J-L Cross Country Team



Cardinals' Idalski focuses on fun during D4 state championship

Dream chaser: Cardinals' Idalski 6th to qualify for 1st-ever D4 state final

Banner night! Cardinals win 1st Ski Valley championship in program history

2016 J-L CROSS COUNTRY MEETS
(Boys FIRST this year, Girls SECOND)

Saturday, August 20 at Central Lake
Loaded junior class to guide Cardinals to SVC title bid

J-L Cross Country - Ryan Shay Memorial PHOTOS

-Wednesday, August 31, @ 3:00 p.m.
Cardinals' Bartle uses mother's help to place in top 30 in East Jordan

J-L Cross Country at East Jordan Invitational Photos

J-L Cross Country at East Jordan PHOTOS

-Saturday, September 10, @ 9:00 a.m.
Historical outing: Cardinals' boys team 3rd in Charlevoix Mud Run

J-L Cross Country at Charlevoix Mud Run PHOTOS

-Tuesday, September 20, @ 4:00 p.m.
Cardinals' 3 girls runners navigate challenges of not having a team

J-L Cross Country at Inland Lakes PHOTOS

PHOTOS Gaylord Herald Times: St. Mary, J-L at Inland Lakes 5K

-Saturday, September 24, @ 9:30 a.m.
History made: Cardinals win 1st invitational in school history

-Saturday, October 1, @ 10:00 a.m. Triple Crown:
Triple Crown: Snowbirds' Delaney out gallops Cardinals' Idalski at Boyne Falls

J-L Cross Country at Boyne Falls PHOTOS

PHOTOS Gaylord Herald Times: J-L Cross Country at Boyne Falls

-Thursday, October 6, @ 4:00 p.m.
Mancelona High School, Mancelona (9300 W. Limits Road)

-Wednesday, October 12th @ 4:00 p.m.
Banner night! Cardinals win 1st Ski Valley championship in program history

PHOTOS Gaylord Herald Times J-L, St. Mary at Ski Valley Championships

-Saturday, October 15, @ 10:30 a.m.
Cardinals get 5 top-20 finishes to take 2nd at Leroy Maxie invite

J-L Cross Country at Fairview PHOTOS

-Saturday, October 22, @ 10:00 a.m.
Michaywe Pines Golf Course, Gaylord (1535 Opal Lake Road)

J-L Cross Country at Michaywe Pines PHOTOS

-Saturday, October 29, @ T.B.A. (Regionals)
Michaywe Pines Golf Course, Gaylord
Dream chaser: Cardinals' Idalski 6th to qualify for 1st-ever D4 state final

-Saturday, November 5, T.B.A. (State Finals)
Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn (12626 U.S. 12)
Cardinals' Idalski focuses on fun during D4 state championship

J-L Cross Country State Finals PHOTOS

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Cardinals' Idalski focuses on fun during D4 state championship
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

Johannesburg-Lewiston junior Nathan Idalski had goals in mind for the Division 4 boys cross-country state final Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.

But his biggest goal was to just have fun since it was his first time running in Brooklyn.

The whole experience was fun for him, he said, and it all began at the starting line.

"All of the Ski Valley kids that made it to states, we all shared a box, so it was pretty cool to start a race and be with people you've competed with before," he said. "Brendan Morris (of Mancelona), Brendan Delaney (of St. Mary), Luke Passino (of Inland Lakes) were there, and then there was a Mackinaw City guy (Michael Elliott), too. It was a refreshing experience to finish the season off with the people you ran with all season."

Idalski fell short of getting a personal record, but he navigated the water-logged course, especially at the start and end lines, in 17:54 to take 89th place overall.

"The start was almost like another mud run," he said. "There was a lot of water that was built up. It was really wet for most of the start.

"The boxes were pretty tight, and I expected that at the state final."

Running near the race track was the most challenging for him.

"The start was a half mile long or so," Idalski said. "It was difficult to find my pace. I managed to hold a pretty steady pace for most of the race.

"Once I got back into the (race) track again, I think the whole entire way inside the track was wet. It was hard to make a move because every time you tried, you'd slip."

Idalski, who is only the second J-L boys runner in program history to compete in the state final, with 2014 graduate Andrew Morehouse being the other, said the experience was emotional.

"I got close to my PR, but I have next year to worry about that again," he said. "I had fun, and that's all that matters.

"When I was running that race, I thought about my training and what I've done to get there. I didn't really care about my place too much. I was just happy that I could represent J-L at the state final."

Now that Idalski has had a taste of what it's like to run in the state championship, he already has his goals in mind for next season.

He wants to make it back to MIS, train even harder and, of course, break the school record Morehouse set in 2012 (17:14).

Idalski narrowly missed getting that record when he ran a 17:17 in the Northern Michigan Championships held Oct. 22 at Michaywé Pines Golf Course.

"As far as next season, I need to set the bar higher," he said. "I know there's going to be people who didn't quite make it (to the state final) this year that'll be trying next year. I just have to do what I know how to do, train hard and hope for the best."

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Dream chaser: Cardinals' Idalski 6th to qualify for 1st-ever D4 state final
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

GAYLORD — The motivation wasn't hard to find for Johannesburg-Lewiston junior Nathan Idalski, who competed with the Cardinals' boys cross-country team in the Division 4 regional Saturday at Michaywé Pines Golf Course.

During the Northern Michigan Championships last week, Idalski ran a personal-best 17:17 which was three seconds from snapping the J-L school record.

Running the same course a second week in a row inspired him in the regional, as he placed sixth overall and finished in 17:44 during a hotly-competitive meet.

"Last meet here at Michaywé, I ran my PR and was three seconds away from the school record," Idalski said. "Today, I just tried to relive that moment as best as I could. The whole entire race I just thought about the school record and tried to propel the team forward.

"I didn't get the record. I was 30 seconds off."

That's because Idalski didn't feel well before the race started.

But he fought through his sickness, competing with rivals Brendan Delaney from St. Mary and Luke Passino from Inland Lakes until the finish line.

He jumped out to a fast start and maintained a staggering pace for about 2/3 the race before fatigue set in and cost him a place or so at the end.

"It was quite a race, and I didn't feel very good," Idalski said. "I did my best to hide it.

"I knew that the start would be really tight so I tried to get out as fast as I could. I tried to pick people off toward the beginning and then at the end, my pace cut off a bit, but I tried to maintain it for a little bit. As far as the strategy goes, it went to plan for the most part."

The finish made Idalski the Cardinals' lone qualifier for the D4 state final set for Saturday, Nov. 5 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

Making it to MIS, in an essence, is a dream three years in the making, one he realized in July during his offseason training required lots of hard work and dedication to achieve.

"It feels like a dream come true," Idalski said. "I don't mean to sound cheesy, but it's been two years of not going (to the D4 state final), so it feels good to finally get it this year."

The Cardinals took fourth and missed qualifying for the state final as a team by one place.

Harbor Springs won the race, followed by Ellsworth and Fairview.

Scoring for J-L were Nathan Lawrence (26th, 18:55), Tyler Helzer (30th, 18:49) Danny Mackowiak (19:00) and Cody Layman (43rd, 19:34).

Jack Perry (19:34) and Gavin Weaver (20:41) raced for the Cardinals, too.

J-L's Alyssa Bartle was only six places from qualifying for the D4 girls state final for the second straight year.

The junior finished in 22:18 to take 21st overall, a good performance after she battled a medical condition called dilated blood vessels all season long.

Helping Bartle were Destiny Sherbonda (36th, 23:40) and Anika Kierczynski (63rd, 27:19).

The Cardinals didn't have enough runners to place as a team.

Harbor Springs won the meet, followed by Inland Lakes and Ellsworth.

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Cardinals get 5 top-20 finishes to take 2nd at Leroy Maxie invite
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

All five of the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys cross-country runners placed in the top 20 to help the Cardinals take second in the Leroy Maxie Invitational held Saturday at Fairview.

Nathan Idalski (17:04) placed fourth to pace the Cardinals, who finished ahead of Fairview, Boyne City, Oscoda and Mancelona. Only Hale put together a better finish than J-L.

Nathan Lawrence (13th, 18:20), Danny Mackowiak (14th, 18:23), Cody Layman (18th, 18:35) and Tyler Helzer (19th, 18:39) each scored for J-L.

Gavin Weaver (19:11), Jack Perry (19:14), Aaron Latuszek (19:48), Elijah Fisher (20:02), William Carey (20:06) and Vince Hummel (21:35) raced as well.

Alyssa Bartle's seventh-place finish helped the Cardinals' girls team place third, finishing behind only Boyne City and Fairview. Oscoda took fourth.

The junior ran in 22:07 while Destiny Sherbonda (15th, 23:41) and Anika Kierczynski (21st, 26:20) also competed.

In middle school action, Sydney Townsend (13:53) and Gage Boughner (12:12) placed second and fourth in the 2-mile girls and boys races, respectively.

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Banner night! Cardinals win 1st Ski Valley championship in program history
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

MANCELONA — The night before Wednesday's Ski Valley Championships at Mancelona, Johannesburg-Lewiston coach Craig DeHoog took his boys cross-country team to the gymnasium.

The third-year coach showed the Cardinals the team's banner that hung on the wall there. It was next to the banners for the J-L baseball, girls basketball and track and field teams, all of which had past conference, district and regional championships identified on it.

The cross-country banner, though? It had nothing. The boys team had never accomplished anything major since it was formed in 2008.

Led by junior Nathan Idalski, the Cardinals changed that by winning its first Ski Valley title in program history after edging the defending champions, rival St. Mary, by only three points at Mancelona.

Idalski (18:01) finished third individually to garner First Team All-Conference honors while Nathan Lawrence (19:14) took seventh to make the Second Team. Gavin Weaver (19:34) placed 11th, earning an Honorable Mention nod, and Danny Mackowiak (20:20) and Jack Perry (20:28) rounded out J-L's scoring for the team's best finish ever.

"I'm pretty excited for the kids," DeHoog said. "I showed them yesterday how there was nothing up there in the gym when we walked down to the banner. It was a motivational, Hoosiers-type thing.

"They ran really well today. It just shows what hard work can do and how much it pays off. It's pretty incredible. It was a goal of ours that we'd challenge for the conference title, but to win it like this is exciting. It's just hard work and sticking with it."

Idalski, Lawrence and Mackowiak were part of DeHoog's first team as freshmen and have always been integral pieces to the program.

Their hard work the past two years had finally paid off in the championship meet.

"They've had ups and downs and took it on the chin as freshmen, but they're pretty excited today," DeHoog said.

Added Idalski: It's quite an honor. At the beginning of the season, it was our goal to win the conference, and we thought we'd come close this year because we have higher numbers (of runners on the team).

"I think our work ethic definitely was strong today. We always work hard in practice and never slack off. We just had our sights on the conference this year, and it definitely worked out for us."

Wednesday's race was a challenge for Idalski, though.

Aside from running in the pouring rain, the junior had to battle of tough field which included St. Mary's Brendan Delaney (17:32), who was the individual champion, Mancelona's Brendan Morris (17:47) and Inland Lakes' Luke Passino (18:26), who were second and fourth, respectively.

Fortunately for Idalski, he got a taste of what the course would be like when he competed in the Ironmen Invitational last week. That paid off for him in the championship, helping him meet his goal of finishing in the top five.

"It was mainly just trial and error today," he said. "The week before, we practiced in Mancelona at the invite here. I ran the course already and already had a race planned in my head. I remember the last time I started out too fast and this time, I focused on my pace."

Also for J-L were Cody Layman (20:32), Aaron Latuszek (21:40), Elijah Fisher (22:19), William Carey (22:35) and Vince Hummel (23:51).

"I'm proud of the freshmen," DeHoog said. "Those kids are working their butts off, too. Sometimes they feel like they're not in the top group, but they're working just as hard as everybody else."

Inland Lakes took third, followed by Mancelona, Onaway and Pellston.

Bartle, Sherbonda garner Ski Valley recognition

• Two J-L girls runners finished in the top 15 to earn All-Conference honors during the Ski Valley Championships.

Alyssa Bartle was Second Team after placing sixth individually and finishing in 22:41 while Destiny Sherbonda was Honorable Mention for taking 15th following a 24:58 finish.

Anika Kierczynski (28:59) helped by taking 28th.

The Cardinals didn't have enough girls competing to place as a team.

Inland Lakes won the conference championship for a third straight season while Bellaire took second and Onaway finished third.

Bright future ahead for Townsend

• Middle schooler Sydney Townsend won the Ski Valley Championships girls race for the second straight year.

Townsend blew away the field to finish in 13:28, finishing the 2-mile course 43 seconds ahead of Mancelona's Whitney Meyer.

Also coming in the top 10 for the Cardinals were Kennedy Johnson (fifth, 15:13), Lydia Hummel (sixth, 15:14) and Elizabeth Halbert (eighth, 15:19). Carlee Campbell (16:28), Claire Mullins (16:57), Alayna Kennedy (18:41) and Sophie Townsend (18:42) also competed for J-L.

Gage Boughner placed third individually after finishing the middle school boys race in 12:20. Spencer Townsend (13:53), Eric Byard (14:53), Eli Lindbert (15:01), Cordel Campbell (15:02), Ronin Vaden (15:16), Evan Idalski (16:34) and Zeek Lindbert (17:55) ran as well.

UP NEXT

• The Cardinals compete in the Leroy Maxie Invitational slated for Saturday, Oct. 15 at Fairview.

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Triple Crown: Snowbirds' Delaney out gallops Cardinals' Idalski at Boyne Falls
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

BOYNE FALLS — St. Mary junior Brendan Delaney likened it to the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing which includes the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Entering Saturday's boys cross-country race at Boyne Falls, Delaney had won his two previous races, the Inland Lakes 5K and Central Lake Invitational, and knew getting a third win in a row was possible.

He just wasn't sure if he could truly achieve it or not.

The Snowbird completed the race in 17:48, finishing eight seconds faster than he did in the Central Lake meet one week earlier, to capture the threepeat.

"Unreal — that's how I feel," Delaney said. "I never saw that number coming, and it's so unbelievable. I always work hard but, like I said, I never know what I'm working for and never expected to win."

"This is like the Triple Crown for running."

Delaney had tough competition from Ellsworth junior Daniel Oviedo and Johannesburg-Lewiston junior Nathan Idalski, his rival and good friend.

Idalski, who finished in 18:03 to take third place, grabbed the lead early on in the first mile to gain an advantage on his competition.

"I knew that it's not a wide course, for the most part, and it's pretty narrow — maybe 5-feet wide — so I tried to get out ahead of it a bit and stay toward the front of the pack," Idalski said.

Idalski, who had just returned from a toe injury last week, overestimated how well he could pace himself. Once he reached a hill about 1/3 through the course, his form started falling apart.

"Definitely on the hills, I felt my form drop a little bit," he said. "As soon as I managed to get up the rest of the hill, I tried to (make up for it)."

That's when Oviedo and Delaney passed Idalski and began jockeying for first place against one another.

"The Ellsworth boy and I took off, and we were just running," Delaney explained. "About the 2-mile mark, he started breathing heavily.

"He was doing a lot of (heavy breathing), and he was almost talking to me, saying stuff. I thought, 'OK, I feel great, and he clearly doesn't.' He was really struggling, so I felt if he's going to struggle, I'll keep going."

Delaney then passed Oviedo and at one point shortly afterward, he was nearly 20 seconds ahead of both Oviedo and Idalski.

"I just knew he was behind me, and I started sprinting," Delaney said. "I couldn't hear him. Sometimes I try to listen to them, but I knew (Oviedo) didn't feel good, so I just took off."

Delaney crossed the finish line and then waited for his buddy, Idalski.

"We're friends, and it's almost hard competing because we're such good friends," Delaney said. "It's almost not even fun racing against each other."

Added Idalski: "It doesn't feel like we're enemies."

Ellsworth won the meet, followed by J-L, Inland Lakes, St. Mary, Boyne City and Alanson.

Also running for the Snowbirds were Jimmy Pandy (20:08), Kyle Murphy (20:51, personal record), Ian Milan (20:54), Nathan Smith (21:09), Noah Kole (22:19) and Kyle Brown (24:52).

J-L received help from Nathan Lawrence, Danny Mackowiak, Gavin Weaver and Tyler Helzer.

Boyne Falls didn't make final results and times available before press time.

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History made: Cardinals win 1st invitational in school history
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys cross-country team placed third in the Charlevoix Mud Run on Sept. 10, and the trophy it won during that meet was the program’s first in its seven-year history.

The Cardinals now have an even better trophy to add to their collection.

Led by Nathan Idalski, who took third individually, they won the nine-team Central Lake Invitational held Saturday at Jean Burns’ Farm.

J-L scored 74 points, edging second-place Grand Traverse Academy by three.

The first-ever win should prove to be a boon for the Cardinals, as they had only six boys runners when J-L coach Craig DeHoog took over the program three years ago.

Now the team’s numbers are growing, and it's winning meets.

“It’s exciting, and I’m proud of the kids,” DeHoog said. “They’re working so stinking hard. As a coach, it’s exciting and fun to watch.

“I think it shows what hard work can do. Like any sport, hard work and determination goes a long way. It shows how hard this team has worked, and our numbers are growing. That’s a reflection of hard work, and getting some success now will only continue to grow the program.”

Getting the win wasn’t easy.

It required a tough effort from Idalski, who sat out Tuesday’s Inland Lakes 5K with a toe injury.

The injury stemmed from Idalski getting a glass plate dropped on his foot earlier in the week.

He returned from that injury and finished in 18:19, battling St. Mary’s Brendan Delaney and Mancelona’s Brendon Morris, who took first and second, respectively, the whole way.

“It felt very refreshing to run again,” Idalski said. “I didn’t even feel like I had an injury.

“(Before the race), I had to drill a hole in my nail because there was a lot of pressure that was causing swelling. I iced it and took ibuprofen and was good to go.”

Delaney and Morris challenged Idalski the whole race.

“Throughout the race, Brendan Delaney, Brendon Morris and myself were right there in front in the top three,” Idalski said. “About at the mile-and-a-half mark, Brendon and I pulled away a little bit, but toward the end of the race, Brendan was almost 20 seconds ahead of me.”

Idalski had hoped to take second, but Morris passed him down the final stretch.

“I could hear Brendon Morris coming up behind me, and he got me right at the end by a one-second difference," he said. "That was the race.”

Third place was the junior’s best individual finish in a high school race.

“I’m definitely happy,” Idalski said. “It was about five seconds from my personal record, but it’s still early in the season, so I’m not complaining at all.”

Also scoring for J-L were Nathan Lawrence (19:37), Tyler Helzer (19:49) and Danny Mackowiak (19:50), who finished 18th, 19th and 20th, respectively.

Cody Layman (19:54), Gavin Weaver (21:00) and Aaron Latusek (22:26) also competed.

The Cardinals finished ahead of two Ski Valley schools and a few others who will join them in the Division 4 regional later this fall.

The team hopes to fare well in both the conference championship and at the regional.

“Our goal is to keep improving upon their times,” DeHoog said. “One thing I tell the kids is you can’t control what other kids do, but you can control how you work and how fast you run.

“For all of them, I hope to see their time improve and everything else will take of itself like it did Saturday.”

Alyssa Bartle took ninth in the girls race, finishing in 23:11 to lead the Cardinals.

Destiny Sherbonda (26:27) and Anika Kierczynski (29:01) ran for J-L, too.

The Cardinals race next in an invitational Saturday, Oct. 1 in Boyne Falls.

In middle school action, J-L eighth-grader Sydney Townsend (13:33) won the girls race.

Joining her were Elizabeth Halbert (15:40), Carlee Campbell (16:12), Claire Mullins (17:22), Lydia Hummel (17:24), Kennedy Johnson (17:29) and Sophie Townsend (21:21).

Eighth-grader Gage Boughner was second in the boys race, finishing in 12:27.

Spencer Townsend (13:32), Eric Byard (14:24), Eli Lindberg (15:32), Cordel Campbell (15:37), Evan Idalski (15:47) and Zeek Lindbert (18:32) also raced.

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Cardinals' 3 girls runners navigate challenges of not having a team
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

INDIAN RIVER — The Johannesburg-Lewiston girls cross-country team had seven girls sprint across the finish line in last year’s Division 4 regional.

Two of them, Samantha Morehouse and Alyssa Bartle, did well enough to qualify for the state final.

But, for at least this season, those days of team success are done because the Cardinals only have three runners now.

Back is Bartle, Anika Kierczynski and Destiny Sherbonda, but the squad couldn’t recruit any other girls to come out for this year’s team.

J-L hasn’t been able to score as a team, but that hasn’t stopped the trio from having fun on race days.

That was certainly true Tuesday at Cooperation Park, as the three laughed about the challenges they’ve faced so far following the Inland Lakes 5K.

“We try to get a team, it’s just not working,” Bartle said. “I came to accept that I’m not going to have a team this year.

“I can still place individually. I don’t mean to be selfish, but I can still do my best.”

But there will be no team trophies.

During Tuesday’s 5K, Bartle placed 10th after finishing in 24:02 while Kierczynski (28:42) was 31st.

Sherbonda couldn’t compete because of health concerns.

The dynamic between the three is unique.

Bartle is a natural distance runner. She was 121st (22:17) in the state final a year ago.

Kierczynski enters her senior year and will be a third-year starter as J-L’s softball pitcher.

Sherbonda is one of the best sprinters and long jumpers in the Ski Valley during track season. Last season, she tied the school record in the long jump (16-02).

Despite their varying levels of competitiveness in cross-country, they still share a unique bond.

“It’s interesting running with them at practice,” Bartle said. “Destiny is over here saying, ‘I’m going to die. Why do we have to run this?’”

Sherbonda didn't disagree with that assessment.

“Distance is not my thing,” the junior said. “It never has been. I thought I’d never run a mile until they made me sign up for cross-country. In practice, I’m like, ‘I hate all of you. I’m never doing this again. I’m never coming back.’

“I’m just here to finish.”

Kierczynski, on the other hand, enjoys running — but only if it’s at a fun, comfortable pace.

“I just go slowly,” she said. “It’s fun. I like it. This is my fifth, sixth or seven year I’m doing this. I just like the feeling of it.

“Cross, you have the three of us. There’s still a family. You just have a family, and it’s not like a big sport where one person is doing something and another person is doing another thing. You’re all doing it together, and you’re cheering each other on. You know what it feels like to do this.”

Kierczynski said running is as fun as striking out batters in softball, but it’s a different feeling of accomplishment.

“It’s a different kind of joy,” she said. “Crossing the finish line, especially now when there’s only three of us and not an actual team, it’s more of a personal accomplishment.

“Softball, you know everybody is relying on you. Everybody relies on each other to do their job. In cross, it’s you. It’s basically all you out there. You set the goals, you finish them.”

And the goal for the Cardinals is to make it to the Ski Valley Championship on Oct. 19 with all three running at their best.

Also at the 5K, the boys team placed fourth, despite missing its No. 1 runner in junior Nathan Idalski, who had a toe injury.

Boyne City won the meet, followed by Inland Lakes, St. Mary, J-L, Cheboygan, Pellston, Mancelona and Onaway.

Nathan Lawrence led the Cardinals, finishing in 20:12 to take 12th overall, while Danny Mackowiak (19th, 20:26), Gavin Weaver (25th, 21:01), Tyler Helzer (29th, 21:04) and Cody Layman (31st, 21:15) rounded out their scoring.

Aaron Latuszek (25:07), Vince Hummel (25:11), Carey William (25:20) and Elijah Fisher (25:21) also ran.

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Historical outing: Cardinals' boys team 3rd in Charlevoix Mud Run
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

Johannesburg-Lewiston coach Craig DeHoog texted his boys cross-country runners following Saturday's Charlevoix Mud Run.

The Cardinals, relying on Nathan Idalski's 16th-place finish, took third in the 17-team meet. It was their greatest invitational finish in school history, and the first time the boys had ever won a trophy.

DeHoog's text was something he had never expected to send his team so early in the season.

"I told them we're going to have a mark on our back by the other teams, especially in our conference, and it's a different feeling for the boys because it's never been like this for them before," he said.

The top-three finish was a surprise for the Cardinals because they've been a middle-of-the-pack team since DeHoog took over in 2014.

"I knew they were getting faster, but the meets we've been to, we've been more competitive in than in the past," he said. "We weren't super close to being in the top three like this. We've finished in the middle.

"It's not that I didn't think we could do it, but it just surprised me that they got a top-three finish this quickly into the season."

What wasn't a surprise to DeHoog, however, was the success his team has enjoyed the past three seasons.

When he took the job, his team consisted of five freshmen starters. Four of them are still with the program.

"It just shows the dedication of the kids and how hard the boys have worked," he said. "Four of them are still running, and they were in our top five. Their dedication shows, and in three years, their times have gone down more and more."

That's inspired this year's crop of incoming freshmen to practice just as hard.

"All the freshmen out this year see those kids working hard and be competitive in meets has motivated them," DeHoog continued. "The sky is the limit with no seniors and seven freshmen who are already contributing. It's pretty exciting to be their coach."

Also not a surprise was how well Idalski finished. The junior has been J-L's No. 1 runner since he was a freshman. He finished in 19:15.

"I just treated the race like one of my summer races," Idalski said. "I wasn't going for anything (medals or personal records). I knew it'd be a fun race no matter what. I just encouraged everyone to do the best they could and have fun doing what they know how to do."

Nathan Lawrence (20:56), Tyler Helzer (21:12), Gavin Weaver (21:25) and Danny Mackowiak (21:35) scored for the Cardinals, too.

They also received help from Cody Layman (21:49), Jack Perry (22:29), William Cary (25:55), Elijah Fisher (26:43) and Vince Hummel (26:46).

However, finishing the race with wet, muddy feet was tough for the Cardinals, especially following the infamous mud pit that's 1/3 of the way through the 5,000-meter course at Charlevoix High.

"It was hard getting used to the water and having heavy, wet feet," Idalski said. "That was the biggest challenge. After I hit the mud pit, I had to get used to the heavy feet right away.

"Toward the end of the race, I had to focus on having heavy feet, and that helped me get used to the situation. Last year, I had struggled with that, too, for sure."

The Cardinals finished ahead of each Ski Valley team at the race, including Inland Lakes (sixth place), St. Mary (eighth), Pellston (ninth), Mancelona (14th) and Bellaire (17th).

DeHoog said that's inspiring them to make a run for a conference title which would be its first in program history.

"Without a doubt, we think we can do that," he said. "We finished ahead of all the other schools there in the conference. That gets us excited for the meets to come, especially the conference (championship) meet in October."

Some of the Cardinals have tempered their expectations for the upcoming Ski Valley season, though, especially after all the excitement they endured during Saturday's meet.

"We still can't believe we got a plaque," Idalski said. "It's never happened before in our school's history. I'm still trying to process it.

"I think as far as getting ready for the conference, our best bet is to train hard and hope for the best."

J-L's girls team placed 15th out of 19 teams during the Mud Run, relying on Alyssa Bartle (25:11) and Anika Kierczynski (29:53).

The Cardinals return to action when they run in an Inland Lakes hosted invitational Saturday, Sept. 20 at Cooperation Park in Indian River.

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Cardinals' Bartle uses mother's help to place in top 30 in East Jordan
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

EAST JORDAN — Alyssa Bartle said she was scared to race in Wednesday's East Jordan Invitational at Community Park.

But that's OK because her mother, Laura Schrader, was looking out for her best interest way before the girls cross-country race even started.

The Johannesburg-Lewiston junior finished the 5,000-meter race in 23:06 to take 27th place, but to her, just finishing the meet was a win.

Bartle competed in the same race as a sophomore a year ago, but she passed out around the 2-mile mark because of what, everyone thought at the time, was the blistering 88-degree temperatures runners battled.

Fast forward to girls basketball season later that school year, and doctors found that Bartle had a condition called dilated blood vessels. Her body lacks electrolytes from time to time, and her blood pressure can be difficult for her to maintain at healthy levels.

That issue arose again during the season opener Aug. 20 at Central Lake, as Bartle collapsed into the arms of her coach about 3/4 through the race.

She was nervous it would happen again Wednesday in East Jordan.

"I was so scared before the race that it wasn't going to turn out well or that I wasn't going to get the time I wanted or I wasn't going to finish," she said. "I was just scared. I didn't want to pass out.

"I wanted to finish the race."

Thanks to Schrader's help, Bartle did finish the race, and she did so much higher on the results sheet than she could have imagined.

"My mom made me a checklist of what I had to do (to prepare for the race)," Bartle said. "She texted me when I got up to tell me I had to eat a hearty breakfast. I had toast and cooked ham for breakfast. For lunch, I had pasta. Yesterday, I ate the same pasta the whole day."

Bartle continued preparing on the bus ride to East Jordan as well as before the race started and while the boys team was competing.

"I had a little Gatorade on the bus ride here," she said. "When I got here, and we went to go walk the trail, I got my drip-drop (an electrolyte and sodium powder packet). I drank my water when the boys were racing."

The craziest thing happened to Bartle while running: She felt good. She wanted to push herself to finish as best as she could.

"Once I got over here (3-mile mark) for the last stretch, I wanted top 50," she said. "I didn't know where I was because there were so many girls ahead of me. I didn't know if I was going to get top 50, and I got 27."

Bartle crossed the finish line and was in tears. She was exhausted, but at the same time, she was excited to grab Schrader for a hug.

The Cardinals didn't have enough runners to place as a team, but junior Destiny Sherbonda, who took 54th (26:23), and senior Anika Kierczynski, who was 71st (29:22), raced alongside Bartle.

In the boys race, stomach issues kept J-L junior Nathan Idalski from finishing the meet in the top 15, but he was still proud of his time.

Idalski finished in 18:37 to place 19th, reach his race goals and assist the Cardinals in placing ninth overall in the 12-team competition.

"The strategy was just to finish," he said. "Toward the beginning, I didn't feel so great. I tried not to hurt myself so I could be ready for the next race. My goal was to finish in the 18s, and I didn't feel the best.

"I'm just happy that I ran and was able to (finish the race strong)."

Helping Idalski place were junior Nathan Lawrence (43rd, 20:15), junior Danny Mackowiak (51st, 20:24), freshman Gavin Weaver (53rd, 20:56) and junior Tyler Helzer (54th, 20:48). Freshmen Cody Layman (66th, 21:05) and Jack Perry (69th, 21:25) also competed.

The Cardinals return to action when they compete in the Charlevoix Mud Run at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10.

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Loaded junior class to guide Cardinals to SVC title bid
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor

CENTRAL LAKE — Johannesburg-Lewiston coach Craig DeHoog had an idea his boys cross-country team would be special by his third season of coaching.

The Cardinals struggled in 2014 because of their youth, mostly freshmen, but improved by the end of the season. Those freshmen took a jump when they became sophomores.

But as juniors this fall, they mean business.

Nathan Idalski set a personal record by running in 11:24.5 and placing seventh, and the Cardinals placed seventh in the Division 4 Ryan Shay Memorial invitational Saturday.

Helping Idalski, a junior, in the 2-mile race was Danny Mackowiak (12:57.7) and Tyler Helzer (13:04.5), both juniors.

“It’s exciting for the boys team,” DeHoog said. “I was thinking it would get to this point when those juniors were freshmen.

“They’ve shown potential, and I was excited. I’ve seen them gain experience. I have seven freshmen, so it should be a good season.”

Rounding out the scoring were Gavin Weaver (13:09.7) and Jack Perry (13:15.2) — both freshmen.

Cody Layman (13:29.6), Nathan Lawrence (13:49.0), William Carey (14:36.3) and Aaron Latusek (15:08.9) each ran as well.

“Last year, our goal was to finish in the top half or be competitive at meets,” DeHoog said. “After the first meet this year, we know we’ll be more competitive at most things we go to, especially at the conference.”

Individually, Idalski, J-L’s top runner from a year ago and who also broke his PR by 30 seconds Saturday, hopes this is the season he finally makes it out of the Division 4 regional and to the state final.

A seventh-place finish in the opener is a good start to accomplishing that feat, especially in a meet against powerful teams such as Harbor Springs, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart and East Jordan.

“My plan was to make it into the top 20,” Idalski said. “I wanted to beat my overall record at that course, and I did.

“I was trying to help boost the team. Most the team is new — a lot are freshmen. They didn’t know what to expect, so I wanted to help guide them in the right direction.”

Idalski expects to be that kind of leader all season long. He said he won’t let Saturday’s early-season success get to his head.

“I know that people have good races and bad races,” he said. “It’s still the beginning of the season. I hope for the best and to stay consistent.

“I hope to get the school record. That’s 17:15 for a 5K. I hope I make it to states finally, too.”

Added DeHoog: “He’s put so much time in (training). Individually, the goal for him is to make the state final.”

The goal for the boys team, which is loaded with so many new faces, is to improve consistently.

“The expectation of the team, as far as the new runners, is to get keep getting faster,” Idalski said. “For the returners, we hope they continue to get faster and continue to improve on little things like form, attitude and sportsmanship. All that goes a long way."

DeHoog thinks the Cardinals have a shot to make a run at the Ski Valley title.

“I’m thinking that we can challenge for the conference,” he said. “I know Mancelona beat us (Saturday), but we’re going after that.

“It’d be sweet to take them to not having much of a team in the past, with five boys running and competing, to winning a conference championship.”

Bartle eyeing all-conference, health

J-L junior Alyssa Bartle finally figured out what has hindered her running while she played for the school’s JV girls basketball team this past winter.

Doctors said she has dilated heart vessels.

“When I exercise, my heart vessels get bigger so more blood goes through,” she said. “It lowers my blood pressure. I have to eat more salty things and get more electrolytes into my body.”

That condition kept her from completing the season opener last season. She collapsed on the course while running it.

Unfortunately for Bartle, the same thing happened during Saturday’s opener in Central Lake.

She forgot to fully drink her sodium and electrolyte powder that helps her maintain her blood pressure.

That impacted her once the race started.

“Running the race, I started off pretty quickly, trying to get all the nerves out,” Bartle said. “Just after the first mile, the dizziness hit me.

“It wasn’t like how my dizziness usually is. It usually comes but not all at once. This time, it came all at once. I ran a 1/2 mile after that, and then I fell into a coach’s arms.”

Bartle didn’t complete the race, and the Cardinals had only two other runners: Destiny Sherbonda (16:26.0) and Anika Kierczynski (19:05.0).

Bartle doesn’t want another flare up to happen again, especially as she attempts to achieve her goals and replace former Cardinal runner Samantha Morehouse as the top girls racer.

“My goal, if not this year, is to definitely break the school record,” Bartle said. “I’m three minutes away from it, and my PR is 21:49. I want to probably get top 10 in the conference and definitely want to go to states.

“I need to push myself. No matter what other people say, like, ‘Oh, you’re not going to do good enough because your time isn’t close,’ I’m going to push myself to get faster. I need to eat healthier and do my best.”

The team’s goal is to recruit more girls to the lineup so it can score points during meets.

“We’re trying to get some girls to come out, like girls who ran track or friends’ of girls on the team,” DeHoog said. “We knew this might happen because we graduated a lot of seniors last year. We lost a lot last year, so I knew it’d be some rebuilding. I feel bad the girls will go to meets and not be able to finish as a team.”

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Updated 11/18/16