishing in the scoring were Thomas Woodside, 8th, Johnathan Speers, 9th, Cole Trese, 11th, and Ethan Smith, 12th.