The boys cross country field of more than  200 runners takes off during the championship.

The boys cross country field of more than 200 runners takes off during the championship.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Utica cross country progressing as regionals near

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Shelby-Utica News | Published October 23, 2023

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 From left, Utica freshman Emma Brown, sophomore Siene Muraszewski and sophomore Brooke McFarland run together during the MAC Championship at Lake St. Clair Metropark Oct. 21.

From left, Utica freshman Emma Brown, sophomore Siene Muraszewski and sophomore Brooke McFarland run together during the MAC Championship at Lake St. Clair Metropark Oct. 21.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


UTICA — With the cross country season coming to a close, Utica has come into its own this season after graduating talent on both the boys and girls sides.

The boys are fresh off a ninth-place finish at the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 State Finals, while the girls are hoping that this will be the year they punch their ticket to the state finals.

Either way, both Utica boys and girls cross country has been special to watch this year.


After graduating Trent McFarland last season, who finished fifth at the state finals in 2022, Utica was hoping that someone would catapult into that No. 1 spot McFarland had anchored for years.

Luckily for Utica, sophomore standout Harper Wesley was ready to take on the challenge, and he’s shined in the spotlight this year.

“He’s just an extremely tough and competitive racer,” Utica coach Megan Berry said. “When the gun goes off, I don’t know. He’s pretty fearless when he races.”

At the Shepherd BlueJay Invitational at Shepherd High School on Sept. 30, Wesley turned in a time of 15:31.1, which not only placed him in eighth but was the third-fastest time in school history.

Two weeks prior, Wesley led Utica to a third-place finish at the Macomb Area Conference Red Jamboree on Sept. 12 at Baypoint Beach at Stony Creek Metropark, finishing fourth out of a field of 154 racers.

While Wesley has been getting it done in the No. 1 spot, Utica has seen multiple racers step up with consistent scores, especially at the Macomb County Championship on Oct. 14 at Stony Creek Metropark.

Senior Ethan Muraszewski and junior Luke Morehouse have been consistent in the second and third spots for Utica as they finished 15th and 16th, respectively.

A four-year cross country runner, Muraszewski’s leadership and passion for the sport has become contagious for the other Utica runners this year.

“He really sets the tone as far as work ethic on the team,” Berry said. “He’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever worked with. He lives and breathes running.”

Senior Silas Smith (32nd), sophomore Charlie Curtis (33rd), junior Gavin Frandle (39th) and junior Levi Clair (49th) rounded out the top-50 finishes for Utica.

After bouncing around varsity and junior varsity last season, Curtis has posted consistent scores for Utica this season. Maybe the biggest surprise of them all, Smith, a first-year cross country runner, has found his footing in his first year.

Smith, who currently holds the 14th best time in Utica history, was a first-year track runner for Utica last season, and the momentum has carried over into cross country.

“He went right into the outdoor season ready to go, and he ended being a varsity contributor in track in the mile and 2-mile, and he qualified for counties in his first year in track,” Berry said. “He did more as a first-year track runner than I’ve ever seen.”

Utica finished its final regular season meet at the MAC Championship race on Oct. 21 at Lake St. Clair Metropark, earning third in the meet.

Consistency was key for Wesley, as he tallied another fourth-place finish, but Muraszewski (10th), Morehouse (12th), Smith (20th) and Frandle (33rd) all saw their placements improve from their Macomb County Championship finishes.

Following its ninth-place finish at the state finals last season, Utica will have to power through a difficult region consisting of Troy and Clarkston on Oct. 27 at Clintonwood Park in Clarkston if it wishes to punch its state finals ticket.

There’s new expectations at Utica after last season, and Muraszewski said the team is ready to answer the call.

“We really want to qualify for the state meet,” Muraszewski said. “Our region is tough, so it would be a really good thing just to get to the state meet.”


The girls side is hoping its young core of runners will lead it to its first state finals trip since 2006.

“We’ve really come a long way, and we’re really happy with where we are,” coach Chris Scott said. “It’s fun because the other teams are climbing as well. Romeo is the best in the state, and they’re in our league and in our county. It’s just what we have to compete against.”

Utica has seen consistent improvement each year since Scott took over in 2017, but Utica’s youthful squad is hoping to take a major leap this year at regionals.

Led by freshman Emma Brown, Utica took third at the MAC Red Jamboree this year to earn third in the conference, and it’s been consistent ever since.

At the Macomb County Championship, Brown and sophomore Siene Muraszewski, the younger sister of senior runner Ethan, finished 12th and 13th respectively to lead Utica to a fourth-place finish.

“Her (Emma) and Siene are essentially interchangeable in terms of their ability, and it’s so nice that they’re so young too,” Scott said.

Utica’s youth isn’t just limited to Brown and Muraszewski, for sophomore Brooke McFarland, the younger sister of Utica graduate and cross country star Trent McFarland, has come into her own in her second year on the team.

A gymnast at heart, McFarland needed a little persuasion when it came to giving cross country a try, but she’s been a vital piece for Utica ever since.

“This is her second year, and she’s already doing what she’s doing,” Scott said. “Last year, everything was so new for her. She comes from the world of gymnastics. When we were trying to encourage her to come try running, it was, ‘No, I hate running.’ All the while, her brother was a state champion.”

Junior Norah Lesner, junior Sophia Aquino, and freshman Lilly McNair have been consistent contributors as well this season.

Every young group needs a veteran presence, and senior Addison Johnson has been just that for Utica.

The Oakland University commit has been sidelined since August due to injury, but she’s continued to make her presence felt as a mentor.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for anybody (Johnson) to do that, and it’s so hard too,” Scott said. “I was fortunate enough to never have injuries, so I can’t even fully relate. It’s so hard for someone to sit out that senior season and try to have a strong face, but she has. She’s going to be the No. 1 cheerleader for the girls and the No. 1 supporter in everything. Plus, she’s got all this experience at the top level that girls like Emma and Siene really benefit from and look up to.”

Utica finished its regular season with a fourth-place finish at the MAC Championship as Brown, McFarland and Muraszewski finished 19th, 20th, and 21st respectively. Lesner earned 23rd in the race as well.

It’s been a unique year for Utica, as the team has been figuring things out together, but Muraszewski said it’s brought the team closer together.

“Just having a younger group and knowing we’ll be together for multiple years now is nice,” Muraszewski said. “Knowing we’ll have that comfort and that we’re stronger together and we all work well together, that just makes a big confidence boost for us.”

Utica will look to qualify for states on Oct. 27 at Clintonwood Park in Clarkston, and potentially make some noise at states.

Scott said that while the young runners haven’t been accustomed to the pressure, he said it might play into their favor at regionals.

“They’ve just been taking it day by day and meet by meet, which has been really refreshing because there’s been so much pressure,” Scott said. “By the time we get to that regional meet with all that pressure, it’s not worked out with us for three years in a row. Maybe this year, ignorance is going to be bliss.”