Lutheran North girls cross country team wins Catholic League title, eyes return trip to state finals
MACOMB TOWNSHIP — With wins in two Catholic High School League Division 2 cross country jamborees, the Macomb Lutheran North girls cross country team captured a CHSL title.
The win — over schools such as Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, Dearborn Divine Child, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard — is the latest accolade for a program that has garnered several over the past 30 years. Since 1980, Lutheran North has captured 22 conference titles. Since 1979, the program has won 14 Michigan High School Athletic Association regional titles.
“One of the keys to our success is numbers,” Mustangs coach Tim Grotelueschen said. “The more kids you have out for cross country, the better chance you have to get really talented runners.
“We try to make cross country fun so that team members will recruit their friends to join. This year, I have my biggest team ever, with 44 athletes.”
Grotelueschen has coached Lutheran North’s girls cross country team for 12 years. Over that time, the Mustangs have won nine conference championships. Under Grotelueschen’s watch, Lutheran North has also won six MHSAA regional titles.
The program has also qualified for the MHSAA Division 3 state finals in each of the last nine years, finishing in the top 10 eight times. At press time, the Mustangs were ranked the No. 2 team in D-3 by www.michigancrosscountry.com.
Grotelueschen said it’s an honor to be ranked as one of the best teams in the state, but the notoriety doesn’t change how he runs his program.
“I believe in a no-pressure approach to coaching,” Grotelueschen said. “The focus is on doing your best and running a good race. You can’t control what the other runners do. You can only control what you do.”
Having another strong core group of runners has also played a role in the Mustangs’ success this season. Juniors Gina Patterson and Jenna Briney are the top runners on the squad, according to Grotelueschen. Patterson finished first in both CHSL Division 2 jamborees. Briney placed second in the first jamboree and fourth in the second, which took place Oct. 8 at Lutheran North.
Seniors Alyssa Wood and Liz Milanov serve as the Mustangs’ senior captains. Grotelueschen said all four of those girls do a great job of leading the team.
“Gina was state champion for cross country (in 2012), and Jenna was All-State in track,” Grotelueschen said. “Gina and Jenna will stay at the finish line (after they complete a race) and congratulate everyone who finishes. And Alyssa and Liz always leave motivational locker notes for their teammates.”
Grotelueschen said his hope is for his team to win another regional title and have a good showing at the state finals. He said how his team performs going forward this season depends on health.
“We’ve had the worst luck with injuries this year,” Grotelueschen said. “To do something special at (the state finals), we need everyone at 100 percent again. So knock on wood.
“So far, we have had people step it up when someone was out with an injury, but at the state meet, we will need everyone to be at full strength to reach our potential.”
The 2013 MHSAA state finals take place Nov. 2 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Regionals take place Oct. 25 or Oct. 26. For time and date information on regionals, along with a listing of which teams will compete at each regional site, check www.mhsaa.com.