CROSS-COUNTRY: Lake Orion, Oxford track down Oakland County titles

| October 9, 2021 | Comments (0)

Rochester’s Cook, Farmington’s Baracco impressive in individual wins



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Rochester Lucy Cook was the only female to break 19 minutes and she captured the Oakland County title in the process. Photo | Dan Stickradt

MILFORD TWP.  Every time Peter Baracco steps onto a cross-country course or track, he expects to compete.

The Farmington senior was his usual self Saturday afternoon on the picturesque but difficult 3.1-mile course at Kensington Metropark.

Baracco cruised to his second straight title at the 62nd annual Oakland County Cross-Country Championships, breaking the line with a 16:23.8 clocking.

“It’s an honor to win here because Oakland County has such a great tradition and there have been so many great runners to come through here before me,” said Baracco, who was sixth as a sophomore two years ago and top 100 as a freshman in 2018. “This will help prepare me for the upcoming (championship) season. I want to be ready at the state meet and to race (defending Division 1 state champion) Riley (Hough of Hartland). This will help prepare me for that race.”

As one of the more successful programs in Oakland County over the past four-plus decades, Lake Orion’s boys team captured just its second county title, as the Division 1 seventh-ranked Dragons rolled up just 75 points to win convincingly and take home the traveling trophy for the first time since 2007.

Lake Orion head coach Stan Ford was out of town for his son’s wedding, so longtime Lake Orion assistant track coach Mike Hatch took the reigns for the week and he sent Ford some victorious texts shortly after the race.

“The is a testament to how Stan has built this program over the years and how hard these boys work all year,” said Hatch. “They don’t have that one dominant runner that is going to go out there and win almost every race. But they have a great pack that is so close together and that makes a huge difference.”

Lake Orion landed three runners inside the top 10, four in the top 15 and all five point-scorers well inside the top 50 to win.

Adam Hafeli (fifth), Clayton Kuiper (sixth), Will Houvener (eighth), Hong Bing Tang (13th) and Ronnie Leonard (43rd) contributed to the crown. The Dragons’ other two competitors still finished in the top 70 but did not contribute to the scoring.

Milford finished second with 143 points, narrowly ahead of Walled Lake Northern (145) and Novi Detroit Catholic Central (146). Clarkston was fifth (153), followed by Novi (162), Farmington (198), Oxford (247), Rochester Stoney Creek (247) and Royal Oak in the top 10.

Six runners broke the 17-minute barrier on the hilly and challenging course. Walled Lake Central’s Nicholas Negru was second in 16:34.0, while Milford’s Easton Williams (16:34.3) and Ryan O’Rourke (16:51.6), Lake Orion’s Hafeli (16:53.9) and Kuiper (16:53.9), Royal Oak’s Sebastian Ramirez (17:02.1), Lake Orion’s Houvener (17:03.4), Novi’s Griffin Conway (17:03.7) and Clarkston’s Joey Taverna (17:05.3) followed in the top 10 of the individual standings.

The top 30 in each race were medalists.

Meanwhile, Oxford’s girls, ranked eighth in Division 1, continued their best season in school history and claimed its first Oakland County title by collecting 111 points to edge runner-up Walled Lake Northern’s 116 points for the glorious crown.

South Lyon East finished an all-time best third with 125 points, followed by Troy (173), Rochester (243), Rochester Stoney Creek (244), Clarkston (263), Milford (273), Walled Lake Western (274) and Bloomfield Hills (301) in the top 10.

Oxford’s Mallory Bigelow (fifth), Braydee Elling (13th), Taylor Brodeaur (15th), Jamie Patterson (42nd) and Jessica Chapin (45th) rounded out the Wildcats’ winning total. Oxford’s top four runners on the day are all freshmen.

“One of the amazing things about this is how young we are. We have all of those freshmen in our top seven,” said Oxford co-coach Sarah Canham. “They all work so hard and they keep getting better. It’s exciting because we have never won a county before and we’ve done so well all season. We’re excited about the future.”

Rochester freshman Lucy Cook has lived up to her billing as one of the top ninth-grade prospects in the state and Midwest by winning the county title by an impressive 19 seconds with a 18:57.8 clocking. Holly freshman Ashley Sobzynski — ninth-graders took three of the top five slots and seven slots inside the top 30 — was second in 19:16.7.

“I was (conservative) at first, but I passed the leader on the big hill (near the one-mile marker) and nobody went with me,” said Cook, who won her third race of the season and posted her fourth top-10 finish. “I felt good the whole way even though I’m not 100 percent yet. I was sick at the Spartan (Invitational) and placed ninth and didn’t run at our second (OAA White Division) Jamboree. But I’m getting better.

“Im looking forward to the regionals and (state finals),” continued Cook, who became Rochester’s first freshman to win the county despite a long line of All-State-caliber female runners dating back to the 1970s. “I really want to finish in the top five at the state (meet) this year.”

Waterford Kettering’s Chloe Wall was third in 19:24.3, while South Lyon East’s Liliane Aittama (19:28.7), Oxford’s Bigelow (19:31.2), Walled Lake Western Genavieve Kushner-Lopez (19:41.6), Bloomfield Hills’ Kate Jenkins (19:46.9), Clarkston’s Alexandra Brigham (19:47.5), Rochester’s Chloe Nixon (19:55.5) and Milford’s Jacie Remtema  (19:59.9) followed in the top 10.

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