Unity cross-country team wins girls' title, Rocket boys finish third at Tuscola Classic

by Daniel L. Chamness
Special to The Sentinel

Tuscola -- The Unity Rockets and the Lady Lions of Marshall made it a two-team race for the team title at this year's installment of the Tuscola Cross-Country Classic on Saturday.

The Lady Rockets tabulated a 13-point advantage, scoring 47 points. Marshall, who had the best one-two punch, took second with 60 points. Shelbyville, who had the individual winner, took third with 93 points. A total of 11 girls' teams posted a team score.

Unity's Josie Cler runs the course at the 2022 Tuscola Cross-Country Classic. She finished the race at 21 minutes and 35.82 seconds.
Photo: Moto Johnson/The Sentinel

"We knew that Marshall would be closer to us this week than they were one week ago," said Kara Leaman, the girl's head coach. "They are very strong up front. We have enjoyed competing against them the last few weeks."

Emily Decker, Erica Woodard, Mackenzie Pound, and Olivia Shake, all Rocket underclass runners, finished in the top 10. Decker finished the three-mile race in 18 minutes, 59.64 seconds. Woodard entered the chute less than 13 seconds later, crossing at 19:12.03. Pound and Shike, ninth and 10th respectively, finished in 19:36.44 and 19:44.55. Fifteenth place runner and number five scorer for the Lady Rockets, Camryn Reedy finished in 20:44.94.

"As the race unfolded, Camryn was a bit ahead of Marshall's fifth runner," said Leaman. "We are headed to St. Joseph and the Spartan Classic this week. In the upcoming races, we want the Rocket pack to continue to move up. We have a number of runners coming on at the right time. We are looking forward to having a returning Reagan Stringer. Emily and Erica have both led us. Mackenzie continues to improve and Olivia continues to stay close to the front runners."

Josie Cler (21st, 21:35.82) and Sophia Stierwalt (29th, 22:01.11) were Unity's sixth and seventh runners. Stierwalt is the only senior in the top seven.

The Lady Rockets have won three meets this year, including a dominating victory over other Class 1A teams at the First to the Finish Invitational at Detweiller Park in Peoria, which will host the state finals on November 5. Two of their victories were over Marshall, who would finish second.

The Rocket boy's team was led by a senior, namely Brendan Graven, who would finish 18th in 17:48.84. The boys ran three miles as well.

Unity's Camden Fairbanks finished the race at 17:57.28 to take 20th overall on Saturday.
Photo: Moto Johnson/The Sentinel

But, after the lone senior finished, the Rockets were powered to third place as a team by four freshmen, who were the other scoring runners. The sixth and seventh runners were a junior and a Nicole sophomore respectively. Only 1:12 separated the top-five Rockets.

Camden Fairbanks would finish the race in 17:57.28 to take 20th. Eli Crowe (27th) and Collin Graven (39th) both broke 19:00 as well, entering the chute at 18:22.08 and 18:57.60. The Rocket top five was rounded out by Carter Tiemann, who finished in 19:00.20, which was good for 42nd.

"Our team is extremely young this year and I want the athletes to gain experience," said Nicole Bagwell, the Unity boys coach. "The other main goals are to remain as healthy as we can and finish the year with everyone healthy and running their best."

The Rockets finished with 134 points. Tuscola would win their home meet, which was held at Wimple Park with 102 points. Effingham-based St. Anthony took second with 105 points.

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