GIRLS TEAM PREVIEW
Well, this summer I was wrong by predicting Zofia Dudek would not run for Ann Arbor Pioneer this season. Even if I were right, it’s not as if she’s been much impact, judging by the projected places, they only move up one spot. This isn’t a dig at her, more a signal of the health of their overall team. Quite a few of their runners have gone massive transformations this year. Most notable of which has been Cookie Baugh. We’re seeing how her freshman year might have gone if she were able to finish the 2018 season. She’s been sub-19 for all of October and the ratings see her on the All-State cusp. Other team members with significant drops this year are Anna Dudek (there’s another one???), Sarah Forsyth, and Charlotte Batra.
Even with Dudek’s brilliance, Traverse City Central is right there. For much of the season, it appeared as if they were in that battle for second, but they’ve began to assert themselves in October. You can lay that at the feet of Leah Socks and Madilyn McLean. Both have dropped over 10 points (0:30) from their September averages. For McLean, that leap included a massive PR, an 18:52 at Benzie, her first sub-19 performance ever.
Northville and Brighton (Salem and Plymouth, for that matter) have gone through some wars in the KLAA. Brighton took their latest contest at the KLAA Finals. In a larger field, Northville has an advantage because of their mid-pack runners. Gina Couyoumjian can be key, placing ahead of Brighton’s fifth girl. Then again, Hannah Tsiang and Karly Lynch have stepped up in recent weeks.
Special shoutout to Salem as well. They’ve absorbed some losses over the course of the season and they’ll be right in the mix. Watch out for those girls next year.
GIRLS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW
You’d be hard-pressed to tell me Zofia Dudek isn’t the number one runner in the nation right now. I know about Tuohy, Hart, Masciarelli. But something about Michigan runners and performing above their perceived level at national meets. It would take a miracle for Dudek to not win here, against any common Division 1 opponent, she’s won by at least 25 seconds.
I believe the other four have an equal case for admission into that second slot. When needed, Audrey DaDamio has ratcheted up the pace, example being that 171 at Oakland County. Arianne Olson has had a drama-free season, quietly racking up 165+ performances. If not for a wrong turn at Northern Michigan, Julia Flynn would have a higher rating. Luckily, MIS is pretty well marked. Sarah Forsyth likely will not win, but Pioneer needs her to be steady for their team victory. And steady she has been, right around that 160 mark all season.
BOYS TEAM PREVIEW
Although the projections are spread out a bit, this is a true toss-up. Switching things up here, I’ll give a reason why each of these teams will win.
Romeo – The best depth in the entire state. A concept floating around in my head is that of a security blanket. Romeo can absorb two of their top five having an off day and still win. The other teams, one, maybe zero.
Brighton – Sweet revenge. Last year, they were a top-3 team all season, and although Plymouth may have been bound to win, Brighton did not expect to finish where they did. I don’t need to mention it and they don’t want to see it.
Clarkston – Joey Taverna. Taverna had the best race of his season on a tough regional course (I’m with Jason Kerr on this one, stop having regionals on tracks). His 16:53 at Holly was only 4 seconds faster than his previous best, but 8 points higher (0:24) than his season average.
Dexter – The emergence of Connor Kolka and Finnegan Bell. Next man up for this determined team. I believe Nathan Larson is due for a breakthrough as well. Might not impact the team scoring that much points wise, but in a tight race like this?
Traverse City Central – Joe Muha’s Northern Michigan performance. I don’t know much about this team from the great North, but they dominated what could have been an interesting Northern Michigan Championship.
Saline – Their consistency. Very few subpar performances, and if someone doesn’t race to their potential, another guy steps up.
Detroit Catholic Central – Willow. It was barely a competition between the Shamrocks and three other top-15 teams last Saturday. They’ll need help, I believe, to win.
Rochester Hills Stoney Creek – The single best team performance this year. Six runners under 16:25 on Goodells, a fair course. They’re smart racers, but their patience might be a disadvantage at MIS, where getting out hard is essential.
BOYS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW
One thing for certain, Brendan Favazza will make sure it’s honest. Favazza had a rust-buster against Solomon and others in this field on a warm day in Holly that didn’t go so well. He’s been rounding into form as of late, most recently defeating the best sophomore in the state, Riley Hough.
Owen Huard and Jack Spamer have pushed Solomon on separate occasions, each falling slightly short. Maybe this is the time they break through?
Zacahry Stewart has #FootLockerExperience and has been closing the gap on others.
Patrick Byrnes has the best pure unadulterated leg speed in the field. Great range on this kid.
But you just can’t discount Carter Solomon. He’s answered every challenge. Some closer than others. He could have mailed it in at Wayne County. He could have saved himself at Regionals. The 14:42 shows he can handle a blistering pace, the comeback shows he has heart.
There will be approximately an hour between your sprints across the infield. I think you can make it.