GIRLS TEAM PREVIEW
In terms of competitions I’m looking forward to, this one ranks right up there with Division 2 Girls and Division 1 Boys. Three teams seemingly stand above the rest: Bridgman, Hillsdale Academy, and Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart.
Bridgman is a slight favorite over the other two. They’ve been remarkably consistent the entire year, likely aiding their ratings. Their lone setback was at Portage, where they narrowly finished 2nd to a Kalamazoo Christian squad. Well-rounded would be an apt descriptor, the Bees have two All-State candidates in Karsyn Stewart and Arie Hackett, but solid depth as well.
Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart has lost nearly all of the McConnells (Desiree, the last one that I’m aware of), but is still in contention. Two newcomers, Olivia Ervin and Abby Spencer have been key contributors in continuing the tradition. Newcomers aren’t the sole reason of the Shamrocks persistent presence, development of potential All-State runners such as Riley Hacker weighs into their success as well.
Hillsdale Academy survived one of the tougher regions in the entire state. For perspective, Pittsford (4th place finisher in 34-4) would likely be projected as a top-7 team in this field. Hillsdale finished 4th here last November and returned their entire squad. They’re winners of the “unofficial” Class D State Championship, where they narrowly defeated a quality Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart. Like Bridgman, they’re also well-rounded. Megan Roberts provides a low stick, All-State quality, with excellent depth to back her up.
Adrian Lenawee Christian, through four runners, can hang and possibly beat every team in this division. The Cougars have two candidates capable of stepping up, as they’ve done in a few spots this season. If Janae Good, Rachel Powers, or Olivia Durbin can replicate their performances from the Scottie Classic or Stockbridge Invitational, Lenawee Christian could easily break into the top three.
The numbers seem to suggest Hudson and Kalamazoo Christian are in a level below the above four, but both teams have had recent triumphs against those mentioned. Kalamazoo Christian emerged victorious at Portage over Sacred Heart and Bridgman, largely thanks to the emergence of Aubrey Herder, Lily Offringa, and Hope Zichterman. Hudson pulled off a gigantic upset, not only qualifying when the ratings said they wouldn’t, but winning in a hellish region. Emily Czeiszperger was a main reason why, performing 8 spots ahead of her projected place (12th) and setting a 0:27 PR in the process.
GIRLS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW
Abby VanderKooi is the clear favorite in this race. Her accomplishments are known. Defending champion, 4th place finish at Footlocker 2018. Her season has gone about as well as you’d expect, the only defeat coming at the hands of Taylor Ewert and Zofia Dudek in the Spartan Invite. When she needs to race, she races, and races well. When she can cruise to victory, she races, and races well. This race will likely be a cruise to victory, setting herself up for some real barnburners in a few weeks.
The story here then becomes the battle for second. Ellie Kendell has both experience from prior years and ratings from this year. Ellie has consistently been in the 150’s this year, and like VanderKooi, is rarely defeated. One of those defeats came last year by Madison Volz. Volz was second in this race last year (to Kendell’s 3rd). Riley Ford looks to avenge a track State Finals. Her steadiness, especially in this championship portion of the season, has been something to behold, a trend I can see continuing.
BOYS TEAM PREVIEW
Whereas the girls race may have as many as six contenders, the boys race is a bit more condensed.
As the season has worn on, Breckenridge has inched ahead of their competitors. During the summer, things were looking a little hairy, with Mason Sumner battling an ankle injury and Trent Carter mending a hip injury from middle school, one that kept him out into September. As those two, especially Carter, slowly came along, major leaps were taken by Ashton Gillis and Colton Chovanec, who both were able to break 17:00 for the first time at the Wagener Park regional.
Unionville-Sebewaing is licking their wounds from that regional race where, in their coach’s eyes, “Breckenridge killed us today. What a fantastic team. They are untouchable.” That result must have been a shock to the USA kids, mostly because they’ve performed above their division all year. The Thumb mainly consists of Division 3 teams and USA has been ahead of many of their area rivals. Last year, I highlighted Ty Pavlichek as a runner on the rise, and it seems as if he’s continued on that trajectory, having run consistently around that 17:00 mark.
The battle for those 2nd-4th spots will come between the 4th and 5th runners of East Jordan and Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart. For East Jordan, Phillip Nemecek is definitely capable of stepping up. His 156 rating at their regional was his highest rating in nearly two months. A performance of that caliber likely isn’t enough to challenge Breckenridge, but it will make them tough to knock off the second place pedestal.
Roman Addison fills a similar role for Sacred Heart. Through Portage, his average rating hovered around 140. His average rating for Class D and Regionals, 165. Combined with the brothers Lynch and Matthew Nowak, that makes it 4 runners. Thus, Sacred Heart will need help to move into a top-3 spot, but the potential exists.
BOYS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW
Last year, three freshmen seemed to stand out. Peter Baracco, Riley Hough, and Mason Sumner. Baracco and Hough are All-State candidates in Division 1, Sumner is THE candidate in Division 2. His overall rating sits 5 points (15 seconds) higher than the second highest boy. It seemed as if Sumner was ordinary in the middle of the season, at least by his lofty standards. That ankle injury mentioned earlier may have played a part. His last three rated races have shown that potential we saw last year.
It’s not as if it’s a lock, Coleman Clark has beaten Sumner a few times this year. He too has been on an upward trend, hitting his season record at the Scottie Classic (195 rating). Having finished 5th last year, he’s the highest returner in this race.
A small gap separates Clark/Sumner from the next group. Carlos Gascho has a tendency to be aggressive. That led to a blowup at Northern Michigan. On the other hand, in races he’s finished this year, he’s unbeaten. Nathan Lott has flashed his potential a few times this year, most recently at Class D, where he threw down a 198. He lost there to Shane Achterhof, who is a mainstay in these State Finals, with top-10 finishes the past two years. Matthew Nowak is someone I highlighted before the season, purely based on a great 3200m he ran in track. Like the others, his season is coming together at the right time, avenging some subpar outputs at Spartan and Cougar Falcon.