Lansing Christian School recently won the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Division 4 state championship in girls cross-country.
For the Pilgrims, it was their first state championship in the sport. The meet took place November 7 at Michigan International Speedway.
Head coach Jonathan Watson led the team of seven runners. He credits them with dedication to training and competition. “Once you get a lot of buy-in, and get them to believe that they have something special, the team becomes self-motivated,” Watson said.
Lansing Christian’s top runner, Madison Volz, led nearly the entire race and had about a 30-second lead near the end of the 3.1-mile course, but her legs gave out on her near the finish line in the unusually warm weather conditions. Watson encouraged her to get back up. If Volz was unable to finish, the team would not have won the meet.
"She was out of it. She got back up. I said, 'Whatever you have to do—walk it out, jog—just finish.' She managed to make it across,” Watson said.
Lansing Christian placed five runners among the top 57 finishers, including three in the top 12 who earned all-state recognition: Ashlyn Kephart (sixth), Natalie Tebben (ninth) and Volz (12th). Nearly 250 runners competed in the meet.
The team had to take extra precautions to make sure none of them tested positive for the COVID-19 virus during the season, Watson said.
"They gave up a lot. They did social distancing,” he said. “They gave up a lot of social activities on the weekends. It's hard for high school kids to do that. They would separate themselves at lunch. They took every precaution possible."
And they ran as a team, Watson said. “We talked about running for each other, right before the race. That was really crucial for us down the stretch.”
Another Christian school, Kalamazoo Christian High School, finished second at the meet.