By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half
BROOKLYN — It wasn't all putting in extra miles and running at a higher intensity.
For Lansing Catholic junior Keenan Rebera, it was going to take a lifestyle change if he was going to climb the final four places to become the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 3 cross country champion.
The changes paid off for Rebera, who cruised to the Division 3 title with a time of 15:31.0 on a mud-slicked Michigan International Speedway course on Saturday.
A year ago, Rebera took fifth at MIS in 15:42.5, 37.4 seconds out of first place. He made it a point to get at least eight hours of sleep and cut out anything acidic from his diet, including soda.
"I was really sick last year when I ran, so I made some changes in the way I trained, the way I slept and the way I ate," he said. "I'm a lot healthier. I have more energy. I came back here with a grudge against this course."
Chase Barnett of Mason County Central shot out to the lead before Rebera reeled him in and began to open up an insurmountable gap as he ran the first mile in 4:40. Barnett finished second in 16:00.9.
"After that first hill, I sped up," Rebera said. "I realized it was going to be a little bit slow, so I wanted to keep up the pace."
The third mile was the roughest of the race, he said. Not only was fatigue mounting, but runners went through the muddiest part of the course. The pain went away as Rebera took what was essentially a victory lap down the long straightaway at MIS.
"It hurt really bad right before that, but when people started cheering there and there was a little less mud, it felt good," he said.
Rebera is the second Lansing Catholic runner in the last three years to win the individual title. Zachary Zingsheim was the school's first MHSAA champ two years ago in 15:48.2.
Rebera was hoping his performance would lead the Cougars to a team championship, but they took third with 189 points.
The Benzie Central dynasty rolled to another championship by a 111-129 margin over runner-up Stockbridge.
It was the seventh title for Benzie Central, which has cracked the top 10 for 20 straight years.
The Huskies returned five runners from a team that took fourth last season for the second year in a row. A huge addition was freshman Brayden Huddleston, who was the team's No. 2 runner and 17th among team runners in 16:41.5. Junior Kyle Bradley led Benzie, taking 14th among team runners in 16:39.4.
Also scoring for the Huskies were senior Max Gaft (19th, 16:48.1), senior Ismael Halaweh (30th, 17:07.9) and sophomore Jake Williams (31st, 17:08.3). Williams' performance made a huge difference, as he came in 27 places ahead of Stockbridge's No. 5 runner among team finishers.
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PHOTO: Lansing Catholic's Keenan Rebera rounds the bend at MIS on the way to winning the LP Division 3 championship Saturday. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)