Having a pack mentality is usually considered a bad thing. But that's not the case at Bedford High School, where a pack mentality has the Kicking Mules cross country team, ranked third in last week's Michigan DivisionI coaches' poll, reaching for new heights.
“This is by far the best team we've ever had here from top to bottom,” fourth-year coach Bob Masters said. “We finished the highest ever at Tiffin, so that was a big deal.”
It set the tone for the season, he said. “They realized the pack we had going and really responded well to it. Right now we're just trying to keep them under control at practice.”
Tiffin, of course, is the Tiffin Cross Country Carnival, traditionally the early-season barometer in local running, where Bedford finished runner-up, its highest placing ever.
The Mules have gone on to win two invitational meets this season and finish second in the other three in which they've competed. At the Spartan Invitational at Michigan State they were second to No.1-ranked Milford and beat second-ranked Rockford.
Bedford doesn't have any superstar runners who put up a sub-16-minute 5,000-meter time, but they do have seven runners who are all pretty good. In fact, their top five usually finish within 30 seconds of each other, Masters said.
For instance, in the Clay Eagle Invitational, Bedford totaled 27 points to runner-up Central Catholic's 68. All seven runners were within 30 seconds of Adam Koepfer, who was second overall at 16:27.30. Chad Anastasoff was fourth (16:39.90), Alex Fritz was fifth (16:41.05), Loren Ahonen, considered the top freshman in Michigan, was sixth (16:42.37) and Tony Araiz finished 10th (16:51.94).
Meanwhile, Sean Burgoon was 12th (16:55) and Francis Reno was 13th (16:57). The strategy, Masters said, was for all of his runners to run the first mile in 5:10 or faster, so that they make sure they're among the leaders.
The Mules have also won both of what the Southeastern Conference calls jamborees, where every team competes three times. The final one is the conference championship, Oct. 17 at Hudson Mills MetroPark, north of Ann Arbor, where they look to defend their title from last season.
Bedford's ultimate goal is to finish among the top two teams at the state meet at Michigan International Speedway on Nov.2. The Mules were eighth last year, when they didn't race well.
“We want to be up on the stand,” said Masters. “It's definitely realistic.”
LEAGUE MEETS: All six area leagues in Ohio will hold their boys and girls cross country championship meets on Saturday.
In the City League championships at Ottawa Park, the boys meet starts at 10 a.m. and the girls at 10:45. St. Francis de Sales and St. Ursula Academy are the defending team champions, respectively.
The Northern Lakes League meet will be held at Secor Park, with the girls race at 11 a.m. and the boys race at 11:40. The Maumee boys and Southview girls won team titles last year.
In the Great Lakes League, Pearson Park is the setting for defending boys champion Whitmer and girls champion Findlay. The girls race begins at 11:20 a.m. and the boys at noon.
The Suburban Lakes League titles will be contested at Walsh Park in Fremont, with the boys going at 10 a.m. and the girls at 10:40. Eastwood swept both team titles last year.
Bryan City Park is the site for the Northwest Ohio Athletic League meet, with the girls race set for 10 a.m. and the boys race to follow. Bryan won the boys title and Wauseon the girls crown last fall.
The Toledo Area Athletic Conference championships are scheduled for Maumee Bay State Park, with the Ottawa Hills boys and Toledo Christian girls attempting to defend their team titles. The girls race is at 11 a.m. and the boys race is at 11:30.
PASSING FANCY: The spread offense is still working just fine for Fairview, averaging almost 38 points a game.
The Apaches were held to minus-15 yards rushing last week against Hicksville, but they won the game 40-25, improving to 5-1.
Through six games Fairview is averaging over 300 yards a game through the air and just 78.5 on the ground. The totals are 1,807 yards and 23 touchdowns passing and 471 yards and five TDs rushing.
“We're smart, disciplined and fast,” coach Bob Olwin said. “That's why we went to [the spread offense] last year.
“[Our receivers] get open and cause a lot of teams problems.” After all, he said, “How many teams have five DBs that can cover your kids?”
The first requirement is a quarterback like Dusty Bergman, who threw for over 3,000 yards last year. He has completed 135 of 225 passes this season for 1,749 yards and 21 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Bergman, a fourth-year starter, has set 15 school records, Olwin said.
His leading targets are Justin Hill and Cale Sito, also both seniors. Hill has 49 catches for 781 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sito has 29 receptions for 301 yards and six TDs.
Fairview, whose only loss was a 37-36 setback to bigger Archbold in Week 3, hosts Ayersville tomorrow night.