The Ranger cross country team had one of the most interesting seasons in the past decade. From COVID restrictions to making the state meet, the Rangers were very grateful to be running and showing pride for the school that they ran for.
“We were just so grateful to have a season,” junior Sam Yeager said. “Even though we couldn’t have a lot of bonding experience as a team, we made do with it and did the best we could, and I think that our end results showed that.”
Sam was right about their end results, but it didn’t start the way it ended.
The Rangers looked to start off the season strong, traveling to Gainey Athletic Complex for their first meet of the year. The guys and the girls teams ran well all day long until the last 1,000 meters of the race as the guys and girls both finished fifth. After this meet, the Rangers looked for a bounce-back performance as they traveled to Riverside Park for the Ottawa Hills Invite. The guys team finished in third place again, but the girls team stepped up and had its best performance of the year. They finished in first place as a team and had three top-10 finishers, one of three times this occurred throughout the season.
“A lot of us really stepped up at Riverside, and we had arguably our best performance of the year for both teams,” Sam said.
After this, the Rangers hit a couple of road bumps with the guys finishing in fourth place in the next two meets at Lowell and at Gainey again. The girls had first place leads in both meets but ended up finishing second in both meets. Even though the Rangers faced tough times at this point, it was how they responded to the adversity that defined their season.
As the Rangers traveled to Allendale on Saturday, October 3rd, they looked to get a lot of momentum going into the last half of the season; and that is exactly what they did. The Rangers had second and third place performances for the girls and the guys all the way until the last meet of the season.
“We just fed off of the energy that we kept getting from previous meets, and we just had a picture-perfect last half of the year,” Sam said.
As the Rangers had an amazing season, they looked to back it up in the postseason as they traveled to Cedar Springs and looked to move on to the Regional round. The girls and the guys beat the cut-off time, and both teams moved on to run at the Regional meet up in Traverse City for the second time in three seasons.
As the advent of Halloween 2020 arose, the FHC parking lot was full of anxiety and excitement as this was the make or break day for the cross country team. Make the cutoff time, and you make it to the state meet. Miss it, and you go home. As the Rangers arrived at Benzie Central High for possibly their final meet of the season, they were ready. The guys ran first, and Sam and sophomore Ethan Krampe had a great start, keeping their spot all race as they made the cutoff time individually and moved on to the state meet.
Now, it was the girls’ turn. The lady Rangers needed to have a great performance to make it as a team, and they did just that. They had three top 10 finishers with freshman Clara James-Heer finishing first, senior Whitney Currie finishing sixth, and freshman Peyton Ludwig finishing 10th. Altogether, the lady Rangers beat the cutoff time by five seconds.
“That meet had to be our best performance of the year, and we did just that,” senior Whitney Currie said. “If one of us was one place behind our finishing place, we would not have made it.”
Even if the Rangers made the cutoff time barely, they were still in the state meet, and that was the goal that everyone on the team wanted.
“We all agreed that it was state meet or bust when we came back for our season,” freshman Clara James-Heer said. “If we didn’t make it, it was just not a good season then.”
As FHC had a big day of sports on Friday, November 6th, the cross country team led the day off with the state meet at Michigan International Speedway in the morning. Sam and Ethan ran first for the individual title, and they both came up just short of making the top 100. Even though the guys didn’t win the title, the girls looked to shock the world as they were major underdogs in a 28-team battle for the girls Division 1 state title for cross country. Clara and Whitney both stepped up, making the top 25, but it wasn’t good enough as the team finished in 18th place. This wasn’t the end result they wanted, but they were still proud of the way they finished after a lot of resilience all season.
“I am so proud of everyone for not giving up and making the best of this season,” Sam said. “Despite all of the restrictions and criticism we faced all year, we prevailed in the end, and that’s why we stood out.”