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Training bears fruit

Duncan MacLean • Nov 3, 2016 at 8:15 AM

Some teams have been good for so long, it seems as if they have nailed down training and preforming to an exact science. Start with a team of all ages, train hard all season, finish high in a tough conference, podium at regionals and appear at state — it’s as simple as that.

For the Grand Haven girls cross country team, the science is certainly working. This week marks their 17th-straight appearance at the MHSAA Division 1 state meet and while they respect the science that got them there, the fun starts now.

“We have nicknames and themes every year,” described senior Eliza Lowe. “This year, we are super fruits. We have weekly pasta dinners and get funky socks, we make scarves, we have a spirit week, today is neon day and we have ninja day and rainbow day. It’s super fun.”

“They have a lot of traditions, it’s a fun week,” said Grand Haven girls head coach Scott Pryzstas. “But they keep it to themselves, they show up and they run. That’s all I can ask for. They aren’t just happy to be here. We will go in ready to compete.”

The bounding Bucs have been doing just that all season long. Their second place finish at the regional race came courtesy of a high-octane final kick. Grand Haven runners passed a grand total of 24 girls in the final stretch of last week’s regional.

Every coach says yes, we want to finish strong,” said Pryzstas of the finish. “If we don’t do that, we are sitting at home.

“Go out and be in the race in the first mile, that was our goal. Gabby executed her race plan perfectly. Eliza started a little slower and moved up in the end. Our 3-7 went out as fast as they had all season. They were hungry and went after it.”

Pryzstas said the strategy would remain the same for the big dance.

“We proved we can get out quick, they get out ridiculously fast at the state meet. We are going to run within ourselves for the first mile, and then in the last mile, its how many you can pick off. Ten places might only be a second and a half.”

The 17-year streak, the long season of training and all the traditions will culminate in one race this Saturday. Two freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors and three seniors will make the trip to Michigan International Speedway with one thing in mind — their team.

“You have to look past your own goals and your own hopes and see it as you are doing it for your team,” sophomore Gabby Hentemann said. “If I’m doing it for myself, I can choose how I’ll do that day, but if I’m doing it for my team, it’s a more meaningful purpose.”

“It brings pressure, which brings anxiety and nerves, but I think that’s a good thing because it shows we all care.” Lowe said on the team’s history. “My favorite running quote is ‘running is a metaphor for life, you get out what you put in.’”

With their priorities straight and morals high, the “super fruits” seem to be headed in the right direction. As far as the numbers are concerned, coach Pryzstas has the Bucs cracking the top 10.

“We were fourth coming into the region on Saturday. We beat the No. 3 three team in the state and fought off others. We came close to winning and didn’t even run all that well.

“I think we can be a top five team. This is as healthy as we have been, the kids are eager to run, and they still have a lot of pep in their legs. We haven’t run even four of our best races in one day yet. Our training has put us in this position, and I think our best race is ahead of us.”

That race will come at 3:00 p.m. when the girls division 1 heat kicks off at the Michigan International Speedway.

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