After running in the footsteps of brother Joe for the past three seasons, Duff finally found himself in the spotlight for the Bucs’ varsity cross country this season. After his first-ever victory at the varsity level on Sept. 15 against Grandville, his father, Joe Duff Sr., approached his son and congratulated him on no longer being in the shadow of his older brother, who is now running at Grand Valley State University.
Ryan also took first place in O-K Red meets against West Ottawa and East Kentwood and at the Allendale Falcon Invitational. But, he pointed out, there’s been a few races that he’s come to regret.
“I didn’t get first in a couple big races this year and our team lost because of that,” he said. “Like against Rockford and the conference meet.”
Still, without Duff and his leadership, the Bucs wouldn’t have been on the heels of the Rams at the top of the leaderboard at Saturday’s Division 1 regional meet. The Bucs’ senior turned in an outstanding performance, finishing second overall individually and helping his team also place second. His time of 15:54 was the fastest regional time ever recorded by a Grand Haven runner.
The Bucs’ big two of Duff and fellow senior Schalk Vanniekerk have helped Grand Haven make back-to-back state finals appearances for the first time in 14 years.
“It’s been kind of a crazy year because we’ve had a lot of setbacks along the way,” said Vanniekerk, who was fifth at the regional. “We’ve had some injuries and a lot of guys getting sick, so we didn’t know what to expect. But we’ve had some JV kids and a lot of other guys step up. It’s been a good surprise.”
To read more of this story, see today's print or E-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.