Last year: 2nd in O-K Red; third at regional; 16th in state
Returning top 15 racers
· Gabby Hentemann (No. 14 in the state as a freshman)
Quoting coach Scott Przystas on Hentemann: “Cross country was her first high school sport, and I think she held back a bit, (and) we held her back a bit. She had some health and nutrition issues early in the cross country season, so she was a late bloomer. And then she found out she was capable of in track and went for. I think she set her goals of being a state contender, (a) finalist.
“(She will be going against the returning state champ in (Grandville’s) Madison Troy. Those will be three great conference meets all season long, and a great experience to race her. ... I think those will be two of the top five runners in the state, barring any injuries and health issues.”
Other key returners: Senior Eliza Lowe, senior Hailey Ray, senior Andrea Strainer, junior Emily Mattson, senior Kirsten Prelesnik, sophomore Abby Buitenhuis.
Przystas on the 2016 squad: “Every year that I've been here, they haven’t had the kind of success in track we had going into summer. … The success they've had in track and distance running isn't something we've been accustomed to in the past ... We had a great summer, kids were hitting times in our trials throughout. They were staying healthy. We had a very consistent group showing up for our summer runs. ... Things are clicking.
“We've set our self up to dream big. The pieces are there. In cross country, it's a matter of staying healthy, training hard and progressing. These girls have been around successful teams in in the past.”
On the conference/regional outlook: “Coming into the conference as runner up last year, we’re close to Rockford. We return a lot six of the top eight. ... We host one of the jamborees, so we get our home course as one of the meets. (We have a) different regional this year — at Allendale. (It’s the) same as Rockford, both Traverse City schools and Forest Hills Central. Adding us makes five of the top 20 state teams from last season, it’s very loaded. It will be a very competitive regional.”
Last year: Second to Fremont in Lakes Eight; fourth at regional
Key returners: Sophomore Kate Gilchrist (individual state qualifier), sophomore Annie Cooper, junior Maddy Windberg
Key newcomers: Freshmen Maggie Holmes and Maggie Cooper
Quoting coach Aaron Andres: “We have a pretty good sized team. We’re growing in numbers, and we have a really young team. I have 16 freshmen coming out, and I expect a handful to push for varsity. It's going to be a really fun year because it’s a new experience for kids. We're going to be young, some of the girls coming in are track runners, and we're going to try to get them in the distance.”
On expectations in the O-K Blue and beyond: “Being in a conference, we want to push for a top one or two finish. Year in and year out we have state as a goal. This senior group, they know what it means. It doesn’t matter whether you have a young or old team, small or large, that's the goal that we have.
“It's going to be a much more completive league from top down. Obviously the Lakes Eight has changed from the last few years. With the Blue comes more consistent teams to compete against, which will be great. … Having six or seven teams to compete against is a good thing to have.”
Key returners: senior captain Caitlynn Christiansen, senior Katana Daniely
Quoting coach Randy Johnson: “We're really small, we have seven girls on the team. We have a few sprinters, they're using (cross country) as conditioning for track. (The girls team was) toward the bottom (of the conference) last year. This year, they'll be a little bit better.
“The girls have all been running together, not racing. They run together in the workouts, they run together in practice. Who’s going to be first, second, third? I have no idea. They want to run in a pack, which is nice. ... But everyone on this year's team is focused. They're not here just to hang out, they're here to run. That is a nice change.”
WESTERN MICHIGAN CHRISTIAN
Returning state qualifying individuals: sophomores Sarah VanderKooi and Josie Aardema
Other key racers: Chanaiya Richards, Logan Williams and Emma Brink
Quoting coach Kevin Aardema: “We’re running well as the girls hope to return to the state finals.”