Brandywine’s Harrell, Weedon ready for finals

Published 10:02 am Friday, November 2, 2007

By By STEVE MORRISON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Everyone knows that a full-course meal ends with dessert, but the icing on the cake is not nearly as appetizing for high school cross-country runners in the state of Michigan.
The final course of a full cross season is only the sweet invitation to compete in the state finals held at Michigan International Speedway, in Brooklyn this Saturday.
Brandywine High School will send two outstanding juniors, Ashley Harrell and Tyler Weedon, to this classic showdown.
Weedon was fourth place in conference at Buchanan High School and he paced to himself 13th in regionals at 17:20.9.
Harrell was sixth in conference and burst to 14th at regionals, at 20:59.4. Regionals were held at Portage Middle School, last Saturday, to allow the two to earn the coveted goal to compete for their state crowns in Division 3.
Both athletes and their coach, Jim Murray discussed the upcoming weekend challenge Thursday at Brandywine High School.
Murray is a veteran of 37 years at the helm of the Brandywine cross country program. He is well-aware of the hurdles that his two proteges face in the 5K races, tiered by gender and divisions, one through four.
"Michigan is perhaps the largest C.C. meet in the nation by numbers in participation," suggested Murray.
"I am so excited," Ashley began, "finally realizing like it wasn't going to be like last year." (Ashley's 2006 season ended prematurely due to a stress fracture to her foot.)
"It took me quite a while to get back. I was kind of "iffy' about track last year, and this year, I was afraid of hurting myself again," she added.
Murray indicated that she has worked hard from a disappointing early end of last year to a promising future.
Both students have another year of running to build upon.
Tyler Weedon reflected on memories of this season, "finally crossing the finish line (at regionals) and realizing what place I got and realizing I was going to state. It was like Jackson all over again,"
The entourage … runners, parents, and coaches will head east on Friday, staying the night in Jackson, so that they can get an early start on Saturday morning.
Murray detailed the line-up for the day."We'll have D-4 girls first this year, followed by D-3 girls. Then we'll have D-4 boys and D-3 boys. Girls go first this year, according to Title IX. Then we'll have awards."
After that, at 1:30 p.m., the Division 1 and Division 2 teams run in staggered competition. The reason why they alternate is because is because the distance between the start and finish lines is almost one half of a mile.
Many coaches, coach both boys' and girls' squads, so they need to get a break to arrive back at the starting line before their other squad participates, as Murray explained
"I feel that I can get to the kids about three or four times, during the state meet, which is about standard for a meet," elaborated Murray. Of course, that important encouragement by coaches is welcome and heart-felt in the loneliest grueling competition of all, Cross Country.
In the complete scope of the competition, as many as 27 to 28 teams are represented in each gendered division, with more than 200 runners per each race.
That adds up to a thundering herd of more than 1,600 high school athletes in the total package.
It was gratifying to sit down and enjoy a conversation with two outstanding area runners, who have climbed the ranks to their goal while maintaining a simple sense of humility. Neither student athlete was ego-struck, but rather surprisingly conservative, yet articulate.
When asked about future aspirations, Tyler added "I've looked at a lot of colleges for running, but I lean toward Grand Valley, because they are good, plus it goes with my major (art), and they have really good running teams."
"Tyler may be in the race with the fastest runner of the day, maverick Darling of Ovid-Elsie," commented Murray.
Tyler's personal best for the year is an even 17:00 flat at Sturgis, so that might invigorate him to vault past the favorites.
"My parents are very excited," contributed Ashley,"because my mom was a runner too."
Guess who her coach was? Murray, "The Institution."
Full speed ahead, for two Bobcats.