By Tim Robinson
DAILY PRESS & ARGUS
HOWELL - The Howell cross country team's temporary course at the Marion Township Hall this year has been called a lot of things, none of them boring.
Mostly, it's been hot on meet days. Except Tuesday.
Then again, not much went according to form on Tuesday.
A Brighton runner did not finish first in the girls meet, and the Brighton boys won their first meet of the season by a point, 27-28.
In Tuesday's final home meet of the season, the temperatures, around 70, and low humidity were a marked difference from the hot and humid conditions that greeted the Highlanders and their opponents, who ran most of the 3.1-mile course in an open field.
This is a tough course, said Brighton's Gary Meehan, whose varsity team routed the Highlanders, 20-51. It takes a lot out of your legs. There's not much even footing and it has deceptively rolling hills.
The Marion Township Hall layout was used this year due to renovations at Howell High School, where the Highlanders had run a course on the school's campus, and the lack of space on the Parker Campus.
Meehan's plan was to have his younger runners take the lead in Tuesday's race.
I wanted them to get their names in the paper, he said, grinning.
But that didn't happen. A pack of varsity runners, led by Nora Kiilunen, finished close behind overall winner Stephanie Sheckler of Howell.
I was hoping our JV runners would step up, Meehan said. But they didn't do the job.
All that was available in the girls race was estimated times, thanks to a paper jam on the machine that records times as runners finish. By the time the jam was discovered, 48 runners had crossed the finish line.
Howell coach Dawn Webster estimated that Sheckler finished in a little over 21 minutes.
But Sheckler's strong finish was part of the Highlanders' strategy.
We planned to stay close until the final half-mile, then make our kick, Sheckler said. It felt good to win.
Kiilunen said her cluster of Bulldogs were doing what they planned to do as well.
We stuck together, she said, and we wanted to work on that. We ran as a pack at a constant pace.
And they did, with the first six Brighton runners finishing within a couple of seconds of each other.
The Marion Township course isn't known for its speed, with the uneven terrain and exposure to the sun contributing to slower times, generally, than at other venues.
But Steven Marcinkowski ran strong, setting a course record of 16:57, four seconds ahead of Brighton's Matt Neely.
The key, Brighton coach Bob Ritsema said, was the performance of John Childers, who was Brighton third finisher and fourth overall. He edged Howell's Clayton Woll by three seconds for fourth place.
He really stepped up, Ritsema said.
It was the first KVC dual-meet win of the season for the Bulldogs, who are 1-5 with one meet to go.
It was huge for us, Neely said. It think it was a confidence booster and it should help people start to run better for us. Now they know how good they can run.
Howell coach Paul Webster was less than pleased with his team's overall performance, with the exception of Marcinkowski and Logan Hughes, who finished ninth overall in 18:30..
We ran flat, he said. They ran well, and we didn't respond. We had a lot of guys who didn't run Saturday (at the Portage Invitational), and they were flat. We just didn't run well today.
Both teams have invitationals this weekend. Howell travels to the Greater Lansing Invitational, while Brighton will compete at the Reese Invitational.