Saline Track and Cross Country Runner Earns MHSAA Scholar Athlete Award
Saline High School senior Shane Pitcher works hard on the cross country courses - and even harder in the classroom.
Pitcher, who last month committed to continuing his studies and running career at Hope College, is one of 14 MHSAA students from Class A schools to receive scholarships through the MHSAA/Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete Award program.
Farm Bureau Insurance is presenting $2,000 college scholarships to 32 Michigan high school student-athletes this year. Pitcher and the other winners carry a GPA of 3.5 or higher, have won a letter in at least one varsity sport, and demonstrate sportsmanship and community involvement.
Pitcher has been a varsity cross country runner for two years, serving as a captain last year, and is running distance events for the track team for a third time this spring, when he will be one of the team's captains.
Pitcher earned all-region honors in cross country last fall. He's also earned all-league honors in track.
Away from athletics, Pitcher earned the silver service honors as a member of National Honor Society. A Boy Scout, Pitcher earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He earned two Eagle Palms and was selected for the BSA's Order of the Arrow.
Pitcher has been a member of the Connecting Club, serving two years on the group's executive council. He wrote a $10,000 grant for a disability-inclusive space. He also participated in Students About Staying Healthy and the Generation Global program.
Pitcher said there were many reasons why he chose Hope College. As you might guess, a scholar-athlete has academic and athletic reasons for his choice.
"They have a really competitive cross country team. They have a bright future," Pitcher said. "Mostly, I chose Hope for academic reasons. They have one of the best education schools in the state."
Pitcher said he also fell in love with the campus.
"Running is important, but ultimately the non-running factors made my decision," he said.
Pitcher was Saline's only Scholar-Athlete Award winner - but he's not alone in his academic success. There are many high-achieving students in the Saline cross country program. Pitcher said there does seem to be a relation between achievements in cross country and academics.
"The culture we have on the team breeds hard work and then follows through in the classroom," he said. "I think it helps me be more disciplined to have a sport and school to focus on."
While he still has his senior track season in front of him, Pitcher recalled a few of his favorite senior year moments from the cross country season.
"The last two races were great. This is the first time in 5 or 6 years we won the conference championship and the regional championship," Pitcher said.
Pitcher is thankful to many people who helped him become the kind of athlete who will run in college. He said coach Hernandez, a Hope alum, was the first coach who believed in him and told him he could be fast.
He said coaches Carl Spina and Derek Stern have been supportive throughout his high school career.
Pitcher also thanked his teammates.
"I've had a lot of teammates who have been mentors to me. Guys like Andrew Victoria and Will Minnette. They were really fast guys who helped build the culture here," Pitcher said.
Coach Carl Spina said Pitcher is a "program kid" who absorbed the Saline cross country culture and turned himself into a really good runner.
"The easy thing to see is how much progress he has made as a runner. When he was a sophomore, he didn't look like he'd be scoring points for us in varsity races as a senior, but after a few years of good work, he made himself into that. He also is a real program guy. He loves Saline XC, the tradition and culture, the team environment, and he was that kid that made sure those things were happening," Spina said.
Spina said Pitcher spread his enthusiasm for the sport.
"He wears his heart on his sleeve, and he talks about and shows his passion for the sport and his team. It's good to see a little emotion in the team rooms, at practices, and in the races. He brought that," Spina said.
On the cross country course, Pitcher tracks down faster runners and has developed a good kick.
"He's not afraid of just kind of latching on to kids that are faster than him, and he just hangs on to them," Spina said. "He also has developed a lot of confidence in his ability to finish a race fast. In the spring, he'll be able to help anywhere from 800 to 3200 meters."
Hope College probably knows what they're getting in Pitcher the runner. But they might not yet know exactly what they've got in their student-athlete, Spina said.
"He'll probably be part of their top 10 and have a chance to travel with the team as a freshman," Spina said, forecasting Pitcher's freshman year.
I think where he'll really surprise Hope is how much of a team/program guy they are getting."