Ad Spot

Ranger trio joining SMC cross country team

DOWAGIAC — Cassopolis’s “Three Amigos” March 31 signed letters of intent for Southwestern Michigan College’s fall return to National Junior College Athletic Association cross country.

Commitments by Rangers Robert “Buster” Ward, William Westphal and Ben Gillesby help grow the team, joining Decatur’s Gavin Smith, Otsego’s Samuel Reed-Loomis and Coloma’s Vanessa Crisenbery as Roadrunners.

All three are dual-enrolled at SMC as well as teammates from a variety of sports in the Class of 2021 at Ross Beatty Junior-Senior High School, but their friendship dates to childhood, from hunting and fishing to showing animals at the Cass County Fair.

“We’ve been best friends since preschool,” Ward said. “A goal of mine has always been to be a collegiate athlete, so when this opportunity presented itself, it was hard to turn down, plus the closeness to home. Instead of adjusting to a new college, I can focus on running. I’m really excited to run.”

Ward, who ran cross country three years for the Rangers, wants to major in criminal justice to become a conservation officer. Ward, whose resume also includes track and soccer, recruited his two friends to join him in cross country sophomore year. “I talked them into it,” he smiled.

“I figured it couldn’t be that hard,” Westphal said. “My mistake.”

“Running really tugs at the mental aspect,” Gillesby agreed. “I’m the runt of the three. My goal is to beat one of them because I’m always behind.”

Westphal, who will be wrestling for Cassopolis at state this weekend, said, “We all have the same interests. Buster and I have been hunting together since we were little. And Ben and I have been showing animals together since we were little.

“I think we’re all afraid to admit it, but we need each other as a support system. We keep each other working,” Westphal said.

Westphal will also pursue criminal justice. Besides wrestling and cross country, he was in soccer and track and played football one season.

“You get to know a lot of people in a small community,” Gillesby said, “and we’ve just stuck close with one another because of that.” Gillesby intends to major in education “because I really want to help people. I could see myself coaching cross country or soccer.” He also ran track and tried out for baseball.

They said when they look at photographs of the trio preserving their memories, “It’s surprising, but we are always in the same exact order in every picture.”

Gillesby sees SMC as his next step in evolving into a responsible adult environment “where you’re accountable for your own things.”

The pandemic played havoc with cross country senior year.

“We were ranked to go to state,” Ward said, “but then quarantines, and we didn’t have enough for a team to compete in regionals” Oct. 30 at Portage Central. “We were the best team in our region. Compared to our freshmen year, when there weren’t enough for a team, then us three along with a couple of other kids, we had a team.”

Their fondest memory will be bringing home a team trophy from a pre-regional race in Decatur, finishing second to Lawrence, 31-37. Eau Claire came in third with 75 points, Marcellus fourth with 84.

Ward finished third overall with a 5K time of 18:38, with Westphal seventh in 19:19 and Gillesby 12th in 20:36.

“We really push each other a lot,” Ward said. “We’re always trying to one-up each other with, ‘I did this many miles this week.’ We’re all very competitive. We’ve done so much stuff together, we’re like brothers.”

News

Niles Police Log: March 31 to April 7

Cass County

Stevensville man injured in La Grange Township crash

Berrien County

Teacher faces disciplinary action for allegedly soliciting 14-year-old

Cass County

Niles woman, son injured in single vehicle crash

Dowagiac

Round Oak’s impact on Dowagiac still felt 60 years later

Dowagiac

Young Professionals of Greater Dowagiac reach fundraising requirements for Russom Park Pavilion Project

Dowagiac

Rotarian Walter Swann discusses life, community outreach

Cass County

Three Rivers man sentenced to probation for meth possession

Cass County

Edwardsburg man sentenced to one year for assault

Cass County

Cass County hosting workshop about child abuse prevention

Berrien County

Spectrum Health Lakeland revises visitor guidelines

Berrien County

Gov. Whitmer asks residents to take COVID-19 precautions, high schools to suspend in-person activities

Cassopolis

Cassopolis couple working to get musical nonprofit off the ground

Berrien County

Berrien County commissioners approve 911 grant

Edwardsburg

Edwardsburg/Ontwa Township Police Log: March 29 to April 5

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 723,297 cases, 16,400 deaths

Cass County

Cass County 4-H offering painting program

Berrien County

Johnson and Johnson vaccine clinic to be hosted at Niles-Buchanan YMCA

Berrien County

Gov. Whitmer, MDHHS encourage spring break travelers to get tested for COVID-19

Berrien County

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Day taking place next week at LMC campus

Dowagiac

Dowagiac District Library hosting poetry contest

Education

Edwardsburg chamber fundraising to donate personalized tumblers to graduating seniors

Business

Niles DDA takes on NODE expenses

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan reports 715,478 cases, 16,327 deaths