NEW: FAM BOYS FINISH STRONG AGAIN
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
That’s where head coach Suzanne Koerner thought the Freeman Academy/Marion boys might land at the 2022 State Cross-Country Meet.
You can imagine her surprise when the Bearcats finished third.
That’s what happened at Broadland Creek Golf Course north of Huron Saturday afternoon, Oct. 22 when junior Tavin Schroeder’s second-place finish, sophomore Finley McConniel’s eighth-place finish and a strong-enough, 64th-place push from sophomore Hayden Schmidt lifted the FAM boys to yet another top-four finish in the team standings, something they have done eight times in the last 11 seasons that included runner-up finishes in both 2020 and 2021.
“We knew after last year that there would be this gap between first two and our third and fourth runners, so this season became about that,” said Koerner, who is in her 21st season as a coach at Freeman Academy. “And Hayden really had a clutch race today, and Tavin and Finley are just workhorses and very consistent. Just — wow. Very happy for them.”
The FA/Marion boys, which qualified the entire team thanks to a Region 3B win at Burke last week, finished like this:
Schroeder 2nd, 16:06.46
McConniel 8th, 17:53.08
Schmidt 64th, 19:53.64
Jayson Allison 85th, 20:41.98
Seth Balzer 112th, 24:23.96
The thrid-place finish is just another rung on the ladder for a boys program that has flourished the past decade. While they never have reached the goal of winning it all, a Freeman Academy and Freeman Academy/Marion boys team has finished in the top six each of the past 11 seasons and in the top three seven of those. And the Bearcats’ top four runners from this season all return in 2023.
Here’s the breakdown of the past 11 seasons.
The Bearcats also celebrated on Saturday Jada Koerner’s final race of her outstanding prep career; Koerner ended up eighth in the 113-runner field, crossing the line in 20:25.73 to claim her sixth state-meet medal. She was fourth last year, third in 2020, 20th in 2019, 10th in 2018 and 23rd her seventh-grade season.
“It was fast,” she said of the pace. “I didn’t have a great time, but it felt fast and it hurt. A lot. A lot more than other races I have had.”
Koerner, who finished in 20:25.73, said there were a few nerves at the start line.
“It wasn’t the most nervous I’ve been, but I had to calm myself down — take some deep breaths,” she said. “Do what I can.”
And Koerner was visibly emotional afterward.
“After the race I just kept thinking, ‘That was my last race; I wish I had done better,’” Koerner said following the 5,000-meter jaunt — a race she didn’t expect to win but one in which she wanted to enjoy. “But, you know, it wasn’t bad; I knew it would be competitive and I ended up pretty close to where I was ranked.”
The FAM girls were also represented by Estelle Waltner, who finished 39th in the field with a clocking of 22:03.18 — a nice cap on what has been a breakout freshman season.
“The people that I have been around have been great, the coaching is phenomenal, and having Jada and all the other teammates help me along has been a big thing. It was a lot of work, but it has paid off.”
And when it comes down to it, Waltner says she just enjoys running.
“I do — I really, really do,” she said after Saturday’s state meet. “During the race it can be really tough but when you finish it feels amazing.”