As far as our records show, the first female runners to appear on a Saline Cross Country roster were in 1977. These pioneer runners were Sue Short, Bridget Dooley, Liz Smead, Sharon Donegan, Sherry Bartley, Michele Cusato and Colleen Wanty. At this early stage in cross country history, the girls were part of the boys’ team and often competed with the boys since there were very few other girls’ teams in the area, and girls’ cross country was not a league sport.
In 1978, 1979, and 1980 there was a separate girls’ team at Saline, but the team struggled with numbers, often having a hard time coming up with five healthy runners to make a complete team. In fact, in 1980 the girls’ team was so small and beset by so many injuries that it “disbanded” approximately half way through the season, not even competing in the final meets on the schedule. These were rather bleak times for the Saline girls’ program.
Finally, in 1981 fortunes for the girls’ team began to turn around as the girls’ team was “permanently” joined with the boys program under Coach Michael Smith, who had coached the Saline boys since 1977. Now with a more stable program, the support of the athletic department, and an assistant coach to help with the combined teams, the girls’ program slowly began to build both in numbers and success. A highlight for the 1981 season – and a milestone for the Saline girls’ program – occurred in the Regional Meet where two Saline runners – senior Julie Weirick and junior Jolynn Fogle – both qualified individually for the Class B State Meet. These were the first Saline female runners to run in a cross country State Meet.
Building off the success of the individual qualifiers in 1981, the 1982 team went one step further and became the first Saline girls’ team to quality to the State Meet, finishing 2nd in the Regional and then 21st in the State Meet. The girls’ team was finally on its way!
Throughout the 80’s and into the early 90’s both the boys’ and girls’ teams continued to grow, finally reaching a combined roster of 83 athletes in 1992. Though the numbers were great, the 40:1 ratio of runners to coaches was not. It was at this point that the difficult decision of separating the boys’ and girls’ teams was made. After 12 years of practicing, competing, and existing as one team, it was time to separate the athletes and give each team its own head and assistant coach. Coach Smith took over the girls’ program in 1993, and Coach Tom Frederick, who was hired as a new teacher at the high school for the 1993 school year, became the new coach for the boys’ program.
Another big change took place just one year later when Saline moved from Class B to Class A. After becoming one of the dominant Class B girls’ teams in the state, the switch to Class A was difficult at first. Invitational wins were fewer and much harder to come by, and trips to the State Meet, which had become annual events in Class B, now became sometimes more a hope than a reality. As the end of the decade approached and both the numbers and the competitive level of the Saline girls’ team continued to climb, the girls’ program found itself once again ranked among the top in the state.
Since 1981, Saline’s female distance runners have worked hard to make a name for themselves, their school, and their community. Over the years, the Saline women’s team has dedicated itself to building a proud tradition. Through hundreds of team members and thousands of miles, we have attempted to create a tradition built on hard work, team unity, commitment, and success. It is our hope that every athlete who wears a Saline Cross Country jersey shares in that pride and feels a sense of tradition that makes this sport – and this team – special.