The Blue Water Area has been fortunate in recent years to have some incredible athletes playing various sports.
Two who belong near the top of that last are currently competing, and oftentimes at the same place on the same day.
Port Huron’s Rachel Bonner and Algonac’s Morgan Beadlescomb are two of the best runners the area has ever seen, and the people who are getting a chance to watch them are making sure they appreciate it.
“Oh my gosh, it was amazing to watch (Saturday at the Portage Invitational),” St. Clair coach Jon Davidson said. “They’re both just such smart runners as far as racing goes, maybe Rachel a little bit more. Morgan is just coming into his own talent. He’s untapped, he has so much more. When he gets into college, if he gets into the right program, he’s just going to blow up. Rachel, she just knows how to run fast.
“It’s phenomenal to watch those two, and they’re both such nice kids, too. They have great coaches working with them. It is awesome. Not just for us as coaches, but for my kids, we’re all proud of them. It helps because they’re such nice, likable kids. Everybody loves to root for them, and their parents are awesome, too.”
Saturday’s runs at the Portage Invitational took Bonner and Beadlescomb to another level, as their times put them among some of the best in state history. Bonner’s 17:15.9 is the Portage Invitational record, besting the old mark by more than 3 seconds.
The Portage Invitational is perennially one of – if not the – biggest cross country races in the state, and features a field that is bigger, and nearly as competitive as any state final would be. Now Bonner’s name sits at the top of that list.
“It’s a lot of workouts,” Bonner said. “I’ve just been focusing on later in November, even though I wanted to hit this meet. After (the Spartan Invitational, where she placed 21st), I didn’t want to let it get me down. I had to accept the fact that I that I didn’t have a good day. I had to be alright with that and know this was pretty much a vengeance meet where I could show them what I could do.”
Bonner – who has officially visited Texas A&M and is strongly considering Syracuse and Michigan State – has the second-fastest time in the state this season, regardless of division. Traverse City St. Francis’ Holly Bullough, who has been sub-18 five times this season, has the state’s best time at 17:09. St. Francis competes in Division 3, however, so Bonner and Bullough won’t run into each other at the state meet.
While the Athletic.net rankings aren’t guaranteed to feature every time run nationally this season, Bonner ranks sixth out of the ones that are there (10 times out of California were run at a shorter distance).
This isn’t a projection, but it warrants mention: Bonner has run more than 1 minute faster than Leah O’Connor ever did in high school.
Beadlescomb didn’t set a Portage record, but you can forgive him for that, even if he doesn’t. That record belongs to Datahn Ritzenhein – now one of the world’s best distance runners – at 14:41.9. Beadlescomb has to settle for third on the Portage all-time list behind Ritzenhein and Grant Fisher, who is currently a freshman at Stanford. Ritzenhein and Fisher are the Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson of Michigan cross country.
At 14:58 and some change – he’s officially listed at 14:59, while Bonner is listed at 17:16 – Beadlescomb has the fastest time run in the state this year. His time is the eighth-fastest in the nation.
“I felt uncomfortably comfortable,” Beadlescomb said. “I felt like we were going pretty slow because there was a big group with us, then we crossed the mile at 4:41. We crossed the 2 mile in 9:41, and I was like, ‘OK, this is weird.’ (Corunna’s Noah Jacobs, who finished second), tried to take off from the group, and I went with him.”
Beadlescomb has planned to put off his college choice until after the season and listed Michigan, Michigan State, the University of San Francisco and the United State Military Academy at West Point as possible destinations. Breaking 15 will likely get him to wherever he wants to go.
“It was a goal of mine, but it was kind of an unrealistic goal,” Beadlescomb said. “Whenever I would do pace work, I would pace myself for a 14:50-something. I guess deep down I didn’t really expect to do it, until I came across the 2 mile and I was at Grant Fisher’s split.”
There are chances left for those in the area to watch these two run. Algonac will host the final Blue Water Area Conference jamboree on Oct. 20, and the regional on Oct. 30. Algonac is known as a fast course, giving Beadlescomb a chance to shine at home.
Bonner, meanwhile, has one more local meet, as the Big Reds will compete on Oct. 31 in the regional at Anchor Bay.
There have been many great athletes in the area, and there will certainly be many more. But that doesn’t mean you should miss your chance to witness the ones we have now.
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.