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 their course video:
2021 Boys: Hart (2nd), Benzie Central (20th), Manton (18th)
2021 Girls: Hart (1st), Benzie Central (11th), Manton (15th)
A partial benefit of writing these is planning for late October. I want to be able to get to both days of regionals, I want to travel outside of metro Detroit. And when there’s 5 teams in the top-25, 3 in the top-10, this Chippewa Hills region is a likely home for my regional viewing.
Traditionally, this region has been held at Benzie. But with Chippewa Hills moving into Division 3, a more central location for teams on the western side of mid-Michigan makes sense. Lakeview is able to move over from Allendale, White Cloud is right down the street. There’s one move I don’t understand from MHSAA’s perspective. Why put Benzie Central here when they’re closer to East Jordan, then move Clare to East Jordan when that location is 3-4x further away?
Regardless of some geographical nonsense, this region is freakin’ competitive. The question as always with Hart is: will their girls come through with another state title? We’ll likely know by this point what the Pirates will need. Up front, returning a healthy Alyson Enns, Jessica Jazwinski, Lexie Beth Nienhuis, those three will be as competitive as any in Division 3. A freshman such as Kenai Kokx could solidify their 4th or 5th spot, experienced seniors such as Savanna Owens and Abigail Pretty will be there too.
Chippewa Hills benefitted from a bit of home course advantage, check that, home course magic, on the way to a surprise state berth last fall. Both Natalie Gibson and Reece Clark finished 10+ spots better than their pre-race projections, add in Kaitriss DeGroft’s race of her life, and you had one of the bigger upsets of regional weekend. Moving down to Division 3, there’s a bit more of a target on their back. How will the Warriors embrace that?
But yeah, this guy’s race is where it’s at. Hart has the ability to match their girls’ accomplishments, they have some serious firepower up front, capable of putting four guys sub-17:00 on a good day. Upperclassmen rounding out their top seven, it’s a perfect mix. Benzie also has the firepower up front, you know you’ll be getting a singular point out of Hunter. They’re a bit younger on the tail end of it, which gives hope that a youngster will have a breakout season. Reed City is just young in general, they took their lumps last year, surely motivation to prove they belong this year.
White Cloud moves up from Division Four, where the Indians placed 7th last year. A reason they could sneak into the top three would be rising sophomore Kaleb Canning, who nearly broke 18:00 to close last season despite running much of the year in the 20’s. Track proved those efforts no fluke, as he was able to reach down to 5:10 in the 1600m. Manistee is in the same boat, the Chippewas will look for a soul to step up. I feel that could be the freshman, Max Scharp, who was a Lakes 8 Champion in cross and a 5:07 1600m runner in track. Those attributes have the possibility of leading to a kid capable of running in the top-20 here.
Top 25 Boys Teams: Hart (Top 5), Reed City (6th), Benzie Central (8th), White Cloud (17th), Manistee (24th)
Top 25 Girls Teams: Hart (Top 5), Remus Chippewa Hills (11th), Benzie Central (21st)
Here, I’m writing at least a little anecdote about kids that are in the top-15 but aren’t freshman (you’ll get your day, Quinn), in the 50 Tickets (I guess the cat’s out of the bag, Alyson, Jessica, and Hunter) or on top-10 teams (pretty much everyone in this region). Want to spread love but also not overwork myself. All in all, my estimation is through all these previews, I’ll be writing at least a sentence about 1000+ kids.
Jake O’Neil, Remus Chippewa Hills: Upcoming senior had his best close to a season yet in his career. Five of his final six races were of the sub-17 variety. Was a real candidate for All-State if in Division Two, now even more so in Division 3.
Hunter Sanford, Mason County Central: As a freshman, ran in the 18:00 for much of the season, even breaking that mark early in the season.
Claydon Ingleright, McBain: Has been in the low-17’s for each cross country season, now he has the benefit of a spring track season under his belt.
Nathan Ciolk, White Cloud: As a senior, he has the opportunity to lead an upset for his White Cloud squad. They’re moving up from being a top team in Division 4, can they run with the big dogs in Division 3?
Miranda McNeil, Morley-Stanwood: Began to come into her own late in her freshman year, then turned it up a notch this past fall. Twice All-State and snuck into the 18’s at Portage and Allendale.
Baylie Eisenga, McBain: Her 2021 cross season was not at the level of the previous fall, but Baylie more than turned it around in track, nearly hitting personal bests in the 800m and 1600m. 2:39 and 5:47 ain’t bad though.
Cecilia Postma, Manistee: Closed her 2021 fall on a hot streak, smashing into the 20’s when most of her season had been closer to 22:00.
Ava Hollandsworth, Remus Chippewa Hills: Although she didn’t match the times she had as a freshman, she crushed her placement at State by more than 60 spots.
Emma Soelberg, Shelby: Twice 10th place here. I have her projected in that spot again. Coincidence?
Chloe Colton, Manton: The depth here in Region 20 is phenomenal. Not often you’ll see girls with 3200m bests hovering near 12:00 that have a chance at being outside of the top-10. Speaking of that 3200m best, her 12:05 was a nearly 2:00 improvement from 2021.
Ava Iverson, Benzie Central: A straight up metronome in the 800m in May. Her final five races were all between 2:36.8 and 2:39.8.
Natalie Gibson, Remus Chippewa Hills: As said earlier, one of those big-time performers on regional day. I didn’t mention that she dropped another 1.5 minutes a week later.