There’s a blue-and-white striped board hanging proudly in Pioneer Hall, just outside the gym at Croswell-Lexington High School.
It lists the top five runners in school history – an elite class of athletes that head coach Lisa Shaw has had the privilege of coaching throughout her 30-year tenure.
“It’s not like it’s an easy top-5 where you get in the 19s and you’re in it. You have to be low, low-19s at least,” Shaw said.
Leading the group is Chelsea McVay, who set the school record back in 2005 with a time of 18 minutes, 32 seconds. Leah O’Connor is close behind at 18:35, which she ran in 2008 and has since gone on to set records at Michigan State University and run professionally. And most recently, Lily Connelly etched her name onto the board with a 19:03.5 in 2018.
This year, two new members join their ranks: sophomore Eva Thompson and junior Morgan Newton.
Thompson now stands No. 3 after clocking a personal best of 18:53.6 at the Midseason Spectacular on Sept. 23, and Newton soon joined her with a 19:04.4 at the Wagener Park Invitational on Oct. 1.
“It definitely adds excitement [to her season]. That was a goal I had made my freshman year for my senior year, so knowing I was able to do it junior year really gets me excited,” Newton said.
“Yeah, it’s definitely exciting,” Thompson agreed.
To have two top-5 runners on the same team is a rarity, but Shaw wouldn’t say it’s a coincidence.
“It’s not a coincidence because they train together and push each other. To have each other and to be that fast to do speed workouts with is great,” Shaw said.
The Pioneers have run in 10 meets so far this season, and in each one Thompson and Newton have finished at least in the top three, taking turns leading the way.
“It’s nice knowing i have someone to rely on, even at practice,” Newton said. “If it’s just us two [leading a race], then it feels like we’re on a run at home.”
“And it’s nice getting pushed,” Thompson added.
Newton has won five races this season while Thompson has won three, and nearly every time they’re just a few seconds away from each other. But more than having a teammate to cross the finish line with, the duo has a great group of teammates right behind them.
Cros-Lex has won eight of its 10 meets this fall and finished second twice to Caro, thanks to its strong and deep roster. Five of the girls on this year’s team boast personal bests of sub-21:30, and several more are right behind.
“I can’t believe how many 22s we have,” Shaw said. “That’s the one nice thing about being a varsity coach when they’re freshmen. You get to see the difference between their times from year to year.”
Newton said that the combination of summer training and her team’s support has played the biggest role in her success of the season.
“I know we all ran a lot of miles over the summer, so it’s paying off. I maxed at 40 miles a week, I ran 235 miles [in total],” Newton said. “We’re all definitely excited for each race and at practice, we run together as a pack.”
Some of those practices include speed workouts on the Pioneers’ hilly cross country course.
“I like the 5-minute time trials on our course. We start at the same spot and see how far we can get in five minutes, and you get to see how much fast you’re getting throughout the season,” Newton said. “We’ll do hill repeats too and during a race you’re like, ‘Oh I’ve done these a lot.’”
“That is a fun one,” Thompson said. “I also like when we run 400s on our course.”
The Pioneers have the third and final BWAC Jamboree coming up on Tuesday, Oct. 18, in which they’ll look to take back the league title after finishing second to North Branch last year. And more excitingly, Shaw said she’s expecting to see even faster times.
“We’re racing less in the second half of the season which should help,” she said. “When the time comes and we ease back a little bit, I think we’re going to see even better times.”
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
To receive notifications about new stories from The Sports Report, subscribe for free.