Pilot Runners Finish Strong at State Meet

The "engines" of junior Peyton Ross and senior Preston Earl were revved up and ready to go Friday morning at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., the site of the 2020 MHSAA cross country state meet.

Both Ross and Earl had qualified for states, as a result of their impressive PR times of 16:33.7 and 16:11.9, respectively, a week ago at the MHSAA regional meet at Chandler Park Golf Course in Detroit. 

Ross finished Friday's race with a time of 17:11.73 -- good for 79th in his heat and 169th overall out of 252 total runners. 

Meanwhile, Earl recorded a time of 16:40.62 -- good for 53rd in his heat and 105th overall.

It was the fourth time Earl's hit the 16:40 mark this season. 

While the boys did expect to finish with better times, it was far from a disappointment in the eyes of De La Salle cross country head coach Sandy Buchanan. 

"The boys performed outstanding today. Sure, they weren't happy with their times. But, it's hard to record a PR with the course conditions at MIS and when you're facing the best-of-the-best from around the state," Buchanan said. "They each peaked at regionals, with Preston's time last week having been good enough to put him on the podium today. It didn't happen, though, and that's okay. They both ran super, super well today."

Ross and Earl each put together solid performances on and off the racetrack all season long. 

In fact, each will earn academic all-state honors as a result of their excellence inside the classroom. 

And when it came to raceday -- no matter the meet or the circumstances -- they both were consistently productive.

Earl, who finished first among Pilot runners in every race this year, earned the nickname "Big Dog" from DLS assistant coach Jerry Jackson, and was a great captain and running leader, according to Buchanan.

Ross, meanwhile, was gifted the nickname "The Tank" from Jackson for his ability to "find the extra gear every race," according to Buchanan. 

Perhaps most impressively, though, they never let the trying conditions presented by the coronavirus pandemic get the best of them, even as the uncertainty regarding whether a season would happen hung over their heads.

For that and their accomplishments both on and away from the track, Buchanan will remember each of their 2020 campaigns fondly.

"They're just outstanding kids, and have accomplished so much already this year at De La Salle -- from both an academic standpoint and with their raceday performances," Buchanan commented. "And a lot of that can be attributed to their strong work ethic."

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