(Covered bridge? Now I have a reason to visit Centreville.)
Both Otsego and Holland Christian are ranked here, both very high. Holland Christian has the frontrunners in Fiene and Kuipers, but Otsego should be able to prevail because of the sheer strength of their mid-pack runners. Hamilton, on the backs of some upcoming freshmen, has a good chance of making it out as well. Allegan and Zeeland East could be there as well, but they’ll both need one more runner to step up.
Ranked Teams: Holland Christian (6), Otsego (7)
- Gillian Fiene, Holland Christian
Already profiled here.
- Michelle Kuipers, Holland Christian
Michelle and Gillian should be at the forefront of any major meet this year. Kuipers had a few outstanding performances last year, namely at Otsego Bulldog (11th) and States (9th). The season was a continuation in her improvement, as she broke 20:00 for the first time as a sophomore, then 19:00 as a junior. Her track season leads you to believe there’s more of that coming. She ran similarly in the 800 to her 10th grade year, but dropped almost 20 seconds in her 1600m.
- Kaylee Thompson, Niles
Niles might run the most races of any school in the state. Kaylee ran 17 times last year, and normally you’d expect some breakdown at the end of the season. Not exactly the case, she spent all but one race in October under 20:00. Her best performances were both here (4th) and Portage (16th). As with Kuipers, she was able to set some personal bests during track, 5:16/11:50.
- Claudia Stachura, Otsego
Like many others, Claudia was able to run her best race of the year at the Otsego Bulldog Invite, going 19:11, pretty impressive for a freshman. She broke 20:00 one other time, at regionals, where she was able to place 11th. Her track times indicate that she may be able to be more consistent in her sophomore campaign, as she was able to break 12:00 for the 3200m several times.
- Sasha Mills, Allegan
As a freshman, Sasha spent much of the year on a gradual progression, starting in the 23-min. range and finishing in the high 21’s. Last season, she was barely over 20:00 in her best race, a 20:06 at Otsego Bulldog. She was in the 20’s a few other times as well, such as her 23rd place here in 20:56.
- Hannah Richmond, Paw Paw
Hannah’s track season played out similarly in the 1600m, but very differently in the 3200m. Her 11:43 was a 17 second drop from 2018, that time was good for 2nd in her region. She just snuck under 20:00 last year, expect her to be well under that mark this season.
For a few years, ever since I’ve been back in the game, I’ve been impressed by the Berrien Springs program. They’re moving up to Division 2 this year, and although the road will be tougher, still have a great shot of making it to MIS. Not always the case, but where there’s money, there’s good XC teams. Berrien Springs isn’t a wealthy area at all, they’re in the bottom 1/3rd of Michigan cities in income, yet they’ve pulled together a consistent program. Speaks volumes about their coaching and hard-working kids.
Ranked Teams: Otsego (3), Holland Christian (11), Berrien Springs (17)
- Shawn Little, Dowagiac Union
Already profiled here.
- Hunter Zartman, Otsego
The past two years have seen Hunter at or near that 16:00 barrier quite a few times. In 2017 he was able to crack it, running 15:55 at Otsego Bulldog. Both years, he’s been All-State. Made the #quantumleap in the 800 this spring, bettering his personal best by 4+ seconds (1:54.9). His 1600m time suggests that wasn’t just a chance occurrence, as he had almost a 10 second drop in that event.
- Jack Leman, Edwardsburg
Jack had a few setbacks in track, talking to him, he seemed to be raring to go with summer training. Expectations are high with this one, he finished 3rd here last year and 23rd at States. Come October, he was at or below 16:30 with regularity. He should be there again.
- Ashton Sheline, Berrien Springs
Ashton had a sensational freshman year, which saw him go sub-17. Last season wasn’t necessarily a marked improvement in pure time, but he did establish a level of normalcy. That normalcy was normal enough to win his region (D3) and finish All-State. He made some leaps in track, too, getting down to 10:13.
- Jonah Maichele, Paw Paw
Jonah showed some serious improvement after a sophomore year for which there are only four results. He PRed at Otsego Bulldog in 16:43, sure, that’s always fast, but he did manage to qualify as an individual as well.
- Colin Mulder, Otsego
Hard to think of a guy projected 5th here as flying under the radar, but Mulder has potential to be on that podium in November. He showed some exceptional long-distance ability in track, coming on strong to break 10:00 multiple times. Given the way Otsego develops talent, he could explode.