Where: Allendale HS
Primarily flat with a few bumps in the back section. Wide open, solid footing, easy for spectators. A waterlogged mess for everyone else, last year’s regionals ran fast in comparison. Expect some personal bests as Grand Rapids area athletes are known to do as the season ends.
The moving parts, the strengths and weaknesses of teams, Region 21 has it all.
First, one must pay homage one of the elder statesmen of the West Coast, Laurens TenKate. During his 15-year coaching career, the Squires racked up 20 OK Silver titles, 18 Regional titles, and took home 7 trophies at MIS (2 of those, overall victories). He leaves behind a legacy, but also a program with the foundation for future success. Both teams may be underdogs this year, but they’ll undoubtedly be in the mix in the coming years.
Region 21’s strength speaks for itself when a top-20 outfit, Kent City, is a 20 point underdog to each of the top three squads. The Eagles are loaded with upperclassmen in their top four, and if you consider Sam Freeland and Jaren Vogel’s steps up on regional day, perhaps they can cut into that difference.
The top three squads each have varying strengths and an odd disparity in rankings between the entire state and this particular region. Central Montcalm comes in ranked 7th in the state, but not projected to capture the regional title. Their top three is unbelievably strong that it could be a major advantage at the state level, in a smaller regional race, that advantage lessens. Saranac, a late season riser in 2021, has the opposite strength. Their 5th runner may be one of the better 5th runners in the state, their pack itself may be more closely wound than anyone else. And then Covenant Christian is predicted to be stronger through their 7th man than everyone else here, and again, likely in the entire state.
When I rank within a division, I rank every single team, not just the projected qualifiers. Against all of Division 3, these three squads are separated by 18 points.
Similar circumstances are found for the girls, this instance a likely battle of three teams for two qualifying spots. West Catholic, Central Montcalm, and WMC are ranked in order, 16th through 18th. Against the entire state, separated by eight points. West Catholic comes with the close-knit pack, Ali Junewick and Claire Smith’s projected separation a mere 40 seconds. Central Montcalm’s girls share a strength with their boys, unreal strength through three girls. Can the Hornets find a 4th, a 5th girl? Western Michigan Christian has that #ChampionshipExperience. Coach Gould always has the remarkable ability of recruiting someone to round out the Warrior squad. An additional body might be the necessary ticket for advancement.
And of course I’d be remiss not to mention Kent City. The Eagles were ranked 7th in the pre-season, then held steady in that position through much of September. Once the results from Portage and Kent Ottawa took hold, they moved up into the Top-3, Top-4, but outperformed the rankings at the Lower Peninsula Finals. Seniors such as Alyeska Linsley, Kierra Flegel, and Emily Lantzer were prominent contributors to that magical run. So were underclassmen such as Alisha Esquivel, Isabella Max, and Gracie Houtman. They’ll start 2022 in a similar position, will history repeat itself?
2021 Boys: Grandville Calvin Christian (4th), Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (7th), Saranac (21st)
2021 Girls: Kent City (2nd), Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (7th), Grandville Calvin Christian (17th)
Top 25 Boys Teams: Stanton Central Montcalm (7th), Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (10th), Saranac (11th), Kent City (16th)
Top 25 Girls Teams: Kent City (10th), Grand Rapids West Catholic (16th), Stanton Central Montcalm (17th), Muskegon Western Michigan Christian (18th)
Just a little rundown of those in the top-15 that haven’t been mentioned in the 50 Tickets (Lila Volkers), the Top Tens (Central Montcalm, Kent City, 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.
Nathan Jenkins, Grandville Calvin Christian: Just glancing at the times, one might look at Nate’s late season performances and think he collapsed on the big stage. Knowing the whole story, one gains a much greater appreciation for Nate’s selflessness. Battling through injury, through pain, he delivered for his team when his contributions were most needed. That good karma WILL pay off in the future and maybe even this fall. He has the maturity, the motivation, and a sprinkling of past success, having gone sub-16:30 on multiple occasions in 2021.
Samuel Martini, Kent City: If there’s one thing for certain about Sam, he relishes the opportunity to compete at State. 6th on his home track during track, 18th in XC.
Ben Wertz, Grandville Calvin Christian: From 2020 to 2021, Ben improved 100+ places at the State meet.
Jude Meldrum-Roy, North Muskegon: Another one in the year to year improvement department. Jude skipped right over those 17’s, bludgeoning through that wall with a 16:56 at the 3rd WMC Jamboree.
Roger Hernandez, Holland Black River: Regional placings: 31st to 15th to 8th. By that pattern, he’ll be at least 4th here. A 4:41 to close his track season lends belief that’ll come true.
Owen Fairchild, Montague: Going into his senior year with a bit of momentum. Ran more than half his races in the 17’s, a reversion towards his freshman form.
Jaren Vogel, Kent City: Another Kent City harrier that brings it on championship days. This spring, that was a nearly 30 second PB in the 3200m, in the fall that was his second sub-18 of the cross season.
Elijah Powell, Saranac: After spending much of his junior year in the 18’s, Elijah’s late season surge coincided with Saranac’s advancement to running in November.
Grace VanderKooi, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian: Sheer willpower and patience. To sit out nearly a month and come back with an 8th place State finish speaks volumes about Grace’s maturity as a person and athlete.
Madeleine Hill, Saranac: Sneaky candida… check that, Madeleine won’t be sneaking up on anyone this fall. Her track season ensured that, from her 2:19 in the 800m to her 11:24 in the 3200m. Almost a 30 second drop in her 1600m and 1:20 in the 3200m. Wow.
Ashley Choponis, Stanton Central Montcalm: The Hornets will be loaded at the front of many races. As a freshman, Ashley was there too, especially in her final two races where she dipped under 20:00.
Kyah Hoffman, Stanton Central Montcalm: If her peak is any indication, she’s underrated by these here numbers. At her best during last season’s close, she was an All-Stater. Throughout the year, she hung in the 21’s. I suspect we’ll see more of that peak form come fall.
Amber Koole, Grand Rapids Covenant Christian: Amber is a perfect encapsulation of Region 21’s strength. Last November, she crossed the tape in 34th place, here she’s ranked 7th to begin the season. But she showed last year that she’s capable of outperforming her rankings…
Jonathah Bouwman, Grandville Calvin Christian: She’s been top-15 at Regionals and top-10 in the OK Silver during each of her three years.
Carolyn Bennett, North Muskegon: Carolyn’s first two regional results: 50th and 41st. Her latest one? 13th, a State qualifier, 27 second personal best, and jumpstart into a track season where she cranked out a 5:20 1600m.
Lily Laburn, Holland Black River: Although 2021 didn’t end with a State qualification, bits of success were still found. Another top-10 finish in the Alliance League and a minor PB, a 20:28 at Allendale Falcon.
Alyssa Possehn, Saranac: Saranac’s Color Run was the impetus for a late season surge. Alyssa crushed the 22:00 mark at her home course, then dropped time meet after meet, culminating in an appearance at the speedway.
Brianna Zuidema, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian: WMC’s State Title was won by a quality margin, that doesn’t discount the necessary contributions in taking home a trophy. The low sticks are a bonus, but often not the most important in a team battle. Solid races by a 4th girl, someone such as Brianna, clinch the awards. Brianna didn’t just run solid, however, she brought home a 10 second personal best.
Ali Junewick, Grand Rapids West Catholic: 11th grade fall was short, but had a sweet ending. 12th place in the OK Blue was her best run in the conference meet to date.