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With neon glow sticks tied up in their hair, and the excitement of opening night evident in every step – there was no mistaking the energy and enthusiasm that came with one of the areas most unique races, the unofficial kickoff to the Mid-Michigan High School Cross Country season, St. johns Under the Lights race Friday night. This year the meet saw the home team St. Johns girls team win on their home course. Their win was punctuated by Senior Taryn Chapko’s victory in the girls red race (pictured).
“It was a lot of fun, racing at night gives you a sense of feeling so much faster and the weather was amazing. Seeing all these girls competing in the dark and enjoying each other and cheering each other on is just amazing.” Chapko commented. “I’m looking forward to my team excelling. We already did so well at this meet – I can’t wait to see what we can do at bigger meets in bigger races.”
“Taryn has since day one as a freshman, a level of success; she’s been all-state three years and hopefully four years. She’s been all-state and a champion in track and is just a tremendous athlete.” St. John’s coach Bob Sackrider said of Chapko after the race. “This being her senior year she has very high goals for herself and she looked very comfortable tonight. This is a great first step for her considering all she wants to achieve.”
Chapko has strong competition in Haslett freshman Lauren Hunter who finished her first high school race in dominate fashion coming in thirty seconds ahead of the third-place runner Aiden Grasse of Holt. Despite the effort this was unmistakably St. John’s night though with Chapko and fellow Redwing Sarah Zehr finishing in the top five. Sarah had a great run, one of which might have been the best of her career, or at least it was in her coaches’ eyes.
“Sarah has come a really long way since her freshman year. She’s a junior and she has kind of willed herself over the years and fashioned herself into being a really high-level runner. I felt like this was one of her better races that I’ve seen from her out of her high school career.” Sackrider said of Zehr. “She should be absolutely thrilled, a lot of the time she was racing alone based on how the packs worked out. Sometimes that is easy to slip off of your pace, but she maintained it the whole way.”
It’s easy to see why this race is such a big draw for teams and their families. The evening run creates one of the most challenging yet exciting courses around. “The event was this long forming idea – every year we’d kick off the season with a midnight run and you do it in the dark a little bit, and we’d talked about doing a whole meet in the dark. It took about fifteen years of talking about it before we figured out the logistics and gave it a go.” Sackrider said. “The kids like it because the idea of it, we were trying to build that Friday night atmosphere you have with football and level of excitement in something different"
Other individual winners from the 21 team meet included Freeland’s freshman Braydon Honsinger, Holt’s Alex Penski, and Marlette’s Riley Ford. The race saw teams come from the far corners of Michigan bringing 472 runners. Rounding out the winning teams were Freeland (men's and women's), and Hudsonville.
Final Event Results can be viewed here: https://www.athletic.net/CrossCountry/meet/156700/results