Sometimes finishing second leaves a team asking, “what if?” But while the Pioneer girls’ cross country team may have asked that question on the inside, on the outside it was all smiles as they took to the podium on Saturday to collect their runner-up trophy and medals.
The Pioneers finished with 152 points, just 18 points behind champion Clarkston at the Division 1 girls’ cross country state finals at the Michigan International Speedway. Second was a very good place to be for coach Nancy Shafer-Boudreau and the purple and white.
“We had an up and down season,” Shafer-Boudreau said. “We had some really great races and a few not so great races. So our expectations were based on who was going to show up that day.”
Northville was the heavy favorite going into the race on Saturday but it was not a good day for the Mustangs, who finished eighth overall with 252 points, far off the pace. Clarkston was seeded second and Pioneer third but that was factoring in freshman Cookie Baugh who was still injured.
Shafer-Boudreau said Pioneer’s high seeding was due in part to the team being at full strength. But Baugh, who had two top-10 finishes in her first four races of the season, was injured in the first SEC Jamboree in September and unable to race at the state finals.
“They had her in the mix of what we have, which we didn’t,” Shafer-Boudreau said.
But what the Pioneers still had was pretty impressive.
“We had two really good races leading up to it at the SEC meet and then the Regionals so I thought we could end up in the top five if we ran well,” Shafer-Boudreau said. “I never expected us to be second.”
Hence all the smiles and high fives on the podium.
Zofia Dudek, in just her fourth meet coming off an injury, put on an impressive show at MIS. The junior placed second overall with a season-best time of 17 minutes, 59.8 seconds. Only Rockford senior Ericka VanderLende was faster – completing the course in an impressive time of 17:08.4.
Freshman Sarah Forsyth capped off her brilliant rookie season finishing 19th overall for the Pioneers finishing in 18:42.3. Junior Anna Vogel placed 27th with a time of 18:55.9 as the Pioneers crossed three runners among the top 30.
Freshman Charlotte Batra wrapped up her impressive first season by taking 39th with a time of 19:06.9. Forsyth and Batra were among the top six freshman to cross the finish line.
Senior Mallory Dawes concluded her outstanding career by taking 65th overall in 19:32.3. Senior Emily Rennich was 125th (20:22.3) and senior Ella Ryan was 154th (20:54.4).
“We’ve had a lot of injuries and some tough breaks happen to us in some of the bigger races so I was a little weary about how we would do on Saturday,” Shafer-Boudreau said. “The course was quite muddy and we were starting in 3-4 inches of mud at the starting line. Zofia ran her best time and everyone else was pretty close to their best time which is pretty good considering the condition of the course. They were all really, really solid.”
Shafer-Boudreau said the whole team should be proud of what they accomplished on Saturday.
“I didn’t think we had a chance to win so just to get on the podium with second place was really neat,” she said.
Still, there is the “what if” question. Losing by only 18 points doesn’t sound like a lot of ground to make up. So, what if?
“I figured out that if each girl had run five seconds faster, we would have won,” Shafer-Boudreau said. “But all the teams could say that.”
Pioneer’s last state title was in 1997.
It’s been a great run for the Pioneer seniors on this year’s team. That group of runners placed eighth as freshman, second as sophomores, fourth at juniors and second this season.
Pioneer dominated the Regionals two weeks ago at Lake Erie Metropark. They took the top two spots and five of the top 10 to finish with 26 points. Saline was second with 45 followed by Bedford with 54.
The top of the race card feature Dudek in first overall in 18 minutes, 26.9 seconds and Forsyth second in 18:40.5. Batra was sixth in 19:26.3, Vogel was seventh in 19:33.7 and Dawes was 10th in 19:50.2 as the Pioneers landed all five runners in the top 10.
Pioneer also won both SEC Jamborees in 2018.