At the Division 2 regional meet in Allendale, where the top three teams advanced to the state finals, Andres’ Lakers had finished fourth. They were a mere 10 points shy of third-place Grand Rapids South Christian.
Instead of celebrating, there was consoling of dejected spirits.
It was a that moment, when most of the Lakers were wiping away tears, that Andres threw out an ultimatum to the underclassmen returning.
“I sat down with them and was like, ‘Listen, remember this feeling,’” Andres recalled. “We were all down and out and not feeling the greatest. And I said, ‘Next year, this is not going to happen.’
“Really, we made it a point from that day that we were going to work as hard as we could.”
Andres implemented an optional winter training program for his team, as well as a summer running program with distances highlighted by gold, silver or bronze.
The gold standard, or 250 miles completed from early June to a week before the cross country season began on Aug. 8, was the goal for all of the returning varsity runners.
Like she has throughout her varsity career, returning all-state runner Brittany Beeler exceeded the limit, and finished at 260 miles.
“Just barely,” she said.
The tremendous hard work in the brutal summer heat paid dividends for the Lakers this fall, as Spring Lake clinched its first berth to the state finals since 2009 with an impressive second-place showing at the same Allendale regional last Saturday. Beeler’s time of 18 minutes, 42.17 seconds was good for fourth-place overall among a field of 84 runners.
For Beeler, a senior, today’s finals at Michigan International Speedway stand as more bitter than sweet, she said, simply because it will be her last competition with her group of teammates that have developed a close-knit friendship.
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