Like so many high school football players in Michigan, Newaygo senior Hudson Harkness was devastated to learn the gridiron season was postponed to the spring, but he knew he wanted to be a part of a team this fall.
“I haven’t done anything since last football season," Harkness said, "any competitive sports. I didn’t play basketball, baseball was canceled, football was postponed to the spring, upset about that so hey I got to do something so cross country it was.”
While a couple of the football players did join the soccer team, six of them are currently on the cross country squad.
“I had talked to coach Van Essen with the football program prior to them actually getting shut down and I said if football doesn’t go I’d really like to have some of your players," 10th year Newaygo cross country coach Alexis Mercer said. "As many as I possibly can because I want to provide them with a good experience and give them something to look forward to this fall.”
Junior Mallaci Mayle has always ran cross country but this fall was planning to play football as well and says the football players have made the cross country team better.
“Some of them are doing a lot better than I expected which is cool," Mayle said. "It’s cool for them, I’m happy. It’s a bigger team, more competition between people which is nice.”
Sophomore Nicholas Ruemeier has made his presence felt early on challenging the teams top runner at last week's camp.
“You go form sprinting maybe four or five seconds in one play and then getting a thirty second break, to running miles at a time and it is a difficult transition,” Ruehmeier said.
One thing this sports change has done is given the football guys a new perspective on a sport they didn't know much about two weeks ago.
“Oh I thought Cross Country was going to be a lot easier than what it was," Harkness said. "Just running a couple miles a day but I’ve gained a lot of respect for cross country runners, they have to run these crazy amount of hills that burn the thighs, crazy distances that I thought I could do, but I couldn’t.”
The Lions currently have the largest team in coach Mercer's tenure with 32 total runners between the boys and girls.