After finishing seventh in the state last year – the highest for a Skyline team – the boys’ cross country team set their sights on moving on up this year, despite losing some key runners. That meant a summer of running, running and more running.
“Our team training over the summer was fun and hard,” said Thomas Young, one of the key runners coming back for the Eagles this season. “It prepared each and every one of us for the upcoming season by waking up every morning and going to practice from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.”
As they headed to the starting line this season, Thomas admits that no one, including the coaches, knew exactly what to expect.
“This year’s personality was mainly skeptical,” Thomas said. “The first meet that we participated in was only for the varsity squad, the Bath Invitational. We took first place in that meet, surprising ourselves and other teams.”
The race was on …
“It only went uphill from there,” says Thomas. “We couldn’t believe that the whole entire team was progressing and improving so much.”
T-E-A-M was the key all season for the Eagles. They all pushed each other and their depth helped them achieve big things in 2018 – including their No. 1 goal of improving on last year’s finish at the state finals.
Skyline placed fifth with 197 points at the MHSAA Division 1 boys’ cross country meet at Michigan International Speedway on Nov. 3. Thomas ran 27th in 16:24.1 – leaving the junior with mixed emotions after crossing the finish line.
“Individually, I wasn’t too pleased with my finishing time and placement at states this year,” said Thomas, the son of Jennifer and Stephen Young. “It was my team that really pulled through and got us in the top five finishing teams. We worked hard, stuck together and kept our heads clear.
“When we placed fifth, I got very excited because I knew that was the best Skyline cross country has ever done in its history.”
They also beat rival and SEC champion Pioneer.
“I thought Pioneer could be defeated, but not without hard work and dedication from our team,” Young said. “Our team was successful this year due to multiple factors. We had amazing coaches to help guide and train us, but we also stayed focused, worked together and trained hard. All as a team.”
Being a “team” is very important in cross country and that concept helped the Eagles fly into the school’s record books.
“Before our first meet the team took a trip to Calvin College campgrounds for our annual cross country camping trip,” Young said. “Everybody had loads of fun there because we got to bond together, train together, and have the whole camp grounds to ourselves for a week. Later on in the season, we attended the Chelsea Invitation. Not only did we come in second out of 13 plus teams, but we had PRs (personal records) across almost the whole team which was amazing to see.”
Young placed in the top 15 in six of his seven races this past season – the “one” being the state finals. His best time of the year was 16:00.7 at the Chelsea Invitational on Sept. 29 where he finished fourth overall.
He helped lead the Eagles to second place at the very competitive Brighton Regional on Oct. 26 at Huron Meadows. Skyline scored 69 points to land a spot in the state finals. Young ran a team-best 16:10.6 to finish 10th overall – the Eagles top three went 10, 11, 12 at Regionals.
As a freshman, Young earned the No. 7 spot on varsity and the Eagles had a solid season. He was again running varsity as a sophomore until an injury shut him down for the rest of the season and even the track and field season.
“I started running when I was 12 in middle school,” he says. “I grew up playing soccer for travel teams. Eventually, I realized I was fast and had lots of endurance so I started to run for my middle school team, South Arbor Charter Academy.”
Young says cross country combines mental and physical strength like no other sport does.
“When you’re in the middle of a workout or a race, or a long run, you start to question whether or not you can complete the task that you were given,” he says. “It’s in those moments that it takes a strong individual to tell themselves that they can do this and that they can do even more if needed. That to me shows a person’s strength both physically and mentally.”
Young has no interest in slowing down.
“I plan on running in college,” he says. “I love running even if it is hard and takes a lot out of me. It’s who I am.”