Not only did the Lakers accomplish that goal, but the team’s competing seven were able to step hand-in-hand onto the awards podium at Michigan International Speedway as the runner-up team in Division 2.
The Lakers’ tremendous showing was the program’s best finish at the state meet since 2001, when Spring Lake won the Division 3 state championship.
Spring Lake only trailed Forest Hills Eastern on Saturday, an outstanding team that had 93 points. The Lakers totaled 150, which easily beat out third-place Grand Rapids Christian’s 182.
“When everybody was ready to walk up onto the podium, it was like, ‘OK, we’re really walking up here.’ I don’t think it had really sunk in at that point,” Andres said. “It wasn’t like I was in complete shock, but it was just a time to cherish the moment. Athletes in any sport are hoping for a chance to get on that center stage at the top competition, and for me especially, there was just an overwhelming sense of pride at that point at what these girls had accomplished.”
Spring Lake got it done, Andres said, by sticking together. He told his top three runners — senior Brittany Beeler, sophomore Carlyn Arteaga, and freshman Erin O’Keefe — that if they were in a close proximity together at the 2-mile point of the race, it would mean a better Lakers’ finish.
Andres’ wish was realized, as the trio was within a few seconds together at that point.
“The way the course is set up, if you’re close together at that point, the better you’ll be, because it’s so much faster the last mile,” Andres explained.
It’s nearly impossible for spectators to see both the start and end of the race at MIS, so Andres wasn’t able to see how his team finished, but the order came out as somewhat of a surprise. Beeler, who has been Spring Lake’s top finisher all season, turned in a stellar time of 18 minutes, 35 seconds, but was the second-fastest Laker behind Arteaga, a sophomore. She clocked in at a personal best of 18:27.7 and was 15th overall, while Beeler was 21st.
A total of 241 runners competed in the Division 2 girls race.
“Carlyn thrives on pressure. She’s just that type of competitor. But a lot of her success (on Saturday) goes back to track,” Andres said, noting she’s an outstanding sprinter in the 400-yard dash. “I told her if she’s within striking distance to really hit that last 300, and with her time, she did that.”
Spring Lake also received a great showing from freshman O’Keefe, who was under the weather at the team’s regional. She broke the 19-minute mark for the first time, as she crossed the finish line in 34th overall at 18:56.7.
Junior Ashley Warner also had a personal best with a 19:22.1, good for 55th overall. Other times from the Lakers’ top seven were a 20:07 from freshman Brooke Carrier; a 20:10 from sophomore Lacie Piekarski; and a 20:39 from junior Jamie Kossuth.
Andres said there were a couple examples of how close-knit his team was before and after the state finals. Two nights before the race, the team had a sleep over, and they told their coach that his home could be the target of a toilet-papering prank.
“When I woke up, there was just one pile of T-P on the ground, and a Spring Lake flag lying by it,” Andres said. “I’m glad they let me relax for the night and not worry about the clean-up the next day.”
After the race, Andres couldn’t immediately locate his team due to the large mass of spectators and competing athletes. When they finally arrived near the podium, as one of the last teams recognized, they were hand-in-hand together.
“That just really hit me right there, because that’s what it’s all about,” Andres said. “It was just a clear sense of team pride.”