Bishop Foley, Shrine, Catholic Central, Divine Child collect Catholic League cross-country titles

The Cardinal Division individual champion, Madison Heights Bishop Foley's Jack Decker, approaches the finish chute. His winning time was 17:59.5. (Photos by Wright Wilson | Special to Detroit Catholic)

MILFORD — As the finish line came into view, runners either had the tense look of determination, hoping to pass one more opponent before the race was over, or the look of exhaustion, pushing their bodies to the limit after having climbed over the challenging hills of Kensington Metropark.

Jack Decker was the exception. The Madison Heights Bishop Foley senior broke into a wide-eyed grin as the chute got nearer. That’s because he knew he was about to attain a goal that had eluded him for so long: winning his division at the Catholic League cross-country championships.

“I’ve been second the past two years,” Decker said. “It was just experience. I knew my competition very well, I thought. I just kind of wanted it and got it.”

Decker covered the 5-kilometer route in 17:59.5 on Saturday, 12 seconds ahead of Allen Park Cabrini junior Dylan Ortiz. Decker paced five Bishop Foley boys in the top 15, as the Ventures reclaimed the Cardinal Division team title from Ann Arbor Greenhills, last year’s champion and this year’s runner-up.

“It’s been our whole-season goal, with the mileage and everything,” Decker said. “Our teammates and coaches were phenomenal. I thought we did really well today.”

The team from Royal Oak Shrine celebrates its fourth Catholic League cross-country Saturday at Kensington Metropark near Milford. The Lady Knights won on a tiebreaker against Clarkston Everest Collegiate.

Mitchell Mandziuk (4th, 18:17), Owen Munk (7th, 18:46), Brendan McGlinchey (12th, 19:06) and Jacob Rusch (15th, 19:10) also scored for Bishop Foley, which totaled 39 points, 20 ahead of Greenhills.

There are 25 boys on the Ventures’ roster — quite a large number for a school whose total enrollment is 316.

“I think we all just talk about it a lot, and we’re really happy about it, so that just brings them in, and it all makes sense,” Decker said.

Foley’s margin of victory was downright comfortable compared with the girls’ half of the Cardinal Division. On the first draft, Clarkston Everest Collegiate was one point ahead of Royal Oak Shrine, but once a clerical error was corrected, the revised results showed the two schools tied, with Shrine taking the title on a tie-breaker.

“Oh my gosh! We’re excited,” Shrine coach Faith Luddy said once informed of the revision.

Everest — the regular-season sectional champions — had beaten Shrine head-to-head in three of their four meetings this year, so Shrine had a plan going into Saturday’s race.

“Everest is a young team, and they’re really well coached, so we told our girls they had to take one girl (each). We showed them pictures of the Gabriel Richard meet and we saw how close we were,” Luddy said. “We worked hard all week at practice, and just told them they had to go out and run hard; that was our strategy.”

Led by repeat individual champion Ellie Kendell (1st, 19:02.2), Shrine also got points from Clara Losey (10th, 22:47), Anna Murphy (13th), Katherine Mutschler (21st, 23:52) and Zoe Mutschler (25th, 24:13), for a team total of 69. But where Shrine ultimately prevailed is its sixth runner, as Caroline Colby (30th, 24:35) finished six spots ahead of her Everest counterpart.

It was business as usual in the Bishop Division, where the Novi Detroit Catholic Central boys and Dearborn Divine Child girls repeated as team champions.

Dearborn Divine Child's Anthony Hancock leads the Catholic League cross-country championship midway through the race. He went on to defend his individual Bishop Division title, finishing in 16:01.

Despite a 1-2-4 finish from Divine Child’s Anthony Hancock (16:01.8), Michael Hancock (16:15.2) and Michael Hegarty (16:56.1), Catholic Central used its depth to overcome the Falcon front-runners. The Shamrocks placed five among the front nine to total 31 points. Divine Child was second at 50.

“We knew about DC and what they had,” Shamrocks coach Tony Magni said. “We wanted to put our seventh runner in front of their fourth man, that was the whole thing. They can go 1-2, which they have for the past three years, so our approach is let those two kids go and them bunch up. We didn’t really have a great team race, but we had a tight group, which is good.”

Luke Perelli (3rd, 16:29), Alexander Dugas (5th, 17:06), Mitchel Horn (6th, 17:08), Matthew Atkinson (8th, 17:14) and Brett Leidal (9th, 17:26) were the top runners for Catholic Central.

On the girls’ side, Divine Child placed its top five among the first 14 finishers to post a low total of 47, outpacing Warren Regina by 10.

Erin Hegarty (3rd, 20:12), Haley Aho (7th, 20:51), Ashley Avant (10th, 21:01), Nina Pizzo (13th, 21:16) and Lyndsey Aho (14th, 21:18) comprised the Falcons’ top five. Regina sophomore Grace Zdankiewicz was the individual winner of the Bishop Division girls’ race (20:02.2).