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Top five male athletes to watch this fall

Tribune Staff • Aug 15, 2017 at 12:33 AM

In the face of 80-degree temperatures, a crowded state park and persistent lightning bugs, fall is coming. The days are shortening and Tri-Cities athletes from football to water polo kick off their seasons this week.

We reviewed five standout female athletes that should catch your attention this fall; now it is time for the boys. Here are the five male athletes to keep your eye on as the days shorten and sleeves lengthen.

Jack Nicholson (Grand Haven cross country)

2016’s Area Cross Country Runner of the Year will return to the course this fall with few accolades left to collect. Jack Nicholson cleaned up in his junior season, earning his third All-Conference selection and third All-Regional selection. His final time of 15 minutes, 45 seconds sits at No. 2 all-time at Grand Haven and earned him 13th overall at the Division 1 state championships.

In his senior season, Nicholson will look to join the leaders at the state championship race and return to the top three of the regional race, where he has finished runner-up twice (2014, 2016) and champion once (2015).

Nicholson also took second place twice in the O-K Red in his freshman and sophomore seasons, and will look to rise to the top of a loaded conference one last time.

Cameron Martinez (Muskegon Catholic Central football)

The Muskegon Catholic Central football program is coming off a historic fourth straight Division 8 state championship last fall. The team will have plenty of talent to replace, but sophomore standout Cameron Martinez, who already has scholarship offers from Central Michigan University and the University of Buffalo, will help ease that transition.

The do-it-all playmaker for the Crusaders will be the full-time quarterback on offense, after splitting time with then-senior Trenton Bordeaux last season. Martinez will also double as the team’s starting safety this fall, as well.

His athleticism was on full display last season, as Martinez rushed for 768 yards and 13 touchdowns in 11 games, and added 602 yards passing with 10 touchdowns. On defense, Martinez added 34 solo tackles from his safety position.

With extended playing time and a year of experience at the varsity level, don’t be surprised if Martinez improves on those numbers and becomes one of the most exciting performers in the state this fall. With Martinez at the helm as a playmaker on offense and defense, the Crusaders will be a hard team to slow down in 2017.

Mason Fritz/Grant Ruster (Grand Haven water polo)

We start things off with a twofer. The Grand Haven boys water polo team finished sixth at the state tournament last year after a magical playoff run to a surprise appearance among the top eight teams. For the 2017 season, they return every starter.

Fritz and Grant Ruster were the anchors of last year’s team as juniors, with Fritz leading the charge on offense and Ruster on defense. Both posted high scoring numbers with Fritz able to create his own offense, and Ruster perfecting the swipe and score.

Frtiz has earned All-State accolades already in his career, while Ruster has earned them between the lane lines as a member of the Grand Haven swim team. The dynamic senior pair will share the ball with fellow senior leader Joshua Koornneef for a dangerous three-pronged offensive attack while counting on keeper Matt Beals behind them. If all goes according to plan, count on the Bucs to make a splash come championship weekend.

Connor Lund (Grand Haven boys soccer)

The Grand Haven boys soccer team graduated 12 seniors from the 2016 team that finished second in the O-K Red Conference at 9-2-1 and 12-5-3 overall.

The Buccaneers appear to be in a rebuilding stage, but will likely still be a competitive force within the conference and district. One reason for optimism among the squad is the return of senior forward Connor Lund.

Lund led the Buccaneers in scoring last season and was named All-Conference and All-District for his performances. He will headline a group of Grand Haven forwards that haven’t had much experience at the varsity level. If Lund can continue to be a goal-scoring threat for the Bucs, and add some playmaking highlights to his tape, he’ll help raise the talent around him to a higher level and put Grand Haven in a position to contend for a run at the O-K Red Conference title again.

Noah Bachmann (Grand Haven tennis)

Grand Haven’s 2016 tennis season fell just five points short of an appearance at the state tournament, finishing with 15 points on the day.

Freshman standout Noah Bachmann shocked the regional field by ascending to the semifinal round of the No. 1 singles bracket, eventually falling in a third set to an opponent from Grandville who he had defeated in the regular season.

Despite the disappointing finish, Bachmann’s arrival on the local tennis scene marked a turning point for the Bucs program. Grand Haven graduated three key members of their doubles flights, but returns last year’s No. 2 singles runner up Spencer Sortman and two-time No. 3 singles champion Riley Wilton.

Head coach Chris Wilton viewed last year’s regional flameout as a stepping stone and hopes the tough regional experience will be enough to catapult the 2017 squad into the finals.

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