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Girls cross-country regional champs

(left to right): Madi Phelps, Rieley Hondalus, Mandy Mann, Katie Weiler, Amanda Balzcak, Sirena Johnson, Lindsey Klien, Breeann Ovokaitys, Jessica Titus, Sommer VanDyke, Kayla Ovokaitys.

(left to right): Madi Phelps, Rieley Hondalus, Mandy Mann, Katie Weiler, Amanda Balzcak, Sirena Johnson, Lindsey Klien, Breeann Ovokaitys, Jessica Titus, Sommer VanDyke, Kayla Ovokaitys.

Obstacles did not take the Cedar Springs girl’s cross-country team off course for a Regional Division 2 Championship on Saturday, October 31 in Benzonia, Michigan. In an effort to eat, sleep, and prepare mentally prior to the race, the team traveled to Beulah and stayed at the Best Western Hotel. However, shortly after their arrival, power was lost for seven hours of their stay. The next morning, high winds, cold temperatures and rain saturated the course and presented challenging weather conditions for their 3.1-mile race. The mighty Red Hawks rose to the occasion to secure a first place finish earning 54 points among 15 competing teams throughout the region.

After finishing first in the Conference the prior week, this year’s Regional Championship, is the first time since 2000 the team has qualified for state as a team. From approximately 90 athletes, Breeann Ovokaitys finished first overall and led her team with a time of 19:10.  Two other teammates finished in the top 15 overall runners—freshman Katie Weiler, who came in second with a time of 19:27, and Amanda Balczak, who finished 8th with a time of 20:13. Other contributing members of the team included Sommer Vandyke (20:49-21st) and Jessica Titus (20:51-22nd).

When Breeann was asked what it takes to finish first in a race of this magnitude she replied, “Dedication and motivation. It takes year-round training and simply putting in the off-season miles. We have a great coach and teammates who make the training both enjoyable and worthwhile.” Ovakaitys was the 2008-09 Red Flannel Queen, and is on the board for the National Honor Society and Student Activities Council. She is active with her church praise team and plays the violin for school plays. She plans to be part of the CSHS track team this spring and then go on to college in the fall.

Coach Kahler was pleased with her team. “All the girls put their heart into this race and persevered in an effort to represent Cedar Springs at a state level,” she said. “Our goal now is to finish in the top 10 for Michigan. We were previously ranked 8th and look forward to a strong finish for the season,” she continued.

A faithful group of parents, grandparents, and community members braved the elements in support of the team. “It takes an outstanding coach to bring everything together to win a district and regional championship. Coach Kahler has certainly done that. We have some great student-athletes and family support as well,” commented Doran Myers, grandparent of runner Katie Weiler.

Coach Kahler works in cooperation with the men’s cross-country team coach, who is also her father, Ted Sabinas. The state meet will be this Saturday, November 7 at the MIS Speedway in Brooklyn, near Jackson. The girl’s race begins at 1:30 and the boy’s race at 2:30. Cedar Spring’s runner Connor Mora, who finished second overall in the boy’s Division II race at Benzie Central High School, will be the only Cedar Springs male runner advancing to state finals.

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