Jack Keais is back where he’s supposed to be — the front of the pack.
The St. Clair senior has won four of his six cross country races this season, and finished second and fifth in the other two. It’s been a welcome sight for those who watched him struggle through injury a year ago, one year after having to sit out because of an MHSAA transfer rule.
“I think he was really getting discouraged for a while,” St. Clair coach Jon Davidson said. “Earlier in the summer, he was like, ‘I don’t think I know if I want run in college or not.’ In track last year, he didn’t have a really good season, and at one point he said, ‘I’m not even fast anymore.’
“I was like, ‘Jack, we’re going to come back.’ And he’s back. He’s running great, he’s got a new resolve, and he’s just made a decision that, ‘I’m going to be fast, and I’m going to be All-State,’ and he’s going to do it.”
Keais ran a new personal best time of 16 minutes, 11.55 seconds Saturday to win the Wagener Park Invitational. That time puts Keais well within the top 30 — which is the All-State cutoff — in Division 2 at 17th. It’s good for second in the area, too, behind defending state champion Morgan Beadlescomb. His time of 15:33 is Division 2’s best.
“It helps (having Beadlescomb to compete with locally), and it’s a little frustrating,” Keais said with a laugh. “If it wasn’t for him, I’d be winning all the local meets, too. But I love Morgan, and it’s a friendly competition. Sometimes it’s not even a competition because he’s so fast. He’s just one of those naturally talented kids. He can get up and run fast.”
Keais is more than happy to simply be healthy, running at the level he knows he’s capable of, and doing so on a team that can compete at the highest level.
He was on the Saints 2013 state championship team, but wasn’t allowed to compete. After transferring from Marine City, Keais got caught up in the MHSAA’s transfer rules despite moving. It was something St. Clair fought back then, and Davidson is still not happy about.
He had a strong start to his junior season, winning his first race and finishing second in the next two. A back injury that turned into a leg injury made for a disappointing finish, however.
“It was a struggle for him (sitting out as a sophomore), and then to see him get hurt the next year,” Davidson said. “It shows you what a tough kid he is, because a lot of kids would have just quit after that, but he didn’t give up. He stuck it out and he’s having a great senior year.”
There are still several big meets left for Keais and the Saints, including the Marysville Invitational on Thursday and the Portage Invitational on Saturday. Algonac will host this season’s regional on Oct. 30, which runners are looking forward to as it provides another chance to go fast. The state meet is Nov. 7 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Keais plans to appreciate the rest of this season — and continue to go fast.
“I left running on a very bad last year,” Keais said. “Even track season I wasn’t too happy with. This year, it’s my senior year, so I don’t have much time left. I’m really trying hard and it’s going well for me.”
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.