The Saline High School girls’ cross country team has been winning championships every fall since before most girls on the team were born.
Sophomore Abby Rentschler finished first (18:45) in Thursday’s SEC Red Championship Jamboree at Hudson Mills Metropark as Saline won its 17th straight conference title.
Junior Elianna Shwayder ran a strong second in 18:57. Freshman Hannah Cummings was fourth in 19:03, edging sophomore Lauren Green, who was fifth in 19:03. Freshman Gillian Water was sixth in 19:07 to complete the Hornet scoring. Junior Gloria Park was seventh in 19:24 and senior Alyssa Cummings was 10th in 19:52.
Saline finished with 18 points, just three over the best possible score. Bedford was second with 63 points.
For Rentschler, Thursday’s victory snapped a cold spell. It was her first victory since the first Jamboree Sept. 11 at Bedford.
“I’d been having a few problems but I’ve been figuring it out and I was able race today. I got my goal. I wanted to finish first and be SEC Champion. I’m very happy about that,” Rentschler said.
“It feels amazing to be a part of that,” Rentschler said. “We get new tshirts.”
Rentschler’s goal is to break 18 minutes at the state meet.
Shwayder put the team’s 17-year streak in perspective.
“It’s amazing. It started before I was even born,” Shwayder said. “It really goes to show, not only the strength of our team, but the strength of our coach and the strength of the community, with all the support that we receive.”
Senior Alyssa Cummings, the eldest of three sisters running cross country this fall, has been a part of four conference championship teams.
“It’s amazing to be a part of something like this. I love the girls,” Cummings said. “It’s been a big part of my life and I’m going to miss it. It’s been an incredible experience.”
Coach Mike Smith, earlier this year, said this might be the best team he’s ever coached. The Hornets are ranked 15th in the country in the latest XCNation poll. Saline will be the favorite to win the regional Oct. 27 at Lake Erie Metropark.
Shwayder talked about what it’s like to pull into a meet and know you’re the favorite.
“It doesn’t feel like pressure. We have a lot of camaraderie on our team. It’s something you won’t find anywhere else,” Shwayder said. “Our team sets the bar high, but we work hard and we run all year around, and that’s how we do what we do.”