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All hands on deck

Duncan MacLean • Nov 3, 2016 at 7:15 AM

For the seventh-straight season, the Grand Haven boys cross country program will send runners to the MHSAA Division 1 state meet.

It is the sixth time that the entire team will make the trip, which is fitting for this group of friends.

“We hang out a lot on our own, we don’t just hang out at practice,” said junior Jack Nicholson. “We hangout on the weekends, we hangout after school. These guys aren’t just my teammates, they are my really good friends.”

“Yup, these are my only friends right here,” agreed senior Quentin Couvelaire. “It’s a good team dynamic for sure.”

The varsity boys squad took second at last weekend’s Division 1 regional meet, earning them an outright team bid to the state championship race this coming Saturday. They did so as a team.

A slow start to the race allowed the Bucs to stay near each other early, especially the guys in the middle of their lineup. Jack Nicholson hung with the leaders and took home second place individually, followed by Couvelaire and Eric Johnson who took 14th and 15th and Dominic Weatherwax in 19th.

“We try to focus on getting a good pack together, a good fast pack that pushes points back.” Couvelaire said.

The pack these boys have formed on the running course stretches beyond their competition. It fuels their training.

“We train really hard together, we work really hard together to hit certain times during the day,” Nicholson said. “We try and push each other as a team so we can all be faster individually.”

“This group of seniors has been really good about working in the offseason,” said Grand Haven boys cross country coach John Tarr. “Getting guys to practice, calling guys up to get them to summer workouts, they have been great leaders.”

After their stellar performance at regionals, the Bucs will need every ounce of teamwork to finish high at the state meet. Coach Tarr believes his boys could crack the top 15, maybe even top 10 with a good wind.

“I have Jack in the second group, that’ll be the top 20 guys,” said Tarr of his standout junior performer. “He will look to pick off a few of those guys in the race. I think he will be All-State. The other guys have to watch their times. They should be out in 5:15. If they do that, they will hold on and feel good, start passing guys in the middle of the race and get PRs. That’ll put them in the top 100 and put us in the top 15.”

Nicholson has bought into the strategy, and plans to take his teammates with him.

“I’m going to try and shoot out and go for the top 20,” Nicholson said. “The first group will be out crazy fast, with the second group right behind them. I want to try and stay in that pack and hopefully see if I can get Quentin, Dom and Eric Johnson to push with me.”

“Dom, Eric and I are just gunning for the top-100,” responded Couvlaire.

Predictions and speculation aside, this team has certainly seen success this year, a success that, according to coach Tarr, leaves a lasting impression.

“I tell them they are making memories for the rest of their lives,” he added. “It is for their own pride and pride for their school and community, and I tell them to go out and make their parents proud. This is for the rest of their lives. If they can get over the anxiety and stress on Saturday and preform that will serve them for a long time outside of running.”

The Bucs will set sail on their final voyage along with the rest of the Division 1 qualifiers at 2 p.m. Saturday, from the Michigan International Speedway.

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