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Fall Sports Preview: Boys Cross Country

Nich Wolak • Aug 25, 2016 at 2:00 AM

The Grand Haven and Spring Lake boys cross country teams both made it to their respective state meets in 2015. The Buccaneers and Lakers hope to return this fall, with Fruitport and Western Michigan Christian looking to join.

GRAND HAVEN

Last year: Second place in the O-K Red behind state champions Rockford; Regional champions; 20th at the state meet

Returning award winners:

• Junior Jack Nicholson (Best time: 15 minutes, 45 seconds; Individual regional champion, All-Region, All-Conference)

• Senior Quentin Couvelaire (16:24; All Region, All-Conference track and cross country honorable mention, regional champion in the mile run for track)

• Senior Dominic Hentemann (16:32; All-Conference)

• Senior Eric Johnson (16:34; All-Region, All-Conference honorable mention)

Other key returners: sophomores Kyle Eveland (17:32), Aidan Martin (17:14), Dominic Weatherwax (17:32) and Nathan Wolffis (17:28)

Promising newcomers: Sam Missel, Max Sepeshy, Jack Reus and Brendan Gross

Quote by Coach John Tarr: “Our front four guys — Nicholson, Couvelaire, Hentemann and Johnson may be the best runners we have ever had at the start of a season. These four worked very hard during track season and over the summer to lead this team. The big question for us is, Who will step up and close the gap behind them for places five through seven? We have ten talented runners who will compete for those spots, and who need to close a 30 second time gap to make us a top ten team.”

Tarr on the conference and postseason: “Rockford lost most of their top runners, but they will have a great young team. Hudsonville has a great group of young runners coming up who will be very competitive. New to the O-K Red is Caledonia, who took third as regional last year and has qualified for the state meet the last two years. The O-K Red got tougher with the entrance of Caledonia.

“Our regional will be very tough with Rockford, perennial top ten teams Traverse City East and West and Forest Hills Northern, which has won several D-2 state championships in recent years.”

SPRING LAKE

Last year: Finished second in Lakes Eight to state champion Fremont; 10th in Division 2

Individual state qualifiers

• Sophomore Andrew Hylen (third at regional, 16 minutes, 20 seconds)

Quoting coach Jennifer Gwinnup: “Last year he was the fastest freshman in the state of Michigan. He has won several local races over the summer. He just won the Brainy Day runs. He finished second at the Coast Guard Festival (10K). Also, he’s won the Spring Lake Heritage Festival (race). He's been performing and really strong over the summer in local races.”

• Junior Henok Ghirmay (ninth at regional, 16:37)

Gwinnup on Ghirmay: “It will be really exciting this season because he's taking the season from work off so he can dedicate himself to running.”

Other key returners: Sophomore Ben Hylen, Junior Cameron Thalhammer, senior Matthew Schmidt

Gwinnup on the season: “Our theme last year was ‘Redeem,’ because the season before we missed going to state by two or three points. We felt that we really redeemed our self, finishing 10th. We've made (this year’s) theme ‘Relentless’ because we want to stay on par or surpass what we did last year. We put ourselves on the map and we want to stay on the map.

“We graduated a couple seniors, but we still have a strong varsity squad. … We have pretty good depth, so it will be interesting to see how (our lineup) rounds out. I think it will change each race. It is a tossup for four different guys that will fill out our varsity top seven.”

On the transition to the O-K Blue: I think the O-K Blue will be a great, fresh start for us, with overall great competition across the board. It will be exciting to race and see where the chips fall because nobody knows yet. I think it will be great competition, more consistent teams.”

FRUITPORT

Last year: Won city championship; third in Lakes Eight behind Fremont and Spring Lake

Key returners

• Senior Aaron Simot (second in city last season)

Quoting coach Randy Johnson on Simot: “He has been training all summer long. He already has his time below 17 (minutes) ... He’s motivated, he’s shooting for All-State.”

• Senior Mitch Johnson

Johnson on Johnson: “He has worked really well this summer too, more than last year. He's in good shape.”

• Sophomore Brendan Deneen

Johnson on Deneen: “He ran some over the summer. (He’s) just a little bit behind Mitch.”

Johnson on the season: “My top three guys are looking really strong. My 4, 5, 6 give some good depth. I don't know how fast they'll get, but they have some good potential. The guys are still looking pretty good, we’re probably a little stronger (this season). We hope to do well, repeat as city champs and hopefully qualify for the state meet. Those are the two goals.

“The boys will be right in it (in the O-K Black), it's a very tough conference. Our boys conference last year and this year is about the same. They're all bigger schools than us. The boys will be competitive.”

WESTERN MICHIGAN CHRISTIAN

Returners: Sam Braak, Brandyn Gould, Kyle Morris, Andrew Plaisier, Eli Rotman and Jack Zuidema

Quoting coach Kevin Aardema: “The boys have been running hard all summer and should be fun to watch.”

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