READING, MI. – For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Union City Lady Chargers are the Big 8 Conference Cross Country Champions.
The last time the Chargers reached the top of the conference standings was in 1993, when Union City went 6-0 in double meetings, took second place in conference play and eventually took the first place against a team very close to Quincy. Leading that team was Big 8 Conference champion Dana Silva, who won the title with a time of 20 minutes, 09 seconds, followed by Stephanie Wohlgamuth of Quincy in second with a time of 20 minutes, 23 seconds and Jill Dobson in third place with a time of 21 minutes, 29 seconds. Fifth-place Anna Thrum and tenth-place Erin Davis also earned All Big 8 honors for Union City that year, while Quincy saw Jolene Marvin finish seventh and Michelle Clawson take ninth.
In the three decades since that victory, the Big 8 Championship has seen a few changes, the most notable being the advent of jamborees rather than double meets and the addition of Bronson who replaced Athens. Both the Chargers and Orioles have had their ups and downs over the years, with Quincy winning multiple Big 8 crowns while Union City had a period where they didn’t even field a team.
Many times they change. For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Union City Chargers stand atop the mountain known as the Big 8 conference after sweeping all four jamborees, capping their run with victory in the Big Conference meet. 8 held at Kimball Camp in Reading with a score of 38 points. Concord finished in second place with 64 points, followed by Quincy in third place with 76 points. Bronson, missing his best runner and winner of the previous three jamborees in Ava Hathaway, took fourth place with 85 points, with Homer in fifth place with 91 points and Jonesville in sixth place with 123 points. Neither Reading nor Springport were able to field a full squad and did not qualify for the team classification.
Throughout the season, Union City’s success has been attributed to their depth and consistency and the same could be said of Tuesday’s effort as all five runners to score finished in the top 12, three of those five earning Big 8 All Conference first-team honors with a top-10 finish. Leading for Union City on Tuesday, rookie Murcia Wallen finished in fourth place overall with a time of 23 minutes, 12.61 seconds. Sophomore Skyler Fraley finished a close fifth, crossing the line in 23 minutes, 20.32 seconds to earn herself all-conference honors. Sophomore Alissa Skirka also finished in the top 10 for Union City, who finished in eighth place with a time of 24 minutes, 1.84 seconds. Rounding out Union City’s effort with the top 15 performances, senior Kyla Burdick finished eleventh overall in a time of 24 minutes, 30.12 seconds and rookie Elizabeth Arlt in twelfth place in a time of 24. minutes, 40.60 seconds.
The Quincy Orioles’ third-place finish was punctuated by two top-10 finishes and another top-20 finish. Junior Sadie Miller led the way for the Orioles who finished in seventh place overall in a time of 23 minutes , 45.99 seconds, followed by the second Charlotte. Crabbs who finished in tenth place with a time of 24 minutes, 18.75 seconds. Rookie Brookelyn Parker also finished in the top 20 for the Orioles, who crossed the finish line in sixteenth place in a time of 25 minutes, 56.55 seconds. Rounding out Quincy’s effort, Elizabeth Craig finished twenty-fourth in a time of 26 minutes, 36.50 seconds; Kaylyn Brenner in twenty-eighth place in a time of 27 minutes, 38.41 seconds; Brooke McVicker in 30th place in 27 minutes, 43.91 seconds; Kailey Allman who finished in thirty-fourth place in a time of 28 minutes, 22.02 seconds; and Abby Miller in thirty-eighth place in a time of 32 minutes, 32.79 seconds.
The Bronson Vikings were a bit shorthanded on Tuesday night as top runner Ava Hathaway, who took first place in all three previous conference jamborees to secure Big 8 All Conference honors, missed. racing to compete in a horse show in Columbus, OH. With Hathaway gone, it was rookie Ashlynn Harris who took over and sprinted with it, speeding away from the field en route to her first Big 8 Jamboree victory of her young but promising career. Harris made quick work of the 3.1-mile course, finishing with the gold medal in a time of 21 minutes, 37.68 seconds. The Vikings had an additional runner in the top 20 as rookie Lydia Wells took fourteenth place in a time of 25 minutes, 37.05 seconds. Rounding out Bronson’s effort, freshman Abbi Ferry finished twenty-first in a time of 26 minutes, 12.99 seconds; senior Aubrey Mace who finished in twenty-third place in a time of 26 minutes, 34.86 seconds; and freshman Mackenna Webster who finished in fortieth place in a time of 33 minutes, 1.86 seconds.
The top-10 standings for Wednesday’s Big 8 Conference Championship are as follows:
- Ashlynn Harris, Bronson, 21:37.68
- Cieara Barrett, Concorde, 22:01.87
- Megan Sterly, Homer, 23:04.86
- Murcia Wallen, Union City, 23:12.61
- Skyler Fraley, Union City, 23:20.32
- Riley Adams, Concord, 23:44.14
- Sadie Miller, Quincy, 23:45.99
- Alissa Skirka, Union City, 24:01.84
- Saige Patterson, Springport, 24:14.34
- Charlotte Crabbs, Quincy, 24:18.75.
The teams are now entering their final week of preparation before their respective MHSAA regional tournaments next weekend. The Union City Chargers will next see action on Saturday when they travel to the Kalamazoo Christian Invite while Quincy will see action on Saturday when they travel to Gobles for the Little Guys Invitational. Bronson won’t see any more action until his regional Division Three tournament to be held in Napoleon next weekend.