GIRLS TEAM PREVIEW
Two teams stand above the rest, making it great from a spectator standpoint. Division 1 Boys will also be great to spectate, but much harder to visually score (I hope to be alive when they have live, up to the second scoring). East Grand Rapids vs. Petoskey.
Prior to the season, it looked as if East Grand Rapids was a mortal lock to again win. My preseason projections threw out a score of 56 to 110. Early in the season, especially after a blistering debut at Portage Early Bird, no doubt. After the Charlevoix Mud Run, I began to take a bit more notice in Petoskey. But even then, the Mud Run is one that can exacerbate the gap between runners, as some just shut down at the sight of adverse conditions.
Their first showdown came at Spartan:
Okay, maybe Petoskey was just overrated, nothing to see here.
Then Portage happened:
Okay, maybe Petoskey wasn’t overrated, much to see here.
Petoskey owes a ton of credit for Cambrie Smith moving there, but that’s not the whole story. Cambrie has dropped over 1:30 from her previous bests, and she was already very good. The coaching must play a major role. I’ve said it over and over, but in order to win, you must have depth. The Vanderwall siblings, Caroline Farley, and Paige Harris provide that depth. You must have development. Emma Squires, Noel Vanderwall, Anna Vanderwall, and Paige Harris (especially) have improved more than 5 rating points from last year.
Ainsley Workman didn’t run varsity at Portage and maybe that helped her kick her season back into gear. She did finish 1st in that JV race, and when you place her time into the varsity race, that tightens up the score quite a bit. I’ve mentioned in earlier previews about runners recapturing form, and that’s precisely what she did in her regional race, skipping up to a 145 rating. East Grand Rapids has depth as well, Hannah Bodine and Katie Hessler should be right in the All-State mix, while Margaret Coney finished 5th here last year.
Here’s how the ratings project the score between these two powerhouses:
GIRLS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW
Jaden Theis likely has the highest upper range of anyone in this field. After all, she’s the defending champion and she has that FootLocker experience. Her season was going without a hitch, on an uptick from track, until last week’s regional.
Anna Petr made a move in the final 800m to pass both Taryn Chapko and Theis. She gained the lead with around 400 to go and ran for her life. I like Petr or Chapko if it comes down to a kick. Obviously, there’s more to a kick than just pure speed, but you have a step up when you can run 4:56 like Petr or 58.9 like Chapko. These two have also not had a bad race all year, an underrated factor in determining who will show up.
Speaking of consistency, Elka Machan is a great example of that same concept. No races below 150 for her. In races where she’s lost (only three this year), her rating has been above 157 for each.
Madelyn Frens set a blazing time to start this year, a 17:49 at Pete Moss. In races where she’s been challenged, she’s replicated that effort, with three other sub-18 efforts to her resume.
Having run 15(!) races this year, one would think a runner would get burnt out. But no, Makenna Veen keeps getting results. She brings it when needed, for example, that 165 rating at Spartan. Her overall rating is lower than all the others, but in that Spartan race, she beat four of those listed above her. So many moving parts.
Moving upward have been those Petoskey teammates. Cambrie Smith has gone from a 128 overall rating to a 167 (about a 1:57 improvement) and Emma Squires from a 151 to 157 (18 seconds). When you’re already good, as Squires had been, it’s really tough to continue to improve. Once again, kudos to that Petoskey program for their development.
BOYS TEAM PREVIEW
These ratings are made for teams such as Fremont. I appreciate how rarely they race. It’s great for development, but not great for comparison. Although which comparisons are needed when you destroy the fields at Portage and your regionals? They are really the full team, having frontrunners in Nathan Walker, but also their 3rd-5th men running above 190. Even if someone blows up, Colton Best and Mikko Vesma can run at a 180 level.
Otsego looked as if they could challenge Fremont, even beating them early at Spartan. A glance at their results over the course of the year lends belief that they’ve been bit by that injury bug (side note: I hope to bring about some transparency over this in the coming years. I’m not saying XC should have an NFL injury report, but it would be nice to know where your competition stands). Even missing their #3 runner, they can still be a solid second. Colin Mulder and Hunter Zartman are almost guaranteed to place ahead of anyone’s (save Divine Child) first two runners.
Haslett is sort of a smaller Romeo or Stoney Creek. They don’t have any outstanding runners, even their best only on the cusp of the top-20. Yet their front of the pack has extremely low variance. Espen Lehnst, Joseph Ecklund, and Stephen Henry can all be counted on for 185+ ratings.
BOYS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW
The Hancock twins (how are they really twins if they’re born on separate days?) are severely underrated by these ratings. They provide an interesting off-season problem to solve. They participate in many races, but obviously don’t go to the well on every one. How can I discern between someone running a slower time because of a poor effort and that of someone running a slower time because they only raced to win?
When needed, they’ve let it known they can run with anyone. One could sense a certain motivation to beat Carter Solomon, and although that hasn’t occurred yet, those battles have placed them in a position only rarely reached, sub-15.
I’m not sure who I’m kidding with “only rarely”. Nathan Walker and Evan Bishop have both gotten there.
Here’s one reason why each of these fine young men could win:
Nathan Walker – fresh legs, has only laid it out there four or five times this year
Evan Bishop – another case of #FootLockerExperience
Anthony Hancock – defending 3200m champ, might just wreck everyone before they get inside the stadium
Michael Hancock – did you see his kick at track State?
This is the race you’ll need to sprint across the infield to see.