Where: Chippewa Hills HS
Actually, across the street from Chippewa Hills, in the rolling pastures and blowdozed woods. Compared to many courses in mid-Michigan, this is undulating terrain and that’s’ a GOOD THING. Cross Country should be a test and the speed bumps and turns make it so. Anyway, here’s our first course video of the season:
2021 Boys: Breckenridge (4th), Coleman (24th), Hale (27th)
2021 Girls: Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart (5th), Beal City (10th), Vestaburg (25th)
About Last Year and Thinking About This Year:
I still can’t understand how Breckenridge made the run they did last year. They absorbed an ACL injury and loss, tragic loss. Their pack of sophomores and now juniors will again carry the Huskies forward, most of all the lessons from last year will pay forward in future running and in life. Hale benefitted from the addition of two 8th graders to their squad, joining Wanty and the ever-improving Eddie Lavere. Coleman loses Noah Haskell and returns everyone else. All three will be fighting off a Sacred Heart team coming off a rare down year.
The Sacred Heart girls replace a ton. Riley Hacker was a constant in her career, Olivieri a single year terror, but also Abby Spencer and Katie McDonald. They replaced the McConnells, Scout Nelson, many girls and are still here. Vestaburg, Breckenridge, and Farwell are all young and the latter two will be gnawing at the opportunity to get to the promised land. Farwell moves down from one of the tougher D3 regions, Breckenridge’s girls have been inching up every year with Gulick’s attention toward their middle school program. Vestaburg qualified last year and Beal City is there too, with a few girls left from their 3rd place finish at State in 2020.
With all the talk on Twitter about how track writers only talk about times and not about storylines, I thought I’d at least give a small introduction of what’s to come. Gotta create some intrigue.
Top 25 Boys Teams: Breckenridge (14th), Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart (20th)
Top 25 Girls Teams: Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart (13th), Breckenridge (17th), Farwell (19th), Beal City (23rd)
Just a little rundown of those in the top-15 that haven’t been mentioned in the 50 Tickets, the Top Tens, and aren’t freshmen. Many of these are just scouring athleticnet (note – if you have a kid you want to brag about, reach out, tell me their story), but it’s more attention paid than many publications, it helps me learn names, and most of all – GETS ATTENTION TOWARDS KIDS THAT DESERVE IT.
Owen Patton, Vestaburg: Came into his own during last year’s track season, where he ran in the 4:40’s as a freshman. This past spring, Owen concentrated on the mid-distance as well, racking up championship after championship on the way to a State Meet where he ripped off two All-States. Impressive in that State Meet where he battled a shot to the ribs and a calf strain in the 800m, yet still placed top-8. Can he summon that pain and match those performances over a longer distance this fall?
Alex Wanty, Hale: 2x State Qualifier who was All-State in 2020 and the low stick that can lead Hale back to MIS.
Dakota Dykhuis, Montabella: Close to sophomore year was one of the bigger surprises of 2020, placing 19th at D4 State.
Sawyer Stoneman, Breckenridge: Consistent 18:00 guy for Breckenridge over these past two years. Broke into the 17’s a few times, most importantly, at State. According to my sources, could be a darkhorse on the state scene this fall.
Rodney Iamurri, Saginaw Nouvel: Projected last year to be one of the top freshmen in Region 35, he lived up to that billing with an 8th place finish at that regional.
Isaac Humm, Breckenridge: Nearly identical to Stoneman, Isaac spent much time in the 18’s with a few 17’s as well. Shepherd was a kind course to him, as was MIS.
Owen Gross, Beal City: Owen has been competin’ for a while, glad to say his 11th grade year his best yet. Personal best at Bluejay and a top-50 place at State.
James Wilson, Montabella: Three years, three sub-18’s, all three of those at either Regional or State.
Nik Moore, Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart: Nearly a 20 sec. personal best in the 3200m at Mid Michigan’s Meet of Champions. That 18:30 will be a distant memory if Nik keeps up the momentum.
Eddie Lavere, Hale: From 20:00 at John Bruder to 19:02 at Region 30 is shocking enough. I know this is a difficult course and all, but dude ran 18:11 the next week. Progression like that lets the mind wander in fascination of what’s on tap in 2022.
Jaden Ostrander, Breckenridge: Improved by over a minute down in Brooklyn, a large reason why the Huskies secured another top-5 State placing.
Luke Pettengill, McBain Northern Michigan Christian: Closed a long (18 races!) freshman year with a personal best at State.
Ryan Tinson, Breckenridge: When he’s on, he’s one of the better 4th/5th guys in the State.
Amelia Thompson, Big Rapids Crossroads Academy: Between her freshman and sophomore years, identical, i-dent-ik-al placings and personal bests. 19:43 to 19:43, 2nd in Region 30 to 2nd in Region 30, ahhh we’ll find something, 19th place to 17th place at D4 State.
Kaylee Locke, Beal City: Twice regional champ, twice All-State, back for one last hurrah. I wouldn’t want to be near her on that long finishing stretch, Kaylee showcased some wheels this spring, 59.3 good for 2nd at D4 State.
Autumn Wakefield, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary: Consistently a high-21, low-22 girl, Autumn finished 22nd at Class D State in a loaded field. She hasn’t made it to State, a regional move to the west could help her cause.
Avery Westall, Breckenridge: Freshman year in cross country was good, freshman year in track was great. Sub-6 in the 1600m on multiple occasions, including a 6th place MSAC finish.
Kaylee Aultman, Coleman: Massive leaps during track, especially in the 3200m, where she was 17th at State.
Abigail Davis, Vestaburg: Held on late in her rookie year, smashing into the low-22’s with personal bests at Regional and State.
Isabelle Eppert, Farwell: This region is marked by girls who slid down into the 12:00’s for the 32 in track. Isabelle’s came at Regionals, where she finished 7th among the heavy hitters in Charlevoix.
Jacqueline Morton, Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart: Knocked more than 2:00 off her best time from her freshman year, she was the 4th girl on a Sacred Heart team that finished 5th.
Olivia Ervin, Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart: Career achievement award alert. 3x All-Region, 2x All-State, and a constant in a ever-changing cross country landscape.
Raini Sponseller, Farwell: Another Farwell girl that may benefit from the move down. I know Benzie to Chippewa Hills is a significant difference, but a 21:41 regional effort should translate to a top finish here. The math on my end seems to indicate that as well.
Jessica Penrod, Vestaburg: Projected 20th here last year, finished 15th. Five places ain’t much but when your team is projected 4th and finished 3rd, you realize all the small reasons that got them there.
Nataly Vine, Breckenridge: Gradual drops during track led to personal bests in the 800m and 1600m in her final races. That 14:04 3200m will translate the most to cross country and hints at an improvement from her already steady self.
Lauryn Licari, Beal City: Lauryn stuck with it after a 25:47 opener, enough to grab an 11th place finish here.