By Jason Wesseldyk
BUCHANAN—In years past, Saugatuck freshman Nik Pettinga watched as older brothers Zach and Jacob won individual regional cross country championships.
On Saturday, Oct. 28, Pettinga became the last member of his family to accomplish that feat.
Checking in with a time of 16:55, Pettinga claimed the top spot at the Division 3 regional at Buchanan and, in doing so, helped lift the Indians to the team championships.
Saugatuck finished with 34 points, which was 23 points better than runner up Berrien Springs and 55 points better than third-place Bangor.
The regional championship is simply the most recent in a growing list of achievements for Pettinga in his first year of high school, which also includes a runner-up finish at the SAC Meet.
“I was really proud of Nik,” Saugatuck coach Rick Bauer said. “It was fun to see him join his brothers in winning an individual regional championship.”
Not that Pettinga was the only member of the Saugatuck team to turn in a strong performance. In fact, two other Indians joined him in the top five and all five of Saugatuck’s scoring runners earned All-Regional honors for being among the first 15 runners to cross the finish line.
“I was definitely pleased with the boys’ effort,” Bauer said.
Junior Corey Gorgas placed second in the race with a time of 17:17, while senior Keegan Seifert was fourth at 17:40.
“Nick, Corey and Keegan were solid like they have been all season,” Bauer said.
Gorgas typically leads Saugatuck, but hasn’t been at full strength in recent races. Still, he continues to give Bauer and his teammates everything he has.
“Corey has been dealing with some health issues and still is not 100 percent,” Bauer said. “I’m proud of his effort and his team mentality. It would have been really easy for a kid like him to give up or be discouraged, but he’s all about helping the team even if he isn’t able to perform to the level we all know he is capable.”
While Bauer has come to expect such performances from Pettinga, Gorgas and Seifert, he was pleasantly surprised by the results he got from the rest of the team.
“I believe that was the best effort we have gotten from our four, five, six and seven guys all year,” Bauer said. “For the first time all season, they stuck to the plan.”
And by doing so, seniors Armand Carrion and Corbin Blink each garnered All-Regional accolades.
Carrion finished 12th with a time of 18:19, while Blink placed 15th at 18:24.
“Corbin did a great job of pulling Armand along and then Armand did what Armand does and kicked like crazy,” Bauer said.
Ray Bartlett and Mason Harvath-Gerrans were Saugatuck’s final two runners, with Bartlett finishing 18th at 18:50 and Gerrans placing 24th at 19:08.
“Ray and Mason did a nice job working from the back of the chase pack moving up throughout,” Bauer said.
Next up for Saugatuck is the Division 3 state championship, which are slated for Saturday, Nov. 4, at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.