Where: Willow Metropark
A personal favorite of mine growing up. Downriver, we don’t get much in terms of greenery or parks, having an expansive area close by was a god send. The course can fly, for the most part there are gradual turns, save for the one just after the sledding hill. That sledding hill is a steep up, but gradual down, plus you’ve got tightly-packed grass and a downhill finish. Expect a +10 to +15 on the ratings.
2021 Boys: Northville (4th), Livonia Churchill (14th), Plymouth (15th)
2021 Girls: Plymouth (9th), Northville (4th), Salem (23rd)
To appreciate this regional, you must love the void. The void? What is he rambling about? Beyond Northville on the girls side, beyond Northville and Plymouth when evaluating the boys. Three spots up for grabs, and a host of teams in contention to steal a Brooklyn berth. Canton, Salem, Churchill, Huron, perhaps even a Franklin, Stevenson, or another Plymouth.
Northville’s girls bring a wide mix of ability and ages, brought together by the common bond of a committed lifestyle and culture. Talented freshmen arrive, transfers from California too. Those new faces mix with Ella Christensen and Cassie Garcia, two that are young, but have big race experience. And then you have seniors such as Anna Gdowski, who closed the year at State with a personal best.
Depth gives you great liability and insurance. Training insurance, if one boy goes down with injury, another is ready to take his place. Race insurance, if a top-5 boy has a difficult day, the 6th and 7th men won’t let the team take too much of a hit. Most importantly, it gives a team the ability to believe. If your training partners have hit 16:30 and you’re stuck at 17:00, yet you’re still hanging with them in practice, you have to believe 16:30 is in the cards for you as well. I’m fully confident all those factors have brought the Northville Mustang boys to the point they are today. We saw signs in 2020, where thirteen boys were sub-17 (not counting the Saline Reserve Invite, which ran curiously fast). More signs in 2021, with their 4th place finish at State. The signs were jammed into our face with the dominating 4×800 at 2022 State. Now, they’re the hunted team for this fall season.
A young outfit in 2021, by time, Plymouth returns their twelve fastest boys. Based on solely returners, done after the season, the Wildcats were ranked 5th. Now add in projected improvements and an outstanding track season, now our western suburbs consist of both of the Top-2 squads. Plymouth now is what Northville was 1.5 years ago. Nine boys sub-4:50, five boys under 10:20. Northville will set a high standard, but these Wildcats are eager to return to the title days of 2018. After all, those Byrnes, Mussen, and Solomon boys gotta keep the family tradition alive.
Top 25 Boys Teams: Northville (Top 2), Plymouth (Top 2)
Top 25 Girls Teams: Northville (4th)
Here, I’m writing at least a little anecdote about kids that are in the top-15 but aren’t freshman (Annabelle), in the 50 Tickets (Seth, Morgan, Brady, Isabell, Ethan, Cassie, Sean, Ella, and perhaps Brendan’s will be posted when this comes up?), or on Top 10 teams (Northville and two more to come). 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.
Alex Bobak, Plymouth: Although he’s been in the 16’s all three years, 2021 featured his best close to a season yet. Three of his final four races were sub-17 and he crossed the line at Regionals in the best position thus far in his career.
Elliot Carey, Salem: It’s his spring for me. Sub-2 in the 800m, 4:26 for the 1600m. He even threw in a 9:52 early that we know would be considerably lower come late May. *edit* Earlier I said he’s looking for his first state qualifier, that was incorrect. Elliot made it as an individual, now he gets to prove he can make it back.
Sam Roberts, Dearborn: Like a metronome when he makes it to MIS. 16:15 as a sophomore, 16:16 as a junior. Sam and his Pioneer teammates move over from Region 5, coming from a top-heavy region to one that’s… gonna be just as top-heavy. That plus his progress from track (4:42 to 4:35) make him a great candidate to exhibit that low-16 speed at MIS.
Rene Vazquez, Wayne Memorial: We’ve been seeing the work over the summer. Hit a 9:55 in Wayne Memorial’s summer time trial, the best the school has seen in years. Over in Region 5, he placed 10th last year, then concentrated on the shorter distance events this spring, claiming the Wayne County 1600m victory.
Lucinda Paliani, Ann Arbor Huron: Snuck under 19:00 early, then nearly matched it late. That 19:12 at MIS ranked 11th among D1 freshmen girls.
Cara Newman, Canton: If there’s a race anywhere, anytime, Cara is sticking her nose in there with the best. Three-time for all of these: Top-10 at Wayne County, KLAA, and Regionals.
Layla Krayem, Livonia Stevenson: Races with a ton of maturity for how young she is in her career. At the Farmington Regional 3200m, she let the race come to her early, then sealed it late, comfortably grabbing a state qualifier.
Aliya Kurian, Plymouth: Last fall, the Wildcats were projected to come in 2nd here, 37 points behind first. Sure, there were other factors that contributed to their upset, but it didn’t hurt that Aliya placed 5 spots better than what was predicted.
Emerson Nordbeck, Livonia Franklin: April and May were her best months of running yet, at least in the mid-distance events. Her 2:20 at Farmington’s regional wasn’t a qualifier, but it may have been the best individual improvement of the day.
Sonya Shelgikar, Ann Arbor Huron: Take a peek at her 2021 track season and you’ll notice why Sonya skipped from 20:49 to 19:36. Check her 2022 season out and you know more is in store.
Alexis Pickerel, Canton: Key figure for the 2020 Chiefs, placing 15th here on the way to a Brooklyn berth.
Elaina Braunscheidel, Livonia Stevenson: Mustang and Lamplighter were great openers for Elaina. Lamplighter purposely long, Mustang disgustingly tough. The two races were in the high-21’s, but laid the groundwork for a season spent in the 20’s.