(Jake Flynn still holds the school record at Benzie, I’m wouldn’t be shocked if he holds the course record as well)
Hart isn’t as strong as last year, but they should walk here, potentially sweeping the top 5. Benzie Central is undoubtedly a top 10 team, but you wouldn’t know it by the score. Two ranked teams in the battle for 3rd, practically neighbors even, unfortunately only one can make it. Individually, this is about as tough as you’ll get for Division 3. This might be even stronger than the next region I’ll be looking at (in Division 1).
- Rank: 1
Defending state champs that could’ve made an argument for being the best team last year. They probably can’t make that case this year, but again have excellent depth.
- Highest Rated: Savannah Ackley
Savannah started out with a bang, 18:09 at Pete Moss, then suffered at Spartan. Recovered to consistently run 18’s for the rest of the year. Finished 7th at State Finals. Then went 11:10 and finished 6th (11:25) at the track Finals.
- Career achievement/improvement: Brenna Aerts
Brenna has spent three years in the program. She barely broke 20 as a freshman and has dropped into the low 19’s the past two seasons. Her 8th place here last year has been her best finish and she was All-State last year as well.
- Darkhorse: Audrianna Enns
Hard to find a darkhorse with this team, though Audrianna has a chance for improvement. She’s always had some speed, running 2:20 as an 8th grader, but showed increased strength in dropping her 1600m to 5:20. Expect to see multiple sub-19 performances this season.
- Rank: 6
As I said, Benzie is undoubtedly a top 10 team. They were 8th at MIS last year and return many of those same girls. My guess is competing against a team like Hart pulls them along and benefits them for big races later in the season.
- Highest Rated: Cierra Guay
Cierra has shown some nice gradual progression throughout her years. She’s dropped more than 30 seconds each year, and 2018 was the first time she placed top 15 at regionals. In track, she saw some major leaps, especially in the 1600m, getting down to 5:30
- Career achievement/improvement: Paige Johnston
Another girl that’s done about every event in track. The only events missing from her profile are the disc and 300h. She’s spent every year under 20 and every year in the top 15 here.
- Darkhorse: Haley VanWagoner
Haley really sped up as 2018’s season went on. Finished in over 24 minutes at Pete Moss, but ended the year in the 20’s. Her track times indicate someone capable of running in the low 20’s, perhaps faster.
- Rank: 15
McBain was about on the same level as Benzie last year, but loses their top two runners. The team finished 5th at Northern Michigan, 3rd at Regionals, and 9th at State Finals. They add some talented freshman to mitigate those losses.
- Highest Rated: Maggie O’Malley
As far as I know, the last of the O’Malley clan. Maggie was just barely over 20 minutes last year, finishing 16th here. She made a nice jump in the 16 during track, erasing 15 seconds down to 5:36.
- Career achievement/improvement: Megan Taylor
Megan has been a model of consistency. Her best times the last three years have been 21:23, 21:21, 21:22. Someone like Megan is essential for every team, comes on strong at the end of every season, is dependable, and can likely place before others 5th runners.
- Darkhorse: Regan Hill
Regan has consistently been in the 13’s for McBain’s middle school team. In track, she snagged two major PRs, running 6:03 and 13:06.
Others to Watch
- Dreea Atchison, Morley Stanwood
Dreea ran a HUGE personal best to finish 11th here last year. 19:24 when her best time during the season was a 20:03.
- Paige Swiriduk, Manton
Paige has been near or at the front of many northern Michigan invitationals for years now. She’s been first at Cecil Burch two years running, picked up a win at Late Season Warrior in 2017. Three time qualifier, two time All-Stater.
- Abbigail Kiaunis, Reed City
As with Atchison, ran out of her mind to qualify last year. 19:14 while her season best had been a minute higher. Showed some major potential with her 1600 time, she has the highest chance of breaking into Hart’s sweep.
The boys side is concentrated into two battles. Hart vs. Benzie for the champ and Pine River, Manistee, McBain for third place. As always, it’ll come down to everyone on the team, but especially those in the middle of the pack.
- Rank: 6
Don’t overlook Hart’s boys squad. They didn’t have any Ackleys walking through those doors (but now they do) and were still able to finish top-10 the past two years.
- Highest rated: Alex Enns
A bit of assuming here, but Alex’s track season was cut short. My guess would be injury, but it was early enough that he’ll hopefully get in some summer training. We’ve seen what he can do when healthy, 11th at State last year and multiple times in the 16’s. Defending regional champ.
- Career achievement/improvement: Hunter Tubbs
Three years in the Hart program, three years of running at State Finals. Another top-100 finish last year for Hunter and the second straight year under 17.
- Darkhorse: Clayton Ackley
I think we’ve learned to expect great things from this family. Clayton ran 11:20 on the XC course last fall, 5:09/11:18 in track.
- Rank: 5
Benzie has a little better overall rating, but a little less depth than Hart. They’re a senior-laden team, that group finished 15th last year, but they have what might be the best addition in the country. That addition has the potential begin a new regional championship streak at Benzie, they had previously won 6 straight, from 2011 to 2016.
- Highest rated: Hunter Jones
As an 8th grader, ran 2:09/4:32/9:34. Best 3200m time of any middle schooler in the country last year. Hard to find middle school national records, looked at the USATF JO records for 13/14 year olds. The best 3000 run there was a 9:08, Jones’s pace would put him at 8:58.
- Career achievement/improvement: Wesley VanPoortfliet
Wesley dropped 1:30 from his freshman to sophomore year. That sophomore year saw him come on strong at the end of October, 17:43 at Manistee National and 17:20 here.
- Darkhorse: Connor Mclaren
Connor has always been solid at the 4/8, it’s translated to XC in some races, but not all. He made another jump this year, dropping down to 2:03. If he brings more consistency to the table, Benzie has a real shot of winning here.
Leroy Pine River
- Rank: N/R
Pine River isn’t a team you’d traditionally count on to be here. But they’re young, have a nice little pack, and a few of their athletes had nice track seasons.
- Highest rated: Jayce Methner
Jayce ran 17:49 last year and finished 42nd here. In track, he was able to run 10:40 for the second straight year.
- Career achievement/improvement: Kaden Darrow
Kaden made quite a leap from his 9th to 10th grade year, dropping down from the 22’s to the 19’s. He continued that progression last year and was able to run 5:09 in track.
- Darkhorse: Phil Rigling
Another case of my assumptions. Phil’s track season ended shortly after he ran a 2:17 in late March. Once again, if he’s healthy enough to partake in summer training, watch out, as a freshman he was able to run in the 18’s at the end of the year.
Others to Watch
- Connor Murphy, McBain
In Connor’s first year of XC, he managed to run 16:25 and finish 6th here. He flashed some 1600m ability, hitting multiple 4:4x performances throughout the season.
- Ransom Hoeflinger, Manistee
Ransom dropped nearly a minute from his freshman year PR. Perhaps the most impressive of that year to year improvement was a 21:06 at 2017’s Pete Moss to a 17:28 last September.
- Aiden McLaughlin, Morley-Stanwood
The question is, how much does an 800 translate? Aiden has been decent at XC, not spectacular, but running 1:55.1 is spectacular. That 800 netted him a 1st place finish at State Finals and definitely makes one think he can spend some time in the 15s in a few months.