ROCHESTER HILLS – The Royal Oak cross country duo of junior Ben Hill and senior Calum Ahmed finished 1-2, and Troy Athens’ junior Ryan Mooney placed fifth in the annual Oakland Activities Association White Division Jamboree on Tuesday at Bloomer Park in Rochester Hills.
“I made a move early and lost some guys on the turns on the course,” Hill said after winning Tuesday’s race in 16:05 on the 3.1-mile course. “I had no one to race and couldn’t see anyone on parts of the course. I was able to push this race in the middle.”
Ahmed finished strong with a 16:20, and though he lost sight of his teammate Hill, it was Stoney Creek’s Eric Boyle who pushed Ahmed.
“That was the leader pushing me – I couldn’t see Ben,” said Ahmed, who had a great sprint at the end to finish second behind Hill. “He (Boyle) surged and sped up, and we tried to keep up with him. I finally cut past him.”
The Ravens finished in third place as a team behind Stoney Creek and Bloomfield Hills.
“Ben is coming off an injury and hasn’t run his best time yet,” Royal Oak co-coach Ryan Pippo said Tuesday. “Calum’s new to cross country and really only has been running since midway through last season.”
Others who continue to improve their times for the Ravens include senior Justin Davenport (17:26.5) and junior Milo Taylor (18.05.7). Also, sophomore Peter Harris and junior Lee Hewson rounded out the top six runners for Royal Oak.
“They’re tough guys, too,” Pippo said. “They’re all new to the program, and young to cross country.”
Taylor showed the best improvement for the Ravens at Tuesday’s Jamboree.
“I knew I had to run a more courageous race,” Taylor said Tuesday. “I started off slow, but the race was more mental part playing games with my body. I gave it everything I had to stay with them.”
“He ran bravely,” Pippo said of Taylor. “Milo knew we needed to pick up places for an overall better team score.”
Royal Oak co-coach Dave Barnett said it’s runners like Taylor that help improve the overall team score.
“Milo’s the kind of runner that never makes the headlines, but is getting better all the time,” Barnett said.
For Troy Athens, Mooney, a junior finished in fifth place with a time of 16:30.4.
“It was a very competitive race,” Mooney said Tuesday. “What’s good is we run meets with these same teams, and that really contributes to the strategy. You know where runners like Ben (Hill) are going to be. You have to stay in the lead pack.”
Mooney credits graduated cross country runners for making him the athlete he is today.
“Thankfully my freshman year I had a group of upperclassmen who taught me,” Mooney said. “They were seniors in my freshman year and they were role models that helped me step into a higher role on the team.”
Troy Athens was also paced by sophomore Bryan Bowles (20:30) and junior Phil Reynolds (20:31) on Tuesday.
“That was my best time,” Bowles said of his 20:31. “It was a flat course and everyone out front pushed me.”
Reynolds said he was thankful to be part of a special cross country team at Troy Athens.
“Our whole team is all great teammates,” he said. “And our coaching staff pushes us to do our best. It was a great team effort today.”
Troy Athens co-coach Michael Stallsmith liked what he saw from the Red Hawks on Tuesday.
“The meet is extremely competitive with teams from Stoney Creek in the east to Royal Oak from the south to Farmington in the west,” Stallsmith noted. “We don’t put an emphasis on the times. It’s not what you run, it’s how you run. Our jobs are to make sure they are mentally prepared.
“We want to make sure we bestow good learning techniques and how to be smart runners out there,” he continued. “Camaraderie, team work, health reasons and competitiveness - that’s why we’re out there.”
On the girls’ side, Royal Oak junior Lauren Bos (20:30.2) placed in the top 10 and teammate Lauren McMahon (21.24.4) finished 18th for the Ravens.
“We moved up in the league,” Bos said of the Ravens’ move from the OAA Blue to the OAA White Division this year. “It’s good because you have girls you can pace yourself with faster runners.”
McMahon said the Bloomer Park course on a sun-splashed afternoon made for “a nice day.”
“You try to get out and get your best time,” McMahon said.
Royal Oak girls also used senior Bridget Vial (21:52) and senior Madeline Bolton. “I didn’t get my best time; it was a really fast course,” Vial said. “I felt really good.”
“In the end we come together as a team,” said Royal Oak senior Emma Eising, who placed in the top six for the Ravens.
Troy Athens was led by junior Claire Nord, who finished in fifth place (20:06.9), and senior Esther Yan who finished with a 20:45.7.
“Claire’s been one of top two runners for all three years,” Stallsmith said. “She finished fifth last week.”
Yan said she was “a little surprised” at her top 10 finish.
“I thought I was going a little slow, but with my teammates cheering me on from the sidelines helped a lot” said Yan noting the Red Hawks are “young” this season.
“We lost a lot of girls to graduation,” she said. “Today we had four new girls running on varsity – that was good.”