It hasn't taken Mitchell Day and Isaac Cross very long to make their mark on the Alpena cross country team.
Though they're only freshmen, both runners entered the season with high expectations and became two of the top runners on a team loaded with talented upperclassmen.
Those expectations were met when they qualified for the state finals at a regional last week. They'll race in the Division 1 finals at 3 p.m. today at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
"I knew I really wanted to do good my freshman year," Cross said. "I feel like it's a big accomplishment because sometimes people don't do it at all."
Several other area runners will race in the Division 4 boys and girls finals today which will be held at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. respectively. Rogers City's girls team-Sami Bober, Victoria Bullock, Alysse Hempel, Emily Malocha, Rebecca Myers, Amber Nowicki and Amber Wirgau-and Alcona's Megan Quick will run in the D4 girls race. Onaway's Joe Traynham will run in the D4 boys race.
Cross and Day are just the second and third Alpena cross country runners to qualify for the state finals since 1999. Last year, Ethan Crowell broke a 13-year drought for the Wildcats and set a new PR at the state finals of 16:18 after a 76th place finish.
2013 Cross Country state finals
Today at MIS
Division 4 girls race: 10 a.m.
Division 4 boys race: 11 a.m.
Division 1 boys race: 3 p.m.
At regionals, Cross and Day finished 10th and 11th respectively at 17:24 and 17:25. They'll be among more than a dozen Division 1 freshmen running today and they hope to make the most of their opportunity.
"You don't get a lot of opportunities like this, so I'm glad I can take one and see what I can do," Day said.
Both runners have impressed in local races in the last few years, but reaching the state finals as freshmen is still a big accomplishment. Cross has attended camps with the Wildcats the past two years and Day punched a ticket to the state finals in spite of splitting time between cross country and soccer this season.
"I can't take any credit for it. Mitchell's natural talent and Isaac's natural talent (got them there)," Alpena cross country coach Joy Bullis said. "I expect to see them there every year, especially as freshmen (because) they're just at the beginning of their running stages. They're just going to get faster and stronger every year."
Quick has been, well, quick this season and earned her second trip to the state finals after finishing 10th in a regional last week. Last year she finished 84th out of 240 runners at MIS in 21:12 and this time around she's aiming for a time under 21 minutes.
"It's so nerve-wracking at the start line with 300 girls. There are so many more girls and so many more people are running," Quick said. "It's good that I made it last year, so I know what to expect."
The Rogers City girls team last made the state finals in 2011 and finished 26th out of 27 teams. While there are two holdovers from that team in Bober and Bullock, younger runners like Malocha, who is a freshman, have stepped up.
Like Quick, Traynham has been hard to beat in races this season. He won the Ski Valley Conference championship a few weeks ago and finished fourth at regionals last week at 17:30.
Traynham competed at MIS last year and finished 88th at 17:35. This time around, he's aiming for a PR and a medal.
"Every race, his goal is to be spent when he crosses the finish line," Onaway cross country coach Marty Mix said. "This year, he's going down to complete, not just to go place. He wants to run the race of his life."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.