As cross-country season crosses finish line, four Catholic runners are all-state

Dearborn Divine Child sophomore Michael Hegarty pumps hard in the final stretch of the Division 2 state championship cross-country race. Hegarty finished his section in third place, which was good for 10th overall. (Photos by Wright Wilson | Special to Detroit Catholic)

Divine Child’s Hegarty, Catholic Central’s Leidel, Regina’s Zdankiewicz and Cabrini’s Teed each have top-30 finishes

BROOKLYN — Michael Hegarty had just entered the finish chute on the infield of Michigan International Speedway, when he collapsed to his hands and knees while trying to catch his breath and process what had just transpired.

A few moments later, the Divine Child sophomore realized what he had accomplished.

“It’s a good feeling now that it’s actually happened,” Hegarty said. “For a while, I didn’t think we’d ever get to the state meet. I thought it would just be dual meets and I wouldn’t get a chance to go against a bunch of different guys.”

But like a committed distance runner, the cross-country season persisted until reaching its natural finish last weekend at the state championships. 

There were plenty of COVID-19 precautions to throw runners out of their normal routines. Because of a desire to keep the race fields more manageable, large regular-season invitationals were replaced by smaller events; there was an extra “pre-regional” layer to the state tournament; and the state finals were divided into two sections with combined results determining the champions. Many of the races were run without spectators.

Catholic Central junior Brett Leidal (43) is in the lead pack while rounding the first turn on the 5-kilometer course. Leidal went on the finish 22nd, earning all-state honors.

“It was a lot more difficult to stay strong during the workouts and stuff,” Hegarty said. “Sometimes when I was by myself, it was like, ‘Oh, I have to run. I don’t really feel like it.’ A lot of times it was just to get out of the house, but other times when I had a hard workout, I just felt like sitting around or playing Frisbee or something. It was more of a mental thing this year.” 

Hegarty, who had won the Catholic League individual championship three weeks earlier, finished the deal by finishing in 10th place at the Division 2 state finals in 16:10.57. It was the second straight year he ended the season with all-state honors.

As a freshman in 2019, Hegarty finished 19th, in a safe situation pacing behind senior teammates Anthony and Michael Hancock. But after the Hancock twins graduated and left for the University of Michigan, Hegarty found last weekend’s experience to be totally different.

“It was a lot harder,” he said. “(Last year) I knew they were going to do well, and I was just out here like, ‘Let’s see what will happen for me.’ Today I was out there trying to represent Divine Child and trying to do good, so there was a little more pressure. That had a little bit of an effect.”

Divine Child teammates cheer while watching Michael Hegarty approach the finish line at Michigan International Speedway.

Hegarty gave it a valiant try, leading his sectional race at the two-mile mark while trying to break away farther from the pack. He realized later that he might have been a little too aggressive for the conditions, which ultimately didn’t work in his favor. He finished third in his section, behind Ada Forest Hills Eastern’s Ben Clason and Spring Lake’s Ian Hill.

“I was going to try to win this heat to place well in the combined results, but it was hot between the one-mile and the two-mile, so my time at the two-mile wasn’t what it was supposed to be — it was a little slower,” he said. “I started going (faster) there, but it was a little too early, so they started reeling me back in, into the wind.”

“He ran a good race, a good race. Unfortunately, it was windy; it wasn’t windy earlier in the day. They ran into the wind at the two-mile mark, and unfortunately, coming into the finish,” coach Randy Williams said. “All three of the boys who finished in the top three, you could see they gave it everything they had. Mike had every intention to try to run under 15:50, and he was on pace for the first mile and a half, then the wind got to him.”

Ultimately, Hegarty’s efforts paid off, as he became one of four Catholic High School League athletes to earn all-state honors by placing in the top 30 of their race.

Warren Regina’s Kennedy Roskopp, Jessica Jarski and Sabrina Kroll work together at the halfway point of the 5-kilometer race. The trio helped the Saddleites place 16th as a team.

Detroit Catholic Central junior Brett Leidel was 22nd in the Division 1 race (15:15.78); Warren Regina junior Grace Zdankiewicz was 20th in the girls’ Division 2 standings (19:17.03); and Allen Park Cabrini freshman Ava Teed placed 15th in Division 4 (20:38.89).

Team-wise, the girls from Clarkston Everest Collegiate had the best showing with a seventh-place finish in the Division 4 championship. The Mountaineers had all five scoring runners finish in the top 100, with sophomore Caroline Cross (44th, 21:24.57), sophomore Alyse Felix (45th, 21:28.66), senior Therese Waller (64th, 21:50.14), junior Eve Herrgott (70th, 22:00.54) and freshman Avery Herrgott (81st, 22:06.66). 

Cabrini, paced by Teed and junior Ella Nowc (54th, 21:40.26), finished 10th in the same race, among a 27-team field.

Other Catholic-school individuals placing in the top 50 of their races include: Macomb Lutheran North senior Joshua Cundy (34th, 16:44.72 in the boys’ Division 2 race), Royal Oak Shrine junior Jonah Cerone (37th, 17:03.14 in Division 3), Riverview Gabriel Richard sophomore Alexander Mezaros (43rd, 17:05.70 in Division 3), Divine Child senior Erin Hegarty (43rd, 20:01.42 in the girls’ Division 2), and Academy of the Sacred Heart senior Avery McNally (32nd, 21:10.93 in Division 4).

In all, 1,977 runners — about the size of the field in a normal year — took part in the 16 races spread over two days.