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Cooper Terry

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PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Mt. Pleasant SHA has grand plans in 2013

Jim English

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When you talk to Cooper Terry you can’t help but be taken a bit aback.

The Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart senior speaks to the point and gets to it with a firm focus and handle.

He doesn’t mince words; rather he gets to the heart of the matter.

Some two years ago he and fellow SHA cross country runner Jim English were part of a team that finished runner-up at the Division 4 state finals at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

As it was in 2011 the SHA boys finished the season second only to Concord in the D4 finals and from that point forward Terry and English established a goal, a big goal.

“After we lost by 35 points me and Jimmy talked about it,” said Terry. “Our plan was to win a state championship by our senior year and beat any team that stood in our way, that’s our goal. We have our sights set and we’re going to fight until we meet our goal.”

Thus the goal for the 2013 rendition of the SHA Irish, a team that has the talent and wherewithal to compete with anyone, was established a couple years back and through the better course of this season SHA has done nothing to sway off this predetermined course.

Going into Saturday’s meet in Portage the Irish were ranked fourth in Division 4.

Just last weekend they gave top-ranked Saugatuck a run for its money at Carson City as they finished second by a single point. Moreover to date the Irish have three invite wins in 2013 at Beal City, Chippewa Hills and at the Ryan Shay Memorial race that opened the season.

Part of the reasoning behind SHA’s lofty goal is the fact that it returns all five of its top runners from a season ago, a group that is led by Terry and English. In 2012 the Irish were supposedly in a rebuilding phase as they graduated the bulk of the 2011 team which was led by All-Staters Casey Voisin and Ben Schilling. Yet SHA brought in arguably the best class of freshman runners in the state last year in Logan Moyle, Tony Perez and Sam Neyer. Statistically speaking this trio collectively ranked in the top-5 in Division 4 in terms of their times last year.

Thus when you add three dynamic youngsters to a roster that already has a couple established veterans what do you get?

“Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year because we lost five of our top seven guys from 2011 but we finished seventh in the state,” said SHA boys coach Chad Zitzelsberger. “We had three freshmen come in and they were three of the best freshman in the state in Logan Moyle, Tony Perez and Sam Neyer. They’re back as sophomores, but running like seniors.”

On paper the Irish are the team to beat come regionals at Carson City on Oct. 26 and at this point is not lost on anyone.

“Staying healthy, doing all the little things that make a difference like getting sleep and eating right,” added Chad Zitzelsberger. “They have put the work in, running three or four times a week all summer. A lot of our kids put in 40 to 50 miles per week over the summer to get ready. A lot of the base work, or heavy lifting, is pretty much done so at this point it’s about fine-tuning everything and transitioning to get them to peak when they need to.”

While the goals are big the truth is SHA is not as it only has about 120 students. Since the MHSAA went to Divisions back in 2000 SHA has been forced to compete against schools over double its size, which in truth isn’t a completely level playing field.

Collectively the Irish actually relish in the fact that they can compete with much larger schools and it actually gives them additional motivation.

“It’s kind of a point of pride we have here being such a small school,” said English. “It says a lot about our coaching and the work that we put in as a team. Right now it is crunch time because we have the biggest four meets of the season coming up so we’re focusing all-in. It’s pretty sad it’s coming to an end for us seniors but it’s also another reason why we’re putting in all the work to get ready. We want to make it memorable.”

The SHA girls team, which has a proud history of its own including a Class D state title in 1999, is a little bit of a different story this season in that it’s been hit hard by the injury bug. Its top runner Meredith Predum is out for the season while its No. 2 Lizzy Ervin just returned. Three years ago Mark Zitzelsberger’s team was sixth in Division 4 and the goal is to get back there albeit it might be a year or two away.

“We’ve been depending on freshman and sophomores who don’t have a lot of experience,” Mark Zitzelsberger said. “We have run OK this year and our goal is to finish in the top three in regionals. To do that we’re going to have get past teams like Beal City, Breckenridge and Montabella.”

Last Updated: 10/5/2013 4:00:27 PM EST