Davisburg — Alexa Keiser has never known what defeat feels like in Metro League cross country action.
The same can be said about the Fenton varsity girls cross country team when it comes to winning league titles during the senior’s four-year career with the Tigers.
Keiser beat the field by exactly 62 seconds, earning her fourth straight individual Metro League cross country championship on Wednesday at Springfield Oaks County Park at the Metro League Meet. The Tigers had their entire scoring five finish within the top 12 places, enabling the Tigers to win the meet with just 38 points and earn their third straight league meet victory this fall. Wednesday’s victory ensured the Tigers won the title outright.
Keiser also broke another record. Since the Metro League has gone to the jamboree format, Keiser became the first runner to ever sweep all 12 Metro events during her prep career, usually doing it by overwhelming distances. Wednesday’s victory in windy, wet and muddy conditions assured she was the only runner to finish with a time less than 19 minutes. Holly’s Andrea Ruiz finished second with a time of 19:36.6.
“I am so happy,” Keiser said. “This is exactly where I wanted to be at the end of the season. I had some pretty slow times at the beginning of the year but I guess you just have to trust the process.
“This is pretty memorable because all the girls did exactly what we were supposed to do so I am happy about that,” Keiser said when asked about her cross country highlights so far. “But I really liked my freshman year because I was able to run with my sister and that was memorable too.”
“The girls needed all five to seven runners to step up each race, and they did,” Fenton varsity cross country coach Jesse Anderson said. “The big difference there was, as it has been for four years now of having Alexa grab that all important No. 1 stick. Her consistency and continued excellence is something that you don’t see much in any sport, let alone Metro League cross country.”
Keiser also became the third female in Metro history to win four straight Metro League individual titles. The other two are also tri-county runners — Holly’s Jackie Bucholz (1993-1996) and Linden’s Rachel Gutierrez (2000-2003).
The Tigers were dominant on the 3.1-mile course. The Flushing Raiders had a pretty strong day as well, getting their entire scoring five within the top 15 places among complete teams, but the key was Fenton had its fifth runner finish before Flushing’s fourth, resulting in 46 team points. Linden was pretty strong as well, getting all of its top five within the top 18 places, and all seven of its runners completed before Fenton’s sixth runner did. However, Linden had just two runners in the top 10 among the squads that ran complete teams while Fenton had four. Three of the actual top-five runners were on squads unable to field a complete team — Holly and Corunna.
After Keiser, Fenton sophomores Emily Grob (ninth overall in 20:31.2) and Taylor Huntoon (11th overall in 20:38.3) were the Tigers’ next two finishers. The final two were Kaitlin Bayer in 13th overall (20:47.5) and Jessica Adams in 15th overall (20:55.7). Keiser and Grob earned first-team All-Metro status while Huntoon, Adams and Bayer were second-team selections. Chloe Lafever, who placed 33rd overall on Wednesday (22:49.2) was a third-team pick. Fenton’s other runner at the meet was Kierra Ryan who placed 28th overall (21:52.4).
Keiser said the tough conditions helped the Tigers.
“Our team runs better in tougher conditions so that really benefitted us,” Keiser said. “We are really tough on hills. We train a lot on hills and we are very tough mentally. Having tough courses works in Fenton’s favor.”
Anderson stressed how the team made the title possible.
“One runner doesn’t win a title, and the rest of the girls did an excellent job preparing and executing races throughout the league season,” Anderson said. “My fellow coach Sue Larsen did an excellent job training and preparing them for the jamborees, to the point where we were able to cover when injuries and absences occurred. Taylor Huntoon had big performances in all three jamborees, and had a near PR day Wednesday despite feeling sick. We don’t win it without her. Jessica Adams had a clutch performance after a couple of tough performances by her lofty standards, and again, we don’t win it without her. Kaitlin Bayer has dealt with a nagging injury and still rose to the occasion when it mattered most. And Emily Grob, in just her second year, easily slotted into a top position on our team and was perhaps our most consistent runner throughout the year besides Alexa. Runners like her are a coach’s dream - you can almost cash your chips before they’re played because she races so hard and with such great consistency.”