GIRLS TEAM PREVIEW
At the forefront yet again is Hart. It’s difficult to win once, even tougher to win twice, almost impossible to pull it off three times in a row. We’re humans here, complacency is a factor even in our adult daily lives, yet these girls keep coming back for more. One might think the Enns/Ackley family is the only factor in their success, but like Sacred Heart, improvement occurs here too. In October, Layla Creed and Lauren VanderLaan have both posted 100+ ratings in all of their races, a figure neither were able to previously produce. Excellent backup and security in the rare case of a disastrous performance from one of their top 5.
Most of the chase pack involves similar profiles of teams, Traverse City St. Francis being the main exception. So I’ll go into a runner from each times that has improved and is essential to their success.
Leanne Krombeen is someone who has turned it to a new level for Grandville Calvin Christian. Starting at Shepherd BlueJay, she’s put together a nice little string of performances. All have been in the 20:00 realm, her regional race venturing into the 19’s for the first time this season.
Here’s how Madde Skeel’s last four performances have gone for Shepherd. 130, 132, 130, 132. It’s that sort of consistently that teams desire in their top runners. It’s no shock she’s a great golfer as well, keeping steady a necessary quality in that frustrating sport.
Paige Johnston is a major reason Benzie Central finished 1st at the Scottie Classic. The senior broke 20:00 for the first time this year. She has experience at MIS that could hold key, finishing 17th here in 2017.
Julia Esch has dropped considerable seconds in these past few weeks. After lingering around the 21 min. mark throughout the season, she’s almost slipped under 20:00 in her past two outfits. A similar performance can move Pewamo-Westphalia into the top three.
Lani Bloom battled some sickness early in the season, which subdued her rating. As I predicted on twitter, she ran much closer to Rylee Tolson than what the ratings suggested. Expect a similar show from her, hopefully benefiting Ithaca.
Traverse City St. Francis is the anomaly here, relying on their top three girls to drive their scoring. Sophia Rhein avenged an atypical effort at Northern Michigan to finish 4th at her regional.
GIRLS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW
At her best, Alison Chmielewski is the star of this field. Even not at her best, she’s probably still the star of this field. If you take out her regional race, her weighted rating is nearly 10 points above the rest. The question is if that regional race was a trend, or was it saving herself for State? If she’s saving herself, watch out.
Rylee Tolson is laying in the bushes if it’s a trend. The sophomore has only lost once this season, falling to Theis and Hynes at Greater Lansing. She’s been consistently in that 18:15-18:45 (145-155) range all year.
Maddy Bean has been on a similar trajectory to Tolson. High ratings early (this is likely because the faster girls tend to comparatively be in better shape than the midpack girls, this will be fixed next year) , a bit of a lull, then coming on strong. The author here felt she could contend for the Macomb County crown, that didn’t happen, but her season hasn’t gone into the tank as a result.
Unlike most other individual races, there isn’t much overlap between contenders in terms of past competitions. Libby Gorman and Ava Maginity are the exception. In the past two weeks, they’ve swapped places with one another. In my mind, they’re interchangeable.
BOYS TEAM PREVIEW
Hanover-Horton has waited all year for this moment. This summer, they acted confidently, as if they were the only contender. Then they backed it up in big meets. Bath, Portage, Jackson, Bluejay. Even falling to their pack were ranked teams from higher divisions, such as Cedar Springs and Haslett. Dean Reynolds and Garrett Melling have been steady runners at the front. Some of their other top 5 have had the occasional bad race, but that’s negated by Shane Sauber’s recent emergence.
Charlevoix needs a great day from their 4th and 5th runners along with some help from Hanover-Horton if they want to capture this title. Blaise Snabes, if he can run similar to how he did at Northern Michigan and Sam Peterson, if he can recapture his September form could combine to make this a race.
Another close battle, this time for spots 3-6 (possibly 2, as well). You could make arguments for Saugatuck, Traverse City St. Francis, or Grandville Calvin Christian to be the prime candidate of this trio.
Calvin Christian came out on top at Portage, a good representation of a state meet field. A large field places more importance on the latter runners. Seth Broekhuis set his PR there, vaulting them to a second-place finish.
St. Francis has battled Charlevoix many times this season. From what I understand, it’s a healthy rivalry. Rivalries can be great; I can think of one that’ll hold a place in my heart if a team does what it needs to do in late November. Freshman Josh Kerr did what he needed to do at regionals, dropping 0:30 from his previous best, which catapulted St. Francis past Charlevoix.
Saugatuck splits the difference between these two. They defeated St. Francis at Portage, but have a better fifth runner than Calvin Christian.
When the three have faced, Harbor Springs has sort of lingered behind St. Francis and Charlevoix. A ten-point difference is pretty close even at the D3 level. Jordan Bussey was the main reason they closed that gap. After hovering around the 18:00 mark all season, he took that quantum leap into the 16’s. There are no flukes in running, but there those days that seemingly come out of nowhere. If that regional performance brings about a newfound confidence, they’re right in the mix.
BOYS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW
I don’t follow nationwide rankings anymore after the downfall of Dyestat (I know exists, but not in the form it once was), but is Hunter Jones the best freshman in the country? He’s been defeated once this year, back at Pete Moss. That course is usually fast, the regional race faster, but in the meantime, he dropped nearly 0:40. Since that defeat, he’s been challenged only once…
… by Carson Hersch. I wasn’t there, but a 0:05 difference qualifies as close. That wasn’t a fluke race from Carson, as he’s had multiple 205+ efforts this year.
But on muddy tracks are a mental challenge as well as physical. If someone gets out hard, tandems or packs can reel them in. Ashton Walker and Hayden Germain (teammates) and Carson Laney and Andrew Frohm (hometown favorites) will likely be right there in that chase pack.
Laney, although disappointed in his regional performance, still ran one of his better races of the year. He lost to a very worthy Frohm, who in his last three races, has averaged nearly 15 points higher than the previous four.
Walker and Germain worked together to defeat Hersch at regionals. They’re both #PeakingAtTheRightTime, having gone under 16:00 in their last two races. Walker had been slightly ahead of Germain for most of the season, but Germain has gotten up to Ashton’s level lately.