The Bucs’ girls had 12 state qualifiers a year ago, and return eight of those athletes.
That group is led by Jordan Keefe, who narrowly missed out on winning the pole vault at the Division 1 state finals at Rockford High School in 2011. Keefe and Macomb Dakota’s Jennifer Schornak each cleared the bar at 11 feet, 6 inches, but Schornak was awarded the title because she had fewer misses at the height.
Now in her senior season, Keefe, who has signed to compete for the Michigan State University track team next season, is primed for not only a great pole vault season, but could also create some noise at the finals in the 400-meter dash and in the 800 and 1,600 relays.
Keefe isn’t the only exceptional competitor on head coach John Tarr’s squad.
“This team is full of great athletes,” Tarr said. “Looking at our roster, I realized that 15 of our girls have been on state championship teams over the last two years in cross country and basketball.
“Last year we scored 104 points at regionals and 92 points in the O-K Red Conference meet, which is usually enough points to win both meets, but we were second and third, respectively. We may not be as deep as we were in 2011, but we have one or two great athletes in every event that will always score big, so we should be as competitive as last year.”
Tarr believes junior Grace Kendra could shine once again after she placed 11th in long jump at the state finals last year. She’ll also compete in relays and pole vault.
Other returning state qualifiers include Morgan Hawver (1,600 relay); Jenna George (800 and 1,600 relays); Priscilla VanHeest (3,200 relay); Julia Stock (3,200 run and 3,200 relay); and Kaeding Skelton (discus).
Grand Haven’s distance runners should be solid with the return of senior Kirsti King, as well as athletes on the verge of breaking through such as Sara Jacobs, Rachel Eikenberry, Ashley Rice, and Mckenna Mahacek.
“Our distance runners, led by Priscilla, Julia and Kirsti King ran and lifted all winter,” Tarr said.
Sprinters who could make an impact for the Bucs include junior Morgan Krusniak, junior Brooke Wisniewski, sophomore Jade Norman, and freshmen Amber Keefe and Ozette Ostrow.
“We may be a little slow out of the gate because five of our girls just came into practice after winning the state basketball championship, but we will be competing with the best in the state by mid-season,” Tarr said.
Grand Haven’s boys’ title contender will be in the hurdles thanks to senior James DeWitt. A year ago, he set school records in both the 300 intermediate hurdles (39.8 seconds) and the 110 high hurdles (14.69). He went on to place fifth in the high hurdles at the Division 1 state finals.
After a tremendous cross country season, senior Ryan Duff will look for more of the same on the track. He could challenge his older brother Joe’s school record in the 3,200 run, and will also be a force in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 relay.
Head coach Andy Mousseau also likes the talent and versatility of senior Schalk Vanniekerk.
“He is a versatile, talented runner who can give a quality performance in any race from the 200 to the 3,200 meters,” Mousseau said.
“He could get to our school record board in the 400, 800 or even the 1,600 depending how the season develops.”
Alex Cramer is another talented distance runner that could be right on the heels of Vanniekerk, while Justin Pippel, Dylan Tarr and Brady Durant create tremendous depth.
Seniors Devin Howard and Zak O’Brien are the Bucs’ top sprinters, while in field events, seniors Torrey Appel and Dakota Sualeone lead the way in shot put and discus. Steve Heyboer leads an improving group of pole vaulters.
Mousseau is excited at what the Bucs can accomplish, given their talent and improved depth in most events.
“Our team numbers have never been higher,” he said. “Last year we had about 60 guys and this year we have over 90. We are thrilled with all of the new guys and we have had a great three weeks of work to begin the season.”
The Bucs finished fourth in the O-K Red Conference a year ago with a 4-3 dual meet record. The league features East Kentwood, the two-time defending Division 1 state champions.
SL GIRLS HOPE TO REPEAT
Spring Lake placed second at its Division 2 regional meet in the team standings last season and the Lakers return several key contributors from that talented squad.
“We’re hoping to repeat as conference champions, but we expect Fruitport to be an obstacle,” said head coach Gera Peel. “We also want to improve on our (regional) finish.”
Allie Leroux wowed her coaches and the competition with a breakthrough freshmen season a year ago, cumulating with a fourth-place state finals finish in the pole vault at 10 feet, 7 inches.
Another athlete who should be a shoe-in for a state finals appearance is junior Brittany Beeler, who qualified as a sophomore in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
Peel also likes the talent of senior Kathryn Rumptz in both the 100-meter dash and the long jump, as well as Cory Cook in the 800 meters.
Field event standouts for the Lakers could include sophomores Grace Peterson and Lydia Suchecki (high jump), as well as junior high jumper Megan VanDeWeg.
Ashley Warner is a key returning distance contributor for the Lakers, while one of the team’s best sprinters is junior Ymani Williams.
Other athletes who could emerge for Spring Lake include freshman Carlyn Arteaga in the 400 and 800 runs, and Paige Rubleski in sprints and pole vault.
Twelve returning seniors have first-year Lakers’ boys coach Greg Brown excited for the upcoming season.
“We have a great team of coaches and volunteers, and we are moving our program in a positive direction,” Brown said. “Our athletes come to practice ready to work. Part of that is because of the leadership of our captains — Mac Ruiter, Tyler Essenberg and Jake Chittenden.”
Throwers Ruiter and Justin Stegenga, both seniors, should help the Lakers in a competitive league schedule this year.
Senior Alex Keast looks to have a strong season in both hurdles events, while seniors Chris Velarde (400) and TJ Kriger (long jump, 100) should score plenty of points for the Lakers.
Vaulters Joel Boon, a senior, and Matt Batts, a junior, look to have another successful season.
The Lakers’ distance runners will be led by twins Connor Galligan and Ryan Galligan, both juniors, along with senior Greg Huizenga.
Chittenden and Velarde, along with juniors Collin Kieft and Tom Korduple, will anchor the Lakers’ middle distance events.
“Assistant coach Adam Samp has had success with our high jumpers over that past several seasons,” Brown said. “We hope to continue to expand on that.”
PEKEL, TROJANS LOOK TO KNOCK OFF LAKERS
Breanna Pekel has been the force behind Fruitport’s girls track team the past two seasons and she remains that way this spring.
Head coach Randy Johnson said the junior could potentially be a threat to qualify for state in the 100, 200, 400 and 800.
Pushing Pekel in sprints will be sophomore Heidi Klinger, who has beaten Pekel in the 100 and 200 this season. Klinger qualified for state in the 200 last year as a freshmen.
Senior Toni Parker is the Trojans’ top threat in field events. She was the Lakes Eight and Division 2 regional champ in the high jump, as she recorded a personal best of 5 feet, 3 inches.
Sophomore Kayleigh Schulte could be one of the conference’s best in the long jump, as she’s already cleared 15-9 this season. She’s also finished close behind Pekel and Klinger in the 100.
Senior Rachael Folkmier is looking to make a return trip to the state finals in the 800, while Johnson also likes the talent of senior Mallory Vest in the hurdles.
In pole vault, Britney McPherson has already cleared 8 feet and has her eyes set on breaking Fruitport’s school record.
Johnson said his team will strive to unseat Spring Lake as the top program in the conference.
“I think Spring Lake is in a class by themselves right now, he said.
“We have a lot of new people on the team this season, which makes it even more exciting,” Johnson added. “With great leadership and newcomers who love this sport, we will grow into a strong team.”
Fruitport’s boys may be experiencing a youth movement.
Out of the 58 athletes on the Trojans’ roster, 25 of them are freshmen.
“We’ll have a lot of talent in the coming future,” said coach Chad Brandow.
Fruitport took fourth in the Lakes Eight Conference a year ago, and Brandow expects they’ll compete in the upper half of the league once again.
“Orchard View is kind of the cream of the crop right now,” he said. “But after this year, they’ll graduate everyone and it will really be wide open.”
Fruitport may shine the most in field events, thanks to senior Nico Cerniglia and Nic Heil in the long jump and high jump.
Chris Eaton and Cody Pekel should be the Trojans’ top hurdlers, while David VanBergen will thrive in middle distances.
Brandow also said that Shawn Knox could contend for a conference championship in sprints
With eight upperclassmen from last year’s team, the boys track team at Western Michigan Christian has a stable base to build upon. A dozen newcomers will also provide the team with lots of potential so it should be a promising and exciting season.
Last year’s team made WMC’s first ever appearance at the Divison 4 MITCA Team State Meet and looks to improve on last year’s success. The team is led by a core group of returning seniors: Deon Fox in the hurdles along with Jason Jackson, Jacob Henderson, and David Carter in the sprints.
Other key returners include sprinters Justin Kollar, a junior and sophomore Grant McCastle, junior Josh Crum in the high jump/long jump, and junior Nate Taylor in the distance events.
Promising newcomers include junior Robert Wilkinson in the high jump and freshman Devin Eekhoff in the throwing events.
John Swinburne, an athletic director at WMC and long-time track coach at Mona Shores, is coaching the Lady Warriors track team.
Senior Elyse Ray returns as a high jumper and middle distance runner. She is being joined in the high jump event by junior Rachel Bruinsma, a star volleyball and basketball player at WMC who is trying track for the first time.
The Warriors have a quality long-distance runner in sophomore Adrienne Aardema, who will be running the 1,600 and the 3,200.
Senior Megan Bauer returns in the middle distances.