Allegan County News & Union Enterprise

Upton visits Otsego cross country teams

U.S. Congressman Fred Upton (with Fred the sledgehammer) visited members of the Otsego cross country team on Monday, Nov. 7. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)
U.S. Congressman Fred Upton talks to members of the Otsego boys cross country team. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)

By Jason Wesseldyk
Sports Editor

In the Otsego cross country program, the term “hammer” refers to someone who is extremely dedicated and hardworking.
So, during a summer workout, senior Colin Wesseldyk brought a sledgehammer as a symbol of that mentality. The boys team quickly adopted the sledgehammer as its mascot, gluing googly eyes on it and, at the suggestion of senior Pierce Bentley, naming it “Fred” in honor of retired U.S. Congressman Fred Upton.
On Monday, Nov. 7, Upton had the opportunity to meet his namesake.
Upton came to the Otsego High School track to visit with members of the boys and girls cross country team and serve as the starter for their annual post-state-meet mile race.
The Otsego boys, which won the state championship last year, placed sixth at the Division 2 state finals on Saturday, Nov. 5, while the girls won the state title.
“I thought it was an iconic way to end a really special season,” Wesseldyk said of Upton’s visit. “After losing our top four guys from a team that won the state championship, not a lot of people expected much from us. But we still were able to win conference, county and regional championships and finish sixth in the state finals.
“Having Congressman Upton there was a fun way to end the season. It really put a cherry on top of it.”
After the mile race, Upton took time to talk to the runners on various topics, including his nephew-in-law Justin Verlander, who just won a World Series title as a member of the Houston Astros. Verlander is married to Upton’s niece Kate Upton, who gained international fame as Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.
“Verlander’s my favorite player, so I had to ask Congressman Upton about him,” Wesseldyk said.
And as one might expect, Fred the sledgehammer made his way into several of the photos that were taken of Upton with the runners.
“Fred was a member of the team,” Wesseldyk said. “He was a constant reminder of what kind of runners we wanted to be. Plus, it was just a lot of fun. The guys really seemed to enjoy having Fred around and he became a member of the team.”
Upton, who was first elected to congress in 1986, is not running for reelection this year and will retire and 36 years of service.

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