Well, I got started with typing up this preview, then my laptop just stopped working. So here we are, a few hours later, new laptop in tow.
On the girls side, this is a pretty fair region. You have one top team, three other good teams, and a few outstanding individuals.
The original version of this post didn’t include Forest Hills Northern. Not sure where I messed up, but here they are. What they’ve really got going for them is their 1-5 spread. Freshman Alli Cornell should really contribute as a front-runner, as she was in the 12’s for much of middle school XC.
Traverse City Central is a steady power in our northwest corner of the state. Sitting in that gym pre-Bayshore, you can see their dominance across all sports, championship banners abound. Julia Flynn has already been profiled. What makes them great is their depth, as is usually the case with top teams. Even those on that 20 min. bubble seem to improve, examples being Alison Hankins, who dropped her PR from 20:08 to 19:14 and Ellen Gerhard, who dropped hers from 21:01 to 19:48.
Traverse City West’s Hannah Smith should be right in the mix for All-State again this year. She’s finished 26th and 23rd the past two years. She didn’t as well in track as past seasons, but even at the level she ran, she should still be near that top 30. Elliott Smith put together a solid season in middle-distance, going 2:27/5:17, capitalizing on a freshman year where she was able to break 19.
Rockford obviously loses VanderLende, but don’t forget the contributions of Everhart-Deckard. A darkhorse candidate to break their top 7 might be Hailey Fike. She dropped nearly 3.5 minutes over the course of last season and ran 5:44 in track. Other contributors who have shown steady progression include Elizabeth Bennett, Bailey Ewen, and Lexie Allshouse.
If they could only find some depth, GR Ottawa Hills would be right in contention.
Nicole Marco had a massive PR in the 1600 this spring, dropping from 5:24 to 5:08. Hopefully that will extend into XC, as this would be her first state appearance.
Jocelyn Hendricks narrowly missed out on All-State last year. No track results that I can find, but if she keeps on the same path, she’ll be making it to MIS for the 3rd straight year.
On the boys side, it’s a little tighter 2-4.
Cedar Springs would undoubtedly be a contender in Division 2, but they’ve moved up. They have enough depth and front-running to make it to the top 10, quite possibly higher. Corey Bowers has already been profiled, I should note that he split 1:54 in a relay at States. He’s followed by three seniors who should provide some consistency in Gavin Braciak, Dilan Sargent, and Jaydon Moleski.
It really comes down to those 4th-7th runners for teams such as Lowell, Rockford, and Traverse City Central. I have TCC and Lowell ranked in the top 25, but Rockford’s quality depth may spurt them ahead. Kyle Sweeney hit 17:16 last fall, then followed that up with a 10:22. Lowell’s Cole Weston is a similar case, running 17:23 and then 10:23, a rising sophomore as well.
Traverse City Central does have a low stick in Cole Truszkowski. He’s shown improvement the past three years in the fall, almost breaking 16. On the track, he was able to get 14th in the 1600 with a 4:21.
In order to make it out as an individual, one will probably have to be around 16:45 for a majority of the season, at least on faster courses. Many kids that I have into the 20’s here have broken 17 before. Two sophomores I’d watch for are Klay Grant and Isaac Stone, both able to break into those 10:20’s in track. Two others that made major leaps are Brett Schlaff, dropping his 3200m PR by 0:38 and Josiah Frazier, a 0:48 drop.
Finally, how does Ottawa Hills acquire this talent? They have NO distance results in track from anyone other than Juan David Hernandez. Their XC roster for this fall has one other runner. Normally, people will improve (yes, there are other ways) by chasing others in their training group. The guy ran 2:06/4:35/9:59/16:15 as a freshman. Literally by himself. Unbelievable stuff.