Coaches and members of the Saugatuck boys’ cross country team were all smiles after winning the Division 3 boys’ cross country state championship at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, Nov. 5. (Photo by Scott Sullivan)Sophomore Corey Gorgas finished fourth at the Division 3 state final, helping Saugatuck claim the state championship. (Photos by Scott Sullivan)

Saugatuck claims third state title in four seasons

Jason Wesseldyk

Different year. Different division.
Same results.
Despite moving up to Division 3 from Division 4, the Saugatuck boys’ cross country team claimed a state championship for the second straight season and for the third time in four seasons.
And the Indians did so in near record-setting fashion.
Saugatuck finished with 61 points to outpace runner-up—and defending Division 3 champ—Lansing Catholic by 76 points.
The 61 points was five off of the record for lowest score in a Division 3 boys’ state final meet.
The fact that the Indians were the smallest school competing in Division 3 only served to make the championship that much sweeter for coach Rick Bauer.
“We had 289 students last year on count day,” Bauer said. “The cut off was for Division 4 was 288.
“Last year had you put our times from the D4 race into the D3 race, we would have won. However, Lansing Catholic was very young last year and we knew they would make big improvements this year. So ever since we heard we would be up in D3, we used Lansing Catholic as motivation. These guys were incredibly focused all season and knew exactly what we had to do.”
That focus started with the team’s 12 seniors, led by Zach Pettinga, Nick Butch and Orlando Carrion.
“Zach, Nick and Orlando are the best of our seniors, but all 12 of them were leaders,” Bauer said. “Guys like Jacob VanderRoest, Eldon Garvelink, Nick Heelan, Josh Schutzenhofer and Christian Post were leaders behind the scenes.  They each brought a lot to the table and helped this team in ways that are difficult to put into words.  All 21 guys on our team were invested. 
“As far as Zach, Nick and Orlando are concerned, they’ve run at four state finals. That’s an amazing accomplishment and it’s even more impressive considering the success the team has had.”
Sophomore Corey Gorgas actually led the way for Saugatuck, finishing one spot ahead of Pettinga with a time of 16:02. Pettinga clocked in at 16:06.
“Corey was brilliant again,” Bauer said. “I know he was hoping for better, but he did exactly what we talked about. We needed he and Zach to be top five and that’s what they did.  Zach is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached. His rise to the top is remarkable because he is not the most talented, but has more belief in himself than just about any kid I have ever coached. He never really worries about how he does but how his performance helps or hurts the team. 
“When Corey went by him with 400 (meters) to go and turned to Zach and said, ‘Let’s go buddy,’ Zach said he had a huge sense of relief because he knew the team was in really good shape because the two of them were in the top five. That’s the level of team first mentality this group has.”

For full story, pick up a copy of the November 10 issue of The Allegan County News or The Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.

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