Weekend Previews

Division 1: The Preview

GIRLS TEAM PREVIEW

Team Projections

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

Individual Projections

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

Team Projections

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

Individual Projections

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.

Weekend Previews

Division 2: The Preview

GIRLS TEAM PREVIEW

Team Projections

Two teams stand above the rest, making it great from a spectator standpoint.  Division 1 Boys will also be great to spectate, but much harder to visually score (I hope to be alive when they have live, up to the second scoring).  East Grand Rapids vs. Petoskey. 

Prior to the season, it looked as if East Grand Rapids was a mortal lock to again win.  My preseason projections threw out a score of 56 to 110. Early in the season, especially after a blistering debut at Portage Early Bird, no doubt.  After the Charlevoix Mud Run, I began to take a bit more notice in Petoskey.  But even then, the Mud Run is one that can exacerbate the gap between runners, as some just shut down at the sight of adverse conditions.

Their first showdown came at Spartan:

Okay, maybe Petoskey was just overrated, nothing to see here.

Then Portage happened:

Okay, maybe Petoskey wasn’t overrated, much to see here. 

Petoskey owes a ton of credit for Cambrie Smith moving there, but that’s not the whole story.  Cambrie has dropped over 1:30 from her previous bests, and she was already very good.  The coaching must play a major role.  I’ve said it over and over, but in order to win, you must have depth.  The Vanderwall siblings, Caroline Farley, and Paige Harris provide that depth.  You must have development.  Emma Squires, Noel Vanderwall, Anna Vanderwall, and Paige Harris (especially) have improved more than 5 rating points from last year. 

Ainsley Workman didn’t run varsity at Portage and maybe that helped her kick her season back into gear.  She did finish 1st in that JV race, and when you place her time into the varsity race, that tightens up the score quite a bit.  I’ve mentioned in earlier previews about runners recapturing form, and that’s precisely what she did in her regional race, skipping up to a 145 rating.  East Grand Rapids has depth as well, Hannah Bodine and Katie Hessler should be right in the All-State mix, while Margaret Coney finished 5th here last year. 

Here’s how the ratings project the score between these two powerhouses:

GIRLS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW

Individual Projections

So many colours.

Jaden Theis likely has the highest upper range of anyone in this field.  After all, she’s the defending champion and she has that FootLocker experience.  Her season was going without a hitch, on an uptick from track, until last week’s regional. 

Anna Petr made a move in the final 800m to pass both Taryn Chapko and Theis.  She gained the lead with around 400 to go and ran for her life.  I like Petr or Chapko if it comes down to a kick.  Obviously, there’s more to a kick than just pure speed, but you have a step up when you can run 4:56 like Petr or 58.9 like Chapko.  These two have also not had a bad race all year, an underrated factor in determining who will show up. 

Speaking of consistency, Elka Machan is a great example of that same concept.  No races below 150 for her.  In races where she’s lost (only three this year), her rating has been above 157 for each. 

Madelyn Frens set a blazing time to start this year, a 17:49 at Pete Moss.  In races where she’s been challenged, she’s replicated that effort, with three other sub-18 efforts to her resume. 

Having run 15(!) races this year, one would think a runner would get burnt out.  But no, Makenna Veen keeps getting results.  She brings it when needed, for example, that 165 rating at Spartan.  Her overall rating is lower than all the others, but in that Spartan race, she beat four of those listed above her.  So many moving parts. 

Moving upward have been those Petoskey teammates.  Cambrie Smith has gone from a 128 overall rating to a 167 (about a 1:57 improvement) and Emma Squires from a 151 to 157 (18 seconds).  When you’re already good, as Squires had been, it’s really tough to continue to improve.  Once again, kudos to that Petoskey program for their development.

BOYS TEAM PREVIEW

Team Projections

These ratings are made for teams such as Fremont.  I appreciate how rarely they race.  It’s great for development, but not great for comparison.  Although which comparisons are needed when you destroy the fields at Portage and your regionals?  They are really the full team, having frontrunners in Nathan Walker, but also their 3rd-5th men running above 190.  Even if someone blows up, Colton Best and Mikko Vesma can run at a 180 level. 

Otsego looked as if they could challenge Fremont, even beating them early at Spartan.  A glance at their results over the course of the year lends belief that they’ve been bit by that injury bug (side note: I hope to bring about some transparency over this in the coming years.  I’m not saying XC should have an NFL injury report, but it would be nice to know where your competition stands).  Even missing their #3 runner, they can still be a solid second.  Colin Mulder and Hunter Zartman are almost guaranteed to place ahead of anyone’s (save Divine Child) first two runners. 

Haslett is sort of a smaller Romeo or Stoney Creek.  They don’t have any outstanding runners, even their best only on the cusp of the top-20.  Yet their front of the pack has extremely low variance.  Espen Lehnst, Joseph Ecklund, and Stephen Henry can all be counted on for 185+ ratings. 

BOYS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW

Individual Projections

The Hancock twins (how are they really twins if they’re born on separate days?) are severely underrated by these ratings.  They provide an interesting off-season problem to solve.  They participate in many races, but obviously don’t go to the well on every one.  How can I discern between someone running a slower time because of a poor effort and that of someone running a slower time because they only raced to win? 

When needed, they’ve let it known they can run with anyone.  One could sense a certain motivation to beat Carter Solomon, and although that hasn’t occurred yet, those battles have placed them in a position only rarely reached, sub-15.

I’m not sure who I’m kidding with “only rarely”. Nathan Walker and Evan Bishop have both gotten there. 

Here’s one reason why each of these fine young men could win:

Nathan Walker – fresh legs, has only laid it out there four or five times this year
Evan Bishop – another case of #FootLockerExperience
Anthony Hancock – defending 3200m champ, might just wreck everyone before they get inside the stadium
Michael Hancock – did you see his kick at track State?

This is the race you’ll need to sprint across the infield to see.

Weekend Previews

Division 3: The Preview

GIRLS TEAM PREVIEW

Team Projections

Boy, a lot of numbers here.

At the forefront yet again is Hart.  It’s difficult to win once, even tougher to win twice, almost impossible to pull it off three times in a row.  We’re humans here, complacency is a factor even in our adult daily lives, yet these girls keep coming back for more.  One might think the Enns/Ackley family is the only factor in their success, but like Sacred Heart, improvement occurs here too.  In October, Layla Creed and Lauren VanderLaan have both posted 100+ ratings in all of their races, a figure neither were able to previously produce.  Excellent backup and security in the rare case of a disastrous performance from one of their top 5.

Most of the chase pack involves similar profiles of teams, Traverse City St. Francis being the main exception. So I’ll go into a runner from each times that has improved and is essential to their success.

Leanne Krombeen is someone who has turned it to a new level for Grandville Calvin Christian. Starting at Shepherd BlueJay, she’s put together a nice little string of performances. All have been in the 20:00 realm, her regional race venturing into the 19’s for the first time this season.

Here’s how Madde Skeel’s last four performances have gone for Shepherd. 130, 132, 130, 132. It’s that sort of consistently that teams desire in their top runners. It’s no shock she’s a great golfer as well, keeping steady a necessary quality in that frustrating sport.

Paige Johnston is a major reason Benzie Central finished 1st at the Scottie Classic. The senior broke 20:00 for the first time this year. She has experience at MIS that could hold key, finishing 17th here in 2017.

Julia Esch has dropped considerable seconds in these past few weeks. After lingering around the 21 min. mark throughout the season, she’s almost slipped under 20:00 in her past two outfits. A similar performance can move Pewamo-Westphalia into the top three.

Lani Bloom battled some sickness early in the season, which subdued her rating. As I predicted on twitter, she ran much closer to Rylee Tolson than what the ratings suggested. Expect a similar show from her, hopefully benefiting Ithaca.

Traverse City St. Francis is the anomaly here, relying on their top three girls to drive their scoring. Sophia Rhein avenged an atypical effort at Northern Michigan to finish 4th at her regional.

GIRLS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW

Individual Projections

At her best, Alison Chmielewski is the star of this field.  Even not at her best, she’s probably still the star of this field.  If you take out her regional race, her weighted rating is nearly 10 points above the rest.  The question is if that regional race was a trend, or was it saving herself for State?  If she’s saving herself, watch out.

Rylee Tolson is laying in the bushes if it’s a trend.  The sophomore has only lost once this season, falling to Theis and Hynes at Greater Lansing.  She’s been consistently in that 18:15-18:45 (145-155) range all year.

Maddy Bean has been on a similar trajectory to Tolson.  High ratings early (this is likely because the faster girls tend to comparatively be in better shape than the midpack girls, this will be fixed next year) , a bit of a lull, then coming on strong.  The author here felt she could contend for the Macomb County crown, that didn’t happen, but her season hasn’t gone into the tank as a result. 

Unlike most other individual races, there isn’t much overlap between contenders in terms of past competitions.  Libby Gorman and Ava Maginity are the exception.  In the past two weeks, they’ve swapped places with one another.  In my mind, they’re interchangeable.

BOYS TEAM PREVIEW

Team Projections

Hanover-Horton has waited all year for this moment.  This summer, they acted confidently, as if they were the only contender.  Then they backed it up in big meets.  Bath, Portage, Jackson, Bluejay.  Even falling to their pack were ranked teams from higher divisions, such as Cedar Springs and Haslett.  Dean Reynolds and Garrett Melling have been steady runners at the front.  Some of their other top 5 have had the occasional bad race, but that’s negated by Shane Sauber’s recent emergence.

Charlevoix needs a great day from their 4th and 5th runners along with some help from Hanover-Horton if they want to capture this title.  Blaise Snabes, if he can run similar to how he did at Northern Michigan and Sam Peterson, if he can recapture his September form could combine to make this a race.

Another close battle, this time for spots 3-6 (possibly 2, as well).  You could make arguments for Saugatuck, Traverse City St. Francis, or Grandville Calvin Christian to be the prime candidate of this trio. 

Calvin Christian came out on top at Portage, a good representation of a state meet field.  A large field places more importance on the latter runners.   Seth Broekhuis set his PR there, vaulting them to a second-place finish. 

St. Francis has battled Charlevoix many times this season.  From what I understand, it’s a healthy rivalry.  Rivalries can be great; I can think of one that’ll hold a place in my heart if a team does what it needs to do in late November.  Freshman Josh Kerr did what he needed to do at regionals, dropping 0:30 from his previous best, which catapulted St. Francis past Charlevoix.

Saugatuck splits the difference between these two.  They defeated St. Francis at Portage, but have a better fifth runner than Calvin Christian. 

When the three have faced, Harbor Springs has sort of lingered behind St. Francis and Charlevoix.  A ten-point difference is pretty close even at the D3 level.  Jordan Bussey was the main reason they closed that gap.  After hovering around the 18:00 mark all season, he took that quantum leap into the 16’s.  There are no flukes in running, but there those days that seemingly come out of nowhere.  If that regional performance brings about a newfound confidence, they’re right in the mix.

BOYS INDIVIDUAL PREVIEW

Individual Projections

Walker and Germain have run in the EXACT same races. Weird.

I don’t follow nationwide rankings anymore after the downfall of Dyestat (I know exists, but not in the form it once was), but is Hunter Jones the best freshman in the country?  He’s been defeated once this year, back at Pete Moss.  That course is usually fast, the regional race faster, but in the meantime, he dropped nearly 0:40.  Since that defeat, he’s been challenged only once…

… by Carson Hersch.  I wasn’t there, but a 0:05 difference qualifies as close.  That wasn’t a fluke race from Carson, as he’s had multiple 205+ efforts this year. 

But on muddy tracks are a mental challenge as well as physical.  If someone gets out hard, tandems or packs can reel them in.  Ashton Walker and Hayden Germain (teammates) and Carson Laney and Andrew Frohm (hometown favorites) will likely be right there in that chase pack. 

Laney, although disappointed in his regional performance, still ran one of his better races of the year.  He lost to a very worthy Frohm, who in his last three races, has averaged nearly 15 points higher than the previous four. 

Walker and Germain worked together to defeat Hersch at regionals.  They’re both #PeakingAtTheRightTime, having gone under 16:00 in their last two races.  Walker had been slightly ahead of Germain for most of the season, but Germain has gotten up to Ashton’s level lately.