CROSS COUNTRY: Saline Girls 5th at State Meet, Alig Earns All-State Honors

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The Saline girls' cross country team overcame the loss of two of their top runners and finished fifth in the MHSAA Division 1 meet held Saturday at the Michigan International Speedway.

The Hornets lost senior Madi Wood, who was the fastest Hornet at last week's regional, and freshman Sienna Snyder, who was the fifth-fastest Hornet at the regional.

Still, led by senior Lydia Alig's all-state run, the Hornets were one of the top teams in the state. Saline finished with 201 points. Pioneer, led by first place finisher Rachel Forsyth, was crowned state champions for the third straight year.

Coach Eileen Creutz was impressed by the Hornets' performance.

"I was extremely proud of the resilience and determination the girls showed in the face of all the adversity they experienced in the week leading up to the race," Creutz said. "I doubt there is another team in the state who could have substituted two of their top five runners out at the last minute and had the same result."

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Senior Lydia Alig ran a great race for Saline. Coming into the race, her best time of the year was 19:11. The best time in her career was 18:43.1 She blew both times away, finishing in 18:37.8 to place 29th and early all-state honors.

"Lydia killed it out there! I think the beginning half of this season didn't really go how she wanted and we had to take a close look at what we were doing and what wasn't working for her. We made adjustments and focused on having fun and enjoying the process more than results on a screen and I think that made a huge difference," Creutz said. "She's a tough kid and such a hard worker and she deserves all the success that she has had."

Senior Madison Stern placed 40th in a time of 18:51.35.

"Maddie Stern probably had the mentally toughest week leading into the race and I wouldn't have been surprised if she had had a really rough race but she had a great race in spite of everything going on," Creutz said.

Junior Mia Rogan took 81st in 19:21.17, setting a new personal record while running in her first state meet.

"Mia Rogan moved really well during the race and had a strong finish," Creutz said.

Sophomore Laney Alig overcame a tough start to finish 86th in 19:25.8 - almost 50 spots higher than last year's finish.

"Laney fell in the first 200m and got back up and completed the race like nothing happened," Creutz said.

Freshman Grace Roth also finished in the scoring for Saline, placing 91st in 19:27.17. Roth bested her own personal best time by more than 15 seconds.

Freshman Mackenzie Sellenraad was 95th in 19:28.95. She bested her personal best by almost 29 seconds.

Senior Claire Endress placed 130th in 19:52.6 - cracking 20 minutes for the first time this season. 

Saline ran three girls in the state meet - Roth, Sellenraad and Endres - who didn't run in the regional.

"The girls who stepped in did a tremendous job of rising to the occasion and keeping their head through it all. I know they wished their teammates could have been there and wanted to run well for them so they had extra motivation during the race," Creutz said.

It was the last Saline cross country race for seniors Lydia Alig, Madison Stern and Claire Endres (and would have been for Madi Wood, too). They enjoyed a very successful four years of racing.

"It is a really talented class that has been a cornerstone of our program for a long time. In the last four years, this class has placed 5th, 3rd, 5th, and 5th at the state championship so this had been an incredible run for them," Creutz said.

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The younger runners coming into race in the state meet learned an important lesson about depth. Coach Creutz said that's a lesson that applies to all the girls who run cross country.

"Depth matters. Whether you are the number 1 or number 10 runner for us, you can have an equal impact on the team's success and culture. How hard our number 20 runner works pushed the next runner and so forth," Creutz said. "So our team has experienced success, not just because of the talent of our varsity athletes but also from the drive and hard work our JV athletes put in every day at practice."

The 2021 Saline girls cross country season began with a remembrance of the late Mike Smith, who coached Saline runners for decades. It finished with the girls fighting for every place they could win in a way coach Smith would have appreciated.

"I feel proud of how we bounced back and fought tough and nail for every point at the state meet. The girls ran hard for Madi and Sienna who deserved to be in that race," Creutz said. "We also talked a lot about honoring Coach Smith's legacy and keeping him in our hearts as we ran. It would have been easy to phone this season in, but we run for more than just ourselves and I think that was pretty evident yesterday."

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