BRIGHTON — The Brighton girls cross country team did its part Tuesday, pulling out a one-point win over Milford in the KLAA West dual-meet opener for both teams.
Sometime in the next couple of days, coach Kristi Matuszewski will have to do hers.
“I didn’t even know how we started talking about this, but I said, ‘Man, if you pull this off, I’ll do 20 cartwheels,'” she said. “And the first thing they said when they crossed the finish line was, ‘We can’t wait to see you do those cartwheels.’”
It was a rematch of the teams that finished second (Brighton) and third (Milford) in last year’s state meet.
“They’re incredible. They’re solid. They’re strong,” Matuszewski said. “I think they graduated one and we graduated two and lost another to injury who isn’t running any more. So we knew it was going to be a good solid fight today.”
It came down to the most basic of strategies in cross country: The bigger and closer the pack, the better your chances.
Milford took the first two spots by wide margins, but Brighton took the next four, which proved the difference in a 27-28 victory.
“That’s what’s its all about, them working together,” Matuszewski said. “We practice it all the time. It’s much easier to be with each other and push each other and they came through today. It was very nice.”
“We were expecting that race strategy,” Brighton’s Lauren Parnell said of Milford. “We just had to go out and race to our best. We did what we had to do and got the job done.”
Andrea Crowe finished third overall, followed by Lindsey Witte, Parnell and Bella Van Buren. Lexi Reynolds rounded out the scoring by finishing ninth.
“We were building a wall, almost,” Crowe said of her teammates, who ran four-wide for much of the race. “We knew in the beginning we had to stick together from the start. We had to push each other more than we have before.”
Milford easily won the boys race, 16-43, taking nine of the first 10 spots. But Chris Elsey, in his first dual meet as Brighton’s coach after replacing the retired Bob Ritsema, took a long view.
“The kids are running hard,” he said. “We did what we could. Milford’s one of the top 10 teams in the state, and they’re returning their top seven. They’re a pretty good team and we did what we could today.”
Zach Stewart was the top Brighton finisher, placing fifth.
It was the last dual meet between the teams after 35 years. Milford is leaving the KLAA after the 20-16-17 school year.
Hartland at Howell
HOWELL — Hartland salvaged the split when the girls won their meet, led by Michelle Moratis and Emma Smith, who finished in 21 minutes, 41 seconds as the Eagles won 23-32.
In the boys meet, David Mitter was first overall in 16;50 and the Highlanders took three of the first four places in a 26-31 win.
Brighton 2, Hartland 1
BRIGHTON — Mason Rozman scored both goals as the Bulldogs (7-0 overall, 3-0 KLAA West) remain unbeaten. Rozman scored on a penalty kick and a corner kick. Hartland scored the first goal of the game on a penalty kick.
The Bulldogs outshot the Eagles 10-5.