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 Members of Berkley High’s cross country program are pictured at a recent practice. Coach Jared Purcell said there are 43 boys and 41 girls on this year’s squad.

Members of Berkley High’s cross country program are pictured at a recent practice. Coach Jared Purcell said there are 43 boys and 41 girls on this year’s squad.

Photo by Donna Agusti

Berkley High cross country has another large squad this year

By: Mark Vest | Woodward Talk | Published October 9, 2018

When he took over as Berkley High’s boys and girls cross country coach in 2010, Jared Purcell said he “never would’ve seen it coming.”

But come it has, and Purcell is glad for it.

What he didn’t think he would see are the large numbers of kids who have been coming out for the program.

Purcell said there are 43 boys and 41 girls on this year’s team.

Although he doesn’t know why the numbers have “ballooned” so much in recent years, the interest that students have had in being part of Berkley cross country can help him realize the aspirations he had after taking over the program.

“I had all these goals about, we (want to) win leagues, be competitive at invitationals, be competitive at regionals,” Purcell said. “But my top goal was just to start growing the numbers because in order to reach these lofty goals that we set for ourselves competitively, it really helps to have a lot of depth. … I couldn’t be more happy with the fact that this program seems to be growing, and I don’t think it’ll level off anytime soon.”

Although the boys squad has had some injury issues this year, the girls team is in position to have another strong season.

Last year’s accomplishments for the girls included qualifying for the state finals for the first time since 1999 and winning a second consecutive Oakland Activities Association Blue Division championship.

With division championships and large numbers having become more commonplace, Purcell would like to see qualifying for the state finals also become a staple of the program.

Berkley is set to compete in a Division 1 regional hosted by Ann Arbor Huron later this month, and a top-three finish would earn the Bears another trip to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn for the state finals.

“It would be huge,” Purcell said of qualifying for the state finals in back-to-back seasons. “I don’t even know (if) Berkley has ever qualified for states two years in a row within the last 25 years or longer than that. … Now that we’re starting to sustain league championships, we’re starting to sustain larger numbers. We’re hoping that we can sustain the success at the regional level, too, in order to get to the state meet.”

Some of the girls who help lead the way for Berkley this year are captains Emma Murray, Kenna Childress, Christina Krysiak and Suzy Gadd.

For those girls and their teammates, the benefits of being part of Berkley’s program and running cross country, in general, can extend beyond winning division championships and trying to earn a spot at the state finals.

“When it comes to running cross country, it takes so much discipline,” Purcell said. “And you see that really get adapted by the kids. They become very disciplined, not only with their schedules, but with how they manage themselves. … You don’t get a lot of problem children or anything like that (who) that come into cross country. If they do have issues when they join, they quickly learn that they have to straighten themselves out in order to be successful. That kind (of) rubs off on everything else they do.”

Childress has enjoyed being part of a group dynamic at Berkley.

“It’s been such a wonderful experience,” she said. “Just being a part of the team and being able to run with all my teammates, (it’s) just been such a great experience. I never thought I’d get to be a part of a group like this.”

Purcell first joined Berkley’s cross country program as a sophomore runner in 2002.

The state of the program is in a better place now than he’s ever known it to be in all his years at Berkley.

“The state of the program is as high as it’s ever been,” Purcell said.  “We’re not afraid to climb to the summit. These girls are all about pushing the program in the right direction. It’s definitely going that way.”