Fremont may be the best team in the state, regardless of division. I’d like to mention a few of their runners that may get overlooked. Adam Ward, Ben Paige, and Joshua Zerfas have all spent time in the 16’s in every single year of their careers. Ward and Paige were both All-State last year, and while Zerfas was not, he’s shown every indicator that he’ll be able to accomplish that feat this year.
As with the individual side of things, the Bulldog Elite race should be an indicator of how teams will stack up. Of the teams in the running for second, Pinckney beat out Otsego and Chelsea. Pinckney is a bit weaker in their 3rd – 5th men than Chelsea and Otsego, and an 8-team field doesn’t exacerbate the weakness of the latter runners as much as a 27-team field.
St. John’s appears to be the safest bet of any in the remaining competitors. Their spread is minimal, at the most 0:45. They’ve risen to the occasion in championship meets, claiming an easy victory over East Lansing at the Greater Lansing Meet.
St. Clair was more of a shocker. The Saints took on the big boys at Benzie’s Pete Moss and came away with a 1st place trophy, defeating the likes of Traverse City Central, Lowell, and Traverse City West.
Many of these teams have been dominant with very little chance of competing against one another.
Nathan Walker is about as clear a favorite you’ll find. The #1 returner in the 50 Tickets to Brooklyn series, he’s done everything to hold up that honor. Undefeated, sub-15, and has annihilated any competition. His success will go down in Fremont lore, as his 16:11 at Branstrom Park (perhaps the toughest course in the state) will likely never be broken.
The main focus then becomes: who finishes second?
We have a number of main candidates, and a few even beyond this group.
Many here were in Otsego’s Bulldog Elite field and boy did they blaze. Conor Somers, Caleb Jarema, and Colin Mulder all ran in the low 15:30’s.
Ben Clason finished slightly behind that pack at Bulldog Elite, but a week later at the Bengals Invitational, he was able to keep with Somers. Other than that, not too much common ground between athletes.
Jack Pennewell has been tested this year, albeit against different runners. He beat out the Romeo boys and Carson Nicoletti at Romeo’s MAC Red Jamboree. In late August, St. Clair traveled north to Benzie, where Jack ran a 15:48, the 3rd best time of the day.
Jarema and his teammate, Gavin White, have been interchangeable for most of the year. White doesn’t have the outstanding Bulldog Elite finish, but has three 200+ performances.
Joe Gilbert beat both Jarema and White at the Linden Regional.
Ian Hill and Hayden Rhodea have both battled against Clason. Rhodea bested Ben at their Pre-Regional, and Hill beat Rhodea at the OK Blue Conference Meet (but lost on a reportedly questionable DQ).
Are you confused yet?
The girls team race is much clearer and will be another dead heat between Petoskey and East Grand Rapids. Petoskey has the clear edge up front. Emma Squires is a state title contender, but Cambrie Smith, Noel Vanderwall, and Sarah Liederbach should all be in the upper reaches of the All-State arena.
East Grand Rapids gets it done with a polarizing combination of youth and experience. Drew Muller has been a frontrunner capable of a top-5 finish. Natalie Dwortz has saved their team in a few meets with clutch performances as their #5 girl. And in the middle, you have former All-Staters in Ainsley Workman and Hannah Bodine.
Each team has a path to winning, but one here’s a factor that could help either:
Petoskey’s 5th-7th girls. Caroline Farley, Paige Harris, and CamBrie Corey have all been consistent, but also capable of an above average day. Both Corey and Harris had that at Shepherd, while Farley stepped up at their Pre-Region.
Workman and Bodine. Both girls ran above their projections at the 2019 State Meet. Can they channel that same energy again?
There are other teams, of course. Cadillac may be vastly underrated by these numbers. They’ve been greatly enhanced by the re-emergence of Kendall Schopieray. Grand Rapids Christian has reloaded behind Frens with freshman such as Natalie VanOtteren. And finally, Otsego came out of nowhere last year to finish 3rd. The Bulldogs have taken pack running to an extreme this year and have the ability to place 5-6 girls in front of many rivals’ 3rd or 4th.
Emma Squires had been mentioned earlier and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded female athlete in this state. She’s going to Purdue (as is Walker), she juggles high school and college classes, and she uses her platforms to help other runners achieve their goals in a healthy manner. With all that on her plate, she’s found her way to the top of Division 2. She’s had two races that give a glimpse into her condition, a 17:47 opener at Pete Moss and 17:26 at Shepherd.
That Shepherd race featured her main contender, Meghan Ford. Meghan is one of the few freshman girls that made the 50 Tickets list, and as the season has wore on, she’s been able to justify that inclusion. Like Emma, she’s thrown down two outstanding performances, a 17:36 at Shepherd and a 17:47 at Greater Lansing. The question becomes, does Ford have improvement in her as a true freshman or has Squires accumulated enough experience to pull through?
Some other names to look at are:
Madelyn Frens – Can you believe I wrote this preview, had her listed 3rd, went to go hit submit, and 100% forgot about her? That’s unfortunate and it speaks to her reliability. She’s always been at the top, so much so that it doesn’t stand out. What does stand out is her ability to run low-18 efforts in every race lately. She’s battled with James-Heer (Division 1), she’s beaten Muller. And she’s got a chip on her shoulder, to avenge her day here last November.
Mary Richmond – Another freshman. Took her awhile to get into gear, but by October, she obtained Frankenmuth’s school record.
Chloie Musta – Chloie has steadily improved throughout her time at Cadillac. In her first two seasons, she was a contributor, but above 20:00. At the tail end of last year, she made a leap into the low 19’s. She’s continued that this year and has the capability of getting into the top 10.
Lilly Evans – one step back, two steps forward. As a junior, Lilly didn’t have the greatest finish to the season.. She was coming off an All-State honor as a sophomore, but barely cracked the top-50 in 2019. She’s put herself in much better position this time around, with several sub-19:00 efforts.