BROWNSTOWN — When you win 16 straight league titles and you're shooting for a 10th consecutive regional, there aren't many ways to distinguish yourself in the long line of great Saline girls cross country teams.
But this year's Lady Hornets team found a way.
Saturday, at the MHSAA Division 1 Regional at Lake Erie Metropark, the Lady Hornets managed to accomplish something never done before by a Saline team. Running on a muddy course Elianna Shwayder, Lauren Green, Abby Rentschler, Amy Creutz and Alyssa Cummings swept the top five positions in the race as the Hornets finished with just 15 points — a perfect score. Amy Frauhammer and Gloria Park finished 11th and 12th, respectively, to also earn all-region honors.
Bedford was second with 60 points.
Head coach Mike Smith, who has witnessed many great accomplishments during his tenure in Saline, smiled when asked about the Hornet sweep.
"We've had a lot of good teams at Saline, male and female, but we've never gone 1-2-3-4-5," said Smith. "That was one of our goals. Our specific goal was to get under 20 points and we thought if things went well we could finish with 15 points."
The Hornets were led by Shwayder, the sophomore who was individual regional champ. Shwayder's goal was to set a personal record at the regional. The muddy course made that impossible. Still, she finished the race in 20:03.99, nearly 20 seconds faster than teammate Lauren Green.
"I'm fine with that (not setting a personal record). My main goal was just to build confidence going into the state meet and to reassure myself that I know my pace and that I can go out and establish myself at the state meet," Shwayder said.
Shwayder and company fought through the sludgy course and set a team record that can never be broken.
"I am truly ecstatic about (the perfect score). Our coach was telling us they haven't scored a perfect score like that in any regional meet. It is really something to commend everybody for because this year we've all been working so hard," Shwader said.
Senior Amy Creutz, who placed fourth in 20:33.85, will run at the state meet at the Michigan International Speedway for a third time. Trips to Brooklyn in the fall are a family tradition for Creutz, who also made the trip six times to watch her older sisters run for Saline. None of her older sisters can say they went to the state meet after dropping a perfect score at regionals.
"I'm just really proud of everybody. It's a great thing for everyone," said Creutz.
Creutz said running in the muddy conditions was challenging.
"But it was also fun. It was like running in sand. You have to be careful with your footing and try to hit the dryer parts when you can," said Creutz.
Freshman Lauren Green was second, finishing in 20:23.71. Green's pace has picked up at the perfect time. Fellow freshman Abby Rentschler was third in 20:31.
The perfect score wouldn't have been possible with out fifth place runner Alyssa Cummings, who spent most of the race in sixth and seventh place before making her push in the final mile. Coach Smith said Cummings didn't want to be the reason why the Lady Hornets missed their magic number.
"There was a lot of pressure. I really wanted to do well for the team. This is something we have been talking about. I knew I'd be disappointed if I didn't (take fifth) and I knew I still had a lot of energy, so I pulled away at the end," Cummings said.
She beat the sixth place runner by a shade less than seven seconds.
This week the team prepares for Saturday's state meet, where the girls will try to win Saline's second-ever state championship in girls cross country.
They head to Brooklyn with more confidence in each other than ever.
"There are cross country teams and there are cross country teams and we are a team," said Shwader. "We love each other and we put so much heart into it and we all really care about it, and that's what really makes the magic happen."